WWE Payback 2016 Reaction
By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Payback was christened as the “first pay-per-view of a New Era,” and to a degree, this was true.
With beloved Shane McMahon running Raw lately, we saw an array of main roster debuts (Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin, The Vaudevillains, Enzo/Cass), big returns (Sami Zayn, Cesaro) and a main event scene you wouldn’t expect (AJ Styles, Roman Reigns).
One could argue that masking new feuds and NXT call-ups as a “new era” is a tad bit deceiving since that kind of thing happens every year.
However, thanks to the debuts of Karl Anderson/Luke Gallows and having them inserted into the Reigns-Styles storyline, the prominence of the Zayn-Kevin Owens feud, a tag team tournament to determine #1 contender’s, recent storylines and an amped-up Chicago crowd were bound to make this a night to remember.
The Pre-Show Breakdown
– Who figured the pre-show would have two matches? Geez. The Baron Corbin-Dolph Ziggler match made sense in this portion of the card, as we hoped Corbin would continue getting pushed, using the feud with Ziggler as a notable step to better places. Corbin excellently worked the crowd, utilizing his power most of the bout. Ziggler had overwhelming crowd support and unleashed a great comeback, but Corbin delivered some vicious spots, like a big boot to an airborne Ziggler. The finish itself, which involved Corbin bragging on the outside only to get caught in a school boy pin, was what we weren’t crazy about. Even-steven booking will be the death of building new stars, even if Corbin dominated the match and lost in “lucky” fashion. We’re sure he’ll get his heat back by the time the week’s through, but unlike NXT where he had a long unbeaten streak, he’ll have to start from scratch to get over on the main roster.
– Repeating their spot in pre-show territory like WrestleMania, the WWE United States Championship match between Kalisto and Ryback actually upped the ante. Since Ryback won a prior match to earn this Title shot, we wondered if he was due for another Title run, since Kalisto wasn’t doing much with the Title at this point. It was also interesting to see Ryback mimic CM Punk’s “It’s clobbering time!” entrance gesture to stick it to Chicago, though he had to know that’d potentially open the door for roaring “CM Punk” chants. On that note, was it also that endearing for Ryback to wear a sash that read “Pre-Show Stopper”? A fair match to start off, where both competitors felt each other out. A scary moment when Kalisto misread a springboard backflip and hit his head on the apron, but luckily, Ryback was there to catch him. There was big heat on Ryback, while Kalisto turned in an excellent performance, a highlight being a top rope DDT onto the ring apron. There were some great teases and near-falls down the stretch as the crowd eventually bought in to Ryback, gasping with his top rope gorilla press. That led to the finish, where Kalisto hit the Salida Del Sol when Ryback missed a frog splash. The crowd was hot for it and we could see what kind of night we were in for.
– The show was seemingly off to an energetic start thanks to the slot of the WWE World Tag Team Championship #1 Contender’s Tournament Finals match between Enzo/Cass and The Vaudevillains. To precede the festivities, we got a charismatic promo from the WWE World Tag Team Champions, The New Day, as they came out to a loud reaction and Xavier Woods announced himself as “available” in response to Beyonce’s “Lemonade.” Quirky stuff as you’d expect and that’d only be outdone by Team SAWFT, who also got a loud reaction, as they did their schtick and referenced “Hey Arnold!,” stairs and escalators to success. New Day got comfortable at ringside with pizza, popcorn and Snapchat uploads. This was going to be fun. A pretty exchange of chain wrestling between Enzo and Simon Gotch to start out, before Cass tagged in briefly, brining Enzo back in. Of course, real life took over when Gotch whipped Enzo too fast into the ropes, as his head hit the second rope, the mat and then the floor, laying motionless. Needless to say, a sucky way to end the match with a sudden freak injury that sucked the air out of the arena, halting the fun atmosphere to an eerie silence. The match was thrown out as a no-contest, as Michael Cole and the other announcers talked about how it was unfortunate to see this in a WWE ring, as the medical trainer threw up an “X” and Enzo was carried away by a stretcher. We can’t judge the match outside of the opening three minutes and given what happened, it wouldn’t be fair to those involved, but as you’d imagine, it was a morbid start to the show, not made much better when Cole promptly announced that coming up next was Zayn-Owens, as we saw their intensely emotional hype video follow.
– Those of us watching the show knew that Zayn-Owens had the unenviable task of following that, as nobody knew how badly Enzo was injured (later diagnosed as a severe concussion) and one of the more vocal wrestling crowds was believably hushed. Given that it was these two though, it didn’t take long for them to get everyone worked up. Big kudos to Owens, whose over-the-top comedic big heel antics helped get our minds off things. Undoubtedly, this match would’ve had a different vibe later down the card altogether, but it turned out perfect by the end. It wasn’t long before Zayn and Owens traded maneuvers and believably close near-falls. You could feel the hatred between both men, especially when they were dueling fists. Zayn’s apron backdrop and tornado DDT was phenomenal, until KO busted out his first and final Pop-Up Powerbomb to get the win. Excellent match, as Owens threw Zayn out of the ring after the bell and demanded an interview with Byron Saxton, as he bragged about beating his 14-year rival and resumed his focus on getting back “his” WWE Intercontinental Championship, letting us know he’d even sit on commentary upon learning that match was next.
– The WWE Intercontinental Championship match between Champion The Miz and Cesaro with Owens on commentary was also quite good while it lasted. Owens was vocal about his thoughts of Miz’s wife more deserving to be Champion than her husband. Cesura’s offense took the crowd by storm and he even got to kick out of the Skull-Crushing Finale. This match was more memorable for the finish, where Zayn flew over the announce table and attacked Owens, as they brawled all over ringside. Cesaro had Miz in a submission and made him tap, but the Referee was distracted by Zayn-Owens brawling on the apron, allowing Miz to get out, pin Cesaro using the tights and escape with a cheap win. It all happened so fast, but it felt chaotic. Loved the post-match action, where Owens emphatically Pop-Up Powerbombed Zayn and then was about to hit one on Miz when Maryse pulls him out of the ring. Evidently, it appeared we’d see a fatal four-way over the IC Title with these guys. We almost wondered if Owens was going tweener feuding with Miz, all the while still keeping things going with Zayn.
– The Dean Ambrose-Chris Jericho match started out mid-tempo before turning into something really good. Jericho was an excellent old-school heel here, doing some hilarious things like hugging the Referee’s waist in an attempt to get away from Ambrose, only to sucker punch him. Meanwhile, Ambrose busted out his usual hearty offense, busting Jericho’s nose open at one point, but Jericho battled back, most notably with a slingshot off the announce table. It was the right call to have Ambrose go over and the finish was creative, as he had to work hard to position himself to hit the Dirty Deeds upon countering the Lionsault.
– Many of us knew Styles had a big hill to climb to make us believe he’d really walk away as World Champion, but his backstage promo was a step in the right direction, as he said it’d be all about him on this night and even though he knew Anderson/Gallows had his back, it was a one-on-one main event.
– The build to the WWE Women’s Championship match between Champion Charlotte and Natalya was well-done, giving us a new wrinkle to the ongoing feud by having Natalya answer back to Charlotte’s tactic of relying on her father Ric Flair and his dirty tricks by bringing out her uncle Bret Hart in her corner. Despite the big reaction, Hart didn’t add much to the bout’s atmosphere. Charlotte was great in milking up crowd heat, while Natalya settled in comfortably to the inspirational babyface role. The in-ring action was good with occasional bumps from start to… well, the finish. If you even want to call it that. Basically, they repeated the 1997 Montreal Screwjob by having Referee Charles Robinson ring the bell when Charlotte applied the Sharpshooter and Natalya showed no signs of submitting. Not even the double Sharpshooters to follow could save this. Utter garbage. Embarrassing.
– The in-ring segment with Vince, Shane and Stephanie McMahon determining control of Raw lasted way too long and felt anticlimactic by the end. The only positives out of this were the way that Vince played off the loud crowd and their repeated “CM Punk” chants, before Stephanie and Shane came out and each pleaded their case. Basically, once the mumbo-jumbo was over (and there was a lot of it), Vince decided that both Shane and Stephanie would run the show. Yup, nothing says a “new era” like this. Sigh. Also, would you ever support an argument with a Bleacher Report headline?
– The main event WWE World Heavyweight Championship match between Champion Reigns and Styles had its share of questionable overbooking, since it felt like it played second fiddle to the new “Shane n’ Steph Connection” storyline, with them both separately restarting the match after finishes of a countout where Styles won and then a disqualification where Styles won. Reigns got overwhelming crowd heat and played off it, staying focused yet more ruthless than usual, while Styles had everyone’s love. The Phenomenal Forearm that put Reigns through the table was well-done, even if it led to the less-than-memorable first finish. Reigns’ “low-blow” came off the wrong way and didn’t feel believable. We also expected some sort of follow-up in the Anderson/Gallows saga and besides them attacking Reigns when there were no longer DQs and brushing it up with The Usos once more, they failed to do anything new. Reigns didn’t look too smart since he took out his own cousins on the over-the-top-rope suicide dive, but the near-falls between the Phenomenal Forearms and Superman Punches were dramatic enough for us to buy. Of course, Styles’ biggest near-fall after the PF/450 Splash combo, but after that, a Spear found its way to Styles and Reigns decisively retained. Big boos as you’d imagine.
– The final backstage segment with the McMahons showed Vince praise both his children for restarting the match to avoid controversy and wanted their thoughts on Styles deserving a rematch. Shane took over, saying that Styles should get a rematch in an extreme rules match, with Steph “fully supporting” his decision. Sure, Steph could’ve been working him, but it appeared they were on the same page. God knows where it’s going though.
- Pre-Show – Dolph Ziggler def. Baron Corbin via pinfall
- Pre-Show – WWE United States Championship – Kalisto (Champion) def. Ryback via pinfall to retain
- WWE World Tag Team Championships #1 Contender’s Tournament – Finals – The Vaudevillains and Enzo/Cass to a no-contest via referee stoppage
- Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn via pinfall
- WWE Intercontinental Championship – The Miz (w/Maryse) def. Cesaro via pinfall to retain
- Dean Ambrose def. Chris Jericho via pinfall
- WWE Women’s Championship – Charlotte (Champion) (w/Ric Flair) def. Natalya (w/Bret Hart) via submission to retain
- WWE World Heavyweight Championship – No Disqualifications – Roman Reigns def. AJ Styles via pinfall to retain
Posted on May 8, 2016, in WWE and tagged AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Bret Hart, Byron Saxton, Cass, Cesaro, Charles Robinson, Charlotte, Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Enzo, JBL, Kalisto, Karl Anderson, Kevin Owens, Luke Gallows, Maryse, Mauro Ranallo, Michael Cole, Natalya, Payback, Ric Flair, Roman Reigns, Ryback, Sami Zayn, Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, The Miz, The New Day, The Usos, The Vaudevillains, Vince McMahon, WWE World Tag Team Championship #1 Contender's Tournament. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.