WWE Payback 2017 is in the bag, which means it’s time for another round of the 3-Count Review and Smack Talk Pay-Per-Viewpoint Post-Show podcast!
As always, click the video at the bottom of this post to check out the podcast breakdown of everything on the show, but before we get into that, I want to focus on three things that standout from my mind in regards to Payback 2017.
For this edition, let’s do a little round of Green Light, Yellow Light, Red Light—effectively, what was a big positive, something mediocre in the middle of the road, and a big negative of the show.
Green Light: Braun Strowman’s Path of Destruction
It would have been the easy route to have Roman Reigns seek vengeance for Braun Strowman’s attack and after a brutal contest, come out the victor. Nobody would have liked it outside of what appears to be the minority of the crowd that has his back and it would have done nothing for either man in the long run.
Thankfully, WWE opted not to do the obvious and instead, to keep Braun Strowman’s course on track to a positive destination.
Outside of Samoa Joe and possibly Big Show, it’s hard to argue anybody got screwed over more at WrestleMania this year than Braun Strowman, who was building up some intense momentum before he lost to Reigns at Fastlane and was relegated to a last minute Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal competitor who was eliminated midway through the match. That just wasn’t good enough for someone of his stature and presence, but WWE made up for that with his beatdown on Reigns and several other members of the locker room.
To follow that up with a loss would undo a lot of the magic of what has been happening recently, but to see it continue tonight made it all that much sweeter. “I’m not finished with you!” is basically becoming a catchphrase for Strowman now, and when you hear it, your ass better hightail it out of the arena because he’s about to come barreling through like a pissed off bull.
Reigns was able to somewhat avoid the full extent of Strowman’s intended pain offerings, but still had quite a bit inflicted on him. Wounding the Big Dog makes Strowman look strong and getting a legitimate pinfall on him helps justify it as a reality, rather than just a fog of a push that can’t materialize into anything substantial when push comes to shove.
Yellow Light: The Championships Situation
I can’t be quite as positive about the overall scope of the championship scene exhibited tonight, but at the same time, I can’t be all that negative about it, either—hence its placement in the middle of the road option.
For the most part, a lot of the pros and cons of what transpired with the titles will be things we can only assess in retrospect as whether this is the right call to make depends on what WWE has planned in store for the future.
An example of this is Neville retaining the Cruiserweight Championship by disqualification. In most scenarios, that is a means to prolong a feud because it showcases that the champion knew he was about to lose and was desperate enough to get out of it by any means necessary. Yes, they’d technically lose the match, but they wouldn’t lose the title, and that’s what’s most important.
Are we just going to see Austin Aries and Neville continue to beat other members of the cruiserweight division on Raw and 205 Live while cutting promos about each other for the next several weeks until June 4th? If so, that’s boring. We’ve seen it leading up to WrestleMania and then following that leading up to Payback. If Aries isn’t going to win the title, then he probably should have just lost this match, and if he is scheduled to win the belt, why not win it here instead of waiting until Extreme Rules?
I’m always high on Alexa Bliss, so I’m very happy with her becoming the new Raw Women’s champion—the first woman to win both belts, by the way—particularly as Bayley holding the title was getting stale for me. Bayley is a much better chaser than a champion and now that she is no longer playing the underdog with the title, her character can flex her muscles a bit more.
I agree with the decision to keep the Raw Tag Team Championship on The Hardy Boyz, along with the idea of turning Cesaro and Sheamus heels. Nothing to complain about there. But I’m a little confused with the United States title situation and what WWE’s plan is for how to balance this out before Backlash.
Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles makes the most sense, but in order for that to happen, Owens needs to have a rematch for the title, win it back, then likely beat Jericho again in his rematch, all on episodes of SmackDown. By that point, I think people will be sick of seeing them wrestle each other and their feud will have ended with a whimper and not a bang, which could have happened here. Then again, maybe there’s something else afoot and we’ll just have to find out.
Lastly, there’s the WWE Championship, but that is best reserved for our other category…
Red Light: House of Horrors Match
I’m sure there will be people who absolutely loved this segment, and to those people, I say I’m happy for you. By no means do I ever want something to suck, and if you enjoyed it, you got to experience something I didn’t get to commune with, as I thought this was a mess.
The concept in general was flawed and the execution of it was even worse, resulting in what felt to me to be like a poor man’s attempt at “something different for the sake of artistic expression” done by an artist who doesn’t have the right canvas to paint on.
Pre-taping a segment for a live event means the audience has to just watch it on the crappy screens in the arena. Of course they’re going to feel somewhat robbed about this and boo. Filming it in a style that makes it seem like you tried several takes to get the right shot and angle kills the reality to it even in a form of entertainment that requires the audience to greatly suspend their disbelief.
Whoever’s idea it was to have this start at a different location only to require both men to come to the arena, while showing one guy getting into a limo and the other one still stuck under a fridge, clearly didn’t think this through and just wanted the shock factor of Orton popping up in the darkness like The Undertaker always did. But if you’re going to set most of this in a location that has to be scary, at least make sure your set is spooky!