Wednesday, June 19, 2024
EditorialRandom Thoughts & Opinions Special: Payback; A Post-Mortem

Random Thoughts & Opinions Special: Payback; A Post-Mortem

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Hello Reader

As with all these specials; please note if you’ve clicked on this by accident or out of curiosity and for some reason you haven’t seen the Payback PPV yet; let me take this moment to declare FULL SPOILER ALERT!

Let us start, as is custom, at the beginning; the pre-show Mask vs Hair match pitting El Torito against Hornswoggle. I made no secret of the fact that I really enjoyed their Wee-LC effort at the Extreme Rules PPV; and, truth be told, I was looking forward to this match more than most of the announced/rumored card for the main show. At the end of the day, wrestling is entertainment; and, damn it, these guys had a solid and entertaining comedy match last time out.

While this latest chapter in their rivalry didn’t have the same amount of whistles and bells as their previous encounter; once again it was solid, fun and fully deserving of the “This is Awesome” chant it drew from the always excellent Chicago crowd. Will it linger in the memory? No; the fact I haven’t gone into much detail about the ins and outs of the match goes to prove that. But once again; my overriding memory of the match was of being thoroughly entertained and laughing out loud from it’s start to finish. Once again; Los Matadores and 3MB deserve a lot of credit for throwing themselves into their spots and doing as much as they could to add to the match without overshadowing the official combatants. A lot of wrestlers, both past and present, wouldn’t have done so; and to me it speaks to the character of the performers, both as performers and as people. I actually found myself thinking that, as a result of this, it was a shame that they’re all placed in low card comedy jobber gimmicks; hopefully the office starts to give these performers some recognition for their efforts in giving us fans a damn fine piece of entertainment.

The main card opened with the US Title match between Sheamus and Cesaro; and, my God, did it set the bar high for the night. I seem to be one of the few people who doesn’t mind Sheamus and I do struggle to see why, beyond the association with Triple H, the WWE fan base (there is absolutely no way I’m calling it a universe anymore; it’s just silly and I feel myself die a little every time I type it) seem to have a downer on him. Yes, he’s not the greatest, but he’s a lot better than most give him credit for; and last night he added to his (admittedly short) list of top notch matches. From Paul Heyman deflecting CM Punk chants to give another blisteringly funny “My client, Brock Lesnar, defeated The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania” (though none of them live up to his knock-knock joke one; that was a true classic) through to just before the finish; this match delivered. Fast paced, action packed, aggressive, competitive and brimming with near falls; this match, while not necessarily a five star effort and suffering from a lame finish, tore the house down and set the pace for the rest of the show. For this writer it was the measuring stick for the night, as an opening match should be, and easily at least the joint best match of the night.

I have to admit; I zoned out a bit for the following match pitting the Rhodes brothers against Rybaxel. WWE had served it up on TV a few times over the last few months and despite the best efforts of those involved to raise it above that level by quickening the pace and trying to match the good qualities of the opener; it never really rose above a decent filler match on Raw. While it continued the story of the problems with the Rhodes brothers tag-team; this took away time that could’ve been better allocated elsewhere; though admittedly there was very little in the way of timing issues last night.

My problem with this storyline has been the fact it has come at the wrong time; the Rhodes’ practically disappeared from TV during Wrestlemania season and have been used as little more than jobbers since they resurfaced. I find it hard to care about something when WWE doesn’t present it as being worth caring about and one has to wonder why that has been? Cody is easily the best athlete in the family and is reasonably over; while Goldust, from an in-ring perspective, is in the form of his life. Knowing the way WWE operates; could this be the retribution for Dusty’s discretion during that segment with Stephanie McMahon last year? Before the loss to the New Age Outlaws; these guys were a hot and over tag-team. Yet WWE, as it unfortunately and inevitably always does these got bored of them for some reason and has hardly used them meaningfully since.

Rusev vs Big E was a match I thought was a natural pairing from the
moment I watched Rusev’s first match; it was an entertaining scrap that
was too short for my liking. Hard hitting and fast paced; I’d have liked
to see them have had more time and be pitted as more equal than they
eventually were. Maybe it wasn’t presented that way because of the
relative inexperience of the two; but, as enjoyable as the match was, I felt it was a waste of a situation. To me; a prolonged and competitive feud between the two has the hallmark of a decent mid-card program that could create two new stars if handled correctly. But, depending on where they go with the Cena/Wyatt angle, I have a sneaking suspicion that Rusev is being built up for Cena; possibly even as soon as Summerslam.

The following aborted match between Kofi Kingston and Bo Dallas was an example of the kind of thing that really irks this writer about WWE today; mainly as I don’t use Twitter. While I can’t say I was displeased that the match didn’t happen; basing an angle on a talents social media activity doesn’t work for those of us who either don’t follow that talent or don’t use the social media platform the angle springs from. While I guess they had to do something with Kane giving he’s suffered almost as much as Daniel Bryan has from the situation with his injury, from a career/story aspect at least, they could have picked a way that didn’t leave this writer and the others who either don’t use Twitter or don’t follow Kofi scratching their heads. 

Also; am I the only long term fan that is having trouble taking this demon Kane thing seriously? While it may be working for newer fans; as someone who’s watched the product since before Glenn Jacobs became Kane I’m finding it hard to buy it as Kane being a legitimate threat. Mainly because we’ve been here oh so many times before and I’m going to say the same thing I said back when he was in the Katie Vick program with Triple H; which was “He won’t win the title or be a true top star off of this; they do this all the time. They build him up like an unstoppable monster then baulk at actually putting the belt on him.” I’m not knocking Kane; but they’ve done this for so long with him and others that I never feel I can take it seriously anymore. And when you’re unable to suspend your disbelief at a wrestling angle anymore; then there is a serious issue there.

As for Bo Dallas; I’ve not seen enough to make any kind of judgement. The gimmick has legs is about the only positive thing I can say at this time.

Bad News Barrett vs Rob Van Dam was a decent and entertaining effort from the two that was very inkeeping with the pace and competitive nature of most of the matches on the card. Nothing special and my perception of it’s quality may have suffered from the general high standard of the rest of the card admittedly; but, yet again, it was another RVD match that you won’t be telling the grandchildren about.

The in-ring segment with Daniel Bryan, Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon did what it had to do; found a way out of the impossible situation that pleased the fans that is. I suppose it’s a positive they’re doing all they can to keep the belt on Bryan until it’s absolutely necessary to strip it off of him; though that may be sooner than any of us think as Michael Cole ominously dropped in a comment about the thirty-day defense clause in the aftermath. The situation reminds me of how they handled Steve Austin after his neck was broken in the match with Owen Hart; and I did worry for WWE when the news broke that Bryan, easily the most over competitor they have by a country mile, needed neck surgery. I can see him holding it until at least Money in the Bank; but if he’s not cleared by then I unfortunately foresee an instant cash in scenario. 

The question on my mind going into the Last Man Standing match between John Cena and Bray Wyatt was how can you pull of a match like this in the PG ere? The Last Man Standing match is one of those matches that is supposed to be brutal; but the match, though not as dramatic as other efforts from the non-PG era, managed to entertain and still be a good effort. There were some good spots; mainly from Rowan, Harper and The Usos but Bray and Cena had their moments also. Though a sight to behold; I was surprised, from a safety POV rather than a PG one, that they managed to clear the throwing of the ring steps spot with the agent for the match. So much could have gone wrong with it; yet I suppose it got through due to and in spite of their hands being tied so much by the PG format of the current product. Cena sold much better than usual; though there was still the odd moment of Kayfabe killing just standing up from him. But not even that or the appearance of my current pet hate overused spot, the crash through the barricade around the timekeeper’s area, could detract from the fact that this was probably the second best match I’ve ever seen from Cena (the best is still his ladder match with Dolph Ziggler); it was fun and crazy and, while not being of the highest standard of the night, it didn’t tarnish the high standard set by the rest of the show. Though I have to say I thought the ending was hokey; it was the best way out if this is the blowout to the feud. If Cena had brutalized Wyatt to win; then the feud would have to continue as Wyatt’s whole motivation was proving that Cena was a monster. So to draw the line under it; this match more than delivered. Even if, by other standards, it was a poor Last Man Standing match.

The Divas Title match was standard toilet break fair; though I’m glad they’ve finally given Alicia Fox some sort of personality for her character. But I never truly believed they’d put the belt on her at this time; and I’ve spoken before about my opinion of how they handle the PPV Divas Title matches. The same applies here so I won’t repeat myself here.

The main event was a strange beast that, like the encounter between The Shield and Evolution at Extreme Rules, evoked an Attitude Era main event; and like much of the card it played out to high standard. More dramatic than anything else on the card; the only real criticism I have of the match was it was trying to hard to make up for Evolution not winning the first match; in fact it was almost too one sided at times. Rollins delivered yet again and the other members of The Shield weren’t far behind; Evolution, given the aggro they receive individually for not putting enough guys over, yet again did a lot when it was time for The Shield’s, admittedly short, comeback spots. What was especially pleasing was it went against the rumored format (Reigns being left alone to overcome Evolution) and every member of The Shield got a pin fall over a member of Evolution; to me the match came off as a real passing odf the torch from, arguably, the best faction ever in terms of world titles won by it’s members to the faction that has the best chance of emulating and surpassing them.

Overall; I thought Payback was a damn fine show. Probably the most entertaining WWE PPV for some time now; in my opinion at least. Quality matches, no doubt raised to a higher standard due to being performed before the always excellent Chicago crowd, and a real surprise of a show for this writer as I went into it feeling that, apart from the main event and the Last Man Standing match, it would be a do nothing show. If I have to find some overall negatives I’d say matches we expected being replaced with Raw filler matches and the feeling that there’s nowhere left to go with many of the story lines after the show; but none of that took away from what was, in my honest opinion, a damn fine show.

But that’s just what I think; how about you?

Until next time

JJKH   

          

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