It is always interesting when you have a WWE pay-per-view with no world title up for grabs. This creates a real problem for the organisation to make an event which is still compelling for the Universe to watch. This is compounded when your champion is riding a tidal wave of emotion from the crowds, in the way Daniel Bryan is.
In a situation like this, you need top quality matches and for everyone to step up their game and luckily everyone did at WWE Payback. Coining a phrase made famous by Good Ol’ J.R., everyone ‘maximised their minutes’ and the crowd weren’t left feeling short changed.
The pay-per-view had a stellar start as the United States title was contested between champion Sheamus and the ‘Swiss Superman’ Cesaro. I recently tweeted after a battle these two had on an episode of RAW, saying that WWE was well and truly in safe hands with these future main eventers. On Sunday night, they proved my point again with an excellent bout on all levels. It was a physical, fast-paced match with Paul Heyman continuing to play the role of mouth piece of Cesaro to brilliant effect.
Whilst many predicted a Cesaro win, I always believed he would leave empty handed. Cesaro is onto bigger and better things especially with his continued rise in popularity, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as the Money In The Bank winner next month. Therefore I liked the finish, as although it is a loss, it will help facilitate that. Neither man left looking weak with Sheamus playing the wiley, cunning Irishman.
It was great to see Rusev face a real challenge as he took on former Intercontinental champion, Big E. Both men gave great performances in this titanic battle, proving they deserve to be there and not just to make up numbers. Whether they will be main event stars is yet to be seen but performances like that will go a long way.
In my opinion, a smarmy, patronising heel doesn’t quite fit young NXT graduate Bo Dallas. His match with Kofi Kingston ended prematurely by an attack by Kane on Kofi. I didn’t really see ample reason behind the run-in and really to the segment in general. A few more performances on the weekly shows are needed to better establish Bo Dallas and his character, or maybe I just need to BOlieve.
Although he did not compete, WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan did appear, to answer Stephanie McMahon’s ultimatum; surrender the titles or Brie would be fired on the spot. The segment worked really well and was the perfect length. WWE has the tendency to sometimes drag out similar situations, but it was the perfect length and helped give the storyline multiple layers.
Injured champions always create issues. Matters are made worse as in the storyline, The Authority has been trying to get Bryan to abdicate. Now they have the perfect opportunity, but in reality they do not want to face the audience onslaught that would produce. However Brie quitting was the best possible finish adding animosity between ‘the Bryans’ and the Boss, enhancing and extending their storyline whilst not devaluing the title.
I really enjoyed the match between John Cena and Bray Wyatt. The use of the Usos as an equaliser to Harper and Rowan was done brilliantly and supported the superb action between the two leaders. Both men made the Last Man Standing match compelling to watch and exciting, which is no small feat in the PG era of WWE. A new, creative finish which is rare these days was the icing on the cake for arguably the best match of the night. It has been a while since I have said that about a John Cena match but I feel both men bring the best out of each other. Even with the loss, the Universe loves the quirkiness and weirdness of the Wyatt Family so much so that I don’t see them falling back down the car like many of Cena’s previous opponents have done after a loss.
As expected, the big six-man match between Evolution and The Shield took main event spot and quite deservingly so. It is thanks to teams like The Shield, The Wyatt Family and others for rejuvenating the rather stale six-man tag format. This match was full of high impact action with a brilliant finish; The Shield picking up another victory over the veterans. It does make you wonder how many more times we will see the hounds of justice before they become three stellar singles competitors. Ambrose is a born heel whilst Roman Reigns will ultimately become a true fan favourite as he climbs the ranks. However just one night later we got our answer as underrated, high-flyer Seth Rollins shocked the world and abandoned The Shield. It will be interesting over the coming weeks to see the development of the story and the ‘evolution’ of The Shield.