WWE – Payback 2016 (Cert 15)
1 Disc Blu-ray / DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 175 minutes approx.
This year WWE has decided to switch things around by moving Payback from its usual spot in the PPV calendar in late May to the post –Wrestlemania PPV spot formerly occupied over the past few years by Extreme Rules, which has now been moved to the end of May.
Because of the influx of new faces brought up to the main roster from NXT after Wrestlemania 32 the WWE have marketed this as a “New Era” for the company, and indeed a slew of new faces being given a chance to step into the spotlight, while a few older and under-utilised faces are also given a chance to shine too.
But as we have learned over the years, Vince McMahon’s patience with getting new things over is very short and the status quo is usually resumed before the “new era” has a chance to establish itself. And nowhere is this more evident than in the WWE World Heavyweight Title picture which straddles the line of both situations.
Payback took place on May 1st 2016 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois in front of 12,000 fans. Your commentators once again are Michael Cole, Byron Saxton and JBL.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers but plenty of opinion.
WWE Tag Titles No 1 Contenders Match – Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillians
This was an unfortunate way to kick of the main show the PPV debut of both the charismatic Enzo and Cass and the talented 19th century retro team of The Vaudevillians, the latter former NXT tag champs, something Enzo & Cass never achieved.
This was the finals of a tournament to find the next challengers for The New Day who were seated at ringside. The match had barely started when Enzo was whipped into the ropes and went for a baseball slide – his left arm and head snapped against the rope and knocked Enzo out cold, giving him a concussion. The match was stopped and the Vaudevillians – who were going to win anyway – were declared No 1 contenders the next night on RAW.
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
I’m sure both men have lost count of how many matches they have had against each other over the past decade or so, from their Indy days as friends, through their PWG and ROH runs as bitter enemies working under the names Kevin Steen and El Generico, to NXT and now the main roster.
Despite this, they continue to deliver top-notch bouts and this one was no exception with the WWE crowd just as invested as previous crowds were. Aside from Michael Cole calling every power move Zayn executed a Blue Thunder Bomb, this was superb stuff and a bona fide show stealer.
WWE IC Title Match – The Miz (c) vs. Cesaro
Kevin Owens stayed on after his match to join the commentary team, blitzing Byron Saxton in the process. Miz is the IC Champ after he beat Zack Ryder the night after WM 32 with an assist from his returning wife Maryse, so Ryder’s big moment the night before is now a distant memory because McBooking. Cesaro also returned from injury after WM 32 and soon earned this title shot.
Surprisingly good heated match, largely because of Cesaro’s impressive strength and signature moves like the Giant Swing and Running Uppercuts, but Miz holds his end up too. But, we all know how Vince feels about Cesaro so a dodgy finish was required to this match but did establish the future of the IC title picture.
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho
To kickstart this “give them something to do” feud for two of the bigger names on the roster, Ambrose hijacked Jericho’s Highlight Reel segment and turned it into a low rent knock off, The Ambrose Asylum. At least they’re not fighting over a Japanese shampoo commercial.
A decent back-and-fourth match which went probably a little longer than it needed to, it showed that Ambrose is capable of doing more than brawling although he tended to favour this ode while Jericho tried to keep it a wrestling match.
WWE Women’s Title Match – Charlotte (c) w/ Ric Flair vs. Natalya w/ Bret “Hitman” Hart
Nattie had Charlotte beat during a Title match on RAW until Ric Flair caused a DQ so, to counter Flair Nattie, brought Uncle Bret back to be in her corner. This is essentially a re-run of the classic match these two had in NXT in 2014 which kicked off the change in perception of women’s wrestling in WWE.
The only difference is that it was not as good as that match or the one they had at Roadblock. It’s a good bout but the action was just building up to something akin to its predecessors when the McBooking kicked in and ruined everything. If you can’t guess how this ended, the clue is in Bret’s presence.
Vince McSenile – greeted by vociferous “CM Punk” chants from the Chicago crowd which rattles him – comes out for an interminable segment in which he delivers one of his famous aphorisms about not listening to the fans or the media but only to himself. Yeah Vince, we know!
Anyway the point of this onanistic wafflefest was to announce who will run RAW – Shane or Big Steph? This was supposed to be about the “New Era” but in reality they’ve turned the clock back to 2001 when the McSiblings were running the show and the wrestlers were just supporting characters. The more things change….
WWE World Heavyweight Title Match – Roman Reigns (c) vs. AJ Styles
When Jericho beat Styles at Wrestlemania 32 everyone was baffled by this so it was quite the surprise that AJ would win a No 1 Contender’s four way match on RAW the next night. Surely, if this was the plan why not have Styles be booked strong at WM 32 to give him some momentum? Some extra spice was added when Styles’ former Bullet Club brethren Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows arrived as heels and beat up The Usos.
Despite this ambiguity surrounding AJ’s position as a babyface, Reigns was STILL booed by the fans! This was a good match since AJ is one of the best “big match” performers as demonstrated by his TNA and New Japan main event runs. But… (you knew this was coming) Reigns is the anointed one so we had more McBooking to protect him and spoil a fun match in which Styles bumped like mad to make Reigns look good.
So the beginning of the New Era is supposedly here but what exactly has changed? Yes, we had some new faces make their PPV debuts and perhaps the one man who could have been a game changer AJ Styles was in the main event but true to form, the McFamily were the ones whose presence and contributions to the show that loomed over everything, just like it always has.
Obviously Styles wasn’t going to dethrone Reigns as WWE Champ since that would be an admission of failure on Vince’s part and he is not going to back-peddle now after two years of trying to have Reigns accepted by a disobedient fanbase. And it seems the so-called Women’s Revolution has going into reverse gear as demonstrated by the repugnant treatment of the Women’s title match here.
Superficially this may appear to have been the start of a new era with the likes of Zayn, Enzo & Cass and The Vaudevillians being showcased, but look deeper and you’ll find US champ Kalisto in the pre-show (in Ryback’s farewell with the company) while Baron Corbin, the shock winner of the Andre Battle Royale at WM 32, is on the losing end of a short pre-show match!
Once again, I can only conclude this review by praising the work of the wrestlers on this show while pointing the finger at Vince and his out of date and counterproductive McBooking and reliance on his overexposed McFamily as the chief focal points of the product as its key flaws and failures.
Best match – Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
Payback Kickoff Match – Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin
Payback Kickoff Match – US Title Match – Kalisto (c) vs. Ryback
Monday Night RAW – 4th April 2016 – No 1 Contender’s Fatal Four Way Match – AJ Styles vs. Cesaro vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens
Monday Night RAW – 11th April 2016 – Highlight Reel…Or Ambrose Asylum
Smackdown – 11st April 2016 – Enzo & Cass Label The Vaudevillians S-A-W-F-T!
Monday Night RAW – 25th April 2016
The McMahon Sibling Rivalry To Come To A Head At Payback
Cesaro Sends The Miz Back to Hollywood
Rating – ***
Man In Black