WWE – Payback 2020 (Cert 15)
1 Disc DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 150 minutes approx.
For reasons only known to Vince McMahon and the voices in his head, this show was held exactly one week after Summerslam. This isn’t the first time – in 2006, the WWE version of ECW had their infamous December To Dismember PPV one week after Survivor Series, whilst in 1991 Survivor Series was followed six days later with Tuesday In Texas, to test the waters to see if weekly mini-PPVs would work (hint: it didn’t).
The only possible reason looking at the card is that it was a way to finish of some of the feuds that would have otherwise been on Summerslam that prevented it from being another 5-hour show. The rest of the matches were put together in a hurry or were variations on Summerslam matches, including the main event, which would seem to be the likeliest reason for this show happening so soon.
At the end of the Summerslam main event which saw The Fiend defeat Braun Strowman for the Universal Title, Roman Reigns made his big return after six months in isolation, destroying both men. With TV ratings tanking, Vince was no doubt cock-a-hoop to have Roman back, although it’s too early to see if he would move the needle in a sustained and meaningful way.
Payback took place on August 30th 2020 at the WWE Thunderdome located inside the Amway Centre in Orlando, Florida in front of virtual crowd seen via a bank of video screens. Commentary is provided by Michael Cole and Corey Graves for SD and Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton and Samoa Joe for RAW.
As ever, while my match reviews won’t contain any results or major spoilers, expect plenty of opinion and backstory to the matches:
WWE US Title Match – Apollo Crews (c) vs. Bobby Lashley
This feud has been going on for seemingly forever, stemming from the Apollo vs. MVP tiff which saw MVP recruit Lashley and Shelton Benjamin to form The Hurt Business. On TV, permutations of Crews vs. MVP/Shelton/Lashley in either singles or tag matches with Ricochet and Cedric Alexander have been running ad infinitum and sadly, don’t seem to be stopping any time soon.
Nothing too offensive here but nothing spectacular either, the US title is hardly a belt of any worth these days and neither Crews nor Lashley will be able to elevate it to any level of credibility, although they’ve finally turned Lashley into the beast he was in Impact Wrestling. The match happened, that’s the best I can say about it.
Big E vs. Sheamus
A mini-feud on Smackdown to kick-off the Big E solo run saw the Celtic Warrior fall to the New Day member, but apparently Vince decided we needed a rematch. Sheamus now dresses like a 30’s Irish gangster, similar to Aiden O’Shea in Impact Wrestling ( a reference I’m sure none of you will get), but doesn’t look so convincing with his ginger hair.
Big E has all the charisma in the world but is a better tag wrestler whilst Sheamus is just a big Irish lug. Solid brawl but neither man has what it takes to last more than four minutes without being dull and it shows here. An overlong TV match at best.
King Corbin vs. Matt Riddle
Bro, it’s the Original Bro up against the most boring Bro in the WWE, bro. Former MMA fighter turned wrestler and 20 years to late stoned surfer dude Riddle quickly became a main player in NXT, so of course Vince would bring him up to the main roster and not have a clue what to do with him. Riddle debuted on SD, defeating AJ Styles then lost a rematch, killing his momentum, before being stuck in a feud with Corbin.
Compounding issues, days prior to this match, Riddle was hit by a scandal involving a woman he had an affair with accusing him of sexual assault during the recent Speaking Out movement. Riddle admitted the affair but also claimed the woman was a stalker and he had a restraining order against her, but she remains adamant and a lawsuit was filed. Naturally, this was referenced during a pre-match interview to draw heat for Corbin.
A bit of a styles clash between Riddle’s MMA strikes and submissions and whatever it is Corbin does, this is another match that didn’t do the babyface any favours booking wise, but Vince can’t seem to book babyfaces properly these days anyway.
WWE Women’s Tag Title Match – Bayley & Sasha Banks (c) vs. Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax
Originally, the odd couple tag team was supposed to be Asuka and Shayna Baszler, with the end game being Shayna challenging Asuka for the RAW Women’s title, but instead it was changed to Nia Jax. If Asuka was in this match it would have been a clear Match Of The Night without a doubt, though this was the best match on the show so far.
Fair play to the champs, they worked hard, and bumped like crazy to put the challengers over, resulting in a fun match that was all action. A couple of sloppy moments aside, this was exactly what it needed to be, with a terrifically inventive finish to boot. Jax is still a way behind the others but played her part well enough. Small side note: on commentary they said Baszler was a protégé of Ronda Rousey – in fact, it was Baszler who trained Rousey in wrestling!
Randy Orton vs. Keith Lee
Similar to Matt Riddle earlier, Keith Lee was a big deal in NXT. Just a month earlier, he was both North American and NXT champion, relinquishing the former belt then shockingly dropping the latter to Karrion Kross at Takeover XXX. Why so soon? Because Vince wanted Lee on RAW! Unfortunately, it took the absence of Lee’s old theme music and his horrid new ring gear covering up his bulky frame (I guess Vince sees it as fat) to realise this was going to be another call up destined to fail.
True to form, Lee faced Orton in his debut match on RAW in which he did none of the things that got him over, and it ended in DQ leading to this rematch. If you hadn’t seen Keith Lee before, this was no showcase for his talent and uniqueness, so either hit up the WWE Network or YouTube to find out instead. And to make matters worse, this match didn’t even last seven minutes – so much for Keith Lee’s “limitless potential”…
Rey Mysterio & Dominik Mysterio vs. Seth Rollins & Buddy Murphy
Like Crews vs. Hurt Business, this is another feud that has been running since the dawn of time with no signs of letting up either. The father-son tag team was inevitable and I can understand why they saved it for PPV but it is hard to care when this should have happened months ago.
Work was good enough, again all action and Dominik deserves credit for applying himself to improving his skills and does a great job in his third ever pro match, as well as taking his lumps and paying his dues despite receiving preferential treatment. The feud goes on but this was a decent chapter in it.
Universal Title No Holds Barred Triple Threat Match – The Fiend (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns
So, I can only presume that Reigns gets added to this rematch by dint of missing out on his title shot at Wrestlemania 36 against Goldberg, where Strowman subbed for Roman who was out due to COVID. On SD, they ran a show long angle where the contract needed to be signed; Braun signed and Wyatt signed but a newly heelish Reigns didn’t – on the advice of his new consultant Paul Heyman!
Come match time on this show, Reigns STILL hadn’t signed the contract, making this a one-on-one rematch. Or maybe Reigns and Heyman have something up their sleeve? Work wise this was a tad better than the Summerslam bout utilising the same smoke and mirrors to hide their limitations – including an old favourite complete with a hilarious ref bump – but ultimately it was about what Reigns would – or wouldn’t – be doing.
Is it fair to assume that Vince knew way ahead of Summerslam that Roman Reigns was returning that he could add this show to the schedule and have him be the saviour of his TV ratings woes? The timing seems too perfect for this to be a coincidence otherwise there really is little here to justify this show existing when they could have beefed up the TV shows with some of the matches.
But it is what it is. In typical Vince fashion, he once again puts all his eggs into the single basket that is Roman Reigns, but unless the long time planning is there will it all be for nought as usual? The only real stars elevated over the past few months in his absence have been in the women’s division with Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Asuka; one could argue a case for Drew McIntyre otherwise the male division remains stale.
At least this time, Vince has embraced the fan negativity towards Reigns and by pairing him with Paul Heyman has done what he should have done with John Cena 10 years ago and with Reigns too. This apparent heel persona should freshen his act up and create new match ups, depending on what Vince does next.
Don’t hold your breath though…
Best Match – Bayley & Sasha Banks vs. Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax
Payback Kick-Off Match: Riott Squad vs. The Iiconics
Rating – **
Man In Black