There continues to be absolutely no logical reason why WWE would hold Payback, a “pay-per-view” event on the WWE Network, a mere seven days after SummerSlam, their previous “pay-per-view” event on the Network. That is the type of insanity that we’ve come to expect from Vince McMahon in this day and age, though. We may not like the decision, but here we are, and it’s time for yet another Running Diary. You know the deal, folks… LESS DEW EET!!!
(0:01) “Payback” and “Retribution” mean the same thing. That can’t be a coincidence, can it?
(0:04) WELCOME… TO THE THUNDERDOME!!!
(0:04) The show opener is for the United States Title, with Apollo Crews defending against Bobby Lashley. We’re talking about two of the most gifted athletes on the WWE roster today. Apollo’s title reign deserves to continue, and continue away from The Hurt Business. At the same time, The Hurt Business has looked like bumbling fools against Apollo for a long time, so what the hell do you do with them if they lose again?
(0:08) I don’t think it will ever stop being funny to see things taking place in the ring, only to then look at the crowd reactions in the Thunderdome, and see countless people just sitting there with no expressions on their face. On the other hand, I still love when they show little kids going absolutely crazy over things, whether it’s an entrance, a finishing move being hit, or a three-count. Ahh, to be young again.
(0:11) MVP continues to be really good in this role. He’s loud, obnoxious, and annoying. He’s also a very good promo, and his strengths help hide the weaknesses of Lashley and Shelton Benjamin.
(0:14) I still think it would’ve been a good idea to have Apollo turn heel and join The Hurt Business when MVP recruited him. That would be quite the dominant group. Lots of domination. Almost… a nation of it.
(0:15) Nice tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman from Crews, giving the “Wakanda Forever” salute before hitting his Standing Moonsault.
(0:17) Lashley nearly sends Crews to the moon before dropping him with a Chokeslam. Incredible height.
(0:17) Lashley wins the title by submission. Pretty quick on the sub there. That was… something.
(0:19) Even though he lost, Crews was able to attack Lashley after the match and avoid being beaten by MVP and Benjamin. As I’ve said before, it makes The Hurt Business look really dumb when they continually get Wile E. Coyote’d by one man over and over and over again. The match was fun, but short. I fear we’re going to see another theme here, but I’ll give the match 2.75 stars. Nothing overly special, but nothing offensive, either.
(0:22) Kayla Braxton asks Paul Heyman about the end of Smackdown, but he has no real answers. Typical Heyman.
(0:25) Our next match is Big E vs Sheamus, with all the focus on Big E’s singles run. Should he take a more serious tone? Should he continue to be himself? Should WWE avoid having The Miz, of all fucking people, go with the “I’ve been where you are” route when talking to E? I don’t think Big E needs to change a thing. He’e been serious when the situation calls for it. He’s been funny when the situation calls for it. The same can be said about damn near every World Champion in the long history of the business. I get what the company is trying to do. It just doesn’t make sense with the way they’re approaching it, nor with the people they’re using to approach it.
(0:29) After all these years, Sheamus continues to have zero tan. That’s dedication. Do you know how difficult it is to travel the world, year in and year out, and not even accidentally turn peach?
(0:30) Lots of trash talk and a more serious tone from Big E thus far.
(0:33) Back-to-back singles matches to start the show that feature two big, strong dudes. This match is a lot more methodical than the previous one. Still an interesting choice to kick things off here.
(0:37) Good storytelling spot, with E having Sheamus down on the mat, but deciding to take the time to gyrate his hips. This allowed Sheamus to get up and get back on offense. Normally, that would be just another moment in a match, but now, it’s something that will be brought up regularly. They might even make it to where it happens multiple times in Big E matches, causing him to think that maybe he really should become more serious.
(0:42) Big E gets the win. The match was everything you would expect from E and Sheamus. Hard-fought, hard-hitting. Two big, meaty men bumpin’ meat. I’m comfortable in saying that was 3 stars. It wouldn’t bother me if you thought it was slightly higher or slightly lower. Another good, but not great, match. It’s becoming the norm for WWE events.
(0:45) Wrestlers often leave the business for Hollywood roles. Two wrestlers that we don’t have to worry about becoming actors… Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax. Any kind of “acting” simply isn’t their area of expertise.
(0:47) Next up is Matt Riddle vs King Corbin. Oh, joy. Oh, bliss. I’m so excited for this. So… so… excited.
(0:50) Corbin nearly decapitates with a Lariat before the bell rings. Good Lord.
(0:51) Corbin is either wearing a women’s spaghetti strap top, or a G-Unit tank top from 2003.
(0:53) WWE needs to be very fucking careful with adding Matt Riddle’s personal life into a storyline. The company is already being viewed in a negative light by many fans for bringing The Velveteen Dream and Austin Theory back to television after the accusations against them. As I always say, I’m not here to talk about guilt or innocence. Bringing up Riddle’s “failures at home” is a shitty idea, though, no matter what he did or didn’t do.
(0:58) I don’t know why we still have to deal with Corbin. Just… yuck.
(1:01) Riddle picks up the win, which Corey Graves says is a “massive upset.” Another match that you could say is “TV quality”, but not “pay-per-view quality.” Let’s say 2 stars and keep it moving.
(1:03) Corbin attacks Riddle backstage, because fuck everything, that’s why. I’m pretty sure this company hates all of us.
(1:04) Women’s Tag Team Title match is up next. She-Generation X defending the belts against Baszler and Jax. How do we continue building to the eventual split of Banks and Bayley here?
(1:06) Go back in time and tell people that Sasha Banks vs Bayley will be one of the hottest women’s wrestling feuds of all-time, but that Bayley would be the heel, and they would probably try to burn you at the stake. That seems to be what we’re building to, though.
(1:10) Red is my favorite color, so I’m a little biased, but I really dig She-Generation X’s new ring gear tonight. Good look for both of them.
(1:13) We’re only a couple minutes into the match, and Sasha has already tried matching strikes with Baszler and tried running into Jax. Not ideal strategy, to say the least.
(1:16) Watching Nia Jax wrestle is like watching someone fall into quicksand. It’s like watching a .gif in slow-motion. It’s… you get the point.
(1:19) Sasha and Bayley are getting a bunch of offense in on Nia, almost building to Nia getting the hot tag on Shayna. That’s a unique way to put a stretch of this match together.
(1:20) Beautiful ending to the match, with Baszler using Sasha’s arm to help lock in a submission on Bayley, causing Bayley to tap out. We have new Women’s Tag Team Champions. Two Belts Banks and Bayley Dos Straps are no more. Say hello to No Belts Banks and Bayley One Strap. That’s quite the fall. How about we go… 2.25 stars, if we want to be kind.
(1:22) If I never see Nia cut another promo, it might be too soon.
(1:25) Looks like Keith Lee vs Randy Orton is up next. Give them some time to work with, and this one could be fun. I’m hoping it ends the streak of “ehh, that was decent” matches that WWE loves giving us.
(1:29) Hey, Keith Lee isn’t wrestling in Serena Williams’ Wimbledon gear! That’s a big step forward. His new entrance music, however, is AT BEST, a lateral move, but more than likely, it’s a step back.
(1:34) Lee with a running crossbody on Orton, and you can almost hear the breath leave Randy’s body.
(1:38) I gotta give credit to Orton here. He’s selling, and selling well, for Lee’s offense. He’s making the main roster newcomer look like he belongs in the upper tier of Raw.
(1:40) Whoa… right after I finish typing that, Lee hits Orton with a Spirit Bomb, and he gets the win. Clean as clean can be. Wow. I wish the match got some more time to work with, but both men did well with what they were given. I’ll call it 2.5 stars, but only because it could’ve been longer. I think it was building well, and then it ended up being shorter than the average television match you’ll see. I can’t go with 3 stars for a match that brief.
(1:43) The next match is Rey and Dominik Mysterio vs Seth Rollins and Murphy. It’s yet another match that can be something special if it’s given the right amount of time. I’ve got my fingers crossed.
(1:49) Clearly, Dominik reads my columns and has decided to take my advice about losing the hood on his ring gear. It’s a much better look for him.
(1:51) I love, love, love the deeeeep Lucha-style arm drags that Dominik has shown in his matches. Good stuff.
(1:52) Smooth teamwork from Rey and Dom so far. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that they have in-ring chemistry together.
(1:56) Say whatever you want about the Monday Night Messiah gimmick or his transformation into “ultimate company guy” in interviews and on social media, but holy shit, Seth Rollins is one of the smoothest in-ring performers on the planet today. Combine that with an all-time great in Rey Mysterio, one of the most underrated today in Murphy, and a kid who has shown that he might be ahead of schedule in his training, and this is something fun.
(2:00) Dom just SPIKES Murphy on his head. Gorgeous sell by Murphy there.
(2:05) After a mix-up by Rollins and Murphy, Dom hits Murphy with a Frog Splash to pick up the win. Very good work by all four men. Easily the match of the night. 3.5 stars, at the very worst, but I might be inclined to go even higher upon a second viewing.
(2:18) I stepped away to prepare dinner, but I didn’t miss anything. Backstage stuff with The Hurt Business, and a lengthy video package for our next match, the No Holds Barred Triple Threat for the Universal Title. Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman, and Roman Reigns. This is going to feature a lot of destruction.
(2:20) Strowman and Wyatt are already tearing the ringside area apart, beating the hell out of each other, but no Roman Reigns yet. Pretty smart strategy, if that’s actually what it is. It would be pretty funny if he just doesn’t show up at all. That would be an all-time bait-and-switch by WWE.
(2:23) Alexa Bliss is shown watching the match from backstage. Well, not really watching, because she’s standing next to the fucking monitor like WWE loves making people do. She can’t see a damn thing from that angle, so she’s just listening to Michael Cole and Corey Graves do commentary, I guess. Hey Vince McMahon… NOBODY WATCHES TV LIKE THAT, YOU KOOK.
(2:25) Tearing the ringside area apart just wasn’t enough. Now Strowman and Wyatt are destroying the stage area, too. Still no Reigns.
(2:27) Braun decides he wants to do something from the top rope, but takes approximately 25 minutes to climb to the middle turnbuckle, allowing Wyatt to… completely collapse the ring with a Superplex. You could see that coming. Still a cool spot.
(2:28) Roman Reigns is out, just now signing the contract, and he has a steel chair in hand. Brilliant.
(2:29) Not-so-brilliant, I guess, because he dumped the chair immediately, and then failed to get a pin on both men. Oh, hey, he’s got the chair again, and allows Strowman to wear it for a bit, but Braun kicks out at two again. The plan is starting to unravel.
(2:30) Reigns breaks out of a Mandible Claw by kicking Bray Wyatt in his little Brays.
(2:30) Spear on Strowman, and Roman Reigns is the new Universal Champion after not having to do much of anything. Again, that’s really good heel strategy. I dig it. It was the expected outcome, but that’s probably not a bad thing. There wasn’t much to the match, as a whole. Some brawling, and then Reigns shows up for two minutes and wins. This was more about the outcome and how it happened than the match quality, but I’ll say 2 stars, just to give it a number. We go off the air with Reigns and Heyman gloating at the top of the ramp.
Another WWE Network event that was mostly just decent-to-good matches. I’m not sure that’s the best move going forward. Even when WWE would put on a “bad” event, you were still likely to get one or two really good matches, and maybe even a possible Match Of The Year candidate sprinkled in. The company seems like they’re just jogging in place during the pandemic, even after debuting the Thunderdome. We’re getting matches, both in length and quality, that we could just get on Raw or Smackdown every week.
What did all of you think about Payback? Hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know your thoughts. I will be back here on WrestlingHeadlines.com on Wednesday with another Week In Review. Until then, be good to each other.