Wrestling Review: WWE Payback (2017)

Wrestlemania is in the rear view mirror, but there is no rest for the superstars of the WWE as the sports-entertainment juggernaut rolls through San Jose, California for WWE Payback. The SAP Center will play host to a range of matches, headlined by a House of Horrors match — whatever that may be — between Smackdown Live‘s current WWE Champion Randy Orton and new Raw superstar Bray Wyatt. Who knows what hellish horrors Wyatt has in store for his former Family member? The card will also see hometown heroine Bayley looks to defend her Raw Women’s Championship against “five feet of fury” Alexa Bliss, while “the new face of America”, the French-Canadian Kevin Owens looks to defend the United States Championship against another Canadian in Chris Jericho. With Kevin Owens already on the blue brand, Smackdown Live, he will remain there win or lose, but should Jericho win, he will also be transferred to Smackdown Live. The tag titles and cruiserweight championship are also each on the line, and a huge grudge match between Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns cap off what is sure to be an unforgettable match card, with each and every wrestling superstar looking to get some measure of retribution.

+ Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt (House of Horror’s Match) (Part 1): I don’t even know how to describe this. A pre-taped segment seemingly mimicking Resident Evil 7 crossed with random 80s horror movies with a musical score over the top — absolutely phenomenal. It was so cheesy it worked amazingly
+ The Hardys (Matt & Jeff Hardy) (c) vs Cesaro & Sheamus (WWE Raw Tag Team Championships): the Hardy Boys’ resurgence over the past year or so has been so unexpected it is hard not to get hyped for their matches. Cesaro and Sheamus are such a great team, so this was always going to be an enjoyable affair. But this surpassed even my expectations to be a really stiff, rough but enjoyable tag team match up
+ Bayley (c) vs Alexa Bliss (WWE Raw Women’s Championship): another fantastic character-vs-character, good-vs-bad battle, Bliss had Bayley’s hometown crowd in the plam of Bliss’ hand throughout. Bayley as an underdog is something the WWE never really capitalised on, but this was a really good match between two will-be mainstays of the Women’s Division of the future
+ Neville (c) vs Austin Aries (WWE Cruiserweight Championship): Neville has such incredible control over the crowd, it is a bit shocking he was never given more to run with as a fan favourite. This was another masterclass between two phenomenal in ring characters
+ Kevin Owens (c) vs Chris Jericho (WWE United States CHampionship): some fantastic story telling essentially made up for their sub-par Wrestlemania bout. A very interesting ending adds some new folds to what may soon be the end of this story. This was a solid start to the show

– Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt (House of Horror’s Match) (Part 2): this was the in-ring stuff, billed as a regular No Holds Barred match. And it sucked
– Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman: you’d be forgiven not knowing who was meant to be the good guy here, based on the crowd reaction alone. Reigns works best in these brawls, though he is always better against the smaller opponents. This was always Strowman’s match to lose, because the rate at which Strowman has improved has been astronomical, and it really showed in this match, as Strowman looked head and shoulders better than Reigns. This was not a good match, but not because either of these two are inherently bad; they just need different opponents
– Seth Rollins vs Samoa Joe: with a very bare-bone story between the two, despite based on real-life issues, this was a lackluster match with another customary WWE-style finish which made both competitors look stupid
– Miz TV with Finn Balor: for a random pre-show segment this did have some interesting developments, but at the same time it should have either been on the main card, or even on Raw tomorrow. I know it was just some time filler to get two people on TV, but I want either more, or not to have my time wasted
– Enzo & Big Cass vs The Club (Karl Anderson & Luke ‘DOC’ Gallows): another random pre-show tag match, with the same boring 50-50 outcomes you would expect. A severe waste of at least two of these guys, especially when something like Tozawa/Kendrick or even Noam Dar/Rich Swann would have made far more sense

> Jeff Hardy legitimately lost a tooth in his tag title defense, and I think I saw a gash on Matt’s head, too. This ain’t ballet, kids

Should you watch this event: With neither major title on the line today, this could have been a very missable show, and I am happy to say that was mostly not the case. The tag titles, women’s championship and the first segment of the House of Horrors match were all fantastic, and another masterclass from the cruiserweights is a must see. The rest is very hit-or-miss, depending on who your favourites are, but for me the three main event matches all fell flat.

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