Monday, May 2, 2016

WWE Payback: A New Era.....of Ego(Mc)Mania!

Last night's Payback PPV was infuriating in a way.  Inasmuch as it was a series of good wrestling matches, Payback was an unquestionable success (aside from the tag team opener being cut short due to Enzo's horrifyingly brutal concussion - glad he seems to be doing well).  Three of the five full-length matches approached four-star territory, everything got time to breathe, and the company continued to focus on this newer crop of stars.  But what kept this from being an A show?  The McMahons.  The goddamn McMahons and their stupid overfed egos.

Holy Christ, I can't stand watching these people anymore.  This nonsense about who's in control, who's going to inherit the company, making the fans happy vs. what's "best for business" (Shouldn't those two things logically go hand-in-hand?)....  I stopped caring about all that shit sixteen years ago when we got a WrestleMania main event with a McMahon in every corner.  Since then they've trotted these fools out in various combinations ad nauseum, and there's never been any intrigue to these power struggle storylines.  Know why?  Because we all know who's actually in power, and that will never change as long as Vince is still breathing.  So any suspense about Shane coming in and shaking things up is false, and any significant changes we see are being made with Vince's consent.  Plus, said changes are probably temporary until Vince goes back to his favorite way of doing things.  So it's all manufactured nonsense in service of giving Vince and his kids as much screen time as possible.

I can't yawn fast enough....

And yeah, I know the announcement of Shane vs. Taker at WrestleMania resulted in a significant spike in ticket sales (God knows why), but in no way does that mean the fans as a whole are tuning in every week to see the latest McMahon family drama.  If I want to see family members squabble and bicker I've got Sunday dinner for that.  Keep these people off my television.  Jeezus, they bumped a SECOND match to the pre-show to make room for this drivel.  On a PAY-PER-VIEW.  How ass-backward is that?

All that said, Payback did offer some fine wrestling content, though my feed was riddled with buffering problems.  The Network has been around two years and I've never had so many streaming issues as I did with this year's 'Mania and Payback.  Get it together, WWE!

The two pre-show matches were varying degrees of mediocre.  Baron Corbin dominated most of his match with Ziggler only to lose via rollup when he gave Dolph too much recovery time.  Pretty forgettable.  Kalisto vs. Ryback was better, but not long enough to climb out of two-star territory.  Kalisto predictably retained and I'd say it's time to give this guy an actual feud we can care about.  The US Title is beyond worthless right now.

The opening match didn't have a chance to get going before Enzo's unfortunate concussion (which as I said earlier was scary as all hell).

But the show picked up big with Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn.  Zayn was on fire out of the gate with a flurry of high-impact offense (during which I was sadly distracted worrying about Enzo and waiting for someone else to get injured), before Owens slowed things down.  The first act of the match felt a little plodding, but after several minutes both guys ramped up the energy and delivered a spectacular final third.  I'd say this was the match of the night, based on the first viewing.

Can't go wrong with these two

Owens' heel mannerisms after this bout were fantastic, as he essentially used Byron Saxton to conduct an interview with himself and then announced he'd be joining the commentary team for the IC Title match.

Miz vs. Cesaro was a solid outing, as The Miz is looking more motivated than he has in years, and Cesaro is a freak of nature.  Owens' commentary was absolutely hilarious throughout.  When his in-ring career is over he should seriously consider becoming a color man.  Owens eventually got involved in the action before Sami Zayn returned for some....well, payback, and the distraction allowed Miz to win with a quick rollup.  This seems to be leading to a four-way at Extreme Rules and it's nice to see three somewhat hot contenders doggedly fighting to be first in line against Miz.

Next up was Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho in another fine match that got a cozy 18 minutes.  Both guys looked good here and they kept the mood unpredictable with the outside-the-ring brawling.  Ambrose finally got a much-needed PPV win, so we'll see what's next for him.  Probably the second-best match of the night.

The last two matches both featured excellent in-ring action but were brought down with stupid ego-fueled booking.

Charlotte vs. Natalya wasn't really given the chance to equal their two previous "Network special" bouts, but they put together a decent little match for a while.  Then out of nowhere came yet another Montreal Screwjob callback.  Guys?  It's been 19 goddamn years.  Most of your target audience isn't old enough to even remember that night.  Hell, a significant portion wasn't even born yet.  And I'm pretty sure of the audience members who got the reference, not one of them wanted to relive Montreal for the thousandth time.  Aside from the paycheck I can't imagine why Bret would even agree to participate in another bit of legacy-cheapening Montreal booking.  Then to follow up being screwed by a crooked official, Nattie and Bret each put a Flair in the Sharpshooter, as though that makes everything ok.  I assume we'll see a rematch at Extreme Rules, but could the booking team not have used an ounce of creativity in getting us there?  Nope, Bret's in town, let's just redo Montreal.  Piss off.

The semi-main event segment went to the aforementioned McMahon circle-jerk.  Vince blathered on for eons before finally deciding Shane and Stephanie will be co-running the company for a while.  Oh joy.  Now we'll be subjected to endless backstage skits and even more 30-minute show-opening talking segments.  I can't freakin' wait.  Seriously, does one person watch RAW for this shit?

The Roman Reigns-AJ Styles main event was well on its way to being Match of the Night.  And then late-90s booking struck.  As a way to change this to a No DQ match (which could've involved Shane or Steph simply announcing the change prior to the bout), they booked AJ to win by countout after a spectacular Phenomenal Forearm through the announce table, had Shane restart, had Roman get DQd for a low blow, and had Stephanie restart again.  I generally hate match restarts.  They interrupt the flow of the story being told and in this case did nothing for either guy aside from giving AJ two technicality-based wins over the Champion.  Once the match got a proper third act it was pretty great though.  Reigns proved he can work as a top heel (which is what he needs to be), and AJ proved he absolutely belongs in the main event, delivering a Shawn Michaels-esque performance.  This is one of the best talents in the world.  I was underwhelmed by Anderson & Gallows involvement since it didn't answer any questions about who they were working for.  But fortunately they didn't really affect the outcome either.  The finish involved AJ hitting multiple finishers only for Reigns to kick out, and then Reigns hit one spear for the pin.  I've been saying this forever now, but Reigns desperately needs a different finisher.  The spear is such a weak move, and unless you're Goldberg (who didn't even finish people with the spear), or a Vader-sized guy, it's just a soft-looking finisher that isn't believable.  Get rid of it.


Anyway, had this main event not been booked Vince Russo-style as a cheap way to shove McMahon faces into my living room, I'd call it a four-star affair.  Averaging everything out it was more like three and a quarter.  We then got the announcement of a rematch at Extreme Rules.  In an Extreme Rules match.  Isn't that ultimately what we just saw?  Whatever, it'll be good.

So overall Payback was a pretty good show when it should've been an excellent one.  The tag team match was derailed by circumstances out of anyone's control, but the other flaws were due to yet more idiotic booking and ego-stroking.  That needs to stop.  Everyone involved in Creative should know better than that.  Christ guys, you have a perfect booking model under your own umbrella.  Watch a TakeOver special.

Best Match: Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
Worst Match: Enzo & Cass vs. The Vauvillains, but it wasn't their fault
What I'd Change: Banish Vince, Shane & Steph to off-air roles
Most Disappointing Match: Charlotte vs. Natalya
Most Pleasant Surprise: Nothing really, everything I liked, I expected to like
Overall Rating: 7.5/10

That's it for the Payback review.  Comment below with your thoughts!

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