Comic Frontline & Zone 4's 1-2-3 Podcast presents a brand new monthly written feature here on Comic Frontline: In Perspective!
Brant Fowler, co-host of 1-2-3 Podcast breaks down and discusses each match on the card. This month, it's WWE PAYBACK, a RAW only Pay-Per-View available on the WWE Network!
Welcome to the very first monthly wrestling feature here on Comic Frontline! As the intro stated, I'm one of the co-hosts and founders of 1-2-3 Podcast by Zone 4 on Comic Frontline.
Just to give a little background, Chris and I began doing a weekly podcast covering WWE. We then changed it to monthly live commentary on PPVs. Now we only cover the big four events (ROYAL RUMBLE, WRESTLEMANIA, SUMMERSLAM and SURVIVOR SERIES) in that format. And since none of us can currently commit to more, I figured why not start writing about wrestling?! So that's why I'm here!
Yesterday, the WWE Network aired the first post-WRESTLEMANIA PPV, PAYBACK, which was a RAW only PPV. If you haven't been following wrestling recently, the brands split once more, each with their own set of championships, and each now have their own PPVs. This month is RAW, next month is SMACKDOWN LIVE's. But because of a "Superstar Shake-Up," there were a couple of matches on the card that involved SMACKDOWN LIVE competitors.
Now that you're all caught up on that, let's get into the actual event.
PAYBACK is the event where superstars set out to get just that: payback. It's basically the fallout from WRESTLEMANIA, and theoretically the place where any feuds still going on are wrapped up. And this year's PAYBACK had quite the card.
UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP: KEVIN OWENS vs. CHRIS JERICHO
The first match on the card was United States Champion Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho for the title. These two had forged a friendship for a number of months, helping each other cheat to win match after match. Owens being the selfish guy he is turned on Jericho and beat the crap out of him. The two wrestled at WRESTLEMANIA, but Owens came out the victor in a controversial match. This was their rematch.
Prior to the match, Owens had been moved from RAW to SMACKDOWN LIVE, while Jericho remained on RAW So the stipulation of this match was whomever won the title would remain on SMACKDOWN LIVE. So if Jericho won, he'd move to SMACKDOWN LIVE as well. Whether that means Owens would stay or go back to RAW was unclear. If Owens won, they would both remain exactly where they're at.
This was a fantastic match to kick off the PPV. Jericho can't do everything as well as he could when he was younger, but he's definitely gained some of his skills back because he was at the top of his game in this match. And Owens was no slouch either. These two honestly brought out the best in each other. They pulled almost every move out of their arsenals, from cannonballs on the outside, to Pop-Up Powerbombs and Walls of Jericho. Owens managed to get a finger on the rope, mimicking the events of their match at WRESTLEMANIA, and that set Jericho off. He tore Owens apart, wearing his hand out, kicking the steel steps into it and everything. And Jericho pulled out the win.
This is very interesting because it either means both Jericho and Owens are now on SMACKDOWN LIVE, or it means that Owens moves back to RAW. An already VERY stacked roster on RAW. I'm hoping both remain on SMACKDOWN LIVE because they need the talent at this point.
WINNER BY SUBMISSION: CHRIS JERICHO (NEW US CHAMP)
CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP: NEVILLE vs. AUSTIN ARIES
To be honest, I haven't been following the Cruiserweights closely, and I haven't watched a single episode of 205 LIVE. But I have seen the matches on RAW, and I'm a big fan of A-Double, Austin Aries. So I was excited to see this match, and boy did it deliver!
Since Neville came back, turned heel and ran roughshod through the Cruiserweight Division, he's really impressed me. Up until that point, his star had lost its luster a bit. But he really showed his worth in this role. There was no one that could beat him no matter how good they were. That is until Austin Aries came back from injury and stepped up to the plate.
If you've never seen Aries before, he's one of the most flamboyant, cocky and borderline annoying superstars of the modern era. But he backs it all up with incredible skill and great mic skills. He goes by the moniker "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" and portrays himself to be smarter than most. He'll take shortcuts, but he'll get away with it. He's an anti-hero of sorts. He mentally beats down his opponents before he ever gets in the ring with them, and then his unorthodox style will beat them down in the ring.
Neville is a high-flyer that's built like a house. He's ripped, he's solid muscle, and he's quick as lightning.
Pair these two up and you have one heck of an explosive match on your hands. This match in particular was fast-paced, full of counters, aerial moves, solid and hard striking blows, submissions, and more! In the end, Neville got himself disqualified and kept the title, but Aries had him dead to rights with the Last Chancery.
So far, PAYBACK is two-for-two!
WINNER BY DQ: AUSTIN ARIES (NEVILLE KEEPS TITLE)
RAW TAG-TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: HARDY BOYZ vs. CESARO & SHEAMUS
Ok, as a long-time wrestling fan, it excites me to no end to not only see the Hardys back together in WWE, but also to be the reigning and defending champs! This is pretty cool, and their following is renewed thanks to their way out there, but brilliant DELETE personas and storyline elsewhere. But in the ring, it's classic Hardy Boyz.
Cesaro and Sheamus I think are both very good wrestlers, but as a tag-team, I just haven't been a fan. This feud with the Hardys, though, has been pretty good. Before this match, we saw two individual matches pitting Cesaro vs. Jeff and Matt vs. Sheamus. Though the Hardys pulled out victories in both, Cesaro and Sheamus shook hands and praised the Hardys for their victories and as the legends they are.
This was to be the culmination of the mini-feud. Would the Hardys retain, or would Cesaro and Sheamus prevail and become tag champs?
The match was mostly pretty straight-forward. Great wrestling from all parties. All the signature moves were hit, and there was great tag-team action from both. The bigger Cesaro and Sheamus wore down the smaller Hardys, double-teaming and keeping them from tagging for much of the match. But when the action really started to pick up, it was Matt, not Jeff that came in on a tear and pulled out just about every move he's known for all at once.
After a few false finishes, the Hardys pulled out the win, retaining their titles. Again, we saw the good sportsmanship with the handshakes and raising of arms. Until the Hardys were celebrating on the ropes and Cesaro and Sheamus came back and ran through them vicious and hard. Speaking of vicious and hard, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the tooth Jeff Hardy legitimately lost from a kick to the face by Sheamus. You could see the gaping whole the missing tooth left for the rest of the match.
Sure, this was telegraphed a bit. You play up the sportsmanship and then the losers turn. It's been done many times. But here for whatever reason, for me, it worked really well, and I loved them turning.When Cesaro and Sheamus were first put together, Sheamus was a heel and Cesaro was a face. They were always at odds and competing with one another, and it got old. Now, Cesaro has full-on turned heel, and their team is going to be one to be reckoned with. I like it much better this way. Now if only Sheamus would lose that stupid mohawk!
WINNERS BY PINFALL: HARDY BOYZ
RAW WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP: BAYLEY vs. ALEXA BLISS
I know she's not everyone's cup of tea, but I really like Alexa Bliss. She's kind of like Trish 2.0 for me. She started off as a valet with an attitude and developed into a killer competitor in the ring. She has definitely shown her worth since coming up from NXT, where she was also very impressive. She's been the SMACKDOWN Women's Champion, and now she's out for RAW's.
Bayley is everyone's sweetheart. She worked long and hard to get where she's at, and despite being a little repetitive and gooey on the mic, she's been a solid champ. And she can definitely throw down, which makes this a very interesting match-up.
Alexa had a nice flurry early on, but Bayley took charge for a while and tossed Bliss around giving just as much as she got.
In the end, Bliss was just a little too much for the hometown girl whose dreams were dashed in this meeting. And honestly, I'm very happy about this, because Bayley needs to chase the title for a while, and Bliss is a proven commodity. She also deserved it.
WINNER BY PINFALL: ALEXA BLISS (NEW RAW WOMEN'S CHAMP)
HOUSE OF HORRORS MATCH: BRAY WYATT vs. RANDY ORTON (NON-TITLE)
This feud has had its ups and downs. I like the concept of it, but the delivery was a bit lacking up until this point.
Randy Orton was getting tripled teamed by the Wyatts and decided "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." With Rowan injured and Strowman on RAW, it became Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Randy Orton. Wyatt was the patriarch of the clan with Orton and Harper fighting and one-upping each other like brothers. Systematically, Orton tore the family apart. Harper turned on them first, fed up with Wyatt's blindness concerning Orton. Then it was just Orton and Bray.
Orton won the ROYAL RUMBLE this year granting him a shot at the WWE Title at WRESTLEMANIA, but with Bray holding that championship, Orton turned the shot down. In a way-too-quick turn of events, Orton burned down Wyatt's house where Sister Abigail was buried and took his match at WRESTLEMANIA and won the title. Afterward, Wyatt was moved to RAW. So this match is and was to be their final battle with the two on separate shows.
The first part of this match took place in a house in the middle of nowhere. Randy pulled up in a limo to this house, went inside and the battle began. The music, the framing, the cinematography, everything was set up like a horror movie with Bray appearing and disappearing, attacking out of nowhere. The two tore each other apart, damaging walls and windows alike. This culminated with Bray burying Orton underneath a refrigerator and taking his limo to the arena where we were to assume Orton would be forced to forfeit by not showing up. This would be continued later on in the night.
WINNER UNDETERMINED: CONTINUED IN PART TWO
GRUDGE MATCH: SETH ROLLINS vs. SAMOA JOE
Samoa Joe made his main roster debut by taking out Seth Rollins at the behest of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. He claimed he owed Triple H for bringing him to the WWE and would do anything to protect his legacy and reputation. Since Rollins was in direct opposition of that, Samoa Joe was in direct opposition to Rollins.
Rollins had other business to attend to, though, with facing Triple H at WRESTLEMANIA. He did that, defeated the game earning the moniker "Kingslayer" and turned his attention to the man that took him out, Samoa Joe. Which brings us to this match.
These are two of my favorite wrestlers in the modern era. Samoa Joe was amazing when he first came to TNA/Impact and ran through the entire X-Division. Then the epic feud with Kurt Angle and AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels... Joe, next to AJ Styles and Sting, was one of the best wrestlers that never got a good shot in WWE. And now he's there facing one of the best athletes to come up from NXT, former SHIELD member Seth Freakin' Rollins!
These two put on quite a show, again pulling out all their signature shots. Rollins hit Joe with some impressive knee shots and aerial attacks, while Joe countered with his trademark speed and power. Then he started pulling out the submissions. Sleeper holds, knee bars, etc. He was wearing Seth down, trying to break him mentally and physically. Seth kept trying to counter Joe's holds into pins, but every time Joe kicked out... until he didn't. Not the most impressive finish to a match, but it still made both Joe and Seth look good. Joe couldn't be caught in a finisher, and Seth couldn't be tapped out. But I doubt this feud is over by a long shot.
WINNER BY PINFALL: SETH ROLLINS
HOUSE OF HORRORS MATCH: BRAY WYATT vs. RANDY ORTON (NON-TITLE)
We didn't have to wait too long for the finish. Bray makes his way back into the arena, limping and coughing all the way to the ring. He slowly gets to the center of the ring, blows out the lantern, and the lights go out. When they come back on, Orton is standing behind him with a chair. The mind games continue.
Orton proceeded to pick apart Wyatt piece by piece, chair shot after chair shot. After a DDT from the announcers table, and some more damage, Orton goes for his trademark RKO, but the Singh brothers jump in and cause a distraction. Wyatt goes for Sister Abigail, but Orton dodges it and pulls out an RKO. Almost immediately, though, Jinder Mahal hits Orton from behind with the WWE Championship belt he stole from Orton last Tuesday on SMACKDOWN LIVE, which allows Wyatt to deliver a Sister Abigail and pull out the victory.
I personally never thought much of Mahal, but Vince McMahon likes big muscle-bound guys. Jinder took some time off and got even more ripped and is getting a push. Physically, he matches Orton's stature, but skill-wise, in-ring and on the mic, he just doesn't have it in my opinion. I'm not looking forward to this feud, and I hate that this match was ruined by it.
WINNER BY PINFALL: BRAY WYATT
MAIN EVENT: GRUDGE MATCH: ROMAN REIGNS vs. BRAUN STROWMAN
This feud has gone on way too long as it is, and looks to continue beyond this match sadly.
Again, Vince McMahon likes big guys, and Braun is as big as they come. He's a young powerhouse with speed and a decent amount of skill. He's grown a lot in a short amount of time. But unless Roman comes out on top it does nothing for Roman. I just don't know what the endgame is here. Are we supposed to believe a heel vs. heel match between Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar? And, I mean, Roman basically just retired The Undertaker at WRESTLEMANIA. Why is Braun such a threat then? He's no Undertaker!
In the weeks leading up to this match, these two attacked each other over and over. The last attack left Roman laid out and injured. Roman entered this match heavily taped up and barely able to move his left arm. Still, he pulled out everything he had trying to defeat Braun. Braun countered most of it early on, snatching Roman out of mid-air several times delivering choke slams, submission holds, slams and more.
Adversely, Roman pulled out spears, Superman punches and drive-by dropkicks to no avail. In the end, Braun was too much for the injured Reigns and took the victory. But this one too is long from over. Not sure how I feel about that. Wait, yes I am. I am not a fan.
After the match, Braun laid waste to Roman with the steel stairs. I kept hoping for the words "SIERRA HOTEL INDIA ECHO LIMA DELTA. SHIELD" to blare out from the speakers bringing forth Ambrose and Rollins to Reigns' rescue, but I knew better.
WINNER BY PINFALL: BRAUN STROWMAN
Overall, I really did enjoy PAYBACK quite a bit. Despite the finish of one match and the seemingly endless feud the main event provided, I felt this was one of the better PPVs in recent memory. If they were all as solid as this I'd never have a problem with them. Let's hope next month's SMACKDOWN LIVE only PPV BACKLASH is just as good!
What did you think of PAYBACK? And more importantly, what did you think of this feature?! You want me to continue doing them each month? Let me know in the comments below!
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Join me next month as I cover SMACKDOWN LIVE's BACKLASH, the in-ring debut of Shinsuke Nakamura!