You know how we handle WWE pay-per-view reviews at Voices of Wrestling these days, instead of going match-by-match, we bring together an esteemed group of VOW staff members and guests to give their thoughts and ratings. WWE Payback on paper seemed like a disappointment with a lot of vanilla, poorly-built match but it turned out to be one of the better major show offerings from WWE. Bray Wyatt and John Cena may have had their best match yet and basically every match delivered either to expectations or above them. Before we get to the review, here is our panel:

  • Joe Lanza: You know him by now, one-half of the Voices of Wrestling flagship podcast and esteemed New Japan Pro Wrestling reviewer. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeMLanza
  • Taylor Mitchell: Voices of Wrestling’s Smackdown reviewer and columnist. Follow him on Twitter at  @LuchaNerd
  • Larry: VOW’s resident perv (no seriously) Larry covers Pro Wrestling Guerilla and is an original VOW match of the year voter.
  • John Sparkz: John  is a 22 year old Mixing & Mastering engineer from New Jersey. Backed with a Master Certificate from Berklee College of Music and two Avid Pro Tools Certificates he is super producer Harry Fraud’s engineer and apart of the “La Musica De Harry Fraud” & “Surf School” Family. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSparkz

Hair vs. Mask: El Torito defeats Hornswoggle 

  • Joe Lanza: WWE presents to you, in the grand lucha tradition of máscara contra cabellera, El Torito vs Hornswoggle. Or something like that. Anyway, this wasn’t very good until it broke down into a 2006 era ROH dive sequence. This was also the first time during this feud that Hornswoggle, who has never been more interesting than he is right now, was better than Torito in a match. He did a nice diving senton to the outside, and hit a cool sit out powerbomb for a near fall. ‘Swoggle took his head shaving like a man, and holy shit Torito was being rough with those cheap disposable Schick razors.  **3/4
  • Larry:  A WWE Lucha de Apuesta!  WeeLC was a fun opener back at Extreme Rules, this…not so much.  Boring, sloppy, and predictable.  To be fair, there were a few fun spots thrown in there, including Torito with an off-the-top-rope hurricanrana to Heath Slater to send Slater off of the ropes and a Hornswoggle dive to the outside.  Torito wins with a flippy-do.  Post-match, Torito hacks away at Hornswoggle’s hair with a razor and the amount of hair all over Hornswoggle makes me feel itchy.  With all of that said, I guess I was as mildly entertained as I could have been.  *¾+
  • Taylor Mitchell: To say this has been one of the most entertaining feuds the WWE has had post-WrestleMania isn’t saying much, because the product has suffered, but it is also a testament to how good 3MB, Los Matadores, Torito, and Hornswoggle have been in their roles. They have been comedic at the right times as well as serious at the right times .I appreciated that the majority of the lame jokes the commentators made were directed towards Torito being a bull or his tail that was ripped off as opposed to Hornswoggle and Torito being small. El Torito’s hurricanrana to Heath Slater from the apron on top of 3MB and Los Matadores was awesome. The finish was a classic mask match finish. Hornswoggle rips the mask off and Torito had another mask underneath it. Torito hits a nice moonsault to win it. Post-match was the usual shaving the head antics you get with a hair match. **3/4

Sheamus defeats Cesaro

  • Joe: This was one hell of a match. These guys simply have great chemistry. I wish WWE was more of this, and less of whatever it is Bray Wyatt does, and Kane. Or basically, 2013. ***3/4
  • Larry:  After all of these years, I still love Sheamus’ unintentionally hilarious theme music.  Anyway…these two have a truly classic, Match of the Year Contender-type match together in them somewhere.  This match was just a taste.  Hard hitting right out of the gate, its just two big mooses beating the shit out of each other and hitting each other with whatever they’ve got in their arsenal.  The crowd wasn’t into it as much as I would have liked to see and the ending is pretty beat as Sheamus rolls Cesaro up for a small package after the Cesaro Swing.  This match had just enough in there to have me wanting more…a lot more…and I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing here.  Put these two hosses in a Clash of the NXT Champions type of event, give’em 20 minutes, and you’ve got yourself something special.  Here, its really really good…but I’m left feeling like they left a lot in the ring. ***1/2
  • Taylor: WWE is genius again to send the mic-wizard Paul Heyman out to quiet the “CM Punk” chants with a great heel heat line about the Blackhawks’ streak ending like Undertaker’s. This match was awesome. Two big heavyweights just blasted each other with everything they have. Paul Heyman continues to be the best manager in wrestling since Bobby Heenan. I love Heyman’s coaching on the outside. Spot for spot these two men were in a war with each other. Go back and watch this match. The match ends with a small package, hopefully alluding to a longer feuds between these two. ****
  • John Sparkz: This was an overall entertaining match. The US Championship isn’t my favorite belt to watch a match for, but Cesaro’s time to make belt runs is now. Cesaro and Sheamus are a good pair (better than the Cesaro RVD feud they had going). Before the match even began Paul Heyman started off right with insulting the Blackhawk fan crowd. Sheamus had the majority of the match in my opinion, though i thought Cesaro was going to take it.  There was a good build up to Cesaro landing the Cesaro Swing, a bit of surprise Sheamus rolls into a pin for the win. Sheamus retaining is a good move for him but I think Cesaro should win a belt. ***1/2

Rybaxel defeats The Brotherhood (Cody Rhodes & Goldust) 

  • Joe: Paint by numbers WWE style tag, with a really boring Goldust babyface in peril segment that was testing my short attention span. Picked up when Cody tagged in, but never really did anything for me. It was OK. **1/2
  • Larry:  I got to be honest…I couldn’t have otherwise given a single fuck about this match.  The Rhodes boys haven’t done a thing worth a damn since winning the tag titles, which was seemingly forever ago.  Rybaxel is just…there.  With that said, this wasn’t so bad, just boring, with a predictable finish.  Even more predictable…the post match shenanigans.  **1/4
  • Taylor: This match was better than I would have ever expected. The last two times Cody Rhodes has attempted the moonsault its been botched (the other time was that cage match vs. the Outlaws), the guy really does have a nice moonsault. I appreciate the WWE giving PPV time to tag team matches. The WWE needs more tag team wrestling. Cody and Goldust breaking up appears to be a slow burn storyline that I am getting more and more interested in as it builds. It has the intriguing dynamic of Cody being in a slump and telling Goldust that he needs a new partner as opposed to the trite storyline of partner A telling partner B that they are holding them back. **3/4
  • John: This match was an OK match but Ryback & Axel are a terrible tag team. Where The Rhodes Brothers are still struggling to get back to where they once were with the crowd. It’s a matchup that should be a midcard match on Smackdown, not a Pay Per View matchup. Cody Rhodes seemed to have the best crowd reaction of the two and Ryback seemed to keep his team alive as far as the crowd goes. The match was a good display of the 4 other than Cody’s somewhat botched moonsault. I didn’t think they would split the Rhodes yet but I think that’s a smart move.  **1/2

Rusev defeats Big E

  • Joe: I’m all aboard the Rusev train. I say go all the way with this guy, have him crush everybody, and give him the title. Just like Yokozuna some 20 years ago (my god, that was TWENTY years ago). Big E stormed to the ring with the American flag like a black Corporal Kirchner, and DID A FUCKING SPEAR THROUGH THE ROPES TO THE FLOOR. This match was two big hosses doing big hoss things, and Rusev looked incredible. Big E did a great job here putting him over. I’m all in with Rusev. Especially after he GRABBED BIG E’s FACE BY THE NOSTRILS before locking in the camel clutch. I can’t go 3-stars or higher on a match that short unless it’s KENTA vs Ricky Marvin, but when I start typing in caps I mean business, and that was as good as it gets for the length. **3/4
  • Larry:  Lana looks like backpage hooker.  I dig it.  I remember when Rusev used to do this stupid entrance with a piece of balsa wood.  And as Big E comes in, he’s all of a sudden Hacksaw Mr. America waving an American Flag around like a Fourth of July jobber.  This has all the makings of a punch-kick-throw-fest five minute snoozer until Big E gores Rusev to the outside and Lana proceeds to yell at Rusev in Rosetta Stone Russian.  I was not only entertained, but I have the weirdest boner right now.  This ridiculous go-home stretch entertained me.  Big E was actually pretty good here, and took the Camel Clutch like a champ.  However…wake me up when Rusev gets fed to Cena or Daniel Bryan.  He’ll be dancing soon after and I kind of want to see that. **½+
  • Taylor: There is something about two big behemoths battling it out that just makes me smile. This match delivered until the finish. Big E’s tackle to the outside was awesome. Rusev jumping up with the superkick was awesome. But, the Accolade for the finish fell flat and appeared as if this feud is ending. Which is disappointing, this could have really built both of these men. And they both really need a good feud to sink their teeth into. ***
  • John: I had high expectations for this match, I would of liked to see Big E defeat Rusev. It started really good with the USA vs Russia flag waving and Big E getting a lot of USA chants from the crowd. The pace of the match was good and both of them showcased some nice display of strength in their moves. Big E spearing Rusev out of the ring was awesome. Rusev didn’t get over with me when he first came into WWE but i’ve been really liking his matches recently. Since Big E lost the IC belt i feel like he is kind of losing his push, but I think this feud with Rusev could be a good lane for him.  ***

Intercontinental Championship – Bad News Barrett defeats Rob Van Dam

  • Joe: RVD is the current Twitter whipping boy. While I’m not enjoying this current run, it’s been better than the last run, and WAY better than the completely no fucks given TNA run. This was good. Saw some complaints from some about using the Bullhammer after smashing the elbow on the ring post, but that kind of stuff doesn’t bother me provided they sell it, and he sold it fine. He probably could have used one of his three or four other signature kinda sorta finishers, but it’s a minor gripe. ***1/4
  • Larry:  I will never not be entertained by Bad News Barrett WEARING A CAPE.  Rob Van Dam is here chew bubble gum and boringly put guys over…and he is all out of bubble gum.  There was nothing wrong with this match.  It was ok…just, as expected…kind of boring.  Your token PPV mid-card belt match. **1/2
  • Taylor: Glad that Barrett wasn’t the third person to cut a promo about the Blackhawks. I still dig RVD and Barrett is always good for an entertaining match when given the time for it. This match was pretty decent. I love the Bullhammer as a finish. Its been protected and comes out of nowhere which really adds to the finish of matches like this one. **1/2
  • John: Being a huge RVD fan I was pretty excited for this match. The beat the clock for #1 Contender was a cool way to get some more RVD matches in. Though i feel the company is using him wrong, putting him against Barret could really put Barret over. The match really had the crowd, between the RVD, Bad News Barret and ECW chants it sounded more like a classic match with crowd involvement. Van Dam landed some nice moves that showed he still has it. When Barret took control of the match the crowd seemed to die down a little bit and i feel like some momentum was lost but seemed to pick back up a bit when Van Dam hit a nice kick and they each exchanged a reverse on each other’s finishers. I was hoping Van Dam would win i think he could do good with an IC belt and open up Bad News Barret to go at a bigger title. ****

John Cena defeats Bray Wyatt

  • Joe: Shortcuts all over the place in this one, but who cares. This was a billion times better than the WrestleMania mess and the Extreme Rules trash. They were very smart to work this at a breakneck pace, because Wyatt has shown that he isn’t nearly good enough to work methodical. Once this developed into a great wild & wacky brawl, my biggest fear was another goofy theatrical finish. Instead, we got a heavy dose of Luke Harper & the Usos, which was fine by me. This had two rare WWE production gaffs, with the cameras missing a great Sister Abigail spot on the floor, and then with pyro going off at the wrong time, but that wasn’t the fault of the participants. Clever finish, and a great brawl. ****1/2
  • Larry:  I haven’t been into any of this Cena-Wyatt feud.  The in-ring stuff has been unintentionally comedic.  The promos have been nonsensical by all parties involved.  The leadup to this match was no different for me.  Anyway…the crowd seems really into this match at first.  The dueling Cena chants are all over the place.  Crowd digs Wyatt.  The match lacks a lot of awful storytelling antics the other matches have had.  That isn’t to say there isn’t some.  Still though, the in-ring product is pretty dull for the first part of the match, but that is to be expected with this stipulation, I guess.  But then they catch stride.  The Wyatts and the Usos run in and everybody eats a big spot.  I’ve got not much else to say until Cena SHOT PUTS THE RING STEPS OUT OF THE RING ONTO BRAY WYATT.  That was fucking awesome.  Then Wyatt hits a Sister Abigail as Cena comes off the ring apron and puts his mug right in the damn barricade.  Another run-in by the rest of the Wyatts and the Usos.  They have been some of the best parts of this match.  They are all just eating big spots again, albeit, completely unnecessarily.  Why didn’t they just put these two teams in their own ridiculous brawl?  Who cares, it was pretty awesome.  With all of that said, what an awfully anti-climactic finish.  Don’t get me wrong, it was smart, just not well done.  Wildly fun brawl, though. ****
  • Taylor: This feud is consistently putting together the worst matches of any main event feud in recent memory. I gave their cage match ¼* (lowest without being a DUD, and it was CLOSE), this match gets the higher rating if only because they are actually playing into the match stipulation properly. It was talked about to death last month, but it made no sense when Cena wanted to trap Wyatt in the cage to get his comeuppance and then spent the whole match trying to run away. At least with the Last Man Standing stipulation  Cena was trying to incapacitate Wyatt. However, Last Man Standing Matches are terrible. There is no better way to suck the energy out of a crowd than constant 10 counts. And it doesn’t help that these two are terrible together and haven’t put together a good match against one another yet. The fighting on the outside of the ring with the ring steps, the running senton, Sister Abigail on the floor, the tackle through the barricade, fighting in the crowd, etc. added to the match. The Uso/Wyatt Family stuff was fine by me, it at least made since to explain why the Wyatt Family wasn’t turning this into a 1 on 3 match. Let’s hope this feud is over. One of the best thing coming out of this feud is the potential elevation of the Uso’s. ***
  • John: There was a nice build up and some good promos for the Wyatt vs. Cena match. Right off the start the Wyatt’s entrance was awesome with all the lights in the crowd and the immediate “Let’s Go Cena/Cena Sucks” chants starting before he even came out. The Usos coming out to aid Cena was a relieve to change it up from the normal Wyatt beatdown. It was good to see a lengthy Wyatt vs. Cena with no interference and quick Sister Abigail & AA until Harper and Rowan jumped in, which led for a little Flying Usos. I was astonished that there was more chair usage in this match then at any Extreme Rules match, and Cena getting thrown through a table was a really rare thing to see.  Between the length and the use of chairs, tables, etc.  and the ending in the crowd this might of been my favorite match of the PPV. *****

Divas Championship – Paige defeats Alicia Fox

  • Joe: The place to be for great women’s matches in this company is NXT live specials. This was fine, but i’m tiring of this Paige gimmick of selling 90% of the match before winning in the end. This was her best match on the main roster, which isn’t saying much. This was an excuse to do the Fox blow up gimmick. **
  • Larry: I would have otherwise filled this review with perverted remarks about things I want to do to Paige…but the ending provoked me into saying something…Why does Paige have to look incredibly surprised every time she wins a match?  She was built up in NXT as this legitimate badass womens wrestler.  She gets called up and every time she wins a match, she looks ‘tard-happy.  Enough, please. **
  • Taylor: This match was okay. Paige is still the best Divas wrestler in years. I wish the WWE would give her some better opponents for these big PPV matches. If she were able to put on matches like she did against Emma at NXT ArRival she would be more over with the crowd. Alicia Fox actually has a personality for the first time since she played tonsil hockey with Edge, but that doesn’t mean it’s entertaining. **
  • John: Since Paige won the Divas Championship from AJ Lee I didn’t think the divas division was going to improve, I feel a little wrong because Paige is doing great. Alicia Fox’s recent post match freak out’s seemed a little bit better than the other divas performance which gave me some interest in the match. The two didn’t really draw me in at first but a few minutes in i seemed to be more involved. Paige is really the only diva that seems like a wrestler since Nattie’s recent matchless RAWs/Smackdowns, but Alicia Fox seemed to show some talent. I didn’t see Fox winning the belt at all so it wasn’t a surprise to me to see Paige retain. As a Diva that I saw as a good match to pair with AJ, seems to show some real competition for when AJ returns.  **1/2

The Shield defeats Evolution

  • Joe: This was “No Holds Barred”, but they stopped brawling and it turned into a traditional tag team match. Then they stopped tagging and brawled all over the building again. Whatever. Anyway, my favorite moment was Reigns tagging in to face off with Triple H, which was supposed to be this big seminal moment with the announcers going on about “it’s the studs of these two teams!” and an exaggerated stare down spot that was designed to get a big reaction but got…nothing. So they just locked up as the crowd didn’t really care. I chuckled. So I want you to think about something. Think about the matches between these two teams, but without The Shield jumping off of things. It’s not pretty. This had lots of good stuff, but couldn’t hold a candle to Cena/Wyatt which was a similar gimmick. ***1/2
  • Larry:  What in the fuck is Batista wearing?  C-C-C-C-C-Combobreaker.  #Bluetista indeed.  I’m into anything The Shield does.  Which by proxy makes me into this match and this feud.  It doesn’t matter that this incarnation of Evolution saps the life out of every building they enter.  The beginning of this match is a fun brawl, then its a traditional tag match, then it turns back into a brawl…Random mid-match thoughts: Is Reigns’ cocking of his hand (lol) supposed to be cool, or no?  I’m asking for a friend.  Ya’know, the natural end to this feud has Triple H v. Roman Reigns in some regard, but I want to see Seth Rollins v. Triple H at a pay per view.  That has some potential to be awesome. /Random mid-match thoughts. …then Evolution goes on an everlong beatdown of all of The Shield members.  Then there is a Shield comeback…then another Evolution beatdown…then another comeback only for The Shield to finally go over.  Analysis aside, I liked it enough…had issues with some of it, though.  I’ll give it a passing grade only because once again, Rollins and Ambrose drag this lot of rag tags to a good match. ***¾-
  • Taylor: This match started off with a hot brawl, turned into a tag team match that dragged and dragged, then turned into a brawl that dragged and dragged. I don’t understand the point of sucking the energy out of the crowd like this. The Shield is one of the hottest things the WWE has going and have always had high energy matches. Why did they slow this match to a snail’s pace? The visual of stripping Roman of his vest, or “shield” if you will, was a nice way to show the Shield’s vulnerability.  The clean sweep of Evolution was unpredictable, but the dragging of the match in the middle really, really hurt what could have been a great match. **1/2
  • John: The hype up for this match still didn’t prepare me for how good it was. I feel like this match is one of the best, if not THE BEST PPV match this year. From the instant move into the crowd I knew it was going to be the best match of the night. Evolution looked really good in ring and The Shield didn’t miss a step. Seth Rollins has not been disappointing in any recent matches and Dean Ambrose really stood out with some maneuvers. I feel like Roman Reigns is getting a little redundant with his major mid match comebacks but it always is better than the last. With Triple H and Randy Orton outshining Batista I can see the opening for Batista to take some time off. I don’t know who will replace him but I feel like the feud shouldn’t end yet because is perfect for each trio; they are always entertaining. *****