WWE Payback 2015
May 17, 2015
Royal Farms Arena
Baltimore, Maryland
Watch: WWENetwork

R-Truth def. Stardust 

Warren Taylor (@TeddyNoir): Well folks this was a match and not a very good one. The crowd did not care and neither did I. *1/4

Garrett Kidney (@GarrettKidney): Remember like a decade ago when R-Truth seemed like he was cool? Isn’t the word bonus generally equated with something good? Plus Stardust is just the dirt worst. Dirt. Worst. Anywho, the match. Picture what a Stardust/R-Truth match would be like and this was exactly that except weirdly slower. The crowd didn’t care at all and neither did the announcers. *1/4

Aaron Bentley (@aaron_bentley): Bizarrely, my wife LOVES Stardust/Cody Rhodes. No, folks, I can’t explain that. But even she can explain that this match was, in her words, “boring, unimaginative, and the same crap they do every week.” *

The Ascension def. Curtis Axel & Damien Sandow “The Mega Powers” Axelmania & Macho Mandow

Warren Taylor: Garrett and Aaron have already buried this match–see below. Axeldow made me laugh, that is worth at least one star. *

Garrett Kidney: It’s a sad reflection on The Ascension when the team with more upside lost and that team are a goofy comedy act mimicking other wrestlers. It’s always interesting to see Sandow do the very best he can with the terrible hands he has been dealt over the last few years. Talk about constantly swimming upstream. The match was rubbish. At least we have The Mega Powers inevitable explosion to look forward to. DUD

Aaron Bentley: The best part of this match was that Curtis Axel has legitimately grown a fu manchu and dyed it blonde. In defense of Axel and Sandow, they’ve gotten this act way more over than The Ascension has ever been. The Ascension still looks like geeks, their work is still awful, and their finisher has somehow gotten worse. It’s way past time to let Konnor and Viktor try out some future endeavors. DUD

Sheamus def. Dolph Ziggler 

Warren Taylor: Sheamus sold his stinkface like a pro. Go back and look at that face. Are you there? If so press pause and look. That look is one from a man who is dedicated to his craft.

The first half of the match was a retread of their encounter from Extreme Rules. I feel that the second half was great Dolph’s head butt and subsequent crimson mask were impressive. Overall, a decent opener. **¾

Garrett Kidney: Fun opener, strong intensity and the crowd was behind them (if they dip later in the show WWE will only have themselves to blame). That headbutt was extremely ill advised though. I hope they have something planned for Sheamus next because his return has been fairly uneventful (he’s essentially in the exact same position as he left). Dolph will be working good undercard matches for the next five years. It just seems like no matter how much effort he puts in WWE will never get behind him. A good way to start the show. ***1/4

Aaron Bentley: The crowd is going to make this a very fun show. It looked like we might get a normal Raw match. Sheamus was on pace to set a record for headlocks. But these guys really picked it up about halfway through. Just as things were getting going, Dolph got some color and the match appeared to be going to another level. Unfortunately, it ended almost immediately after that. This was fun and it may have tricked me into getting my hopes up for the rest of this show. ***

2-out-of-3 Falls WWE Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) def. Tyson Kidd & Cesaro

Warren Taylor: The first two falls were unnecessary and marred by sloppy spots. I enjoyed the final fall immensely due to both teams upping the energy level. Cesaro & Kidd are really gelling as evidenced by their spectacular double teams which were the highlight of the match. The wonky finish left a bad taste in my mouth but does ensure that the feud will continue, which makes me happy. ***

Garrett Kidney: The first two falls felt like a formality (like many ⅔ Falls matches) but once the third fall got going and Cesaro was in the ring, things really picked up. Cesaro is an immense talent. Any opportunity he’s given he never fails to look like one of the most dynamic wrestlers on the planet. I’m starting my campaign for a 20 minute Cesaro/Big E match now. This wasn’t the show stealing, match of the year people might have been hoping for and the switcheroo finish was goofy but this was a lot of fun. ***

Aaron Bentley: This was the classic example of a 2-out-of-3 Falls matches that did not need the gimmick. Anyway, I went into the match knowing the deal so I had a hell of a time. All of these guys were on top of their game for the entire contest. The New Day is coming together and Cesaro/Kidd are becoming truly great. I was ready to go way too high on this match but the finish took all the juice out of it. Oh well, I can’t wait to see way more of these teams. ***1/2

Rich Kraetsch: Sorry this is my first match review, got stuck in traffic en route to The Squared Circle but I’m here (you don’t care). Anyway, I enjoyed this a lot. I mean cmon it was spotty as fuck, of course I’d love it. But seriously this felt like an old school tag match as both teams did their best to incorporate double teams into their offense. We had the “twin magic” finish which kinda sucks but hey we got a PPV in two weeks to build! ***¼

Bray Wyatt def. Ryback

Warren Taylor: What is it with stupid finishes tonight? Must be the summer malaise. Before the finish I thought this match was nice little back and forth mid-card bout. Wyatt and Ryback have surprisingly good chemistry. Decent contest hurt by lazy booking. **¾

Garrett Kidney: On the list of wrestlers I have very little interest in, Wyatt ranks pretty high. His promos are always the same and his work is never particularly interesting. This was on the upper end of Wyatt PPV matches though, both guys worked hard and did their best to make the most of the time they had. The finish suggests a potential rematch which I have no interest in at all (though I never have interest in any Wyatt match). **3/4

Aaron Bentley: I’ll be honest: I generally use Bray Wyatt matches to catch up on my Twitter feed. Pairing him with Ryback will just about guarantee I’m going to get a snack. In all seriousness, this was fine. It was better than I expected anyway. Wyatt needed a strong victory over someone like Ryback and this wasn’t it. But please, no rematch. **

Rich Kraetsch: This is the classic example of a match going too long. Had this been cut at the 8-10 minute mark, it was really good. Alas, it got long in the tooth, started to drag and ended on a bit of a downer. With that said, this exceed my expectations and the two had a much better match than I ever thought possible. **1/2

WWE United States Championship – I Quit Match
John Cena © def. Rusev

Warren Taylor: Nothing in this match felt like a feud ending contest on a pay-per-view. The cartoonish stunts. The melodrama involving Lana. The flat ending. Rusev’s selling and overall performance was a lonely island surrounded by a sea of mediocrity. **1/2

Garrett Kidney: I’m sick of heels being built up simply to be fed to Cena in the end. I dread any heel who’s gaining a bit of momentum because the Cena feud becomes inevitable and nobody ever comes out of the Cena feud as good as they went in. I really do worry for Rusev going forward. Yes he’s talented, but losing this feud and a split with Lana could leave him stuck in the midcard where good careers go to die, never to escape.

I generally don’t like I Quit matches. The cumbersome interruptions by the referee asking if they want to quit prevents the match gaining any real flow. These two didn’t overcome those problems, instead seemingly checking off a list of high spots before a third straight cheap finish on this show. It felt formless. **1/4

Aaron Bentley: Well, I hope you enjoyed the Rusev experience. The poor guy is dead. They might as well have draped that American flag over Rusev’s casket. And it’s a shame too because Rusev was a guy I really didn’t care for in NXT but he has become one of the very best in the company. And does anyone have better facial expressions than Rusev? As for the actual match, the gimmick made it very difficult for these two to succeed. There were some moments I enjoyed but it would’ve almost been impossible to emasculate Rusev worse than they did with this finish. I wish they would have at least come up with a better spot for the finish to actually make it look like Rusev was in grave danger. Instead, we just got the same old tired Cena spot and another stipulation that doesn’t get paid off. Ugh. **

Rich Kraetsch: Hated this. I knew it would be gimmicky but this was every fucking WWE/John Cena hardcore match. Barricade spot, explosions, we even had the Cena STF with the rope spot — enough already. This did nothing for me from beginning to end and the continued plummeting of Rusev’s career is upsetting and confusing. *½

Naomi & Tamina def. The Bellas 

Warren Taylor: My cat decided to try and use the TV as a scratching post several times during the match so I missed it and cannot offer any thoughts. NR

Aaron Bentley: Nikki was pinned by being thrown off the top rope. OK! I guess I’m just glad Brie didn’t break her neck when she fell off of Naomi’s shoulders. Mostly, I’m glad we can move on. *1/4

Garrett Kidney: The Bellas have become the masters of the competently wrestled (well except the bit where Brie fell on her head), entirely forgettable PPV match. It was there. It was fine. Nobody will ever remember it happened by next week. *1/2

Rich Kraetsch: Well, this was a match and it happened. Sorry, I have no strong thoughts about this match. It happened, I watched it. *1/2

Neville def. King Barrett

Warren Taylor: I wasn’t feeling this one. The match felt one sided and the finish reeked of free TV. **1/2

Garrett Kidney: Well these two weren’t exactly put in a position to succeed. A short match in what fans have been conditioned to think of as the death slot with a terrible finish to boot. The work was good while it lasted but the finish drags it down. I’m of two minds when it comes to Neville. On the one hand he looks great anytime he has a chance, on the other it’s clear they called him up without any real plan for him. And it’s easy to see how he can become pigeonholed as the guy they can throw out there to have a good match with anybody and never really get behind. **1/4

Aaron Bentley: Continuing to program these guys together is just nonsensical. I loved the Neville pop-up win and the Barrett win at KOTR was fine but both of these guys need momentum. Instead, they’re stuck trading wins (and non-finishes) till we all get bored of both of them. The match itself was fine but we’ve seen all of this before. Their next match will be the first between the two I’m not looking forward to. I hope they both move on soon before Neville ends up just as Garrett predicts. **

Rich Kraetsch: Enjoyed it for what it was and thought there were in the path to a decent match but everything seem rushed/hurried and it never really came together. The count out finish leads to a natural rematch but it definitely was below my expectations. **

WWE World Heavyweight Championship – Fatal 4-Way
Seth Rollins © def. Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Randy Orton

Warren Taylor: This match was all fat and no steak in the early going. Then “The Architect” had a hell of an idea. Seth Rollins decided to eliminate archenemy Randy Orton by enlisting his old Shield buddies for one last Triple Powerbomb. From that point on the was fast and furious with all the outside interference and close two counts a wrestling fan could want. Not a great main event but not the train wreck I thought this would be. ***1/4

Garrett Kidney: There were bits of this match I loved and bits I hated. The Shield reunion and inevitable betrayal was great, the Ambrose/Reigns sequence was superb and Orton running wild was awesome. And then there was all the Kane, Noble and Mercury interference as well as a too frequent adherence to the two in, two out formula. This match did greatly whet the appetite for an Ambrose/Rollins/Reigns three way (which if I were WWE I’d hold off until SummerSlam). On the whole a satisfying main event and the best match in the show, without the nonsense and overbooking it would’ve been better. ***1/2

Aaron Bentley: There were two good parts to this match: The Shield mini-reunion and the Randy Orton barrage toward the end. In between all that, this was your normal WWE 4-way with tons of interference. There has been enough written about the terror that is Kane being heavily involved in a main event angle in 2015 so I won’t belabor the point. Amazingly, the announcers barely mentioned that stipulation throughout the match. Regardless, this was obviously another undercooked and lamely booked main event as we run in place until Summerslam (at least). My early excitement for this card was misplaced, as I sadly foresaw even then. Other than New Day/Cesaro & Kidd, the whole show was a letdown for me. **3/4

Rich Kraetsch: Roman Reigns kept the streak alive by yet again being involved in the best match of a WWE PPV. This was really good despite it falling into some of the WWE multi-man issues, most notably two men squaring off for five minutes while the other two were laid out. Despite that there were a lot of cool spots throughout, just enough interference from J&J and while the build indicated this would be the Kane show, he didn’t have much to do with it. Spot of the night is of course The Shield reunion following by Seth Rollins’ amazing realization that Reigns & Ambrose were gonna go to town on him. The finish was a bit wacky as Rollins busted out a semi-botched Pedigree — either way, really solid match and a great way to cap off an otherwise hit-or-miss show. ***1/4