The go-home show for WWE Payback mostly revolves around the mystery of whether AJ Styles is indeed pulling the strings of Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. Other than that, there are some solid but not spectacular television matches but a couple of great video packages.

3 Things to Watch if You DVR

  • 1) Kevin Owens / Sami Zayn Video Package (1: 18)
  • 2) Chyna tribute video (2:22)
  • 3) AJ Styles vs. Sheamus (:20)

We are live from Hartford, Connecticut!

HERE COMES THE MONEY! Shane’s here, and he reminds us it’s a new era. But the new era brought low ratings so here comes Stephanie.

Diary of a snarky jerk:

  • Stephanie: “People are tired of politicians with smiling faces feeding them lies”
  • Me: “Like your mother?”

Stephanie informs Shane that it’s his last night running RAW because Vince will decide at WWE Payback who’s running the show. Lower ratings means even more McMahons.   In the meantime, this is Shane’s show for this last week and Stephanie won’t leave, so security comes down. It’s in Stephanie’s contract that she gets to emasculate or belittle someone. This week, a random indy worker dressed as security gets the honors of being smacked around before Stephanie is dragged out.

Steam becomes relevant again for “Na Na, Hey Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye.”

AJ Styles def. Sheamus

A rather long, solid hard-hitting match. The story is the David vs. Goliath angle and commentary plays up the question of whether or not Sheamus will wear out AJ Styles and leave him easy pickings for Roman Reigns. Interesting ending here as AJ mounts a comeback by trapping Sheamus’ leg around the top rope off a missed Brogue Kick. That leads not to an eventual Calf Crusher but a Phenomenal Forearm for the pin which made the leg work seem superfluous, but also smart if he’s a “thinking wrestler” in case the forearm didn’t work. I’m not sure they realized how clever this ending was, but I appreciated the attention to making performers have foresight.

Gallows and Anderson (wearing some sweet dusters) congratulate AJ. Roman is watching in the back, and the Usos are there for moral support. There is talk deconstruction the “One vs. All” in that sometimes the One needs help from the All, sometimes the All needs help from the One. One for all, all for one and three for five! It feels like heavy-handed misdirection, but subtlety takes a backseat to Vince’s flair for the dramatic.

The New Day mentions booty and that the winner will party like it’s 1999 (Prince tribute). Those dastardly Vaudevillains interrupt, and someone told Vince that Aiden English can sing, so expect this to be a thing. The Vaudevillains will party like it’s 1899. Enzo does bad comedy and Cass transitions to his spelling bit. At the end of it all New Day says they will still be tag team champions. Basically, everyone banters a bit and gets to make faces. Your typical multi-team/multi-man talking segment with attempts at put down lines but no one gets mad enough to fight. The only strong positive is the look on Cass’ face when Enzo says he’s like to run down a beach into his own arms, it’s absolutely priceless.

Anderson & Gallows def. The Usos

Is there a reason this is on the go-home show rather than on WWE Payback itself? Anderson and Gallows really needed a dominant squash match in order to introduce themselves to the casuals, get their finisher over and establish themselves as a menace. Given the allusions to the nWo “invasion,” I think this choice of match fades the mystique. Let them kill a couple of local guys and keep the anticipation building. Here we get a hard hitting back and forth fight which is fine, but no one sees Les Boulez as an intimidating force now, they’re just guys. This is going to be an uphill climb when the leader, whomever it may be, is revealed.

Commentary sells it as an absolute destruction, but it really isn’t until Jimmy is isolated late in the match. The Magic Killer ends it. Solid debut, but with a little more build and saving this match I tend to think that Chicago crowd would have made Anderson and Gallows rock stars.

Jey and Jimmy continue to get beat on after the match and Roman’s music hits. Roman takes out both Anderson and Gallows to vociferous boos before the former Bullet Club members retreat.

AJ’s backstage interview gets interrupted by Gallows and Anderson, their friendship is forever. Do you smell that? It’s more misdirection.

A great video about Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn feud

This adds onto the previous NXT video going from the past to today talking about the friendship, the dissolution and how it is now. Owens has the great villain deflection that Zayn is the one making it personal. Zayn comes off as an angry babyface who has indeed made it personal. Absolutely great stuff here and WWE got it right putting this on the go-home instead of the event. An absolutely must see video that really puts over the animosity between the two.

Sami Zayn def. Rusev

Hey, Lana’s back as Rusev’s second! The formula for the match is: Rusev kills Zayn, Zayn goes with acrobatics for a short time then gets killed again, usually finding the determination to kick out at 2.5. The end comes when Rusev gloats too long before an Accolade and Sami gets a rollup for the pin. This is how they do the underdog push, and it’s fine as a slow build. As Sami turns on the top of the ramp in order to salute the crowd, Owens kills Zayn and menacingly stands over his fallen prey, perhaps for 10 seconds too long, but it’s a great visual.

Apollo Crews finally gets some promo time with Ren…never mind. Stardust is out, Crews name drops Dusty Rhodes. I guess we’re getting a match.

Apollo Crews def. Stardust

They’re taking their time with Crews, which may be a positive in the long run. Stardust gets more offense in than a Social Outcast would, but not by much. My concern with Crews is that all the putting over of him having “all the tools” and having “megastar written all over him” on commentary doesn’t make up for a connection of the character to the audience outside of the parameters of a match. It’s a classic “show me, don’t tell me” problem that flummoxes Vince at times. That is, he’s so determined to give you the propaganda through commentary that the onscreen presence doesn’t match it. It’s the Hollywood equivalent of having a leading man and not letting him do press junkets but getting a press release from his publicist.  

You can’t hide Crews for much longer, lest the crowd turn on him for either being “protected” or being boring. He’s probably going to win the IC title in the next month from the Miz and have a “Blue Chipper” Rocky Maivia problem.

Dean Ambrose.

He fights. Well, it’s not a talk show or prop comedy so it’s an improvement. He wants Jericho. Jericho and his magic scarf come down and call Ambrose stupid. Y2J wants an apology for the disrespect shown and the stealing of the Highlight Reel. I think Jericho’s making chicken salad out of a feud over a fake tv show, especially by keeping it simple and the occasional asides/shoving the cameramen etc. Dean’s non-apology is great. Imagine what this feud would be like if anyone believed they truly hated each other.

The fight is on, and as with all Ambrose feuds, it’s time to kill the announce table with Ambrose’s body. A Walls of Jericho for good measure as Jericho calls Dean a “stupid idiot” over and over which never ceases to be amusing.

Also, I’m starting to think Jericho has a point. (See: Stupid Babyface Syndrome)

Natalya def. Emma

Natalya with the jobber entrance, Emma gets a full one, which isn’t the only weird thing about this scenario. This feels like bad matchmaking going into WWE Payback, where both are involved in somewhat notable feuds. Charlotte wants to watch so we get her on commentary. Emma’s a pretty great heel and gets to show off some viciousness on Natalya. The crowd starts chanting for Sasha which distracts Emma long enough for Natalya to get a sharpshooter. A clever ending, and there’s other women you could sacrifice here, but I think that might be an indicator that Emma’s beating Becky.

Chyna Tribute

If you haven’t listened to Joe Lanza on this week’s Voices of Wrestling flagship podcast, go listen to his post mortem on Chyna as he does a solid job putting her place in the wrestling landscape in perspective. My opinion: they should have a tribute, but given the pretzel logic of emotions revolving around HHH, Stephanie and Chyna, the WWE wasn’t required to do anything. That said, they exceeded my expectations and I thought this package was a nice tribute. A few highlights and photos accompanied by screenshots of tweets from all the big stars of the Attitude Era. I find social media tributes half-assed versus getting something meaningful on camera, but if there’s nothing meaningful to be had, it will do. I think it didn’t overstay its welcome, but it didn’t just gloss over the issue. I’d rather that the company take this approach than a false attempt at a eulogy by JBL that felt contrived.  Or even worse, a package overselling Chyna as a trailblazing talent who helped set the standard for the women of today with the Horsewomen giving heavily scripted praise. It was straight ahead and respectful, and that’s all it needed to be.

Baron Corbin vs. Damien Sandow (No Contest)

They didn’t risk Sandow getting a pop, so Sandow doesn’t get a televised entrance. Dolph attacks Corbin during Corbin’s entrance. Corbin retreats. It’s a non-loss for Sandow, who deserves better than this.

The Colons are Puerto Rican, in case you forgot.

Miz and Maryse do their best modern day homage to Jimmy Garvin and Precious. They run down social media and the Cesaro Section. Cesaro comes out and he gets the full James Bond “iris” treatment which is a pretty damn cool visual. Miz goes into “Taxi Driver” and “Goodfellas” as Cesaro shuts him down with a “Jackass” comment. They end with dueling Dirty Harry comments. Cesaro is not going to get over doing poor scripted comedy and this is not his strength. Miz and Maryse try and lull Cesaro into complacency by pretending to leave, but a sneak attack gets thwarted by a Pop Up European Uppercut (Called Sudden Impact by Cole, presumably to continue the Clint Eastwood tribute). Maryse saves her husband from a Cesaro Swing.

It was neither good nor bad. It filled time before the main event, which was the point. I don’t think it’s making Cesaro a star.

Roman Reigns def. Alberto Del Rio

This crowd does not like Roman Reigns. Any hope of a heel turn Sunday is for naught as we get to see him granting wishes on the go-home show. Same story as the AJ/Sheamus match: hard hitting and the question of whether this will take too much out of the champion. This crowd hates Reigns’ firing up, and Anderson and Gallows’ music interrupts the booing. A Del Rio distraction roll up gets the two, but Roman kicks out and spears Del Rio for the three.

The post-match beatdown by Anderson and Gallows is stopped by Styles pushing the two away, and AJ then gets a Superman Punch for being a nice guy. Gallows and Anderson distract Roman long enough for Styles to hit a Phenomenal Forearm on Reigns.

Camera shots of AJ being conflicted, Gallows and Anderson smiling, and Roman hurting, and everyone’s grabbing their jaws.

Final Thoughts:

The Gallows/Anderson story was done in such a way to hold attention throughout the show, but I think they didn’t need to lay it on so thick during non-match segments. The spectacular video packages and solid matches make this yet another easy “thumbs up” RAW in the post-Mania afterglow.