WWE PAYBACK 2023
SEPTEMBER 2, 2023
PPG PAINTS ARENA
MEET YOUR REVIEWER:
Suit Williams: I’m in Chicago for All Out Weekend. I had a wonderful day yesterday, taking in the sights and sounds of the beautiful Chicago, Illinois. I went to the Chicago Art Institute and took in the wonderful exhibits there, feeling an overwhelming sense of tranquility and peace while seeing their Van Gogh showcase. It was a genuinely wonderful day. That was yesterday. Today, I got breakfast, hunkered down, and put on WWE’s September spectacular known as Payback. Don’t say I never do anything for the people. Follow me on Twitter and all Twitter variants, @SuitWilliams.
STEEL CAGE MATCH
BECKY LYNCH DEF. TRISH STRATUS (W/ ZOEY STARK)
This was a very good opener here. These two had a clunker on Raw some weeks back, but they ironed out the issues to have a fine cage match here. They went to town on each other physically, using the cage as a weapon. Stratus ended up with a nasty hematoma on her forehead, and Lynch appeared later on in the show with scrapes and bruises from the cage.
The nearfalls escalated well, with Stratus hitting a top-rope Stratusfaction after the regular version got kicked out of. They tried winning with the moves of Victoria and Lita, who were in the first women’s cage match in WWE back in 2003. Becky hit a superplex with Trish hanging from the top of the cage for a nearfall before Zoey Stark interfered to help Trish escape. It didn’t work, and Becky laid her out with a Manhandle Slam. Becky hit Trish with a Manhandle Slam off the top rope for the win. I could’ve done without the interference, as this was building to a finish fine on its own. But it didn’t prolong anything, with Lynch taking both of them out and winning in the end. Credit to Stratus for having a match this physically taxing at 47 years old. ***3/4
SPECIAL GUEST REFEREE: JOHN CENA
LA KNIGHT DEF. THE MIZ
As host of the show, Cena made himself the guest referee for this scintillating affair.
I want you to picture in your mind a fifteen-minute match between LA Knight and The Miz. Congratulations, you have now absorbed all there was to take in from this match. The two-star special to end all two-star specials. **
WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH
REY MYSTERIO (C) DEF. AUSTIN THEORY
I could sit here and dump on Theory, but we all know that guy doesn’t have it. A soulless six-pack body, just doing moves with no hint of passion behind it. But I want to talk about Mysterio here. Rey Mysterio is an all-time great. Everyone loves Rey, I love Rey, we got that. Rey was huffing and puffing in this one. This wasn’t any kind of out-of-the-ordinary match here, this was a 10-minute TV match on PPV. Theory wasn’t exactly pushing the pace either. This may have just been a 48-year-old Rey Mysterio doing what he could do with the broom that is Theory. **
WWE TAG TEAM TITLE STEEL CITY STREET FIGHT
THE JUDGMENT DAY (DAMIAN PRIEST & FINN BALOR) DEF. KEVIN OWENS & SAMI ZAYN (C)
This was wild and energetic, with Owens and Zayn fighting off a near-constant numbers advantage. Whether it was Dominik Mysterio, Rhea Ripley, or JD McDonaugh, Judgment Day always had someone taking the attention of Owens and Zayn. But because it’s Owens and Zayn, two great plunder guys, they structured it all very well, making for a WWE plunder match that stood out from the scores of others.
We got accidental blood, with Owens getting bloody after going over a barricade. Owens took a big dive, jumping off of a balcony to take out Dom. Zayn had Priest beat with the Helluva Kick when McDonagh broke up the pin. Zayn came back to hit Balor with the Helluva Kick, but Dom hit him with Priest’s Money in the Bank briefcase, with Balor rolling onto Zayn and scoring the pin. Chaotic and fun stuff. ****
THE GRAYSON WALLER EFFECT WITH SPECIAL GUEST CODY RHODES
Cody brought Jey Uso to Raw now. Jey superkicked Waller. This took ten minutes.
WWE WOMEN’S WORLD TITLE MATCH
RHEA RIPLEY (C) (W/ DOMINIK MYSTERIO) DEF. RAQUEL RODRIGUEZ
Voices of Wrestling recently did a 30 Under 30 panel, ranking the 30 best wrestlers under the age of 30 years old. In my ballot, I ranked Rhea Ripley second, noting not only her match quality, but her having an appeal strong enough to make the useless lump that is Dominik Mysterio a legitimate draw. Matches like this one will not help my case, as this was a sleepy affair that saw Rhea win after Dominik interfered and got powerslammed. Rodriguez wasn’t over in the slightest, with the crowd repeatedly chanting for Rhea when they bothered to make noise. Raquel’s knee injury wasn’t over, nor was it sold that much outside of a few spots. I’ve never seen star potential in Raquel, and if this was her spot to show it, she failed. A snore of a match. **
WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH
SETH ROLLINS (C) DEF. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA
This was two guys wrestling to the time rather than having a match that needed the time. It’s main eventer theory, thinking that a main event has to be a certain amount of time to “give the people their money’s worth.” It’s faulty logic, and it results in bloated matches that would’ve been better with some fat cut off.
The work was based on Rollins’ back, as Nakamura used his knowledge of Rollins’ injuries to attack him there. Rollins came back with offense from Nakamura’s New Japan rivals, using a Slingblade, a High Fly Flow, and a Rainmaker. None of these were called of course, because this is WWE, but they were done. The crowd was tepid for this one, politely singing Rollins’ song at points. But no one bought Nakamura as the challenger here, nor should they have. Rollins won with a Stomp in a match that happened. The days of Nakamura as a high-level wrestler are gone, if not due to age, due to his effort and star power being nowhere near what it was at his peak in this company.
Meanwhile, Rollins put on another World Title match on PPV that only ended up being good instead of great. For a guy who talks a ton about wanting to be the top guy and the best in the world, he never comes through at that level when given the opportunity. Tell me, what’s Seth Rollins’ Match of the Year contender? What’s his resume compared to guys like Omega or Ospreay? Hell, how does his run as the babyface fighting champion compare to that of Orange Cassidy? You can talk all the talk, but when it comes to being the best wrestler in the world, Rollins rarely walks the walk. ***