WWE Payback 2017
WWE Payback 2017, the first PPV event following WrestleMania 33, both allowed for the continuation of existing feuds and the development of others, but the overall match quality made the supershow a bit of a mixed bag in totality.
Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
To get the San Jose crowd warmed up for this Raw-only PPV (well, mostly Raw-only as I will explain), Enzo and Big Cass came out to face The Club. Enzo and Cass remain pretty damn over with audiences, and in this spot of a supershow, they excel. Though there are exceptions to the rule, pre-show bouts are generally there just to prepare us for what is to come, and their act is ideal for that task. As for the match itself, it was TV-level stuff and nothing more. Enzo got the pin over Gallows to ensure a feel-good moment. Also on the pre-show, we had Miz TV with Finn Balor, as the Northern Irishman survived Miz’s expected insults and braggadocios nature to leave him laying. Corey Graves was aghast; Michael Cole and Booker T, less so.
WWE United States Championship Match
Kevin Owens (C) vs. Chris Jericho
To open the PPV, we had the presumed ending of the long storyline-cum-feud between KO and Y2J. Owens had defeated Jericho for the US Title at WrestleMania 33, but crucially, he had been switched to SmackDown via the Superstar Shake-Up. Nevertheless, Chris was still entitled to his rematch for the belt he had lost; however, given that Dean Ambrose (who was oddly absent from the entire evening) had brought the Intercontinental Title over to Raw, plus with Jericho about to go on another sabbatical to tour with Fozzy, this match was a mere formality for Owens to look strong, and for Chris to be potentially waylaid heavily in the process. But we were in for a surprise: Jericho, around whom the PPV’s promotional material was based, shocked virtually everyone by submitting Owens to the Walls Of Jericho following a very good opener to reclaim the United States Title. What does the future hold for the US Title now that Jericho, by virtue of this win, must move over to the blue brand? And how will Owens rebound from this unexpected title loss? We will have to wait and see, but needless to say, this was a result that nobody saw coming under the circumstances.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match
Neville (C) vs. Austin Aries
I mentioned earlier about how there are exceptions to the pre-show rule, and these two provided one of those by having an awesome Kick-Off Show contest prior to WrestleMania, with Neville coming out on top. Here, their rematch was also of a high quality, and unlike many matches for the modern-day cruiserweight division, fans were definitely invested in the action and in both men. Indeed, Aries was popular in California state, while Neville was booed for his increasingly dastardly actions. Mind you, the biggest boos were reserved for the finish, as Neville grabbed the referee’s shirt to force a disqualification as he was on the verge of submitting to the Last Chancery. Therefore, he lost by disqualification but retained the purple-strapped belt, and fans were very unhappy about this. The positive for Austin is that another title shot is bound to occur, and maybe on that night, he will finally capture the title that Neville first took hold of back at Royal Rumble.
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match
The Hardy Boyz (C) vs. Sheamus & Cesaro
Lost in the excitement of The Hardy Boyz’ return to WWE were the teams that Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy defeated for the Raw Tag Team Titles in the WrestleMania 33 Ladder match. One of those combos were Sheamus and Cesaro, and remember that they had formed following a fierce rivalry over the summer and autumn of 2016. Therefore, their sporting gestures ahead of their title shot against The Hardyz here were nice enough, but also had a possibility of being disingenuine. And sure enough, following a spirited and action-packed tag team bout which proved that Matt and Jeff have absolutely “still got it”, and after Jeff hit Sheamus with the match-winning Swanton Bomb, the challengers followed a respectful handshake by pummelling the brothers Hardy. Fans were angry at the heel turn and rightfully so, though The Hardyz should have known better, considering that Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch did something very similar around a decade ago. Still, it means that their feud is only just getting started, which is a good thing based on how enjoyable this bout was.
WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match
Bayley (C) vs. Alexa Bliss
Next up, we had the continuation of a string of rather entertaining battles as Alexa Bliss, in her first major match after coming over from SmackDown, challenged Bayley for the Raw Women’s Title. Bearing in mind that Charlotte Flair has switched brands, and with Nia Jax not in the title picture for the time being, Bayley was surely in a position to establish herself as a strong Raw Women’s Champion, and with her being in her hometown of San Jose, she was surely going to retain against the successful yet relatively new Bliss, right? Wrong! After some thrilling near-falls, Alexa provided the night’s second major shock result by sending The Hugger hard into the ring post, followed by a DDT that allowed her to win the gold, making her the first lady to win both Women’s Championships since the Draft last July. Bayley now assumes the role of challenger again which may not be a bad thing, but I was still surprised that Alexa won the belt so soon. San Jose certainly wasn’t happy at the latest hometown hero failure.
House Of Horrors Match
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
The successive strong matches at Payback 2017 had to end somewhere, as we get to what will go down as an infamous PPV segment. So, Orton beat Wyatt at WrestleMania to win the WWE Title in a bout that saw the ring canvas adorned with projections of creepy crawlies. Bray announced that he would face Orton here at Payback 2017 in a House Of Horrors match, but because he was switched to Raw, he could no longer bring the WWE Championship to SmackDown, despite the events of Owens-Jericho earlier. Make sense of that what you will. More notable than the lack of logic was the setting, as Orton and Wyatt battled out in the dark woods in a literal house, presumably Bray’s spare allotment or something. They battled through various rooms, using the different weapons and appliances available to them, and they did so to the sound of chilling music rather than commentary in a bout that was filmed in a cinematic fashion. Bray eventually trapped Orton via a fridge (I kid you not), and this was Wyatt’s cue to leave the house and use Randy’s limousine to take off and head to the arena. I didn’t mind this presentation, but the chants of “bulls–t!” suggested that the live audience weren’t as keen. Prior to the main event, Wyatt arrived in the arena proper, and at this stage, Orton was meant to join him, where they’d end the bout via either a pinfall or submission. But with Orton taken out, Wyatt simply came to proclaim his brilliance, only for Randy to then pop up and RKO him. How did Orton get there? Who knows. All of a sudden, Jinder Mahal of SmackDown showed up and hit Orton with his stolen WWE Title (ahead of their Backlash clash), allowing Bray to hit Sister Abigail for the win in what was essentially a non-title bout. Again, I didn’t find this to be inoffensive, but the online reaction was brutal. And so a once-promising storyline resulted in a poor Mania match and a segment/match that will be remembered for the wrong reasons, sadly.
Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe
Sandwiched between parts one and two of Orton vs. Wyatt, we had Seth Rollins’ attempt to exact revenge on Samoa Joe for the injury that Joe inflicted upon Seth when he made his Raw debut back on January 29. The two had the potential to deliver a truly great match. But while it was more than adequate, it wasn’t nearly the classic that people were hoping for, and they also didn’t receive a large amount of time in which they could provide such a contest for the WWE Universe. Don’t get me wrong, it was well-worked and told a logical story, but fans were expecting more from this one. In the end, Rollins outsmarted Joe by turning his Coquina Clutch back onto him by leaning back and pinning him for the victory. Joe is likely to continue pursuing Rollins, but has his aura been damaged by his defeat, coming after he was left off the WrestleMania card, so soon after he was promoted to Raw from NXT? We’ll have to wait and see.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
In the main event, Roman Reigns looked to get some, erm, payback on Braun Strowman; Reigns had pinned him at Fast Lane, but on the April 10 Raw, Strowman pulverised Reigns with one mad stunt after another in an awesome angle that fans absolutely adored, making it a big success … if you ignore that Roman was meant to be the face and Braun was meant to be the heel. Having not appeared on television since said beatdown, Reigns was coming in at less than 100%, but even so, he was still hugely booed, whereas the big bad bully Strowman received a lot of cheers as he continued to weaken and pummel Roman throughout the match. It looked like a comeback was on as Reigns went through his version of the Hulk Up, but Strowman withstood whatever The Big Dog could throw at him, and he hit two Running Powerslams to secure the pinfall win over someone who had only recently garnered the second ever Mania win over The Undertaker. Afterwards, Strowman assaulted Reigns with the steel stairs, causing that dreaded “internal bleeding”, thus making Strowman the big winner when Payback 2017 was all said and done.
WWE Payback 2017 was an event of two halves. The first half, while not an all-timer by any means, contained one exciting match after another. But the House Of Horrors showdown reduced the quality level significantly, while Rollins vs. Joe didn’t quite meet expectations, and though Reigns vs. Strowman was well-booked, it was not a vintage main event by any means. Check this card out if you get the chance, but I fear that all people will talk about is the House Of Horrors, rather than the genuinely good action across the rest of Payback 2017.