WWE’s Payback pay-per-view delivered more than most fans – myself included – expected, including a bevy of title changes and the surprise announcement of the return of Rob Van Dam. While the John Cena v. Ryback Three Stages of Hell match was the least entertaining, the rest of the show was very strong, with the crowd into it throughout the night and some unexpected finishes.
The Cena – Ryback main event suffered from many factors. The match type itself already featured three of maybe the least exciting stipulations all bundled into one – Lumberjack match, tables match, and ambulance match. It also didn’t help that two guys WWE audiences certainly don’t believe have great in-ring talent had to follow the likes of CM Punk, Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan and The Shield. In hindsight, WWE would probably book the CM Punk v. Jericho match to close the show.
Below are the results and my thoughts on each match on the main card:
Curtis Axel defeated The Miz and Wade Barrett to win the Intercontinental Championship
It felt like Axel was a shoe-in to win as soon as he was announced as Fandango’s replacement but the match was pretty solid, the ending was smart, and the crowd popped huge for Axel winning the Intercontinental Title that his father helped make famous on Father’s Day. The way Axel won – pinning Barrett while Miz had the figure four applied – probably sets up a Miz – Axel feud for the title, which could be good.
AJ Lee defeated Kaitlyn via submission to win the Divas Championship
I couldn’t help but thinking during this match – and I had to restrain myself a bit because it might be a little hyperbolic – that we were watching this generation’s Trish Stratus and Lita. AJ and Kaitlyn have a long way to go before they’re in the same realm as two of the greatest women’s competitors of all time, but these two have obvious chemistry in the ring, a solid backstory, and can put together a hell of a match.
Dean Ambrose defeated Kane via countout to retain the United States Championship
A predictable outcome, which is fine, since Kane doesn’t need a singles title at this point in his career and Dean Ambrose is on the rise to the main event scene.
WWE announces Rob Van Dam will return at Money in the Bank
Rob Van Dam will return to WWE at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, which takes place in Philadelphia on July 14th. RVD will likely be a big crowd favorite in ECW’s old hometown, although WWE is wringing that cloth for all the nostalgia it can get at this point. While he was less than stellar during his TNA run, a motivated Van Dam could be really good for a short span in WWE. The company hasn’t said yet whether this is a one shot deal or a longer plan for RVD.
Alberto Del Rio defeated Dolph Ziggler to win the World Heavyweight Championship
Throughout the match Alberto Del Rio was playing the heel role. The crowd was solidly behind Ziggler and it felt like WWE was trying to do a double turn with Del Rio ended up heel and Ziggler babyface. Del Rio continually targeted the head of Ziggler and the announcers pointed out how that wasn’t very sportsmanlike, but you have to do what you have to do to become champion.
If the plan is to turn both men, it was smart booking to have Del Rio win the title, even though it’s so soon into Ziggler’s reign. It helps to build sympathy for Ziggler from the “non-smart mark” crowd and the good guy is usually better as the one chasing the title.
CM Punk defeated Chris Jericho
This match went down without any shenanigans, which was a bit surprising to me. Punk returned, with the same theme song, and defeated Jericho in an excellent match. A little bit of dissension was teased between Paul Heyman and CM Punk following the match and again backstage. It seems like WWE will eventually split these two up, with Punk turning babyface and hopefully feuding with Brock Lesnar.
Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns defeated Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton to retain the World Tag Team Championship
A predictable outcome – again, which is totally fine – and a solid match. Daniel Bryan continues to be one of the hottest wrestlers on the roster right now and will probably head into the main event title scene. The question is what’s next for Randy Orton?
John Cena defeated Ryback in a Three Stages of Hell match to retain the WWE Championship
Ryback won the Lumberjack stage by pinfall. Cena won the second stage by putting Ryback through a table. Cena won the third stage by AA’ing Ryback through the roof of the ambulance.
Jokes about how flimsy the ambulance was! Now that that’s out of the way, this match itself wasn’t bad, really, but like I mentioned above it suffered from several factors. Hopefully this is the end of the Cena – Ryback feud.
(Image courtesy WWE.com)