WWE Payback [2016] PPV Review

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This past Wrestlemania, which took place in April, was the mark of the beginning of a new era in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). With Roman Reigns being the new champion and the potential future face of the WWE, many fans (myself included) are both interested and nervous about the future of this great company. The main reason we’re worried is because Roman Reigns is champion. I personally like Roman Reigns as an entertainer, but with having him shoved down our throats and into the title picture, it has been easy for diehard fans to start hating him. This could be the intention of WWE’s creative department, but most of their decisions have made the last few months a bit lackluster in regards of content.

Regardless of what happened on Raw, Smackdown and NXT in the months preceding Wrestlemania, the show of shows was a heck of an event, and it left me hoping the WWE has truly taken a turn into a new era… and I believe tonight’s pay-per-view has solidified it.

Kickoff Show

Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

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This was an appropriate inaugural pay-per-view match for Baron Corbin. Yes, his first “real” PPV match was at Wrestlemania 32 during the Andre the Giant Battle Royale, but this was his first singles match on a PPV, so to me it counts as his inaugural PPV match.

A Kickoff show match isn’t necessarily a bad opportunity for a superstar anymore. Yes, it isn’t the ideal situation for them, but it gives them the chance to show what they can do to a wider audience, since the Kickoff show is available on YouTube and other networks.

This match was a decent start to the night, but was riddled with some awkward and sluggish combinations that seemed to overshadow the few entertaining moments; one of which being a big boot from Corbin that connected to a flying Ziggler. I’m glad to see Corbin on the big stage now, but in my opinion his style did not mix well with Ziggler’s. Both superstars are extremely talented, and I support them 100%, but a cheap and unsatisfying finish is exactly what it is at the end of the day. The match had the opportunity to start off the new era the right way, but it ended just like many plagued PPV matches have ended in recent years.

Match Grade: C+

United States Championship: Kalisto vs. Ryback

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If you’ve read my PPV reviews since the beginning, then most of you probably know I am not a big Ryback fan. I believe he hasn’t been utilized in the best way he could have been, being stuck with a stupid gimmick that probably makes a lot of kids cringe instead of making them smile. Regardless of my opinions about “The Big Guy,” Ryback does have power and showed it tonight along side the United States Champion, Kalisto.

Unlike the match before hand, these two superstars work great together. Their styles are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but their chemistry is very evident which has helped them mold into a cohesive rivalry during their matches. The best way to describe this match is that it is a GREAT title match; one that was completely unexpected, to be honest. Kalisto pulled out his creativity, introducing some very innovative moves that made my jaw drop at one point. Ryback showed how he could be a great Heel (bad guy) only if the company gave him a better gimmick. His power is so unstoppable, and it shouldn’t be wasted away.

I hope this is the final Kickoff show match Kalisto has as champion. He has proven he’s a phenomenal singles competitor and that it’s time the United States Championship is ready to move back up to the main card, but because Kalisto works very well in the ring regardless of who his opponent is, maybe that’s why they are going to keep him on the Kickoff show. Since the show is on YouTube and other networks, it’s a great opportunity for people on the fence about purchasing the WWE Network to see something that intrigues/entertains them enough to the point where they finally give in. A Kalisto title match is exactly the type of entertainment the Network needs to present on the Kickoff show to get those fence-riders to finally give in and hand over their $9.99.

Match Grade: B+

Main Show

#1 Contenders Tournament Final: Big Cass & Enzo Amore vs. The Vaudevillains

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I was excited for this match because I’ve watched both of these teams from their inceptions and have seen them grow into wonderful units/performers. They truly represent the tag-team side of the “New Era,” and they rightfully deserved to be in the positions they were in tonight.

Sadly, near the beginning of the match, Enzo Amore suffered an awful injury that made the officials cut the match short. No winner was decided, and this injury is definitely not fake (unless the WWE is going through extravagant motions to build Enzo Amore). Throughout the night, the commentators gave us updates about Enzo’s condition, and it was finally revealed that he suffered a concussion but has all motor skills in his extremities.

So, it’s great that Enzo isn’t more severely injured, especially with the fall he took, but it brought a damper to the night and to the future of this amazing superstar. Hope he gets better!

Match Grade: N/A

Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens

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Ah… the match I’ve been waiting for and anticipating more than “The Shield” Triple Threat match. I’m a long time fan of Sami Zayn and a big fan of Kevin Owens. When Owens finally made it to NXT, I couldn’t wait to see what he and Zayn were going to create, and they started off on the right foot with the “Best Friend Backstab” storyline, which created a few months of excellent entertainment. Sadly, Zayn suffered injuries that kept him behind the scenes for a long time, but he did make a thunderous return at this year’s Royal Rumble.

This rivalry needed to be closed, and these two exceptional performers did exactly what they needed to do tonight. Is this necessarily the “close” to the rivalry? I honestly do not think so, but it is the end of the anticipation fans have been keeping locked away for over a year. This great match erased the damper that Enzo’s injury brought over the crowd. Full of excellent reversals, wonderful chances taken, perfect innovations and some absolutely brutal beatings, this match entertained me from beginning to end. Yes, their relationship and rivalry had a lot to do with it, but after the second viewing I was mostly entertained with the story they told within the ring during their match. Only the greats have been able to do what they did tonight, so their futures are looking to include the Hall of Fame if they keep producing matches like this.

Match Grade: A

Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Cesaro

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I’ll be honest, while he is good at his job and being annoying, I do not like the Miz as a wrestler. I always felt like he’d be better as a manager, following the paths of Paul Heyman, Mr. Fuji and Jimmy Hart. He’s better on the microphone than he is in the ring, which is probably why I have my opinions about his in-ring performances. Is he a “terrible” wrestler? No, not at all, I just don’t like him, and I also don’t like that HE beat Zack Ryder the night after Ryder’s only Wrestlemania moment and took the Intercontinental title. So, with that said, the only real appeal I had for this match was it could be Cesaro’s chance for a great return/title run.

But… what do we get? Cesaro demonstrating the reasons why he deserves to be at the top of the food chain in the WWE, dominating Miz the entire time, and then the match has a garbage ending that doesn’t scream “New Era” but screams “Same Old B.S.!” The only thing that keeps this match above a D+ is the great interference from Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Since Owens won his match and declared to retrieve “his” intercontinental championship, he decided to be on commentary for this match. While Cesaro was being a great beacon of talented light, Zayn ambushed Owens, which added some wonderful entertainment that eventually distracted Cesaro and allowed Miz to hit the roll-up for the win… sadly.

Match Grade: C

Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho

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While Miz and Cesaro had the most disappointing match of the night, in my opinion, Ambrose vs. Jericho wasn’t that great either. Both superstars are excellent in the ring. They’ve demonstrated that time and time again, especially Jericho since he’s the true veteran here, but sometimes two great superstars have bad nights or they just don’t click. That was the problem with this one: their styles just didn’t mix well like Kalisto and Ryback’s did, leading to a match that had some compelling moments but was mostly underwhelming.

Even with a decent ending/finale, the pacing was off and their nonexistent chemistry made this one a bit of snooze, but I still enjoyed it more than Miz and Cesaro. Hopefully they can redeem themselves one day, perhaps the next PPV, but even if they don’t, this match doesn’t reflect their careers, just an off night.

Match Grade: C+

Women’s Championship: Charlotte vs. Natalya (Featuring Ric Flair and Bret Hart)

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The Divas title is out, and the new Women’s Championship is around Charlotte’s waist, so a high standard has been set for all future female title matches. With the change of belts, it has been made official that the “Divas’ Revolution” has completely morphed into a “Women’s Evolution,” so these matches better be good or else the WWE Universe will probably never forgive you. Luckily Charlotte and Natalya kept the standards high tonight… but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the deep water, yet.

It’s good to see Natalya back in the title picture, and it was awesome to watch a veteran and the young champion go back-and-forth in excellent wrestling fashion, including a gorgeous moonsault from Charlotte and an incredible display of defiance from Natalya. Outside of the ring, Charlotte’s father, Ric Flair, accompanied his daughter while on the other side Bret Hart, Natalya’s Uncle, accompanied his niece. Just like Flair and Hart worked well together during their careers, Natalya and Charlotte worked just as perfectly… until the ending.

What I’m talking about is what’s now being dubbed as the “Chicago Screwjob,” throwing an homage to the “Montreal Screwjob” that put Bret Hart on WWE’s blacklist for years. In all honesty, I don’t know what happened. Charlotte put Natalya in Bret Hart’s signature move “The Sharpshooter” just like Shawn Michaels did to Bret Hart in 1997, and just like in Montreal all those years ago, the referee called for the bell before Natalya (Bret Hart) tapped or gave up, leaving Charlotte as the champion. Luckily the match ended “officially” when Natalya put Charlotte in a Sharpshooter and Bret put Ric Flair in one as well, but still… the “Chicago Screwjob” didn’t land as a substantial moment in history like the one in Montreal did, bringing this B+ match down to a…

Match Grade: B-

Vince McMahon Makes A Big Announcement

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Before we get to the much anticipated main event of the night, Vince McMahon had to make a huge decision: Who would take the helm of Monday Night Raw? His daughter Stephanie or his son Shane?

Well, to be honest, this was a waste of 15 minutes that could’ve gone towards one of the previous matches. It was boring and not very compelling, ending with Vince saying that he chooses both to run Monday Night Raw. So, at first, I said to myself, “Well this was a pointless waste of 15 minutes,” and while I still stand by that statement, having this segment did setup a wonderful payoff during the main event. Therefore, without this boring segment, the main event honestly wouldn’t have been match of the night, so I guess it wasn’t entirely pointless.

World Heavyweight Championship: Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles

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Okay, so you’ve already read that I’m calling this the match of the night, and that’s very true. There are two reasons for it receiving this glorious title. Number one is the creative “fake endings” that occurred twice during the match. Number two is AJ Styles himself. With that said, I do like Roman Reigns as an entertainer, but I do not like him as a champion. The main reason for that is the fact that Reigns has been shoved down our throats as the “Next Face of the WWE” for months, and it’s kind of getting old. Plus, his gimmick doesn’t scream “CHAMPION!” or “SUPER BAD GUY!” It screams, “Meh… boring…” which should never be screamed.

Back to the match, at first AJ and Reign’s styles didn’t click very well, so AJ was pretty much carrying the match until the first fake ending occurred: a dreadful count-out. I stood up and yelled, “No!” for about two minutes until Shane McMahon came out and restarted the match with a “No Count-Out” stipulation. This is when the match got more compelling, making one believe that AJ had a chance to win. Because at this point, while AJ has been the stand out performer of the match, it’s still totally predictable that Reigns was going to win because he is the “Future Face of the WWE.” So, this fake-out added a bit of a ripple in that predictability. Then another fake ending occurred: a disqualification. This brought Stephanie McMahon out, and she restarted the match with a “No Disqualification” stipulation.

After this, I was on the edge of my seat with what proceeded: high-flying moves, brutality powerful clotheslines, great interferences and pure entertainment. While I’m a little disappointed AJ didn’t go over in the end, this match is the perfect example that the “New Era” has arrived. I’m proud to say it has been a long time since I’ve been this excited to see what the future holds for the WWE.

Match Grade: A+

With a new champion, new decision-makers on Raw and most of the superstars that popularized NXT being on the main roster now, there’s no doubt that a “New Era” has arrived. What is this era called? No one knows quite yet, but what is known is that this PPV introduced the new era in excellent fashion.

Bravo!

Overall Show Grade: B+
Show MVP: AJ Styles>/B>

Matt

Author: Matt

Seeing "Stand By Me" at the age of 6 solidified Matt's ambition to be a part of the entertainment industry. After growing up in Northern Virginia, studying film at Old Dominion University and rising from intern to Stage Manager at a Dinner Theater, Matt found himself at a speed bump in his life and wanting to express himself in more of a substantial way than calling a cue or flying a line every night. This need for creative expression pushed him to take on the challenge of getting a Master's Degree, which sent him on a year-long endeavor that seemed to throw obstacles and setbacks from every direction. But now, Matt is a screenwriter with a Master's of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and a passion for film, video games and professional wrestling, looking to keep the ambitious 6-year-old inside of him alive by entertaining the world through various forms of entertainment.

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