Pro Wrestling

10 Ways Payback Kicked Off WWE’s ‘New Era’ Source:

WWE Payback was advertised as the first Pay Per View of the “New Era” of WWE, a concept we’re unclear about since we’re not sure what happened in the last few weeks to actually make this era significantly different from the one the was apparently in effect right up until WrestleMania 32. Sure, Roman Reigns is WWE Champion, but he was that in the previous era as well (twice, actually). And Shane McMahon has been running Raw since WrestleMania, but in a capacity that was supposed to be entirely temporary and was actually being addressed at Payback. However, it’s hard to argue that WWE, since WrestleMania, has featured decent TV shows and a bevy of new Superstars that are actually getting time to shine, and if they want to call that a “New Era”, then we’re willing to go with it, for a little while at least. With that in mind, here’s an analysis of the major moments from the first PPV of WWE’s “New Era”, for which we will need to find a cooler name at some point.

10. Who Is Baron Corbin?

We’ve covered the separate rises of Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews ever since they made the jump from NXT. While Crews seemed to be in a good place beating up the Social Outcasts, we did question Corbin being treated as both an imposing monster of a man, while also going 50/50 in a feud with Dolph Ziggler. However, we were reasonably certain that Payback was going to be the place where Corbin got a definitive victory over Ziggler and moved on to someone slightly more important. It turns out, we were wrong, because Dolph Ziggler has this incredible ability to win matches that it really seems like he shouldn’t be winning. We’re not saying Corbin should be in the World title picture, we’re a little concerned that he’s already lost his first feud and first singles PPV match, to a guy whose job description is “make opponent look impressive then lose”. It’s not that we don’t want better things for Dolph, but we can’t help but feel like his window closed a year or so ago. Meanwhile, we’re left with a slightly less intimidating Corbin, whose chief character trait seems to be “loses matches through stupidity”, which we’re not sure is the thing to really get him over the top. Source:

9. The Pre-Show Stopper

It’s confession time! We know we get down on Ryback a lot, because he’s a very bad wrestler, but as a bullying heel, his character work is really good. Plus, he actually has worked really well with Kalisto in their feud, including literally saving his life last night when Kalisto’s attempt to do a spinning body drop over the top rope to the floor nearly saw him land head-first on the ring apron, before Ryback literally ran forward, caught Kalisto in midair, and still managed to make the botch look somewhat good. The real problem is the fact that the entirety of this feud, and in fact all of Kalisto’s United States title defenses, have occurred on the pre-shows of Pay Per Views. Both men have the potential to be something in WWE, especially Kalisto, and they’ve put on decent-to-good matches together, and their reward is to be the match that happens while everyone is still finding their seats before the show. On a three-hour Pay Per View that had six total matches, that’s inexcusable. Source:

8. Not The Least Bit SAWFT

We’re okay with talking about it now, since he’s been released from hospital and, by all accounts, escaped with only a concussion (and yes, in this case, it really is “only” a concussion), but Enzo Amore’s head smacking off the ring apron threatened to derail the entire Pay Per View from the opening match. What started as a fun match that promised to be very good (and likely involve shenanigans from The New Day, given the setup they had going at ringside) suddenly ground to a halt as Enzo lay motionless at ringside, with replays literally showing his eyes rolling back into his head as he fell. As initial feelings about the injury potentially being part of the plan quickly faded away (which might sound illogical to some people, but this is pro wrestling we’re talking about), you could feel the atmosphere inside the arena just evaporate when it became clear that this was a very real and potentially serious injury. We need to give kudos to WWE for keeping both the live and TV audiences updated on Enzo’s condition, especially since it turned out to be good news. Source:

7. Literally Fighting Forever

If there was any good news to be found in the wake of Enzo’s injury, it was in whatever stroke of good planning that slotted the Kevin Owens-Sami Zayn match in the very next segment. While the crowds were still subdued during the entrances, Owens and Zayn are two performers that have worked together for years, and are both consummate performers who knew exactly how to get the audience back into the show. We’ve observed on more than one occasion that Sami and Kevin are actually one Canadian in two bodies: Sami is the nice, polite Canadian that has been the country’s public face for decades, and Owens is the reason why Canadians invented hockey, so we can punch people we disagree with in a formal setting. And even though Owens won, because of course he did, you knew that this feud would just keep going, because Owens can’t just win, he has to keep pushing. When Owens did commentary (you might also note, for those who think Kevin Owens is fat and out-of-shape, that he did commentary for an entire match after wrestling an intense brawl for ten minutes and didn’t even sound winded), having Sami Zayn run out and attack him felt like a logical continuation of the feud, even if it did somewhat take away from a decent Cesaro-Miz match and screw Cesaro out of the Intercontinental title (leading to a Fatal Four-Way at Extreme Rules, we would presume). In fact, we’d be perfectly happy if Zayn and Owens stopped wrestling any matches and just appeared randomly during Raw and Smackdown, hockey-fighting each other in different locations. Source:

6. This Is A Match That Happened

We’re not sure exactly how to describe the Ambrose-Jericho match, other that to say that we’re positive we watched it. It sounds harsh, but it was literally the most forgettable match on the show. It wasn’t a bad match, it was well-wrestled, had been built up appropriately on TV, involved two good wrestlers with big personalities, and Dean even got to win a big match. The problem is, it didn’t really do anything to stand out. On a show with life-long grudge matches, actually competent women’s wrestling with legendary icons at ringside, James Bond fighting a guy who believes he could be James Bond if he wanted to, and a main event full of intriguing possibilities, the Jericho-Ambrose match was just kind of there. It served its purpose by putting Ambrose over, it was a good match that we enjoyed, but it likely won’t be remembered by most people by the next day. Perhaps it’s because Ambrose has been in so many crazy hardcore brawls in recent months that we’re just not used to seeing him in a regular match, and we’d definitely be interested in seeing more of that at Extreme Rules, but whatever the case, there really isn’t much to say about what we saw between Jericho and Ambrose at Payback. Source:

5. Seriously? Montreal? Again?

A common complaint about Bret Hart in the years since Montreal is that he just wouldn’t let go of the Montreal Screwjob and move on with his life. Well, we would like to put forth the notion that the reason why Bret (and many Canadian wrestling fans) can’t let go of the Screwjob is because WWE likes to bring it up every chance they get. At Payback, WWE pulled out the Screwjob finish yet again, only this time it not only required fans to remember a wrestling angle from nearly twenty years ago, when a large percentage of WWE’s target demographic wasn’t watching and may not even have been born, but also to remember an old WCW angle (and remember, WCW has also been gone for 15 years at this point) where referee Charles Robinson became known as “Little Naitch” due to his resemblence to Ric Flair. And all of that was done for what purpose? Charlotte once again can’t win a match on her own, WWE recycles one of their dumbest and most over-used finishes, and the feud between Charlotte and Natalya gets extended, because there’s another PPV in three weeks, and also because they need “filler opponents” until Sasha Banks can start her long-awaited feud with Charlotte for the build to SummerSlam. Source:

4. This Will Only End In Tears

So, after a long twenty-plus minutes of speeches that seemed like they’d work better in a boardroom meeting (we’re not going to lie, we hoped that Shane would reference a Goliath headline in his presentation, but maybe our titles weren’t positive enough), Vince McMahon’s ultimate decision is that he’s not actually going to make a decision, which sounds closer to the reality of day-to-day WWE operations than we’d like to believe. So, Shane and Stephanie are both in charge of Raw (presumably, Smackdown will run itself), and are pretending to be civil with each other for now. Of course, that won’t last, and it’s likely we’ll see Shane fighting Triple H for control by SummerSlam at the latest, in another example of WWE kicking a can down the road because they’re not sure what they want to do yet. Granted, we’re okay with WWE not going back to the brand split, because we still have mixed feelings about how that would work out, but we were also fine with Shane running Raw unopposed, because it was nice not having a powerful heel authority figure around to be irrationally evil and slap anyone who disagrees with her. Source:

3. Actually, Can We Go Back And Do Montreal Again?

Going into the main event, we knew a couple of things to be true. First of all, AJ Styles is an awesome wrestler, and Roman Reigns is a good wrestler, and a match between them was almost certain to be decent at worst. Secondly, Roman Reigns was leaving Payback as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion (and also as “The Guy”, which is sounding less impressive every time someone on commentary says it with incorrect emphasis. It should be “THE Guy”, not “The GUY“, people). With that said, given that everyone expected run-ins to dominate the finish, what was the point of all the shenanigans that preceded an ending we already knew was going to happen? Sure, on one hand, it’s nice that Styles got to win the match twice before losing, but those wins were completely irrelevant to the real ending anyway, and only served to break up the flow of what was a very good match (we need to emphasize this, the match, aside from the ridiculousness, was Reigns’ best singles match in his admittedly short career), and put emphasis back on the McMahon Family, instead of the wrestlers. In the final two matches of the evening, WWE decided for some reason to go with two of the dumber finishes in the book, and all they need now is a Dusty Finish on tonight’s Raw (which might be difficult, since no titles changed hands) to hit the trifecta. Source:

2. We Didn’t Even Know That Was An Option

We ran through a lot of options in our head about how the main event could end, and frankly, they were all ideas we would have liked to see happen. Maybe AJ Styles would form the new Bullet Club. Maybe Gallows and Anderson would align with Reigns. Maybe Finn Balor would debut in some form. We had a dozen different and interesting ideas for how the main event angle could have gone. Instead, we somehow managed to get the most boring possible result of what was originally a very intriguing situation, which left everyone in exactly the same position they were before Payback started. AJ Styles is still a good guy, getting unwanted help from two old friends who are portrayed as bad guys, in a “whose side are they on” situation that already existed before the show. Roman Reigns is still ostensibly treated as WWE’s top face despite clearly not actually being liked (because in WWE, fans “love to boo him”, which is apparently not the same thing as “don’t like him”, and presumably involves the WWE Universe “having fun out there”). And now The Usos are fully involved, which is actually the worst part, because The Usos are bland on toast and contribute nothing interesting to the situation. In a main event full of possibilities for exciting ways in which WWE’s “New Era” could get underway, how did we somehow manage to end up with the least interesting one? Source:

1. Hey, Where’s Camp WWE?

So, you might have seen the six million ads for “Camp WWE” on Raw, Smackdown, and during the Pay Per View, since it was set to debut following Payback. What you might not have known, unless you paid attention to the very specific language that was used during Payback itself (and at no point before that show), was that Camp WWE is only available as part of the WWE Network’s On Demand library, and unlike all other original Network content, did not actually air on the streaming service following the Pay Per View. Of course, this is due to Camp WWE being rated for Mature audiences only, and WWE wanting to avoid complaints from parents. While we can’t fault WWE’s reasoning entirely, we mostly wanted this out as a public service announcement for anyone who was actually anticipating the show airing after Payback and wanted to know why it didn’t happen. Oh, and if you’re in Canada, you’re out of luck, because the Canadian version of the Network has a far more limited archive that doesn’t actually include any of WWE’s newer original shows, including Camp WWE. We’re not saying we particularly cared about Camp WWE in anything more than as a potential car crash that might surprise us, we’re just not thrilled with the lack of clarity in the messaging. Source:

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.