It’s time to head over to WWE territory once again as we take a look at the newest name on their pay per view schedule, Payback, shown live in the early hours of this past Monday morning on Sky Box Office here in Britain.
The show began with the first of many title matches as the Miz and Curtis Axel, accompanied by Paul Heyman, challenged Wade Barrett for the Intercontinental title in a triple threat match.
Now this was a show opener. I have to admit that I didn’t think that this one would be this good. All three men involved put in great performances. It began in the usual way, with the three guys in the ring, until Heyman advised his client to leave so he could wait for his moment.
This led to some nice exchanges between rivals Barrett and Miz, and when Axel entered the match he impressed the hell out of me. The action the progressed nicely with numerous pin attempts, and when Axel went to put Barrett away with the Perfectplex the crowd went nuts.
This signalled the start of a frantic few moments, and when the Miz locked Barrett in the figure four it looked like we were going to get a title change. It happened, but not in the way we expected, because as Miz synched in the hold even tighter Axel came back into the ring and pinned Barrett. Miz looked shocked, but because Barrett hadn’t tapped out Axel was declared the new champion.
The ladies were up next as Kaitlyn defended the Divas title against A.J. Lee, who had Big E. Langston along for company.
Looks like the girls weren’t filler material this month, and what we got here was a pretty decent encounter. It began with Kaitlyn taking A.J. to the proverbial woodshed early on, with A.J. coming back into the match with a great looking dropkick off the ring apron, right into Kaitlyn’s kisser.
As the match went along the storytelling aspect got even better as both girls put in top notch performances. They both came close to getting the pin on numerous occasions, with A.J. getting crazier by the minute.
The build-up to the finish was perfect. Kaitlyn failed to get the pin after a spear, and A.J. failed with her Black Widow submission. Kaitlyn then missed another spear when she hit her head on the turnbuckle. A.J. then followed up by applying her hold again, and it wasn’t long before Kaitlyn tapped out to give A.J. the submission win.
Then it was on to Kane challenging the Shield’s Dean Ambrose for the United States title.
I really liked this one. It took a while to get going, but when it did it certainly ticked all the right boxes. Kane began with his usual power game, but when Ambrose dropkicked his left knee it signalled the start of his dominance as he began to wear the monster down with a few holds. Kane had a few fleeting moments of offence, but Ambrose managed to remain in control for the most part.
Then Ambrose decided to invoke the spirit of the Undertaker as he tried to go old school. This didn’t sit too well with Kane as he pulled him down off the top rope.
It wasn’t long before they were fighting at ringside, with Kane intent on putting the champion through the Spanish announcer’s table. Thankfully for Ambrose it never happened as a DDT on the floor halted Kane in his tracks, and as he tried to recover at ringside Ambrose got back into the ring to take the count out win.
The Smackdown main event saw Alberto Del Rio, accompanied by his cheerleader Ricardo Rodriguez, challenging Dolph Ziggler, accompanied by his usual crew, for the World title.
It’s time to break out that perfect storytelling line again, because that’s just what we got here. Normally Del Rio spends his time focusing on his opponent’s arm in preparation for the cross arm breaker, but with Ziggler returning after a concussion these tactics went out of the window. At times it looked absolutely brutal as he delivered countless blows to Ziggler’s head. But no matter what Del Rio did Ziggler kept coming back for more.
As the match went on it became more than apparent that the face/heel line was becoming just a little bit blurred. Ziggler was playing the part of the never say die babyface almost perfectly. He even refused medical attention at one point. Meanwhile, Del Rio’s tactics were those of a man going all out to win the title, and to hell with the consequences.
Eventually all of the blows to the head were just too much for Ziggler, and a final Superkick-like blow was enough for Del Rio to get the title winning pin.
The only non-title match of the show saw Chris Jericho taking on the returning C.M. Punk, accompanied by Paul Heyman.
If you ever wanted to see an encounter between two masters of their art then this may be the match for you. It started off quite slowly, and it looked like Punk was having trouble going through the gears because of ring rust as Jericho took control early on. It clearly was a frustrating performance as far as Punk was concerned.
Punk slowly began to find his way into the match as the ring rust began to fall away. But even then Jericho kept coming back, mainly because Punk was having trouble getting clean shots with his signature moves.
But with his hometown fans firmly behind him Punk sucked it up and kept coming forward, especially when Jericho countered his hurricanrana attempt with the Walls. Punk held out for as long as he could until he eventually began his own counter attack by delivering a series of blows to Jericho’s left arm and leg.
Punk eventually worked his way free and back to his feet before lifting Jericho on his shoulders and bringing him down with the Go to Sleep. Then, with Jericho on rubber legs,, Punk lifted him up again and took him down with a second GTS to get the winning pin.
The penultimate match saw Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan challenging the Shield’s Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns for the Tag Team titles.
This match had a lot to live up to given the encounter it followed, but I think they just about made it. It began with Bryan taking Reigns down with some fast-paced moves before the Shield boys doubled up and used the flying goat for target practice. Bryan eventually made the tag to Orton, and although the Viper got in a few good blows it wasn’t long before Reigns and Rollins began to take him apart.
The Shield looked incredibly good at what they did as they took Orton down, but when he managed to get back to his corner it signalled the start of the mass brawl as Bryan took on both of his opponents.
Then came the big mistake. After sending both of his men to ringside Bryan took to the air with a suicide dive, but when he reached ringside Rollins and Reigns moved out of the way as he went crashing into Orton.
The Shield boys soon took control again, and although Orton came back into the match for a brief moment Rollins soon took Bryan down with a running stomp to the head for the winning pin.
The main event saw Ryback challenging John Cena for the WWE title in a Three Stages of Hell match, with the first stage a lumberjack match, the second a tables match, and the third an ambulance match.
How best to describe this one? Well, if the separate stages had been stand alone matches they may have been a little disappointing. Together they proved to be incredibly entertaining. We had the usual spots during the lumberjack match, some nice moves during the tables encounter and a great looking brawl during the final stage.
Stage one went to the challenger. As Cena applied the STF Ryback managed to get back to his feet before taking Cena down with his Shellshock finisher for the pin.
Stage two went to the champion. Ryback looked like he was about to put his man away with another Shellshock, but this time around Cena dodged the bullet and used the Attitude Adjuster to put the big man through the table.
Stage three proved what Jeremy Clarkson has been saying for years, that American motor vehicles aren’t that well made. These two ripped various parts off the ambulance for use as weapons. Some crutches were also thrown into the mix, and with the final battle on the top of the ambulance Cena put Ryback through what could only have been a rather flimsy roof, and with his challenger officially inside the vehicle Cena was declared the winner.
In conclusion - you know what? This was a great show!
From top to bottom WWE treated us to a night of tremendous action, Every match delivered, and then some, making this a hell of a show. I even enjoyed the Divas match, and that’s something I can’t say every month.
As for my match of the night no-prize I’m going for the Punk/Jericho encounter. It was great to see the best in the world back in action, even if he is taking facial hair grooming inspiration from Amos Brierley!
So with all of that finally out of the way let’s wrap this thing up by giving Payback the big thumbs up.