April 25, 2016
From the XL Center in Hartford, CT
Your hosts are Byron Saxton, JBL, and Michael Cole
Before the show, we an “In Memory Of” graphic for Joanie “Chyna” Laurer.
We get clips from last week when Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson attacked Roman Reigns along with Reigns questioning AJ Styles, who claimed to have no idea they were going to attack him.
The live show starts with Shane McMahon coming out to the ring. He gets a good reaction from the crowd. Shane lets them know he is still here because of them before calling Payback the first PPV of a new era. He talks about keeping the action rolling with new faces and matchups when Stephanie McMahon interrupts. She mocks Shane for pandering to the Hartford crowd because they are tough and savvy, while sick of politicians lying to them. Stephanie talks about being one of them as she was born in Hartford Hospital. Stephanie finally gets to the reason why she came out and that is to tell Shane its hits last night running RAW because at Payback, their father, Vincent Kennedy McMahon, will decide who will be running RAW. Shane gets the crowd to boo Stephanie while cheering himself and has some fun with that until Stephanie tells Shane their father is smart enough to give the fans control. Stephanie then refuses to leave the ring then slaps down a security guard before the other two escort her up the ramp. After that, Shane mocks his sister before introducing AJ Styles, who will be facing Sheamus after the break.
The main takeaway from this is that the control of RAW will be decided at Payback by Vince. It also does not seem like the McMahon Family Drama will end anytime soon, either. I thought it would have been a lot more effective for Vince to come out during his children bickering to deliver the news because as that would have built up a lot more suspense than Stephanie coming out to deliver the message. The crowd was responsive for the most part but the segment itself contained a lot of filler and they did die down at the end. The whole control of RAW storyline is just a mess and seemingly a product of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants booking. Each passing week makes the whole point of the Shane/Undertaker match at WrestleMania even more pointless and even if get past that and focus on everything since, there is still nothing compelling about the feud.
AJ Styles vs. Sheamus
Sheamus works over AJ in the corner. He roughs him up for a bit until AJ catches him with a dropkick. AJ chops Sheamus in the corner before working the arm. Sheamus fights out then they go back-and-forth until Sheamus boots AJ down for a two count. Sheamus ducks his head but AJ boots him in the face then sends him through the rope with a forearm. Sheamus fights back to chop AJ but gets dropkicked low and falls off of the apron. AJ then hits a running knee but misses an apron moonsault as Sheamus tosses him over the steps as we head to break. The action returns with Sheamus in control. He hits the Irish Curse twice then congratulates himself. Sheamus catches AJ in a bearhug but after that misses a corner charge and rams his shoulder into the post. AJ climbs up top but Sheamus cuts him off then hits a few uppercuts. AJ escapes from the top and takes Sheamus down with a sunset bomb as both men are down. AJ is up first and hits a barrage of strikes but misses an attack as Sheamus hits a powerslam for a nearfall. Sheamus tries to put AJ in a Cloverleaf but AJ escapes and hits a Pele Kick as both men are down. AJ is up first and fires away but Sheamus blocks a Styles Clash attempt then gets two with a clothesline. Sheamus locks on the Cloverleaf but AJ makes the ropes. AJ then dodges a Brogue Kick and fights back before hitting the Phenomenal Forearm for the win (14:20) ***1/4. After the match, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows come out wearing their new gear as they clap on the stage. AJ looks confused as to why they are out there as we then see Roman Reigns watching in the locker room as the fans boo. The Usos come in and ask him about what happens as they tell Reigns they have his back.
Thoughts: A damn good match. However, the crowd was dead until the finish. Regardless, this was hard-hitting and both guys worked their asses off, especially after a rough first few minutes. The storyline regarding whether or not AJ brought in the Bullet Club to take out Reigns and his cousins remains highly intriguing.
The New Day come out to the ring before the break. They return to talk about the success of the #1 Tag Team Contender Tournament. Yeah, right. At Payback, we will determine the #1 contender but the Vaudevillians cut them off. Aiden English sings about how they will be the #1 contender and instead of partying like its 1999, they will party like 1899 and plan to bring that era back to the WWE. Simon Gotch promises to beat Enzo & Big Cass, who then interrupt. Enzo does his shtick as the crowd eats it up like candy then he tells a hilariously bad joke about how the Vaudevillians wanting to be the #1 Contenders is as impossible as him “running down the beach into his own arms.” Enzo’s delivery carried that. Afterwards, Cass sets up for the SAWFT chant as the New Day hype up the PPV match.
Enzo & Cass woke up the crowd, who were hot for them. Hell, they got a bigger reaction than the New Day. The Vaudevillians continue to get zero reaction. The gimmick itself is not that strong, especially for the main roster, and had already run its course in NXT. I assume the Dudley Boyz cost Enzo & Cass the match and the Vaudevillians go on to face the New Day but who knows at this point.
We are shown a tweet that John Cena made earlier today that stated he will return to RAW on Memorial Day.
The Usos vs. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows
The Usos work over Anderson to start. Anderson comes back with a knee smash to Jimmy then Gallows tags in and hammers away. He turns Jey inside-out with a clothesline then Anderson & Gallows are cut off the ring. They beat on Jey for a while then Gallows shoves him off of the top and to the floor as we head to break. We return as Jey fights back and eventually makes the tag. Jimmy runs wild until Anderson cuts him off with a clothesline. As that happens, Gallows tosses Jey over the guardrail then Jimmy flies out with a dive to take him out. However, Anderson rolls Jimmy inside then roughs him up for a little bit until they hit the Magic Killer for the win (12:52) **1/4. After the match, Gallows & Anderson continue their assault until Reigns comes out to clean house. He clears the ring as the crowd boos.
Thoughts: The match was plodding at times, especially in the beginning, but it got a lot better after the commercial. They did put over Gallows & Anderson strong as they took control for most of the match. It was pretty much an extended squash. The crowd was silent throughout besides a brief “Bullet Club” chant before the break. I don’t see how you can run a feud between Gallows & Anderson and the Usos now seeing how they won with ease but what else do you do with them now? And speaking of the Usos, they are an incredibly stale act that the fans care less about with each passing week.
Renee Young is backstage with AJ Styles. Gallows & Anderson interrupt to ask AJ about Reigns. They promise to not jeopardize AJ’s chances and know he can win by himself but just want to make sure its a fair fight and that they have his back.
We get a video package on the Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn feud. It started with them discussing their friendship and where their WWE feud began after Owens turned on Zayn after his win at NXT: Takeover and powerbombed him on the ring apron. Owens talks about jealously regarding Zayn being signed to the WWE first then we see clips of Owens WWE run and how Zayn was laid up after surgery when he saw Owens make his debut. Owens then talked about Zayn making this personal after costing him a chance to win the Royal Rumble match, even stating that he is a victim. This was a great video package to put over their feud.
Sami Zayn vs. Rusev w/ Lana
Zayn uses his speed to avoid Rusev but gets caught in the corner. Rusev beats on Zayn, who comes back with a headscissors. Zayn takes Rusev down with a side headlock but shortly after that Rusev runs him over. Zayn floats over Rusev and pulls the ropes down on him but Rusev catches his pescado attempt and slams him off of the apron. Zayn comes back to hit Rusev with a moonsault block off of the barricade then they head inside. Rusev hits a spinning heel kick then kicks Zayn off of the top rope and to the floor as we head to break. The match returns with Rusev working a front facelock on the mat. Zayn comes back with a clothesline then hammers away. Crossbody gets two. Rusev comes back with a fallaway slam for two then drills Zayn with a super kick as that also only gets a two count. Rusev tries for the Accolade but Zayn escapes and rolls up Rusev for the win (11:56) ***. After the match, Lana flips out and throws her heels at Zayn. Zayn celebrates up the ramp but Owens attack him from behind. Owens stares down Zayn as he lays in pain.
Thoughts: Good match. However, the crowd was silent. The part with Lana flipping out at the end would seem to indicate that they will follow up on that, perhaps her flipping out on Rusev, leading to him turning face? Either way, Rusev is criminally underused. Owens vs. Zayn is starting to get a lot of attention and I suspect their feud will continue long after Payback.
Renee is backstage with Apollo Crews. She asks him about being part of the new era of the WWE. Crews talks about doing things in the ring no one else can until Stardust, his opponent for tonight, interrupts. Crews tells Stardust his father, Dusty Rhodes, changed his life and even came up with the name Apollo. That caused Stardust to go off on one of his nonsensical tangents. I just hope some of this leads to the end of the Stardust gimmick as that is just a dead end.
Stardust vs. Apollo Crews
Before the match we learn that the Dudley Boyz will be on ESPN SportsCenter tomorrow night as guests of Jonathan Coachman. Match starts with Crews getting the best of Stardust while showing off his agility. Stardust comes back with a neckbreaker for a nearfall then stomps away. He yanks off his gloves before stretching out Crews. Stardust blocks a sunset flip but after that Crews fights back. He gets two with a standing moonsault then puts him away with a spinning sitout powerbomb (3:08) *1/2.
Thoughts: Crews continues to impress in the ring but his character remains a work in progress. I do like the slow push they are giving him out of the gate though.
After the break, Dean Ambrose heads out to the ring to start off the final hour. He tells us that he cancelled tonight’s scheduled “Ambrose Asylum” as he is not in the mood for fun and games. He talks about facing Chris Jericho at Payback and puts over his career. He then talks about getting into fights is what he does and will offer Jericho the opportunity to come out and see what he does. He calls Jericho out and he heads to the ring. Jerihco comes out wearing a ridiculous scarf then calls Ambrose a “stupid idiot” and will not waste his time fighting Jericho in a dump like Hartford. Jericho then tells Ambrose he should get down on his knees and kiss his “$1,500 boots” for being allowed the chance to get into the ring with him. Jericho then calls that off and demands Ambrose apologize for stealing the Highlight Reel. Ambrose then apologizes…but its for Jericho’s ugly boots, scarf, and “Bon Jovi” haircut. Ambrse then roughs up Jericho and tosses him outside. Ambrose follows him out but Jericho trips him up on the table as Ambrose’s face hits the monitor. Jericho then puts Ambrose in the Walls of Jericho on the table until a few officials run out for the save.
I really liked this segment and its easily the best of this feud. Plus, it was nice to see Ambrose act serious instead of using goofy comedy. Both guys were great in their roles and the segment achieved the goal of making you want to see Ambrose kick Jericho’s ass in a match.
We get a recap of the Shane and Stephanie McMahon segment from earlier in the show.
We learn that this Wednesday on NXT, we will see the Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor Title match that took place this past Thursday in Lowell, MA.
Natalya vs. Emma
Charlotte and Ric Flair join on commentary. Natalya starts off by working the arm. They go back-and-forth for a bit until Emma trips up Natalya on the apron before yelling “its about me.” Back inside, Emma gets a nearfall as Charlotte talks about Natalya parading around her uncle Bret at Payback. The crowd chants for Sasha Banks after Emma hits a clothesline. Emma jaws with the crowd but after that Natalya takes her down and puts her in the Sharpshooter for the win (2:40) *1/2. After the match, Natalya comes out and stared down Charlotte, who waves her away along with her father.
Thoughts: These two worked a nice, little match together. Emma showed a lot of personality as a heel. They’ve built up Natalya nicely as a challenger and Charlotte remains one of the most hated heels in the company with her spoiled, daddy’s girl act.
We get a video package on Chyna. It mixed in highlights along with tweets from stars past and present sending their condolences. Nicely done, WWE.
Damien Sandow is in the ring for his match against Baron Corbin. We learn that Corbin will face Dolph Ziggler at Payback. Ziggler then attacks Corbin from behind on the ramp then hammers away. Corbin retreats as a few officials hold back Ziggler. A decent segment to sell their PPV match and to put over Ziggler as having a chance, since Corbin has laid him out twice.
Primo & Epico are partying in the clubs somewhere in Puerto Rico. They leave with a few women to tell us that there are no woman who look like this where we live and to come to Puerto Rico. I still do not get the point of this gimmick and the vignettes are not making me care either.
The Miz and Maryse are in the ring. Miz talks about addressing the “internet trolls” who do not want him to be the Intercontinental Champion. Maryse wants him to educate us as to why they should want him as the Miz tells the crowd they are not rebellious for making “Cesaro Section” signs and puts over himself and the “Miz Section” until Cesaro interrupts. Cesaro thinks the WWE Universe is far too educated to fall for the Miz’s trap. Miz then does some movie impressions as Cesaro tells him the only movie he is suited for his “Jackass” before promising to end the Miz’s title reign. Miz then asks Cesaro if he feels lucky, using Clint Eastwood’s line from “Dirty Harry” as Cesaro finishes the quote for him. After that, Miz leaves and tries to sneak attack Miz but Cesaro catches him and hits an uppercut. The crowd chants for the swing as Cesaro goes for the move. Maryse lays on top of her man then Cesaro breaks and grabs the IC Title belt before tossing it over to the Miz.
Oh man, the scripted lines here were really embarrassing. Especially the Dirty Harry quote at the end. However, these two are developing some chemistry and Maryse has really given Miz’s character a shot in the arm. Plus, Cesaro’s new look helps freshen him up. I also like how Miz is always putting over the importance of the title, making it feel even more special. I’m looking forward to seeing these two wrestle.
We see AJ and Reigns staring each other down backstage. AJ Tells Reigns he will take his title at Payback as Reigns jokes that must have meant that Gallows & Anderson bought front row tickets.
The Kickoff Match at Payback will be Ryback vs. Kalisto for the U.S. Title as Cole tells us this is due to Ryback beating Kalisto on Smackdown this past Thursday.
We are then shown Reigns granting a wish to a young boy with muscular dystrophy. This is for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Reigns them greets the fan in the front row before the match. The crowd still booed Reigns.
Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio
Reigns starts by getting the best of Del Rio. Reigns then gets hit by an enziguiri as Del Rio takes control before the break. We return with Del Rio working a chinlock. He kicks Reigns in the corner then stopped a comeback with a DDT. Del Rio has a large bump above his eye after a headbutt. Reigns ducks a super kick then catches Del Rio with a Samoan Drop. He follows with some clotheslines before knocking Del Rio down with an uppercut. Del Rio ducks outside but Reigns takes him out with a baseball slide. Back inside, Del Rio fights back and almost puts Reigns away with a super kick. He then sets Reigns up in the Tree of Woe for his double stomp but he misses the move. Del Rio tries for the cross armbreaker but Reigns escapes then hits the Superman Punch but after that Gallows and Anderson come out. Del Rio tries a rollup but that only gets two then shortly after that, Reigns comes back with the spear for the win (12:56) *1/2. After the match, Gallows & Anderson attack Reigns until AJ comes out to stop the attack. They leave but Reigns comes back to hit AJ with a Superman Punch. Gallows & Anderson come back in as Reigns clears them away but AJ takes out Reigns with the Phenomenal Forearm as the fans applaud while the announcers talk about collusion. The show ends with Reigns and AJ in pain while Gallows & Anderson are laughing on the ramp.
Thoughts: Well, the match itself sucked. Both guys seemed disinterested and Del Rio even appeared pissed once he got the bump on his head. The post-match stuff, however, was perfectly executed as we are still left guessing the motives of Gallows & Anderson. That part was awesome.
Final Thoughts: I thought this was a solid show. I seemed to enjoy it a lot better than the live crowd did, anyway. Man, they were a bad crowd. They’ve built up Payback well and I am really looking forward to the show, especially the main event. Even though I am not a fan of the McMahon Family Drama, they at least have some intrigue and are adding a segment that can help increase viewership
The company deserves a lot of credit for how they’ve managed the AJ/Reigns hype along with the debut of Gallows. There are a lot of directions they can take this and they all sound intriguing to me as I hope the intrigue carries on after Payback as well.