Welcome to Place to Be Nation’s live blog for WWE Payback! To get ready for the show, here’s our look at the Three Stages of Hell, which includes a preview and prediction for tonight’s main event. You can also catch up on Justin and Scott’s thoughts on the show from the recent Headlines podcast. All pictures courtesy of wwe.com.
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WWE Payback Kickoff: Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow
Interesting experiment with Sheamus on the kickoff show. Will his presence boost views? We’ll track the YouTube numbers in real-time.
The pre-show panel with Josh Matthews tonight is the Big Show, R-Truth and Cody Rhodes. I really dig the sports feel of these panels. 25,000+ online at the moment for the kickoff match. Only takes a minute for The King to make a joke about Sheamus and “kickoffs”, since he kicks and everything. These guys have great chemistry due to their previous encounters. Sandow’s elbow of disdain gets a monster pop but Sheamus kicks out…and then four minutes in we get a 90-second commercial for Payback. Crowd is super hot here, great back and forth action so far. Sheamus does a great job putting over Sandow’s offense. His in-ring work has just been tremendous. 38,000 watching now and the feed is getting a little jumpy. Nasty Brogue Kick flush in Sandow’s face. Sheamus gets the win in a little over 11 minutes in an excellent free TV match. Certainly on par with what they’ve done on Smackdown previously. Maybe the best pre-show match they’ve done. Winner: Sheamus via pinfall
Live from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Ill.
Intercontinental Title Match: The Miz vs. Curtis Axel vs. Wade Barrett
I love that they put Axel in here. Barrett’s run has been horrible and the IC belt could use the shine that Paul Heyman would put on it. Doesn’t hurt when you consider Axel’s family legacy around the belt. Some three-way spots early before we go to the standard one-on-one match with the other guy laying on the outside. I like that the announcers are playing up Axel’s “birthright” to be IC champ. Miz and Axel have an extended sequence before Barrett makes the save. Babyface Miz is actually getting some solid cheers here as he takes down both guys. Miz kicking Axel on the ropes in a callback to Mr. Perfect/Bret Hart from ’91 SummerSlam was a great moment. Some excellent near-falls here as it looked like Barrett would get a cheap win before the Miz pulled out the ref. Then a big kickout by Axel for a nice false finish. Announcers still playing up Axel’s legacy. Miz dumps Axel and applies the Figure-Four, pulling Barrett back to the center of the ring. Curtis Axel comes back in the ring and pins Barrett while he’s still in the hold (and grabs his hand so he can’t tap) to win the belt. Great moment! Crowd gives him a HUGE pop afterwards too. Winner: Curtis Axel via pinfall (on Barrett)
HHH and Vince run into Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel backstage. HHH isn’t feeling the match with Axel on Raw any longer since Vince is pushing for it.
Divas Title Match: AJ vs. Kaitlyn
This is the first Divas Title Match in a while that has a solid back-story. Kaitlyn isn’t having any of AJ’s taunting and things get aggressive early as she dumps her over the announce table. After a hot start, things slow down with some headlocks and AJ slaps on her Black Widow submission but Kaitlyn fights out. Big E is at ringside. AJ applies a crucifix but Kaitlyn powers out, picking AJ up and slamming her. Kaitlyn rips off AJ’s belt but when the ref is distracted AJ is able to grab it and knocks Kaitlyn out with it. Kaitlyn kicks out and AJ starts to snap. AJ goes for a cross-body but is caught by Kaitlyn but then AJ slips on the Black Widow. Kaitlyn powers out of that and spears AJ. Kaitlyn decides to NOT pin AJ so she blows her a kiss (is this a Wyatt family clue?) while she holds her in her arms and then slams her head, but AJ kicks out. Weird spot for a face there. Kaitlyn misses a charge in the corner and AJ again locks on the Black Widow. Kaitlyn has nowhere to go and eventually wilts and taps out. Winner: AJ via submission
Post-match Kaitlyn is in tears with the crowd chanting “You tapped out.” She is then so overwhelmed she breaks down on the entrance ramp and the crowd boos. Not exactly a sympathetic babyface there. They continue the charade backstage as the other divas try to console her.
We check in with the pre-show panel and they talk about the big IC title win for Curtis Axel. Love the commentary here to put over both matches so far.
Next up – Wyatt family vignette. Will they debut tonight?
United States Championship Match: Kane vs. Dean Ambrose
Kane is in a nice spot to raise the value of the US belt here. A nice “Lets go Ambrose” chant from the Chicago crowd. Ambrose works Kane’s leg with a couple take-downs. Nice spinning elbow off the top rope by Ambrose. Ambrose continues to impress and works Kane over in a very methodical manner. Kane makes his comeback but Ambrose is able to cut him off and keep the heat on. Ambrose goes for Undertaker’s Old School but Kane isn’t have any of that. Lawler describes Ambrose’s personality as being like Heath Ledger’s Joker character. Where did this Jerry Lawler come from? Kane clears the Spanish announce table but Ambrose hits his DDT on the outside and Kane is counted out. I don’t know why Kane needs to be protected like this. A wasted opportunity to really put over Ambrose strong here. Winner: Dean Ambrose via count-out
Then in big news, RVD is announced to be returning at Money in the Bank next month! Wow!
World Heavyweight Championship Match: Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler
Dolph gets a MONSTER pop when he comes out. We get a replay of Ziggler winning the title post-Mania and it’s still awesome and goose bump-inducing. Despite the heavy cheers for Dolph, the crowd still chants along with Ricardo. Big “Lets go Ziggler” chants and then we get a tepid dueling chant of “Lets go Ziggler” / “Ziggler sucks” – which just seems odd (and the second part was pretty weak). Ziggler does a lot of stalling early. Now we get a very vocal “RVD” chant. Del Rio hits a big back-body drop and the ref is checking on Ziggler after he slammed his head. Announcers are playing up the injury angle here as Del Rio continues to slam Dolph’s head around. Big E steps in but is then thrown out by Mike Chioda. Ziggler is still woozy and Del Rio kicks him in the head. So was the HHH concussion stuff weeks ago done so the crowd would understand Ziggler’s injury here? Maybe I’m giving them too much credit but it does help build sympathy heat for Dolph. Del Rio is definitely acting like the heel here. Ziggler slaps on the sleeper and then they bleep out whatever Chioda said to both guys. That was weird. Another kick to Ziggler’s head – is a double turn coming here? Shades of WrestleMania 13 with Hart/Austin vibe. Dolph makes a big comeback but Del Rio kicks. Del Rio hits a wicked over-the-head suplex off the top rope in a nice false finish but Dolph kicks out. Ref is checking on Dolph on the outside when Del Rio cheap-shots him with another kick to the head. Dolph wants to continue and fights the doctor off before Del Rio hits him again. Del Rio is trending towards a DQ here and a definite heel turn. Crowd is ferociously booing Del Rio now and he hits ANOTHER kick to the head, but Dolph kicks out! Who booked this stuff? Great storytelling here. Dolph hits the Zig-Zag but injures himself and can’t cover. The Zig-Zag got a monster cheer. Del Rio kicks Ziggler AGAIN while he tries to recover and that gets the three-count. Third title change tonight. Definitely fees like a double-turn here with both guys set up well for their new roles. Big “Ziggler” chant post-match as he continues to sell the injury. Winner: Alberto Del Rio via pinfall
Back to the panel as they talk about Del Rio’s “change” during the match. Del Rio then comes back out to cut a promo, asking Chicago to give it up for the new Heavyweight Champion and to give him their support. Crowd boos him AND boos Ricardo doing his shtick. Nice way to complete the turn.
Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk
Crowd is amped to cheer for Punk and they go nuts when his music hits. Not the same as Money in the Bank 2011 but pretty darn close. Punk eats it up. He’s dressed to go too, quelling any fears he’d show up and not wrestle. Chain wrestling to start and the crowd boos Jericho. I doubt they’d do a second double-turn but maybe Heyman plays into it. Maybe not to side with Jericho, but to cost Punk the match. Solid “feeling out” segment to start from both guys. Very methodical so far. They are wrestling this match like it’s slated to go 25 minutes, which would get no complaints here. Lawler notes that Punk looks winded and that his layoff could be playing a part. What wrestling savant alien has taken over his body tonight? The commentary tonight (including in the panel) has been tremendous. Jericho locks in the Walls but Punk counters into the Anaconda Vice. Punk calls for the GTS with Punk screaming “Blackhawks in 7” before Jericho blocks it. Tremendous. Jericho counters another GTS into a roll-up that nearly gets three. Punk was slightly distracted by Heyman being on the apron there. Possible foreshadowing there. Punk hits the Savage elbow AND the GTS but Jericho kicks out. King notes that Punk didn’t get all of the GTS, which is entirely accurate. Crowd chants “One more time” and Punk pulls him up for another GTS that Jericho fights out of. Codebreaker is blocked with Punk then diving onto Jericho through the ropes to the outside. Punk comes off the top rope but Jericho hits the Codebreaker in mid-air. Not enough to put Punk away. “This is awesome” chants now. Jericho counters a rana from Punk into the Walls. Heyman pleads with Punk to not tap out. Punk muscles out, fires off some punches and hits a GTS, and then ANOTHER GTS, which gets the pin. Nice comeback match for Punk. Winner: CM Punk via pinfall
Tag Team Championship Match: The Shield vs. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan
Reigns and Bryan start as the announcers play up the weak link storyline. King’s “The Fourth Stage of Hell is commentating with Michael Cole” line is tremendous. The Shield make Orton a VICTIM OF THE NUMBERS GAME (even though its a 2-on-2 match) as the crowd chants for RVD. Orton fights them off and then drops Rollins on his head when he does the powerslam. Hot tag Daniel Bryan and he is, naturally, on freakin’ fire here. Bryan clears the ring and does a dive to the outside but hits Orton by accident. Big top rope double under-hook suplex by Bryan and he slaps the No Lock on Rollins. Reigns saves. Orton then kind of pushes Bryan in the way of the spear in a miscommunication spot and follows that with an RKO on Reigns. Rollins pounces on Bryan, hits a Curb Stomp and pins him to retain. Winner: The Shield via pinfall.
WWE Championship Match – Three Stages of Hell: John Cena vs. Ryback
These guys are going to have to work hard here to win the crowd over. Lot of time left in the show but Ryback was able to handle 22 minutes last month and there are enough tricks and stalling opportunities in a two-out-of-three falls match to cover for them. Lumberjacks are out. Cena gets a pleasant reaction actually. Cole notes that only HHH could tell them what a Three Stages of Hell match was like. Another guy that wrestled in one was JUST IN THE LAST MATCH. Both guys trade power moves to start before Ryback latches on a rest hold. Ryback gets another slam, coupled with a two-count before tosses Cena out to the lumberjacks. As per official lumberjack rules, the faces and heels are on distinct sides. More “RVD” chants as Cena makes his comeback. Five-knuckle shuffle is reversed into a gorilla press slam to the outside. Nice stuff from Ryback. Ryback gets dumped and the lumberjacks explode with Cena making a Superman-esque jump off the top rope onto a huge pile of guys. STF from Cena but Ryback powers him up and hits Shellshock for the pin! First fall: Ryback via pinfall
Second fall now as Ryback quickly goes to get a table. They trade fighting out of finishers (to go through the table) before Ryback gets a spear and a “Goldberg” chant from the crowd. Cena has Ryback up for the AA but Ryback knocks the table over. Table is now set up in the corner and Ryback uses the steel steps to knock Cena down. Ryback throws the steps but Cena ducks and the steps destroy the table. Ryback knocks Cena onto another table but Cena ducks out of the way and another table is destroyed by the stairs. Pretty decent spots there although I don’t think anyone is believing Ryback wins this with the first two falls. Still, Ryback is holding his own here. I wouldn’t call it ‘hell” but it’s pleasantly lukewarm and trending hotter. I also applaud them for not quickly skipping through this fall to go to the Ambulance portion. It would have been easy. With that quickly noted, Cena reverses a Shellshock into the AA and puts Ryback through the table. Second fall: Cena via AA’ing Ryback through a table
Third and final fall and Ryback starts things off by clearing the announce table and powerbombing Cena through it. Actually the bell had not run yet so that powerbomb was in-between falls. Ryback carries Cena out to the ambulance but Cena reverses off of him. Ryback punches at Cena but Cena ducks resulting in Ryback punching a hole through the ambulance window. The parallels with Goldberg are well-noted there! Well, they are certainly giving him some strong spots there to keep Ryback looking good. Cena then irish whips Ryback and he breaks off the ambulance door in the process. Cena attempts to push Ryback into the driver’s side of the ambulance, I always thought you had to load them in the back? Ryback slams him on the hood and rips another piece of the ambulance off, taking Cena to the woodshed with it. Ryback takes a slam into the windshield as Cena climbs to the roof. Cena rips the ambulance lights off the top and clobbers Ryback with them. Well, they are certainly being creative with the ambulance piece here. Ryback grabs a crutch which seems kind of underwhelming considering all the other items they’ve used so far. Both men are on top of the ambulance now. Cena lifts Ryback up and AA’s him THROUGH THE ROOF OF THE AMBULANCE to win and retain. Damn good match there, certainly exceeded expectations. Ryback looked really strong too and certainly pulled his weight. Winner: Cena via AA’ing Ryback through the ambulance roof
Our Nation ‘Tweet of the Night’ belongs to @tvcolosi:
Tommy Colosi @tvcolosi
After this Classic, Hope we don’t have too see Cena Ryback 3. Call this ppv “don’t push your luck” the LMS was good. @Place2BeNation