Greetings. This week I’d like to offer my candid perspectives on last weekend’s Payback pay-per-view, which seemed to run the gamut, from awesome to awful.
Cruiserweight Title Match – Neville (Champion) vs. Austin Aries: To nobody’s surprise, this was one of the best matches on the card, with both warriors bringing their A game and treating the fans to a brisk, well executed match. The finish however – which had Neville retaining his belt, by getting deliberately disqualified, was lame and negated a stellar effort on both wrestlers’ behalves.
I might add that the fact that the Cruiserweight title match was relegated to the pre-main show warm-up, (as was also the case for the Cruiserweights, at Wrestlemania) doesn’t say much about how the WWE rates the Cruiserweights, in general. To my way of thinking, that’s an insult to guys like Neville, Aries, Perkins, Swann, Kendrick and others who have been working extremely hard to get it over and to rise above the prevailing negative preconceptions.
Tag Team Match – Enzo and Big Cass vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson: The first of two tag team matches on the card – between the up and coming tandem of Enzo and Cass and the seemingly on the downhill slide duo of Gallows and Anderson was okay, but nothing to write home about either, with Enzo ultimately pinning Gallows on the finish.
I have no idea what the plan is, going forward, for Enzo and Cass, but, to me, they don’t really seem to be making much progress in their present incarnation and, having said that, if I were in the WWE, I’d be seriously considering having Cass, at some point, perpetrate some dastardly double-cross on his diminutive sidekick, Enzo and turn heel.
To my way of thinking, he has the potential to be a pretty hot, franchise type heel – along the lines of Kevin Nash, Sid Vicious or Scott Hall, back in the day. Enzo, on the other hand, could conceivably evolve into a never-say die Daniel Bryan type face – all of which might enable the WWE to get a lot more mileage out of both of these guys.
United States Title Match – Kevin Owens (champion) vs. Chris Jericho: I’m a fan of both Chris and Kevin – fellow Canadians, who take pride in their craft, but this match didn’t really do much for me. It was, no doubt, compromised from the get-go, by the lame lead-up to the match, which had Kevin, implausibly, turn on Chris – who was then converted, somewhat implausibly, back into a supposed face. In the match, itself, Jericho went over, to win the belt, but he would drop it back to Owens a couple of days later on SmackDown – which made the whole thing seem kind of pointless. I’m told that Jericho will now be taking an extended leave of absence to tour with his band – which might be beneficial in enabling him to refresh his image and perhaps regain his “mojo.”
All things considered, it’s too bad some of the other over-exposed, so-called superstars on the WWE roster don’t have a band to take on tour or some other prevailing excuse to go into hibernation, as it would probably benefit them, as well.
As for Owens, I hope he’ll that with his regaining the United States title, it might help enable him to regain his edge as a marketable top heel type, rather than the sacrificial jobber type he’s been miscast as the past several months. Hopefully he can rise above all of that – perhaps with some dynamic new opponents. Some of the guys I think, off hand, that he could probably do some business with would be the likes of Balor, Nakamura, the aforementioned Cass and even a wild card type, like, perhaps, the underrated Luke Harper, or even Cesaro, should he go into singles.
RAW Tag Team Title Match – The Hardy Boyz (champions) vs. Cesaro and Sheamus: The other tag team match on the card – as if we needed another one, was a not particularly compelling clash between two baby-face teams with no prevailing issues, nor very compatible styles. Although both teams – to their credit, appeared to work hard and get the match over, there was little or no synergy or reason to get excited. Ultimately, the Hardys would go over – albeit to a lukewarm response, after which Sheamus and Cesaro, for no perceptible reason, attacked Matt and Jeff. I’m not sure if this means that Sheamus and Cesaro are now turning heel, or, as the WWE has done with Roman Reigns in the past, it was just some indecisive tease.
I’d probably be inclined to break them up though, as they seem to be treading water, as of late and not really making much progress. To my way of thinking, Cesaro might have more marketability as a face , while Sheamus, by the same token, could perhaps be re-cast, as a heel – especially if the WWE starts endeavoring to tap into the European market. As for the Hardyz, they could really benefit from having some decent heel opponents to work with, although, at this stage, there are no really compelling heel teams on the scene that I can think of.
RAW Women’s Title Match – Bayley (Champion) vs. Alexa Bliss: This match was all right, but nothing particularly earth shattering, with Bliss emerging victorious and winning the women’s title – which was kind of surprising, given that Bayley had only recently won it, and this was her first major title defense. I’m not sure if this means that Bayley, who seemed like she was poised to have a much longer title reign, is slated for a demotion. I would hope that’s not the case, as she seemed to be dedicating her heart and soul to getting over and was also a refreshing alternative to the WWE’s standard modus operandi of pushing divas for aesthetic, rather than for athletic reasons.
As for Alexa, who seems to fit into that category, the jury is still out on her – certainly as a credible and marketable heel champion, given her size (or lack, thereof) and her not particularly compelling acumen as an actual wrestler. No knock on her – as she seems to be trying hard and doing her best, but at this stage, she doesn’t seem like she’s poised for a very long run as the women’s champion – certainly not with the likes of Charlotte, Sasha, Nia, Becky, Natalya and others waiting in the wings.
Seth Rollins vs Samoa Joe: This match had been eagerly anticipated, particularly by hard core aficionados, but, for whatever reason, it never really seemed to live up to expectations – instead, degenerating into a sluggish, uninspiring slugfest . Ultimately, Rollins went over, but the whole charade never really seemed to serve any great purpose, as it didn’t really set the table for any perceptible matches down the road (such as the widely rumored Summer Slam re-match between Seth and Hunter), nor did it enhance anyone’s perception of either of these guys. Seth’s stock is still pretty high, I suppose, but Samoa Joe’s vaunted image as a fearsome ass-kicker seems to have evaporated and I’m wondering if he’ll now be relegated to mid-card mediocrity or, perhaps, will be sent back to the minors (aka NXT).
House of Horrors Match – Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt: I’m a big fan of Randy and Bray – both of whom are hard-working second generation wrestlers who generally take pride in their craft, but this ill-considered, contrived fiasco was lame and contrived, from the get go, and got worse, as it progressed. In case you were fortunate enough to have missed it, the match (if you can even call it that) was divided into two segments – the first of which entailed Randy pulling up in a limousine at some supposed haunted house (presumably in the countryside outside of San Jose), whereupon he and Bray engaged in an unconvincing, pseudo brawl – which mostly consisted of both of them smashing each other with assorted props and furniture, ultimately, culminating with Bray bashing the Viper with a refrigerator and apparently winning. At that not particularly auspicious point, most, myself included, perceived that to have been the finish, as the screen went black. At that juncture, about the only positive I apply to the unseemly and farcical abortion I’d witnessed thus far was that, at least, the powers that be in the WWE, had wisely chosen to not demean the propriety of the world title, by having it deemed, beforehand, as a non-title match.
Subsequent to that, Seth Rollins and Samoa Joe had their aforementioned match – to be followed, or so I thought, by the last match, which, ostensibly, would be pitting Strowman against Reigns. That, however, didn’t prove to be the case, as, next thing I knew, Bray and Randy were heading for the ring again for part two of their match.
The second half of the match was just as implausible and contrived, if not even more, as the pathetic first half, with both guys – neither of whom appeared to be the least bit inspired, rendering a sluggish slugfest that was had me shaking my head in disbelief, whereupon Randy was suddenly attacked – for no explicable reason by Jinder Mahal and two undersized East Indian cohorts (oblivious, of course, to the referee – who didn’t do a damned thing about it), after which Bray ended up pinning the Viper, to win the match.
As was the case with so many other things the WWE seems to perpetrate, I have no idea what the hell the ostensible objective of this farcical fiasco was. I’m told that the WWE is apparently planning to tour of India in the near future and, as such, they’re trying to get Mahal – who’s East Indian, over. If such is the case, it still doesn’t make any sense, given that Mahal, last time I checked, has been cast as a cartoonish, stereotypical East Indian villain – which sure as hell wouldn’t make people in India or Pakistan want to cheer for him – correct me, if I’m wrong.
About all I can surmise, in assessing this frivolous nonsense is that whomever concocted it must think the fans – in the States, India and wherever the hell else, are mindless morons who will readily buy whatever the WWE chooses to shove down their throats. If such, indeed, proves to be the case, then who the hell am I to be casting aspersions upon the enlightened despots in WWE head office who continue to take bows for turning straw into gold?
Main Event – The Clash of the Titans – Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman: This epic showdown, from a purely artistic or athletic perspective, was nothing special but, unlike, so much of the other excessive or ridiculous crap on the card, seemed to, nonetheless, sere some good purpose, as it unequivocally established Strowman as a fearsome force to be reckoned with. Conversely, on the flipside, it finally seemed to be the impetus that finally transformed Roman into a bonafide franchise type face – like Daniel Bryan, Hulk, the Rock, Ricky Steamboat, John Cena and others, whom the WWE Universe can empathetically invest their emotions and hopes and dreams into – which is really what it’s all about.
Hopefully that will prove to be the case, because Roman has had his share of setbacks. Beyond that, by all accounts, he’s always been a consummate team player and is also a class act. Onward and upward, bro.
Before I wind up, I’d like to thank all the fans who have been kind enough to note that May 7th would have been my late brother Owen’s birthday and to extend well wishes. I’d also like to extend my hopes and prayers to my brother Smith, who’s having a tough battle with cancer. Thanks to all those who were kind enough to extend well wishes and God bless.
On that note, I’ll call this a wrap, but will look forward to catching up with you all next time for more wrestling ruminations.
For more news, rumors, videos, podcasts and exclusive articles, follow us on Twitter @PWPNation.