Hits and Misses: WWE Payback 2015

Joe 'the Grappler' Marsalis, Michael Bueza

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Hits and Misses: WWE Payback 2015
A four-way match, a three-fall bout, and a two-word ending, all in one PPV!

MINI-REUNION. The Shield briefly team up at the main event of WWE Payback. Photo from WWE.com

A four-way match, a three-fall bout, and a two-word ending, all in one pay-per-view!

WWE Payback last Sunday, May 17, saw a short-lived reunion of The Shield during the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Fatal Four-way main event, which champion Seth Rollins eventually survived, thanks to The Authority. (Kane also kept his job as Director of Operations, by the way.)

The remaining title matches on the card were equally controversial. The New Day literally sneaked in a win to retain the WWE Tag Titles in a Two out of Three Falls Match. Meanwhile, the culmination of the Cena-Rusev trilogy for the United States Title entered “technicality territory.”

Here’s what wrestling writer Joe “The gRappler” Marsalis and WWE fan Michael Bueza had to say about WWE Payback.

Pre-show: R-Truth def. Stardust

Michael: This was a bonus match, and in the pre-show, to boot. The last thing I know regarding this “feud” is Stardust scaring the heck out of R-Truth with spiders. So, Stardust got a little bit of comeuppance at Payback. I hope the WWE could at least amplify this feud, rather than have these series of matches between them with little to no interest from the fans… except maybe for the “Cody!” chants directed to Stardust.

Pre-show: The Ascension (Konnor & Viktor) defeated Curtis Axel & Damien “Macho Mandow” Sandow

Michael: A much-needed win for the Ascension over a team-up that’s less than a week old. Good momentum, now that we learn they’ll be vying for the WWE Tag Titles inside the Elimination Chamber on May 31.

Meanwhile, I don’t quite remember when Axel had fully borrowed the Hogan character to get pops. And I have to convince myself that he’s a face now? And don’t get me started about Sandow returning to his impersonation gimmick. Random team-ups are not new, but inexplicable random team-ups are just… uncomfortable to watch.

Sheamus def. Dolph Ziggler

Michael: Their match started at a quick pace, care of Ziggler, but Sheamus quickly grounded him. Later, Ziggler would come around and get payback from last month’s Extreme Rules PPV, by shoving his arse on Sheamus’ face! Eventually, Sheamus would score the victory after a hard headbutt which busted Ziggler open and a Brogue Kick.

I honestly couldn’t convince myself to care for their second encounter, maybe because I’m not completely sure what they’re fighting for anymore. Last month’s “Kiss My Arse” Match was weird enough and was booked too early, in my view. Then they went off-key by following it up with this simple one-on-one match. A rubber match is expected between the two, but given what happened at the last two PPVs, for me it seems like Sheamus is up 2-0 against Ziggler, not tied at 1-1.

WWE Tag Team Championship – Two-out-of-Three Falls Match
The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) def. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd, 2 falls to 1, to retain their titles

Joe: If this can’t be the match of the night, then it has to be the match of the first hour. (First half of the show?) The first fall came a bit too rushed for my tastes, but everything else was paced properly, with the final fall being a true nailbiter. The best matches are the ones where the conclusion isn’t so obvious, and both teams have been booked so evenly that it really could’ve gone either way. I was pulling for the New Day to retain, but was never sure if they would – and I’m glad they did in a spectacularly controversial finish. On to the tag chamber!

Michael: This was a highly-entertaining match, with lots of cool maneuvers by both teams, and an exciting battle for fall #3. Xavier Woods attempting to invoke the Freebird Rule after the first fall was brilliant. The referee didn’t grant it, though. But even if it was, The New Day would still come out as the heels. Perfect!

The finish was as controversial as it gets, when Xavier sneaked in for the pin, in Kofi Kingston’s stead. Weird that the referee didn’t catch that. They’re not exactly twins, Xavier and Kofi. Haha.

Bray Wyatt def. Ryback

Joe: Nothing special, and I’m not just talking about the match. The worst thing that can happen to Bray Wyatt is an unintentional unraveling of his 21st century mystical cult leader character, and every time he goes out there, it would be seen as… normal. If they’re grooming him to be the Undertaker’s replacement, he needs to do more than cut cryptic, meandering promos. Look at the ghost lantern from Hell in a Cell and think of how you can top that. And keep topping whatever you come up with, but also learn when to rein it back in.

Other than that… this match was nothing memorable. Bray Wyatt won, yay, but it was versus Ryback, who technically has nothing going for him right now. What next?

United States Championship – “I Quit” Match: John Cena def. Rusev (w/ Lana) to retain his title

Joe: One thing, and one thing only: you cannot, and I mean absolutely cannot have a man pass out and not end the match right there. Isn’t the real point of an I Quit match to beat your opponent until he literally cannot go on? Saying “I quit” is just a formality. If you’ve got a guy out there who literally cannot say the words because he’s not conscious at all, doesn’t he get the technical loss? The WWE just took SuperCena to another extreme, and I didn’t even think that was possible at all.

Michael: I agree. I expected the ref doing the drop-his-forearms-three-times bit before calling it quits for Cena.

If we’re discussing technicalities here: in the history of I Quit matches – except perhaps for Hart vs Backlund and Rock vs Foley – one has to clearly say those two words to end the match. Saying “I quit” in Bulgarian and Lana saying “I quit” in English on his behalf is an interesting loophole, yet not a good precedent.

Heck, I even thought the match would end a minute in, when Rusev said the words “I quit” as he taunted Cena into saying it! It’s like how Cody Rhodes won a Tables Match at Extreme Rules in 2012 when The Big Show stepped on a table at ringside and went through it.

With that out of the way, I think the end to the Cena-Rusev feud wasn’t as cathartic as it should be. Compare that to Cena’s first I Quit Match against JBL in 2005. I think the brutality (or, given we’re in the PG era, at least a cringeworthy slugfest) expected in this kind of match was not present in Cena-Rusev III.

Naomi & Tamina Snuka def. Brie Bella & Divas Champion Nikki Bella

Joe: #GiveDivasAChance sputtered here. I’m not sure what they’re building up to, but this match doesn’t make it any clearer. Nothing to write home about.

Michael: Same here. A “butt-butt” aka Naomi’s Rear View as a finisher? Come on.

I totally dig Nikki and tough woman Tamina, though. Let them battle for the Divas Title!

Neville def. King Bad News Barrett via count-out

Joe: One thing we can attribute Neville’s steady main roster progress so far to is his chemistry with just about anyone he faces. (Or rather, his chemistry with the people he’s faced so far.) Barrett and Neville work really well together, which is why the WWE is milking this little rivalry as much as it could. The countout finish was also simple and clever, addressing any potential issues that would arise from a decisive win. Barrett pulls a classic heel move by choosing to walk out, making Neville look like a credible threat. The loss is okay for the King.

Michael: Even it wasn’t for the deciding fall and was dished out post-match, Neville’s Red Arrow is always an incredible sight. Also, I think Neville is on the cusp of breaking away from the “NXT call-ups curse” (See: The Ascension, Bo Dallas). Credit that to the organic build afforded to him. And I’ve mentioned the Red Arrow, right?

WWE World Heavyweight Championship – Fatal Four-Way Match
Seth Rollins def. Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Randy Orton to retain his title

Joe: All kinds of fun, as was expected from a Fatal Four-Way with this billing. Spot of the evening, of course, goes to the Shield mini-reunion as they powerbombed Orton through the announce table like old times, and the reaction of the evening also goes to Seth Rollins when he realized Reigns and Ambrose weren’t going to do the old fistbump with him.

If Rollins is adopting the Pedigree from Triple H, I approve. Pedigree > Curb Stomp. That means he’s officially entrenching himself as a main event star even more. Now I’d like to see if the Kane feud resumes from here.

Michael: A huge LOL at Rollins when he attempted a triple fist bump with former Shield comrades Ambrose and Reigns after triple-powerbombing Orton.

This match kept me hooked all throughout. The trademark chaos of the Shield – even if they’re not a team anymore – and the constant interference of Kane and J&J Security made sure the action was nonstop. Set aside the Kane-Rollins drama for a minute. This is The Authority making sure the WWE World Title remains on Seth Rollins’ waist, and they accomplished that to a tee. – Rappler.com


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Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.