Powell's WWE Payback Hit List: C.M. Punk vs. Chris Jericho, Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler double turn and title change, Curtis Axel wins the Intercontinental Title, A.J. Lee wins the Divas Championship
By Jason Powell
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WWE Payback Hits
C.M. Punk vs. Chris Jericho: Another memorable match from these two and another memorable performance from Punk in front of his rabid hometown fans. Once the double turn occurred in the previous match, that seemed to eliminate any chance of a double turn occurring here. Thus, I expected this to be a clean win for Punk. Ultimately, it was, but Punk and Jericho did an amazing job of creating the feeling that there was a chance that Jericho was going to get the win. The near falls and submission teases were excellent. I also enjoyed the subtle post match issues between Punk and Paul Heyman.
I actually had to go back and watch it again to see it, but Heyman looked thrown off by whatever Punk said to him. I really question why this match didn't headline the show since WWE had to know this would have ended the show in a much hotter manner than the WWE Championship match did. Obviously, the highlight of the night. By the way, Dot Net Member Jeff Smaltz pointed out that Punk looked as much like Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews as he did Wolverine. Given his Blackhawks gear, I think there's a good chance that's actually what Punk was going for. Even though I'm a big fan of the Boston Bruins, I must confess that I loved the Blackhawks gear that Punk wore at Payback.
Curtis Axel vs. The Miz vs. Wade Barrett: This blew away my expectations. The trio did a great job of working a fast pace while delivering good three-way spots rather than the usual approach of having one man rest on the outside while two men worked together in the ring. The match got the show off to a hot start and Axel's emotional post match celebration with the title that his father held was a really cool moment, especially since it occurred on Father's Day. I have no worries about that moment being an issue with Axel getting heel heat. Heyman can certainly ensure that doesn't happen, and it's not like WWE has to showcase that footage on television this week.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio: I told you there was going to be a double turn!!! Okay, so I could not have been more wrong about the match that it would occur in so I get zero credit for that one. Even so, I loved it. I don't think anyone saw this coming. Ziggler came off very sympathetic while Del Rio and even Ricardo Rodriguez looked willing to do anything to get the title back. Del Rio was a disappointment as a babyface. He always struck me as a phony politician type with his insincere smile, bad catchphrase, and all of the patronizing Mexican themes and flags. He is much better as a heel. Meanwhile, I'm not sure what to make of this for Ziggler. I wanted to see him work as the heel champion, but his legitimate head trauma provided WWE with a chance to portray him as a sympathetic babyface. It gave him a good launch point as a babyface, but only time will tell how well he plays this role. I really enjoyed the surprise and the shakeup that it causes.
A.J. Lee vs. Kaitlyn: The hottest Divas match we've seen in ages. I assume A.J. will be ditching Dolph now that he appears to be a babyface and she's been cast as the top heel of the Divas division. Kaitlyn's breakdown over being catfished seems pretty far fetched, but I'll take this over the two-minute Diva matches with no real storyline support that we have gotten from the division for far too long. Here's hoping this is the beginning of a renewed emphasis on the division and we get more serious storylines rather than the Bella Twins doing their tired mean girls routine heading into Total Divas.
Rob Van Dam return video: A really nice surprise for the pay-per-view audience. I like that it rewards the pay-per-view buyers and I also feel it's wise to directly advertise something big for the next pay-per-view directly to the paying customers. I would have had zero reaction to RVD returning to TNA because we've been there and done that. His return to WWE feels fresh and it's perfect placement with him returning at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view in the old home base of ECW. WWE listed RVD's return as "full-time" on social media. It already sounds like they are stretching it with that claim. Either way, I think the logical program for RVD is a run with new IC Champion Curtis Axel given the Paul Heyman connection. WWE could take RVD's star power and use it to help get Axel over.
Overall show: The first two hours of Payback were excellent for the most part. The last hour of the show dragged a little, but even the Misses listed below were more of the minor Miss variety. There was great work from the wrestlers and I really liked the booking. The Ziggler and Del Rio double turn meant we wouldn't be seeing big turns or huge storyline developments from Punk, Jericho, Randy Orton, or Daniel Bryan. They spotlighted the double turn nicely, yet they forwarded those other stories in subtle and intriguing ways. WWE Payback exceeded my expectations.
WWE Payback Misses
John Cena vs. Ryback: The effort was there and WWE tried to come up with a big finish. Unfortunately, the live camera shot made this more confusing than it needed to be. Worse yet, the match felt really flat compared to most of what we saw during the first two hours of the show. Cena has to start working with wrestlers who are more likely to give him better matches. The mid- and undercard matches have been outshining what he's done with Ryback, and this pay-per-view peaked during those first two hours and ended on a flat note. There continue to be rumors than Daniel Bryan will be Cena's next opponent. I'm not sure how they will get there and I worry they are rushing into this, but it would definitely solve the problem of the next pay-per-view main event underwhelming viewers.
Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan: This wasn't a lousy match, it just didn't live up to the lofty expectations that viewers naturally had after watching some of their recent encounters. The match seemed a bit rushed due to timing issues. It had it's moment with Bryan's big offensive flurry and I like the way they had Bryan hit Orton and then Orton whip Bryan into his opponents as it gives the two more potential issues, but the overall match felt lifeless compared to what we've seen from these guys in the past.
Dean Ambrose vs. Kane: The match was only a little better than the slow paced match they had on Raw. I like the outcome and the cheap finish was expected, but it also left me concerned that we're going to get another month from these two. The Shield have been responsible for making some pay-per-view events and several television shows, but this wasn't their night. There was no major harm done to the group, though like everyone else I do question the company's decision to have them end their six-man unbeaten streak without any real buildup on Smackdown.
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