Pruett's Pause: WWE Payback - The best of show the year is highlighted by Punk vs. Jericho, A.J. Lee achieving a dream, Ziggler and Del Rio double turn, Punk returns to beat Jericho, and more!
By Will Pruett
It takes a lot to make a good show stand above others. Among the requirements are superior action, solid stories, compelling characters, and a great crowd. Without one of these elements, a show may just settle for being good. Good obviously isn't a bad thing, but for a show to achieve greatness, I really believe all of these elements should be there.
This show was great. From the buildup hitting a nice place on Monday night (and the fantastic victory over The Shield on Friday) to the end of this show kind of coming out of nowhere, the stars aligned. There were some pretty classic moments on this show and it was almost too packed to take them all into account at once.
Look at Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio pulling off a rather nice double turn. I feel like Ziggler will be a classic babyface who can settle into his character. Del Rio was always a natural heel and his viciousness was like a breath of fresh air. This wasn't a pandering idiot with a bucket, it was a vicious and motivated man. Ziggler was extremely sympathetic and he was set up with a great chase story to carry him forward. This was the right move for Ziggler, Del Rio, and the World Heavyweight Championship. It should have been obvious, but it was somehow hidden. This was the delightful surprise of the night.
Elsewhere on the show perennial main eventer C.M. Punk returned in front of his hometown faithful crowd and had a great match with Chris Jericho. Jericho and Punk had their best match ever together, and it was bolstered by the crowd's reaction. I expected a little more story development for both characters, but I was happy not to see it. As I said, so much happened on this show. Anything more may have been overkill.
Finally, in the main event we saw John Cena and Ryback put together a pretty entertaining match. It wasn't a classic and I will never watch it again, but it didn't make me wish I was elsewhere. As into the Ryback character I was during his ascension to the top, he has not come along well. Was the fall through an ambulance a sudden demotion for Ryback, who has been in the main event scene as both a heel and babyface?
With all of the notable developments, it is easy to forget quality action. The Shield performed well again. Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton did as well. This show clipped along at a nice pace and was pretty fun to watch. It was a great show, which was seldom see. Kudos to every wrestler, creative mind, and production professional involved.
- Where was the pyro at the top of the show? It's a silly complaint, but I expect pay-per-views to begin with pyro. I like pyro.
- The Miz vs. Wade Barrett vs. Curtis Axel was better than it had any right to be. All three men worked like the title they were fighting for meant something. All three men came out of this match looking better than they did going in.
- Curtis Axel was the odd's on favorite to win the Intercontinental Championship, but the way he did so was a little beyond prediction. I liked the final five minutes of the match (possibly more than any other stretch of action on this show) and the finish quite a bit. It was inventive and very well executed.
- Axel winning the Intercontinental Championship on Father's Day was a pretty cool moment. I shouldn't exactly want to see heels in cool moments, but it worked here.
- A.J. Lee and Kaitlyn were given a little more time and a little more story going into their Diva's Championship match. This worked in their favor as they were able to put together a nice effort.
- There is always something special about watching someone achieve their dreams. It's one of the reasons we watch wrestling or any sport. Seeing A.J. Lee win a championship in WWE was one of those special moments. The match was pretty good and the moment will live on.
- I know it's going to be a popular sentiment, but I really believe Kaitlyn vs. A.J. could be a new version of Trish Stratus vs. Lita. It isn't there now, but it could be.
- Dean Ambrose vs. Kane once again failed to top what they did on Smackdown a little over a month ago. It was a good enough match to keep the energy up, but it didn't impress. Kane has been great on the tag team scene, but I'm not sure he's fit for long singles programs.
- Rob Van Dam's return should produce a fun moment. I haven't liked him much in the past few years, but he seemed unmotivated in TNA. If he is motivated in WWE, he could still have a few compelling programs left in him.
- Fantasy Money in the Bank booking idea: Have the Ladder Match for the Money in the Bank comprised entirely of former MITB winners. Rob Van Dam, C.M. Punk, Jack Swagger, The Miz, Kane, Daniel Bryan, and Dolph Ziggler could all be in one very fun match.
- Color me surprised by the double turn of Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler. It makes sense, but somehow I never saw it coming. This is the best kind of turn.
- Alberto Del Rio was always a natural heel and even as a babyface had trouble gaining the sympathy of the crowd or producing a natural babyface reaction. Sure, Ricardo Rodriguez was able to produce sympathy, but Del Rio never did. This was the right move.
- On the other hand, we could be seeing the breakout moment of Dolph Ziggler's career. Ziggler has always been amazing at selling and, as a babyface, will have no problem gaining the sympathy Del Rio lacked. This was the perfect switch. I'm looking forward to Ziggler's chase and eventual big moment.
- C.M. Punk's new Wolverine-inspired look made me smile. Punk's reaction from the Chicago crowd was the biggest selling point of this show to me and it didn't disappoint.
- While I was hoping for a Punk and Jericho double turn, a simple return match for Punk worked for me. Punk got a much-needed big win. Jericho looked good in defeat. It worked for everyone.
- I would like to take this moment to remind C.M. Punk that the Anaheim Ducks beat his Chicago Blackhawks constantly this past year.
- As I said above, Punk and Jericho had their best match together to date. Good for them.
- The action in the Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan match was very good. This wasn't the breakout star moment we've been seeing from Bryan in the last few weeks, but it was more solid work and another chapter in his story.
- Orton throwing Bryan into Reigns' spear will definitely be another chapter in their story. This is all very fun to watch progress.
- I was severely disappointed by the lack of lumberjack costumes and beards in the lumberjack portion of the Three Stages of Hell match.
- The first fall was all about distraction, as the lumberjacks provided a little smoke and mirror action to the odd Cena and Ryback dynamic.
- As the second fall rolled on, I was actually happy with many of the table spots. Cena and Ryback have been having Tables Matches on most house shows, so I expected this to be decent.
- There was only one part of this match match deserving of "Goldberg" chants and it was when Ryback punched through the window of the ambulance. As for the rest of the time, I expected a little more creativity from Chicago.
- Apparently ambulances from Chicago are not structurally sound. The demolition of the ambulance worried me for the good people of Chicago more than it entertained me. What if one of my good friends in that city were picked up by that ambulance when hurt?
- The main event was the least compelling match of the night. I didn't think it was awful, but on an excellent show, one hopes to see a little more. I'm not surprised, but I am still a little disappointed.
This show was a solid A- effort from WWE. I couldn't go with a full A+ because of the main event, but I don't feel like it hurt the show completely. This might have been the pay-per-view of the year. I don't know if WWE is always motivated to give their best effort to Chicago, but it seems that way. The last two pay-per-views from the city have produced some pretty amazing and special moments. This show did as well.
Go out of your way to watch this show. It never drags. It's always entertaining. It was simply great.
Let's do some good old fashioned talking about this show! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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