Before we start, I may as well point out that I am changing the format ever so slightly this week. Most of the people who read this review have seen the show and are looking for a few thoughts on it, and the rest didn’t watch the show at all and want to know what happens. With that said, I’ll try to be a little more specific about what happens in the matches so all of you who read this will have to find something else to complain about instead.
Let’s do this.
The show started without a Raw recap, which was strange. Even stranger was the fact that Bray Wyatt actually cut the intro short for one of his awesome creepy promos. That was unique and cool. He’s taking on a more dark tone (not like it wasn’t already pretty dark), and it’s cool. Too bad he’s stuck in a feud that isn’t really going to do much for him with a win or a loss.
Ambrose came out and stood awkwardly in the ring while they did 800 cutaways to promote Payback. He talked about how he works best alone. I guess he thinks his singles career is more successful than his stint in his old tag team? Okay then. Regardless, he cuts fun promos because he’s actually a funny guy. It doesn’t seem forced when he says something clever.
Roman Reigns comes out to confront him. There are some exchanges where they both tried to talk tough but Kane interrupts them. They imply that Kane stepping down as Director of Operations means he won’t have a job at all. Kinda like how Damien Sandow was unemployed after Miz fired him?
Kane stole like 50% of Teddy Long’s gimmick by announcing that Ambrose would go “One on one with….SHEAMUS.” The Legend of Long Lives.
Sheamus vs. Dean Ambrose
*The commentary team is so unbelievably dry on Smackdown. Jesus. They sound like they’re a bunch of old men sitting around a table talking about how one of their neighbors got new chickens and how strange the weather has been lately.
*I’ve been watching this match, waiting for something worth a bulletpoint. The fact that I gave up waiting and just typed this instead says something about the pace of this match. Could mean it’s going to be a long match.
*After the break it was like they kicked it into a higher gear. Sheamus hit a lot of high-impact moves while Ambrose was flying around the ring a lot. It was very back-and-forth from then on with each guy not giving the other a chance to stay in control.
*In what was a really neat way to do a rollup, Ambrose tripped Sheamus off of the top rope so he hit his head on the turnbuckle, followed by a quick rollup and a win. Normally the rollups are frowned upon, but the way they did that made it believable.
*Ambrose hasn’t won a ton of matches since The Shield split, but it’s neat that they’re making it seem like he’s clever enough not to just hit his big finisher. He can come up with unique finishes without repetition. Ambrose is awesome and heel Sheamus is substantially more fun than babyface Sheamus.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
Rusev and Lana came out and one of the announcers said, “Speaking of friction.” I got all worked up, then realized he was referring to the friction between Rusev and Lana. This review almost took a crazy turn, folks. Good thing I’m going to start Lana fan fiction stories soon.
Lana read a statement apologizing for dancing with Fandango for all of .002 seconds and Jerry Lawler had to make sure he pointed out that it was a prepared statement. Is there any reason he needs to insult the viewers’ intelligence? Not everything needs to be said out loud. Rusev talked about how he’s going to beat up Cena and make him quit. He won’t, which is a shame. This next loss for Rusev is going to put a huge halt to his excellent build and push. Cena is doing a superb job as U.S. champion, very few of us are arguing that, but Rusev really should win this next match so they can salvage all of the resources they’ve poured into him to make him look so unstoppable.
The segment didn’t lead to a match, so the ass-kicking Rusev did nothing but get really angry. On the plus side, Lana stayed out there for way longer than she has been lately.
Ryback vs. Seth Rollins
*There was an interview with Ryback before this match started. I wasn’t really paying attention, but I’m assuming he said he was going to beat up Rollins tonight and then Wyatt on Sunday when he “gets PAYBACK” on him. Then ANOTHER promo before the match from Rollins talking about Monday and the PPV coming up. I get that it’s the “go home” episode, but there’s so much talking. The show is nearly half over and this is only the second match.
*Bray Wyatt attacked Ryback before he made it to the ring. Somehow him pushing Ryback to the ground knocked him out for like three days when it wouldn’t have done anything other than upset him had it happened during a match.
*For the sake of the show, let’s suspend disbelief and say the padded floor did that much damage to Ryback. It makes him look like a strong character to go into the ring and have the match anyway. It also pushes Rollins as a cowardly heel champion. I don’t mean that in a bad way, it’s just his character. Whenever there’s a monster heel champion someone complains that heels are supposed to be cowards, and whenever there’s a cowardly heel someone complains that heels should be monsters. Different strokes for different folks. Rollins is a damn fine champion.
*The story of the match revolved around Ryback being off of his game after the attack from Wyatt and Rollins not letting him take over the match. They were sure to show the attack from Wyatt like 75 more times and the announcers said it every three seconds to remind us that Ryback is infinitely powerful normally and the WWE Champion couldn’t ever handle him on a normal night.
*Ryback hit a neat variation of a tilt-a-whirl slam that should really be added to his moveset. That was the point when the momentum shifted into Ryback’s favor a little bit. It didn’t last long and Rollins hit a few super kicks to finish him off.
*There were interferences that made Rollins look sorta weak, but the finish where he hit two superkicks to take Ryback out was kinda cool. It’s just like with Ambrose, they want to show that Rollins doesn’t NEED a finishing move to beat you.
Winner: Seth Rollins
A New Day is up next. I believe the general consensus is that these guys’ segments are the best part of the shows consistently. I’m inclined to agree. Their heel act is wonderful. They believe they’re babyfaces and it adds a really fun dynamic to them. That’s completely beside the point that they’re having amazing matches regularly with Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. I said it last week and I’ll repeat it here: Despite how many times we’ve seen variations of these two teams going at it, it’s far from stale still. The heaps of praise I will give all five of these guys is unending.
Kofi Kingston vs. Tyson Kidd
*Xavier outside of the ring talking about how awesome New Day is so good in so many ways.
*Kidd catching Kofi’s Trouble in Paradise kick in midair and reversing straight into a Sharpshooter. That was a really brief match, but that still happened. Even when they only have two minutes to tell their stories these guys get the job done.
*Still, a longer match would have been better. Kingston and Kidd are so agile that it could have been a crazy good match with more time. However, let’s just be happy that Kidd and Cesaro get so much screen time after their careers floundered for so long.
Winner: Tyson Kidd
They replayed Daniel Bryan surrendering the Intercontinental Championship. It’s heart-breaking for a slew of reasons that I’m sure you’ve been reading about from the other writers here all week. I feel the man’s pain, I really do. I broke my arm in January and it pulled me away from the gym for a long time. I got back into it last month and the arm wasn’t ready and ended up re-fracturing. So, this time I needed surgery and I have a titanium plate in my arm to hold it in place. It sucks, but we heal and we come back when we care about something. So, let’s hope Bryan has a little more in the tank to offer us. He was just getting into his peak of popularity when he got hurt.
Bo Dallas comes out and cuts a promo about how Bryan let everyone down.
Neville vs. Bo Dallas
*The match started during the break. As the screen faded in we see Neville just cartwheeling around the ring. How much more badass can this guy be?
*It’s been a little overlooked, but Neville sells really well. When he takes a beating it looks like he’s dying.
*Neville hit the Red Arrow for the win and Jesus was it ever a picture of beauty. Squash match to put him over before he goes against Barrett on Sunday.
*Barrett cut a promo after the match on Neville and said mean British-sounding stuff.
Adam Rose beat up a hotdog backstage. I didn’t need to mention it because it wasn’t important to the show. I just really wanted to type that sentence.
Kane vs. Roman Reigns
*They brawled outside before it started. I guess it’s good for the story for there always to be a babyface that isn’t 100% or something.
*Reigns got a kendo stick from under the ring. That’s common, but is it ever explained who puts those down there? Why they put them down there? When they put them down there? How they put them down there? It’s like a Harry Potter bag down there where you just pull out whatever you need whenever you want. I mean, it’s a kendo stick. It’s not like it’s part of what holds the ring infrastructure together. And what about when there are no no-DQ matches? Are there just kendo sticks tossed down there just to get cleaned up later?
*Reigns got a pretty good clothesline on Kane by jumping off the announce table. The replay was a gnarly one. Not in the same league as the Red Arrow slow-mo replay, but cool anyway.
*Reigns also got tables from under the ring. Those I do have an explanation for. They are obviously for the WWE company picnic and that’s the best place to store them. Vince should be angry that they get broken so often.
*Kane hit his running DDT. Maybe I don’t pay much attention to his matches, but I feel like it’s been years since he did that move.
*Kane chokeslammed Reigns through the table. That’s technically his finisher since he rarely breaks out the Tombstone any more. I don’t really like the fact that Reigns kicked out. That would have been a genuinely shocking finish to this match.
*Instead they go with Reigns spearing Kane through another table for the win. That’s the finish we all expected, which is more of a reason they shouldn’t have done it. Both Rollins and Ambrose proved that they could win matches in multiple ways, while Reigns is still the guy who has to punch you then spear you to win.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Backstage interview with Rollins led to a brawl between him, Ambrose and Reigns that was brief but still pretty good. It ended with Reigns and Ambrose both looking down over the title, which I have to give credit to everyone involved that they did a good job setting everyone up in the right way to make that shot work. I heard Rollins say, “I’m the champ, you piece of crap!” And that’s hilarious. Ended with Ambrose giving Reigns the title and saying he’ll take it on Sunday.
The opening match between Sheamus and Ambrose started a little slow then really picked up. Ambrose’s offense is really unique and fun, so it’s no wonder he gets the crowd behind him so well. Most everything else was brief so they could slam as many plugs for the PPV in as they could. Even with only a few minutes Kingston and Tyson had a cool match. The ending would have been weak if it had cut off with Roman celebrating his win over Kane, but having the backstage brawl worked really well. I still firmly believe those three should be kept away from each other until Wrestlemania, but I’m not the guy with millions of dollars invested in them so what I have to say isn’t terribly important.
Payback is this Sunday, so I’ll be live Tweeting it from the couch while I patiently wait for the one-foot long incision on my arm to heal up so I can go back to living like a people. Follow me @JakobDraper and we can live in cyberspace together as friends.