What you need to know
Payback was a bitch, as the saying goes. And that's a good thing.
What had looked like a glorified episode of Raw still felt like that at times, but most of the big matches delivered in big ways. It was still weird to have impromptu matches like Bo Dallas vs. Kofi Kingston and Rhodes Brothers vs. Rybaxel, but both continued stories - Kofi has run afoul of The Authority due to some tweets sent out over the weekend, and Cody Rhodes has experienced a crisis of confidence that prompted him to walk away from his team with Goldust - and built a character, in the case of Bo, and credibility, in terms of the heel pairing of Curtis Axel and Ryback.
The other big spot that would of fit right in on USA Network saw Brie Bella quit WWE rather than be used as Stephanie McMahon's pawn. So Daniel Bryan is still injured, but still holds the WWE World Heavyweight Championship belts. Steph's face is as red as Kane's outfit, from anger and embarrassment as well as Brie's slap.
Sheamus is still the United States Champion, because the Cesaro Swing is not effective as a finishing move and he's knows how to execute a great small package - because how else should a slobberknocker between two European brawlers end? Bad News Barrett is still the Intercontinental Champion because his current gimmick is the most over he's been since Nexus, and...have you seen Rob Van Dam wrestle in the last month or so?
Big E pulled out all the stops, and debuted a new singlet to match the giant U.S. flag he's been waving around, but Rusev still CRUSHed. Paige had her second successful pay-per-view (PPV) title defense in a match that was disappointingly typical of other Divas matches. But more fans were disappointed by the low-key nature of Foxy's post-match meltdown than the bout itself.
In one of the night's two big showdowns, John Cena brought back-up from tag team champs The Usos to his Last Man Standing match against Bray Wyatt. Jimmy and Jey helped even the score against The Family, and provide some crowd-pleasing spots - especially with the ever-more-impressive Luke Harper. John and Bray more than held their own, though. In the end, to the surprise of few but the outrage of several, Cena Attitude Adjusted Wyatt through a production case and covered him with another to (hopefully) end their beef.
War was promised between The Shield and Evolution, and while it may not have been quite as good as their battle at Extreme Rules last month, it was close. They upped the brutality, especially in terms of weapons used in the beatdown of Roman Reigns. But if there was any doubt after the Hounds victory in their first match-up, there could be none from this one, as Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins all lasted to the end of the elimination rules tag match, and celebrated their 3 - 0 victory by posing over Triple H's broken body.
What to look out for
Coming at you LIVE from Indianapolis, Indiana, at 8PM Eastern time on USA Network!
Details will come in throughout the day today about what to expect, as Payback fallout ripples through the WWE Universe and the Raw writers' room. This is supposed to be the last time we see Dave Bautista's wrestling character, Batista, for a while as he hits the road to promote his Marvel movie-verse character, Drax the Destroyer from the August release Guardians of the Galaxy for the next couple of months. Will he put The Shield over even more on his way out, or be taken out by The Viper and The Game for being their alliance's "weak link"?
The prinicipal owner of WWE will certainly have a response to the actions of ex-employee Brie Bella. How will she take out her frustration on the Total Divas star's injured husband?
Will the Wyatts focus shift to the Usos and the tag belts? Will Alicia Fox make it up to her let down fans with an epic meltdown tonight?
Expect some rematches, and tag matches that act as rematches by putting together singles competitors from Payback, as the company starts the quick turn to their next PPV tonight!
What they should do
Since that sure looked like the death knell for this version of Evolution, or at least the Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista version of it, anyway, the question becomes...what's next for The Shield? There aren't exactly a bunch of strong heel teams or stables that are ready to step up to a trio that has just been capital-M made like few pro wrestlers ever have before.
The other stable currently active (not counting 3MB...sorry fellas) is The Wyatts, but (1) we've been there recently and (2) Bray and company need to do some winning coming off their dance with John Cena.
Other options would be to add some fresh blood to Evolution, or create a new faction whole cloth. The problem with both so few heels outside of Evolution and The Wyatts would seem like credible opponents, given their recent histories.
An allegiance of Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio as former World Heavyweight Champions sounds good on paper, but we've watched all three men spend the better part of the past year as glorified jobbers. Same problem with the oft-rumored plans to put Ziggy, Miz and Damien Sandow in a crew motivated by being disrespected by WWE. Both groups would have a good motivation for going after The Shield - jealousy due to Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins getting opportunties that they feel should have gone to them - but I don't see how fans would take them seriously, especially with the men in black just having dismantled Evolution.
Same problem with adding someone to Triple H's crew. Barrett or Cesaro would make sense in terms of where they are in their careers, but their current gimmicks don't fit. Anyone else isn't at a level that would seem like a replacement or even an upgrade for the departing Batista.
Unless they're willing to pull the trigger on a Sheamus turn (and they should at least consider it...Bryan will be back before too long and this issue exists due to a lack of credible full-time heels), the best path is probably to continue the current program with Hunter down a man by shifting the focus on to the much-predicted Triple H vs. Reigns match for SummerSlam.
Perhaps the other Hounds can decide to pursue singles gold while watching the Big Dog's back? Ambrose vs. Barrett could be a blast, and maybe The Celtic Warrior could become a heel on his own without being affiliated with Steph, Trips and company for a program with Rollins?
Getting to the next big money three-on-three feud for The Shield is going to take some doing, so if we want to hold off the break-up rumor throught the Summer, Creative may need to throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
What we're afraid they will do
Come up with a reason to continue Wyatt vs. Cena. It was fine. They went out on a high note last night. Bray looks like a main eventer.
Let's move on.
Good think the eponymous match for Money in the Bank sells itself, because with an idle champ and two other feuds wrapped up, WWE has some building to do coming out of Payback.
See what they come up with tonight, along with Rex and the whole gang in the live blog!