WWE went rolling right on through the Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Maryland last night (Sun., May 17, 2015) with Payback, an event that looked a little too much like the one that came before it but featured a fun main event that came through in a way few thought it could. It was a Fatal 4-Way after all, with Kane heavily involved.
Let's not waste time with pleasantries and get right to reactions to the show (click here for the live blog with full match coverage).
It's all about the game
Had you told me before this match that the plan was to kind of sort of tease a Shield reunion, or at least work a spot that would involve Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose executing a triple powerbomb, I would have hated the idea.
I didn't even like the idea of all three being in the same match together with the WWE world heavyweight championship on the line while another guy, in this case Randy Orton, tagged along in a Fatal 4-Way.
But it worked.
It really worked.
It worked as a tease for what will come down the line when the time is right and they can reunite proper. It worked as a tool to take Orton out of the match for a time. It worked to get the crowd hot to set them up for Reigns vs. Ambrose in a brief one-on-one encounter that was as good as anything we've seen from Rollins vs. Orton in recent months.
But, really, it worked to make our hearts soar before bringing them back down and crushing them. It was the perfect emotional set up to suck us in for the rest of the match, one that would feature Kane ruining things -- because Kane ruins everything -- and Rollins doing what we suggested he should and breaking out the Pedigree as a finish once the chaos settled and the dust cleared.
Fatal 4-Way matches are notoriously difficult to book and/or execute but WWE pulled it off. This was fun, they didn't kill Reigns or Ambrose, and they properly put an end to the Rollins-Orton feud while seemingly settling up the issue with Kane.
That's a win all around, right?
To cheer or not to cheer
Here's the problem with the John Cena vs. Rusev I Quit match, outside of the fact that these two should have already finished up their business together and moved on to something new, and it's a problem we've been confronted with before.
I don't know whether or not to cheer for Rusev or boo him.
If the plan for the finish all along was to have Lana quit for Rusev why set it up in such a way to gain sympathy for Rusev? That's what this felt like. He was fighting valiantly to continue on and someone else made the call for him. He never said the words "I quit" as called for by the match stipulations.
It looks a bit more like he was screwed over than anything else, especially considering Cena had passed out in The Accolade not long before and the referee emphatically denied that the match was over because he had not said those magic words.
The issue could be that something has been lost in translation, perhaps literally considering how hard it's been hammered on. If the idea was that Lana was simply translating Rusev's words and he actually did say he quit, that could work well to get him heat as a piece of crap who refuses to accept he's not good enough and puts it on his manager instead.
I just wonder if that's actually what they're going for.
Even if that's the case, it didn't play well as a finish for the blow off to a feud they've spent so much time on and it didn't act as a big breakaway moment for either Lana or Rusev.
That means it failed on multiple levels.
Plus, the match was about big spots that weren't all that big, there were one too many botches, and while the crowd was hot enough for it, it felt a bit too predictable in the worst possible way.
All the best to all the rest
Neville vs. King Barrett: Surprising, to say the least, that this was used as a cool down match of sorts before the main event. Then the finish happened and it was clear they spent very little time working out how they wanted to book this. We're also inching closer and closer to Neville being the guy who never wins but never really loses and you eventually just stop caring about or getting invested in the outcome of his matches, instead simply hoping he gets his stuff in because that'll just have to do. Here's to hoping that changes soon.
Divas tag team: WWE has a very real issue, though it's nothing new, with standard wrestling when it comes to the women on the roster. While the Bella Twins fighting hard but losing to the hot, still freshly turned heels is a norm for the men as well, the women are in the unfortunate position of needing to do more, or at least something different, to stand out. And they're never booked to be able to do so. That's what this was. An entirely forgettable few minutes of wrestling.
Bray Wyatt vs. Ryback: A fairly ho hum match to go along with a ho hum program between two wrestlers I'm not entirely sure have any reason to be upset with each other. The ultimate lesson of the match? Ryback is a big dumb guy. Wyatt attacked the midsection early with a big splash on the outside and THE BIG GUY, for some reason, decided to use this match to bust out a splash off the top rope. Bray won not long after and it's hard to imagine anyone really cared either which way.
The New Day vs. Brass Ring Club: I really enjoyed this match, and thought the finish was creatively done and really well executed. Then I looked at social media and felt bad, like perhaps I wasn't seeing a problematic situation. The argument I was seeing: Xavier Woods jumping in for Kofi Kingston and scoring a pin as the illegal man, essentially because the referee couldn't tell the difference between the two, was racist. I didn't see that when it happened, though I can certainly understand the thought process. Woods and Kofi do look enough alike that Xavier could jump in, execute a roll up that dictates he's almost completely hidden from view, and his face is impossible to see, and the referee, having missed the switch we all saw at home, could easily turn around and make the assumption that everything is on the up and up. That was how I read it, though I won't say you're wrong for seeing it the other way.
Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler: This was essentially a remix on what they did at Extreme Rules, which is fine considering their respective styles and the fact that they work so well together. That said, it was built around Dolph sticking his ass in Sheamus' face and ultimately costing himself the match by busting himself open hardway with an ill advised headbutt that had him breaking the Muta scale. Ziggler should be far more sympathetic as a babyface but something doesn't click and this was a great example of that.
Meta Powers vs. The Ascension: They got me. While I'm still not entirely sold on Damien Sandow's Macho Man impersonation, Curtis Axel's Hulk Hogan is dead on the money. That entrance was something special. It was fun. So, of course, they jobbed them out in spectacular fashion. Sometimes WWE booking baffles me, and this is one of those times.
The main event was fun for a variety of reasons, but everything underneath was incredibly underwhelming.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?
(All photos via WWE.com)