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How much wrestling actually happened at Payback 2020?

WWE featured seven total matches on the main card of Payback 2020 (Sun., Aug. 30).

The main card of this pay-per-view (PPV) lasted 2 hours, 31 minutes, and 53 seconds (2h 31m 53s). Here is a sorted list of the bell-to-bell times for the seven matches that took place during this event:

  • 15m 59s: Rey & Dominik Mysterio vs. Rollins & Murphy
  • 12m 41s: Wyatt vs. Reigns vs. Strowman
  • 12m 18s: Big E vs. Sheamus
  • 10m 56s: Matt Riddle vs. King Corbin
  • 10m 18s: Banks & Bayley vs. Jax & Baszler
  • 9m 24s: Apollo Crews vs. Bobby Lashley
  • 6m 41s: Keith Lee vs. Randy Orton

These times add up to 1h 18m 17s, which is roughly 51.5% of the show. For comparison’s sake, the overall match time percentage for all WWE PPVs since the start of 2013 is 54.1%.

Roman Reigns’ music didn’t begin playing until 9m 58s after the opening bell of the main event match.

Dominik Mysterio has now competed on two pay-per-view events in his WWE career, and his match was the longest of the night each time.

However, his 15m 59s match at Payback is one of the shortest “longest match of night” entries that I can find on WWE PPVs going back to the start of 2013. In that time, it’s rare for a WWE PPV to not include at least one match that goes 16+ minutes in length. The only other potential instance I can find is Super Showdown 2020, where the five matches that comprised the Tuwaiq Trophy gauntlet match added up to 15m 54s (however, more than 32 minutes lapsed from opening to closing bell due to superstar entrances and angles that occurred in between falls, so I’m not sure this one really counts).

The trend is clear that WWE is embracing shorter PPVs during the coronavrius pandemic. The length of these events was getting completely out of hand once brand-exclusive pay-per-views were dropped in early 2018. Fastlane 2018 was the final brand-exclusive pay-per-view, and it was under three hours in length. It took more than two years, until WrestleMania 36 Night 1, for there to be another WWE pay-per-view that had a run time fall short of three hours.

WrestleMania 36 Night 1 also happened to be the very first PPV of the pandemic era, without live fans. Since then, three WWE PPVs have actually ended much closer to the 2.5 hour mark. This includes Money in the Bank 2020, Extreme Rules 2020, and Payback 2020. These are the three shortest WWE PPVs since the start of 2013. The only other PPVs that came close to these short times were a couple SmackDown-only events from 2016 (Backlash, No Mercy).

The median PPV length was over 3.5 hours in both 2018 and 2019. That median length has dropped to under 3 hours during the pandemic. The average PPV length during the pandemic is even lower than the median thanks to three potential outliers indicated above. I think this has been a very welcome change, and it makes sense to keep things concise without any live fans in the building.

One trade-off is that it is harder for 10 minute matches to reach a level of greatness that matches in the 15 to 20 minute range can achieve. I don’t think Payback had a single great match on the card. But it’s harder in general to have great matches without live fans in the building, so there are more factors at play than just match times.

Are you surprised by any of these results, Cagesiders? Which of these matches received less (or more) time than you hoped for?

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