Rhea Ripley said something interesting this week: Finn Balor & Damian Priest’s issues make people like Raquel Rodriguez think she is weak. I loved that for a few reasons, and yes, this is where I go into most of them. But chiefly because it established Rhea as the leader and showed how important Judgment Day’s mystique is for their success. But what happens when people think they can test you?
It all started with a solid opening match between Damian and Sami Zayn. That fight ended when JD McDonnagh, still keeping his intentions ambiguous, tripped and distracted Sami long enough for a Damian W. Once again, Damian barked on JD for getting in his business. And once again, Damian watched as Sami & Kevin Owens put hands and feet on JD.
If I have one complaint here, it’s that we did this scene before. But I do believe we’re close to an ending because Rhea basically said so after the match.
During another squabble between Finn & Damian, Rhea asserted herself. She not only said the whole thing I referenced up top, but told them both to get it together at Payback or else. See, Damian & Finn stumbled into an Undisputed Tag Team championship match at Payback. KO & Sami later explained it’s a Steel City Street Fight because they’re tired of Judgment Day. Mami warned both men that if they leave Pittsburgh without gold, then heads will roll.
Even after both men agreed and vowed that defeating the tag champs is their mission, Damian held up that damn briefcase. He made his position loud and clear: Whether they win those tag titles or not, he always has a shot at walking away with gold. It’s a nice touch that shows no matter how much Damian talks about focusing on Judgment Day business and only on things that matter to their group, he still lords that briefcase over his friend. The Street Fight stipulation opens the door for some JD chicanery and maybe some betrayal from either Finn or Damian. With Damian looking out for himself, what’s stopping him or Finn from ruining their chances at tag gold?
We've got ourselves a STEEL CITY STREET FIGHT this Saturday at #WWEPayback when @SamiZayn & @FightOwensFight defend their #UndisputedTagTitles against @FinnBalor & @ArcherofInfamy!— WWE (@WWE) August 29, 2023
️ TICKETS: https://t.co/0X9okqZasZ pic.twitter.com/gKERapWiMT
Speaking of gold, WWE showed that Rhea’s words about all this drama affecting her truly holds weight. She cut a promo on Raquel and the challenger came running. And once again, she got the upper hand on the champ! Rhea retreated after countering Rhea’s strength with her own. By Rhea’s logic, this doesn’t happen with Judgment Day solidified.
I don't foresee Rhea losing her championship but I have no faith in Damian & Finn as a unit or solo. And therein lies the problem. And I really hope we get JD’s motivation because it’s just too ambiguous for me at the moment.
What happens next? I have no idea but can’t wait to find out.
Miz cut a damn good promo against LA Knight. The Megastar impersonated Miz last week, so turnabout being what it is, Miz did the same this week. He made his usual points about LA playing for the cheap seats, relying on catchphrases, and slyly called him a Steve Austin ripoff. But it works because of Miz’s conviction. The same conviction of which he spoke and juxtaposed with LA, who he says lacks all of that.
I do wish we got these two in the ring once more before Payback, but this will suffice.
I wondered when Drew McIntyre & Matt Riddle might intervene in this tag match between New Day and the Viking Raiders. During the very solid tag match, the Raiders kept provoking McRiddle (sigh) and eventually went over the edge when they slammed Kofi Kingston into Drew & Matt sitting ringside.
Drew launched a freaking chair in the ring, then launched another that accidentally hit Xavier Woods. I questioned how the ref missed all of this and didn’t ring the bell for a DQ, but apparently that matters not.
The Viking Raiders won but the real story is everything that transpired outside the ring. Ya know, with people getting hit with chairs. New Day says there’s no beef with Drew over it since they knew it wasn’t intentional, but the big man is still pissed at himself and at the Raiders.
I’d be more into this story if it didn’t feel like such a rehash. This is RK-Bro redux and it doesn’t excite me.
On the one hand, Chad Gable and Ludwig Kaiser wrestled a very solid technical match. That surprises no one at this point. But on the other, we kinda saw this story already: GUNTHER and Chad schedule a match, GUNTHER puts one of his sub-bosses in front of his challenger for a match before the championship match. I give them props for at least giving us a different ending when Giovanni Vinci interfered and the beatdown ensued. But...it’s still the same basic thing.
While I love Chad and GUNTHER getting it on one more time, especially with GUNTHER setting out with principle on his mind, they can accomplish the same thing without remixing what happened a few weeks ago. In the end, GUNTHER Powerbombed Chad and stood tall. Yes, Chad got him in the ankle lock, but the lasting image is the ending image.
What I really dig about this thing between Seth Rollins and Shinsuke Nakamura is that Shin gets under Rollins’ skin. We got another video promo from the challenger where he got personal. The man promised that after their match, Seth won’t walk his daughter down the aisle. Then he said night night.
It’s just dope work all around, with Seth hitting the necessary notes that make it all stick. Shinsuke sealed it all with a sneak attack that left the champ prone in the ring.
It makes me wish they booked this inside of a cage or with some other stipulation that puts Seth’s broken back in even more jeopardy. But that’s neither here nor there right now.
Well, that was quite the ending. I liked almost everything Tomasso Ciampa and Bronson Reed did this week. They got physical, Tomasso showcased his insane strength, and Bronson showed his freakish agility. But that ending. Besides the fact that I don’t like a man that big getting beat by a Crucifix Driver (shoutout to Claire’s exceptional wrestling move knowledge). And then the pin itself hit type awkward, making the whole thing seem sillier.
This isn’t it for these two. The narrative is that Tomasso “stole one,” which means Bronson is coming with the get back later. I’m down.
The running theme through this Falls Count Anywhere match between Becky Lynch and Zoey Stark all led back to Trish Stratus. Some might think they overdid just how much they used Trish during this match but it hit the right notes for me. I mean, it’s anything goes and she’s at ringside. Why not mess with the woman on her agenda at Payback? But at various times, including the ending, they teased miscommunication and dissension between Zoey & Trish. First, Trish comically threw at chair at Zoey that bounced off her protege’s forehead. Then, when Zoey rescued Trish from a Manhandle Slam from top of what looked like audio equipment, she accidentally punched Trish. Unluckily for Ms. Stratus, a table broke her fall.
Becky essentially fought two women here and won. But it expressed just why she needs Trish in a cage and possibly foreshadowed Zoey & Trish’s partnership sunsetting. Oh, and let’s not forget NXT Women’s champion Tiffany Stratton sitting ringside. She called Becky out recently so putting her there makes sense.
I dug this match though, even without the extra story beats. Just chaos and violence between two people who really dislike each other. For a show that really dragged on, this main event put it into another gear. Becky holding her Bray Wyatt armband in hand while crying as the tears rolled really moved me as well.
Seeing Becky overcome with emotion summarized the last few days better than any words or tribute ever could.
Raw dragged a bit but given the circumstances, that’s understandable. I know the show must go on and all that, but they’re still human. Given everything around the show, it’s a solid effort that raised the stakes for Payback’s big matches.
What say you, Cagesiders?