This was certainly an interesting Payback. Some things came to pass that some would say should have happened a long time ago. Other aspects exposed some of WWE’s most obvious problems. All in all, it’s hard to say the result wasn’t entertaining. Though, it may not have been for the reasons WWE anticipated.
To start, when it comes to straight wrestling, the surprise match of the night was for the United States Championship. Apollo Crews and Bobby Lashley performed a very compelling match. MVP and Shelton Benjamin also did a great job of selling the stable from the sidelines. It wasn’t expected and that tends to be the best kind of surprise in the WWE Universe. Sometimes, you just have to give it to someone and The Hurt Business has made their statement. The US Title now in Bobby Lashley’s hands, it’s apparent they are no joke.
Secondly, the Women’s Tag Team Championship Match wasn’t a disappointment in of itself but here again, we see how the women are underutilized. WWE’s Women’s Division has Tag Teams yet, the most prevalent of them were in the Kick-Off Show in a match of little importance. Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax were stitched together, much like Sasha Banks and Bayley, to serve as the Tag Team contenders. There’s more to unpack here but, that’s another article. In this instance, simply look at the face value. There are plenty of qualified women to work with and in the end, Baszler and Jax simply overpower Banks and Bayley to win the Tag Team Titles. Not much effort is being put into presenting the women. For now, let’s just say what else is new.
Thirdly, we have Big E’s big moment! Big E and Sheamus are a true Gold Level Hoss Fight yet, their match was a bit slow going. They aren’t the nimblest of fellows and they did seem like they were wearing cement shoes for most of the match. The pace did pick up and Big E getting the win was great but the match didn’t show these gentlemen in the best light. Hard to say what the implications are for Big E going forward.
Nevertheless, there were a couple of other distinct surprises. Matt Riddle finally earning some credibility was one of them. He has Baron Corbin to thank as they decided to inject a little energy into the PPV. Corbin got personal and that appeared to take Riddle to the next level. Riddle dove into his Jujitsu skills to best him. Keith Lee also surprised, proving ready for the Big Time. Though he gives off an affable “Dad Vibe”, it is clear he’s a man with a dream. His defeat of Randy Orton was huge. In his case, it’s easier to see what all the talk is about. We’ll see if he holds fans’ interest.
Lastly, we have the anticipated Heel Turn of the Ages as Roman Reigns makes it clear he is a Paul Heyman Guy. Disappointment may have come more from the lack of match rather than the turn of events. Fans seem to be craving some sort of Big Dog action but here it was limited to a “corporate ploy” for Reigns to win the Universal Championship. A lot could be going on here but what will happen? That’s where it gets interesting. Does WWE have enough wherewithal to make the most of what has been put in motion? Alexa Bliss is already getting lost in the shuffle, serving as some Fiend Groupie. Will they make good use of this plot twist? For Reigns’ sake, let’s hope so. Reports speak of WWE looking for SmackDown writers. They also say they’re reorganizing the creative department in general so, this may not be an ideal time for WWE to take creative risks. Currently, it’s best to remain reserved in contemplating any speculation. WWE has shown they usually opt for the quick fix, let us see if they can factor for the long-term this time around.