Payback is a…pretty good show! Wrasslin’ Wednesday 5/20/2015

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

Derek: We’re coming to you live (two/three days later) from Baltimore/Richmond! We’re back to Wednesday this week, as the NBA gods have finally smiled upon us. It’s a good thing, because had they bumped us again we would have to get some … Payback.

Yes, Payback aired on Sunday night, and was a decent show for what it was. We also got a decent Raw this week, as we’re getting a BONUS WWE NETWORK EXCLUSIVE pay-per-view in two weeks. Monday brought us the long-awaited debut of Kevin Owens, who assaulted John Cena. At Elimination Chamber, Cena will no doubt be looking for … Payback.

payback movie

Let’s run through the Payback card!

Sheamus-Ziggler

Will: This was a hell of a show opener. Sheamus and Ziggler brought a lot of physicality and energy, respectively, and got the crowd up in setting the tone for the evening. The crowd, by the by, was excellent. They were loud, they were active, they knew what beats to hit, and they had a nice mix of kids and smarks, but they didn’t commandeer the show. I was on board with them from the jump.

My only beef with this match could apply to most every one on the card: Too many kick-outs of finishers. That kind of move was once reserved for only the very biggest matches, but now it’s boilerplate. I realize I’m a bit of an old man yelling at a cloud right now, but so be it. The first match of the night is too early.

old man yells at cloud

But, yes, fun match, and we even got to see an arse-kissing out of it, so it was also a cultural experience.

Derek: BLOOD!!! Did you see the blood?! They couldn’t end this one fast enough. How do you cut your self open that much on a headbutt? Ziggler went from this …

ziggler headbutt… to this …

ziggler blood

… in about 30 seconds. He got 10 stitches afterward. It was unintentional of course, but nothing like a little accidental violence to kick off a pay-per-view. And, luckily for Ziggler, chicks dig scars.

ziggler lana kiss

Yes, Lana defected from Team Rusev on Raw, setting up a Rusev-Ziggler feud. It’s been a while since we’ve had a feud over a woman. If memory serves, the last one was between R-Truth and Brodus Clay over the Funkadactyls. They’ll be making a Blu-ray for that one someday.

New Day vs. Kidd & Cesaro

Will: I was so psyched to see the New Day come out. It’s a real credit to those guys that they’ve done so much with what looked like such a limited gimmick. I would love to see them link up with Bo Dallas at some point for maximum obnoxious feel-goodery.

This match was awesome, and had perhaps the best action of the night. Cesaro looked exceptionally strong, even by his standards, and the commentary team even put him over for a change. Big E hit a huge spear on Cesaro that took both big guys off the apron, there were cool double-teams aplenty, and Xavier Woods responded “We are well aware!” when the crowd began a This is awe-some chant.

To add a fun level of misdirection (and racism?), Woods slipped in the ring and rolled up Cesaro. The ref, apparently just seeing a black guy in green pants, thought he was Kofi and counted the pinfall. New Day retains.

Derek: WWE just couldn’t help themselves, could they? If you skipped the first line of this post, go back and remind yourself of what city they were in. If you don’t want to do that, ask yourself what would be the worst American city for something racist to happen right now. And the New Day willingly participated! No one objected! Now that is commitment to being a heel. I like them more and more every day.

Wyatt-Ryback

Will: This … this didn’t really work for me. I was lukewarm on the setup, and the execution was lacking. There were some nice moments, including Wyatt’s clotheslines and especially Ryback’s splash off the top rope, but much of the action was heavy and stilted, not unlike the competitors.

My favorite part may have been the crowd, which unleashed dueling “Let’s go Wyatt/Let’s go Ryback” chants in the “Let’s go Cena/Cena sucks” tradition. Also, Ryback should watch Fast and Furious movies and take notes; I think he would find inspiration. Oh, and Wyatt won.

Derek: I actually forgot this match took place. Outside of Ryback’s aerial maneuver, this was a check-your-phone match. Honestly, I’m starting to get a little worried about Wyatt. Unless you count his one-sided war of words with the Undertaker before WrestleMania, he hasn’t had a good feud in quite some time. He had some good runs against Daniel Bryan, John Cena, and Chris Jericho last year, but he hasn’t done much to stand out since then. Sure, the premise of those feuds were all pretty much the same (“You’re a false idol and I’m going to take you down!!!!”), but they were executed well. His program with Ambrose was largely unsuccessful. Now it looks like this Ryback feud is going in the same direction. I need to see something other than him trying to hurt someone popular just because they’re popular.

Luckily, I have two fantastic ideas for how he could be used. One would be a feud with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. They haven’t had much individual success since breaking off from the Wyatt Family, and they could hold that against him. They could talk about how Wyatt promised them everything and nothing came of it, so they want to show him that they never needed him. Harper and Rowan could get some microphone time, and Wyatt could be in a feud that actually has a backstory.

My second idea is a bit more ambitious, but I think it’s a bit better. I hope you’re comfortable, because it’s about to get a little nerdy in here. The announcers refer to Wyatt as the “Eater of Worlds,” which I’m fairly certain they ripped off from Marvel villain Galactus. Galactus consumes living planets for sustenance. He does this not because he wants to, but because he has to. In Secret Wars, Galactus reveals his one wish is an end to this hunger.

Enter Wyatt, who proclaims himself The New Face of Fear. So, why not spread that fear around? Not because it’s fun for him, but because he can’t help it. Have him interfere with random matches every once in a while, with no particular pattern shown. He could take down good guys, bad buys, main eventers, jobbers, or anyone else. He makes a habit of these hit-and-run tactics, but doesn’t wrestle in actual matches for a while. Over time he gains some followers, who are tired of being afraid and want to strike fear in others. He forms a modern Ministry of Darkness that, like Galactus, exists outside of good guy/bad guy territory. Everyone will want a shot at him, no matter their allegiance. Then Wyatt’s feuds can be born of other wrestlers being the aggressor, instead of him always jumping out of the woodwork to target one specific wrestler for the same reason. If they want to present him as a comic book villain, then just make him a comic book villain. I think everyone comes out of that a winner.

Will: You mean that’d be better than “You seem brave, but I submit that you are not”?!

Rusev-Cena

Will: The ring announcer told us pre-match that this I Quit match could only be won if you “literally make your opponent say ‘I quit.'” I’m glad she cleared that up. Honestly, this isn’t a Russian Chain Match; how complicated can it be?

The match took a little while to get going — it felt very old hat at first — but it turned into a quality, old-fashioned hardcore brawl. Cena AA-ing Rusev into the fireworks was something I’d never seen before, and the same goes for Rusev removing an entire turnbuckle. There was one botch that marred things, when Rusev took it easy on a spinebuster that was meant to go through a table, but most everything else was well done.

Rusev lost when Cena used the ring rope (part of Rusev’s turnbuckle removal gambit) as part of an STF, and Lana intervened to tell the referee that Rusev’s Bulgarian babbling meant “I quit.”

Derek: The real star of the match was the referee. His constant “Do you want to quit?!” deadpan was the stuff of legend. I think I’m going to record it and listen to it on a loop when I’m working out. Then I can shout “No!” and throw my iPod on the ground every time. On a related note, it’s too bad they don’t make iPod Classics anymore.

Bellas vs. Naomi and Tamina

Will: … I didn’t pay this one much mind. Tamina’s a big motherfucker, especially compared to the Bellas. I spent most of this match missing Paige.

Derek: And she’s yet another victim of WWE’s hatred of surnames. But hey, Paige came back on Raw! That’s something!

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

Barrett vs. Neville

Will: This was a fine match, but I’m increasingly worried with how little I’m compelled by Neville. He got the win when Barrett chose to take the count-out loss, but he’s lost momentum in my eyes. He’s an unreal athlete and pulls off some of the most impressive moves I’ve ever seen in wrestling, but what else is there? Has he even touched a WWE microphone?

Derek: At long last, he did get a bit of mic time on Raw in an in-ring interview with Renee Young. The interview was interrupted by fellow former NXT Champion Bo Dallas, setting the stage for a rekindling of their rivalry. You’re right about him, though. He’ll probably always be entertaining, but he may never be a main eventer unless he adds another dynamic to his character. His ceiling may be at or below Rey Mysterio’s level, but that’s not exactly a bad thing.

Will: His interview on Raw was decent, although I feel like we’re reaching our limit in terms of guys who lean on “I’m little, but boy oh boy do I love wrestling!” At least he’s a British version of that.

Orton vs. Ambrose vs. Reigns vs. Rollins

Will: This match was heaps of fun. It was a little schticky, since a Fatal 4-Way all but necessitates one or two guys prone outside the ring at all times, but I made peace with that soon enough. It was a no DQ situation, so Kane and J&J security intervened a whole bunch.

(Speaking of Kane: What the hell? He talks a big game and gets in Rollins’ head, only to capitulate to the Authority’s wishes and go into full lackey mode. I’m sure they’ll get to him breaking with Triple H eventually, but yeesh.)

The cool wrestling moment of the show, for me, was Reigns and Ambrose’s second double powerbomb on Kane. They tried to put the former Big Red Machine through the Spanish announce table, but didn’t land it with enough oomph to collapse it. They could have moved on — like Rusev and Cena did in the botch discussed earlier — but the crowd began a “One more time” chant, and the former partners obliged with a powerbomb good enough to turn the table to splinters, winning a huge ovation.

Ambrose and Reigns squared off one-on-one for a while, with Rollins intervening just when it looked like Reigns would get the victory. Ambrose was soon primed to pin Rollins, only to have Kane pull him off. Rollins ended up getting the win with a Pedigree, although it was not a good Pedigree.

Derek: Let’s not forget The Shield briefly reuniting for one of their vintage (©Michael Cole) triple powerbombs. Rollins even tried to do their old Shield triple fist bump, but Reigns and Ambrose naturally slapped him around instead. I thoroughly enjoyed that. It might have been my favorite moment since ‘Mania.

shield

Alright, let’s wrap this up with some quick hits from Raw.

Elimination Chamber Intercontinental Championship Match

The stage was set for who will replace Daniel Bryan as Intercontinental Champion. Sheamus, Ryback, R-Truth (?), King Barrett, Rusev, and Dolph Ziggler will meet in the UNFORGIVING STRUCTURE for the gold. Barrett and Ziggler have had multiple IC runs in the past year. Rusev and Sheamus had runs as US Champion. Ryback is hungry. R-Truth is … available. It’s an interesting group. Though they look to have retreated from their stance of having a main eventer with all three belts. I had a feeling Roman Reigns would be in this match, but alas. Who do you think is the favorite?

Will: Ziggler seems like the guy to me. The IC belt has long belonged to (occasionally undersized) workhorses like Bryan, Chris Jericho, and Ziggler himself, as Dolph has held the strap on four occasions, tied for fourth-most all-time. His previous title ownership may work against Ziggler, in which case I’m not sure who the favorite is. 

Rusev or Sheamus would be solid choices, both to have another heel champ and to actually make the title intercontinental, and Barrett would make sense for the same reasons. If R-Truth wins, I will purchase a hat just so I can eat it.

Ambrose Calling Kane a Bitch

Derek: “You used to be a monster, man! What would Paul Bearer think right now if he saw you. Or your brother?” Then …

ambrose kaneambrose kane 2Say what you will about his ring work, but no one is more entertaining than Ambrose.

Tag Team Extravaganza

Derek: There will be a tag team Elimination Chamber match. As in, both men will have to share a pod. Probably not a problem for the Lucha Dragons, but that’s gotta be a tight squeeze for the other teams. Too bad Big E and Titus O’Neil aren’t partners. Anywho, most of the teams probably don’t have a shot. New Day and Kidd/Cesaro are the heavy favorites, with the Prime Time Players and, to a lesser extent, the Lucha Dragons as dark horses. The Ascension and Los Matadores are little more than extra bodies.

I have high hopes for this one. The New Day-Cesaro/Kidd matches have been so much fun, and now we get the Lucha Dragons and general tag team mayhem thrown in. This could be the match of the night.

Will: The tag action on Raw was great, and it was a surprise to have the Prime Time Players as the last team standing. It’s borderline stunning that this sort of match could actually be worth talking about considering how moribund the tag division looked not so long ago, when the Ascension was the upstart set on dethroning the Usos.

Kevin Owens’ debut

Derek: If you just go by the look of Kevin Owens and John Cena, you’d likely conclude that Kevin Owens has no shot. And while he may still have no shot when they face each other at Elimination Chamber, he did get the best of Cena on Monday night.

kevin owens

I’ve gotta hand it to WWE for slowly introducing these NXT guys via Cena’s weekly open challenge. That was a great idea. Just wait until Finn Balor accepts. That’s going to be insane.

Will: Awesome, awesome stuff. I hadn’t heard Owens on the mic before, and I was impressed with him from the jump. The announcers did a hell of a job putting him over, and he’ll certainly appeal to wrestling purists in valuing the NXT belt more than the United States title. His powerbomb on Cena was huge, and the whole segment was a legitimate show stealer. I can’t wait to see more of this guy. 

And like Sami Zayn, he got to keep his first name!

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose

Derek: The feud that ended prematurely is back on, though the results likely won’t be any different. Ambrose and Rollins will face each other for the WWEWHC at Elimination Chamber. Some believe Reigns should and will be added to the match, and that would make sense for the first Network exclusive PPV. I still think they’ll save that one for a bigger event, like Summerslam or WrestleMania. Either way, I’m glad these two are finally back at each other’s throats. They were the best part of 2014 and you’ll find no shortage of me whining about how it ended at Hell in a Cell. This bonus PPV might turn out alright after all.

Will: For all the moaning we’ve done about the shows being too long and plots being stretched too thin, WWE has put together a pretty damn good month of programming. We’ve seen strong debuts from NXT guys, a mild renaissance in the tag team division, and some plain old good wrestling matches. Who knew they still had it in them?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to knock the hell out of some wood.



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