-The New Day open tonight’s event and the Chicago crowd seem pretty hot to see them. They hype up the finals of the Tag Team Tournament match that is about to take place.
-We get a video package hyping this up as the first event of a “New Era” in the WWE.
1. Enzo & Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillians
-This match is a #1 Contendership match for the New Day’s WWE Tag Team Championship.
-Enzo and Cass control things in the early going, isolating Aiden English, but the match never really got going as Simon Gotch attempted to toss Enzo Amore though the ropes, but Amore’s head his the ropes and bounced hard against the apron before falling to the ground.
-The referee throws up the “X” and it seems obvious that Amore is completely incapacitated. The match ends in a No Contest obviously as Amore is loaded up to go to a nearby hospital.
-The announcers improve and make sure the viewers at home understand this was a legitimate injury as they awkwardly segway to the next match.
2. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
-Amazing video package looking at the history of these two friends through the wrestling business. It still baffles me that these two men were staples in ROH only a few short years ago.
-The two former friends jockey to be the aggressor in the opening minutes until Owens takes control after taking the action outside of the ring. Owens toys with Zayn for a few minutes until the momentum shifts and Zayn hits the Blue Thunder Bomb for a two count!
-Owens hits an amazing looking Frog Splash for a near fall. He gets some really good height on it as well. He then looks for the Pop-Up Powerbomb but Zayn counters with a dropkick and then the two trade big moves until they are both down.
-Thankfully by this point they bring the crowd back to life after the first match ended so abruptly.
-“The Prize Fighter” looks for a piledriver on the apron but is back dropped instead, and then Zayn follows up with a beautiful running DDT through the turnbuckle!
-Zayn tries to follow up with a Helluva Kick, but eats a kick instead and then a Pop-Up Powerbomb. JBL: “Ballgame, Michael!” Owens wins.
-Amazing match with a lot of pressure on these two guys to deliver after the opening match was cut short. The two former NXT Champions delivered and really brought the crowd back to life.
-Owens then invites Byron Saxton to the ring to interview him after his victory. I assume this might be Owens filling time? I find it hard to complain as Owens is brilliant on a microphone.
-He then goes on to state he will be refocusing on regaining the WWE Intercontinental Championship and will be doing commentary for the next match.
3. The Miz vs. Cesaro for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
-I’m so happy to see Cesaro back in action. He is legitimately one of the most talented performers the WWE has had for years. I just wish he had a character that was as over as his wrestling ability was.
A wonderful spot where Cesaro knips up several times in a row to get out of an elbow lock. So impressive.
-Tonight Cesaro is wearing kinesio tape on his shoulder which makes it a perfect target for the champion to work over as he takes control of the contest.
-Cesaro employed so many brilliant offensive maneuvers, and it looked like he had the victory after a Cesaro Swing, but Owens and Zayn began brawling into the ring giving The Miz an opening to his the Skull Crushing Finale.
-This match was a brilliant Cesaro showcase. His strength and ability was on full display here, and the implementing of Owens and Zayn felt natural and added to the segment. The WWE is clearly planting the seeds for a Fatal Four Way match for the show next month, and that should be awesome as well.
4. Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose
-This feud is happening because of talk shows. Yeah, I know. This is the best excuse they could find to throw these two together. I would have prefered they harken back to late last year when Jericho was the surprise tag team partner when Ambrose and Reigns were feuding with The Wyatt Family and Jericho stormed off after losing.
-Jericho is in full chicken shit heel mode for this match.
-The two trade big moves as Jericho spends much of the match taunting the “Ambrose Ashym” host.
-It looks like Jericho might get the victory with a Walls of Jericho, but Ambrose makes it to the ropes and after muscling “Y2J” into position finally lands Dirty Deeds after Jericho had avoided the move for the entire match.
-Dean Ambrose got the victory in a pretty unspectacular middle of the road match. It just crawled from spot-to-spot, and never really got going in any sort of groove.
5. Charlotte vs. Natalya for the WWE Women’s Championship
-The champion taunts Natalya, and takes control of the match as she taunts Bret Hart at ringside, and the Chicago crowd.
-Charlotte works over the legs of Natalya slowly while being the aggressor. Natalya spends most from the match fighting from underneath.
-Natalya repeatedly goes for the Sharpshooter, but the champion counters and hits Natural Selection for a nearfall! She then hits a beautiful looking Moonsault for another long two count! Awesome sequence.
-She locks in the Figure Eight, but the challenger shouts “No!” repeatedly and counters the submission maneuver. Charlotte locks in a Sharpshooter and Charles Robinson calls for the bell!
-So, another callback to the Montreal Screwjob? Okay.
-This was a decent enough match, but not nearly as good as some of their matches in the past. I would have enjoyed seeing a bit more offense from Natalya before the screwjob angle, but this is still a huge improvement from what we saw out of the women’s division this time last year.
-It’s time to decide the future of WWE’s flagship program, WWE Raw. Vince McMahon high steps to the ring to reveal whether his son, Shane, or his daughter, Stephanie, will have control over the show.
-Stephanie comes out and pleads her case after listing her accomplishments to the angry Chicago crowd. Followed up by Shane McMahon doing the same thing using the crowd to help persuade his father.
-We get a cop out by Vince who finally states that both of his children will run Monday Night Raw, together.
-This was pretty much what I was expecting, and that’s fine. It served as a nice bathroom break for everyone who didn’t care.
6. Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
-I have been so excited for this match. I thought it would take much longer than this for AJ Styles to ever get a chance to compete for the WWE Championship.
-Reigns used his size and strength to dominate his challenger in the opening minutes of this match.
-Styles implements his various signature moves to fight back and then hits an awesome springboard Phenomenal Forearm through Reigns and the announce table on the outside! What a beautiful spot! Holy cow!
-AJ Styles can’t get the champion back into the ring before the ten count, and wins via count out. Styles seems unhappy he wasn’t able to get the champion back inside in time, by Shane McMahon comes out and restarts the match as a No Countout match.
-Pelee kick and Styles tries to follow up with a 450 Splash, but Reigns gets his knees up in the nick of time. Styles goes to the top rope again and Reigns punches Styles below the belt and loses via disqualification.
-Enter Stephanie McMahon who restarts the match as a No Disqualification match.
-They brawl on the outside, where Styles gets the better of the champion, and he goes for a Phenomenal Forearm but Reigns hits a mid-air Superman Punch. Another great looking spot.
-Reigns looks for the Spear, but Gallows and Anderson pull Styles out of the ring and commence to beat down the champion.
-The Usos come out and help neutralize Gallows and Anderson.
-Styles hits a 450 Splash for what I thought was the finish, but Reigns gets the shoulder up! He goes for the Phenomenal Forearm once again, but Reigns hits a spear to retain his WWE Championship.
-The show closes with the McMahons stating that AJ Styles will get his rematch at WWE Extreme Rules in an Extreme Rules match.
-This match was given a lot of responsibility. It had to be entertaining in the ring, get over Styles, get over Reigns, work in Anderson and Gallows, and the Stephanie/Shane angle. It succeeded, for the most part. The only thing that irked me was the multiple stops to change the stipulations sort of ruined their natural flow of the match.
-Still, Reigns and Styles have great chemistry and left me satisfied after the final count. I hope they have an even better rematch at WWE Extreme Rules.
This show was so much more entertaining than WrestleMania, and that almost makes me sad.
Without the returning legends/part-timers, and 6+ hours of time to fill WWE Payback did a great job at delivering in the ring. The pre-show (which I did not review here) was serviceable and all the match on the main card were at least passable.
I’d skip Jericho/Ambrose if I had had the choice, and the opening Tag Team match was surely going to be entertaining if it had not been stopped so Enzo Amore could receive medical attention.
Everything else on this show was pretty great, which I wish was not something I said so rarely. Hopefully the WWE can keep having great shows like this and fight off the “Post-Mania Slump” that they go through every year.