On June 16th, 2013, the WWE hosted their newest pay-per-view event, Payback, and took place in Chicago, Illinois. With a lot of hype placed on it, it definitely did not disappoint. Matches like Dean Ambrose vs. Kane, The Shield vs. Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton, and even CM Punk vs Chris Jericho, had promise to be a very good night of wrestling. Even a surprise return was announced for Money In The Bank, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Let’s kick this review off of WWE’s inaugural Payback!
As we got ready for Sandow-Sheamus, we got a threesome of talents with nothing else to do, along with announcer Josh Matthews. It consisted of R-Truth, who shouldn’t be talking because he doesn’t make very much sense when he does, Cody Rhodes who was accompanied with his love stache, and the returning Big Show! I always enjoy seeing Big Show in roles like this; the other two were alright. Nothing too special happened in the kickoff match. Sandow was very entertaining as usual and looked great playing the aggressor. Sheamus was pretty good as well as he hit his normal array of comeback moves. I particularly liked the shots to the chest, or as I like them to be called, the Irish Hand Grenades. Sheamus ends things with his patented Brouge Kick and gets the 1-2-3 in a pretty entertaining pre-show match.
Up next we have the triple threat match for the Intercontinental Championship between The Miz, Curtis Axel, and defending Champion Wade Barrett. Just a week ago, this match was supposed to have Fandango instead of Curtis Axel, but a concussion ended that unfortunately. I would’ve liked to see Fandango as Intercontinental Champion personally, as I think he would’ve won. This was a very good start to the actual pay-per-view. It had some great back and forth action, as we saw all three competitors trade opportunities with each other. Skull Crushing Finales, Winds of Change, and even the Figure Four Leg Lock were all executed at one point in this match. It was the rookie Axel who snuck in on an ensnared Wade Barrett to pin him, while Miz had him locked in the Figure Four. This was a pretty amazing moment; Axel looked pretty emotional as he grabbed the title that his father, the legendary “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, made so prestigious. He also celebrated his win with the great Paul Heyman at his side. Happy Father’s Day Mr. Perfect, that’s got to be a pretty nice gift.
As we take a break in the action, we see Axel and Heyman celebrating their win in the back. Then the two end up running into the COO himself, Triple H. Axel tries to get by, but Triple H won’t let him. Triple H finally lets them through as Mr. McMahon comes power walking into the picture to congratulate Axel on his excellent win. McMahon even congratulates Heyman of all people, shaking his hand, before he ushers them off. McMahon asks Triple H about one more match with Axel on RAW. Triple H responds by saying he’s not interested as the camera fades out. A Mark Henry return promo also aired, stating that the World’s Strongest Man was coming back, and looking to create a wake of destruction once more. Because that’s what he does!
Up next, the Diva’s Championship match between Kaitlyn and AJ Lee! I’ve been quite excited for this match; they’ve really put a lot of timing and planning into this feud. They’re showing that yes, the WWE does care about women’s wrestling, at least a little bit. Kaitlyn gets some good cheers as she comes out, but looks very uneasy about things and has a very distracted look on her face. AJ gets an excellent ovation, which is to be expected with this Chicago crowd, as she made her way down to the ring with Big E Langston. The match starts off with the larger Kaitlyn totally rag dolling poor little AJ, and even tosses her over the top of the Spanish announcer table for good measure. AJ got the upper hand again when she hit a dropkick off the apron onto the floor. Back and forth they went, with AJ locking in a few submissions, but Kaitlyn powering out of each one. Kaitlyn eventually went for a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, but ended up getting caught in AJ’s Black Widow, only for Kaitlyn to reverse this into a huge gutbuster. Kaitlyn eventually hit her spear. She folded AJ up in two, but instead of capitalizing, she grabbed AJ’s lifeless head, and blew a kiss at her. She only managed a near fall, but AJ somehow kicked out. AJ eventually locked in the Black Widow once more and made Kaitlyn tap out to become the new Diva’s Champion! As AJ celebrated, Kaitlyn broke down and had to be helped out by Layla. In the back Layla, Alicia Fox, and Natalya all tried to comfort Kaitlyn, but she shrugged them all off.
Afterward, we saw a promo for the upcoming Money in the Bank pay-per-view set up in a month. The more interesting thing to me was definitely what came after. The Wyatt Family had another promo and it was even spookier than the ones that preceded it. These guys are going to be fantastic and really stretch the lines of what is right and wrong. Look out guys; the Wyatt Family is coming to WWE!
Next, the United States Championship match between the Shield’s Dean Ambrose and the Big Red Monster, Kane! Dean Ambrose got a great pop when the Shield’s music hit as he made his way to the ring by himself. Kane even got a good reaction, showing some respect for the legend. This was a solid match, but disappointed me a bit as I thought it would be better, considering how great Dean Ambrose has been since he got to the WWE. Ambrose showed off his very unique offense and style to great effect. Kane got in all his signature moves from the flying clothesline to the sidewalk slam. After they went out to ringside, Ambrose did the unthinkable and slapped Kane. This resulted in a furious uppercut from the Devil’s Favorite Demon, who then proceeded to tear the Spanish announcer table apart. However when he turned around, Ambrose nailed him with a DDT on the floor, and rolled back in the ring for the countout victory.
He’s back… The next video promo had to be one of the high points of the night. The Whole F’n Show, Mr. Monday/ Tuesday/ Thursday/ Friday Night, The Whole Dam Show himself, ROB. VAN. DAM! This was the moment I was second most excited about; the video stated that RVD would be making his WWE return next month at Money in the Bank. I cannot wait.
The World Heavyweight Championship match between the Show-Off Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio was next. Thanks to a bad concussion suffered a month ago, this is the first title defense that Ziggler made. Ziggler got an excellent reaction from the crowd. Del Rio got a good one as well as fans love saying his name with Ricardo Rodriguez; I know I do! The match started off with Ziggler doing some showing off, but soon turned into a slugfest with Del Rio throwing most of the shots. Del Rio looked oddly aggressive, as he took shot after shot to Ziggler’s head. Langston stepped in to prevent Del Rio from landing another headshot, but he was kicked out leaving only AJ at ringside for Ziggler. The rest of the match became quite uncomfortable to watch as Ziggler took kick after kick to his head. At one point the doctors tried to stop the match, along with AJ, but Dolph refused help and re-entered the ring. As the match dragged on, Del Rio got more and more vicious. After a sudden Zig Zag, Del Rio regained control and hit a super-kick to Ziggler’s head knocking him right out. This gave Del Rio his second World Heavyweight Championship, much to the disdain of the Chicago crowd who booed Alberto. As Alberto celebrated, Ziggler was helped out with a distraught AJ trailing. Afterwards, Del Rio came back out to gloat about his win, stating how he deserved this; only to get a heavy chorus of boos in return. Is this the return of the old Alberto Del Rio? Are we seeing a Dolph Ziggler that we’ve never witnessed before?
Finally, we have the return of CM Punk vs Chris Jericho. Jericho who normally gets amazing reactions everywhere he goes, got a pretty hefty amount of boos. All those disappeared when Cult of Personality hit for the first time in a long time. The Best in the World himself slowly sauntered out, with a hoodie draped over his head, to a massive ovation from his hometown faithful. Paul Heyman gave him the time and Punk responded with a resounding, “IT’S CLOBBERIN TIME!” He’s back folks! This match was easily the highlight of the night with a constant back and forth. Jericho missed a number of bullets getting out of the GTS and Anaconda Vice. Punk did the same as he struggled out of the Walls of Jericho a few times. We got to see a wrestling clinic put on by two of the best in the business ever. Despite Punk’s long absence, he showed only a little ring rust; this match easily went over the 20-minute mark. After a great diving Codebreaker by Jericho, Punk finally gained the upper hand by hitting Jericho with his second GTS of the match. After bouncing him off the turnbuckles and hitting him with a third GTS, Punk got the 1-2-3, much to the crowd’s delight. He basked in the adulation of his friends and family with Heyman beside him. Punk looked very good, very healthy, very rested and all around recharged. Time off did wonders for him. Something to take note of was Punk’s attire. He came out in Chicago Blackhawk-themed ring gear and also looked like Wolverine with his muttonchops. Punk finally left but not after he gave the belt motion around his waist.
The Shields’ Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins defending their WWE Tag Team Championships against the unlikely pairing of Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan were next on the program. The Shield members and Orton got great reactions, which is to be expected, but none of them compared to how loud the crowd was for Bryan. It was only topped by the ovation given to CM Punk. This was another great match mostly because Daniel Bryan was in it. That’s nothing against Reigns, Rollins, or Orton, but Daniel Bryan is far above everyone else right now in the ring. The way he whips around the ring, killing people with dropkicks and locking in devastating submissions, he’s truly become one of the best in the business. After getting a hot tag, Bryan did his normal thing, dropkicking everything within a 50-yard radius, and ended up hitting a suicide dive on his partner. Things broke down at the end after Orton and Bryan avoided running into each other; Orton threw Bryan into an oncoming Reigns spear. Reigns then got RKO’d for his troubles and was then pushed out of the ring by Rollins. Rollins then hit the stomp to the back of the head, or the Blackout, on Bryan for the win.
Finally, we have the WWE Championship match between John Cena and Ryback. I wasn’t too excited for this match, but was willing to give it a chance because we only get to see Three Stages of Hell matches rarely; in fact only three times before this. The First Stage of Hell was a Lumberjack match, with thirty WWE superstars on the floor surrounding the ring. The match started slowly until Cena got thrown out of the ring right into the waiting hands of the heels, who proceeded to put a pounding on Cena before sending him back in. After this happened two more times the faces on the other sides of the ring decided to get involved. A massive brawl broke out when Cena climbed the top rope and launched himself majestically through the air and landed on the giant pile of bodies on the floor. However he got Shellshocked, as Ryback got the first pinfall. Up next was the tables match in the Second Stage of Hell. Ryback continued his dominance as he chucked Cena around the ring. After a number of busted tables as a result of the ring steps being tossed like they were a shot put ball by Ryback, Cena finally regained the advantage and AA’d Ryback through a table. That tied the match and sent us to the third and final Stage of Hell, an Ambulance match. Ryback started out with the advantage as they worked their way toward the ambulance. Cena got some crutches and hit Ryback with them. Ryback hit the car door with his fist. Ryback was whipped right through an open door on the ambulance and that seriously looked like it hurt; not as much as being beaten into the ground with said door at the hands of Ryback. Cena then proceeded to climb the ambulance itself and dislodged the lights and chucked them at Ryback. That only slowed down the Human Wrecking Ball for a moment. After a short sequence on top of the ambulance, Cena finished things off with a huge AA through the ambulance and retained his championship in the process. Overall, it was a solid match. The first two-parts were rather bland but the Ambulance match was entertaining as every part of the ambulance was used.
Overall, this was a very good pay-per-view. Plenty of titles changed hands with a number of very good matches, including the Diva’s match. Highlights of the night were the Punk-Jericho match and the entrance of CM Punk. It was absolutely deafening in that arena. Another highlight was the video proclaiming Rob Van Dam’s return at Money in the Bank. I’ve been looking forward to one last RVD run in the WWE, and this looks like it will be it. While the WWE Championship match was rather bland, the other matches really made up for it. As usual, guys like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan were your MVPs of the night, and even Curtis Axel and AJ Lee made great impressions, not only winning their matches, but also looking great in the process. I give WWE Payback a solid 8/10, and excellent show.