WWE Payback 2017 this year was held Sunday night in the SAP centre in San Jose. A Raw-exclusive show, Payback furthered a lot of storylines and produced several entertaining moments despite only being a b-level PPV.
It was both the first PPV since WrestleMania, and the first big show since the Superstar Shakeup from a couple of weeks back. The first PPV after WrestleMania is always an interesting one, as there are usually plenty of WrestleMania rematches or loose ends tied up from previous storylines. For new storylines which have started to take form since WrestleMania, the next PPV is also where the first chapter of those new stories come to a close. So while this show was not one of the big 4 PPVs, it often has just as many surprises and storyline advances as those higher-profile shows.
Reviews for the show at this point are mixed, which tends to be the case most of the time these days. While there were several moments that were executed quite well by WWE and the superstars involved, there were just as many they flubbed completely.
This article takes a look at 10 things WWE got right at Payback, and also 10 they got wrong.
20 Got Right: Bayley's San Jose Pants
Bayley always has something going on with her ring attire for big shows. At WrestleMania this year her gear was Macho Man inspired, and for Payback she was all decked out in San Jose themed tights.
Her gear was divided into two sections: On the left side were numerous images of Sharks. This is an homage to the city's only major league team, the NHL's San Jose Sharks. Despite making it to the Stanley Cup finals last year, the Sharks went out in the 1st round of the playoffs this year.
On the right side of Bayley's gear there were several images of Roses. San Jose is home to what has been referred to as "America's Best Rose Garden" the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden. The 5.5 acre area, adorned with only roses, is considered a heritage spot for Bayley's home city.
19 Got Wrong: Sheamus Kicking Out Jeff Hardy's Tooth
In the middle of the Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Hardy Boyz match, Sheamus kicked Jeff Hardy square in the face, knocking out his tooth. Hardy needed some time to collect himself after the kick, and was a little shaken up afterwards in the match.
Similarly, Matt Hardy was a little beaten up in the match as well. He came up bloodied after missing a moonsault, and then was immediately placed in a big swing for 20 reps from Cesaro. Matt was pretty much dead weight for the next few spots afterwards.
Granted, the Hardys are used to falling off ladders and being put through tables, but perhaps WWE should decide to go easy on the brothers, who are 39 and 42 years of age. There's a lot of merchandise the team can sell now that they are back, but it'll be harder if they are both on the disabled list.
18 Got Right: Finn Balor Targeting Brock Lesnar
Finn Balor announced on MizTV during the Kickoff show that his goal is to recapture the Universal Championship, even if that means going through Brock Lesnar.
Too often it seems ex-champions seem uninterested in challenging for the title they just lost. Case in point, Bray Wyatt bothered to challenge Randy Orton to a "House of Horrors" match, though he neglected to also challenge him for the WWE championship, which Orton took from him at WrestleMania. A slight oversight from Wyatt's management team one could assume.
Balor never lost the Universal Championship of course, as he was forced to vacate the title due to injury the night after SummerSlam. It's only fitting that Balor should be given a chance to win back the title he never lost now that he's fully healed.
17 Got Wrong: Slightly Too Many Creepy Babies
1 or 2 creepy babies would have been fine. Even a handful of creepy, crying, baby dolls would have been perfectly acceptable. Unfortunately, the House of Horrors match went just slightly overboard, leading to a feeling of creepy baby overload for many.
The House of Horrors didn't really contain many horrific things. It wasn't a well-kept house, that is for sure. In general however, the "horrors" were limited to baby dolls that were hanging from the ceiling. There were no ghosts or ghouls, no demonic spirits or witches. There were just creepy baby dolls. It was as if they were wrestling in an old haunted orphanage.
Then Wyatt dropped a fridge on Orton. In the entire House of Horrors, the big weapon Wyatt used was a large appliance. At least hit him with a tub of creepy babies or something fitting with the theme Bray!
16 Got Right: "Broken Matt Hardy" Hints
While the over-the-top mannerisms of the Broken Matt Hardy character is not something everyone enjoys, it is clear a lot of people love it. That is why chants of "Delete! Delete!" can be heard anytime the Hardyz wrestle.
As of this writing, speculation is that the Broken characters will eventually appear on WWE programming, but it seems as though they are going to slowly move Matt's character through a story arc until that happens. At the moment, Matt will act normal at the beginning of segments, and then slowly more and more of the character will come out. He will adopt a mild form of the accent, or just let his face and eyes go all wild for a moment.
Eventually WWE will have Matt Hardy hit his arc, a moment that crosses his character past the threshold and back into the Broken universe once again.
15 Got Wrong: Neville Retains Title On DQ
Austin Aries defeated Neville by DQ at Payback. Due to the rule that a title can't change hands on a disqualification however, Neville retains his championship.
Why has nobody reviewed this rule in the 30+ years it has been costing challengers championships? Does the WWE's rules and competition committee not want to maybe add some amendments to this?
Imagine this was the rule in the UFC. GSP is just about to win the middleweight championship from Michael Bisping, but then, just when it looks like Bisping is going to tap, he grabs referee John McCarthy by the shirt and causes the disqualification. Oh well, Bisping is still the champion. Those are the rules!
If WWE wanted Neville to retain his title in a non-sportsmanlike way, just have him blatantly get himself AND Aries counted out. It makes far more sense for a title not to change hands on a draw.
14 Got Right: Roman's Massive Internal Injuries
If you are coughing up large pools of blood, it's a major medical issue. You would be well-advised to seek prompt medical care.
Roman Reigns however, refused medical attention or to be helped to the back on a stretcher. He had no idea if his lung has been punctured, or if other vital organs were bleeding internally.
Roman Reigns does have fans. You never hear from them, but somebody is buying his merchandise, otherwise they wouldn't be pushing him like this. Those people most likely did not enjoy the epic beatdown Braun Strowman gave him at Payback. For everyone else, this was awesome!
Strowman brought down the steel steps on Roman's midsection like they were made with bricks. Then WWE kind of broke their no blood policy by having Roman cough up a bunch of it.
13 Got Wrong: Bayley Losing In Her Hometown
WWE loves to beat people in their hometown, and at Payback it was Bayley's turn. The idea is that doing this generates sympathy for the character, which is true, but it also creates a lot of excitement to let someone win a big match in front of a raucous hometown crowd from time to time as well.
3 of WWE's top women have all lost title matches in their hometowns recently. Sasha Banks lost to Charlotte at Hell in a Cell in a Boston, and then Charlotte lost the title back to her on an episode of Raw from the town she was born, raised and named after (in storyline, her real name is Ashley). Now, Bayley's dropped the belt in her hometown as well.
Oddly enough, Alexa Bliss earned the right to challenge Bayley by winning a 4-way match that was held in her hometown of Columbus.
12 Got Right: Singh Family Dynasty References and Jinder Mahal's Push
Let me explain.
Jinder Mahal and the Singh brothers (formerly the Bollywood Boyz) showed up at the end of Wyatt vs Orton at Payback, costing Orton the match. Some are in favour of this out-of-the-blue push for Jinder and others are not. There is one subtle aspect of this angle that could use some explaining however.
Real name, Yuvraj Singh Dhesi, Jinder Mahal is the real-life nephew of Gama Singh. Fans of Calgary's Stampede Wrestling territory will know that name as a member of the evil foreign menace stable "Karachi Vice". Gama Singh was joined by 2 other "foreign" menaces: Makhan Singh (aka Bastion Booger/Mike Shaw) and Vokhan Singh (Gary Albright).
That the Bollywood Boyz (real names Gurv and Harv Sihra) are now going with the last name "Singh" is a subtle homage to Jinder's Uncle, and the old Karachi Vice stable.
11 Got Wrong: House of Horrors Daytime Inconsistencies
This is not to say the House of Horrors match wasn't worth watching, because it was, but boy there were some logistical gaps here. Not the least of which is the fact that this House of Horrors match was supposedly taking place in sunny San Jose California while the sun was still out.
The footage they showed outside the House of Horrors, took place in the pitch black of night. The only problem was that in San Jose, the local time was 630pm (9:30pm est.). The sun doesn't set in San Jose until 7:58pm at this time of year according to both Siri and Google.
There should have been birds chirping, neighbours walking their dogs, and all sorts of other activities that take place on a sunny Sunday in San Jose.
Also, a tractor came alive at one point and simply rolled away. No one in San Jose seems concerned however.
10 Got Right: Kevin Owens' Face of America Branding
Like most people, I thought Kevin Owens was going to win this match. After all, look at the effort that has been put in to brand Owens under this new "Face of America" moniker.
Normally a guy decked all out in the American flag would be something fans would get behind. The difference here is that Owens isn't American. While an American dressing in red, white and blue would get cheered, Owens is dressing in those colours in a patronizing way (note the clever double word-meaning). He is being condescending when he tells the fans he's the face of America, and that's what makes this angle unique.
While he's no longer the US champion (though it's safe to assume he will win it back again shortly) being the Face of America is a great way for Owens to earn some hatred from the fans/WWE Universe.
9 Got Wrong: No Finn Balor Match
Granted, you can't have every big star wrestle on every show, but we've gotten so little of Finn Balor these last few months, you would think we could get even a quick squash match.
A worrying idea concerning Balor is that Vince might decide he is too injury prone to push. In his short history on the main roster, Finn has already needed to be written out of storylines twice. Once after requiring shoulder surgery, and again recently after suffering a concussion. While neither injury can be considered Balor's fault, it still sends the message to Vince that Finn might not be a guy they want to fully invest in.
Instead at Payback we got Finn on the Kickoff show as the guest on MizTV. We'll see if WWE still has faith in Finn based on whether or not he ends up being the next to challenge Brock.
8 Got Right: Samoa Joe vs. Seth Rollins Storytelling
The structure of the Samoa Joe vs Rollins match told an interesting story. It started with Joe getting the advantage through striking. Then when the match got faster paced, Rollins took the advantage with speed based moves such as suicide dives and dropkicks. After those opening moments the match went in a pattern of Joe hitting a move on Rollins' injured knee, then Rollins trying to come back, hitting a move or two of his own, but then being cut-off by Joe going after his knee again.
Rollins finally countered a submission attempt into a pin and got the 3-count. Joe loses the match, but clearly caused more damage to his opponent, whereas Rollins is made to look crafty and smart because he found a clever way to get the pin even though he was injured. Each guy came out looking strong, and the match was entertaining.
7 Got Wrong: No Women's Undercard Match
The women's divisions used to only be one match per show. Then however, WWE promoted that they were going through a "women's revolution". Now, since the dawning of this game-changing revolution... we still just get one women's match per show.
How are we supposed to view the women's championships as important when the division is still only being featured in 1 of the 8 matches on a PPV? Sasha Banks, Nia Jax, Mickie James, Emma, Dana Brooke, and Alicia Fox are all on Raw, and could have wrestled here.
Championships feel more important if superstars have to work their way up a long ladder of contenders to finally reach the pinnacle. Instead, WWE limits the division to 1 or 2 segments a show, and that's why Bayley is able to win the championship after only 4 months on the main roster.
6 Got Right: Sheamus & Cesaro Heel Turn
Well, they had to turn heel. While many fans would simply like the team to break-up so that Cesaro can move onto anything else, the Cesaro & Sheamus heel turn was done well.
There had been little hints dropped in the weeks leading up to Payback. Matt and Jeff had each won singles matches against Cesaro & Sheamus on Raw throughout April, and both Cesaro & Sheamus were showing signs of frustration. While on Raw they would always hold onto their tempers in the end, they finally gave in at Payback.
The top tag teams on Raw right now are: the Hardyz, Cesaro & Sheamus, Enzo and Cass, Anderson & Gallows. There is also the Golden Truth and Heath Slater and Rhyno. Up until Payback the only heel team left was Anderson & Gallows. The Revival should be back in a few weeks as well, which will help even out the heel side of the division.
5 Got Wrong: House of Horrors Limousine Service
What type of House of Horrors has limousine service??
Randy Orton arrived to Bray Wyatt's San Jose property in a luxurious stretch limousine. Orton looked pretty comfy in the back of the car, as he arrived shirtless to the property.
Granted, he needed to get to the house somehow, it just seems odd that he would hire a limo for it. You would think the limo company itself would be nervous, seeing as the match was taking place in some type of nether-region where tractors come alive and the sun doesn't shine.
Then after the pre-taped part of the match Bray Wyatt just gets in Randy's limo (the driver waited at the house) and is driven to the arena. Evidently the driver was not concerned that the person they were driving was not the original person who booked the car.
4 Got Right: Huge Continent of International Announcers
WWE is international. At no point was this more evident than when they introduced all of the announce teams present. They showed all the announce teams on-screen before the Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss match, and the time it took to get through everyone was longer than an average Brock Lesnar match.
Payback 2017 International Announce Teams:
Meng Ali and Sean Deng - Mandarin (fine tanned suits)
Shun Yamaguchi and Funaki - Japanese
Moti Margolin and Zhan Pomerantsev - Russian
Obaid Kadwani and She Sardar - Hindi (these guys were really into it)
Marco Alfaro and Roberto Figueroa - Portugese
Some will be more excited than others regarding this, but WWE developing strong roots all over the world can only be good for the product as a whole. With WWE creating specific shows for specific markets, such as the UK, it might not be long until we see more countries receive similar attention.
3 Got Wrong: No Love For the Intercontinental Championship
First Ambrose's WrestleMania match was designated for the Kickoff show, and now he's not even on Payback at all, his first PPV since being drafted to Raw.
As the reigning Intercontinental champion you would think there would be at least a small segment he could appear in, perhaps to build up what may be his next title defence.
Ambrose wrestled Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32, but fast-forward 13 months and he's become a guy getting lost in the shuffle. Indications on Raw are that he is set to enter into a program with Bray Wyatt, a guy he's already had several PPV matches and programs with. It seems as though they might be running out of ideas for the guy.
For fans of the Intercontinental championship, and what it used to mean in wrestling, the title being pushed down the card along with Ambrose is also disappointing
2 Got Right: Poetic Jericho and Owens Story-Telling (The Creation of Kevin)
At the Festival of Friendship Chris Jericho gave Kevin Owens a replica of the "Creation of Man" painting. Only in this version "God and Man" were played by "Kevin and Chris". The painting depicts the two "best friends" reaching their fingers towards one another.
At WrestleMania, Owens used only one finger to reach out and touch the rope while locked in the Walls of Jericho. After being released from the hold Owens would come back to win the match. At Payback, Owens again used just one finger to touch the rope and break up a submission. Jericho, seeing what he must do to defeat his former friend, targeted Owens' finger. He put the finger in the steps and slammed it, rendering the finger useless. Jericho again locked Owens in the submission hold, only this time Owens couldn't reach out for the rope because his finger was injured. Owens was forced to tap.
Owens' finger is an analogy to their friendship. He had been using the finger/friendship to win matches so Jericho had to destroy the finger/friendship in order for Jericho to finally win. Pretty clever stuff.
1 Got Wrong: Not Mentioning The Great Balls of Fire PPV
If you haven't heard, WWE has titled their Raw-exclusive July PPV "Great Balls of Fire". The company announced the news days before tickets are set to go on sale for the Dallas show.
WWE decided not to mention the PPV, or it's odd name, at all on Payback. This could be considered surprising to some considering how strong of a response the name has gotten. Big E announced on Twitter that the hardest part about having been drafted to Smackdown was that he would not be able to take part in the first annual "Great Ball of Fire" PPV.
How this name came about is currently not known. One can speculate however, that it was one of those ideas Vince came out with and nobody around him at the time felt comfortable telling him how terrible it was.