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May 18, 2015

WWE Payback: The Shield reunites for an instant in a classic Fatal 4 Way main event

Sunday night proved that even though Payback’s main event looked to be thrown together at the last second, time and patience prove to be worth it when the finished product is revealed.

I was certain that Dean Ambrose was added to the Fatal 4 Way main event at Payback so he could eat the pin, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, Randy Orton was the one to eat the pin, which shocked probably everyone watching. Not to mention the move in which Seth Rollins used to retain his WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

Rusev failed in his third attempt to regain the United States Championship despite never saying “I quit,” The New Day retained their Tag Team Championship, and Dolph Ziggler needed some help to close up his head after a nasty ending to his match. It was a really good show and I came out of it looking forward to Raw tonight a lot more than a few weeks ago when Extreme Rules left a sour taste in my mouth.

Here’s what happened Sunday night at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, Maryland:

Payback Kickoff

R-Truth vs. Stardust

This wasn’t advertised [and neither were two other matches] before I penned my Payback predictions, so I won’t count it as a win or loss for my prediction count. The match was what it was, and I’m not sure I really can say anything other than that. It was there. It was a fun match that didn’t mean anything to anyone. So, cool.

Your winner: R-Truth by pinfall via front-face DDT.

The Ascension vs. The Mega Powers [“Macho” Mandow and Curtis Axel]

I thought this would be The Ascension’s swan song and they’d be either sent back to NXT or released soon after their main roster debut was a bust. Luckily, WWE didn’t let that happen. Despite the nostalgic feeling of seeing a poor man’s version of both Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan on WWE television in 2015, there wasn’t a big reason to allow Mandow and Axel to win Sunday night – and they didn’t.

Your winner: The Ascension

Predictions: 0/1

After the tag team match, WWE Network ran an advertisement that said Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast would return to the WWE Network on Monday, June 1st, with the guest being Paul Heyman. That may be even more of a must-see (or hear?) than Vince McMahon’s inaugural spot on the podcast on the Network. That Monday Night Raw may be likely to end extra early since the anticipation for that interview will be off the charts.

Then, it was time for the event to officially start.

Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler

This was a rematch from last month’s “Kiss Me Arse” match from Extreme Rules when Ziggler pinned Sheamus, but ultimately wound up kissing his arse anyway. Ziggler was looking for some revenge, and it started right away as he became the aggressor early in the match.

For a second, it looked like we had our first injury due to the new LCD screen the WWE started using as a ring apron facing the hard camera side. Ziggler knocked Sheamus out of the ring and Sheamus looked to possibly hyperextend his left knee as he fell to the outside, but it looked to be that he was just selling due to the way he fell as he showed no ill effects. In fact, Sheamus turned his attention towards Ziggler’s left knee and worked on it throughout the match.

Ziggler exacted his revenge of last month’s arse-kissing by shoving his derriere into the face of Sheamus while he was down in the corner in the ring mid-match for a nice comedic break from an otherwise spectacular match. This was one of the most entertaining openers in recent WWE PPV memory, and it had a little bit of everything – even blood. That’s right, in what seemed like a moment that might not have been scripted as part of the match, Ziggler headbutted Sheamus before hitting him with a superkick and a two count. Doused in his own blood, Ziggler then fell victim to a Brogue Kick and the loss.

Your winner: Sheamus by pinfall via a Brogue Kick.

Ziggler needed ten stitches after the match.

Predictions: 1/2

2-out-of-3 Falls Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship

The New Day [Big E and Kofi Kingston] (c) vs. Cesaro and Tyson Kidd

The New Day’s pre-match promos are just about becoming appointment television, and Sunday night was no different. While running down the audience for being losers, they called out the Baltimore Orioles’ Adam Jones, who happened to be sitting at ringside with his own replica WWE World Heavyweight Championship. This was the heels’ opportunity to get a shot in at the local sports team, and they took it by mentioning how long it’s been since the Orioles last won a World Series championship. Never underestimate the go-to sports insult when it comes to garnering heel heat in professional wrestling – it always works.

Winner of the first fall: Kidd and Cesaro after Kidd pinned Kingston after the big swing into a dropkick.

After the fall, Xavier Woods got on the apron and yelled at the ref, “Freebird Rule!” but it didn’t seem like the ref would allow him to enter the contest. Big E belly-to-belly suplexed Kidd on the outside which did a lot of damage, then E speared Cesaro through the ropes putting him out for a bit. Kidd had a chance

Winner of the second fall: The New Day after Kingston pinned Kidd after a double-team botched DDT/Big Ending.

All tied up, 1-1. Cesaro is back and it’s UPPERCUTS FOR EVERYONE! The third fall might have been the best of this match, and that’s saying something. Lots of great stuff in this match and they honestly should have had a best four-out-of-seven falls match. Or make it a series, WWE. Do it. I don’t think anyone will get tired of seeing these five [six if you count Natalya] together anytime soon. And just as I, and many others, thought, the Freebird Rule would come into play in the third and final fall - only without the referee’s knowledge.

Winner of the third and final fall: The New Day after Woods snuck into the ring and pinned Cesaro with a small package. Woods took advantage of the referee having his back turned and jumped into the ring and hooked Cesaro in the small package for the pin.

I really liked that ending. It was nicely booked, and although predictable, they did a good job in making it as original as they could given the story they’re trying to tell. Not to mention the right team won.

Predictions: 2/3

The New Day better have more tricks up their sleeve in two weeks, as it was revealed later in the night that at Elimination Chamber, there will be a Chamber match for the WWE Tag Team Championship.

Bray Wyatt vs. Ryback

This feud hasn’t been given enough time to fully develop, and as of this past Wednesday, these two weren’t scheduled to face off at Payback. However, the match was made official late last week and here we are. I predicted on Sunday afternoon that Wyatt would walk away with a win, and I’d just like to take a second to pat myself on the back.

The match wasn’t a bad one between the two, especially since we got to see Ryback fly through the air and splash onto Wyatt in a visual we may never see again. Not to mention the stiff senton bomb Wyatt performed on Ryback while he was laying on the outside of the ring. Ryback’s selling legitimately made me believe he could not breathe. The ref threw up the “X” sign, which is hard to take seriously anymore. Shortly after, the turnbuckle pad was removed from the corner and Ryback, whose ribs were already busted up in the match, was pushed into the steel exposed buckle. It was all academic from there.

Your winner: Bray Wyatt by pinfall via Sister Abigail.

Predictions: 3/4

'I Quit' Match for the United States Championship

Rusev vs. John Cena (c)

All looked well between Lana and Rusev during their entrance together, but that’s before the crowd started chanting,” We want Lana!” After Rusev gave Cena the chance to quit before the match even started, he moved Lana to sit down near the announce table. I guess the fans can’t see her there or something.

The match went all over the arena, something we haven’t seen in a long time. In fact, I think last year’s Payback pay-per-view match between Evolution and The Shield may be the last time we’ve seen that. The referee with the mic asking both Rusev and Cena respectively if they wanted to quit is a staple of these matches, so I didn’t mind it much. Cena gave Rusev an Attitude Adjustment on some electronic box that the techs rigged to explode, making a serious push for having the audience buy that the match would be over. Asked if he wanted to quit, Rusev said no. Cena grabbed a guardrail and nailed Rusev with it, who still wouldn’t quit. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say WWE was trying to turn Rusev into a fan-favorite with the way the match was booked. But then it happened.

Rusev had Cena in The Accolade and Cena passed out. However, the referee wouldn’t stop the match because Cena never said, “I quit,” so the match continued. Rusev unscrewed the top rope only to find himself in the STF after Cena came to. He said something on the mic, and Lana jumped into the ring to quit for Rusev. I can only surmise that Lana hopped in to say Rusev quit because she was translating for him, but even if that’s the story they’re going with, I absolutely thought it was one of the worst booking decisions in a long time. Rusev has now lost to Cena – regardless if he truly “quit” at Payback – three pay-per-views in a row now. Lana has become the main story. The investment WWE has made in Rusev may not be over in their eyes, but it really feels like Rusev isn’t anything special anymore. The drama in the match was great, but the ending left a lot to be desired.

Then again, Rusev never said “I quit” so why did he lose the match? While I’m intrigued to see where they take the story tonight on Raw, if it’s anywhere other than Rusev demanding a rematch because he never quit, then WWE’s dropped the ball completely on him. Saddling him with a side angle with Lana isn’t doing him any favors, either. Plus, this match was billed as the final encounter between Cena and Rusev.

Your winner and STILL United States Champion: John Cena

In a backstage segment later in the night, Rusev ranted in Russian before telling Lana to get out of his locker room. It looks like they’re going with the “Rusev quit in Russian” angle, which still doesn’t make much sense to me. The guy gets electrocuted and doesn’t quit, but quits in the STF? I don’t buy it.

Predictions: 3/5

Bella Twins vs. Naomi and Tamina

This is the other match that wasn’t advertised until late last week. The feud between the Bellas and Naomi has been built pretty well, and the reemergence of Tamina Snuka makes the title picture a little more interesting, despite Naomi likely being the next contender. Naomi hit her finisher on the Divas Champion, but Nikki kicked out of it in what was one of the finer moments of the match. Tamina then threw Brie against the barricade outside the ring, distracting Nikki inside the ring and gave Naomi the opening she needed to throw Nikki off the top rope and get the win for her team. Nothing special, and it felt like filler. That’s probably because it was. I thought the Divas division was over being just a time filler?

Your winners: Naomi and Tamina by pinfall via a Naomi powerslam on Nikki off the top rope.

Regardless, at least we have one, maybe even two, new contenders to challenge for the Divas Championship… eventually.

Predictions: 4/6

King Barrett vs. Neville

I had forgotten about this match this late into the show, but I think this match placement shows that WWE has a lot of trust in Barrett and Neville at this point. The two have been having some quality matches on the live show circuit and a few times on television that their match right before the main event isn’t looked at as a bathroom break opportunity. That being said, this wasn’t one of their better encounters, and the ending left a lot to be desired… again. Barrett walked away for the countout loss and then returned to attack Neville after the match was over. Similar ending to last month’s Sheamus-Ziggler bout with the heel losing but getting his heat in the end.

Your winner: Neville by countout.

Neville got back in the ring after Barrett began celebrating, and hit him with a german suplex and the Red Arrow. Both combatants seemed to be favoring their knee after the match. Let’s hope it’s nothing serious.

Predictions: 4/7

Fatal 4 Way for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Randy Orton vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins (c)

This is the first match ever featuring all three former members of The Shield with a chance to win [or retain] the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. And Randy Orton. Cool.

Remarkably, Kane decided his fate a few minutes into the match, grabbing Reigns from inside the ring and throwing him into the barricade, and attacking both Ambrose and Orton alongside J & J Security. Later in the match, it felt like time stood still when The Shield reunited for an instant to put Orton through the announce table with a triple-team powerbomb.

Everybody watching was reminded of how The Shield decimated their competition before their split one year ago by triple-teaming them with a powerbomb as their signature move. Rollins then put his arms around both Reigns and Ambrose and for a split second I thought we had just seen the official reunion take place. However, that wasn’t to be, because both Ambrose and Reigns quickly turned on Rollins.

That was the highlight of the match, which became an instant classic despite the constant interference by Kane and J & J Security. Luckily, the interference didn’t have anything to do with the outcome. There was a fun moment after Ambrose and Reigns got rid of Rollins and Kane for a bit as the two squared off one-on-one. That would be a cool feud to see in the future, and I’m sure we’ll eventually witness it. The match continued, but as Ambrose and Reigns were laid out, Rollins was able to hit Orton with the pedigree to get the win.

Your winner and STILL WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Seth Rollins by pinfall via the pedigree on Orton.

Predictions: 5/8

Triple H came out to congratulate Rollins on the win. Was Rollins’ use of the pedigree foreshadowing a future confrontation with Triple H? Is the pedigree the new finisher of choice for the champion? Who knows. All I know is that the main event was one of the best ones we’ve seen in a long time. And with Orton eating the pinfall, that gives Reigns and Ambrose ample opportunities to find themselves in future main events with Rollins. And that’s a good thing.

I’ll be back tomorrow morning with my Raw roundup to see how WWE explains everything that happened at Payback and the push for Elimination Chamber, which is now less than two weeks away. Hope you enjoyed the show!