The pre-show was lackluster at best with R-Truth going over the perennially misbooked Stardust in a bonus match. Stardust is perennially misbooked and has been since his days under his former “dead” name. He should be a solid upper-midcarder but instead seems stuck in a jobbing role to people like Truth, who has no momentum behind him at all.
The other pre-show match was built around the comedy of the Mega-Powers going in, but the real story is the rebuilding of The Ascension as a threat in the tag team division. I’m not sure we will see them in an Elimination Chamber, but it’s good to see WWE hasn’t given up on them yet.
The main show kicked off with another Sheamus/Dolph Ziggler match. While good overall, the result was wholly predictable with Ziggler getting some comeuppance but taking the loss. WWE plans to keep this storyline moving forward, probably into the Intercontinental match at Elimination Chamber.
The tag team two out of three falls match was a great contest between two teams of great big men teaming with great smaller guys. Much like the Usos vs the Wyatt Family of last year, the teams of Kidd & Cesaro and The New Day are built to wrestle as many times as WWE wants and give a great performance every time. With a little more TV focus, they could also establish a strong role for the tag titles, something WWE desperately needs.
Ryback vs Bray Wyatt continues the Wyatt push towards nothing, with another pointless clean win over a face that serves to help neither man. For someone built around his mental manipulation, Wyatt seems to do little of it in his matches, but can win clean way too often for an evil villain. This was meant to continue a feud, but Ryback’s potential injury might end it sooner than planned.
|Ow. (Image from WWE.com.)|
The I Quit match between John Cena and Rusev, ostensibly for the United States title, was the clear focal point of the booking and the strongest match on the card. The two men channeled the best extreme matches of the Attitude Era to compete in an amazing brawl that reached ECW levels of insanity as they made their way around the entire arena. The ending being built around the fact that Cena couldn’t quit if the Accolade caused him to pass out, but shenanigans with whether or not Rusev said I Quit or not will keep him a focal point on television even as he moves past Cena. The smart booking should keep Rusev strong even in the aftermath of his great Cena feud.
The Bellas battle with Naomi and Tamina as well as Neville versus King Barrett were built around clearly designed as feud extenders. Neither really blew me away, but if the Neville and King Barrett feud sets up a Neville Intercontinental title reign, I’m all for it. As to the women, my personal hope is they will receive a third Elimination Chamber match at the pay-per-view. I don’t think anything could show WWE cares more about the Divas than giving them a marquee match at the show.
The main event was wrestled well but was a disappointment booking wise. Outside of one momentary Shield reuniting for a triple powerbomb on Randy Orton, the Kane storyline failed to move forward, Ambrose and Reigns were given little momentum and the Orton/Rollins storyline seems ready to stretch out for another month. Of course, Rollins also debuted his third finisher of the last two months, as he has now adopted the Pedigree.
|Turns out Ambrose & Reigns don't need Rollins for the powerbomb. Image from WWE.com.|
As far as WWE’s B-pay-per-views go, Payback was honestly pretty solid. But with two more shows in the next four weeks, one has to wonder how long it will take for most of these storylines to come to an end.