5/1 WWE Payback Review: A night of great matches in Chicago including a very scary injury to officially open the show

WWE Payback Review

Adam Martin reviews WWE Payback 2016

WWE Payback Review
May 1, 2016
By: Adam Martin of Wrestleview.com

Chicago (Rosement if you want to get specific) once again played host to WWE Payback on Sunday night in a show officially touted as “The First Pay Per View of a New Era.” After a solid WrestleMania 32 presentation in Dallas (a show I thought was a huge improvement over WrestleMania 31) and a series of decent episodes of RAW featuring Shane McMahon at the helm, it seemed WWE was poised to have a pretty good showing featuring a fresh card of new talents and our first look at the former TNA poster boy AJ Styles headlining his first WWE Pay Per View.

The central focus of WWE programming has of course been on the new era of Roman Reigns as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. In the months and leading into the Royal Rumble and then WrestleMania 32, it was pretty apparent that many wrestling fans had no interest in seeing Reigns as “the guy” and voiced that displeasure. I can’t even back track at this point as my past feature articles here on Wrestleview voiced a similar disdain as I just wasn’t convinced that going forward with Reigns as champion and winning the title at WrestleMania would be the best call.

So far, I’ve been proven wrong and I have no problem admitting it.

The Roman Empire remains on top

First of all, it’s still pretty surreal to see AJ Styles on weekly WWE programming and wrestling inside a WWE ring after spending well over a decade with TNA. It was even more surprising to see WWE make the call to give him a huge main event opportunity against Roman Reigns so quickly after WrestleMania. Styles has transitioned very quickly to his role with WWE and it was a refreshing approach by WWE to put him in a high profile match with another rising talent in Reigns.

The presentation of Reigns since WrestleMania has been extremely well done. Yes, the promo delivery might still be rough at times. Even so, the new character approach of Reigns was badly needed and makes me actually interested in what is doing. The presentation on Sunday night was even more apparent with the way Reigns dominated Styles and would use his facial expressions to get this over even more. Styles was the perfect dance partner and a great choice given his internet fandom.

Reigns and Styles pulled off one hell of a match in Chicago and deserve a ton of credit for keeping the audience engaged for as long as they did. The match being restarted two separate times added even more emotion along with the expected involvement of Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson and The Usos. While internet wrestling fans may have been booking themselves into a corner expecting a Finn Balor debut or even a (very early) Seth Rollins return, what transpired was a well planned out match with plenty of interest and emotion. Props to both guys for a very impressive announce table spot where Styles executed his springboard forearm and crashed through the table in one swift motion over Reigns. We’ll get another chance to see these guys wrestle in a few weeks at Extreme Rules on May 22 and I’m definitely looking forward after what I saw.

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn steal the show

While the night was filled with really good matches, it was very apparent that both Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn stole the show in Chicago. The crowd was engaged with everything they were doing on top of the solid offense from Zayn and the always entertaining banter you get from Owens. They pulled out all the stops and got just about as physical as you could get without a stipulation involved. It’s clear we will see more between these two involving the Intercontinental Championship and I’m all for it.

A scary moment for Enzo Amore

Anyone that follows boxing or MMA knows what it looks like when someone is knocked out cold. The second Enzo Amore was turned over on his back and began gasping for air, you could immediately see something was wrong and that it wasn’t part of the show. In looking back at the footage (Deadspin has a full HD clip if you missed it), it’s pretty clear it was just a freak accident and not the fault of Simon Gotch. It was confirmed Amore suffered a concussion and well wishes to him on his recovery.

Shane and Stephanie to run Monday Night RAW together

While the introduction of Shane McMahon running RAW the last few weeks has been a refreshing presentation for WWE television, we can’t escape how silly it comes off given the stipulation of his match and loss to The Undertaker at WrestleMania. It would appear the days of The Authority as the focal point of RAW are over however and we will have to see how this mix of Shane and Stephanie goes. The announcement by Vince did feel a tad anticlimactic, but I’m willing to give it a shot and be positive (what a concept, wrestling fans).

Quick Thoughts

* Cesaro continues to have a ton of upside as a babyface.

* The addition of Maryse has really helped The Miz.

* Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose worked hard, but I’m curious where both go now.

* Wasn’t a big fan of using the screwjob for the finish between Natalya and Charlotte.

Final Impressions

A majority of readers gave Payback a thumbs up tonight (69% as of 12:30 a.m. ET) and I’m inclined to agree. WWE put forth a great effort in Chicago and set a good tone for the weeks ahead until Extreme Rules on May 22.

Taking in the WWE product from a television perspective is a whole new ballgame for me going forward as I’ve joined a growing list of people cutting the cord from cable and satellite and opted for on demand options through Netflix, Hulu (which features a condensed version of RAW), HBO Now and Sling. I’m interested to see what taking in quick “on demand” doses of WWE will do. It seems to me WWE has already embraced this approach by literally posting video clips to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube within minutes of it happening on television. WWE seems prepared for the evolution of production presentation and I’m anxious to see how this new approach to watching wrestling will work going from Pay Per View to Pay Per View.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you thought of Payback in the comments.

Follow me on Twitter: @adamwrestleview