In the wake of a largely enjoyableย WrestleMania, I always expectedย Paybackย this year to naturally fall short. The lead-in to it was weak. Its card didn’t seem to present anything of any intrigue. After all, the superstar shake-up was quite a heavy distraction. That aside, there was still plenty of room for something to be pulled out of the bag. On the whole, it would be fair to describeย Paybackย as a slightly below-par affair. However, with the inclusion of the awful “House of Horrors” match, I can’t help but give this a pretty resoundingly negative review.

There wasn’t really a single segment of this PPV that engaged me. The majority of proceedings were shockingly boring. Even when a match showed some potential, or began to evolve somewhere interesting, it would culminate in a pathetic, or insulting, finish. I’ll get more in-depth as to why the “House of Horrors” is one of the worst WWE productions to date when we reach it. Here are my live tweets for this year’sย Payback, with some retrospective insight every now and then. Although this series of tweets has a very harsh tone, I don’t feel like taking much of it back…

The Kick-Off Show

The kick-off, while generic and nothing special, was one of the more enjoyable hours of this PPV. At least it made sense. Of course, everything on display was as boilerplate as could be. The tag-team tussle, for example, was a simple and honest display. Everything else built things up as best as it could, but the real memorable part of all this was The Miz‘s appearance. Like everyone else, I hated The Miz for years. Now, I can’t help but bow in admiration at his mic-skills and crowd work. He may never fully back it up in-ring, but his hilarious aside with Finn Bรกlor was far more entertaining than anything to come…

Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens (US Championship)

By no means do I think this was a barnstormer of a match. It was really nothing more than average. Although Jericho’s tageting of Owens’ finger is memorable and hilarious, everything else merely sailed along. For me, it never quite transitionedย into “bad” so I have no intentions of laying into it. Ultimately, we’ll just have to see how Jericho fairs when he makes his way toย SmackDown Live after this.ย With this being the first match on the card, I obviously wasn’t expecting it to tear the house down. However, I felt it was entertaining enough and a fairly good warm up. Unfortunately, it would turn out to be almost as good as things got…

Austin Aries vs. Neville (Cruiserweight Championship)

Due to expecting a fair bit from these two talented athletes, this came out rather disappointing. It seemed that I was just waiting for it to launch into something. It never did though, despite an actually solid performance from both participants. There were a few too many shades of theirย WrestleManiaย bout too, making it little more than a redress. Again, I could have accepted this with a richer card ahead. Unbelievably, this too stands as one of the card’s better matches. The finish here, seeing Neville disqualify himself for ragging the ref around a bit, was painfully unsatisfying. Seems we may see a protracted and drawn out feud between Aries and Neville now.

The Hardy Boyz vs. Cesaro and Sheamus (Raw Tag Team Championship)

Whoops, accidentally slipped through some “Press Esc to exit full screen mode” prompts…

Since it’s blatant to anybody with a pair of eyes that the Hardy Boyz are over the hill, let’s not flog that particular dead horse. To put it another way, this match was never going to be better than middling. In the end, that’s exactly how it turned out. In fairness to everyone involved, a nice amount of effort was on display. Above all, the whole psychology saw itself undermined by the limitations of its athletes. This is nothing against anyone, as i’m a fan of each performer involved, but i’m far more interested in new talent than old. Cesaro and Sheamus are, in fact, a tag-team with a lot of interesting potential still ahead. Matches like this will just never see them reach it.

Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley (RAW Women’s Championship)

Now, i’m going to blame the inaccuracy of that final tweet on the fact that my kebab had just arrived. Because of attempting to enjoy my delicacy, I didn’t see Bayley’s unfortunate head-crack into the ring post. I still stand by it being a well-deserved and fair victory, but I hadn’t fully considered the whole Bayley’s hometown thing. Indeed, that was a little cruel on the part of WWE. On the other hand, it could do wonders for Alexa Bliss’ top-notch heel persona as she just keeps getting better and better. This was, without a doubt, the best match on the card forย Paybackย this year. Its finish fell a little bit short of the great ring-work that preceded it, but you have to give both of these athletes credit for their obvious talent.

Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton (House of Horrors Part One)

To demonstrate how bad this segment was with words alone is a posing task. This was surely one of the most ill-advised productions the WWE have ever embarked on. This, basically, consisted of Orton walking around a derelict house in fullย Blair Witch Projectย mode; all while Wyatt occasionally jumps out and throws a fridge at him or something.ย By all means, experiment with new ideas.ย By the same token, don’t you dare waste my life on a dressed-up short-film with some masquerade that it’s a match. It looked like utter shit, made no sense and was made all the more silly by the fact that it had a soundtrack and professional editing techniques. This truly did make me angry, and I don’t take back a single word of my tweets. Although he has so much promise, my interest in Wyatt has now ebbed away to nothing.

Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe

Given that i’d told myself this was going to be the best match on the card, this couldn’t have been more anticlimactic. In other words, it really wasn’t any good. Joe kept a constant pressure on Rollins’ knee, which would have been an okay start if it culminated in something. Almost straightaway, we were treated to an ill-conceived submission-fest that saw only the weakest of returns from Rollins. He’s definitely capable of better than his booking allowed for here, and I just can’t understand why this match was put together. Explicitly, it had no impact, gravitas or anything that would keep you invested. Itย was, by and large, a bad match. Ordinarily, a match that starts slowly like this would evolve.ย In spite of that approach, this came to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it close after far too much focus on limb-targeting.

Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton (House of Horrors Part Two)

Thankfully, this second part of the House of Horrors waste-of-time was at least short and within a wrestling ring. Although this may be true, it remained a complete insult to its audience. It seems that, above all, the DVD extra that was the House of Horrors match was leading to nothing more than a roaring interference from Jinder Mahal. I ask of you, what the hell is going on there then? It’s strange enough that Mahal has got himself this far up the card, particularly with the wellspring of younger talent waiting in the wings. If this dire segment was ever going to make any kind of sense, it had to end in something truly grim, nasty and memorable. Instead, it all comes to a head with Mahal stealing the WWE Championship (buying himself some of the cheapest heat on the market right now). Again, sickeningly terrible stuff.

Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns

First thing to remember here is how much I’ve taken against Strowman lately. In general, almost all of the reasons that people hate Reigns apply tenfold to Strowman. His mic-work, chiefly, is nowhere near good enough to be on national television. While I realise that mic-work isn’t too important to a monster-hell (see: Masked Kane), he’s never given me a reason to be impressed by his size either. In this case, his offence is dull, ham-fisted and predictable. I have no idea why he’s getting the push he’s getting. So the ring was rigged to break apart when Strowman chucked the Big Show at it? In the immortal words of Shania Twain, that don’t impress me much.

With this in mind, I don’t want to glorify Reigns too much. Of course, he suffers from very similar problems. Next to Strowman, however, he’s practically Shawn Michaels. As an illustration of that, consider his genuinely impressive slam to Strowman towards the end. It was,ย surely, the highlight of their otherwise brawl-heavy slog-a-thon. I felt, at times, like I was watching children play WWE video games, without realising that there’s more than two buttons. People are calling this a good match, and yelling “Thank you Strowman!” til they’re red in the face. I’m calling it bullshit and yelling “Fuck you Strowman!” in my lonely, tortured nightmares.

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