Actually, the entire Payback pay-per-view was a solid start for the new era of WWE, all the way back to the kickoff show U.S. title match that saw champ Kalisto defend against Ryback.
As Jerry “The King” Lawler noted after the match, Ryback looked as good as he’s ever looked in the ring in that one, even in defeat.
The one match that fell short of expectations did so due to a freak accident: when The Vaudevillains match against Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady was cut short after Amore took a nasty spill out of the ring on a botched throw.
It looked at first glance that Amore could have suffered a neck injury or worse, as his head whiplashed back after hitting the middle rope, then the bottom rope, on his way to the floor, but fortunately for him, maybe, it wasn’t the neck, but a concussion.
Of course, with what we know about concussions, that won’t be an easy thing to deal with, either, but a concussion has to be better than a neck or spinal injury, long term.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn put on a good match, as did Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho. The Charlotte-Natalya match was forgettable, even with the allusion to the Montreal Screwjob in the finish, and the pitiful-looking Sharpshooter from Bret Hart on an even more pitiful-looking Ric Flair.
The McMahon family saga played out way, way too long in ring for the payoff, which as expected has Vince Jr. playing Shane O and Stephanie against each other as co-general managers of Raw. Yawn, right, except that the storyline did play into the main event.
Styles carried Reigns to easily the young champ’s best in-ring performance, with two false finishes, a countout of Reigns that Shane reversed to continue the match, then a DQ win for Styles that Stephanie reversed in making the match a no-DQ.
Enter the Bullet Club, though we’re not calling them that here, who interfered on behalf of Styles, several near-falls for both competitors, Styles coming tantalizingly close on at least two occasions to taking the strap from Reigns, then the spear for the 1-2-3 for Reigns to defend.
WWE has already announced a rematch for Extreme Rules in three weeks, which makes sense, given how good the first match between the two played out.
And now we see Styles openly working with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, so the faction appears to be official now.
Good news there. Reigns still got the most heat, by far, of anybody on the card, and that’s still strange for the babyface champ who got beat down 3-on-1 and still couldn’t get anybody on his side.
But, hey, he did his part, Styles carried the ball, and the rest of the show outperformed the hype.
The new era is off to a good start.
Column by Chris Graham