Mike Miceli – Staff Writer
Welcome to another edition of Bell2Bell where you can find predictions and reviews of every WWE Raw and Smackdown pay-per-view event right here on TwoCentsTV!
Whew… Payback. A PPV with a truly terrible build up turned into a surprisingly entertaining show… at least for the first hour and a half or so. I’d say the first 4 matches on the card (not counting the pre-show) were pretty good and really well done. But a good portion of the PPV was a disappointing hot mess. So, let’s get to it.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass VS Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Yup, this was a match. The crowd was mostly dead for this as I don’t think anyone truly cares about either team anymore. Sure Enzo gets out there and does his “bada boom” schtick, but does anyone truly root for them anymore? Or care if they win or lose?
The match itself was serviceable and, predictably, the faces went over on the pre-show. While I think this is a mistake as the tag division (for the most part) lacks a dominant, unapologetic heel team. The Revival would have filled that role, but now they’re on the injured list. The Club could have been a good substitute, but WWE decided to keep with the status quo
Where these teams go from here… meh… who cares?
WINNERS: Enzo Amore and Big Cass
MizTV Segment with Finn Balor
Miz made fun of Finn Balor’s long entrance. Finn hit Miz with his “Sling Blade” move. That’s about it. Seriously.
LOSERS: Anyone who wanted something interesting
Kevin Owens (c) VS Chris Jericho for the WWE United States Championship
This was a good opener for the show. Owens and Jericho were on point as the two continue to have great chemistry in the ring. This match flowed a little better than their match at Wrestlemania and I really enjoyed most of it with some solid storytelling and KO’s trash talking elevating the match. It felt like there was more cohesion between the two this time around and they were both firing on all cylinders bell to bell.
The finish was much stronger than ‘Mania as well and completely unexpected. WWE really stuck it to us smarky fans who think we know everything (guilty as charged) when Jericho made Owens tap to the “Walls of Jericho” to reclaim the United States Championship and officially join the Smackdown roster.
It was a fantastic surprise finish and a great way to start the show. I’m not sure how this will play out going forward since Jericho is scheduled to go on tour with Fozzy over the Summer, but I’m sure we’ll find out on Smackdown this Tuesday.
WINNER and NEW United States Champion: Chris Jericho
Neville (c) VS Austin Aries for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship
This match was really good, much like their Wrestlemania match. There was some highflying action and stiff kicks. I really enjoyed the match. The crowd was into this and Neville continues to be an amazing heel both in his in-ring style and in the emotion he shows during his matches.
The finish was a bit cheap as Neville found himself trapped in Aries’ “Last Chancery”. As Neville seemed like he was close to tapping, he grabs a hold of the ref and shoves him which causes Aries to break the hold. This caused the referee to disqualify Neville, giving Aries the DQ victory.
WINNER by Disqualification: Austin Aries – STILL Cruiserweight Champion: Neville
The Hardy Boyz (c) VS Sheamus and Cesaro for the Raw Tag Team Championships
Who needs ladders? This match was some hard hitting, no nonsense, balls-to-the-wall stuff. Match of the night in my opinion. These guys really put on a fantastic match. There were some familiar spots, but some new ones as well like Sheamus giving Matt Hardy a “White Noise” from the middle rope. Or Jeff hardy hitting both Sheamus and Cesaro with his “Whispering Winds” turnbuckle flip senton.
SIDE NOTE: As Matt hardy was being swung around by Cesaro, Corey Graves said “Matt’s going to think he’s in a different universe when this is over!” I see what you did there…
These guys were not pulling punches either. Matt Hardy got busted open hard-way. Jeff took a stiff kick from Sheamus to the face that knocked a tooth out. This was a really great match. The crowd was into this from start to finish with “Delete” chants. Matt Hardy made more references to his #Broken character than ever before in WWE. Fantastic stuff with a strong finish as The Hardys managed to get the pin after blind tag and a “Swanton Bomb” from Jeff Hardy to Sheamus.
The post match beat down we all should’ve seen coming. After showing some sportsmanship over the last couple of weeks with post-match handshakes, Sheamus and Cesaro finally snapped. They beat the snot out of Matt and Jeff with Sheamus nailing “Brogue Kicks” on both Jeff and Matt. Will this post match attack be what “breaks” Matt Hardy? We’ll see.
It’ll also be interesting to see how heelish Sheamus and Cesaro will be. Are they going to be tweeners? Was this a one time thing? I think it might be a little difficult to go full blown heel since the crowd was so solidly behind the team and Cesaro especially. But I’m invested and I want to see where this is going.
WINNERS and STILL Raw Tag Team Champions: The Hardy Boyz
Bayley (c) VS Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship
This was one of the most entertaining matches on the card, in my opinion. Solid from start to finish with good storytelling and snug, well-executed moves (with a hiccup or two). Alex and Bayley had great in-ring chemistry. Bliss emotes like no-one else in the division right now and she did an amazing job keeping the intensity up throughout the match. Bayley held her own as well (as she usually does) and still looked good even in this losing effort.
The finish was solid with Bliss looking pretty strong by kicking out of Bayley’s top-rope Savage elbow drop. Bliss then threw Bayley into the steel post head first and hit her with a DDT for the clean win. Bliss becomes the first woman to hold both the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships and comes out of this match looking like a million bucks.
I’m excited to see where this goes from here. As I said in my predictions, Bayley is much more entertaining as the underdog chasing the belt, than actually being champion. Bliss is an amazing heel and will make an excellent foil for Bayley going forward. I’m sure this feud is far from over, but I’m hoping Bliss holds on to the belt for a bit.
WINNER and NEW Raw Women’s Champion: Alexa Bliss
Seth Rollins VS Samoa Joe
Welcome to the most disappointing let down of the entire card. House of Horrors was bad, but everyone knew it would be. This match had to potential to steal the show. To be truly great and it just… wasn’t. It seemed like a glorified Raw match. Nothing special, nothing memorable. A couple of decent spots, but mostly it just wasn’t the quality match I expected.
And the ending was even worse, with Rollins reversing the “Coquina Clutch” into a pin. Just anticlimactic and boring, quite frankly. I also don’t like how WWE has been treating Samoa Joe as of late. When he debuted he was red hot and monstrous but then he was left off the Wrestlemania card (a giant mistake) and now he’s jobbing out to Seth Rollins who doesn’t really need the win in the first place.
Where we go from here, I’m not really sure. I was hoping Joe would move on to an IC title program after a victory here, but now that doesn’t seem possible as this feud looks like it’s going to continue for a bit.
I just can’t help but feel let down. Maybe if the match itself were better, the ending and the Joe loss wouldn’t have made such an impact on my overall feelings about this. And maybe this will all go somewhere tonight on Raw, but I don’t have my hopes up.
WINNER: Seth Freakin’ Rollins
Randy Orton VS Bray Wyatt – House of Horrors Match
This match was split into two parts and they both kinda sucked. At least the first part was interesting, filmed like a TV show (or cheesy horror movie) complete with music and editing. It was reminiscent of Final Deletion and the Wyatt Compound segment. And while I didn’t like most of it, it was still something different which I can appreciate and it’s still the most interesting thing these two guys have done in months.
The first part of the match took place at a house in the middle of nowhere. Not necessarily a “house of horrors”, but more like an abandoned house that is waiting to get flipped by some HGTV show. It looked grungy and one room had some kind of altar made of sticks in it, another had a bunch of baby dolls hanging from the ceiling. Oh the horror… They beat the crap out of each other in the hallways, and the living room, and the kitchen. Wyatt eventually pushed a refrigerator onto Orton (complete with goofy camera angle) and escaped in the limo that Randy arrived in (telling the driver to head to the arena). And that was pretty much it… it was different, but it wasn’t particularly entertaining and was more corny and silly than anything else. But it was still better than the second half of this “match”, that’s for damn sure.
Then later on in the night, they reappeared in the arena (complete with entrances? WTF?) and this was just the icing on top of this boring feud cake. Orton beats Wyatt with a chair and gives him a DDT on the arena floor. The crowd wasn’t into it in the least and it only got worse from there as Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers (the former Bollywood Boys) appeared out of nowhere. They beat Orton down and Jinder hit Orton with the stolen WWE belt. Wyatt hit Orton with “Sister Abigail” and pins Randy for the win.
Seriously, that’s how this match ended. With Bray only able to get the win thanks to interference from some Smackdown superstars. This was awful. There was no reason to do this other than to have Randy save face going forward. God forbid Bray Wyatt actually gets a clean win to make him look strong. But, no. Hopefully this is the last we’ll ever see of Orton and Wyatt for a good long while.
This match was a train wreck as I think mostly everyone expected. While the initial house of horrors stuff was interesting if only because it was different, the rest of it was hot garbage and benefited absolutely no one. Everyone was a loser here and I think the live crowd suffered the most.
WINNER: Bray Wyatt
Roman Reigns VS Braun Strowman
This match was very similar to their match at Fastlane which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If WWE was hoping some time off TV would ease the negative reaction to Roman, they were wrong as he was booed mercilessly by the San Jose crowd. For all the ragging I do on Roman, he is a serviceable wrestler and can have entertaining matches. My problem with Roman is how he is booked and forced down the fans’ throats. But Roman and Strowman have great in-ring chemistry and this match was pretty entertaining.
The match was hard hitting and smash mouth, but the most surprising part of this was that Braun Strowman won clean in the ring. I know, right?! After kicking out of a spear from Roman, Braun hit Roman with not one, but two of his massive running powerslams to pin Roman right in the middle of the ring.
WINNER: Braun Strowman
After the match, Braun (in typical Braun fashion) continues the beat down on Roman Reigns. He tosses Roman around a bit and eventually throws the steel steps into the ring. Braun then slams the steps down on to Reigns’ chest. Reigns begins to cough up blood (he’s getting really good at sneaking those blood capsules into his mouth) and Braun leaves the ring. The PPV goes off the air with Reigns (ever the super-hero) making his way to the back, refusing medical attention.
This was, mostly, an entertaining PPV but the last half was just a slog. The “house of horrors” match, while I commend it for being different, just wasn’t very good at all. It was pretty boring and the finish with the Jinder Mahal interference was just terrible and it killed the PPV in it’s tracks. Samoa Joe and Seth Rollins had a match that was ultimately disappointing and never seemed to pick up momentum. But we had some great matches too, so I’ll say I was pleasantly surprised by Payback and overall, I enjoyed it despite some very questionable creative choices.