5/2/16 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
AJ Styles, Karl Andesron, and Luke Gallows def. Roman Reigns and The Usos
With only three weeks between Payback and Extreme Rules, it looks like WWE plans to double down on most of the major storylines. And they picked a good month to remain steady, because Payback was one of the more compelling shows of the last year. There is certainly more meat on the bone between Styles and Reigns as we saw in the main event on Raw. Styles, Anderson, and Gallows worked very well together early and their teamwork gave them the advantage. Anderson and Gallows both looked very good in the ring against some established WWE stars. Eventually, Styles hit Jimmy Uso with a forearm and got the pin. Anderson and Gallows tried to continue the attack on Reigns with a chair, but Styles demurred. When the Usos, attacked, he got involved, and Reigns lashed out at him. He hit a Superman Punch on Styles and then a running powerbomb through the announce table.
Given the glaring obviousness of most of the Reigns character development, it would be easy to miss the nuance involved now. If you squint, though, you can see that there are some unique and compelling face/heel dymanics in this six-man rivalry. Styles is clearly the most popular wrestler, but his friends are employ the most heelish tactics. As rivals of the good guy’s best friends, the Usos would seem like villains, but they have maintained their traditional babyface persona. That has left Reigns in tweener territory- he’s friends with good guys but also the enemy of other good guys. He has also behaved in the most heelish way of the bunch. His attack on Styles was vicious and unwarranted. Unlike everything else they have done with Reigns to date, WWE has taken its time turning Reigns heel and raised several interesting questions.
Kevin Owens and Cesaro Wrestled to a No Contest
Owens and Cesaro both interrupted the show-opening olive branch between Stephanie and Shane McMahon to demand a shot at the Intercontinental Title. Shane made a match between them to determine a #1 Contender. The match met the high standard they have set between them. Owens hit an impressive frog splash from the apron to the floor and Cesaro responded with a variety of fiery uppercuts. Miz could not keep to himself on commentary and Cesaro gave him an uppercut, as well. That led to Miz interference in the match and a total breakdown. Sami Zayn also ran in and joined the brawl. He ultimately hit a Helluva kick on Owens and stood tall. It looks like we’re headed for some version of a four-way match for the Intercontinental Title. It would be hard to find four guys who are more exciting right now or more likely to put on a thrilling match at Extreme Rules.
-The Vaudevillains proclaimed themselves the #1 Contenders before they teamed with the Dudleys against New Day and Big Cass. The match was built around the hot tag to Cass and he looked great in his rally. He ultimately got the East River Crossing on Devon to get the win. It’s a good sign for Enzo and Cass that Cass is still featured with his teammate out of action. The announcers also did a good job building sympathy for Enzo.
-Kalisto got to sit in on commentary during a #1 Contender Battle Royal and came off as intelligent and interesting. As part of the match, Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler continued their rivalry and got each other eliminated. The former League of Nations fought with each other (with Alberto Del Rio getting the closest thing to a babyface reaction) until only Rusev and Zack Ryder remained. Rusev made the elimination to earn a shot at Kalisto. Ruesv should be a good opponent for Kalisto if they can find the right balance of destruction and high flying.
-WWE flashed back to Charles Robinson as Little Naitch to explain why he helped Charlotte beat Natalya at Payback and the old video was fantastic. He told Charlotte that Natalya verbally told him that she quit, but Natalya wasn’t having any of it. She dispatched Charlotte and put Ric Flair in the Sharpshooter.
-The better women’s segment was a match between a very aggressive Emma and Becky Lynch. Emma looked great through the whole match and eventually got the win when an eye gouge set up a Michinoku Driver. Emma’s goofy gimmick made it easy to forget that she’s a very good worker, but this version could lead to a very solid rivalry.
-Stephanie McMahon “cancelled” the Ambrose Asylum and reinstated Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel. Instead of a talk show, Ambrose and Jericho brawled. Jericho got his heat back after the loss with a Codebreaker and then smashed Ambrose’s decorative houseplant (“Mitch”) over his head. I have thoroughly enjoyed this straightforward face/heel rivalry with neatly defined characters.
-When guys like John Cena, Seth Rollins, and Randy Orton start to return from injury, I hope the TV time they occupy does not come at the expense of emerging stars like Owens, Ambrose, Cesaro, Zayn, Charlotte, and New Day. Instead, I hope they keep Goldust, R-Truth, Fandango, and Tyler Breeze off of TV. Truth’s distraction got Breeze a rare win over Goldust in the least meaningful segment of the night.