The Night After Payback. Plus, WWE RAW Recap
Uncertainty in the World Title Picture
At Payback, Roman Reigns and AJ Styles put on one hell of a match, with multiple false finishes resulting in a long and exciting bout. Although I’m a little disappointed that nothing happened here that progressed the storyline, I will say that I am generally pleased with how the match was booked. Essentially giving AJ two victories in the match (one by count-out and one by DQ) does protect him a little bit even if he lost the match clean in the end. Leading into RAW, the confusion around who is on what side, and who is playing what role in the feud, continued with the main event. With Styles paired up with his former Bullet Club brothers, and Roman with the Usos, these two “families” put on a very entertaining match. Ending with Styles pinning an Uso for the win, Gallows and Anderson encouraged AJ to hit Roman with a chair. After refusing to do so and maintaining his status as a pure face, a sequence of events unfolded that resulted in AJ attacking the Usos with that same chair. This attack was all that Roman saw, leading him to snap, relentlessly attacking Styles and powerbombing him through the announce table. The unpredictability of this feud has made it incredibly compelling, and the story has got better each and every week. I’ll maintain that Reigns should turn heel here, perhaps by having him be a relentless machine jumping Styles at every opportunity and anyone else who stands in his way, but as of right now, I’m going to just enjoy what is happening on my screen.
The Intercontinental Championship is Important Again
Wow, its incredible to see what happens to a championship scene when you have decent competitors vying for the title. When guys are making it explicitly clear that they want a championship, it makes that title seem all the more important. Thankfully, this is what WWE is doing with the IC Title, following a jumbled finish at Payback. Following an absolutely incredible match, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (Owens won the match clean, which I don’t mind) brawled during the IC Title match between Cesaro and The Miz. While Cesaro had The Miz tapping out, Owens and Zayn’s brawl spilt into the ring, forcing the referee to call the match off. The conflict between these four men continued on RAW with another shortened match, resulting in a brawl amongst all of the men. This is the best booking that the IC Title has gotten in months, and it’ll surely lead to an entertaining Fatal Four Way at Extreme Rules for the championship. Again, as long as a championship is made to feel important, the story will fall into place on its own.
Abrupt Ending to the Booty-o’s Tag Team Tournament
Enzo Amore’s injury at Payback was shocking and very scary. In the moment, it was hard to tell what had happened, but the instant replays confirmed just how damaging Enzo’s head hit was. Luckily, Enzo was diagnosed with nothing more than a concussion (I say luckily because, based on how it looked, his injury could’ve been a lot worse), and will be out until around the end of May. The match ended in a no contest and, although this isn’t what anyone would have wanted, it does allow for an extension of a storyline that has been working in recent weeks. Giving Cass the pin on RAW was a good way to get people excited in the arena, and we will hopefully see more of him in the weeks to come. Unfortunately, however, we may see WWE just idle in neutral until Enzo can return before we see much storyline progression in the Tag Team division.
- At Payback, Vince decided to put both of his children in charge of RAW, which will clearly lead to some sort of conflict in the future. As of right now, it is clear that Stephanie is playing too nice for things to continue on this easily. Perhaps we will see the rumored brand split in the future, but I wouldn’t expect that any earlier than SummerSlam when a bunch of main event talent returns from injury.
- Although I don’t like rehashing prominent male storylines to drive your women’s division (The Montreal Screwjob II happened to Natalya at Payback), I have enjoyed this feud as much as any other. A submission match at Extreme Rules will end the feud, and hopefully lead to a potential women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match at the next pay-per-view.
- While I am pleased with Ambrose’s victory over Jericho at Payback, I’m a little concerned over why WWE is continuing this feud. WWE has a history of making their feuds even, and it would hurt Ambrose greatly just to lose at Extreme Rules following his victory at Payback.
- Remember what I said about making a title seem important? WWE did just that on RAW with the United States Championship, having the #1 Contendership decided in a battle royal. This is a smart move, and it is even smarter to have Rusev take the victory as well. This is a guy who deserves a lot more than bumbling around with the League of Nations, and he is sure to put on a better feud with Kalisto than Ryback could ever dream to. As long as this results in another reign of terror for a U.S. Champion Rusev, all of this would work for me.
Kyle Kirby covers wrestling for MFST. You can follow him on Twitter @couch_qb.