WWE Payback took place Sunday night at the SAP Center in San Jose, California. It was WWE’s first pay-per-view since WrestleMania and presented by the Raw brand. There were two title changes during the show although WWE’s two biggest titles – the Universal Championship and WWE Championship – were not on the line. I thought Payback had some high points and some very low points as well, but all in all it wasn’t a terrible way to spend four hours.

Here’s my review of everything that took place in the order that the matches aired while also adding in a “What’s Next” section to try to figure out where these stories may be headed.

Enzo Amore & Big Cass defeated Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (Kickoff Show)

These teams have had so many matches that I’ve lost count. Typical Enzo and Cass match where Enzo got beat up for much of it, Cass got the hot tag and when Enzo tagged back in, he got an inside cradle on Gallows after Cass kicked Anderson out of the ring. Enzo & Cass needed a win, which is why I picked them and got it right.

What’s Next: They’ll probably do the match again on Raw with Gallows and Anderson getting the win just because WWE likes to trade wins like that.

Miz TV with Finn Balor ended with Miz getting attacked (Kickoff Show)

It was the typical Miz TV segment where Miz talked trash about his guest and he got his ass kicked by Balor after some prodding. The highlight of the segment was when Balor mentioned wanting to get the Universal Title back soon. Miz pointed out that Brock Lesnar holds that title now, Balor said he knew and that seemed to tease a future Balor/Lesnar match although I’m not sure when. SummerSlam sounds good to me. Anyway, Balor beat up Miz using the Sling Blade and a dropkick leading to Miz leaving with Maryse.

What’s Next: It will probably lead to a match on Raw this week or perhaps a PPV match at Extreme Rules. In the last few weeks, it looked as though Miz was going to feud with Dean Ambrose again, but it looks like those plans are off now. Balor could also feud with Bray Wyatt since that was teased a few weeks ago.

That was it for the Kickoff Show and it was off the main card with seven more matches.

Chris Jericho defeated Kevin Owens to win the United States Title

This result surprised me. Jericho is going to take some time off from WWE as soon as this weekend since he has music commitments with his band Fozzy. I thought Owens would win since he’s the younger guy and Jericho has always put over younger wrestlers, but they went for the surprising finish with Jericho using the Walls of Jericho submission. The win means that Jericho is a part of Smackdown Live now.

I thought the match was pretty good and on par with what they did at WrestleMania a month ago. They actually paid tribute to that match a bit because Owens used one finger on the ropes to break a submission hold just like he did at WrestleMania. When Owens did it this time, Jericho became enraged, he kicked the steel steps into the hand to weaken it and when Jericho got the Walls of Jericho on again, Owens was unable to get to the ropes. That was a cool bit of psychology. Jericho was aware that a lot of people didn’t pick him to win since he has #fooledya in his Instagram pic where he’s posing with the title.

Ladies and germs…your new #USChampion! #fooledya #WWEPayback

A post shared by Chris Jericho (@chrisjerichofozzy) on

What’s Next: I think they’ll do a US Title rematch on Smackdown this Tuesday, Owens will regain the title and they will say that it’s their last match for the title no matter who wins. That will also set up Owens vs. AJ Styles – the number one contender to the US Title – at Smackdown’s Backlash PPV on May 21.

Austin Aries defeated Neville by disqualification (Neville retains Cruiserweight Title)

These are two of the best all-around performers in WWE who just happen to be cruiserweights. The crowd wasn’t into it at the start, but they got into it as the match progressed. I thought it was booked in an even manner with each guy in control for different portions of it, rather than some matches where one guy is in control for the majority of it.

I didn’t expect a disqualification finish. It was a cheap way out of booking a clean ending because Neville grabbed the ref’s shirt in order to help him get to the ropes, which led to referee Darrick Moore calling for the disqualification. The crowd hated the ending, but I understand why WWE did it. That was done to keep the rivalry going and that’s not a bad thing at all.

What’s Next: They will probably have a third Cruiserweight Title match. It’s possible that they save it until Raw’s Extreme Rules PPV on June 4. Since this ended in disqualification, the logical stipulation would be a No DQ type match or even better, a ladder match. That would really elevate the Cruiserweight Title in the eyes of the fans.

The Hardy Boyz defeated Sheamus & Cesaro to retain the Raw Tag Titles

I enjoyed this match a lot. They went about 15 minutes with both Hardys taking turns as the face in peril. Matt was doing the “Delete” hand gesture quite a bit while the crowd was chanting it, so it looks like the Hardys will be “Broken” soon. That was also indicated by the way Matt spoke with a funny accent in a backstage segment with Goldust and R-Truth. Anyway, the match was very even with both teams nearly getting the win, but the Hardys were able to outsmart them with Jeff getting a blind tag and hitting a Swanton Bomb on Sheamus to win.

Sheamus was a little rough in the match. At one point, he booted Jeff Hardy in the face and it looked like his shin hit Jeff in the mouth, which led to Jeff losing a tooth. Here’s a video of Jeff getting treated for it.

After the match, Sheamus and Cesaro attacked the Hardys when they were celebrating in the ring. The post-match attack from Sheamus and Cesaro was expected. That was the story that was built up over the last two weeks where they did post-match handshakes. This time, they attacked the Hardys after the handshake. Sheamus laid out both brothers with Brogue Kicks. Sheamus has been a heel for a few years while Cesaro is back in the heel role he’s been in before. I assume he’ll stop doing the swing now since that is more of a face move.

What’s Next: The logical thing is for the feud to continue with Sheamus and Cesaro as heels. There could be another tag title match at Extreme Rules next month. Long-term, the Hardys’ main rivals will be The Revival, who are on hiatus at the moment since Dash Wilder is out with a broken jaw for about two months.

Alexa Bliss defeated Bayley to win the Raw Women’s Title

I was surprised by this result, even though I shouldn’t be because WWE loves to book people to lose in their hometown. Bayley got a massive reaction from the San Jose crowd. She’s from the area, she talked about attending WWE events in the city when she was a kid and they even sold special merchandise for her just for that event. Yet she lost her title to a woman she barely had a feud with. If the story called for a title change, I would have liked it better. However, Bliss just won one match two weeks ago and won the title in her first shot. It’s as if WWE’s creative is unwilling and unable to give a Raw woman a title reign lasting longer than three months.

This match wasn’t close to what we saw last year from the many Charlotte/Sasha Banks matches last year in terms of quality, but it was good. Bliss’ offense is poor at times. Things like pulling on hair and standing on somebody’s back is lame. I did like the finish, though. They did a spot where Bayley sat on top of Bliss for a pin attempt that earned a two-count as Bliss powered out and Bayley hit the ring post with her head. Bliss capitalized on that with a DDT to get the win.

It was the eighth title change for the Raw Women’s Title since last July’s draft split the roster into two. That’s way too many title reigns. Can’t they build to title changes better? It would be nice.

What’s Next: It’s hard to forecast what WWE may do with the Raw Women’s Title since they have made some bizarre booking choices all year long. They should have had Bayley’s title win take place at WrestleMania, but they did it a month earlier and it didn’t mean much. Having Bliss win the title after just three weeks on Raw seems a bit early to me. I think it will lead to a brief feud with Sasha Banks, who should probably turn heel soon and get the title on her for a SummerSlam match with Bayley. That makes the most sense to me. Making sense doesn’t always matter with this title, though.

Bray Wyatt defeated Randy Orton to win the House of Horrors Match

I thought the House of Horrors was really bad and one of the low points of WWE this year. Where to begin? Randy Orton pulled up to a darkened house while in his wrestling gear and he was in a limo. I mentioned darkened house because WWE tried to tell us this was live. Keep in mind that this aired at around 9:30 p.m. ET, which was 6:30 p.m. ET in San Jose, California where the show took place. You know what else is in San Jose at 6:30 p.m ET? The sun. It was sunny there, according to people in attendance, yet WWE tried to tell us it was really dark at night. It’s WWE and they don’t care about getting the little things right, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Moving on to the fight in the house, it was a bunch of weird stuff in a house with creepy music playing the entire time, so there was no commentary. There were also weird lighting effects. They fought in different parts of the house, Wyatt would get the advantage and when Orton fought back, Wyatt managed to get away. Orton went into a creepy room with dolls laughing at one point as well, which led to another Wyatt attack. The fight led them to the kitchen area where Orton had the advantage briefly until Wyatt hit a low blow. Wyatt followed up by shoving a refrigerator onto Orton.

That ended the fight as Wyatt left the house, said “Follow the Buzzards” while he was outside and a red light appeared in the house. Wyatt jumped into the limo that Orton went to the house in, sang “he’s got the whole world in his hands” and left. The crowd in San Jose was booing loudly as the scene returned back to the arena. Apparently, fans booed the entire time the fight was on the screen as well. What a great storyline, WWE!

As was covered elsewhere on the site, the house they used was actually in Missouri. Orton lives in St. Louis, I believe, so they probably did it to accommodate him.

They made their way to the arena later in the night, which was after the next match. Wyatt was shown backstage arriving in the limo, stumbled out of the limo and made his way down to the ring. When the lights came on after Wyatt’s entrance, Orton appeared behind him and their “match” continued from there. Who drove him there? The camera dude? No idea. It’s not like WWE is going to tell us.

It was disappointing that Orton appeared without any limp or selling of the fridge attack. If you had a fridge dumped on you and were left alone to recover, you should sell it 30 minutes later. Instead, he looked fine. They brawled around the ringside area and the Singh Brothers (from Smackdown) arrived. They tried to attack Orton, but Orton sent one of them out of the ring and hit the other one with a powerslam. Orton managed to hit Wyatt with a RKO as well. Jinder Mahal showed up with the WWE Title that he stole and hit Orton twice in the head (or close enough) with it. Wyatt hit Sister Abigail to win their ringside fight after about five minutes. The whole thing went about 15 minutes.

To summarize all of it, I thought it was a colossal failure that didn’t benefit either guy. Orton, the current WWE Champion who didn’t defend the title, was protected heavily because it took three guys interfering for him to lose. Wyatt won “his” match in a very cheap way. The WrestleMania match sucked, taking the title off Wyatt was a bad decision that made him look like a loser and this match will be remembered as one of the worst of the year. I don’t think any sane person could watch that match and come away from it thinking that either Orton or Wyatt became a bigger star because of it.

A lot of fans in the arena hated it and so did a lot of fans online. I also heard from people saying it was just a silly match to try something different, so don’t take it seriously. I’m not taking it that seriously. I’m merely saying that if you booked them to have a 20-minute street fight in the arena it would be a fun match where you could do the same finish without boring the fans. I know that’s standard and done before, but so what? This was different and also a reminder that being different isn’t necessarily the best choice. I don’t blame either wrestler. It’s the fault of Raw’s creative team. They need to be better.

What’s Next: Orton is facing Mahal at Backlash on May 21. It could be a title change, but I hope not. As for Wyatt, we don’t know who his next Raw feud will be with. As mentioned earlier, Finn Balor is a possibility. Other than him, maybe Dean Ambrose, who is a familiar rival of Wyatt. Just don’t do a House of Horrors match again, please.

Seth Rollins defeated Samoa Joe

I thought it was a good old school wrestling match that was one of the better bouts of the night. By “old school,” I mean the psychology was strong with Joe working over the right knee of Rollins, which has been injured multiple times in the past two years. Rollins showed off his athleticism the entire time but it felt like whenever he got going, there was Joe to slow him down with his power moves. Joe worked over the knee a lot and applied submissions a few times as well.

The finish was done in a way to make it look like a fluke win for Rollins. He didn’t hit his finisher to win. It was a counter to the Coquina Clutch with Rollins simply laying on top of Joe for the win. It didn’t even look both of Joe’s shoulders were down, so that could lead to a rematch soon. I thought Joe should have won to continue to book him like an undefeated star on the Raw roster, but they went with Rollins going over instead.

What’s Next: This felt like the start of a series of matches for them. Joe can complain about how his shoulder wasn’t down, which would set up a rematch at Extreme Rules next month. Keep this rivalry going.

Braun Strowman defeated Roman Reigns

It was the first time Reigns appeared on television since Strowman’s ambulance attack three weeks ago. He had his upper body bandaged with a lot of tape around his left shoulder since that’s the storyline injury he suffered when Strowman attacked. Was the crowd sympathetic to Reigns due to the injury and his brother Matt (former WWE star Rosey) dying a few weeks ago? Nope. Not at all. If you were watching WWE for the first time, you would have thought Reigns was a jerk because he was booed so much.

Strowman dominated most of the match. Reigns did a very good job of selling his injuries for most of the match. He did a lot of his familiar spots like the Superman Punches and the Spear, but Strowman kept on coming back. When Reigns went for another Spear, Strowman grabbed him, applied a head/arm submission-like move and stopped his momentum. Strowman hit his Running Powerslam finisher for a two-count. Strowman was shocked by it. Ht then hit the Running Powerslam finisher and won the match after 14 minutes of action. The crowd was happy Reigns lost.

I thought the match was pretty good and similar to what they did at Fastlane in early March, except with a different result. Reigns doesn’t lose clean very often, although he did last summer after being suspended for a month due to a Wellness Policy failure. Other than that, he doesn’t lose very often. They would have a better match if it was more of a brawl and I think that’s coming soon.

After the match was over, Strowman attacked Reigns with the steel steps and hit him in the ribs with them. Reigns did the bleeding from the mouth thing to sell the idea that he had internal injuries.

The cameras stayed on Reigns after the PPV ended and Raw Talk began on WWE Network. Reigns made his way over to the ambulance, Strowman yelled that he wasn’t through with him yet and ran at him, but Reigns moved. Strowman broke the door off the back of the ambulance and landed on some conveniently placed boxes backstage. Reigns slammed the other half of the ambulance door on Strowman and Strowman just left to end it. I thought I was pretty comical, even though that wasn’t the intent.

What’s Next: This felt like the second match in their trilogy of PPV matches. Reigns won at Fastlane, Strowman won here and they’ll probably do a stipulation match at Extreme Rules on June 4. I think a Falls Count Anywhere, Last Man Standing or Ambulance Match is likely there. Strowman should win that and go on to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title at the poorly named Great Balls of Fire show on July 9.

In Closing

It was a slightly above-average PPV. If I were to rank the WWE PPVs this year, I’d put Elimination Chamber and Royal Rumble at the top with WrestleMania in third, then Payback and Fastlane in last because that was even worse. My favorite matches were Hardys over Cesaro/Sheamus, Jericho over Owens and Rollins over Joe.

Payback didn’t have anything that really stood out or that we are going to remember in the weeks and months ahead. Then again, people may remember House of Horrors because of how bad it was. I certainly won’t forget it when thinking about some of the worst moments of the year. That’s not a good kind of memory. They need to do a better job of giving us happier PPV moments because House of Horrors did not deliver in that regard.

I’ll be back Tuesday with a review of Raw.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He's written for WhatCulture, Bleacher Report, Layfield Report, Rajah.com and many other places. You can follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at mrjohncanton@gmail.com with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at TJRWrestling.net.