HOUSTON, June 1, 2014 —Chicago’s Allstate Arena was the host this evening of the WWE event, Payback. Several questions were on the fans’ minds for this event. What would be the state of the WWE World Championship? The champion, Daniel Bryan, just underwent neck surgery (legitimately) and Stephanie McMahon said he could either surrender the title tonight, or she would fire his wife, WWE Diva Brie Bella.
Would CM Punk finally make his return tonight in his home town of Chicago? Spoiler alert—no. CM Punk walked out on his fans and the company this past January. Despite this fact, many fans still think he is going to return. With his contract up in a matter of weeks, this seems to be more and more just wishful thinking.
Would John Cena put over Bray Wyatt and pass the torch? Would the Shield be able to defeat Evolution, again, this time in a No Holds Barred Elimination match? All of these questions were answered, well at least most, during Payback.
The preshow featured a little person match with Hornswoggle facing El Torito. The stipulations of the match were a hair versus mask match. If Hornswoggle won he could unmask the biggest little bull, but if he lost, Hornswoggle had to have his hair shaved off.
The match was vibrant and had several high spots, including several Planchas performed consecutively by several members of 3MB on Los Matadores, and El Torito diving onto everyone, which led the sold out Chicago crowd to chant, “This is awesome.” Like every match with this kind of stipulation, the face went over. El Torito performed a springboard moonsault from the top rope and pinned Hornswoggle, who then had his head shaved.
The United States Champion, Sheamus, defended his title against challenger, Cesaro, who is represented by CM Punk’s former manager, Paul Heyman. The Allstate arena was booming with CM Punk chants when Heyman came out. Paul Heyman cutoff the crowd in a manner he only could, by informing them that CM Punk was at the United Center watching The Blackhawks and would not be in attendance. He then introduced his client, “The King of Swing” Cesaro.
The match was a solid seesaw battle. After Cesaro hit his trademark giant-swing move on the champion, and just as Cesaro was about to capitalize on this move, he was cradled up in a pin as Sheamus retained the title. The booking of the match is definitely questionable, as Cesaro was on a hot push, and this may take some steam out of the hype for a bit, but it is nothing the Swiss Superman cannot overcome in short time…if booked right.
Ryback and Curtis Axel defeated Cody Rhodes and Goldust in a tag team match. Cody Rhodes’ losing streak continues as he was the one pinned by Ryback after suffering his finisher, the Shellshock.
Rusev finally faced a non-jobber in former Intercontinental Champion, Big E. The match was worked tight and in short-fashion. Like all other opponents of Rusev, Big E tapped when he was put in the submission maneuver, The Accolade (aka the Camel Clutch).
Bo Dallas was supposed to face Kofi Kinston, but before the match started Kane came down to the ring and Tombstoned Kinston. Bo Dallas then cut a perfect cheesy promo by consoling Kingston and telling him it would be okay, he just had to BO-lieve.
Rob Van Dam challenged the Intercontinental Champion, Bad News Barrett, for the title. If no one had seen the RVD of days past, they would have been very impressed with this match. It was a solid match, but RVD simply cannot electrify a ring like he used to. In the end, the booking was done right as BNB defeated RVD to retain the title.
Stephanie McMahon called out Daniel Bryan to the ring to see if he would surrender the title, or if she had to fire his wife. More CM Punk chants ensued, but once again were cut short with McMahon saying, “These fans want you to quit, just like CM Punk did.” Brilliant! Just when it looked like Bryan was going to save Brie’s job, Brie Bella stated that she could not be fired, “…because I quit!”
Brie Bella then slapped Stephanie McMahon who ran off to the back embarrassed. The Championship belt is still on a man who cannot defend it. The booking of this segment was WWE’s attempt to have the champion be a part of the Pay-Per-View, even though he could not be active; and at least his fans got to see him. But how long can they continue this? And is Bryan slowly losing the crowds interest? Only time will tell.
In what was definitely the match of the night, John Cena faced off against Bray Wyatt in a Last Man Standing match. Bray dominated most of the match, but in the end it would be Cena who was victorious. Cena delivered his patented move, the Attitude Adjustment, slamming Bray through a giant box, then stacking another box on top of him. Bray could not get out before the ten count and Cena won the match, but Wyatt stole the entire show.
Paige defended her title successfully against Alicia Fox, leading to another Alicia meltdown after the match.
The main event would pit The Shield against Evolution. The booking of this angle and this match was all done wrong. Watching it as a single entity away from the storyline, the match was awesome. In the end, all three members of the Shield eliminated the three members of Evolution, who also lost to the Shield at the last WWE PPV, Extreme Rules. If this rivalry is going to continue, which is unlikely, at some point Evolution is going to have to win.
Regardless of some broken booking and angles, WWE Payback delivered nonstop action with no dull moments. Now the WWE Universe can look forward to Raw, and the next PPV, Money in the Bank.
Carter Lee is a professional wrestler, author, advocate, and professional speaker. For more information you can follow him on Twitter.