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WWE returns to live PPV action for the first time since WrestleMania with Roman Reigns vs. A.J. Styles for the WWE World Title. Plus, more big title matches. …
WWE Payback PPV Report
May 1, 2016
Live in Chicago, Ill.
Report by James Caldwell (@JCTorch), PWTorch assistant editor
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Payback PPV Pre-Show
– The pre-show panel this month is Renee Young with Jerry Lawler, Booker T, and Corey Graves. At the social media lounge, it’s Greg Hamilton from NXT and house shows. No Tom Phillips. Hamilton has Sami Zayn later in the pre-show.
– At ringside, Mauro Ranallo and Byron Saxton were handling announcing. They’re apparently going with two pre-show matches tonight, as Baron Corbin was introduced first to kick off the show. Dolph Ziggler, bumped off the main PPV to the pre-show, was out next to face Corbin.
A — DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. BARON CORBIN
The Andre the Giant battle royal trophy that Corbin won at WrestleMania was positioned at ringside for the match. Big stare down once the bell sounded. Corbin then pushed Ziggler, who fired back with blows until eating the corner turnbuckle. Ziggler sold a right shoulder injury, which Corbin immediately targeted. WWE went to the Andre camera shot as Corbin stood over Dolph, trying to enhance his height. Corbin continued to take his time working on Ziggler.
Ziggler tried to come back with a sleeperhold, but Corbin absorbed and pounded Ziggler into the corner turnbuckle to break free. Ziggler nailed the Fameasser, though, and it was good for a nearfall. Corbin rolled to the floor to recover, drawing in Dolph, who ate a big boot to the face. Corbin then smashed Dolph into the ringpost.
For some reason, Corbin hung out on the floor for several moments instead of following up back in the ring. Corbin nearly got himself counted out, then walked back into the ring and randomly posed on Ziggler. He then argued with the ref, and Dolph rolled him up for a quick three count to get the surprise win.
WINNER: Ziggler at 7:43. Definitely a finish that changed over the weekend when WWE evaluated the balance of heel/face victories and decided to go with Dolph. In the process, they made Corbin look like a dolt with that finish. (*1/2)
Video Package: Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn feud. At the social media lounge, Zayn answered some questions from Twitter.
In-ring: U.S. champion Kalisto was introduced to the ring for his next title defense against Ryback, who lost to Kalisto at WrestleMania. Ryback paused on the stage and did C.M. Punk’s old routine of writing something with his finger, then checking his imaginary watch. Big boos for Ryback mocking Punk in Chicago. Eden Stiles handled formal ring introductions before the bell sounded.
B — U.S. champion KALISTO vs. RYBACK — United States Title match
Ryback was greeted by mocking “Goldberg” chants, which he brushed aside in favor of pounding Kalisto to the mat and laughing. “You can’t wrestle” chant was up next. Ryback continued to dominate heading into a Network break.
[Camp WWE spot]
Back from “break,” Ryback continued to pound Kalisto. Kalisto came back with a spinning DDT off the ropes to get some breathing room. He then jammed Ryback’s face on the ring apron with a springboard DDT, popping Mauro Ranallo. Mama mia! Back in the ring, Kalisto hit a corkscrew back elbow smash for just a two count.
Kalisto then went absolutely nuts with a series of high-flying moves that Ryback based for. Kalisto wanted Salida del Sol, but Ryback countered into Shell-shock position, but Kalisto broke free, only to take a high-impact spinebuster from Ryback for a close two count.
Ryback decided to climb to the top, but Kalisto caught him with a kick to the head. Kalisto wanted a top-rope move, but Ryback headbutted free and delivered a huge military press from the top rope. Ryback immediately wanted a big frogsplash, but Kalisto moved out of the way. Kalisto dramatically hit Salida del Sol and it was good for the pin and the win.
WINNER: Kalisto at 8:45 to retain the U.S. Title. That was well above expectations. One of Ryback’s best matches in a long time and they engaged the crowd with a hot finishing sequence. Well done to wrap the pre-show. (***)
WWE Payback PPV Live Report
The PPV opened with Big E.’s voice bringing out WWE tag champions New Day. Big E., Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods hit the ring as the crowd clapped and cheered. Xavier talked up one team having a chance to become #1 contenders to the WWE Tag Titles tonight. The PPV suddenly faded to a video package.
The video showcased Shane McMahon trying to bring about a new era for WWE. It’s “new chances” and the first PPV of a “new era.” Tonight, Tapout presents WWE Payback.
Back in the arena, Enzo Amore & Big Cass’s music played to bring out the tag tournament finalists. Huge reaction for the NXT call-ups. Down at ringside, New Day danced and fed off their intro music. Enzo led the crowd in their pre-match sing-song, then sent a message to The Vaudevillians about getting a certified beat down tonight. Big Cass vowed to kick their heads off, then Enzo equated the Vaudes to Laurel & Hardy stuck at the bottom of the elevator. Cass said there’s only one way to describe them – S-A-W-F-T!
The black & white theme interrupted to bring out The Vaudevillians for this NXT showcase match. After Aiden English and Simon Gotch posed on the stage, the video returned to color to present the other tournament finalists. Before the bell, Michael Cole, JBL, and Byron Saxton were heard for the first time. Cole sent it to the German announce team. Back to the ring for the wrestlers awkwardly waiting to fight, then a word from the Spanish announce team. The ref eventually called for the bell to start the match.
1 — ENZO AMORE & BIG CASS vs. THE VAUDEVILLIANS (SIMON GOTCH & AIDEN ENGLISH) — #1 contender Tag Tournament finals
Enzo and Cass dominated early on with double-team combos. But, Aiden caught Enzo with double knees to the face to slow him down. Down at ringside, New Day took photos and ate popcorn. Suddenly, Enzo ate a boot from English in the corner and he fell hard on the mat. Enzo appeared to be knocked woozy on the mat. Gotch then tried to whip Enzo clear out of the ring to the floor, but Enzo smashed his face into the middle rope. Enzo sold being KO’ed on the floor.
The ref checked on Enzo, selling concern, then Gotch went down to ringside looking to pick up Enzo, but the ref intervened. Ref Rudy Charles checked on Enzo and threw up the “X” signal as WWE went to a replay of Enzo’s face bouncing hard off the second rope. WWE’s medical team walked down to ringside to check on Enzo, then the bell sounded to signal the match being over.
“Enzo, Enzo” chant from the crowd as WWE cut to the announcers to react to a “serious situation.” WWE cut to another replay of Enzo’s neck/head bouncing off the ropes. Back to ringside, Cass sold concern for his tag partner as the crowd chanted Enzo’s name. Enzo was fit for a neckbrace.
WINNERS: No Official Decision at 3:58; Vaudevillians presumably won.
Announcers: As Enzo continued to be checked on at ringside off-camera, Cole “moved on with the broadcast” to the Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens feud via video package.
That looked brutal live. Holy crap Enzo got hit
— Benjamin Tucker (@BTuckerTorch) May 2, 2016
Mad scene down here. Enzo can move his hands, getting loaded up and getting oxygen. pic.twitter.com/HZMF827QOQ
— Benjamin Tucker (@BTuckerTorch) May 2, 2016
After the video package aired, Cole said Enzo suffered a “serious injury” and it’s a “terrible, terrible situation.” He said they will continue to update everyone throughout the night. Cole said it points to what the wrestlers do in the ring being very, very dangerous.
In-ring: Kevin Owens was introduced as Cole relayed the update on Enzo. Owens tried to snap into character, then Sami Zayn’s music played to bring out Zayn facing his bitter rival.
2 — KEVIN OWENS vs. SAMI ZAYN
Fists flew in the early going as Owens and Zayn tried to re-engage the crowd after how the opening match ended. Zayn eventually knocked Owens to the floor and nailed a flying dive. But, on the floor, Owens smashed Zayn into the ring steps.
Meanwhile, Cole relayed an update that Enzo was taken to a local medical facility in Chicago. Cole said Enzo is moving his extremities and is talking.
Back in the ring, Owens punished Zayn and taunted him in classic KO style. Zayn tried to fight back, but Owens smashed him with a forearm. Kick to the back, then a senton smash. Owens took a second to yell at Michael Cole, then he returned to punish Zayn. Zayn came back with a smashing clothesline to get a breather. Then, an inside-out clothesline to build momentum. Ten punches in the corner, make it 12, 13, 14, 15 to Owens’s forehead.
Zayn nailed the Blue Thunder Bomb, but Owens kicked out just before three. Zayn nailed a second BTB, but Owens rolled a shoulder just before three to keep the match alive. Zayn cursed his bad fortune, then was slow to follow up. Owens nailed a neckbreaker across his knee, then climbed to the top turnbuckle. Owens nailed a big ol’ frogsplash and covered Zayn for a super-close nearfall. “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie” chants from the crowd as both men recovered.
Owens put Zayn in the corner and nailed his Cannonball splash. And again. Zayn sold being lifeless as Owens set him up for the pop-up powerbomb, but Zayn countered with a mid-air dropkick. And Owens came right back with a knock-down clothesline. Both men fell to the mat selling exhaustion as the crowd roared following the exchange.
At 11:00, Owens and Zayn met in the middle of the ring trading blows. Zayn blocked a pop-up, then tried to pin Owens, but Owens escaped before three. Owens then countered Zayn into a backbreaker across his knee. Owens had a look of disdain driving him to punish Zayn even more, but Zayn fired back with right hands. Big battle on the ring apron before Zayn warmed up for an Helluva Kick, but Owens kicked him in the gut. Owens teased a powerbomb off the ring apron, but Zayn back-dropped Owens onto the apron. Big, heated exchange.
On the floor, Zayn measured Owens for his torpedo DDT through the turnbuckles, and he connected. The crowd was just on-fire at this point. Owens sold being KO’ed, making it difficult for Zayn to drag Owens back into the ring. “Ole!, Ole!” chants.
Back in the ring, Zayn measured Owens for a Helluva Kick, but Owens superkicked him. Owens then sent Zayn to the ropes to deliver a pop-up powerbomb, and he connected. Owens pinned him for the win. Both men sold exhaustion after the match.
WINNER: Owens at 14:30. What a match. You could feel their passion wrestling each other and the crowd matched their intensity. What happens next with Zayn – does he snap and explore his dark side after his latest big match loss? (***3/4)
Post-match, Owens approached Zayn to slap him, then toss him over the top rope to the floor. Owens pointed down at the announcers, yelling at Byron Saxton to do something. Saxton got up as Owens told him to get in the ring. Saxton slowly approached Owens for an interview. Owens comically told Saxton what to ask him. Saxton asked him a different question, causing Owens to flip out. Owens said he beat Zayn, finally answering the question of which one of them is better. Owens shouted that he beat Sami Zayn!
Owens then vowed to get back his Intercontinental Title. Owens tossed the mic back to Saxton, who asked him about the IC Title match up next. Owens said he doesn’t care whether Miz retains the title, but sarcastically thanked Byron for the invite to do commentary. The crowd laughed. Owens re-arranged the chairs down at ringside, giving Saxton a little folding chair.
In-ring: The Miz and Maryse were introduced first for the next match. On commentary, Owens yelled about Miz only being champion because Maryse slapped Zack Ryder’s dad. Cesaro was out next doing his James Bond routine to produce a Cesaro Section t-shirt. Meanwhile, Owens kept yelling at Cole and Saxton on commentary.
3 — IC champion THE MIZ (w/Maryse) vs. CESARO — Intercontinental Title match
In the opening minute, Cesaro used Miz like a wrestling dummy to demonstrate his athletic and wrestling ability. Owens was unimpressed. He was also unimpressed by Miz looking soft compared to Cesaro. Cesaro wanted his deadlift suplex, but Maryse grabbed Miz’s foot out of the ref’s view, allowing Miz to block and take control of the match.
Miz slowed the pace wearing down Cesaro as Owens ran down the announcers. Like a good heel, Owens revealed he wanted nothing to do with Cesaro, wanting to face Miz for the IC Title instead. Suddenly, Sami Zayn came flying out of nowhere to attack Owens at the commentary position. Zayn and Owens scrapped over the timekeeper’s table, continuing their fight.
Back in the ring, Cesaro dropped Miz to the mat and put him in the Cesaro Swing. 20 big revolutions, then he slapped on the Cross-face in the middle of the ring. Suddenly, Owens and Zayn fought into the ring. And, Miz tapped out, but the ref was busy dealing with Owens and Zayn. Cesaro then released the hold and smashed both men off the ring apron. Miz then rolled up Cesaro from behind and hooked the tights for a quick three count.
WINNER: Miz at 11:20 to retain the IC Title. Owens’s commentary overshadowed the match, setting up the chaotic ending and post-match. If Miz is going to be champion, it’s the right way to book him as a soft champion needing help to remain champion, building heat until someone takes the belt. Of course, that next title challenger is lined up to be a top heel, Owens. (**1/2)
Post-match, Cesaro went right after Miz, smashing him into the guardrail with a European Uppercut. Cesaro then dragged Miz into the ring and gave him The Neutralizer. The crowd popped, then Owens suddenly hit the ring to smash Cesaro in the head. Zayn tried to fight Owens again, but Owens hit him with another pop-up powerbomb.
Owens wanted to end Miz, too, but Maryse pulled her husband out of the ring to avoid Owens’s wrath. Owens picked up the IC Title belt anyways and held it up in the air as Miz recovered in Maryse’s arms. Whew. After a replay of the craziness from the last five minutes, WWE cut back to Owens with the IC Title belt in his teeth indicating he wants the belt back.
Backstage: WWE showed smily, nice-person Stephanie McMahon pretending to have a conversation with Apollo Crews.
Video Package: Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho feud.
In-ring: Chris Jericho was introduced to the ring first. Jericho cockily strutted down to the ring as Cole fed to the international announce table section down on the floor. Back in the ring, Jericho walked around the ring sneering at the audience, then Dean Ambrose was introduced as his opponent.
Before the bell sounded, Cole relayed an update on Enzo Amore. Cole said they are awaiting more info on Enzo, who is now undergoing testing. He said Enzo is able to communicate with the medical staff at this point.
4 — DEAN AMBROSE vs. CHRIS JERICHO
Jericho played chicken heel early on, ducking Ambrose to force Dean to lose his focus. Jericho then hid behind the referee to slow down Ambrose. Jericho followed with a slingshot suplex across the top rope before dropkicking Dean off the ring apron to the floor. The crowd tried to get under Jericho’s skin with a “Y2Jackass” and “Let’s Go Ambrose” chant, which Jericho answered with a snap dropkick back in the ring.
At 6:00, Jericho wanted a running bulldog, but Dean shoved him off to the corner turnbuckle. Jericho crashed into the turnbuckles, prompting the ref to check on Chris as Dean sold the effects of the match. Dean then followed up with a corner clothesline and running bulldog for a two count. But, Jericho came back with the Walls of Jericho in the middle of the ring. Ambrose fought, then finally broke free to keep the match going.
The fight spilled to the floor where Jericho came up bleeding from his nose. Jericho wiped the blood away as Dean cleared the announce table. Dean reset the ref’s ten count, then put Jericho on the German announce table looking to finish him with Dirty Deeds, but Jericho blocked. Jericho then catapult Dean over the guardrail into the timekeeper’s area.
Dean barely made it back into the ring before 10 to keep the match going. Ambrose then got a burst of energy to smash Jericho with a flying clothesline to put both men down on the mat. Ambrose tried to follow with Dirty Deeds, but Jericho slipped out, rolled Dean to the mat, and flowed into the Walls again. Dean fought again, but Jericho pulled him back to the middle of the ring. Instead of trying to crawl toward the ropes again, Dean twisted his body to escape. Jericho kicked him in the head for good measure, but he only got a two count.
Jericho picked up Dean and taunted him before delivering a butterfly suplex backbreaker. Jericho then got right in Dean’s ear taunting him and insulting him. Dean received the feedback, then got up smashing Jericho with chops. Jericho tried to come back with a Lionsault, but, well, it wasn’t clear if Dean got his knees up to block. It was an odd spot, then Jericho kind of stood up, allowing Dean to hook him around the neck, knee him repeatedly in the face, and hit Dirty Deeds. Ambrose pinned Jericho for the win.
Post-match, Jericho threw a fit down at ringside, tossing papers around. Dean caught his breath and celebrated with the crowd as Jericho continued to sell anger with the outcome.
WINNER: Ambrose at 18:28. They were building to a really good finish, then blew a tire right before they reached the destination. The Lionsault spot threw the finish off, taking some steam off Dean’s win. Overall, Jericho is locked in right now. (***1/4)
Backstage: Mauro Ranallo brought in A.J. Styles to discuss Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows. Styles said he’s going to become WWE champion tonight all by himself. He said they are his friends and they have his back, but tonight is a one-on-one man between him and Roman Reigns.
Backstage: Sasha Banks was randomly shown hanging out. Sasha had a pretend conversation with Shane McMahon.
In-ring: Women’s champion Charlotte and Ric Flair were introduced to the ring first for the Women’s Title match. Natalya was introduced as the challenger. Wearing a vintage Bret Hart t-shirt, she paused on the stage to make way for Uncle Bret Hart to join her. Bret made his way out wearing classic shades, a jacket, pink dress shirt, and jeans. Flair smiled down at ringside seeing Bret come out. Natalya escorted Bret down to ringside as the announcers talked up Bret fighting prostate cancer. Natalya whispered “thank you” to Bret after bringing him down to ringside. Hart looked across the ring toward Flair to note he has his eyes on him. JBL talked up Hart winning his first WWF Title from Flair in 1992, forever linking them together.
5 — Women’s champion CHARLOTTE (w/Ric Flair) vs. NATALYA (w/Bret Hart) — Women’s Title match
Before the bell sounded, JoJo handled formal ring introductions. Notably, Lil’ Naitch Charles Robinson was the referee. Natalya got emotional when Bret was introduced down at ringside. Once the bell sounded, Charlotte woo’ed in Natalya’s face, nearly getting herself rolled up in the process. Natalya then knocked down Charlotte to the floor in front of Bret, who stared her down. Nattie chased Charlotte back into the ring, where Charlotte took over.
Following the theme of the night, Charlotte lost control after acting too cocky. Natalya then smashed her to the floor. On the outside, Charlotte sold a right knee injury as Flair came over to check on her daughter and yell at fans on the front row. Back in the ring, both wrestlers sold leg injuries from the cumulative effect of the match.
Natalya teased the Sharpshooter for Uncle Bret, but Charlotte blocked, kicked Nattie hard to the mat, and then nailed a top-rope moonsault for a close two count. Charlotte followed with a figure-four leglock in the middle of the ring, but Nattie reversed it. Charlotte then put Natalya in the Sharpshooter to insult the Harts. Suddenly, ref Charles Robinson called for the bell. Robinson grabbed the title belt and threw it into the ring before high-tailing it away from ringside.
WINNER: Charlotte via ref’s decision at 13:04 to retain the Women’s Title. A new era, huh? Lame finish calling back to 1997 out of context. The match was fine until the ending. It looks like Bret Hart’s WWE career will be defined by Survivor Series ’97 forever… since it lives on forever on WWE Network.
Post-match, Bret entered the ring to yell at Flair, then Flair tried a punch, but Bret blocked. Bret dropped Flair to the mat, then Natalya dropped Charlotte to the mat. Double Sharpshooters in the middle of the ring. Bret winced as he applied his a few months removed from prostate cancer. Nattie and Bret eventually dropped the hold trying to have a feel-good moment after WWE tried the ol’ Montreal Screwjob finish.
Vince McMahon Decision
Mr. McMahon was introduced to the ring to make the Raw Decision. McMahon hyped up the crowd with his arms, then smirked at “C-M Punk” chants. McMahon told the crowd to keep going, then he started his promo. McMahon hyped Raw’s longevity nearing 1,200 episodes. Another Punk chant broke out. “I wonder how long you can go with this thing,” he muttered. McMahon told the crowd to keep going!
McMahon continued by talking about Raw through the years. He said one of his favorite eras was the Attitude Era and now they need someone with great ethics (what?), business acumen (what?), and a vision (what?) for where they should be going. So, who should run Raw going forward? Should it be Shane? (Loud cheers) Or, his daughter Stephanie? (Loud boos).
Vince welcomed out Stephanie, who emerged on-stage in a business suit as the announcers wondered if she is the choice. Steph approached the ring to loud boos. Vince screamed at the crowd for booing his daughter, but Steph told Papa McMahon to calm down. It’s okay. Steph took credit for all of the new roster additions under The Authority’s leadership. She continued to give her election speech, closing with her decisions being best for business.
Stephanie then cut a promo on Shane for leaving the company for seven years ago. She said he’ll abandon the fans once again. She said Shane even lost to The Undertaker at WrestleMania, so he has no business running Raw. Steph then noted to Vince that the only reason why Shane got his foot back in the door was black-mailing him. (“Boring” chants). Steph said all of this leaves only one choice. “Me!” she shouted.
Shane McMahon’s music interrupted. Shane strutted out on-stage dancing in red Nikes. Shane played to both sides of the stage as Steph sold annoyance in the ring. Loud “Shane O’Mac” chant once his music stopped. Steph said the crowd responds to pandering – they eat it up every time. “What’s up Chicago?” Shane smiled. Steph said that’s exactly what she’s talking about.
Shane wanted to do something besides talk about himself. He went to some mainstream sports website headlines linking Shane’s fictional period of running Raw to positive press. They talked about the Network subscriber count and which WrestleMania match drew the most interest. Perhaps it was his match. “You still got it” chant helping Shane make it through his speech.
Shane brought up his departure seven years ago. He said his voice was not being heard and his opinion of where the company should go led to a difference with Vince that prompted his exit. He said that created a void for Hunter and Stephanie, who put their poison throughout the product. He said their venom spread from Corporate to the locker room to arenas. Shane said they nearly burned the thing all the way down to the ground.
Shane said he came back to ensure everyone’s futures. Steph had a smirky look wanting to interrupt and take over the promo while Vince waited out Shane’s speech. He asked Vince to listen to his voice this time. And, the fans, who speak for him.
Vince had enough. “Enough of that crap!” he growled in Camp WWE mode. Shane said since this might be his final night, he would like to do a poll to let the record show the audience’s opinion. Boos for Steph. Cheers for Shane. Vince jumped in, generating boos.
Vince said Shane makes a lot of good points. Steph jumped in that yes, Shane is likable, but she is the right choice. Vince said the only reason why Shane is only here is because he was humble after losing to Undertaker at WrestleMania. He gave him one week to run Raw, which he did okay with. And okay a second week. Now, Shane wants him to listen to the media and the people. “I don’t listen to anyone except for me!” Vince shouted.
Vince said this is about what he wants, not anyone else. Here’s what he wants. Vince said he wants blood. “C.M. Punk” chant. Vince said he wants to see them slit each other’s throats and draw blood. Or, maybe a collaborative effort would be best for Raw. Vince said both of them are running Raw with equal share. “Go figure it out!” he told them. The crowd groaned and then went quiet for that flat conclusion with Indecision 2016. Vince’s music played and he stomped out of the ring.
Shane and Steph were left alone in the ring. Shane extended his hand and Steph reluctantly shook. The Raw theme music played. Shane then left the ring and opened the ropes for his sister.
[ Reax: A new era, huh? Why not space out the laughably bad endings so they’re not back-to-back in the middle of the show? The long, drawn-out promo and indecisive ending just reinforced McMahon’s rep of being flighty heading up Creative. ]
Pre-Show Panel: For “intermission,” the pre-show panel discussed events from the first two hours of the show. They really didn’t have much to say after such a flat conclusion to the big talking segment.
Down at ringside, “intermission” continued with Cole and Co. hyping the premiere of “Camp WWE” tonight after the PPV. Saxton said it’s rated TV-MA and there are parental controls on the Network. Cole said all other WWE programming will remain PG for family enjoyment.
Video Package: Roman Reigns’s first month as WWE champion and the emergence of A.J. Styles as his first title challenger.
Announcers: Cole relayed breaking news on Enzo Amore. Cole said the update from the medical facility is he is still at the hospital and he had a concussion. However, all other tests have come back negative. Cole said they hope to have an update tomorrow night on Raw.
In-ring: A.J. Styles’s music played to a strong reaction. Styles made his ring entrance, then the crowd immediately started booing in anticipation of Roman Reigns’s arrival. The old Shield theme played and the boos became louder. Out came the WWE champion to loud boos, acting defiant about the reaction. “There … is The Guy,” Cole said. JBL said the fans sure love to boo Reigns. Cole’s return argument was Reigns has said he’s not a good guy, or a bad guy, but The Guy, trying to own the boos. JBL also promoted the justification for Reigns being in this spot because he generates a reaction.
Formal ring introductions were followed by a loud “Roman sucks” chant. Cole said he talked to Styles earlier today and he thought holding the IWGP World Title would be the last major gold he would hold. Now, he has a shot at the WWE Title.
6 — WWE World Hvt. champion ROMAN REIGNS vs. A.J. STYLES — WWE World Hvt. champion
Styles, wearing bright red wrestling pants for this occasion, waited out an “A-J Styles” chant before locking up with the champion. Some back-and-forth keeping things even, then champ and challenger ignored a “You Can’t Wrestle” chant directed at Reigns. Styles and Reigns jockeyed for position trying to feel each other out as the crowd went through various pro-Styles and anti-Reigns chants.
Reigns then over-powered Styles with a big clothesline and lift-up powerbomb trying to establish himself as the powerhouse of the match. Reigns delivered a sit-out powerbomb for a two count. As Styles recovered in the corner, Reigns stood in the opposite corner with hands on hips. Reigns cocked his fist for the Superman Punch, but Styles kicked him in the head.
Reigns returned to his feet with a far-away look in his eyes. Styles blasted the champ with rapid-fire blows, then a running forearm smash to a seated Reigns for a two count. Styles then hoisted Reigns onto his shoulders to deliver a fireman’s carry neckbreaker for a nearfall.
Styles followed with the Calf-crusher in the middle of the ring. Reigns fought the hold, then reached the bottom rope for a break. Reigns rolled out of the ring to get a breather, then Styles measured him from the ring. Styles followed with a springboard forearm smash sending Reigns and himself through the main announce table, popping the crowd. WWE cut to some strong replay visuals as both men sold on the table scraps.
After the table spot, the ref reached a seven count. Styles tried to drag Reigns back into the ring, but Reigns fell down at nine. Styles realized he couldn’t get Reigns back in the ring, so he just rolled back in to make sure he got a win. The bell sounded, counting out Reigns.
Post-match, Shane McMahon’s music played. He said Payback is not ending like this. He said it’s a new era, so this match will re-start with no count-outs.
WINNER: Styles via count-out at 11:53; Reigns retained the WWE Title.
6b — WWE World Hvt. champion ROMAN REIGNS vs. A.J. STYLES — WWE World Hvt. champion — No Count-outs
The bell sounded to re-start the match, then Styles rolled Reigns back into the ring. Styles went for a top-rope move, but Reigns rolled clear away. Styles tried to follow up, but Reigns hit him with a jawbreaker. Styles came back with the Pele Kick. The crowd was a bit subdued at this point after the goofy first finish while also waiting for the next shoe to drop.
Styles climbed to the top for a big splash, but Reigns got his knees up to block. Reigns then “accidentally” low-blowed Styles. The ref called for the bell, giving Styles the win by DQ.
Post-match, Stephanie McMahon walked out on-stage. She said leave it to her brother to miss something. She said this match will restart as a No DQ match. The bell sounded to re-start the match. P.S., why are Shane and Steph running Network specials, in addition to Raw? Or is “Raw” a euphemism for all WWE TV?
WINNER: Styles via DQ at 15:30; Reigns retained the WWE World Title.
6c — WWE World Hvt. champion ROMAN REIGNS vs. A.J. STYLES — WWE World Hvt. champion — No Count-outs and No DQs
Reigns, angered, got up and punched Styles out of the ring. On the floor, Reigns smashed Styles into the barricade, then over the rail into the crowd. But, Styles cut off Reigns on the floor. They returned to ringside, where Styles rolled Reigns back into the ring. Styles went for his springboard forearm smash, but Reigns intercepted with a mid-air Superman Punch for a close two count.
Reigns, seething, slowly got up contemplating his next move. Another Superman Punch. Reigns got a cocky look on his face, then set up in the corner for his spear finisher. But, suddenly, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows showed up to yank Styles out of the ring. They charged the ring to attack Reigns. Karl and Doc hit the Magic Killer (which Cole called the Boot of Doom), then left the ring.
Styles woke up at ringside, selling not realizing what happened. Styles saw Reigns in trouble and slowly pulled himself back into the ring looking to capitalize. Styles slowly set up for and connected with the Phenomenal Forearm. He covered Reigns for a three count, but Reigns managed to get his foot on the bottom rope. Is that allowed in a No DQ match?
In any event, The Usos showed up to fight Karl and Doc at ringside. Reigns then pushed Styles off the top rope onto all four guys down below, wiping everyone out. Reigns then gathered himself and tried to wipe out everyone, but he didn’t finish Styles, who knocked out Reigns with a big splash.
Styles dragged Reigns back into the ring and connected with a springboard 450 splash in the middle of the ring. But, Reigns kicked out just before three. Styles tried to follow with the Clash, but Reigns dumped him over the top rope to the ring apron. Styles then jumped over Reigns, who ducked and bounced off the ropes to nail the spear. Reigns draped an arm over Styles for a three count to win.
Post-match, the crowd booed and WWE cut to crowd shots for lots of thumbs downs. WWE tried to find pro-Reigns fans in the crowd before cutting to replays. Back live, Reigns was shown receiving the title belt and hobbling to his feet as Styles recovered on the floor. Reigns held the title belt in the air to boos.
FINAL WINNER: Reigns at 25:05 overall to retain the WWE World Title. You knew they were going to build to something involving Karl & Doc, but most expectations were a big turn or debut or some other major development. WWE went simple there continuing the storyline of Styles not wanting their help, but benefiting from it. (Not enough to win the title, though.) Overall, the title match being dumped into the Shane-Stephanie business put a damper on the proceedings, as well as the anticipated outcome of Reigns winning Super Cena style kicking out of multiple finishers. The finish sure added fuel to the anti-Reigns fire. Is this reverse booking building to the pay-off of someone finally beating the top babyface champion for the title? Or, will Reigns eventually just lose the title on a fluke to a heel? It’s a messy start to Reigns’s title run swimming upstream against the current while trying to create enough excitement with the roller-coaster ride of a match to justify keeping Reigns in the spot. As for the individuals in the match, Styles looked like he belonged in this spot three months into his WWE run and Reigns worked well with Styles. They showed good chemistry. (**3/4)
Backstage: WWE showed Vince, Shane, and Stephanie talking amongst themselves. He asked for a replay. “We already saw one,” Steph told Vince. Vince re-gathered and congratulated them on a great main event. He asked if A.J. Styles should get a re-match. They both agreed. When? Steph said well, Extreme Rules is coming up in three weeks. Shane interjected. “Extreme Rules! Yes, exactly, that’s what type of match they should have.” Steph shot him a look. Vince liked it and said it’s official then. Steph calmed herself down and said she fully supports his decision.
Back in the ring, Reigns clutched the title belt as he leaned against the top rope. Reigns reacted to the news of another title defense in three weeks and continued collecting himself as the PPV ended at 10:56 p.m. EST.
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