-Six days from the PPV and there's two matches officially announced. Hadn't a clue that Payback was shorthand for "December to Dismember".
-Live from Cincinnati
-Your hosts are Cole, JBL, and Booker
-Triple H is HERE. 2.55....2.54....2.53.... Boy, it's a good thing his his limo arrived in the nick of time, otherwise there'd be no opening segment. Triple H refers to himself as "Daddy" in regards to Kane and Seth Rollins. If he starts inhaling amyl nitrate from a canister, I'm outta here. Rollins is out first and he's in full sycophant mode. Crowd wants Ambrose. Well, it's his city, after all. Rollins gripes about Kane listening to the fans in regards to the PPV main event. He's got a bright future as a road agent. Crowd's "AMBROSE" chant actually disrupts Rollins' train of thought, but finally spits out that he wants Kane out of his job. This brings out Kane (the satanic music is doubly funny when Kane storms out in a suit), who threatens to chokeslam Rollins. Triple H concurs that Rollins is annoying, but tells Kane he's what's best for business. This is known as the "HBK '96 Justification". Hunter makes it clear that if Kane doesn't make it out of Payback with the title, he could be out of a job. Small sacrifice, notes Kane. So tonight, it's Kane vs. Reigns, and Rollins vs. Orton. Noble stands up to Triple H and oversteps his bounds. Hunter being able to see clearly over Noble's head is pretty funny. Thus, Noble and Mercury get a handicap match with Ambrose. Hope the cheers don't get written off as a hometown thing, because this is what Ambrose is capable of getting with a consistent push.
Dean Ambrose vs. J&J Security
The goons try to surround Ambrose, but that goes badly. Mercury gets stomped down in the corner as TNA Creative notes to me that this is CZW vs. ROH and ECW. Huh. Ambrose clotheslines Mercury up and over, and now it's Noble's turn to get killed. JBL: "The Universe loves Dean Ambrose, but that doesn't mean he'll be a good champion!" Thanks Vince. J&J get the advantage outside, but Ambrose responds with the rebound clothesline over the announce desk. Watch out for Cole, those cervical fractures don't heal easy. Mercury hotshots Ambrose and gets 2 off of it. Ambrose and Mercury bump heads, and Deano comes to life as soon as Noble tags in. Mercury pulls Noble out of the fray, and Ambrose hits the head-first tope onto both. Another rebound clothesline, and Ambrose sends Noble into Mercury before finishing the Redneck Messiah with Dirty Deeds at 5:17. Enjoyable crap. *1/2
Dolph Ziggler vs. King Barrett
Sheamus is doing guest commentary, dressed as Super Shredder Sami Zayn. Ziggler and Sheamus becomes our third announced match for the PPV. Barrett has a crown, Sheamus has a paperboy hat. Ziggler has a Breakin' 2 headband. Is this a rib? Ziggler superkicks Barrett at the bell, still in his cape, and gets 2 off of it. Even JBL notes how dumb it was that Barrett asked for the bell to the ring. Ziggler gets some elbow drops and a dropkick sends Barrett through the ropes as we hit commercial. Barrett has a pinfall for 2 when we come back, realizes we're back, and quickly applies a chinlock. Whew, that was close. Sheamus informs us he used to watch WWE as a kid, but I thought he said "WB". I was gonna say, Unhappily Ever After was underated. Barrett hits for the Bullhammer, and has the arm dropkicked. Ziggler knocks Sheamus off the apron, and then runs into the Bullhammer at 5:54. What was the point of commercial break? Just a match. * Sheamus bullies Ziggler around afterward to a "YOU LOOK STUPID" chant. That could very well be for Dolph's headband. Dolph snaps and fights back, only to run into a Brogue Kick.
Erick Rowan vs. Fandango
Poor Harper. Rowan is like herpes in a plastic mask. JBL calls them the most brutal pairing since Brody and Hansen. Maybe he means Bruiser Brody and Taylor Hanson. Fandango gets an elbow off the middle rope for two as the announcers take bets on how long Fandango's going to last. Yeah, that'll get em over. Full Nelson slam finishes Fandango at 36 seconds. Fandango gets annihilated afterward. Well, it's other team.
WWE United States: John Cena vs. Neville
Crowd was surprisingly dead for the reveal of Neville, but maybe that was just Cena's patronizing speech dreaming the crowd. Cena should cut another promo about how he needs to beat Neville because England prefers to have a ceremonial monarchy. Cena works the arm to start, which Neville twists free of, getting his own armbar and shoulder throw. Cena makes the ropes. Cena drops Neville with an odd-looking punch, and gets a brief pin attempt on Neville. Cena works a headlock, but Neville escapes and drops Cena with a jumping leg lariat, sending this to commercial. Back from break, and Neville and Cena eschew the standard chinlock. Cena hits some shoulder blocks, but misses one and gets German suplexed for 2. Cena rolls out and eats a baseball slide, which is followed up on by a springboard corkscrew plancha that deserved a bigger pop than what it got. You people deserve Andy Dalton as your quarterback. Back inside, Cena hits the spinout powerbomb, and drops the Shuffle. Neville manages to escape the AA, and gets a high kick in the corner. Corkscrew 450 from the middle rope gets 2 as the crowd finally gets into this. Cena slugs away, but Neville drops him with a kick to the gut. Neville runs into a sitout powerslam for 2. Or a "Taka Driver" as JBL calls it. Neville crucifixes his way out of the AA for 2, handsprings across the ring, and gets a cross body, which Cena rolls through into an AA attempt. Neville lands on his feet and catches Cena with a jumping side kick for 2. Neville tries to drag Cena to the corner for Red Arrow, but Cena, in an innovative spot, pulls Neville down into the STF. Neville hangs on and rolls Cena into a pinning combo for 2. Cena turns Neville inside out with a clothesline, complete with Fatu sell. Cena gets the AA after a corner exchange and only gets 2. JBL: "Not too many people kick out of the AA!" Well, everyone in the Cena challenge sans Stardust isn't too many, sure. Cena attempts a top rope AA, which Neville counters into a sitout walking powerbomb for 2. Neville heads up for Red Arrow, which hits, leading a Rusev run-in to break up the pin at 14:41. Hey, Neville did something else that Zayn couldn't: beat Cena! Rusev kicks Cena's ass for a bit. Great match until the BS finish, but at least they're protecting Neville to a degree. ***3/4 Michael Cole calling the PPV "Paperback" almost adds another 1/4*, but alas.
Roman Reigns vs. Kane
From that to this. Hey, the boos for Reigns aren't as severe. 'Sweeping apathy' is an improvement, I think. Kane attacks outside before the bell even rings. Booker says he doesn't like seeing this Kane. Well, any Kane, really. Reigns flies into the steps and Kane tosses him in, only to be struck in the mouth. Reigns gets the upper hand outside the ring, but Kane takes over throwing Reigns around by his lapels. Or it's a really sinister purple nurple. Reigns manages to land a Superman punch after a dull brawl, and then spears him into the table, which doesn't give at all. The crowd just DIES. No match. And really, what a note to end on.
Brie Bella vs. Tamina
I'm detracting points because Brie still has that awful, awful music. Tamina is announced as hailing from "The Pacific Islands". All of them? AJ was wrong, the Divas aren't underpaid! Tamina gets some generic powerhouse stuff and an early chinlock. Brie fights out and they blow a kidney punch spot. Kneedrops from Tamina get 2. Brie gets a roll-up for 2 and runs into a clothesline for 2. Brie comes back with a bad clothesline and a decent dropkick, landing one of the missile variety for 2. Brie Mode knee hits, but a second is blocked. Leaping thrust kick from Tamina connects and finishes at 3:33. Decent enough. 3/4* I believe they refrained from mentioning who Tamina's father was by name. Could it have to do with an old wrongful death incident finally reaching grand jury?
Curtis Axel vs. Damien Sandow
This bothers me. Sandow's dressed as the Macho Man. Had he worn that in the front row, WWE would have thrown him out for being more interesting than everything in the ring. "Mandow" slams Axel and goes for the Elbow, but the Ascension disrupts. Ha ha, because they're doing an impression of LOD, get it? Axel and Sandow stand tall together as the match kinda just ends. Fake Hogan and Fake Savage take out Fake Road Warriors while Fake Dibiase on headset acts like this is beneath him.
-Tough Enough audition videos. I'm sure one of these weeks, we'll get a glimpse of Samoa Joe's.
-Daniel Bryan comes out at the 10 PM hour to
Cesaro vs. Big E
New Day cuts a pretty funny promo beforehand about Pete Rose not deserving a second chance. Kidd and Cesaro get a 2 out of 3 falls match at Payback for the belts, which could rule. Cesaro catches a Big E leapfrog and impressively slams him. Cesaro impresses further with a nimble roll over the ropes into a cross body for 2. Cesaro clotheslines Big E over and hey, this match gets a commercial. We come back to Big E cinching up an abdominal stretch, as opposed to a chinlock. That rebel. Cesaro transitions that into a Karelin lift, but Big E comes back with a belly-to-belly for 2. Splash misses, but Big E counters a Cesaro corner charge with a deadlift uranage for 2. Cesaro busts out a springboard corkscrew attack, which sadly fails to electrify the sagging crowd. Rolling Germans follow, because someone in WWE has to. The sequence ends with a scary belly to belly that almost drops Big E on his head. Cesaro teases the swing, but Kofi distracts and Kidd gets a kick to his face. Cole actually confused Kofi and Woods there. Cesaro finishes with a bizarre Octopus-style roll-up at 8:55. Fun power-based match. **1/2
-Apparently, they're adding the Elimination Chamber this month as a Network exclusive on May 31. If they think that's going to drive subs, I've got some action movie scripts starring The Miz to sell them.
-Prime Time Players now resort to mocking the New Age Outlaws. Or it's a Tough Enough audition video, either or.
-Bray Wyatt's here to give a promo in person, thus marking the end of the January pre-tapes. Spiders, broken ankles, yada yada. It's a shame they've conditioned people not to pay attention to Wyatt's endless chatter, because he is an effective promo. Just not at 10:40 at night after a parade of midcard fodder. "Sometimes the nightmares don't stop, and sometimes the bad guy wins" would be a bad ass closing line if Ryback didn't enter right here. Ryback gets a spinebuster and the Meat Hook before Wyatt bails. Now why have them make contact? Wyatt's a good old-school promo guy, and the lure is keeping the guys apart until match time. Now it just feels like any other feud. .....which is what it felt like before this segment, but my point is made.
Non-Title: Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins
You don't need McFly's sports almanac to know that this has a screwy end. Because WWE isn't printed in such almanacs. Orton works a headlock takeover. Rollins gets free and shoulder blocks Orton down, but runs into an elbow immediately after. JBL still harps on the triple threat/fatal four way stip, as if it's a concept that's never been done before. Just further outlines that WWE is marketed for a different audience than the diehards. Orton uppercuts Rollins down a few times and stomps away methodically, getting 2 off of the sequence. Orton kneedrop misses, and Rollins' attempt to capitalize is cut short by the across-the-back neckbreaker. Rollins comes back with the reverse STO into the buckle, kneeing him to the floor on the way to commercial.
Rollins has a chinlock applied when we come back (duh) and this crowd's just waiting for the run-in. Orton escapes with a headbutt, but is Shout-Outed by Rollins for 2. Until they come up with a new name for the movem I'll acknowledge fellow scribe JTG, thank you. Rollins is backdropped to the apron, and gets crotched when he heads up top. Daddy's Superplex connects and that leads to a slow slugfest. Remember when the superplex was a finisher? The atomic drop used to be a finisher as well, so I'm not sure how appreciative I should be for the negotiable evolutionary line. Orton rifles off clotheslines in the finishing sequence and gets the snap powerslam for 2. Rollins throats Orton on the rope to avoid the Draping DDT, and hits the high kick. Springboard knee gets 2. Rollins avoids another neckbreaker, but runs into a T-bone suplex. Another Draping DDT is blocked, and Rollins gets another high kick. Suicide plancha dares to try to end this show on a high note. Back inside, corner charge misses and Rollins counters the RKO try into a roll-up for 2. Superkick from Rollins gets 2, If you're going to suspend the curb stomp because of concussion lawsuits, a slow-mo replay of the superkick looks dumb. Orton ends up hitting the Draping DDT, with vertical javelin sell from Rollins. Crowd is alive and amplified as Orton tries for the RKO, but J&J run in for the DQ at 15:15. Good slow build up to that point. ***1/4. Kane makes his way out (to "WE WANT AMBROSE" chants) and grabs a chair. Rollins and J&J stomp Orton until Ambrose and Reigns alive (Reigns leeching off the cheers for Ambrose). Ambrose hits Dirty Deeds on Rollins, then holds him up for Reigns to spear him. Then wouldn't ya know it, they hold Rollins up to Orton can RKO him. Kane provides no help whatsoever. Reigns spears Orton and Ambrose gets Reigns with Dirty Deeds.
OVERALL: Two really good matches but a ton of filler for a go-home show. Cena-Neville is worth seeking out, though.