By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Randy Orton and Roman Reigns Interrupted WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins
Is it bad that Rollins' gloating promos are a primary reason to look forward to Raw? He was glorious once again here as he bragged about Kane doing next to nothing during the match, further teasing tension between the two. Orton obviously has unfinished business with Rollins, so I wasn't surprised to see him come out. Reigns was welcome as it makes sense for him to get back into the title picture after being screwed out of his one-on-one match at WrestleMania. Kane saying that he'd have the fans decide who Rollins' opponent would be for Payback was a nice hook for the remainder of the show.
Bad News Barrett def. Dolph Ziggler in a King of the Ring Quarterfinals Match
As I've said time and time again, despite how badly booked Barrett has been these last few months, take nothing away from his incredible in-ring ability. He can have a good match with just about anybody, and Ziggler is always excellent. They worked a nice match and Sheamus' interruption, albeit predictable, was a wise way of protecting Ziggler in defeat. A solid way of kicking off the tournament.
WWE Tag Team Champion Big E def. Tyson Kidd
The match was hardly anything of note because it wasn't given much a chance to get started. The New Day are evolving as heels, which is good to see, but Cesaro and Kidd never officially "turned," so I wasn't surprised the crowd didn't side with Kidd in this match. While the bout itself was forgettable, Big E cheating to win helped further their heel turn. They'll garner more heat just by holding those straps, but it'd help if we heard from Cesaro and Kidd regarding their loss of the straps in a promo that would help them endear to the audience.
Ryback def. Bo Dallas
Coming off Ryback's attack on Dallas at Extreme Rules, you had to see this squash match coming. It was over within a minute or so and was everything it needed to be. And it looks like Ryback was who Bray Wyatt was talking about after all. Personally, I don't have a problem with the feud since it keeps both guys busy, but I'm concerned with who ultimately goes over in the end since Wyatt and Ryback need wins right now. Now the question is whether they actually acknowledge Wyatt and Dallas are brothers or if it was just a coincidence that Dallas was Ryback's opponent.
United States Champion John Cena vs. Heath Slater Went to a No Contest
Part of me is actually glad that Slater was revealed to be Cena's opponent before the match never got started. If WWE brings out all the big names now, they'll run out of credible competition for Cena down the line (and I'm convinced the U.S. Open will be a fixture for months to come as it should). Rusev turned face in my eyes when he laid out Slater only to turn back heel when he told Lana to leave. Quickest face/heel turn ever! In all seriousness, I'm not at all enthralled with Cena and Rusev having another match at Payback especially given the stipulation, but it leaves me curious what they have up their sleeve.
R-Truth def. Stardust in a King of the Ring Quarterfinals Match
I hate to sound like a broken record, but no matter how dedicated Cody Rhodes is to the Stardust persona, fans won't get invested in the character as long as he's booked like a joke. The gimmick itself is stupid, sure, but the fans would get behind him more if he wasn't made out to look like an enhancement talent (despite his strong showing against John Cena a few weeks ago which we're apparently supposed to forget happened). There had to be someone more credible to advance to the next round than R-Truth, right? If nothing else, Barrett will get an easy win in the semifinals.
Adam Rose def. Fandango
A decent portion of the crowd was "Fandangoing" when Fandango made his entrance, so perhaps the fad is not yet dead. The match was total throwaway, and anything Fandango had going for him as a babyface was ruined with the loss. I don't say that just because he lost the match, but because it was against someone the fans couldn't care less about in Rose. Worse yet, this seems to be the same story they told when Fandango broke away from Summer Re and Layal asy eyar, which may I mind you, went absolutely nowhere.
Naomi def. Brie Bella
The new entrance music is a step in the right direction for Naomi, and I'm glad she's showing a new attitude and aggression, but the lack of proper character development with The Bella Twins is too terrible to ignore. Brie turning heel for no reason last fall was bad enough, but turning back babyface with no official turn makes it difficult to care about anything going on in the Divas division. It's a shame because their match was decent, but the crowd didn't get behind anything they did.
Sheamus def. Dean Ambose by Disqualification in a King of the Ring Quarterfinals Match
To my knowledge, there has been only other time that Sheamus and Ambrose have gone one-on-one, so this felt fresh and they worked well together. It wasn't a red-hot bout or anything, but it was nicely wrestled and a good match on the whole. The disqualification finish was the best way of going about the finish as Ambrose didn't lose anything from it and it furthered the feud between Ziggler and Sheamus. I was selfishly hoping Ambrose would win the tourney after Rollins won Money in the Bank and Reigns won the Royal Rumble, but sadly that wasn't the case.
Curtis Axel Interrupted Damien Sandow
I love these kind of promos where we see someone discuss their background (proving that not all history is completely irrelevant), thus giving the crowd a reason to care. This was the perfect way of reestablishing Sandow to the casual viewer and it's cool to see he's going back to his roots. His exchange with Axel was fun, though I hope the mocking won't be a regular part of his new act. It was fitting while he was Damien Mizdow, but hopefully this was a one-time thing. A nice reintroduction for Sandow.
Neville def. Luke Harper in a King of the Ring Quarterfinals Match
Neville continues to shine regardless of who he's up against, and Harper was a great opponent for him. They both sold the other's offense extraordinarily well and it made for a fun back-and-forth bout. It's cool to see Neville has gone from looking strong in defeat to actually stacking up a few victories. My money's on him to make it to the finals and ultimately lose to Barrett, but I realize that's wishful thinking.
Randy Orton and Roman Reigns def. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins and Kane
While it was rather formulaic early on, it was only a matter of time before things broke down between Rollins and Kane, and when they did, it got much more entertaining. The crowd was eagerly awaiting for Kane to reach his breaking point and they imploded once he finally did. I'm usually not high on champions getting pinned in non-title matches, but it made sense in this case with both Orton and Reigns contending for the title at Payback. Speaking of which, the Triple Threat match was obviously coming. I'm looking forward to it as it should be great, and better yet, Kane won't be among the participants! However, never say never...
After an enjoyable Extreme Rules pay-per-view, this was a solid follow-up show that featured some entertaining action in the King of the Ring tournament matches. It's clear that many of the feuds from Extreme Rules will be carrying over into Payback, but thankfully, the next event is only three weeks away and I assume we'll be getting new programs for the summer after that. This was by no means a red hot show, but it wasn't difficult to sit through at all. The WWE has maintained momentum since WrestleMania and I have my fingers crossed that they can continue to do so going forward by presenting an enjoyable product.