By Graham "GSM" Matthews
The Authority Fired Raw General Manager Brad Maddox
The first portion of The Authority's promo was solid yet uneventful. It felt like a promo for Payback and what else was to come on this show, but on the same token, it gave viewers an incentive to tune in for the rest of the night. Things didn't get interesting until The Authority called out Maddox and (finally) fired him following an attack from Kane. It was about damn time. Maddox hardly ever appears on WWE TV and the General Manager position doesn't mean anything when The Authority is around, so I'd be content if they got rid of the position all together. That goes for Vickie Guerrero as SmackDown GM as well.
Cesaro def. Rob Van Dam
These two haven't had the best chemistry together in the past, but this was by far their best match yet. They worked a good match, the action was enjoyable and the right person went over. Bad News Barrett was effective on commentary on selling his Intercontinental title match at Payback and Sheamus running down afterward to brawl with Cesaro sold their U.S. title match as well. I'm liking both of these feuds right now and I'm very glad to see the midcard starting to mean something again.
Eva Marie def. Summer Rae
For those who don't watch Total Divas (and I don't at all blame you if you don't), Eva and Summer have "heat" with one another, so this match made sense from that storyline standpoint. Thankfully, it was kept relatively brief as Eva is absolutely atrocious in the ring. The Fandango and Layla distraction was predictable and it still doesn't establish them or Summer for that matter as babyfaces, not that care all that much anyway.
El Torito def. Drew McIntyre
There wasn't nothing necessarily wrong with the match, but it was pure comedic relief and therefore I couldn't have cared less. The real shame here is that McIntyre was on the losing end. I guess it was his turn to lose to El Torito, but he had/has the most potential of everyone in 3MB by far and it goes to waste every day he remains with 3MB. I just eagerly anticipate the moment he breaks away from the group. Remember when McIntyre was the Intercontinental champion around this time four years ago? Me either.
John Cena Saved Jerry Lawler From The Wyatt Family
Bray Wyatt's promos are always excellent and this one was effective in establishing him as psychotic in his obsession with Cena. However, I fear that after the way that Cena talked down to him that it will lead to a Cena win on Sunday. Granted, that was pretty obvious from the get-go, but this pretty much foreshadowed the finish to Sunday's Last Man Standing match. The attack on JBL was strong, but it was illogical to think that Cena would wait that long to come to the rescue of Lawler. I was hoping Lawler would be attacked so he'd be taken off commentary for the night. Does that make me a bad person?
Rusev def. Zack Ryder
The Rusev squash match could be seen coming from the moment Ryder came out with a U.S.A. flag in hand. But hey, as a Ryder fan, I was happy to see Ryder not only receive an entrance but some mic time as well. That's worth getting squashed any day of the week. Big E coming out for the save afterward indicated that he and Rusev will be feuding after all and I wouldn't be surprised to see them clash at Payback.
Randy Orton and Batista def. Cody Rhodes and Goldust in a No Holds Barred Elimination Match
The backstage segment that set up this match earlier in the evening was total gold. Cody came off like a star and owned both Orton and Batista. It's a shame he didn't shine more during the match itself, though. It was a pretty standard tag match with Orton eliminating Rhodes out of nowhere. At least the mid-air RKO he delivered to Rhodes was pretty cool. Their subsequent Handicap match against Goldust was completely one-sided, but it was necessary in showing that they're ruthless and dominant going into their upcoming encounter with The Shield.
Bo Dallas def. Sin Cara
This was basically the same match we saw on SmackDown mere days ago, so if you're a regular viewer of the Friday night show, this was nothing new. Even still, it exposed the Dallas character to the Raw audience and he received a decent reaction. Some fans might still be confused as to whether he's supposed to be a face or heel, but if he continues to act over-the-top, he'll get over as a heel before long.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan Confronted Stephanie McMahon
Stephanie continues to shine on the mic and as a character in general as a disingenuous heel. Many people expected Bryan to not surrender the title to Stephanie on this show, but they provided a very nice hook for the Payback pay-per-view by teasing that Bryan will have to make a decision by Sunday otherwise his wife Brie Bella will be fired. Personally, I don't see how Brie getting fired is a bad thing and I don't think the fans care about her enough either to really care if she's fired, and that was evident from the reaction Stephanie received when she made the announcement. Regardless, it gave viewers another reason to purchase Payback and it confirmed that Bryan will be present at the event.
Emma def. Alicia Fox
I figured this would be an easy win for Fox as she prepares to contend for the Divas Championship on Sunday, but apparently not. Normally, I'd be fine with an Emma win, but not when it comes over the No. 1 contender to the Divas title six days before a pay-per-view. I realize it was done to set up the post-match meltdown from Fox, but she could have done that anyway if she won. Speaking of the meltdown, it was a good way to put more heat on Fox, but it felt like it dragged on a bit long and Paige looked like a complete jerk for not making the save at any point.
Adam Rose def. Davey Crockett (Damien Sandow)
Sandow looked so ridiculous in the Crockett get-up that it isn't even worth complaining about. I don't know who he pissed off backstage, but.. I'm at a loss for words. Wasn't the whole point of this Rose and Jack Swagger feud to have Rose make his in-ring debut at Payback? Rose's first match should've been hyped better, but it wasn't anything special anyway so I guess they took the right approach. A match between the two has yet to be confirmed for Payback, but it could very well be a last minute addition.
United States Champion Sheamus def. Alberto Del Rio (Non-title)
While they might not have had the most exciting feud two years ago, Sheamus and Del Rio still have good matches together. The crowd wasn't very receptive toward the action, but I don't blame them for being drained by this point in the show. It was a nice win for Sheamus but it ultimately meant nothing in the end when Paul Heyman called it worthless because it wasn't against one of his clients. Cesaro's attack on Sheamus was well done and made him look strong before his U.S. title match on Sunday.
The Shield and Evolution Signed the Contract for Their No Holds Barred Elimination Match at Payback
The live crowd was surprisingly quiet for the first half of the segment, which really took away from it. Granted, there wasn't much to get excited about, but they hardly reacted to anything anyone said and it didn't feel like the major showdown it should have. The brawl was a good preview of what's to come on Sunday and Evolution targeting Roman Reigns indicates that Triple H vs. Reigns is a lock for a future pay-per-view. Was it ever established that the losing team at Payback would have to disband? Triple H teased that a few times but it was never made clear. That aspect of it confused me but everything else was solid.
The first hour or so of this show was hot and went by quickly, but the remainder of the three hours dragged drastically. I don't know if it was a lame live crowd or a lack of things to get excited about, but it was probably a combination of both. Even still, the Payback card was built up nicely and got me excited for the upcoming event. On paper, it has potential to be a stellar pay-per-view, so here's hoping it lives up to the lofty expectations.