By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Intercontinental Champion The Miz Interrupted Roman Reigns
It's a shame that even though he's now in possession of the Intercontinental Championship, Miz is still a punching bag for the bigger stars on the roster. He plays his role really well and I enjoy his pairing with Maryse, but I was just complaining to someone the other day about how formulaic these opening segments feel sometimes. A babyface comes out and talks, a heel interrupts, and the face punches them out for no reason. AJ Styles did the same thing last week on SmackDown. It set up their match for later on in the night, but it was pretty paint-by-numbers otherwise.
United States Champion Kalisto, Sami Zayn and Cesaro def. League of Nations by Count-out
Kalisto, Zayn and Cesaro were a weird trio, and what was weirder was that two of the three of those guys will be involved in other matches at Payback, and their pay-per-view opponents were nowhere to be seen. It's hard to complain, though, because they worked well together and made for a fun tandem. Of course, the focus was mostly on League of Nations and their split. I know it had been rumored for weeks, but had it been teased on TV at all (I may have missed something)? If not, that came out of nowhere, but it was long overdue. It's been a failure from the start and all three guys are better off on their own. The count-out finish felt anticlimactic and they would have been better off with the babyfaces finishing off Sheamus for the victory. It's not like he has anything to lose at this point.
Baron Corbin def. Damien Sandow
This was the standard squash match we were supposed to get on Monday's Raw before Dolph Ziggler prevented it from coming to fruition (dammit, Dolph!), and it was just that: a glorified squash. I don't think Sandow got in any offense at all, even less than Zack Ryder a few weeks ago. That's just sad. Poor guy. He's wrestled only a handful of televised matches in the last year, and it depresses me to see WWE doing absolutely nothing with him after he was the hottest act on the roster in late 2014/early 2015. At any rate, Corbin continued to build momentum heading into his Payback match with Ziggler.
Dean Ambrose Hosted 'The Ambrose Asylum' with Natalya, WWE Women's Champion Charlotte and Ric Flair
I was glad Ambrose addressed Chris Jericho's attack on him on Raw instead of completely ignoring it and going on with the segment. It was a passionate promo from Ambrose, and I wish he would have left it at that instead of going into goofy mode for 'The Ambrose Asylum.' I want to like Natalya, and maybe it's because of how she comes off on Total Divas, but she's simply not a likable character. She did fine with her promo here, but I actually thought Charlotte outshined her on the mic. Either way, any mic time for the women is encouraging and a step in the right direction for the division. By the way, for those who missed it, Ric apparently had a slip of the tongue during his promo and told Natalya to "kill herself," but obviously, it was edited out.
Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady def. The Social Outcasts
It's amazing to me how over Enzo and Cass have gotten themselves in the matter of only a few weeks, but then again, I probably shouldn't be too surprised because how easy they can connect with a crowd. The match was kept short and sweet (as well as their post-match promo toward The Vaudevillians) while The New Day were entertaining as usual on commentary without being too distracting. A successful segment all around.
Apollo Crews def. Stardust
I somewhat understood why they had a match on Monday night because of their backstage altercation, but what was the reasoning behind this rematch? If anything, Crews made quicker work of Stardust here than he did in their first match despite selling an injury. Stardust is a talented hand in the ring, but the gimmick has to go (though I'm sure you know that by now). As for Crews, he desperately needs direction to avoid going stale soon, and hopefully a feud for him will be top priority coming out of Payback.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns def. Intercontinental Champion The Miz (Non-title)
Remember when champion vs. champion matches used to mean something? Good times, good times. Honestly, I completely forgot that was the case with this contest until halfway through. It boggles my mind why Reigns comes off like a heel/tweener in his promos, yet he's booked like a babyface in his matches. The crowds aren't responding well to it, and it's not just the "smart" cities, either. Miz scored some offense versus Reigns, but this was a showcase for Reigns by and large. I would have been content with Reigns facing anyone else, but it definitely did damage to the Intercontinental title for looking like a stepping stone/prop in this match. The chaos that ensued afterward with Reigns, AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson and The Usos was the real main event in my opinion, and although it was similar to what we saw on Raw, it was still the best thing on the show and had me looking forward to Sunday.
SmackDown was on a major roll for a number of weeks if not months dating back to the USA Network debut at the start of the year, but the last two weeks have been mediocre at best. This wasn't a bad show per se, but there was very little if anything I would recommend checking out other than the final two minutes or so of the episode. On the whole, it wasn't the most thrilling two hours, but the Payback pay-per-view was well-hyped throughout and I remain optimistic it could be a strong show with what's being advertised.