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    Tuesday, May 2, 2017

    The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Payback 2017

    For those of you who've been following WWE in this decade, at least, you're already aware of this pattern: oftentimes, the lazy creative team (including Vince McMahon) will deliver a shoddy buildup to a big PPV event, leaving people completely uninterested to tune in. Sometimes, when not everyone's looking, they're going to book a solid PPV based on the strength of the in-ring work alone. And in more uncommon times, they'll accompany that with the exactly the right booking needed to leave people satisfied.

    The last time I'm certain that happened was, well, this year's WrestleMania, but it's not without its caveats. It seems like that whole event will always be overshadowed by Roman Reigns's retirement of the Undertaker in the main event, so there hasn't been a show that's truly taken us by surprise in a good way.

    Until Payback. I've personally learned, from all these sleeper PPVs, to never judge a show by its build. I mean I'll complain about how lackluster it looks all I want, but I'll almost always end up tuning in because history has proven the wrestlers' penchant for working their asses off. Of course, given enough time to do just that.

    Everyone will tell you leading into last Sunday that there was truly nothing special about Payback. It was the poor event that was stuck in the middle of a haphazard Superstar Shakeup, so it had to make do with strange patchwork booking that awkwardly involved SmackDown. There was no Brock Lesnar, so there was no Universal title defense. There was also no WWE title defense because the ridiculous House of Horrors match was just a blowoff bout for nothing. The anchor was merely the storyline between Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman, and even fans held that feud with trepidation, considering what usually happens with Reigns and his opponents.

    But then the event actually happened, and it started strong. Payback kept going and there wasn't a lot of duds in sight; magic happened and kept happening. Even when the decisions were strange, the action was fun. Jericho defeated Kevin Owens in a fun opener. Cesaro and Sheamus turned heel. Alexa Bliss and Bayley put on the best women's match on the RAW brand so far. The House of Horrors was silly, but ended properly by allowing Bray Wyatt to get his win back and advancing Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton for Backlash. Samoa Joe should have beaten Seth Rollins, but the match was good and close enough for it to be a big deal.

    And then we come to the main event. Where we usually hold our collective breath and pray that Roman Reigns doesn't get another forced win, something completely different happens: Braun Strowman, the Monster Among Men, the rising star whose stock is becoming more and more valuable by the week actually scores the victory he needs, at the expense of the man we've been conditioned to believe is the corporate chosen one. Of course, this could all mean that he gets his win back another time, but this was the right call to make in this particular moment.

    For all intents and purposes, Payback was just supposed to be another notch along the way, just another milestone on the road. But this year's Payback is also what happens when you hit all the right notes in just the right rhythm. You don't have to be an all-important show to have good action, but they should also remember that it doesn't do well to go on cruise control and leave it to the actual PPV to keep people interested. They were either lucky or skilled, or both, this time around, and that should never be the case. B+

    Match of the Night

    The thing about Payback is that the show is full of solid matches to choose from, but nothing that truly stands out like a sore thumb. I'll give it to the RAW Women's Championship match between Alexa Bliss and Bayley, which was good enough to singlehandedly inject some energy into the flagging RAW women's division. The decision alone was actually all they needed, but the fact that Bliss brought out the work that made us believe in Bayley's main roster potential is really something else. I know we're getting a rematch, and I'm here for the rest of this feud.


    • As of this week's episode of RAW, Kevin Owens is also set to go to SmackDown along with freshly-minted WWE United States Champion Chris Jericho. That's a little weird to me because Daniel Bryan specifically said whoever was the champion at the end of Payback was going to SmackDown; if the opposite were the case, why couldn't they have drafted both of them? I don't mind either of them going, I just wish they didn't have to jump through unnecessary hoops to get there.

    • For a moment, I was afraid that the Cesaro and Sheamus turn wasn't going to happen. Kudos for teasing it well and drawing it out long enough to still be a surprise. To me, at least. Also, Sheamus kicking out a tooth isn't enough of a reason to go all high and mighty on his wrestling, even if it is reckless. It was an accident, it could've been worse for sure, but these things happen.

    • Absolutely great call to have the Singh brothers and Jinder Mahal come in to give Bray Wyatt the win. It makes Mahal look like a somebody, and he needs all the help he can with three weeks left before the PPV.

    • Wish Samoa Joe got some of his heat back somehow after the loss. It wasn't a dominant win for Rollins, but we need to keep establishing the kind of threat Joe is.

    • Was genuinely afraid for the Roman victory after he started powering up during his comeback. That sort of shouldn't even be possible considering the amount of damage he took, but in the end it all worked out. He looked strong where he had to look strong, as it is the main event after all, but wasn't a match for Braun. I'm concerned, though, at how this match will play out if Roman was 100%. I mean I know Fastlane happened, but I think Braun also needs a straight up win devoid of any asterisks for the extra rub. And I'm not sure we're going to get that at all.

    Photo from WWE

    Romeo Moran (@roiswaris the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Payback 2017 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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