Raw Women's Champion Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Emma and Nia Jax def. Bayley, Sasha Banks, Mickie James and Dana Brooke
Bliss' promo addressing the Raw Women's division before the bout was fantastic and yet another example of how phenomenal she is on the mic. She does such a wonderful job of dressing down the other women without verbally burying them, not to mention she knows how to control a crowd (the way she owned those damn "What?" chants last week was incredible). Bayley showed great fire upon reaching her breaking point and the subsequent eight-woman tag team match was a ton of fun. It was awesome to see the division showcased in the first 30 minutes of the show and they held my attention the entire time.
Luke Gallows def. Enzo Amore
The Kickoff match at Payback was fine for what it was, but I didn't really have a desire to see the feud go beyond that, and I still don't. Raw's tag team scene is certainly stacked, but I wish this rivalry would reach its ends. It doesn't help that singles matches expose Amore's weaknesses in being a terrible wrestler, so this wasn't pretty for the five minutes it lasted for. Furthermore, trading victories doesn't do either team any favors.
Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose and The Miz Confronted Each Other
After conquering Triple H and Samoa Joe, Rollins setting his sights back on the Universal Championship only made sense, along with Balor considering he never lost the title to begin with due to injury. Ambrose's involvement in the segment felt out of place at first, and once Miz came out, it was evident the focus had shifted to the Intercontinental Championship. I'm sure Rollins and Balor will take any championship shot they can take in Brock Lesnar's absence, but why were they put in the No. 1 Contender's match when they clearly just expressed interest in a more prestigious prize?
Gentleman Jack Gallagher, Akira Tozawa and Rich Swann def. The Brian Kendrick, Tony Nese and Noam Dar
If you haven't been keeping up with 205 Live, this was probably a pretty random matchup to you. Hell, it was rather random even for a regular viewer of the program such as myself. Tozawa and Kendrick have been feuding for close to three months, Dar and Swann seemingly concluded their feud recently, and Nese and Gallagher were just thrown in for no reason. Nevertheless, this was an enjoyable tag team match that benefited from being given a decent amount of time for a change. It also wasn't as formulaic or forgettable as many other Cruiserweight matches we see on Raw, which I appreciated.
Raw Tag Team Champions The Hardy Boyz Interrupted Cesaro and Sheamus
As I noted in my Payback review, the heel turn from Cesaro and Sheamus could be seen coming from a mile away, but it was the right move to freshen up this feud. I also loved that their reasoning for turning heel was that fans are too fixated on the future and the past to value the present, and that WrestleMania 33 should have been their moment. It was a simple enough explanation that resulted in the crowd booing them, so it worked. The Hardy Boyz were short and sweet in their response and Matt basically being allowed to lead a "Delete!" chant against Cesaro and Sheamus should mean that Matt will be becoming "broken" sooner rather than later.
Apollo Crews def. Heath Slater
I wouldn't be surprised if people saw this match and thought they were watching an episode of Main Event and not Raw. That said, I commend the company for getting these guys on Raw and setting the bout up via the pre-taped backstage segment. It was another standard squash for Crews, but I'm glad he appears to be building momentum at long last. The angle with Titus O'Neil doesn't do much for me, though, and I hope their apparent alliance doesn't hurt Crews in the end.
Bray Wyatt Confronted Raw General Manager Kurt Angle
Well, this was a weird segment. Angle appearing in front of the live crowd is always a treat, but I'm not sure what purpose this was supposed to serve, other than potentially planting the seeds for the Balor program that would come to fruition in the main event. What Angle has to do with that I have no idea, but I assume this was merely meant to kill time and so it wasn't as predictable that he would interfere in the Triple Threat match later on like Joe.
Austin Aries def. TJ Perkins
These two have had a handful of matches against each other recently, but this might have been their best bout to date because they received an appropriate amount of time to tell a solid story with Perkins targeting Aries' knee throughout. The in-ring action was above-average, Aries scored the win as he should and Perkins attacked him afterward to maintain his heat. Mission accomplished all around. I like this as a mini-feud before Aries presumably goes back after the WWE Cruiserweight Championship at Extreme Rules.
The Miz def. Finn Balor and Seth Rollins in an Intercontinental Championship No. 1 Contender's Triple Threat Match
The early goings of the match mostly saw the babyfaces team up against Miz (like something straight out of a house show), but it was a extremely entertaining effort on the whole from all three men, especially down the stretch with several suspenseful nearfalls. The matchup had a different dynamic than what I was expecting, but they worked well together and kept the crowd invested (the "This is awesome" chants spoke for themselves). I figured either Samoa Joe or Wyatt would get involved but not both, so that was a pleasant surprise and the babyfaces were protected in defeat. No, I'm not thrilled we're getting Miz vs. Ambrose again, but they need to finish that feud before they can move on to other opponents.
While there was more follow-up from Payback than there was build for Extreme Rules, the next Raw-exclusive event is five weeks away, so processing the aftermath from the previous pay-per-view was more important. Besides, we got a better idea of what feuds we'll likely see take shape in the coming weeks with what happened at various points throughout the night. Although it was far from a red-hot edition of Raw, this was a solid show capped off by an excellent main event and the first 30 minutes with the women were strong as well. Everything else was middle-of-the-road, but it was a vast improvement over last week's boring three hours.
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