Enzo Amore and Big Cass def. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Excluding WrestleMania 33, this is the third pay-per-view match these two teams have had since October, so this was probably the best bout to be relegated to the Kickoff show. From an in-ring standpoint, it was a pretty formulaic tag team affair with Gallows and Anderson on offense throughout and the babyfaces battling back at the end, but it served its purpose and the crowd was into the action by and large. Enzo and Cass have lost more often than not as of late, so them winning here was logical.
The Miz and Maryse Hosted Miz TV with Finn Balor
Miz is so exceptional in his role that he can play well off of anyone, and thus he and Balor had tremendous chemistry together. Balor has never been the strongest talker, but it was nice to hear him on the mic for the first time since his return to the ring. Miz's comments about Balor being "too small" were interesting considering Miz recently called out Dean Ambrose for being "lazy and complacent," making me think those comments were straight from Vince McMahon. At any rate, Balor finally announced his intentions to get back the Universal Championship he never lost, so perhaps we will see him vs. Brock Lesnar at some point down the line.
Chris Jericho def. Kevin Owens to Win the United States Championship
The weird thing is that there really hasn't been any additional bad blood between Owens and Jericho since WrestleMania because they were separated in the Superstar Shake-up. Despite that, they produced a very good match and they certainly benefited from kicking off the show in front of a hot crowd. In fact, I would rank this above their WrestleMania encounter, and that's saying something. Obviously, the finish took everyone (including myself) by surprise, and it would appear Jericho might not be taking time off television after all. I'm actually looking forward to seeing what this means for the United States Championship going forward, and no, I don't believe Owens is headed back to Raw.
Austin Aries def. WWE Cruiserweight Champion Neville by Disqualification
While I thought their WrestleMania match was a bit better, this was still a strong effort from Aries and Neville as they of course have awesome chemistry together. It might have suffered slightly from immediately following Owens vs. Jericho, but they crowd wasn't completely dead for it. The disqualification finish was a little lame, but if nothing else, it put heat on Neville, keeps the title on him a little longer, and protects Aries as well. I would give Aries a run with the strap starting at Extreme Rules (where they can blow off the feud in a gimmick match), but that's just me.
Raw Tag Team Champions The Hardy Boyz def. Cesaro and Sheamus
The Hardy Boyz took a hell of a beating in this bout from Jeff losing a tooth to Matt getting a cut on his face. But alas, they survived and retained their titles as they should have. This was a real hard-hitting matchup, even before Cesaro and Sheamus turned heel. Speaking of which, you had to know that was the direction they were headed after Cesaro and Sheamus ate back-to-back losses in singles competition coming into the event. It breathes new life into the feud and sets up Cesaro and Sheamus as the top heels of the division. Where will The Revival fit in once they return?
Alexa Bliss def. Bayley to Win the Raw Women's Championship
The biggest knock against Bliss has always been that aside from being terrific on the mic, she has lacked in the ring. Well, perhaps it was because she and Bayley work well against each other (as seen in NXT), but this might have been her best one-on-one match to date. I would say Bayley had a lot to do with it, but then again, Bliss did feud with the equally skilled Becky Lynch for many months on SmackDown Live. Either way, I enjoyed this outing, and Bliss winning was pleasant surprise. It's possible Sasha Banks beats Bliss for the belt at some point and then is the champion for her feud with Bayley in the summer.
Seth Rollins def. Samoa Joe
There will be those who will claim they were bored by this bout, and I can understand their complaints and where they're coming from, but I thought they told a solid story with Joe targeting Rollins' previously injured knee throughout. That made enough sense to me and I liked the matchup as a result. They picked up the pace in the final few minutes, but I would not have necessarily had Rollins beat Joe this early into their feud. On the bright side, Rollins only barely won by the skin of his teeth, so this doesn't do much damage to Joe.
Bray Wyatt def. WWE Champion Randy Orton in a House of Horrors Match (Non-title)
In all honesty, the first half of this, er, match wasn't nearly as atrocious as I feared it would be. If anything, it was unique and kind of out there, which I can appreciate it because we don't usually see that from this company. Essentially, this was See No Evil 3 in my mind, sans Jacob Goodnight a.k.a. Kane. Thankfully, they kept things short and sweet once they got back to the arena, and the no disqualification stipulation allowed Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers to interfere and cost Orton the match, awarding Wyatt a semi-big win and furthering their feud in the process.
Braun Strowman def. Roman Reigns
Reigns coming out with his shoulder taped up was nice attention to detail, but why the hell didn't he sell the "injury" more during the actual match? Granted, Strowman did focus on it several times and it was actually what led to Reigns losing in clean fashion (thank you, WWE, for doing the right thing), but he hit the Spear and subsequently pinned Strowman like it was nothing! However, that's merely nitpicking because the crowd was into this and provided an electric atmosphere for this excellent main event. Again, Strowman winning was unquestionably what needed to happen considering he'll likely challenge Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at July's Great Balls of Fire (I hate myself for even typing that) pay-per-view.
The general consensus among fans coming into Payback was that it wouldn't be anything special, though I personally was already excited for the event because I knew it had the potential to deliver. Sure enough, it was an entertaining evening for the most part and easily Raw's best showing on pay-per-view to date since the dawn of the Brand Split. It wasn't the greatest show of all-time by any means, but it certainly exceeded expectations and featured multiple quality matches and memorable moments (two title changes, a clean ending to the main event, Cesaro and Sheamus turning heel, and no filler for a change).
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