Was Payback 2020 a new beginning for WWE?
On this night, it certainly felt like it.
Another WWE PPV a week after SummerSlam felt wholly unnecessary. But Payback hit all the right notes and set the tone for what could be a significant change within the company.
SN Q&A: Keith Lee talks TakeOver, real reason he gave up NA belt
Yes, you’ve heard it all before, only to be let down by what took place shortly after. For a minute, however, indulge in what took place at Payback, and you can see that seeds were planted for what could be a new beginning for a promotion that has been spinning its wheels amid the COVID pandemic.
For starters, the long-awaited singles push for Big E appears to have commenced. After years of fans practically begging for the New Day’s muscle-bound member to show what he has as a singles wrestler, coupled with passionate promos and a much talked-about “Talking Smack” segment, it appears WWE is finally ready to commit to him.
A solid match with Sheamus that ended with Big E going over clean signaled that fans can expect to see a lot more from one of the most charismatic talents in all of pro wrestling. Will it sustain? Who knows? On this night at least, it was a step in the right direction.
Shayna Baszler also has seen her push stalled over the past few months. After beating Bayley and Becky Lynch at Survivor Series in November and then running roughshod over the women in Elimination Chamber in February, all signs pointed toward the former MMA fighter getting her taste of gold.
Instead, she lost her WrestleMania match to Lynch and was shuttered into the midcard. She recently re-emerged on “Raw” and was seemingly embroiled in a feud with Nia Jax. But the two buried the hatchet, albeit briefly, to take on Sasha Banks and Bayley for the women’s tag team titles. Yet another above-average match ended with Baszler getting the spotlight as she locked Banks and Bayley in a submission hold simultaneously to get the tapout and become a tag team champion.
It made Baszler look like the badass she was always meant to be, and now it appears her run has caught a second wind.
Perhaps the most stunning moment came when former NXT and North American champion Keith Lee defeated Randy Orton clean in five minutes. Orton is in a bitter feud with WWE champion Drew McIntyre and Lee was assumed to be a steppingstone to launch Orton back into the feud as a white-hot heel. Instead, Lee came up big with a Spirit Bomb to get a clean victory over the Legend Killer.
This comes just a week shy of Lee dropping the NXT title to Karrion Kross at NXT TakeOver and making his “Raw” debut to mixed reactions. It wasn’t necessarily the talent; it was the new music and ring attire that had many concerned. But Lee going over on Orton signals that the company believes in the athletic monster of a man.
Finally, Roman Reigns’ heel turn of Roman Reigns was finally completed as The Big Dog had his first match in over six months against Braun Strowman and The Fiend for the WWE universal championship. After making his surprise return at SummerSlam, Reigns shocked fans by aligning himself with Paul Heyman on “Friday Night SmackDown.”
By the time Payback rolled around, nobody knew what to expect in the triple threat match. Reigns and Heyman refused to sign the contract for the match until the very last minute, after Strowman and The Fiend had beaten each other senseless. Reigns made his way to the ring and clobbered both with steel chairs in search of a pin to regain the title.
Strowman and The Fiend managed to escape pin attempts, but after tossing The Fiend out of the ring, Reigns nailed Strowman with a spear to get the pinfall and raise the title with the dastardly Heyman by his side.
It’s a far cry from where WWE was just a few months ago as ratings took a dip and there was concern over the direction of the company. Those concerns are not completely silenced as it still has to follow through over the next few weeks. But this was certainly a step in the right direction with a show that had no business being as enjoyable and well-booked as it was.
Credit: Source link