There were moderate excitement levels heading into Payback, but WWE have once again produced an incredible Premium Live Event that consisted of surprises and fantastic in-ring action.
Hosted by John Cena, Payback saw The Judgment Day all finally draped in gold after Finn Balor and Damian Priest shockingly concluded Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn’s reign as Undisputed Tag Team Champions.
Jey Uso made his return to WWE quicker than expected and will be heading to Monday Night Raw away from The Bloodline drama, while Becky Lynch and Trish Stratus silenced critics of their rivalry with a hellacious steel cage match.
Payback ultimately delivered and sometimes when the card looks underwhelming, WWE are still able to create captivating television that demands undivided attention. The attendance in Pittsburgh also maintained their energy throughout the whole night, witnessing their first Premium Live Event in five years.
The Inner Sanctum will now revisit their Payback predictions and see what they got right.
Predicted biggest certainty: LA Knight defeats The Miz
In what was a very competitive and entertaining affair, LA Knight successfully defeated The Miz and should now look to much grander pastures on Friday Night Smackdown.
The special guest host of Payback, John Cena declared himself as the special guest referee prior to the match and it left the A-Lister in an unforgiving state. During the contest, both The Miz and Knight had disputes with the 16-time world champion where disqualifications were close.
The Megastar ultimately prevailed after delivering a blunt force trauma to his opponent, later being endorsed by Cena after an intense stare down.
With Knight more than likely moving to a new program, a rivalry between he and Cena is very much possible. The latter is scheduled for the next six consecutive Smackdown’s and his outstare with the Megastar after the match could mean a much-anticipated feud is brewing.
Match rating: 3/5
Predicted surprise prediction: Zoey Stark betrays Trish Stratus
After a phenomenal steel cage match between Becky Lynch and Trish Stratus, Zoey Stark was blamed for the latter’s defeat which caused a betrayal to erupt.
The rising star attempted to assist her mentor during the match and it backfired, when Lynch delivered manhandle slams to both Stark and Stratus.
When Stark was trying to explain her side of the story, the Hall of Famer responded with a slap that begun to spell the end of their friendship. Stark then emphatically closed the cage door and delivered a Z-360 to her former friend, leaving a lifeless Stratus in the ring.
It is unknown if the legendary Canadian will step away from television and if she does, she has left on a high after producing a lauded women’s match at 47 years of age, despite not reaching the desired result.
Match rating: 4/5
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Predicted title most likely to change hands: United States Championship
One of the more underwhelming matches of the night saw Rey Mysterio retain his United States Title against former champion, Austin Theory.
It was one of the more forgettable bouts come the end of Payback, as directions for both the champion and challenger remain unclear heading into this week’s Smackdown.
The LWO celebrated with Mysterio after his successful defence and while mostly nothing has been teased yet, WWE could pursue an intriguing angle between the champion and Santos Escobar.
Similar to The Judgment Day’s dynamic between Finn Balor and Damian Priest, Mysterio and Escobar could show some dissension with the United States Title driving a wedge between the two. After all, Rey was in Escobar’s place when he captured the championship from Theory and it could be acknowledged within the group.
Match rating: 2/5
Predicted match of the night: Owens and Zayn vs Balor and Priest
As Michael Cole labelled it a “car crash from the get-go”, the undoubted match of the night was the Steel City Street Fight for the Undisputed Tag Team Championships, a war that would have made the late great, Terry Funk proud.
Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Finn Balor and Damian Priest encapsulated everything that a street fight should typically possess and then some. From the destruction of tables, use of kendo sticks, blood and spots in the crowd, all four individuals should be proud of their efforts for producing an admirable match.
Dominik Mysterio, Rhea Ripley and JD McDonagh also involved themselves in the fray and had their own unique moments, especially when the Eradicator came from nowhere to spear Owens through the barricade.
Just as when it looked like Zayn was going to retain the gold, he was viciously attacked with Priest’s Money in the Bank briefcase by the NXT North American Champion. The following result stunned the crowd, as The Judgment Day ended Owens and Zayn’s reign at 154 days to become the new Undisputed Tag Team Champions.
This has now delayed a potential breakup between the victorious group for now, while it was unfortunate Owens and Zayn’s tenure came to an abrupt conclusion. It felt like their reign never gathered true momentum after dethroning The Usos at WrestleMania, although injuries did infiltrate which can never be controlled.
Match rating: 5/5
What had to happen: Cody Rhodes’ next feud commences
It was pivotal for Cody Rhodes to enter a fresh rivalry at Payback, as he has not been involved in a major program since SummerSlam. However, the seeds could have been planted.
The American Nightmare appeared on The Grayson Waller Effect to make a huge announcement, which saw the return of Jey Uso and revelation he was drafted to Monday Night Raw, thanks to Rhodes.
Although Jey is currently a babyface, a rivalry with the 2023 men’s Royal Rumble winner could potentially eventuate. The two superstars have a short history, with Rhodes facing Roman Reigns in this year’s WrestleMania main event when The Bloodline was still in full swing.
Regardless, it was an announcement that caught the WWE Universe by surprise and it will be interesting to see how the former Undisputed Tag Team Champion will truly perform as a singles competitor, without The Bloodline story hovering over him.
Segment rating: 3.5/5