Welcome to a New Era.
Or so says WWE, at least.
Prior to last night’s Paybackshow in Chicago, WWE ran a promo hyping that this was the start of a “New Era.” The announce team even referenced this “new era” throughout the show.
But nothing was new about it.
First, Vince McMahon’s big announcement on who will run Rawwas a massive disappointment. His decision was Shane and Stephanie need to work together. What’s new about that? Nothing.
Nothing about Paybackfelt new. It felt like more of the same, and more of the same isn’t cutting it for WWE right now.
Sure, there are some interesting angles they can take with Stephanie and Shane working together to run the company, but all this ultimately leads to is more McMahons on television, which Vince McMahon likes to do when his back is against the wall. It’s what he has done for 20 years, ever since Vince vs. Stone Cold worked in the late-90s.
The problem is that this isn’t the late-90s anymore. It’s as if Vince McMahon is delusional enough now to try to convince his audience that the same old, same old is suddenly the lead for this “new era” in his company.
It won’t be.
A new era would be a babyface authority figure. A new era would be something innovative, something the audience hasn’t seen. A new era would not end with Roman Reigns overcoming all the odds to retain his championship, the same as John Cena and Hulk Hogan before him.
A new era wouldn’t include a finish in the women’s match that references the finish of a match that happened almost 20 years ago.
That’s not to say everything about Paybackwas bad, but from a creative standpoint — can we even still call it creative? — there was a much to be disapointed about.
1. Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillains went to a no-contest
This match was, of course, highlighted by the injury to Enzo Amore, who was knocked out after hitting his head on the bottom rope and then hitting his head again on the outside of the ring. WWE reported that he suffered a concussion but was discharged from the hospital. At the time, Amore was taken to the back on a stretcher and was rushed to a local hospital. Obviously, it’s great news to hear that Amore is going to be OK. That was a scary moment. My expectation is that the Vaudevillains come out on Raw tonight demanding they were the winners. With Amore OK, there is a chance for WWE to generate some good heat here with the Vaudevillains.
2. Kevin Owens beat Sami Zayn
What a tough position for Owens and Zayn to be in, following that scary Amore injury. This was a great match though, as you would expect. The video package prior to the match was excellent and this was everything pro wrestling should be about. It was a personal story, a real rivalry, and both guys talked about it in that package. Owens was a heel but he wasn’t acting like a wrestling heel. It was very much like the video packages UFC runs prior to fights explaining a rivalry or a history between two fighters. Owens and Zayn did an exceptional job here, and had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand despite the injury to Amore just a few minutes before.
3. The Miz beat Cesaro to retain the IC Title
This wasn’t a match I was looking all that much forward to. It didn’t seem as if WWE was prepared to put the IC Title on Cesaro, but they came up with a very creative way of dragging this feud out and getting out of this match. Miz won after run-ins from Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Then after the match, there was some intrigue added when Apollo Crews was shown shaking hands with Stephanie McMahon.
4. Dean Ambrose beat Chris Jericho
Very good win here for Ambrose, who was the victim of some high-profile losses recently against Lesnar and Triple H. This was a big win for a blossoming character who fought hard throughout this match. There have been some rumblings today (Monday) that Jericho could be on his way out of WWE for another hiatus, which might actually do Ambrose’s character some good. He’s the guy who sent Jericho away.
5. Charlotte beat Natalya to retain the Women’s Title
Wow, WWE brought in Bret Hart and ran a Montreal Screwjob-inspired finish. Shocker!
The finish came when Charlotte had Natalya in the Figure Four and Charles Robinson — “Little Naitch” — called for the bell despite Natalya not tapping.
After the match, Bret Hart, who was in Natalya’s corner, punched Flair and he and Natalya locked in dual sharpshooters on Charlotte and Ric, respectively. I just wish they let the screwjob thing go to rest.
6. Vince McMahon put Shane and Stephanie in charge of Raw
What a complete waste of time …
7. Roman Reigns beat AJ Styles to retain the WWE Title
WWE overbooked the McMahon involvement, but it did lead to a scenario where Styles and Reigns are going to fight again. However, WWE also hyped the Anderson and Gallows involvement, and whether or not they were with Styles. That tidbit was also never answered, despite them attacking Reigns in the match — they’ve done that plenty of times before as well.
The Usos ran-in after that, getting booed heavily from the pro-AJ Chicago crowd. I joked at that point that the Usos turned heel.
At the end of the night, Roman didn’t turn, AJ wasn’t champion, and WWE never really moved the needle.