Best: Hornswoggle And El Torito Are Still Working Harder Than Everybody Else
Payback’s MOUNTAIN DEW VARIANT Presents KICKOFF match was El Torito versus Hornswoggle in a luchas de midget apuestas match with Swoggle putting his freshly-grown “shave this” hair against Torito’s … face?
The problems here were the same as the match before Extreme Rules; the announce team cannot possibly take them serious as wrestlers or human beings, everyone’s more interested in making HE’S SHORT MAGGLE jokes instead of noticing these guys busting their asses, and 3MB and Los Matadores are on HURT YOURSELF duty. The good news is that what worked before Extreme Rules worked here whether anyone noticed or not. Torito’s still a top-tier WWE worker going all-out to make a match with Hornswoggle seem like the best and most important thing in the world. 3MB and Los Matadores are still dedicated to ending their own lives to pop the crowd. These little dudes are working harder than everybody else to make a series of bad jokes seem crucial, and by God, I always find myself enjoying it.
The new stuff was good, too. El Torito doing the Mil Mascaras “I am wearing so many masks” gag was great and justified Destiny’s “why do his horns look so weird?” question when he entered. Swoggle was KILLING IT with the facial expressions, especially when he was getting his head shaved, and Torito having the end of his tail taped up adorably even though it was ripped off at the root is the perfect inattention to detail that makes LEPRECHAUN V BULL a story for everyone.
(Note: I actually hated that, but it was cute.)
Worst: WWE’s Continuing Inability To Understand How Haircuts Work
I thought El Torito was gonna go Father James Mitchell on Hornswoggle while cutting his hair, jamming a razor into his skull repeatedly while wearing God knows how many masks that might impair vision. Nobody knows how to cut hair in WWE. They’ve got shears, but they always clip the very ends of a person’s hair with scissors in one spot and then start shearing away. They go for the disposable razor with 80% of the hair left.
I don’t know, I guess I shouldn’t expect much. The one guy who called himself “The Barber” was always threatening to cut peoples’ hair with gardening shears.
Best: Shutting Down The CM Punk Chants In Two Parts
Payback happened in Chicago, which is ground zero for C-M-PUNK chants. WWE, in their infinite ability to f*ck with the emotions of people who feel unf*ckwithable, shut down these chants on two grand instances:
1. At the top of the show, Paul Heyman shows up and starts talking about Paul Heyman Guys, which of COURSE draws a CM Punk chant. The bait is taken. Heyman uses those chants as an excuse to point out that Punk straight-up does not give a shit about Chicago wrestling fans and is currently in another building somewhere watching the Blackhawks game. That’d be enough for most people, but Heyman (being the best talker in pro wrestling) connects one streak to another and ends up organically capping a man-to-crowd conversation about an absent Chicagoan with “my client Brock Lesnar conquered the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania.” Organically. Point A to Point B. Masterful.
2. A little later on, Stephanie McMahon’s confronting Daniel Bryan about what a wiener he’s being about the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and Bryan starts talking about how much the people have supported him. The people, of course, start chanting C-M-PUNK. Daniel stands there for a moment with a total deer-in-the-headlights look on his face, and Stephanie chimes in with (to paraphrase), “these people want you to quit just like CM Punk did.” Kay-ohhhhh. The crowd keeps C-M-PUNK to themselves after that.
Trust me, nothing makes a wrestling fan stop what they’re doing faster than someone noticing what they’re doing.
Best: Sheamus vs. Cesaro
I watched the show live last night and revisited it this morning, and it was two very different experiences. Last night, nothing felt exciting. I’ve been watching some version of this show since March, and I’m tired of it. Everybody facing everybody feels stale. How many times have we seen Paige fight Alicia Fox? How many times have we seen Sheamus handily beat a dude he shouldn’t be beating? How many times JOHN CENA
Rewatching it this morning, I was able to appreciate a lot more of it. Sheamus vs. Cesaro was the big one, having come to terms with the finish. These guys beat the mess out of each other, and dammit, that’s all I’d ever asked for. The strength of a Cesaro match kinda coordinates with his opponent’s desire/ability to lean into the European uppercut, and Sheamus is willing to eat it as violently as anyone. I love how evenly matched Cesaro and Sheamus feel, like they’re the same class of fighter from different parts of the world. I love Sheamus getting strong title defenses with clean endings, too, especially when they aren’t just a Brogue Kick from Outta Nowhere.
So yeah, Sheamus vs. Cesaro from Payback wasn’t quite as epic as I wanted it to be and doesn’t scratch my best matches of the year list, but it was rough around the edges and fun in its inherent hossiness. Still, though:
Best/Worst: That Finish
This made me SO MAD last night.
Cesaro gets Sheamus where he wants him and starts spinning him with the Cesaro Swing. Paul Heyman does his best Michael Jackson impression on the outside, holding his arms out like he’s getting blown out by a wind machine. Cesaro gets him around for a count of about 22, poses, and then Sheamus just TOTALLY IGNORES IT and small packages him for the three count. Oh man, the nerd rage inside of me. You could see it bubbling up behind my eyes.
Aside from the WHY DID YOU DO THIS angry table flipping, I think they could tell a good story with it. The Cesaro Swing is Cesaro’s big crowd pleasing move, right? His partnership with Paul Heyman has always been a weird clashing of “guy who is about to be hugely popular” with “guy who can NEVER be popular,” so the rub here should be Heyman getting Cesaro to STOP swinging people. Right? It cost him the United States Championship here, and if it comes back to bite him another time, that’s reason enough for Heyman to request killing Cesaro’s darlings. Plus, maybe it’d get Big Tony out of that awkward-fitting King Of Swing jacket that makes him walk like Mr. McMahon.
Quicker version: If this is Sheamus getting another bullshit Sheamus win, f*ck it. If it’s the start of a story that leads to Cesaro swinging Paul Heyman and realizing that it’s finally time for him to stop relying on manipulative managers and rise to the top on his own? F*ck it too, but in the good way.