Another post-Wrestlemania PPV, another knockout. Cena vs. Ryback at Payback, as was expected, consisted of yet more brutality culminating in another ludicrous ending: an ambulance roof ‘collapse’ that saw Ryback miss out on this week’s Raw entirely in order to ‘sell’ his loss. The highlight of the show, though, was undoubtedly Punk vs. Jericho in a definite contender for Match of the Year.
Del Rio regaining his Championship from Ziggler was the one thing I hadn’t envisioned, nor did I expect him to linger around afterward with a promo prolonged enough to draw impatient heel heat. He did the same thing to open Raw, spouting the same generic heel rubbish about ‘not getting enough respect’ and receiving a different sort of heat from the crowd: apathy. The best cure for apathy is a popular face appearance, so Punk showed up right on cue to disagree with Del Rio and – surprise, surprise – his own manager, Paul Heyman. “I’m not your client,” Punk later told Heyman. It’s better to be on Heyman’s side than against him, and Punk found this to his detriment when Brock Lesnar returned at the close of the show to deliver a crushing F-5. Et voila, we have our first feud for SummerSlam.
Orton and Daniel Bryan faced off in a match whose stipulation was decided on the WWE App between the options of No DQ, No Countout or 2 out of 3 Falls. Firstly, I’d like to meet the person who’d make the effort to download an app purely to place a vote for a No Countout match (ten per cent of votes, apparently). Hell, I’d like to meet a single person who claims to have ever used this app. If I was voting, 2 out of 3 Falls would be my choice every time. With a seasoned professional like Daniel Bryan in the ring, how could you not opt for an extended match? On the other hand, Randy Orton is his opponent and that does indeed balance the scales. It’s a tricky choice, for sure.
The two loveliest ladies in the WWE, AJ Lee and Stephanie McMahon, came to blows over the former’s cruel mind games. “Why do you perpetuate this stereotype about women?” asked Stephanie. I spat out my Coke. Excuse me? Am I watching the right show? Stephanie needs to sit down next to Jerry Lawler during a Divas Title match. I may be grasping at straws here, but after Vince’s rage at unsympathetic crowds, and the increased number of referees and doctors stopping matches to care for injured superstars (Daniel Bryan’s match on this show was a prime example), WWE appears to be putting on a slightly more progressive front. Either way, the chemistry between Stephanie and AJ could eventually lead to a feud between Trips and Dolph Ziggler, and that has to be on everyone’s wishlist. I think the highlight of this segment was when Stephanie took Kaitlyn aside to whisper a private reprimand… over a microphone.
Everyone’s rightly raving about Christian’s return and while I’m ecstatic that he’s in the ring once again, his comeback appearance didn’t quite steal the show as I’d previously assumed it would. That’s probably because of the Mark Henry, of whom I’ve always been a big fan. Sexual Chocolate. The Silverback. The Strongest Man in the World – and now: the Original Prankster. Henry must have seen AJ’s tomfoolery and thought he could up the ante, so he came down to the ring in the middle of a John Cena promo (thank you merciful Lord) dressed in a swanky salmon suit for the purpose of announcing a tearful retirement. He’d been teasing it on Twitter all afternoon, so we should have expected the almighty swerve that was coming from a mile off. But damn if it still didn’t taste sweet. The World’s Strongest Slam laid out John Cena, followed by a confusing backstage statement: “The reason I brought two boots is to stick one of ’em up his ass.” What about the other one? What are you going to wear on your feet afterwards? Back at ringside, Michael Cole was once again disregarding his character’s own reprehensible history of abuse with an outraged “DON’T YOU THINK THAT’S DISGUSTING, WHAT MARK HENRY JUST DID?!” Chill out, Cole. Breathe slowly.