If you can separate the debacle that was the two-part House of Horrors Match, WWE Payback on Sunday was nothing short of hot fire from start to finish.

With that said, separating the two is not an easy thing to do.

The nine-month feud between Wyatt and Orton, which took a number of wild turns throughout, hit rock bottom with a bizarre and ridiculous offsite brawl inside a house that ended two segments later inside the ring. While WWE committed intensely to the horror movie special effects, the story was atrocious, ending in a Jinder Mahal run-in that hopefully means the end of the Orton-Wyatt feud.

Outside of that, the Raw-brand card (which featured two SmackDown matches) was a slam dunk thanks to a pair of surprising championship wins and a top notch main event that saw Braun Strowman brutalize Roman Reigns.

There were enough problems and inconsistencies with storylines coming into this card (including the unexplained use of SmackDown superstars on a Raw show), but the low expectations helped make the result even more satisfying. The Payback element to the card was also delivered as a handful of superstars earned comeuppance either through victory or post match violence.

Overall grade: B+ (* Just fell short of an A)

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WWE Payback results

Enzo Amore & Big Cass def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson via pinfall (Kickoff Show): Gallows and Anderson unsurprisingly dominated the majority of the match, but the teamwork of Enzo and Cass prevailed in the end. With Enzo about to be hit with the Magic Killer, Cass ran into the ring to disrupt the move, knocking Anderson out of the ring as Enzo rolled up Gallows for the 1-2-3. The right team went over here as wins are rare for Enzo and Cass; the kickoff show is the perfect time to give them one, particularly if they are going to be in contention for the titles come SummerSlam in a few months. Grade: B

Miz TV with Finn Balor (Kickoff Show): The former universal champion said he wants his belt back, even if it means going through Brock Lesnar. He also revealed “The Balor Club” to be all of his fans in the WWE Universe. After calling Balor too small and a failure, Miz hid behind Maryse to avoid a fight when Balor took off his leather jacket. Balor attempted to leave, saying he would be the bigger man and walk way despite “every episode of Miz TV ending the same way — with you getting your ass kicked.” Miz continued talking trash, however, leading Balor to hit him with a Slingblade and a missile dropkick.

United States Championship — Chris Jericho def. Kevin Owens (c) via submission to win the title: In a legitimate surprise, Jericho regained the U.S. title and officially moved over to SmackDown Live. For as much as the continuation of this rivalry felt gratuitous, this was a strong match that got better with each minute. Owens reused their great spot from WrestleMania when he extended the tip of his finger to reach the rope and break a fall, this time the Walls of Jericho submission. But Jericho took out his frustration on the finger soon after, pinning it behind the ring steps before smashing them onto the digit. It played a big part in the finish as Owens was unable to complete a Pop-Up Powerbomb due to the pain. Jericho applied the Walls of Jericho once again and Owens came up short attempting to reach for the ropes with his injured hand, giving him no choice but to tap out. After the match, a young fan in the front row presented his souvenir List of Jericho in hopes of an autograph, which Jericho obliged, playfully adding him to the list in a genuinely cool moment. Grade: B+

Cruiserweight Championship — Austin Aries def. Neville (c) via disqualification; Neville retains the title: There was strong energy to go along with stiff moves from the get go, and Neville extended their story thanks to a classic heel finish. After a series of momentum shifts late, Aries looked on his way to victory when he connected on a sunset flip power bomb and converted it into his Last Chancery submission. With Neville unable to reach the ropes to break the hold, the champion grabbed the referee and tossed him across the ring to retain his title in a disqualification loss. After a strong WrestleMania match to start their feud, this duo appears far from done with one another, which is a good thing. Grade: B

Raw Tag Team Championship — The Hardy Boyz (c) def. Sheamus & Cesaro via pinfall to retain the titles: Matt and Jeff Hardy provided nostalgic fans with a car crash of a match. Each one took some legitimate punishment for their troubles, as Jeff lost a tooth following a shin to the face from Sheamus, and Matt was given a hard-way cut on his forehead during a post-match beatdown. The ending of the match was strong as Sheamus slammed Matt, not knowing he had tagged in Jeff, who landed a Swanton Bomb on top of both men before earning the pinfall. The two teams continued their trend in recent weeks by shaking hands in a showing of good sportsmanship after the match, but Cesaro and Sheamus quickly returned to attack the champions, throwing both against the ring post multiple times before Sheamus landed a Brogue Kick on Matt inside the ring. Matt teased the “broken” character often both backstage and during the match. Grade: B-

Raw Women’s Championship — Alexa Bliss def. Bayley (c) to win the title: History was made as Bliss became the first woman to win both the Raw and SmackDown titles. Even more, she continued to make a run at Charlotte Flair as the top female superstar in the company. Bliss’ strong push since last summer’s brand extension continued in a physical match in Bayley’s hometown, which took a major turn late when Bliss kicked out of a pin, sending Bayley head-first into the ring post under the bottom turnbuckle. (Earlier in the match, she landed head-first onto the bottom turnbuckle.) A weary Bayley nearly saved her title with a small package for two but Bliss, a two-time SmackDown champion, answered with a savage DDT for the 1-2-3. Grade: B

House of Horrors Match (Part I) — Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt: The match began in a house, and the winner was to be whomever earned a pinfall, submission or forfeiture back in the ring at the arena. There are really no words to describe how bad this is — about as absurd and ridiculous as WWE gets. Orton pulled up shirtless in a limo to Wyatt’s dilapidated house. (Who knew he owned real estate in San Jose?!) After entering, Orton was attacked in the living room, with Wyatt saying, “You took everything from me. Now I take everything from you. Welcome to hell, Randy.” That’s the exact location viewers were sent as Orton entered a room filled with evil babies hanging from the ceiling. The brawl continued into the kitchen where Orton took the upper hand until a refrigerator was pushed onto him. Wyatt stumbled onto the lawn and commandeered Orton’s limo, telling the driver to take him to the arena while singing, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”

Seth Rollins def. Samoa Joe via pinfall: Strong debut match between these two as Rollins sold his knee injury throughout a steady beatdown of sentons and knee bars before rallying with a series of spectacular moves. Rollins could only draw two counts, however, landing everything including a Slingblade, Falcon Arrow, Frogsplash and a Blockbuster from the top rope. In the end, Rollins escaped a Coquina Clutch by barely lifting Joe into a fireman’s carry and rolling him up for the pin. Both superstars came through with energy and physicality despite being sandwiched between the House of Horrors Match. Grade: B

House of Horrors Match (Part II) — Bray Wyatt def. Randy Orton via pinfall: Wyatt pulled up in the limo and limped into the ring to his music; Orton surprised him by sneaking up from behind. Orton landed a DDT from the announce table and nailed Wyatt with a chair. Inside the ring, Orton fought off a run-in attempt from the Singh Brothers and hit Wyatt with an RKO after blocking a Sister Abigail attempt. However, Jinder Mahal snuck up from behind and hit Orton with his stolen WWE title. Wyatt took advantage by hitting Sister Abigail and getting the pin as the Orton-Mahal feud picked up pace. After nine up and down months, Orton-Wyatt appears to be over — and that’s the best news yet. Grade: D-

Braun Strowman def. Roman Reigns via pinfall: Earlier in the night, Strowman said Reigns was making the biggest mistake of his life accepting this match. He called Reigns “no more than a wounded animal.” And that’s what happened. This how you continue to build a monster heel. In what was a perfectly strong finish to the match (and the PPV in general), Strowman continued to build incredible heat after taking a backseat at WrestleMania. With Reigns wearing bandages over his still-injured left shoulder and ribs, Strowman closed an incredibly physical match by converting a triangle choke into a running powerslam before hitting a second such maneuver to pin Reigns clean. The action escalated considerably afterwards. With the crowd cheering “Thank you, Strowman,” the big man twice used the ring steps to attack Reigns, the last time driving them into his ribs as he was sprawled on the mat.

With blood pouring out of his mouth from apparent internal injuries, Reigns limped backstage to the ambulance, refusing to be placed on a stretcher. Action continued after Payback went off the air on Raw Talk as Reigns spit blood onto a wall. When Reigns reached the ambulance, Strowman attempted to blindside him and missed, taking the ambulance door clean off its hinges. With one good arm, Reigns used the remaining door of the ambulance to assault Strowman by closing it on him three straight times as this red-hot feud took giants steps forward. Grade: A-


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