The WWE Payback show featured a tag team match that epitomized the company’s longstanding issues with their approach to promoting pay-per-views.
For a show that WWE scrambled to put together in a week, the Aug. 30 WWE Payback pay-per-view ended up being a fairly digestible show. But that still doesn’t excuse the preposterous decision to air another supercard seven days after the company’s second-biggest event of the year, SummerSlam.
No match better exemplified this excess than the tag team match between Rey Mysterio, his son Dominick, Seth Rollins, and Murphy. To be clear, the match by-and-large delivered in the ring and ended with a clean, satisfying finish — Dominick scored the pinfall on Murphy.
Despite those positives, the tag match had the pacing of a contest you’d see on a single-branded PPV in the mid-2000s, where capable wrestlers were often asked to work a match for roughly 10 minutes longer than what was needed in order to fill time on the show.
And if that wasn’t enough to certify this as a time-waster, WWE announcing that Rollins would wrestle the elder Mysterio in a grudge match on the Aug. 31 episode of RAW sealed it. No disrespect to Murphy — who is a great worker — or Dominick — who is already one of the best babyfaces in the company — but between this match and Rollins/Mysterio, which one sounds more PPV-worthy?
Sure, you could argue that a week isn’t nearly enough time to properly promote a Mysterio/Rollins bout, but tacking on a single day to the assignment doesn’t make the task any easier to accomplish. All WWE did here was, once again, tell the fans that the PPV matches exist as advertisements for the weekly television shows under the logic that the TV shows generate more money for the company and more people watch those programs than they do the PPVs.
That’s a lousy reason for depriving patrons who are handing the promotion an additional cost to watch these PPVs of PPV-quality matches. Sure, WWE isn’t asking fans to plunk down $60 to watch these shows as it did before the WWE Network launched, but it’s still an extra expense that the company requests in order to access these premium events. Providing those paying customers with matches that meet that demand and aren’t merely a cheap way to get them to tune into a show all of them watch anyway shouldn’t be too much to ask, no matter the price tag.
Given the amount of good (Roman Reigns winning the Universal Title, Keith Lee pinning Randy Orton in six minutes, Big E getting another big singles win), bad (Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax becoming the latest bickering tandem to win tag team gold), and gross (WWE weaving sexual assault allegations against Matt Riddle into his feud with King Corbin) that occurred on this show, it’s understandable how this could be written off as a minor issue.
But every time WWE books PPV matches as commercials for televised bouts or scripts a match to end with a weird disqualification or countout to set up a rematch for Monday or Friday, it lets the viewers know that these matches aren’t worth the price of admission, and that’s a mistake WWE can’t afford to continue making.