Raw delivered an underwhelming final build to Payback


Going into Monday’s episode of Raw, WWE had one objective: get fans excited for Saturday’s Payback pay-per-view. The show certainly could’ve used a jolt of enthusiasm; between All Elite Wrestling broadcasting TWO big PPVs around the same time — All In last week and All Out this week — and the middling card compared to the last few WWE events, fans aren’t exactly counting the days before Payback starts.

WWE didn’t help matters with this week’s Raw. While the show featured plenty of entertaining matches that made for a fun show, it didn’t give fans much of an incentive to watch Payback.

What made Raw’s efforts to hype up Payback so disappointing?

Let’s get the positive out of the way first: WWE at least nailed the build to the Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura World Heavyweight Championship match. The videos of Nakamura taunting Rollins about his injured back have made an already intriguing match feel far more intense. For his part, Rollins has occasionally put his annoying schtick to the side in order to cut some good, fiery babyface promos to further sell the personal stakes.

It’s a shame that the rest of the storylines couldn’t meet the same standard. The Becky Lynch/Trish Stratus feud hasn’t lived up to expectations, and while Lynch’s Falls Count Anywhere match with Zoey Stark reinforced the need for Lynch vs. Stratus to take place inside a steel cage, but most WWE fans know better than to expect the structure to keep Stark out.

The other women’s match — Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Rodriguez for the Women’s World Championship — has the skeleton of a good build; WWE has established Rodriguez as a physical match to the dominant Ripley. However, Monday’s segment between Rodriguez and Ripley exposed how lukewarm the audience is on Rodriguez.

Perhaps things would’ve been different had WWE booked Rodriguez to run through opponents instead of selling a fake injury. There was a lot of intrigue for this match when WWE initially teased it, but the decision to save the feud for Payback has dampened much of the heat for it.

The Steel City Street Fight between Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Damian Priest, and Finn Bálor is a Match of the Night contender, but fans have grown tired of seeing the tag champs face any combination of The Judgment Day. The “one member of the team faces one member of the other team” booking shows that even the WWE writers are exhausted by this pairing.

And then, there’s LA Knight vs. The Miz. This program has centered around two men telling the audience how much the other sucks, with Knight serving as the audience surrogate and Miz acting as an avatar for the promotion, but why would fans want to watch a match between two supposed overhyped losers (it doesn’t help that both have suffered notable losses during this feud)?

Given how over Knight is, it might not matter how much the two have buried each other (and Knight will probably continue the trend on Friday after Miz did the same on Monday), but if you’re WWE, why take that risk?

Next. SmackDown paid tribute to Bray Wyatt and Terry Funk. dark

Overall, Payback feels like a skippable show, and this edition of Raw did little to change that perception.