What went right and wrong at WWE Payback 2023


Despite WWE’s less-than-stellar hype for Saturday’s Payback pay-per-view (or premium live event), the company produced a fun show for the Pittsburgh crowd and fans who tuned in at home.

As it turned out, putting The Judgment Day on the poster was a good bit of foreshadowing, as the faction enjoyed a fruitful evening in the Steel City. By the end of the night, all of them left with a championship to their respective names. Additionally, we saw a steel cage match between Becky Lynch and Trish Stratus and a World Heavyweight title bout between Shinsuke Nakamura and Seth Rollins. Oh, and the proceedings were hosted by John Cena.

With several good matches in front of a hot crowd, WWE can file this show in the success pile, even with a couple of head-scratching decisions.

So, what did WWE get right at Payback, and what did the promotion get wrong?

Right: LA Knight defeats The Miz

After calling The Miz a loser for weeks, the popular LA Knight went into his match with the former WWE Champion needing a win; a loss to someone he spent weeks burying on the microphone would’ve been seen as a significant setback for the 40-year-old.

Thankfully that didn’t happen. Knight and Miz put forth an uncomplicated effort that ended with Knight hitting his Blunt Force Trauma finisher and pinning Miz clean. While their work was unspectacular, the energetic crowd and John Cena serving as the special referee kept things interesting. We saw a couple of tense moments between Cena, Knight, and Miz, but the 16-time world champ stayed in the background as much as he could, and that was for the best.

Knight shouldn’t need help to beat someone at Miz’s level, and Miz can (and already has) use the circumstance to create a false injustice to get his heat back.

Wrong: So much interference

At this point, it’s wishful thinking not to expect at least some WWE matches to include some shenanigans. That doesn’t make it any less disappointing when it happens multiple times in one show, especially during stipulation matches.

As far as Payback is concerned, the first instance of this came during the closing moments of the excellent Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus steel cage match. You know, the match where the entire point is to KEEP OTHER WRESTLERS FROM INTERFERING. Unfortunately, that time-honored tradition chafes against WWE’s precious storytelling, so the promotion found a way for Zoey Stark to play a role in the finish.

Thankfully, Lynch still won, as Stark’s interference was designed to make Lynch look even more heroic (and to set up Stark’s turn on Stratus after the match), but WWE thinking that a straightforward win over Stratus wouldn’t have accomplished that says everything about how it has watered down the cage match stipulation.

The interference in the outstanding Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs. Finn Bálor and Damian Priest was more acceptable. The constant run-ins gave Owens and Zayn an easy out for losing, but seeing so many does get exhausting after a while.

Finally, we saw Dominik Mysterio impact the finish to Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Rodriguez. This was done to set up a rematch between Ripley and Rodriguez (which will happen on the Sept. 11 Raw) and remind fans that the Women’s World Champion is, in fact, a heel, but it felt like overkill on a show with so much tomfoolery.

Right: Jey Uso is on the Raw roster

The most notable moment from Payback wasn’t a match. Rather, it was Jey Uso’s return to WWE during Cody Rhodes’ appearance on “The Grayson Waller Effect”. On the talk show, Rhodes announced that he used all the political pull he had to get Jey on Raw and hoped that he wasn’t making a big mistake.

From a booking standpoint, it was not. WWE reportedly wants to book Jey vs. Jimmy Uso at WrestleMania XL, so separating the twins allows WWE to stretch the feud out for a few months (similar to how it handled Rey Mysterio vs. Dominik). Also, it gives WWE a chance to see if Jey can sustain his popularity as a singles act without Roman Reigns as his main foil (he’s off to a good start).

The 2023 edition of WarGames should feature a unique twist. dark. Next

At the very least, the Raw team will have another over babyface to help fill the show’s three-hour runtime.