Shinsuke Nakamura vs Dolph Zigger
I initially found this to be a curious choice for an opener but given how Nakamura’s entrance gets the crowd worked up it was the right choice. Dolph came to work and got in most of the offense while Shinsuke did most of the selling save for his signature stuff. Good but not great match that did what it needed to do. We’re still waiting on a Nakamura match to come close to his NXT debut against Sami Zayn, in my opinon. It’s not even so much the matches themselves as it is that you know until he faces someone like AJ Styles or Kevin Owens he’s going to win so there isn’t any drama, and few guys are as good as Zayn at helping add drama to a forgone conclusion kind of match.
Smackdown Tag Team Title Match: The Uso (c) vs Breezango
Breezango showed out very well here both in the ring and with their comedy spots. If you want to see how to work comedy bits into a serious match this is Exhibit A. The match was way more entertaining and flat out good than I imagined going in, and the crowd was ready for a title switch. The Usos hung on here but I think Breezango will get the belts eventually and it will be all the much sweeter then.
Sami Zayn vs Baron Corbin
This was kind of a ‘who cares?’ thing for me going in, but it turned out to be a pretty good match. Both guys were in need of a win here so that raised the stakes a bit. Sami pulled out the W which I’m good with; I’m guessing it’s on to new dance partners after this show. Sami challenging for one of the two singles titles sometime this summer would be a good move in my book while Corbin needs to get a victorious feud under his belt ASAP.
Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and Naomi vs Natalya, Tamina Snuka, and Carmella
With as much progress as the Women’s Division has made in the last two years there still seems to be a dilemma over what to do with them every pay per view: do you throw them all in one big match together or do you have a Title match and leave the rest of the division sidelined that night (option 3, have more than one women’s match, should really be explored more often). They chose option 1 here and it was…….ok. The crowd was hot for Charlotte the whole time, but judging by the way things went a full face turn probably isn’t happening (and that’s for the better in my book). I liked what I saw from Tamina; there’s a title run in her that could be interesting if they want to go with it. Becky always does her part in these matches, as does Natalya but Naomi and Carmella didn’t look so good in there. I’m starting to wonder if they feel like they have to protect Naomi in the ring because she rarely gets a singles match even though she’s the champion. If she’s good enough to be champ than she needs a chance to go 10 to 15 minutes on a pay per view show in a singles match, even if it’s with someone who has to lead the match. The finish was pretty abrupt and seemed like the match got called for time.
U.S. Title Match: Kevin Owens (c) vs AJ Styles
Going in just about everyone had this pegged as the match of the night. It was very good, but not great. They both got a lot of good stuff in but it seemed like they were saving some things for down the road, which is fine by me in the grand scheme of things. You don’t waste a five star match in May when you have it at Summerslam. If anything this reminded me of last year’s match between Styles and John Cena at Money in the Bank in that they seemed to be figuring each other out as they went along so they could give us something really great later. Whether that’s just between them or with a returning Chris Jericho added to mix remains to be seen. The countout finish was a bit unexpected but given that this is the first chapter in a longer story it makes sense. It was good and left you wanting more, which is what you want for a May show.
Luke Harper vs Erick Rowan
This was the cool down match before the main event, and it was way better than expected. Two big guys just beating the crap out of each other can usually make for a good match if both guys are capable, which they are here. Although people aren’t too interested in these guys they went out and kept the crowd’s attention while allowing them to save up for the main event. Harper won and that should end things here for them. Let Harper either go for a title or maybe put him with Corbin while Rowan can get paired with someone else, maybe Sin Cara.
WWE World Title Match: Randy Orton (c) vs Jinder Mahal
The shock of the year here, both in match quality and the result. A big reason people weren’t feeling this match, to the point where there were rumors it wouldn’t go on last, was that Jinder has never been considered a great worker and Orton can be lazy sometimes. I believed Jinder had a real chance but I leaned towards Orton keeping the title because I just figured no way Jinder freaking Mahal was gonna pull this out. To Orton’s credit he came to work for this one, and put more energy into this than he’s known for in a lot of his big matches. This was easily the best match of Jinder’s WWE career; while Orton clearly was leading the way he did his part. His backup guys the Singh brothers got involved just the right amount without making him look hopeless without their input. And then the big finish left the crowd shocked and me fist pumping at home….your NEW WORLD CHAMPION JINDER MAHAL!!!
Seriously folks if you say Orton is boring and we’ve seen that movie before, and you want new people to get a chance, you should be ok with this. Jinder worked his ass off to get where he is today and deserved a chance to show out every bit as much as some of the guys we love to champion so much for having toiled on the road all these years for no money because they loved the business. He did that too, and while none of us expected this even two months ago this is one reason why 43 year olds like me keep watching, to see something that doesn’t always happen. Well we got that here and it was awesome in my book.
I give it a B. No match of the year candidates but there were some good matches and a historic moment. Overall I did like Payback better. But this is why you get the network; I would not have plopped down $50 for pay per view to see this show but at the $10 network price it was more than good enough.