WWE 'Payback' Recap: Mad Men, Finally

The Shield's mini-reunion highlights a night when no titles changed hands and most folks were probably cheering for Don Draper

Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose (briefly) rejoined forces at WWE 'Payback.' Credit: WWE

What a day for Baltimore Orioles superstar centerfielder Adam Jones. First, he ups his average to a hearty .336 after a two-RBI day against the Angels, and then rewards himself with front-row seats to watch WWE bat .1000 in consecutive underwhelming PPVs post-WrestleMania. The guy sure knows how to live.

As for the rest of us, we nearly died of boredom during certain segments of last night's affair, while others kept our attention just long enough to ultimately disappoint. And if you're me, you went to sleep and got lost in a telling dream that saw the evening salvaged by an unannounced match between Booker T and Goldust. Good thing you're not me. Anyhow, and without any pressing reminders that we're but two weeks away from the WWE Network experimenting with exclusive broadcasting rights of a Sunday-night marquee event (aka Elimination Chamber), here are the five key things I took away (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) from 2015's edition of Payback.

5. New Day's Finisher Sucks
I guess that would make for a mouthful to chant in unison, but really, it's the more accurate response to seeing New Day in action now that they've gotten over as grating feel-good heels (you wonder if Bo Dallas is taking notes). The Freedbirds-channeling trio knows how to get a crowd worked up in entrance, and as individuals each has the talent to stage a crisp and entertaining 15 minutes. But that variation on the Big Ending – by which Kofi quasi-flapjacks Big E's victim into the mat – is rather ineffectual for a team that possesses such dynamic speed and strength (and particularly when held up to how Kidd and Cesaro have successfully, emphatically modified go-tos like Cesaro's big swing). And when it misses its timing by even a beat, as it did last night en route to New Day retaining their titles, the maneuver makes Kofi seem superfluous, which undermines the essential value of a three-man tag faction.

4. Take It Easy, Dolph
We've already lost Daniel Bryan. The last thing we need is another athletic fan-favorite hitting the shelf due to reckless self-sacrifice. That was some gash Ziggler sported after head-butting Sheamus, a Ric Flair-worthy crimson mask dyeing his peroxide-blonde locks and obscuring his pretty face. Sheamus did the deed with haste, Brogue Kicking his adversary while the guy was still perched on one knee. Hopefully, in that moment, the Show Off had half an idea where he was and won't be sidelined with yet another concussion. Though unfortunately, in looking at this, that's hard to fathom.

3. Barrett Loss a Win-Win
We could debate whether ditching Wade Barrett's killjoy gimmick for the monarch's crown was bad news for fans who enjoyed BNB's shtick (or whether the idea was dropped based on #BNB failing to set social media ablaze). But you'll get no qualms from me about King Barrett allowing himself to get counted out against Neville and then storming the ring to stomp his nemesis into oblivion. The outcome and subsequent mauling only clarified each man's role as bullying heavyweight and insurgent high-flyer, respectively. Plus, the continuation of their feud firmly entrenches Neville with a legitimate sparring partner and storyline, rather than weeks of inconsequential showcases (something that's stalled the momentum of many NXT call-ups). And Barrett's offense, which excels when he can play possum and then pounce, has found a worthy foil, not to mention one who's got nearly as many interchangeable nicknames.

2. Let's Agree Not to Pedigree
I'm still operating under the assumption that this sudden trend of either Randy Orton or Seth Rollins looking to polish one another off (as Rollins did last night to retain his title) via Triple H's patented Pedigree will lead to an Orton vs. the Game grudge match at SummerSlam. The Cerebral Assassin's (speaking of innumerable nicknames) appearance to raise Rollins' hand in triumph and gloat over Randy's defeat further plants the seeds. But prognostication aside, maybe it's best Triple H be the only active competitor to render his prey a human ThighMaster. It's unclear whether to point the finger at Rollins or the man whose arms were hooked and head planted into the mat (i.e. Orton), but after that clumsy-looking Pedigree, Hunter's all but obligated to show these guys how it's done. Fact is, even had the move been executed with its originator's excellence, the match's finish felt a bit rushed, undercutting an otherwise phenomenal four-man tango. Alas, it wasn't, and like so much of Payback, landed with a thud.

1. Lana = More Important Than Rusev
It's not totally apparent how and when this "We Want Lana" movement fomented (fans needing something in lieu of "Yes!" perhaps?), but it sure is apparent that WWE's following crowd consensus on this one. What else can explain allowing their monster heel Rusev to go from undefeated over a first year of action to a trio of consecutive losses at the hands of Super Cena? Instigating the Russian-residing brute's split from his mouthpiece, who last night insisted Rusev was crying "I quit" in Bulgarian, forcing ref Mike Chioda to declare Cena's victory, appeared to be priority uno in their climactic battle.

I get it: Lana's hot. But is that all there is? Had we really seen a pattern of mistreatment over weeks and months to elicit sympathy for Lana, thus making it possible to overlook her character's hateful rhetoric and root for emancipation from her tyrannical captor? The rush toward audience support for the Ravishing Russian reminds me of Zeb Colter's overnight conversion from conservative bigot to outspoken patriot, despite little variation in his tone and point of view. Ah well, at minimum, it means Cena can keep defending his U.S. title without the Captain America antics and Rusev can focus on being incensed over something other than Western simple-ness – even though that's exactly what's to blame for his string of scripted humiliations.

Below the Belt:

  • No comment re: the Fall of Mandow.
  • Cesaro can't kick out of a five-second-long small package?
  • C'mon Cole, Bray didn't really catch that much air.
  • Oh, yeah, Bray Wyatt beat Ryback.
  • Diva notes: Naomi looks jacked, and Brie must be terrified of Tamina.
  • Why can't Rollins' finisher go back to being the flying knee?
  • In a pinch, Mike Chioda could do some mean Ryback overdubs.
  • Can WWE please find nights other than the Oscars, Mad Men's finale et al to air their bi-monthly Sunday shindigs?
  • Move of the Night: If you didn't get giddy when the Shield guys got together and powerbombed Orton through the table, you don't have a pulse.
  • Sign of the Night: "Dean Rulz." Big E must have stolen the missing letter.
  • Line of the Night: OK Lawler, you win: "Well, that positively sucked" re: New Day. It has layers!