Over the years, we've seen many "passing the torch" moments in pro wrestling. On Sunday night, we added another to the list when The Shield convincingly beat Evolution.
If you read my prediction column, you saw that I had predicted Evolution, though I did say there were a few ways I could see The Shield winning. I thought maybe somehow Roman Reigns could end up with the final pin, or even take out multiple members of Evolution single-handedly. One thing I didn't expect were all three members to be still standing at the end, and for them to have completely dominated the last five minutes of what was a pretty strong match with some great spots in it. While I wouldn't use the term "squash," as it was a long match that did feature Evolution absolutely destroying the Shield members at times, it was a dominant finish that left no doubt as to who the superior team was.
Now, I'm not going to say this was Warrior beating Hogan, or Austin beating Shawn Michaels. But it certainly was meaningful. It was a statement that The Shield isn't just a group that could rise to the top of this era, but could go down as a historical force in any era. A decisive win like that following their win last month not only shows how good they are, but they'll also get credit for breaking up Evolution after their rebirth.
Speaking of that, I think you have to give credit to Evolution, particularly Triple H and Batista. Say what you want about Triple H using his clout to bury people in the past, but since his return as a regular character, he's consistently put wrestlers over, including Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania and The Shield over the past two months. It's hard to see either be at the level they are now without Triple H laying down for them.
While the Payback PPV was mediocre overall, this result, and the image of The Shield standing tall at the end certainly makes it a memorable one.
The rest of Payback:
** The Last Man Standing match highlighted a lot of the flaws you often see in the match. Early, Wyatt hit Cena with a running cross body and got a seven count. Later in the match, he hits the same move through a barricade and got the same seven count. You need to build things up in a Last Man Standing match, but instead it just turns into how many big moves can you do and get up from, and by the end of the match, it just gets to the point of absurdity. Anyways, Cena won after sending Wyatt through a wooden case and then putting another case on top so Wyatt couldn't get up.
** Daniel Bryan refused to hand the titles over to Stephanie McMahon. Stephanie showed what a great heel she could be in the in-ring segment, constantly needling Daniel Bryan and Brie, who was with him. When fans started chanting “CM Punk”, she even dropped the line “See Daniel, these fans want you to quit, just like CM Punk.” At the end of the segment, Brie refused to let herself be used a pawn, and quit before Stephanie could fire her, slapping Steph right after she quit.
** Paige beat Alicia Fox after a back-and-forth match that featured a good amount of offense from Paige and her eventually winning with the Scorpion Crosslock. Alicia Fox threw a tantrum after the match.
** Bad News Barrett won after a match that saw RVD got a good amount of offense in. He took advantage after a missed Frog Splash, then eventually hit the Bullhammer for the win.
** Bo Dallas was supposed to face Kofi, but Kane came out to interrupt the match. Bo quickly bailed from the ring, and Kane lay waste to Kofi. Bo came in after and told him he'd recover if he just Bo-lieved. It's not very subtle, but he's quickly getting down some heel mannerisms that we haven't seen from a wrestler in a while.
** Rusev had his toughest match to date but beat Big E with the Accolade. Big E has quietly been putting on a good string of matches over the past few months.
** In an unannounced match, Rybaxel beat the Rhodes brothers. After the match, Cody took the mic and said that Goldust needed to find a better tag partner. It's an interesting way to potentially break them up, as it doesn't force either side into a heel role, or force them to feud.
** Sheamus beat Cesaro for the US title. After a Swing, Sheamus was able to catch him with a surprise rollup. Clearly this feud isn't over, the question is if the feud is going to make its way into the Money In The Bank match or be on separate.
** El Torito beat Hornswaggle and shaved his head.