Reverse Hipster's 2023 Payback Reviews
Trish vs. Becky Cage Match 8.8/10 B+
This match was just incredible. Trish and Becky wrestled fast from the moment it started. The risks Trish Stratus took were really impressive. She hung upside down from the top of the ladder. She got her head banged against the cage so hard it gave her a huge, visible knot on her head. She got suplexed off the top of the cage, and Manhandle slammed off the top rope. Trish was fearless, and she hung in there with Becky. It's crazy to think how far Trish came. Two decades ago, Trish was fighting in bra and panty matches because they didn't want to mess up their pretty face, and two decades later, she's going to move into a cage with one of the best women of today. These are the kind of moments that support Trish's case as the goat.
Becky Lynch really upped her status by wrestling Stratus. She has now beaten two of the goat wrestlers, Trish and Lita. She had phenomenal matches with them all. She didn't just beat Trish. She ran through Trish and Zoey Stark like a boss. At this point, I think Becky is entering Edge status, where she doesn't have bad matches. Becky keeps adding pages to her legacy.
Miz vs. LA Knight 7.8/10 C+
It's an interesting match. LA Knight is about the same size as Miz, making Miz seem more imposing than usual. The offense between Miz and Knight was decent but never reached another level. John Cena being there added a cool element to the match. John almost cost both Miz and LA at different times. However, in the end, LA got the win and the seal of approval from John Cena.
Rey Mysterio vs. Austin Theory 7.9/10 C+
Rey and Austin Theory wrestled a crafty match. Normally, Rey would be the elusive athletic wrestler in the match, but the shoe was on the other foot in this match. Rey can still pull off excellent offense, but Rey had to avoid Austin Theory's athletic offense. Ultimately, Rey's only way to retain his title was to outsmart Theory. This was a win-win. Rey retains his title and looks smart, and Theory looks dominant for making Rey escape the match instead of outright winning it.
Finn & Damien vs. KO & Sami Undisputed WWE Tag Team Titles 7.5/10 C
I was not too impressed with this match. It was tame in terms of a hardcore match. The Judgement Day won the titles in this match, and I think that all this match will be remembered for. Ko and Sami came in with zero momentum, and even still, this wasn't a big enough moment to switch the titles. Finn and Damien will probably be better champs than Sami and Ko were because they have a storyline, but the WWE Undisputed titles are starting to feel like consolation prizes. Kevin Owens and Sami couldn't beat Roman, but here, take the tag titles. Finn couldn't beat Seth, but here, take the tag titles.
Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel 7.8/10 C+
Rhea and Raquel had a surprisingly average match. Initially, a major focal point was that Rhea knocked Raquel loopy with a drop kick. Rhea is too good for her big, damaging move to be a drop-kick. Rhea only won because of Dominik's distraction, which felt like a lazy way to end this match.
Raquel was the biggest highlight and lowlight of the match. She was a lowlight because she had a major botch on an inverted powerbomb, but she was also a major highlight cause she took it to Rhea. Rhea's mystique has grown a lot, and she seems like an unbeatable juggernaut in the women's division, but Raquel fought her on equal terms, which was the bright spot of this match.
Nakamura vs. Seth Rollins World Heavyweight Championship 8.4/10
This is the best match that Nakamura has had in a long time. This match was very well produced. Incorporating Seth's injuries into this match made the crowd wonder if Seth would lose the title. Can he continue, or will this be his championship write-off? Because of these seeds WWE planted, every time Nakamura attacked Seth's back, it hit that much harder.
So Nakamura looked very credible for making us believe he could win. Seth got a gritty win, but this match never got to A level for me, and that's where the storyline becomes a reality, in my opinion. Seth Rollins, at his best, is on Seth Rollins, is one of the best wrestlers in the world. However, ever since his world title reign, he has been doing what he did at Payback. He has had good matches but nowhere near the pinnacle A-level matches you would expect from him, and I wonder if injuries are preventing him from kicking into that next gear.
Rob’s 2023 Payback Reviews
Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus (Steel Cage Match)
This match was incredible from start to finish. These women have built a feud for months, and every time, Becky Lynch hasn’t been able to quite take down the legend Trish Stratus. This was a rare occasion where the steel cage stipulation really helped in line with the feud. Together, Lynch and Stratus had near-perfect pacing, spots, and a hot crowd to open the night. In the end, Lynch had to hit a manhandle slam from the top rope to get Stratus down for the count. Stratus’s return to wrestling may have been one of the best we have ever seen from a WWE legend. Lynch was occupied in a great feud and a big win that could accelerate her back into the championship picture. Zoey Stark also got her comeuppance on Stratus and a renewed chance to be featured going forward. My biggest knock on this match is that it wasn’t the main event.
Final Grade: 9/10 Amazing
The Miz vs. LA Knight (Special Guest Referee John Cena)
The biggest thing about this match was honestly John Cena’s involvement. Between the promo with Miz before the match and the tension with LA Knight after the match, Cena was frankly still the star in this ring. Knight is still white hot with fans, and the tension with Cena gives him a chance to go toe-to-toe with one of the greatest of all time and earn his newfound status. That’s the best-case scenario after this.
Final Grade: 5/10 Average
Rey Mysterio vs. Austin Theory (United States Championship)
Austin Theory has been cold since he moved to SmackDown, and this feud with Rey Mysterio has not helped. They put on an average match here, and a losing effort for Theory pushes him further down the card. The most interesting part about Mysterio’s feud is the eventual showdown with Santos Escobar. Here’s hoping they at least make a new star that way.
Final Grade: 5/10 Average
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs. the Judgment Day (WWE Tag Team Championships, Steel City Street Fight)
This was a fun match that I think was better for the live crowd than for folks at home. Reportedly working hurt, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn still put on a show with good wrestling and fun moments with nods to the gritty fighting style of hockey. The already hot Judgment Day faction got a huge assist from JD McDonough (who desperately needed direction) to pull off a shock win. Now, the entire faction (sans the potentially joining McDonough) has gold. Owens and Zayn’s championship reign will be remembered a lot less favorably than their rise to the titles. Assuming this is also protecting their health, it is definitely for the best.
Final Grade: 6/10 Above Average
Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Rodriguez (Women’s World Championship)
Finally, in a featured spot, the Women’s World Champion Rhea Ripley shined and added to the legend of Judgment Day on this night. This is also the best main roster fans have seen of Raquel Rodriguez. They had a good, not great, match that frankly won’t be remembered that well. To me, it was obvious that Ripley would retain, but it was necessary to feature her on a PPV. Now, she needs a defining feud to solidify her reign.
Final Grade: 6/10 Above Average
Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
Seth Rollins has been catching a lot of flack online for being a “mid” champion, and though I hate to pile on here, I agree. Rollins always seems to be the MVP of Raw when he doesn’t have the championship, but as soon as he wins it, he gets stale quick. Shinsuke Nakamura was not the right challenger to help him here. Nakamura also falls into the same camp. We know they are both great wrestlers, but it felt more like they were playing their best hits together than fighting in an actual match. Rollins was still the right pick to win here, but collectively, this did not feel like a main event on a PLE card that was already lacking depth.
Final Grade: 4/10 Below Average
Rob's Final Thoughts
WWE Payback was a lame card going in, not saved at all by stellar performances. The only noteworthy shoutout is the women’s steel cage match that opened the card. Ending with that or the tag team championships would have gone a long way in making this PLE more memorable. Instead, with a lot of average and forgettable performances, it’s hard for me to grade the PLE well at all. The only reason it is this high is because of the opener.
Overall Grade: 4/10 Below Average
Reverse Hipster's Final Grade 80.3/100 B-
2023 Payback Reviews, this PPV barely squeaks by with a good grade, which feels appropriate. The build to this PPV felt rushed, and the whole PPV itself felt unimportant. This really could have been a special Raw. The matches were all decent, with Becky and Trish being the far-and-away highlight of the night. It seems the main purpose of this show was to combat AEW, but a show like this isn't the first PPV WWE should have put out after the spectacle of All In.