WWE Payback 2023 Review and Match Ratings

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As you guys can imagine, it’s been a tumultuous few weeks for all of us. One week we see Edge celebrate his 25th anniversary in WWE, and the next week we’re mourning the losses of Terry Funk and the shocking passing of Bray Wyatt. Then we see AEW host All In with record attendance, only for Tony Khan to announce the following day that CM Punk has been fired. I’ll have thoughts on all of these in future. With that, let’s get to the show.

Becky Lynch def. Trish Stratus – Steel Cage Match

I don’t know how you guys feel about it, but this was a barnburner. I’ve found that I have gotten flack for overrating WWE matches, but I honestly just call it like I see it. And I genuinely enjoyed this fight, and there are no shortage of reasons why. First and foremost, steel cage matches only come every so often in WWE these days, and I’ve had heavy critiques for WWE’s steel cage matches being slow, boring and inconsequential. Not so here. Not only is this the best women’s steel cage match in WWE history, but this is one of the best steel cage matches WWE has produced in quite some time, and I don’t even think it is close.


What I loved about this match is that an actual story was told from start to finish, and it was one that made sense within the context of their feud. Action-wise, it was a brisk pace from start to finish, and Trish matched Becky blow for blow. The various spots in this match, the suplex from the top of the cage, the top rope bulldog…the variety of impactful moves where you thought the finish could have come was amazing. There was also intense rising action when they reached the top of the cage, and drama associated with potential escape from both women. The bit with Zoey Stark towards the end was the icing on the cake as Becky was able to fight off both who have been a thorn in her side for months. In fact, I’d actually say Becky resembled being “The Man” for the first time in a long time that I can remember and some of that aura that made her special from 2018 to 2019 was brought back to light here, and it came in such unexpected fashion. And I loved every minute of it.

Some are saying it was a match-of-the-year contender. I’d have to form an opinion on that by watching it again, but this was an incredible steel cage match given the competitors, and a perfect way to end the feud between the past and the present. Bravo to all involved. At first I thought the “This is Awesome” chants were just a product of having a hot crowd. But it was warranted here. ****1/2

LA Knight def. The Miz (John Cena – Special Guest Referee)

Another solid match here. I’m glad to say that Cena’s presence as the special guest referee didn’t take away from the match and that there were no extra antics that distracted from the match itself. In fact, if anything, a future confrontation between Knight and Cena was teased. The Miz itself has always been an overlooked worker, and LA Knight is the flavor of the month. Naturally, Miz was the right person for the job to put LA Knight over in his first marquee singles match on a PPV stage, and it accomplished what it needed to. It was well paced, the formula was simple, and the characters of all three played itself beautifully here. Only question now is what comes of the tension between Cena and Knight. ***1/4

Rey Mysterio (C) def. Austin Theory – United States Championship

Pretty much a standard SmackDown caliber match, which was still quite good because this match was pure action from start to finish, and Mysterio’s fast pace contrasted well with Theory’s ground-and-pound style. There was little story behind this match as it was really more just about having the match reaching a conclusion. I thought the ending sequence was relatively clever. Other than that, there’s not really much to say about tit, other than that it was a well-worked match that didn’t overstay its welcome. A report leaked today that one of WWE’s younger stars is positioned for a babyface turn. Is Theory the star in question? Becuase it would be a change of scenery that would be welcomed in my book. ***

Finn Balor and Damian Priest def. Kevin Owens (C) and Sami Zayn (C) – Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships (Steel City Street Fight)

What is in the damn water tonight, man? Owens donning a crimson mask and a hockey stick while swantoning himself from the crowd onto the table, tables, chairs, barricades, kendo sticks, garbage cans, and everything in between. I’m at least happy to know that they did live up to the street fight stipulation and then some. What an incredible trainwreck this was. I believe some may critique it for being overbooking, but honestly speaking, when you have Dominik Mysterio, JD McDonagh and Rhea Ripley waiting in the wings to help in a No Disqualification match, did you honestly think there would be any other outcome?

In fact, a better question would have been why the entire Judgement Day just didn’t come out from the beginning and jump Kevin and Sami from the start? Because it would have been perfectly legal and the referee wouldn’t have been able to eject them. Nonetheless, this was a very violent spotfest and I was thoroughly sports-entertained throughout.  It had this Attitude Era caliber wackiness about it in regards to the spots and the level of interference involved. Ultimately, considering that The Judgement Day were on the poster for this show, you had to think that they were winning this match. Fun fact, with this win, Finn Balor is now technically a Grand Slam Champion, so congratulations to him.

Overall, I had so much fun watching this. Yes, it was probably overbooked, but this match was entertaining as all hell, so who really cares? ****1/2

Rhea Ripley (C) def. Raquel Rodriguez – WWE Women’s World Championship

Wasn’t really feeling this one. I thought they finished strong, but there were plenty of rough patches in between, including what looked like a botched powerbomb, although it would make sense in the sense of the story that the damage caused by Rhea could have caused her not to execute it. Whatever the case, I don’t think these two had the best chemistry and it really took them a while to catch a groove. This was also a tick or two long to get to the Dominik Mysterio interference finish that we all saw coming a mile away. I thought the story simply would have been Rhea targeting Raquel’s leg and having that influence the match’s outcome. Instead, it was this slow battle of attrition that went too long before Rhea’s boy toy came out. Not the worst match, but I believe these two have a better match in them, and I expect a rematch between the two. **3/4

Seth Rollins (C) def. Shinsuke Nakamura – World Heavyweight Championship

This match was a match of firsts, because this is the first time Seth Rollins has main event a PPV as World Champion, and this is Nakamura’s firs time main eventing a PPV since being called up to the main roster in 2017. This was a very good main event, although not the classic that I was expecting. I personally thought this side of Nakamura is something that we need to see more. Cutting menacing promos in Japanese, and being calculated in his prooach. I think we saw a lot of it bear out in this match, although it took us a while to get to the conclusion.

The finish was kind of clever, with Rollins merely shifting his body weight and not having to overly stress his back out to escape with the win. The post match drama suggests that the feud between this two isn’t over, which I would welcome. I always felt like Nakamura and Rollins are capable of having outstanding matches, but I don’t feel as though we’ve ever gotten there with these two. Whether it was Survivor Series 2018 or tonight, I just feel like there’s another gear they haven’t been able to hit as of yet. Hopefully we get there in time. ***1/2


For a non premium live event PPV that I had practically no expectations for, I was throughouly entertained, and it was well worth my time. We got two outstanding matches, and everything else was either relatively solid or not overbearing. Add in a title change, Jey Uso’s return (albeit it was just a 2 week hiatus) and seeds planted for future confrontation, I have to give this a thumbs up all things considered.

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