We take a look at the Top 10 WWE Payback moments in anticipation of the 4th edition of WWE’s annual PPV, Payback, in front of one of wrestling’s hottest crowds – Chicago, IL.
The show will feature bouts including Roman Reigns vs AJ Styles, Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens, Charlotte vs Natayla and Dean Ambrose vs Chris Jericho. With a solid build and an exciting card, it will look to follow up on some great Payback moments from the last three years. Since 2013, WWE has provided fans with three great Payback PPV’s no matter what others will have you think, and those shows have been filled with some awesome moments. So let’s look back at the Top 10: WWE Payback Moments and see which ranked as the best.
10 – Proving People Wrong (2015)
We start off with the old USA vs Foreign Heel story, as we recall the rivalry between “The Face Of WWE” John Cena and the “Bulgarian Brute” Rusev from early 2015.
And while the rivalry was admittedly not the best, this bout at Payback 2015 really surpassed its expectations. Previously Rusev had scored a controversial win over Cena at Fast Lane before Cena then toppled him in the rematch at WrestleMania to become the United States Champion. Another contest, a Russian Chain Match at Extreme Rules still didn’t settle the issue, so Rusev and Cena finally put their feud to bed in an I Quit Match for the United States Championship at Payback.
This was also the time where WWE were heavily teasing the Rusev/Lana split, which at the time was gaining some momentum and fans were looking forward to seeing how it would play out. Despite that hot story though fans didn’t expect a great match between Cena and Rusev, especially considering the matches beforehand mainly Extreme Rules with the Russian Chain debacle. But Cena and Rusev were able to come together and prove everybody wrong with an impressive brawl including spots like using a steel barricade and an STF with the ropes.
Although the finish with Lana saying that Rusev was saying I-Quit in Bulgarian (which he wasn’t) didn’t hold up, the actual bout between Cena and Rusev certainly did, as they tore it up.
9 – Last Man Standing (2014)
Back to John Cena, we rewind one full year where Cena took on an entirely different beast than Rusev. This man was none other than “The Eater Of Worlds” Bray Wyatt, in a Last Man Standing Match.
At the start of the year The Wyatt Family set their sights on John Cena, costing him the World Title on two occasions at Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber.
The Wyatt’s motive were that they were trying to destroy John Cena’s legacy and expose him as a false idol, while Cena did everything he could to preserve what Bray was trying to destroy. This would of course lead to a match at WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans, which was also Wyatt’s first WrestleMania, a huge accomplishment for Wyatt. During the match, Wyatt tried to bring the monster out of Cena, trying to goad him into smacking him with a chair & among other things. Ultimately it wasn’t enough as Cena would finally deliver an AA on Wyatt to get the three on the grandest stage of them all.
The match was good and the story was well told, but left room for improvement, as did the Steel Cage rematch at Extreme Rules where Wyatt toppled the leader of the “Cenation”. Cena and Wyatt finally got it right at Payback 2014 though, as the two contested a fine Last Man Standing Match. The announce tables were broken and chairs were bent, and even the interfering Jimmy Uso and Luke Harper went through a table. Cena and Wyatt continued they’re brutal brawl until Cena delivered one last AA to Wyatt before tossing a huge box on top of him for good measure, scoring the win and bringing an end to their long rivalry.
8 – The Perfect Tribute (2013)
Moving away from John Cena now, we arrive at the Intercontinental Championship which wasn’t at it’s best in June of 2013. Wade Barrett and The Miz had traded the title earlier in the year and were still feuding over the gold which was going on much longer than it should have. Enter Curtis Axel, the newest Paul Heyman Guy to step up to the plate. Following an injury to Fandango who was originally slated to compete at Payback, the Ax-Man set his sights on IC gold.
At the inaugural Payback PPV, Curtis Axel challenged current champ Wade Barrett and The Miz in a Triple Threat Match for the coveted championship. The match saw Heyman try and keep Axel out the ring and make sure he picked his moment, and it sure paid off in the end of the bout as while Miz had Barrett locked in a Figure Four Leglock Axel ran in and stole the cover, capturing the Intercontinental Championship and bringing it to his advocate Paul Heyman.
Adding some extra meaning to his victory, Axel won the title on Father’s Day, which can only be described as the ‘perfect’ tribute to his father, “Mr Perfect” Curt Hennig.
7 – 2 Out Of 3 Falls (2015)
Now for some tag team wrestling as two of the best teams of the modern era, New Day and Cesaro & Tyson Kidd, battled for the WWE Tag Team Championships in a 2 Out Of 3 Falls Match. The two teams stole the show the previous month at Extreme Rules where The New Day took home the championships from Cesaro & Kidd, and looked to top their previous contest with the much bigger stipulation of 2 Out Of 3 Falls.
For the second straight PPV at Payback, the show was stolen once again. This was when New Day were really starting to come into their own after officially turning heel and capturing the gold, while Cesaro & Tyson Kidd were showing those backstage why they were two of the best on the entire WWE roster.
This was one of the last times we would see Cesaro & Tyson Kidd team together, and they killed it with New Day with the tag team titles on the line, tearing the house down and showing that tag team wrestling can steal the show in WWE.
6 – United States Brawl (2014)
The United States Championship has had an up and down history, especially in today’s WWE. From John Cena’s open challenge to Kalisto’s disappointment, the title has been back and forth of the past few years but at Payback 2014 the gold was at stake when the champion Sheamus took on the “King Of Swing” Cesaro, the latest of Paul Heyman’s projects.
Sheamus was just into his second US Championship run and Cesaro had great momentum coming out of WrestleMania XXX winning the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal and becoming a Paul Heyman Guy, it was the perfect storm. Sheamus and Cesaro are both hard hitting guys and they absolutely destroyed each other in this match with the gold on the line in front of the raucous Chicago crowd as the two levelled each other in brutal fashion.
This was Sheamus’ first PPV championship defence and Cesaro was building momentum and they knocked it out of the park and kicked off Payback 2014 in style.
5 – The Best Is Back (2013)
This is the part of the article where we talk about the “Best In The World” CM Punk. Following WrestleMania 29 and his loss to The Undertaker, CM Punk disappeared from WWE TV after suffering yet another knee injury, but all the while Paul Heyman was still claiming his client Punk to be the “Best In The World”. This irked Punk’s old foe Chris Jericho, who confronted Heyman during a Highlight Reel on SmackDown and challenged Punk to a match in his hometown of Chicago at WWE Payback. It would take a little digging from “Y2J”, but he finally got the match he wanted against Punk, looking to avenge his losses to Punk at WrestleMania 28 and Extreme Rules the year before and to prove that he is the best in the world at what he does.
As expected, the reaction to Punk’s return was absolutely monstrous, as he made his first in-ring appearance since WrestleMania 29 against Y2J. Channelling the energy of the red hot Chi-town audience, Punk and Jericho took the fans on a rollercoaster of a match, that could rival any of the duos other contests. Jericho almost pulled out the win after some interference from Paul Heyman, but ultimately it was Punk who proved one more time to be the “Best In The World” by overcoming “Y2J” with two consecutive GTS finishing manoeuvres for the win.
This was one of CM Punk’s last truly great moments in WWE prior to departing in January, and it was also Chris Jericho’s final great moment for a long time in front of a huge crowd in the Allstate Arena, making this bout that much better.
4 – A Shielded Tease (2015)
Before Finn Balor become the king of teases in WWE, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns provided fans with a mouthwatering moment at last years Payback.
This took place in the main event of Payback 2015 as Seth Rollins was defending his WWE World Heavyweight Championship in a Fatal Four Way encounter opposite Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Randy Orton.
The four men put on an amazing bout in the main event but it was one moment in the match still sticks in the minds of fans as Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns shockingly reunited The Shield to deliver a Triple Powerbomb to Randy Orton through an announce table. The ovation was huge as Orton went crashing through the table and Seth Rollins wrapped his arms around Ambrose and Reigns.
But unfortunately for fans of The Shield, the reuniting was only temporary as Reigns and Ambrose quickly came back to reality and began to blast Rollins. But for a brief moment, fans had thought witnessed The Shield reuniting.
And while it was just a tease, it was undoubtedly an awesome moment.
3 – Double Turn (2013)
Besides Stone Cold/Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13, has there ever been a better execution of a double turn? Often forgotten about due to what WWE did with the two men involved after this match, but there’s no denying that this bout between Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio at Payback 2013 was an absolute gem.
Battling over the World Heavyweight Championship after Ziggler’s heart stopping cash in on the post- WrestleMania 29 Raw, this match looked like it was going to impress, but nobody could have saw this coming. Going into the contest the heel Ziggler had returned from a concussion suffered right at the start of his title reign, while Del Rio was vengeful babyface challenger.
Going back to the previous concussion, that was the story of the match, as Del Rio constantly used punches and kicks to the head to weaken the champion, and it worked. Del Rio just punished Dolph with these shots to the head, while the champion resiliently hung on. The hot Chicago crowd were fire during this bout as they cheered on the heel Ziggler and the face Del Rio. Ziggler tried to fight back and even got a Zig-Zag in, but it wasn’t enough as Del Rio connected one more superkick to Ziggler for the three count and the World Title, completing the double turn.
The turn was pulled off masterfully as WWE had turned Ziggler face and Del Rio heel. Unfortunately WWE were unable to follow up on this as they severely squandered both Ziggler and Del Rio’s momentum before the end of 2013, but this moment remains fond as one that made the World Title feel important again, and one that showed that Dolph and Del Rio are two of the best in the world.
2 – Early Rumblings Of A Revolution (2013)
In the modern day WWE, women’s wrestling has really come into prominence with women like Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and others in WWE and NXT ruling the roost. But back in 2013, women’s wrestling was still frowned upon in WWE. NXT hadn’t taken off and hadn’t even made the NXT Women’s Championship yet, and the main roster product was failing. This left the field open for AJ Lee and Kaitlyn (the two best women’s wrestlers on the roster at the time) to come up with something special for WWE Payback.
The story going into the match had been built up for months as while AJ was going through all her troubles with guys CM Punk, Kane, Daniel Bryan, John Cena and Dolph Ziggler Kaitlyn was too busy focusing on the Divas Title (ugh, I have to say that again) and didn’t bother helping out her friend. This was the point where AJ was on fire coming off her storylines at the top of WWE while Kaitlyn was Divas Champion and searching for opponents, so this was the perfect time to match the real life friends up. With such a great story behind it plus a Kaitlyn nip slip to get fans invested, this was going to be good.
And good it was, as in a period where women’s wrestling wasn’t at it’s best AJ and Kaitlyn put on an amazing match which stole the show. In a show that saw CM Punk return, Dolph and Del Rio double turn, a Curtis Axel IC Title win and The Shield vs Daniel Bryan & Randy Orton, the women stole the show in a time when women’s wrestling wasn’t at it’s best.
It was this match that showed fans that WWE can make women’s wrestling great if they tried.
It was the early rumblings of a revolution.
1 – The Last Of The Shield (2014)
And now we finally reach the No.1 moment in the history of WWE Payback, as The Shield take on Evolution in a No Holds Barred Elimination Match from Payback 2014.
The feud between the two teams began after WrestleMania XXX where The Shield broke away from The Authority and cost Triple H the World Title against Daniel Bryan on the post-WrestleMania Raw. The following week after The Shield were put in an 11 on 3 Handicap Match, Triple H reunited with Randy Orton and Batista to reform Evolution. This led to Extreme Rules, where The Shield and Evolution battle for the first time ever, in what many called a dream contest for fans. The two teams absolutely tore the house down and provided arguably the 2014 match of the year at Extreme Rules where The Shield emerged victorious. Following Extreme Rules, one more bout was scheduled in Chicago for Payback.
This time, they were the main event and looked to outdo themselves. And they delivered big time! From the brutal spot with Evolution brutalising Roman Reigns on the steel steps and yet another stage dive from Seth Rollins, this bout was top notch professional wrestling! And then to out The Shield over that much more, they eliminated Orton, Batista, and finally Triple H to win the match for The Shield in a clean sweep.
Something that makes this contest that much better is that it was The Shield’s final ever bout as a group before disbanding the following night on a Raw, and what a way to end their run by toppling three of the biggest names in wrestling history at Payback in a clean sweep. The Shield were on top of the world and went out with a bang! Will any moments from this years Payback be able to top The Shield vs Evolution in 2014 or anything else on this list?
Well we’ll find out on Sunday.