The idea of running pay-per-view events on back-to-back weekends was a questionable one for WWE, but after a thrilling edition of 2020 WWE Payback on Sunday night, it was clearly the right decision. After the previous week's SummerSlam delivered heaps of exciting action, Payback proved an even better event without a single true misstep in terms of in-ring action.
The night's main event saw a major title title change as Roman Reigns won the universal championship in his first match since March 1, beating "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman in a no-holds-barred triple threat bout. Reigns was not in the match until after Wyatt and Strowman battered each other and broke the ring with a massive suplex. At that point, Reigns and new "advocate" Paul Heyman entered the fray with Reigns attacking both men before hitting a spear on Strowman to win the title.
The action capped an event that deserves a place in the conversation for the best wrestling card in 2020 with thrilling action from the opener between Apollo Crews and Bobby Lashley for the United States championship to Reigns' title-winning moment.
2020 WWE Payback results, grades
Riott Squad vs. The IIconics (Kickoff Show): After a fast start from Ruby Riott, BIllie Kay threw her into Liv Morgan's knees. Moments later, Riott used an unexpected blind tag and then hesitated to tag Morgan back into the ring, wasting little time to show that things still aren't clicking well since the two reunited. The IIconics went on a sustained run of isolating Riott. When Riott could reach for a tag, Kay knocked Morgan off the apron and then told Morgan the blow came from Riott. Morgan hesitated to get back on the ring apron but eventually decided to put her trust in Riott, jumping onto the apron and taking the tag but did have a minor botch after the hot tag, slipping off the middle rope on a springboard and then missed the turnbuckle visibly when ramming Peyton Royce's face into it. Shortly after, The IIconics hit Deja Vu on Riott, but Morgan made the save and dragged Riott to the corner for a tag. Morgan and Riott teamed up to finish off Kay with double knees into the Riott Kick. The storytelling through the match was solid, but Morgan fell apart visibly after her botch and the match went with it. The IIconics are valuable roster members but can't carry a match, and when one of the other side falls apart, it shows more visibly. Riott Squad def. The IIconics -- Grade: C
United States Championship -- Apollo Crews (c) vs. Bobby Lashley: The challenger dominated early with sheer power, but Crews' craftiness allowed him to send Lashley from the ring before hitting a moonsault from the apron to the ring. Crews took back over on the outside, eventually driving Crews into the ring post while holding him on his shoulders in a fireman's carry. Crews' big comeback was cut off by a Lashley dominator for a two count. Crews failed to hit the toss powerbomb but did hit a spinebuster into a standing moonsault for his own two count. Crews took over with his own power, hitting a press slam and a pair of German suplexes before heading to the top rope for a frog splash. As MVP got fired up at ringside, sensing the match was slipping away, Lashley responded by dropping Crews and locking in the Full Lashley to win the title. As The Hurt Business posed for the cameras, Crews attacked from behind before leaving and vowing to get his title back. This was a very solid match that showed off Crews' dynamic offense and Lashley's power game well. Taking the title off Crews is questionable, since he could have ran through the entire Hurt Business roster, but it's a move that keeps the group a solid force on Raw. Bobby Lashley def. Apollo Crews (c) via submission to win the title -- Grade: B
Big E vs. Sheamus: Sheamus had trouble getting going early as he was repeatedly taken off his feet by Big E. A bit later, Big E missed a splash on the apron to let Sheamus take over, going to work on Big E's knee with stomps and a leg breaker. Sheamus stayed focused on the knee, grounding Big E with constant leg attacks before an Irish Curse backbreaker. Sheamus was a bit ahead of Big E again on a comeback attempt, throwing up a knee to counter the spear through the ropes, and then again cutting him off with an Alabama slam as Big E tried to taunt over Sheamus' supine body. Sheamus locked in a modified sharpshooter, but Big E was able to grab the bottom rope and then hit the spear through the ropes to the floor. Sheamus tried for a Brogue Kick but was caught with a powerbomb and a Big Ending for the finish. The chemistry between Big E and Sheamus is outstanding for a power vs. power pairing and this was a very good showcase match for Big E's singles run potential. Big E def. Sheamus via pinfall -- Grade: B+
King Corbin vs. Matt Riddle: Corbin hit Riddle with a clothesline as he jumped in the ring before the match began. Corbin stomped Riddle in the corner and took him outside to continue the beating. Riddle locked up a rear-naked choke but was dumped on his back by Corbin, but then Riddle sat up and locked the hold right back in before finally being tossed to the mat. Corbin continued the physical assault on Riddle, but followed up his earlier tweet calling Riddle a "failure at home" by using the same taunt in the ring, firing Riddle up. Riddle then knocked Corbin from the ring with a head kick. Riddle flurried with strikes before Corbin was finally able to land a right hand to slow things down and moments later hit Deep Six for a two count. Corbin fell into Riddle's full guard and ate a few elbows before getting to his feet and being hit with a body kick and a Floating Bro for the finish.
After the match, Riddle was interviewed backstage and was talking about how good it felt to be done with Corbin when he was attacked from behind and put through a catering table. This is going to sound like a complaint, but there was a lack of chemistry between the two men which actually led to a more interesting match, less smooth and more naturally physical than most WWE matches, which run like clockwork many times. This made for an interesting, physical battle that made both men come out looking good. Another solid match in a hot start to the night. Matt Riddle def. King Corbin via pinfall -- Grade: B+
Women's Tag Team Championship -- Bayley & Sasha Banks (c) vs. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler: As soon as the opening bell rang, Baszler tagged herself into the match and immediately began striking Banks before trapping her head in the corner and landing a series of kicks. Banks tied up Jax on the outside while Bayley was the legal woman, leading to Jax to be knocked o the floor where she clutched at her knee as Baszler was isolated in the ring. Jax got back involved, swinging Banks into the barricade repeatedly before entering the ring and taking over on Bayley until a sneaky Banks chop block behind the referee's back. Bayley hit an elbow drop on Jax, followed by a Banks frog splash for a two count. Baszler locked Banks in the Muta Lock and then Bayley in the Kirifuda Clutch simultaneously to force the submission and win the tag championships. This was really good stuff with a fantastic final stretch that saw the pace go next level as things continued to just slip away from Bayley and Banks until Baszler's fantastic finishing combination. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler def. Bayley & Sasha Banks (c) via submission to win the titles -- Grade: A-
Keith Lee vs. Randy Orton: After Lee bounced Orton from the ring early, Orton responded with a series of chops. The fight went outside the ring. Lee dropped Orton on the announce table and kept up the attack, but Orton was able to use that to set up a hanging DDT as Lee tried to reenter the ring. Orton was setting up for an RKO when Lee hit a Spirit Bomb out of nowhere to score the pin. A shockingly fast win and one that came with Lee not even hitting his standard finisher to score the victory. If there was doubt over whether Lee was going to be treated well on the main roster, a dominant victory over WWE's strongest wrestler in 2020 should answer that. There's a touch of disappointment there wasn't more to the match, but still solid stuff and a shocking ending. Keith Lee def. Randy Orton via pinfall -- Grade: B
Rey & Dominik Mysterio vs. Seth Rollins & Murphy: Dominik attacked right off the bat and got off to a hot start, leading to a bit of an argument between Rollins and Murphy. Rollins led a comeback on Rey, eventually sliding him out of the ring and onto Murphy, who was laying at ringside with his knees up. Rey made the hot tag to Dominik who tried to come in with a cross body, only to be caught by Murphy and Rollins, turning the moment into an assisted falcon arrow. Dominik took a bit of a beating before making the hot tag to Rey, who hit some explosive offense on Rollins before a dropkick to the legs before missing a 619 but hitting a big kick for a two count. As the pace picked up, Rollins scored a near fall by jumping up and hitting double knees as Rey tried to come off the top rope with a cross body. After Rollins took over, he screamed at Rey, "Where's your family now?" before demanding Murphy kick Rey in the head. Instead, Murphy's kick hot Rollins. Rey tagged in Dominik for a 619 and a frog splash on Murphy for the victory as Rey slid out of the ring to toss Rollins into the barricade. What a night this was to this point for pure wrestling action. Dominik continues to impress and the pace on this match just never slowed even slightly from the opening bell until the finish. Rey & Dominik Mysterio def. Seth Rollins & Murphy via pinfall -- Grade: B+
Universal Championship -- "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns: Strowman attacked Wyatt during his ring walk, but Wyatt hit Sister Abigail for a near fall with Reigns still not in the match. Strowman tried to fire back at ringside, but Wyatt put him through the announce table with a urinage. Wyatt grabbed a mallet, but Strowman launched a chair at him before clotheslining him into the ring steps. Wyatt used the mallet to drop Strowman moments later, drilling him in the chest. Alexa Bliss was shown backstage during the match, playing with her hair and watching the action. As the two men battled up the entrance ramp, Strowman drove Wyatt off the cage, putting both men through a platform next to the stage. Strowman took the action back to the ring and went to the top rope but was caught by Wyatt, who hit a superplex that broke the ring.
At that point, Reigns appeared, signed the contract held by Paul Heyman after having not yet signed ahead of the match and called a new referee down and tried to pin Wyatt, getting two near falls. Reigns then tried to pin Strowman, who also kicked out. Reigns hit Strowman with a steel chair several times for another two count and then tried to do the same to Wyatt, but Wyatt locked in a Mandible Claw. Reigns escaped with a low blow, slid back into the ring and speared Strowman for a three count to win the title. The action between Wyatt and Strowman was the right kind of chaotic, but the ring breaking has lost all impact with the way it always feels so clearly set up before ever happening. And Reigns coming in and doing little to win just doesn't feel like the right way to go -- even as he works as a heel alongside Heyman. Roman Reigns def. "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt (c) & Braun Strowman [via pinfall] to win the title -- Grade: B-