Roman Reigns capped his stunning return by winning the Universal Championship at WWE Payback.
Reigns made his first WWE appearance for over five months last weekend when he gatecrashed the finale of Summerslam. The Big Dog had been away from the action having cited fears of working amid the Coronavirus pandemic at its outset, but is now very firmly back in the picture.
With a new heel persona and Brock Lesnar’s advocate, Paul Heyman at his side, Reigns arrived late to the triple-threat main event at Payback featuring Braun Strowman and The Fiend, which featured a spectacular-looking ring collapse as the two behemoths traded blows. Reigns turned up, however, and one attack with a chair and a low blow later, he was Universal Champion once again.
The match brought a needlessly abrupt end to the Fiend’s reign, who’d beaten Strowman to capture the gold just seven nights prior – any significance of that win is now completely lost. The need to have Reigns pick up the title in such a fashion is entirely understandable but this could just as easily have been achieved if Strowman had been the incumbent.
The match of the night at Payback was the tag team encounter that saw Seth Rollins and Murphy join forces to take on father-and-son duo Dominik and Rey Mysterio .
These four men have carved out an exceptional story over the course of the last few months, one that stands out as some of the company’s best work during that time. While relative novice Dominik is clearly the breakout star and major talking point of the foursome, the staggering consistency of Rollins’ performances has been a masterclass in its own right.
On this night, the Mysterios picked up the win after a perfectly executed sunset flip bomb from Rey took out Rollins, leaving Murphy to once again be the one to fall at the last, succumbing to a 619 and frog splash from Dominik. Almost as if he’d played no part in the failure, Rollins left Murphy’s side after the match, looking every bit the disappointed master.
If that storyline is one contender for WWE’s best over recent months, another is that between Sasha Banks and Bayley – though after a slow and steady build, the programme seems to be unravelling a little too quickly. The best pals lost their Women’s tag team titles at Payback after Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax scored a big upset. The finish to what was generally a hard-hitting match was exceptional – the brutal Baszler using Banks’ arm to choke Bayley into a submission.
Keith Lee made his RAW debut this past Monday and, just a few nights later he had his first big win under his belt on the company’s flagship show, a clean victory over Randy Orton. This seems a feud far from destined for the long term, so having Lee win so impressively against one of WWE’s premier performers worked perfectly, the win coming courtesy of an emphatic Spirit Bomb.
Elsewhere at Payback, Matt Riddle’s steady ascension to stardom on Friday Night SmackDown continued as he again got the better of King Corbin thanks to a Flying Bro. While it maintains Riddle’s momentum, the fact Corbin dominated the largest part of the match again showed WWE’s steadfast confidence in Corbin as an in-ring performer, even if there’s something about his ‘King’ character that they just can’t seem to get right.
There was a new United States Champion crowned in Orlando as Bobby Lashley and MVP’s dogged pursuit of Apollo Crews and his championship finally paid off. It was a shame to see Crews drop the title in such a relatively meek fashion – Lashley won thanks to submission via the Full Lashley – but one suspects the fallen champ to come back an altogether angrier man, and maybe even align with MVP too.
The other key match on the night saw Big E continue his hugely impressive singles run with another big win over Sheamus. WWE are doing a grand job of giving The New Day favourite a good amount of time in the ring to establish himself on an individual basis, and a fairly lengthy back-and-forth with the Irishman ended with a Big Ending for a decisive pinfall.
Universal Championship No Holds Barred Triple Threat Match
Roman Reigns defeated “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (c) and Braun Strowman
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax defeated Bayley & Sasha Banks (c)
Keith Lee defeated Randy Orton via Spirit Bomb
Rey Mysterio & Dominik Mysterio defeated Seth Rollins & Murphy
United States Championship
Bobby Lashley defeated Apollo Crews
Big E defeated Sheamus
Matt Riddle defeated King Corbin
The Riott Squad defeated The IIconics