Looking forward to September’s WWE PLE, let’s take a stab at ranking the 5 worst Payback matches ever.
This might not be as easy as if we decided to talk about the best or worst of say, WrestleMania.
After all, The Show of Shows has been around for 39 iterations and counting.
Payback has only been around for 10 years, but not yet 10 shows, since it has yet to be an every year tradition like certain other events.
As with any other premium live event, even those not-so-key ones, we’ve seen some great matches. But, there have been some stinkers, too.
For this, we are going for those matches that either just should have been so much better, or just were flat out awful.
So, with that in mind, lets talk about the worst!
Ranking The 5 Worst Payback Matches Ever
So, let’s see what our worst 5 are.
Ryback versus John Cena (2013)
At the risk of putting out some spoilers…this won’t be the only mention for at least one of these Superstars.
Without giving things away, let’s just say this match wouldn’t have even been good on free television.
Fans loved Ryback at one point, and Cena is one of the greatest of all time…but neither is especially gifted in the ring as an actual wrestler.
Sometimes, two non-wrestling wrestlers wrestling a match together works out. Other times, you get this.
Yes, it was a rarely used “3 Levels Of Hell” match (nice way of saying best 2 of 3 falls, with each fall in a stipulation match). It just didn’t work.
The upside? Not everyone hated it, believe it or not…
Ryback versus Bray Wyatt (2015)
See, I told you we’d see someone again. Maybe multiple someones.
At the risk of overstating the obvious, Ryback is not and was not a technically gifted wrestler.
His game was all about power and shows of strength and all that. Bray, while not a technician, is a far more cerebral talent.
Together, this was more like oil and water.
And, while I do remember wanting to see Ryback get over when he was getting hot…I also don’t remember these two ever doing battle.
Honestly, I don’t know if Ryback ever had a truly memorable match at all. Though, it would be nice to have that version of Bray Wyatt back, wouldn’t it?
John Cena versus Rusev (2015)
This was an I Quit match for Cena’s United States Championship.
I remember this time frame, it was a fun time to watch that title get defended, especially with Cena’s famous open challenges and all that.
And while a lot of those matches were fun or memorable, this one was not.
Yes, it’s also Cena’s second time on the list…when you work as much as he has, well, some of them will be clunkers.
The best I Quit matches are brutal, sometimes bloody affairs. This one was nothing of the sort, with Lana ultimately declaring that Rusev had said I quit in Bulgarian, giving Cena the win and retaining the title in the process.
I Quit matches can be great. This one was not.
Bad News Barrett versus Rob Van Dam (2014)
Barrett, when healthy, was a sneaky good Superstar, legitimately tough guy and maybe an underrated champion.
And this one was for the Intercontinental Championship, against future WWE Hall of Famer Rob Van Dam.
For those who never got to see Barrett work…he was as good in the ring as he is on commentary. RVD is still going today…maybe not as hard and fast as when he was Mr. Monday Night, but he still has “it”.
However, on that night, in that ring, it didn’t matter what the prize was, this just wasn’t their best work.
It happens. They can’t all be five star matches, right?
Bray Wyatt versus Randy Orton (2017)
Ah yes, the infamous House of Horrors match.
While WWE has since gotten quite good at pulling off cinematic matches (especially during COVID), and had done some similar work before…this one is one of the worst examples of such a match.
Want a recipe for disaster?
Take a hot feud, featuring one of the all-time greats (Orton) against the late Superstar (Wyatt), both of whom are quite talented with the ring psychology.
As entertaining as things had been with the feud leading up to 2017’s Payback, you want to have them do battle in front of fans, in the ring, going wild.
So instead, lets have them do a bizarre, slow-paced, cinematic match before the company had really hit their creative stride with them.
It could have been an incredibly good match. Instead, it was a real downer.
I am sure someone in the creative pitch room had a grand vision for this, and things sounded great and the storyboards were awesome.
Somewhere between the writer’s room and the point of execution, it all went wrong.