WWE put on their Payback event on May 1st in Chicago, the first pay-per-view since WrestleMania.
In a spot on the calendar that has been reserved for Extreme Rules since 2010, Payback continued some of the storylines from WrestleMania, whilst also beginning some new ones.
The show featured many great moments, from AJ Styles sending Roman Reigns through the announce table with the Phenomenal Forearm to Ryback’s Gorilla Press from the top rope on Kalisto.
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WWE moving Payback to this spot in the calendar was a very smart move. Whilst Extreme Rules had begun to establish itself as the follow-up pay-per-view to WrestleMania, there are several reasons as to why Payback should now fill this void permanently.
Firstly, trying to begin a feud under an Extreme Rules stipulation is extremely hard.
The beginning PPV match to a feud should be about establishing the story; two competitors’ first encounter should boil down to them and them alone, what they’re fighting for, who they are as characters and just getting the story off the ground nice and simply.
Adding a stipulation match into the fold simply adds another element to the story, which, when done so early into the feud, can jumble things. Having a stipulation means that the focus of the crowd will be taken away from the storytelling and will shift towards the novelty of the gimmick, which doesn't help when you’re trying to begin a storyline.
Having a non-themed PPV means that the focus is solely on the actions. The wrestlers can simply focus on conveying their emotions and laying the foundations for a storyline to build, rather than having to worry about impressing in a gimmick match.
Payback is the perfect PPV to help being feuds in a simple, non-confusing way.
Secondly, for those feuds continuing from WrestleMania, gimmick matches can be a good thing, but only if the feud is coming to an end.
A gimmick match is often used to end a feud. They are often no DQ, so there is little chance of a screwy finish that could leave a story open ended (there are occasions where this does happen, but they are rare).
This can be a great way to end a feud carrying over from WrestleMania, but, if the company wants to begin a long feud for two competitors, Extreme Rules can often hamper this.
Take the example of John Cena and Rusev from last year. The pair had a match at Fastlane, then WrestleMania before heading into Extreme Rules and a Russian Chain Match. Cena won, which could have ended the feud, but, instead, the story continued over to the next PPV, Payback. The two finally finished their storyline in a 'I Quit' match.
Having Extreme Rules straight after WrestleMania forced the two into having a gimmick match in their penultimate match, which lessened the impact of another gimmick match at Payback. Had the two been switched, then Cena and Rusev could have had another singles match at Payback, then finished things up with the 'I Quit' match at Extreme Rules, which would have fitted well with the show’s aesthetics.
Having an Extreme Rules match straight after WrestleMania lessens any concluding bouts feuds may have after the PPV, but, having it further away from the 'Show of Shows' gives feuds a chance to build to a big, blow off match, without harming the impact a stipulation match would have.
Finally, for all the reasons above and more, Extreme Rules in recent years has become less and less Extreme.
Last year, a card of eight matches at Extreme Rules produced only four with an Extreme stipulation (not counting the “Kiss Me Arse” match) and the year before, there were only three, one of which was a simple triple threat.
For the reasons mentioned above, it’s too difficult for WWE to book an Extreme Rules PPV as extreme as the name suggests and the company has proven that.
Compare this to the first Extreme Rules PPV in 2009, which boasted seven out of nine televised matches with an Extreme stipulation (discounting John Cena vs Big Show, which was a submission match, so it could also be argued that that was extreme too). This event took place two PPVs removed from WrestleMania, categorically proving that it is easier to make an Extreme Rules pay-per-view more extreme when it doesn’t come straight after the biggest show of the year.
Only time will tell whether Extreme Rules 2016 further encourages this theory, but WWE are onto something by swapping the two shows. Hopefully they see this too and make it permanent, which will leaves fans of hardcore wrestling and storylines alike very happy.
Should WWE keep Payback as the follow up PPV from WrestleMania? Have YOUR say in the comment section below!