A little peek behind the curtain: I held off writing this because I fully expected Damian Priest and that briefcase after the main event. But more on that later.
Rhea Ripley promised changes if Damian & Finn Balor left Pittsburgh empty handed. Did anyone doubt her? I know I didn’t and judging by their performances, neither did Finn & Damian.
The Steel City Street Fight had something for everyone. The violence, of course, but also a couple Pittsburgh references. Finn found terrible towels under the ring and promptly stepped on them. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens got tossed in a proverbial penalty box and came out wearing Penguins jerseys, gloves, and holding hockey sticks. If image alone doesn’t tell you this match cooked, I don’t know what else to say.
The match fit Payback‘s running theme: violence. WWE put on a very physical show that lived up to its namesake. This match, like most others on the card, fit firmly under the “blood feud” umbrella, and the wrestlers met that criteria. KO even bled! Not as much as Jon Moxley, but who amongst us can?
But I’m lumping this match in with Judgment Day’s night overall because it, along with Rhea’s title defense against Raquel Rodriguez, felt similar. Besides the aforementioned physicality, they both hinged on crew love.
At a certain point during the street fight, Dirty Dom showed his face. And he did it perfectly within the rules. His mere presence shifted the tag champs’ attention, which no doubt gave the challengers an advantage. That edge–pun intended–got even wider when JD McDonagh, once again, helped out Finn’s group. JD broke up a no doubt pin fall and kept the challengers in the game. So KO & Sami, already facing three men, found themselves dealing with a fourth. While they dispatched JD pretty easily, the next person shoving their weight into this match proved more vexing: Rhea.
Rhea, out of nowhere, speared KO into the barricade. That left Rhea, Finn, & Damian, while Dom licked his wounds caused from KO & Sami doing the hockey fight thing on his poor bones. Everything illustrated the advantage Judgment Day has going into every match; it truly is Judgment Day vs. the world. Even when someone thinks they have them beaten, like Sami & KO did at a couple points, the other members cause trouble and change the equation.
I dig that. I know history says that bickering groups get their expiration date, but it’s different with these cats. Not saying they won’t break up one day. I’m not even saying they won’t break up next week. I just see a group that truly functions like a family. They bicker and disagree, but they hold each other down when the chips get lower than sea level. For the tag match, Dom resurrected from the dead and saved his boys, ironically, with that green briefcase. The thing that caused so much strife in the group ended up propelling them to tag team gold! That’s fine storytelling.
Dom showed out again during Rhea’s championship match. Like I alluded to, Rhea & Raquel got incredibly physical. I’m not sure how it happened but Rhea’s nose started bleeding and rather than just wipe her nose, she blew the snot onto Raquel. Then she wiped her nose. Disgusting but also perfectly done.
Raquel put up a good fight, which goes a long way considering Rhea’s recent title matches. She beat the hell out of the champ, took her