Roman Reigns vs AJ Styles – WWE Payback 2016

Roman Reigns (c) vs AJ Styles

WWE World Heavyweight Championship

05/01/2016

Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois, United States

(reviewed 01/19/2017) This is a very odd match, in that I don’t think I can recall a match that simultaneously had as much going on while still being real empty as a whole. It’s like someone wanted to do an Attitude Era-esque overbooked main event but forgot to actually book the main event. The whole thing is aimless and plodding, with the two restarts doing little to add direction or kick things into a higher gear, though the beginning of the “third fall” is more heated and was a good step in the right direction. I don’t hate Dusty finishes on principal as long as they don’t make me feel cheated as a fan, and while we get a somewhat conclusive finish in the end here, I still feel sort of cheated because there’s nothing going on in this match aside from multiple restarts and interference spots. It’s just a smattering of signature spots in between lengthy bits of selling and interference. What action we do get is great, notably well-timed and impressive, but that silver lining is all too little in comparison to the vast expanses of nothing on either side of each spot. Mechanically, both these guys are good to great. Roman’s body language, facials, and selling are all great, though with how little offense there is in this match, his selling feels a little overboard towards the end. AJ, on the other hand, cranks that to 11 and is completely overboard, lacking subtlety or self-awareness. Both of them, on what offense we do get, look great, but a few good-looking spots in a massive void of is boring no matter how you cut it. This is 30% of a good match and it’s a shame to see. I’ve been told that their Extreme Rules rematch is far superior, and I’m hoping that’s true.

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