Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

Tonight, WWE gives us the "Payback" pay per view event live from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL.  Titles will be decided, but there is also a big return slated as CM Punk is scheduled to face Chris Jericho tonight.  The full card shakes down as follows:

Pre-Show:

Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow

Main Card:

Dean Ambrose of The Shield (c) vs. Kane; WWE United States Championship

Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns of The Shield (c) vs. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan; WWE Tag Team Championship

Wade Barrett (c) vs. Curtis Axel (w/Paul Heyman) vs. The Miz; WWE Intercontinental Championship

Kaitlyn (c) vs. AJ; WWE Divas Championship

Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk (w/Paul Heyman)

Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodriguez); World Heavyweight Championship

John Cena (c) vs. Ryback; WWE Championship fought as Three Stages of Hell (Fall 1 - Lumberjack match, Fall 2 - Tables Match, Fall 3 - Ambulance Match)

Pre-Show:

Sandow's music plays and he makes his way to the ring.  They cut up to a press box where Josh Mathews hosts the pre-show round table event with Cody Rhodes, R-Truth, and Big Show.  Big Show says it's the beauty of his iron clad contract that he can do what he wants, when he wants.  They exchange some comments about tonight's event before sending it down to JBL, Jerry Lawler, and Michael Cole.

Match #1 - Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow:

Sheamus comes to the ring as the announcers recap the various intellectual games that Sandow has played on Sheamus.  They show the video footage from when Sheamus kicked the "Deep Blue" super computer.

Sheamus gets a decent reaction coming out.  Sandow gets aggressive early on with some headbutts.  Sheamus hits the battering ram off the ropes for two.  Sheamus tries to set up the forearm clubbing in the ropes but Sandow slips away.

Sheamus goes out after Sandow, but he ends up eating the ring post.  Sandow gets a big boot to the side of the face then slides under the rope to kick Sheamus again.  Back in the ring, Sheamus lands some strikes then hits a snapmare from the ropes.  Sandow gets control of the match again and hits the Cobito Acquiette elbow for two.

WWE went all hard sell and gave us a commercial during the pre-show for the pay per view.  Yes, this happened.

Lawler puts Sandow over with his newfound aggression as he works on Sheamus.  Sheamus catches Sandow on the apron and lands his forearm clobbering while the fans count along.  Sandow mounts another comeback, this time hitting Sheams with a spinning neckbreaker with Sheamus' legs tied up in the ropes.

Sandow and Sheamus fight for position, with Sandow getting the better of it.  He hits a neckbreaker for a near fall.  Sheamus is on the ropes, and Sandow flips him into the ring.  Sheamus cues up his comeback sequence.  There are some boos, mostly from the vocal males.  Sheamus finishes off Sandow with a Brogue Kick to a big reaction.

Winner - Sheamus

We got the same forumla result we normally get from WWE in these pre-show matches, but it was a quality pre-show match.  Sandow got a lot of offense in and the near falls were believable.

We get a hype package for the Three Stages of Hell match between John Cena and Ryback for the WWE Championship.  The panelists discuss it after the package airs.  Cody and Truth pick Ryback to win tonight, but Big Show says that Cena knows how to stay at the top.  Getting to the top of the mountain is easy but staying there is difficult and Cena knows how to stay there.  Show predicts that Ryback will leave in the ambulance and Cena will retain.

We get a recap of the build to CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho.  They return to the panel one more time and note they will give analysis throughout the evening.  They turn it over to the announcers, who give a final sell for the pay per view event.

WWE Payback, live from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL

We get a mobster-themed video package that hypes up the three main matches for the card tonight.  It closes with an image of CM Punk.  We go to a cold open with no pyro and the Intercontinental title is up first.

Match #1 - Wade Barrett (c) vs. Curtis Axel (w/Paul Heyman) vs. The Miz; WWE Intercontinental Championship

Cole hypes up that the meaning of Father's Day is not lost on Axel, whose father of course is Curt Hennig.  Axel tries to bail early to let the other two fight.  JBL points out that English golfer Justin Rose won the US Open, so maybe it's Barrett's night.

Things slow down, and Axel works Miz methodically while Barrett sells out on the floor.  Cole hypes up the return of CM Punk later tonight and that the fans are ready to explode.

Barrett gets back in the fray and clears Axel to the corner.  Miz gets a comeback spot in by taking out both heels.  They work into a sequence with Axel hitting Barrett with the PerfectPlex but Miz breaking up the pinfall with a shot to the midsection on Axel.

Miz hits Axel with the Skull Crushing Finale, but Barrett steals the cover.  Miz yanks Barrett away and gets a near fall of his own.

Miz tries for the Figure Four, but Axel stops him.  Miz locks on the Figure Four again and gets a big reaction from the fans.  Heyman yells at Axel to get in the ring.  Axel covers Barrett, who is locked in the hold, and gets a three count before Barrett taps out.

Afterward, Axel celebrates with Heyman as Miz freaks out over the loss.  The fans actually cheered this change, and Axel looks to the ceiling to salute his late father.

Winner - Curtis Axel to capture the Intercontinental Championship

This got off to a slow start, but there were some good offensive sequences in here.  I expected Axel would either win or not be involved in the finish, and giving him the title will help move his push along for a little while.

We get the video package for Mark Henry's return to Raw tomorrow night.  The announcers then recap the Intercontinental Title match finish and Axel's celebration.

Backstage:

Heyman tells Axel his win was perfect.  Triple H appears and stops Axel.  Vince walks into the picture and shakes Axel's hand, then Heyman's.  Vince sends those two on their way then has a talk with Trips.  Vince makes the match between Hunter and Axel on Raw and asks if he's feeling it.  Trips simply says "not feeling it one bit." and walks away.

We get a recap of AJ and Big E humiliating Kaitlyn on Raw last Monday to set up the Divas Title match

Match #2 - Kaitlyn (c) vs. AJ (w/Big E Langston); WWE Divas Championship

AJ blows Kaitlyn a kiss.  Kaitlyn goes off and is the aggressor early, throwing AJ to the floor then into the Spanish announce table.  AJ slows down the assault by catching Kaitlyn with a kick through the ropes.

AJ tries a dive a bit later, but Kaitlyn catches her.  She tries to hit a side slam out of it, but AJ locks on her Black Widow hold in a neat spot.  Kaitlyn powers her way out, then hits a really good looking spear.  Rather than go for the cover she picks AJ up and blows her a kiss.  She covers, but AJ kicks out.

Kaitlyn charges a bit later, but AJ pulls herself up on the ropes.  Kaitlyn eats the turnbuckle hard, and AJ gets the Black Widow hold on a second time.  Kaitlyn tries to get out of it, but this time AJ wraps her foot around Kaitlyn's neck and she taps.

After the match, the fans chant "you tapped out" at Kaitlyn, who cries.  Layla comes out and consoles her and that draws an "aww" from the fans.

Winner - AJ to win the Divas Championship

Followers of the site know I'm just "meh" on AJ and don't get the interest in her.  But that said, these two put on a good match that was a bit slow at times but feels like a real feud and story.  JBL was quick to point out that Kaitlyn beat herself with the blowing of the kiss mid-match.

We get a shot backstage of more consoling from Layla, Alicia Fox, and Natalya for Kaitlyn.  We then get a commercial for Money in the Bank, next month's pay per view event.

They go back to the pre-show panel up in one of the skyboxes.  They discuss the two title changes we've seen so far tonight.

Before the next match, they show us a Wyatt Family video.

Match #3 - Dean Ambrose of The Shield (c) vs. Kane; WWE United States Championship

Ambrose works the left leg of Kane in the early going.  Things are moving slowly in this one as Kane sells mostly.  Ambrose teases using Undertaker's "Old School" move, but Kane throws him down.  He follows with some strikes, a couple running clotheslines and a side slam to get a near fall.

Ambrose clotheslines Kane out, but Kane comes right back with a big boot that sends Ambrose to the outside.  Ambrose slaps Kane, and he counters back with an uppercut.  Kane rips the Spanish announce position apart and has bad intentions.  Ambrose hits Kane with a DDT and gets back in the ring.  Kane can't get back in before he's counted out.

Winner - Dean Ambrose to retain the United States Championship by count out.

Better than the match these two had on Raw, but still a slow paced affair.  Felt the finish was a bit cheap too.

We get another video package, plugging the return of Rob Van Dam at Money in the Bank.

I'm shocked by that.  I know Triple H had reservations about doing this.  A good hook for the event though, whether a one-off or a full-time return.  I hope RVD is motivated.

Match #4 - Dolph Ziggler (c, w/Big E. Langston and AJ) vs. Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodriguez); World Heavyweight Championship

Lillian handles the in-ring introductions for this one.  Strong Ziggler chants as the match gets started.

Del Rio slams Ziggler face first into the announce table a few times.  Big E sticks his nose in things and gets shoved.  Langston shoves Del Rio back, then the official steps in.  He orders Langston out of the ringside area.

A bit later on, Dolph catches Del Rio in a sleeper.  Del Rio escapes then kicks Ziggler in the head.  Del Rio puts Ziggler on the second rope and fires shots to the lower back then hits a big punch to the back of Ziggler's head.  Del Rio sets up his next move and mugs a bit, which allows Dolph to counter.  He hits a neckbreaker for two.

JBL wonders if the official needs to step in for Ziggler's sake.  Ziggler hits a Fameasser that looks kind of sloppy.  Del Rio kicks out on two.  The vocal adult males are still pulling for Ziggler here.  Del Rio hits an inverted superplex for a good near fall.  Cole puts Ziggler over as kicking out on instinct alone and JBL calls his performance "gutsy."

Ziggler's out on the floor now, and Del Rio kicks him.  The trainer steps in and looks in Ziggler's eyes with a light.  Del Rio kicks Ziggler in the head.  They work back into the ring and Del Rio lands another kick to Ziggler's head.  He covers and gets a two count that the crowd pops for.

Del Rio gets cocky as he picks up Ziggler, but Ziggler hits Zig Zag for two.  Del Rio hits a superkick on Dolph and gets the win.  The fans chant for Ziggler and AJ looks worried.  Dolph holds his head and struggles to walk backstage.

Winner - Alberto Del Rio to win the World Heavyweight Championship

The kicks to the head, work or not, were uncomfortable for me.  It almost looks like we got a double turn out of this one too, with Dolph being the sympathetic character and Del Rio being the evil one for going after Dolph as he did.  The announcers never turned on Del Rio, but the fans clearly did.

We get a brief cut-in from the panel to talk about the title change.

Del Rio cuts a promo from the stage.  Ricardo applauds him and Del Rio asks the fans for their support but they just boo him.  Del Rio says the fans all know he is one of the best and he deserves to be their champion.  He asks for another ovation and Ricardo does his big introduction for him as the fans boo him.

Let's be honest, Del Rio never clicked as a face.  I think I'd have preferred a long Dolph run, but the concussion is the out for him losing and it made him a sympathetic character.  He might be better in "chase mode" as a face.

Newsworthy night so far...wow.

We get a video package to set up CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho, and that's up next.

Match #5 - Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk (w/Paul Heyman)

As expected, Jericho gets booed by the hometown fans.  They chant for Punk after Jericho's music stops.  Punk comes out to a huge ovation, wearing the grey hoodie and Heyman at his side.  Heyman holds out his watch, Punk checks it and yells "It's Clobberin' Time!"

Punk's got the Wolverine facial hair thing going, and Chicago Blackhawks logos on his trunks and boots.  The bell rings and the fans are in full throat with "CM Punk" chants.  The crowd cheers Punk's moves and boos Jericho when he hits a shoulder block.  Jericho smiles at the crowd.

Punk tries a bulldog, but Jericho shoves him away and hits a lionsault.  Heyman looks frustrated and concerned.  Punk tries a GTS but Jericho counters and locks Punk in the Walls of Jericho.  Heyman is heard yelling "NO!" from ringside.

Punk reaches up and grabs Jericho by the head.  He works the hold into the Anaconda Vice.  Punk then calls for the GTS and yells "Blackhawks in seven!"  Jericho counters out and hits the Codebreaker for two.

Jericho pounds away, telling Punk to stay down.  The fans chant for Punk as he reels around the ring.  They trade strikes, then Punk hits a heel kick, followed by a corner knee then a running clothesline.  He goes up top and hits the Macho Elbow, then calls for the GTS.  He hits the GTS, but Jericho kicks out in a good near fall.

Punk is shocked and asks Heyman what happened.  Heyman has no answers, but the crowd wants the GTS one more time. He puts Jericho up, but Jericho elbows out.  Jericho tries the Codebreaker, but Punk shoves him off and follows with a clothesline to the outside.  Punk follows it up with a suicide dive.

They make it back in the ring, and Punk tries to hit a springboard clothesline.  Jericho counters with a mid-air Codebreaker in a neat spot, then gets a near fall out of it.  Jericho is stunned, but collects himself and pounds away on Punk.  Jericho goes to the Daniel Bryan style strikes on Punk's neck, then walks around the ring.  He sets up for the Walls again, but Punk rolls it up in a small package for a near fall.

Late in this one, Jericho is able to get the Walls on Punk mid-ring.  The fans chant for Punk and Heyman begs him to not tap out.  Punk works on Jericho's knee and breaks his way out of the hold that way. Jericho holds on to Punk's ankle though.  Punk hits some repeated shots and is able to load the GTS.  The first one knocks Jericho to the corner, so he hits it again mid-ring to get the win.

Winner - CM Punk

Punk looked ready to go here.  This was a great match with a lot of believable near falls for both guys.  The live crowd was white hot for this one too.  Great match.

Worth pointing out it's just now 10PM EST, and we're down to the last two matches on the card.

After Punk and Heyman exit, The Shield's music hits and they make their entrance through the crowd.  Ambrose sends the tag champs on their way for their title defense.

Match #6 - Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns of The Shield (c) vs. Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton; WWE Tag Team Championship

Rollins gets the better of Bryan in the early going.  Bryan tags in Orton, and he hits a hanging DDT on Reigns.  The heels regain control and work over Orton.  The crowd is a bit gassed after the Punk match so they're not as into it...but they do offer up an RVD chant.

The crowd comes back to life as Bryan gets the hot tag and starts his offensive run.  He hits a flurry of running drop kicks and kicks.  He tries a suicide dive onto the heels, but they move and Bryan ends up crashing into Orton.  Orton recovers.  Reigns sets up the spear but Bryan ends up taking it.  Orton drops Reigns with the RKO.  Rollins sends Orton out to the floor then hits a curb stomp type move on Bryan and pins him.

Winners - Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns of The Shield to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship

They leave themselves a follow-up angle with how Orton pulled Bryan into the spear.  For Daniel Bryan fans, this isn't a big blow to where he is right now as he has the out that Orton sacrificed him.

We get an ad for "Fatherhood.gov"  before going into a video package for the Three Stages of Hell match.

Justin Roberts gives us all the rules for the main event.  He mentions there will be 30 lumberjacks at ringside for the lumberjack match, then it will be followed by the tables match, then the ambulance match.

Match #7 - John Cena (c) vs. Ryback; WWE Championship as a Three Stages of Hell match

The lumberjacks make their way out.  It's mostly guys who didn't work the show, like 3MB, Great Khali, Yoshi Tatsu, Zack Ryder, but Curtis Axel and Sheamus are also among the guys out there.

Ryback marches straight to the ring, to not a lot of reaction.  Cena gets booed pretty heavily as he comes out.  He kind of casually flips the belt to the official then runs the ropes and poses.  Justin Roberts handles the introductions.

Stage #1 - Lumberjack Match

Ryback locks Cena in a side headlock, then throws him outside on the heel side.  They take a few shots on Cena then throw him in the ring.  Miz and other faces jaw at the heels.  Ryback yells his "Ryback Rules" catchphrase then throws Cena out again.

We get another RVD chant.  Cena throws Ryback out to the heel side and they let him get back up without incident.  Odd, as 3MB has been beaten down by Ryback more times than can be accounted for.  Ryback yells 'Finish it" but gets picked up and dropped over the top rope to the floor.  Ryback shoves someone and a brawl gets started.

Cena climbs the ropes and stumbles.  He hits a big dive out to the floor after he gains his footing.  It looks like bowling pins falling down - kind of funny.  Cena locks Ryback in the STF back in the ring, but Ryback counters out.  He hits Shellshocked to get the first win.

Ryback leads 1-0

Stage #2 - Tables Match

Cole puts over the fact that if Ryback can put Cena through a table, he will win the WWE Championship.  The lumberjack exit and Ryback sets up a table.  He tries for a powerbomb but Cena counters.  Ryback hits a spear, then gets the obligatory Goldberg chant from the fans.

Ryback sets up a press slam, but Cena slips out.  He tries the AA, but Ryback was able to reach out and flip the table over so he didn't go through it.  Cole says we learned a lot about Ryback from that table flip.  Ryback counters out of the AA and goes back on offense.

Ryback grabs the ring steps and hits Cena in the head with them.  He throws the stairs at a fallen Cena, which causes them to crash through a table set up in the corner.  Cena mounts a comeback by slamming Ryback down then running the stairs into his head.  Cena goes to ringside and gets a table and puts it in the ring.

While Cena sets up the table, Ryback picks up the stairs and hits him with them.  He tries to throw the stairs down, but Cena moves and the stairs crash into another table.  Ryback throws the stairs at Cena again, but he moves and they fly out to the entrance ramp.

Ryback stands in the corner and says "meathook engaged."  He hits Cena with the Meathook clothesline, then sets up another table in the ring.  Cena comes back and hits Ryback with the AA through the table.

Match tied at 1-1

Stage #3 - Ambulance Match

Ryback pops up quickly, almost like a no-sell.  He takes Cena to ringside and powerbombs him through the announce table.  He looks down at Cena and tells him it's only going to get worse from here.

Dueling Cena chants get going.  Once Ryback gets Cena back in the ring, they officially start the Ambulance match fall.  Ryback carries Cena toward the ambulance.  Cena slips out and runs Ryback into the ambulance.

Cena opens a side door where he finds a crutch.  Ryback takes a swing at Cena, who ducks, and Ryback ends up putting his hand through the passenger window.

Driver's side door is open on the ambulance.  Cena throws Ryback at it, and it comes off the hinges.  He picks the door up and rams Ryback with it.  Cena tried to force Ryback into the ambulance through the driver's side door.  Ryback's elbow hits the horn a couple times.  Ryback pulls off a side panel and hits Cena with it a couple of times.

Cena goes up top on the ambulance and rips the light bar off.  He hits Ryback with the light bar.  Ryback grabs the crutch Cena had earlier and goes up top.  Cena grabs the crutch and hits Ryback with it.  He follows up by hitting the AA on the roof.  Ryback apparently crashes through into the ambulance as it seemed WWE blew the production shot.  Cena holds his arms up in victory and is declared the winner.

Winner - John Cena 2-1 to retain the WWE Championship

Cena goes to the ring to celebrate with the title as the ambulance siren hits.  They replay the finish from another angle, which makes it look a whole lot better.  The ambulance leaves with Ryback inside.  Cena looks into the camera as he heads to the back and says he got his payback to close the show.

That ambulance was pretty heavily gimmicked up in order for them to tear the thing apart that quickly and easily.  And it looks like the production truck blew that "through the roof" shot or they didn't think it would look right with the gimmicked ambulance.  None the less, this main event was the flattest thing on the show tonight.  Not saying they didn't work hard, but the rest of the show was much better.

The first two hours of this show were awesome.  The third hour wasn't as good, and there's no doubt in my mind they should have traded the main event for Jericho/Punk.  Cena/Ryback could have easily existed in the middle of the show somewhere and not hurt the overall program. 

This pay per view definitely exceeded my expectations tonight.  Usually WWE gives us some "down" shows between Mania and SummerSlam, but this one was fun to watch.  If you can, catch a replay - you'll enjoy it.

Be sure to join Drew Koscelek tomorrow night for live Raw coverage at 8PM EST for all the fallout from tonight!