Roman Reigns Is a Heel, Keith Lee Is a Star, More WWE Payback 2020 Hot Takes

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2020

Roman Reigns Is a Heel, Keith Lee Is a Star, More WWE Payback 2020 Hot Takes

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    Credit: WWE.com

    For a pay-per-view event thrown together in the span of seven days, WWE Payback produced more than a few buzz-worthy talking points.

    From the confirmation of the biggest heel turn since Steve Austin shook hands with the devil at WrestleMania X-Seven in 2001 to the making of a star with one dominant victory, Sunday's show had fans talking about the bright future of the company for the first time in months.

    On the heels of the explosive WWE Network event and in anticipation for everything that the outcomes mean for a company finally finding some momentum in this pandemic era, relive the 2020 edition of Payback through these notable hot takes.

Roman Reigns Erases Any Doubts About His Status as SmackDown's Top Villain

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    If you are one of those know-it-all types on Twitter insisting that there is no proof that Roman Reigns is turning heel despite his taunts at SummerSlam and his alliance with Paul Heyman on Friday's SmackDown, you probably haven't gotten around to watching Sunday's Payback pay-per-view.

    Reigns, in classic heel fashion, waited until The Fiend and Braun Strowman had beaten the hell out of each other before conveniently making his entrance and signing the contract for his championship opportunity. From there, he battered the hell out of both men, barely breaking a sweat before capturing the Universal Championship and reclaiming his place atop the WWE mountain.

    This time, 100 percent unabashedly heel.

    And it is about damn time.

    Reigns' biggest critics have begged for The Big Dog to undergo a heel turn for years. There was no better time to do execute the turn than back in 2017 following his retirement of The Undertaker (or so we thought) at WrestleMania 33, but WWE pushed forward with him in a role that really had outlived its effectiveness.

    Now, back on TV after opting to sit out five months amid concerns over both his health and the well-being of his newborn twins, WWE found itself with yet another opportunity to execute the turn. This time, the company jumped at it.

    Predictably so, Reigns is suddenly the hottest thing in pro wrestling.

    Time will tell if WWE does right by him and avoids the booking potholes it so frequently loses itself in, but for the time being, the company can print as much money as it wants on the back of a guy who has been its face, albeit in a different role, for the better part of the last decade.

Keith Lee Erases Any Doubts About His Status as Raw's Next Big Thing

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    Speaking of making money, Keith Lee is about to make as much as he and WWE want as one of the faces of the company's bright future following his undisputed victory over Randy Orton at Payback.

    The Limitless One dominated, reversing an RKO into a Spirit Bomb and earning the clean win.

    We had not seen Orton beaten that decisively since he put Mark Henry over in the same fashion back in 2011, a program that launched Henry into the stratosphere and gave him his first run as world champion.

    While Lee is a ways away from capturing the top prize on Raw, he is undoubtedly a star on the rise and one that could very easily be prominently featured in main event programs by year's end.

    It was clear last November at Survivor Series, when he was the final member of Team NXT, battling Roman Reigns for the win in one of the night's biggest matches, that management thought the world of Lee.

    That sentiment was reconfirmed Sunday night as he bulldozed Orton in a surprisingly definitive outcome. Take into consideration how red-hot Orton had been and his status as the top contender to the WWE Championship, and that makes Lee's win that more meaningful and impressive.

    In one night, WWE Creative and Orton made Lee a star.

    Now it is up to him to repay the trust they put in him with continued excellence in his role.

Sasha Banks and Bayley's Predictable Breakup Will Still Be as Hot as Any Story

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    Sasha Banks and Bayley have been heading for a split since January.

    While they rekindled their friendship and resisted the urge to break up while enjoying unprecedented success as The Golden Role Models, recent hardships have them again at odds. While their split is both inevitable and predictable, it will still make for one of the best and hottest storylines in all of WWE.

    Payback saw Shayna Baszler trap Bayley and Banks in submissions at the same time. It was not The Boss who tapped out, thus costing her the last bit of gold in her possession. Instead, it was Bayley who tapped, thus living to fight another day, with her status as SmackDown women's champion still intact.

    The Role Model's selfishness has been on full display of late as she has volunteered Banks to fight her battles for her, did not demonstrate the same willingness to come to her aid and was quick to give up Sunday night and kiss the tag titles goodbye in the name of preserving her own well-being.

    There will come a time in which Banks will unleash hell on Bayley, fracturing their relationship and creating a red-hot rivalry that, if booked wisely, could carry both all the way to WrestleMania 37.

    You will all see it coming, but it will still capture your attention because everything about the program has been so well done. That is a testament to the performers and the much-maligned WWE Creative team that has managed to take its time and execute a perfectly done slow burn.

Big E's Intensity His Greatest Asset as He Continues Climb to Top of WWE

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    Anyone who doubts Big E's ability to be a main event performer because he likes pancakes, gyrates his hips or rolls down the entrance ramp from time to time must look no further than his performance Sunday night against former world champion Sheamus.

    He demonstrated the sort of intensity and resiliency that ever top-level babyface must in WWE.

    He overcame a leg injury to defeat The Celtic Warrior in an incredibly physical match, but it was his post-match celebration that really captured the viewers' attention.

    After weeks of hearing criticisms that he was too funny or comical, that he loved to have a good time and it would ultimately cost him the opportunity to at a world championship, Big E approached Corey Graves and exclaimed: "Preach to them, Gravesy. Tell 'em I'm ready!"

    He was fired up, clearly motivated by the enormous victory and ready to prove all of his doubters wrong.

    Yes, Big E has an enormous personality and is as known as much for his ability to produce breakfast foods from his singlet as anything, but it is the intensity and raw emotion that he showed after his win that will ultimately catapult him to where he wants to be.

    He is ready, as he stated after the win, and his performance Sunday night proved it.