Cast your mind back to the summer of 2019.
Roman Reigns had been "brutally" attacked backstage by somebody who bore a striking resemblance to Erick Rowan. Daniel Bryan, assuring Roman that this was not the case, declared that an Erick Rowan doppelgänger was responsible. What a terrible babyface Roman was. By not immediately kicking the tar out of Bryan, Rowan and his body double, the implication was that he entertained the most convenient explanation imaginable.
Fast-forward to this year's Backlash, and the most internationally famous musical artist in the world, the cool and critically adored Bad Bunny, arrived for his match to the sounds of his own song 'Chambea'. In Puerto Rico, on May 6, 2023, WWE felt like the most spectacular, on-trend entertainment medium on the globe.
That about sums up the drastic, inconceivable transformation WWE underwent between the exit of Vince McMahon and installation of Triple H as head booker in 2022.
WWE is selling out almost everywhere they go. The ratings defy wider TV trends. And, after a long while even under Triple H, the enthused fans in those buildings have re-learned how to make noise.
But how drastic was that transformation really?
10. The Boring B-Level PLEs
WWE has developed a rule in this 'Papa H' era: the international B-level Premium Live Events are outstanding or at least elevated by an intoxicating atmosphere, and the domestic editions are solid in the most uninspiring, missable way.
The Payback and Fastlane two-punch combo didn't rock anybody. The shows acted as confirmation that a certain annual Vince McMahon tradition will be maintained under Paul Levesque: WWE will enter a bland period of syndication between SummerSlam and Survivor Series.
Because wrestling is by default generically good in 2023 - you'll rarely see anything that is actively terrible, often in a very amusing way - neither show was technically "bad". Each boasted a cracking Undisputed Tag Team title match, complete with a title change, but that was the extent of the true quality and real importance. Actually, Becky Lynch and Trish Stratus over-delivered at Payback, even if their inspired Steel Cage match didn't need such a long, miserable build.
Elsewhere, the bell rang on LA Knight, Raquel Rodriguez bombed so hard that only a turn might save her, and while Fastlane was moderately better, it offered little new nor must-see. It was a WWE TV show without the ads.
Even Money In The Bank - which somehow contrived to promote a merely fine GUNTHER match - was rescued by the white-hot last 10 minutes of the all-Bloodline tag team headliner.