It’s been a crazy week since last Monday in the WWE Universe. It was capped off by a PPV (special event?) that was better than it had any right to be. With a handful of matches I would’ve expected at Summerslam, this event was the perfect mix of great wrestling action and promise for the future. Onto the matches.
Match 1: Charlotte & Dana Brooke v. Sasha Banks & Bayley
Even though the mystery partner for Sasha was clearly going to be Bayley, this moment was truly special. To receive one of the biggest crowd pops, and to debut on a PPV opener, is something we don’t always see with new wrestlers; especially new women wrestlers. Also, the fact that this match opened the show, one of the bigger spots on the card outside the Main Event, is another big step in the so-called women revolution. To the surprise of no one, these wrestlers had a great match. Charlotte seemed to wrestle a stronger, stiffer style, which further cemented her near monster heel style. Both Sasha and Bayley came out like balls of fire, taking advantage of hot tags and just overall pumping up from the crowd. Say what you will about Dana Brooke, she’s a damn good heel wrestler. Whether it be yelling at the ref, or just being an overall nasty person, she makes up for her greenness in wrestling with excellent character work. Having Sasha tap out Charlotte for the win gives both Sasha the believability (which she really already had) and the crack in Charlotte’s armor needed for their inevitable title match. I’ll touch on this a bit more later, but as someone who’s loved the Women’s division for years now, I love what I see for the future.
Winners: Sasha Banks & Bayley
Match 2: The Wyatt family v. The New Day
Everytime I watch something regarding this feud, whether it be a promo or match, I’m baffled by how it works so well. The style of these two factions don’t seem like two that would mix very well, as the snark of the New Day could, effectively, take all the air out of the Wyatt family. That said, whether it be from the insanity that was the “Final Deletion” match between the Hardy brothers in TNA, this story is just weird enough to be compelling. Having Xavier Woods, one of the more underrated guys on the card, convincingly pull off being entranced by Bray over and over really sells it. Also, this position for Bray captures everything that worked well for the supernatural aspects of The Undertaker. Yes, it’s over the top, but embrace it. There’s no winking at the audience about the ridiculousness of the whole angle, just good working. The match itself was also a nice surprise. The New Day have good matches at every show, but the big, giant style of the Wyatt family ended up mixing really well here. I’m not sure if it’s an excellent selling job from The New Day, or the Wyatt’s were just in more of a groove, but they seemed incredibly strong in this match. There was a fluidity that we haven’t seen with the Wyatt’s in quite a long time, and Bray pulling off the win, in commanding fashion, makes these guys look stronger than they have in a while. I’m not sure if this feud will continue, but I’m excited for Bray to continue to look this strong, and hopefully, eventually, get pushed to main event status.
Winners: The Wyatt Family
Match 3: Rusev (Champion) v. Zack Ryder for the United States Championship
Much like last month, Rusev’s US title continues to have the most questionable match on the card. It’s not so much in that either of these guys are bad; in fact, the opposite is true. The problem comes in the believability of Ryder being able to pull this off. In the build up, and throughout this entire match, there was never a feeling that Ryder could steal the belt from the Bulgarian Brute. I understand making Rusev look strong, and it’s always good to give guys like Ryder a shot, the in-ring story just needed little tweaking. That said, I enjoyed the offense I saw from Zack. Even though he seems stuck in the under card, he’s a nice talent to bring out every now and then. Rusev, on the other hand, really needs push in importance. He has the talent for a higher spot. I know there were rumors that he was in the dog house backstage, but the fact that he holds the title should make him more important.
Winner and still US Champion: Rusev
Match 4: Kevin Owens v. Sami Zayn
In the match everyone’s been waiting for in WWE, these two rivals finally squared off last night in one of the match of the year candidates. This rivalry goes back nearly a decade to their time in Ring of Honor, and the experience together shows everytime these two share the same space. The story these guys tell, once brothers that can’t seem to shake each other in their desire to be the best, bleeds in this match. Like always, these two beat the holy hell out of each other for 20 minutes. The idea of this brother feud, where they absolutely want to kill each other, but deep down have a compassion for each, is so evident in their style. Whether it be screaming at each other, or just unhinged brawling that you can only get with siblings. Also, there were moments of this match that had me leap out of my seat. Whether it be Zayn looking like he nearly killed himself from a botched springboard moonsault, or Owens cannonballing Zayn’s head into a steel ring post. After trading near falls, Zayn hits two Helluva Kicks, hitting the second after holding Owens limp body like a child, and picks up the win. The storytelling in that moment alone is unlike almost anything we see on these cards. With Zayn having finally vanquished Owens, both these guys can conceivably move onto new feuds. That said, if they want to keep facing off, no need to stop them. Also, BRIANBUSTAAAA
Winner: Sami Zayn
Match 5: Natalya v. Becky Lynch
While this bout may not have seemed like a big fight feel, the simple fact that this match existed, with a story, outside of the Women’s Championship, is excellent to see. With so many talented women on the roster, the idea of one women’s match on these events is no longer justifiable. This is yet another big step in the revolution. That said, there are some confusing aspects involved in this match. Firstly, I’m not sure what the plan is with Becky. She’s an excellent in-ring worker, but I don’t feel like she’s picking up enough wins. The problem isn’t in Natalya winning this match, it’s that she won it fairly cleanly. Since I guess there is a slight idea that Natalya used underhanded tactics, this feud can continue, but Becky needs to look stronger quickly. Also, heel Natalya is an odd character. She’s clearly a convincing bad guy, but she has this weird mix of other Hart family members (which is an inevitable comparison, fair or not). With the annoyance of Owen, which works well for this character, she also has a touch of the apathy Bret had in his later years, which isn’t great. That said, she’s a great worker, and the more heels the better.
Match 6: The Miz (Champion) v. Darren Young for the Intercontinental Title
All the problems I cited for the US title match had solutions in this match. With the IC belt, it’s important to make that title seem just a step away from the WWE belt, and The Miz does that perfectly. He’s such a jackass heel, it’s impossible to not hate him. With all the problems people have with The Miz’s past, he’s one of the better characters in the company, and he continues to show why he’s a convincing IC champ. Like Ryder, Young seemingly came out of nowhere. Unlike Ryder, the teaming with former champion Bob Backlund is a perfect story move. It gives the feeling, and pushes the narrative that Backlund transformed Young’s career. Young already had the in-ring ability, he just needed that extra push in the character department, and the crazed but intimidating Backlund gives him that. I found myself enjoying the technical aspects of this match, and the finish, a double DQ after Young goes crazy on Miz after he attacks Backlund, makes Young look strong, and gives this feud the ability to continue. While this isn’t a main event angle, it’s a perfect midcard attraction, which are also very important.
No Winner, Miz retains IC Title
Match 7: John Cena, Enzo, and Big Cass v. The Club
Before this match, Enzo cut a fairly lengthy promo. The guy is crazy, but the crowd is eating out of his hand, and he’s damn good at mic work. Enzo and Cass, in character alone, are bonafide future main eventers, and it’s extremely exciting getting to see them grow every week. Hell, even Cena looked like he was enjoying every second of these two working. Also, while unclear if it was because of Enzo and Cass, but Cena, FINALLY, received a fairly good crowd reaction. After his performance at the ESPYs, and just being an all around legend in the business, it’s about time. The Club also continue to look strong, and, this being their last time together (AJ going to Smackdown and Anderson & Gallows going to Raw), it was a nice send off. All 6 of these guys looked strong in this match, and the experience of The Club made the newer team of Enzo and Cass look perfect. Even with Cena winning cleanly, they can have him and AJ have one more match at Summerslam, or can leave the feud for the two. Everyone leaves looking big for the future, and AJ lost nothing. We’ll find out tonight, or presumably soon, if WWE will go forward with the idea of the “Balor Club”, following the Bullet Club idea in reverse from NJPW. Hell, maybe they’ll sign Kenny Omega next.
Winners: Cena, Enzo, and Big Cass
Match 8: Dean Ambrose (Champion) v. Seth Rollins v. Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
By this point in the night, I was getting a little tired. The show had run fairly long, and either this match would be cut short (which it seemed to be partially) or we’d be in for a long haul. That said, this was very similar to all the matches these guys have had together. Very high quality ring work, and Reigns continues to be a weird tweener. After his suspension this month, and the crazy display of hatred from the crowd when he came out last night, this seems like the perfect time to turn him into a full blown heel. Ambrose, on the other hand, may have had the biggest pop of the night. I never really thought he’d be a convincing champ in his current character, but he’s absolutely proving me wrong here. Also, he looked much stronger in this match technically. While he sometimes has a choppy, brawler style; his familiarity with these two lended itself to the best Ambrose has looked in a while. While he picks up the win, Rollins continues to assert his role as the best heel, and possibly overall wrestler, in the company. And Reigns, he continues to be hated but quality.
Winner and Still WWE Champion: Dean Ambrose
And that was Battleground. This show was absolutely one of the better ones this year, and after last week’s draft, it’s an excellent time to be a WWE fan. From Raw to the Cruiserweight Classic, there’s something for everyone, and I’d encourage any lapsed fan to check it out.