On the night of the second biggest event in WWE wrestling, it’s hard to not be excited. In gearing up for 4+ hours of wrestling, I and I’m sure much of the WWE universe strapped in,expecting the usual incredible show that we get with SummerSlam. While the show was by no means bad, it suffered from it’s length, and the questionable booking choices made throughout the night (intentional or no).
Match 1: Enzo & Big Cass vs. JeriKO (Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens)
No better way to start off a massive event like this than a standard excellent promo from Enzo and Cass. Getting the crowd pumped up appropriately, these two moved into a tag match against the hilariously evil heel team of Jericho and Owens, and, if you were thinking in terms of who needed the win most, you’d give the edge to Enzo and Cass. Much to my surprise, Jericho and KO pulled out a win with a pretty hard pop up codebreaker. While I’m all for getting Kevin Owens a win, the much newer team would have conceivably gained a lot more from a win. Enzo and Big Cass have a New Age Outlaws vibe in their character and the pop they pull, and to maintain that, they really need to win a vast majority of their bouts. While they can very easily get this win back as early as this week, this was an odd finish to a pretty strong tag match, with the usual classic tag spots done well (heel beatdown of smaller face, the hot tag, etc). Interested to see where all these guys go moving forward, and wouldn’t be opposed to seeing them go at it again.
Match 2: Sasha Banks (Champion) vs. Charlotte for the WWE Women’s Championship
With my anticipated match of the night coming so early on the card, I started to brace myself for a long night. This match was absolutely one of the best of the night, second to only AJ/Cena 3, and I truly hope that we can extend this fued, to a certain extent, to Wrestlemania. With Sasha beating the nearly unbeatable Charlotte on Raw a few weeks ago for the belt, it looked like Sasha had finally achieved the peak of the division, and this match would be her stamp on that. Charlotte had other plans, and through sheer willpower and strength, clawed her way to a victory of Banks to get back her belt. They both pulled out all their entire arsenal and told an excellent story in the ring, as usual for these two. It’s been discussed ad nauseum on numerous platforms that Sasha has the highest ceiling of potentially any woman wrestler in WWE, but when you think about the future of her story, and Charlotte’s story, this finish made sense. Charlotte, at this point, gains a massive amount by being a heel champion. Much like Ric in his heyday, that belt gives her an edge of confidence and swagger that makes her one of the biggest draws on any card. Also, this allows Sasha to return to a climbing of the mountain to achieve that title goal. Think of this, while Charlotte presumably takes on all comers and lays waste to much of the competition, Banks can have meaningful feuds to build her up for that inevitable rematch. This will also help other Raw brand women like Nia Jax in gaining some momentum in fueds. And whenever that rematch happens, whether it be Mania, the Rumble, or earlier, it’s going to be even sweeter to see Banks pull out all the stops for the win.
Winner and New WWE Women’s Champion: Charlotte
Match 3: The Miz (Champion) vs. Apollo Crews for the WWE Intercontinental Title
Much like I previously said about Charlotte, The Miz has an extra oomph holding the IC title. There’s something about long heel IC title runs that give the belt a feeling of prestige that it really needed now. It’s interesting and nice to see Apollo Crews get the push so quickly here, but he has yet to really wow me like he did in the indies, this match included. The Miz did his usual heel moves, and Crews had a nice set of moves to display his physical strength and agility, but something just seems a little off with him. To me, his build and moveset scream heel turn. With his physique, he would be a perfect candidate to be a “I’m better than all you pathetic people in the crowd” type heel, a la Jericho, and it would do him wonders in pushing forth some more character. With him picking up another loss here, be that with some help for the Miz from Maryse, a heel turn would be welcome sooner rather than later.
Winner and Still IC Champion: The Miz
Match 4: AJ Styles vs. John Cena
In a moment that surprised no one, Styles and Cena, yet again, stole the show in this match. Nothing puts AJ more firmly in the top tier of the WWE by convincingly beating Cena, which is exactly what happened here. The one thing Cena does better than almost anyone employed in the company today is sell near falls. There were numerous points in this match where Cena just looked in utter disbelief from AJ’s unwillingness to give in. the exchanges of finishing moves and unique pieces of offense (when Cena hit a sunset bomb and Mauro referenced “Code Red”, I have never been more excited by a TNA reference). Beautiful technical and spot matches happen more often than you’d think, and in companies like ROH and PWG, they’re pretty common, but few matches tell a story like this one did. A lot of that has to do with Cena, as I previously mentioned. It’s time to start talking about him in the “greatest of all time” (WWE) conversation. After this match, AJ has cemented his place at the top for a title match. Barring a feud with someone like Samoa Joe, there’s no where else he can go. And this was one of the first points that I noticed the crowd being obnoxious. Sure, dislike Cena for his past, but the hate he got is unjustifiable. The man gives us a match of the year contender seemingly at every PPV. There’s absolutely no reason you can’t cheer AJ if you love him, but to take away from Cena is a mark that you’re not truly a fan.
Winner: AJ Styles
Match 5: The New Day (Champions) vs. Anderson and Gallows for the WWE Tag Team Championship
This match would’ve gone down in another moment of odd booking, if it weren’t so open for this fued to continue. After Anderson and Gallows took out Big E a few weeks ago, The New Day called in the managerial services of none other than Jon Stewart. From that moment, it was clear that the match was going to have an odd finish. The two teams worked a solid match, more of the usual from both teams and everyone had a chance to look strong. The second that Anderson and Gallows got the upperhand, Stewart appeared, and hijinks ensued. When it looked like Stewart would meet the same fate as Big E and few weeks prior, none other than Big E appeared to save the day, and in the process, get The New Day DQed. This gives Anderson and Gallows a win, but not the belts, and a reason for a rematch to happen. For me, the conversation is beginning of what these guys (the New Day) will look like when there’s an inevitable split. They don’t necessarily have to feud, but I cannot imagine one of these guys won’t break off for a singles run. At this point, it could be ay of the three, but Big E is looking the most likely. In the meantime, I have no problem seeing them face off with Anderson and Gallows some more.
Winner by DQ: Anderson and Gallows
Match 6: Dean Ambrose (Champion) vs. Dolph Ziggler for the WWE World Championship
After the brand split last month, WWE also decided to split the World titles (more on that later), so we got the first of the two title matches at the midway point of the card. Everything about this match would’ve led me to believe that I’d be a fan of it, but I strangely felt off after the match. It was almost universally believed that Ziggler had nearly no chance to win, which is tough to fight against to begin with, but the style Ambrose wrestles with didn’t really help. He spent a lot of the match just taunting Ziggler, frequently giving off this smug “I’m better than you” vibe, which would’ve worked wonders if he was a heel. Ambrose is absolutely not a heel, and while the cool guy schtick occasionally works, it made him seem almost like a bully here. On top of that, Ambrose’s in ring style is reaching an almost slapstick style at times, which is another weird touch for him. We’ve all seen him have some awesome matches in the past with a brawler like style, I’m not sure what sparked the change. He doesn’t have to be super technical, just a little less goofy. In terms of Ziggler, while I love to see him in this spot, an additional month to build him up would’ve done wonders. He’s one of the best workers in ring, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he would make a great champ, but he just doesn’t mesh that well with Ambrose. Dean, predictively, pulled out a win here, and it’s really unclear where Dolph moves to now.
Winner and Still WWE World Champion: Dean Ambrose
Match 7: Becky Lynch, Carmella, and Naomi vs. Natalya, Alexa Bliss, and Nikki Bella
I was absolutely prepared to hate this match, but I was pleasantly surprised. With Eva Marie being replaced by the returning Nikki Bella (the booking for Marie is incredible, her refusal to wrestle is a peak heel move) was excellent, and the crowd went nuts to see Bella back. These Six woman tag matches have a reputation to running way too quick for any of the wrestlers to gain a hold of the story, but they gave this ample time, and all 6 of these wrestlers looked great. We all know how strong Becky, Naomi, and Natalya are, but seeing newer ladies Carmella and Bliss give us a compelling match is exciting. Bliss especially impressed me. She looked like a totally different wrestler from the green competitor we saw in NXT, and she’ll be an excellent heel foil for like like of Lynch, Naomi or Carmella. With the Women’s title being on Raw, I absolutely had the fear that the women and Smackdown would suffer in terms of booking, but if they continue to build a strong roster like this, there’s no reason they can’t be just as strong. Also, Nikki doesn’t appear to have lost a step, filling her role as dominant vet and picking up the win here. While I’m getting annoyed at Becky not getting wins, it makes sense for Nikki’s return, and strengthens the division overall. That said, it’s be interesting to see where Bayley goes, as she appears to have wrestled her last match on Saturday at NXT.
Winners: Natalya, Alexa Bliss, and Nikki Bella
Match 8: Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor for the WWE Universal Championship
This was another highly anticipated match, but by this point in the night, I was beginning to feel the affects of the 4 hour running time. After being excited from the last match, and, honestly, still a little gassed from AJ/Cena and Saturday’s NXT show, my view of this match may have suffered a little. I’ll say this, the match was awesome in that both these guys performed to their usual standard of top level guys. Seeing Balor debut his demon King persona was interesting, and there’s no reason to think (until maybe later, I’ll get to that) that these two won’t feud for a long while. Rollins has an edge of Balor in terms of the storytelling, truly showing why he’s the golden boy of the company at the moment, and why he’s never going to fall from the main event scene. When you really look at it, he’s probably the closest we’ll get to CM Punk in WWE for a while. I was interested to see how the mainstream WWE would take to the strong style that Balor occasionally uses. While he’s not nearly as stiff as the Japanese superstars like Nakamura, Asuka, and Kota Ibushi, he still uses it well with his dropkicks and stomps. The fans are eating him up, thankfully, and his win here establishes him as one of the best in the main roster going forward. I’m hoping we get a rematch where the crowd and viewers have a little more energy to appreciate the match. I also have to note, while I don’t love the look of the new belt, booing it and essentially not allowing Balor to hold it up in prideful victory is truly reprehensible from this crowd. The smarkiness had been a problem all night, but to boo a belt? That’s just plain stupid. Rollins put out a pretty damning tweet, essentially ripping the crowd for being this childish, and I couldn’t agree more. Grow up.
Winner and New WWE Universal Champion: Finn Balor
Match 9: Rusev (Champion) vs. Roman Reigns for the United States Championship
The show sort of went off the rails in the booking at this point. With a nice feud built between these two, which firmly puts Reigns in a hero role, both guys leave the night in question. Reigns gets booed pretty heavily when coming out (but again, this crowd sucked), but the proceeding beatdown he puts on Rusev, which leads to Rusev being beat up so badly he can’t compete, was very weird. Reigns always played a bit of an unhinged guy when pushed, but this was the move of a monster heel. Yes, Rusev has said some horrible heelish things, but this assault is still odd. The big move to me would be to turn Reigns tonight, have him call out the crowd for hating him for no reason, and go forward from there. For Rusev, I’m not really sure.
Match Never Happened
Match 10: Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton
Finally, the hyped match of the summer, being Lesnar’s first fight after his UFC return and steroid scandal and the long awaited return of Randy Orton. The build up was strong for this, and after Lesnar moved on from his UFC fight not looking like the greatest guy, I was curious to see how this would go. Lesnar had his usual dominance early, but Orton shined with a few RKOs and strong offense. In a moment that remains unclear if shoot or planned, Lesnar hit Orton with a stiff elbow to the head, and cut Orton open pretty severely. The wound was so bad that Lesnar was declared the winner by TKO. When Lesnar continued to beat up Orton after the elbow it seemed to be planned at first, but that finish, and the weirdness with him F-5ing Shane after the match, it could have just been a rush to make it look planned. After seeing the gash on Orton, it’s hard to believe that they planned that spot. When you think about it, though, Orton loses very little going forward, as this was truly a freak incident. Also, Lesnar somehow managed to become an even more horrifying monster in the process. For him, a title shot looks obvious, but is there anyone that can believably beat him? It wouldn’t shock me to see him go away for a while now, but I cannot wait to see who Lesnar’s next victim is.
Winner by TKO: Brock Lesnar
And that was SummerSlam 2016. The weird booking moves and the length were tough at times, but it was, overall, a solid show. I would encourage you, however, to watch NXT Takeover from Saturday. That was edge of your seat action start to finish, and a GLORIOUS product.