Pruett's Pause: WWE SummerSlam 2015 - Bad finishes undermine some amazing efforts in Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar and John Cena vs. Seth Rollins, and more!
By Will Pruett
SummerSlam is one of the more challenging WWE shows I've had to judge in a very long time. It's unfair to categorize a show with great in-ring action as disappointing. It seems wrong to categorize a show where the top two matches ended in terrible cop-out finishes as good. WWE gave us an interesting show with SummerSlam, where the matches were great and the stories were awful.
It's rare to find a show this complicated in all of wrestling. It's almost like the wrestlers themselves were trying to out-perform their terrible scripting and writing. The stories got in the way of the action and almost negated them.
SummerSlam was built around two matches. They received the majority of the major TV build up. They were the most talked about matches going in. Both matches seemed to lack an obvious finish. Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker seemed like a match both men had to win. While this is great from the promotional angle of things, it is frightening from the booking angle. If you're advertising a match, especially a match billed as "too big for WrestleMania," how can people walk away without a definitive winner? A similar conundrum was faced by John Cena and Seth Rollins, as both men's title reigns seemed like they should continue. While Cena's didn't, the way WWE chose to get there was absolutely puzzling.
Jon Stewart turned out to be WWE's Deus ex Machina this time (which is only slightly better than Bray Wyatt). Stewart, who has engaged in a long feud with WWE Champion Seth Rollins across both The Daily Show and WWE programming, attacked John Cena with a chair to directly lead to Rollins winning. This could not be explained. This was not foreshadowed. The idea of Stewart getting involved in any matches was never mentioned. It was entirely surprising and entirely puzzling. We were left with Rollins holding two championships and one of the most influential American voices of the last two decades as an antagonist.
While I wasn't pleased with the finish in the WWE Championship/U.S. Championship match, I was practically infuriated by the finish in Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar. First of all, wrestling finishes in 2015 based on incompetent refereeing are bad ideas. There are cameras everywhere. The thing Charles Robinson missed was filmed and replayed. This should have settled everything. We see replay in every professional sport as a way to assure fairness. Incompetent referee finishes worked before the rest of the world fixed the issue (aside from MMA, which isn't real anyways).
Moving on from the obvious stupidity of the finish, we have to look at the effect it had. We saw Brock Lesnar get beat. No matter how you slice it and no matter what Undertaker did to the scrotum of Lesnar, The Beast Incarnate was captured in Undertaker's submission hold and passed out. The first victory over Lesnar since the end of The Streak has occurred. Sadly, it wasn't a new star or anyone worth making who benefitted from it. It was Undertaker. The Streak, the greatest story and accomplishment WWE ever had, was sacrificed for a retirement tour.
This is an absurd use of Lesnar and Undertaker. Even if the match was compelling (and it was), it doesn't make up for the absolute stupidity of the storytelling.
Undertaker and Brock Lesnar has a great match. John Cena and Seth Rollins had a great match. Neither of these things matter, because WWE told poor stories to conclude them. If in-ring action in WWE occurred separate from the stories told, SummerSlam would have been an amazing show. Unfortunately for WWE, stories matter. They chose to tell poor ones, making the quality of these matches a mere footnote. It's depressing to see amazing wrestlers have great matches rendered meaningless.
And now for some random thoughts:
- Jon Srewart claiming WWE respects their audience was the second worst thing he did on this show.
- Seth Rollins was the most intriguing performer on this show by a long shot. He entered in all white and proceeded to have a babyface match with John Cena. He was obviously playing to the crowd like a babyface. He was obviously pulling out his crowd friendly offense. He was obviously a good guy on this show. Are we seeing the in-ring persona of Rollins move forward ahead of his character? Is this foreshadowing?
- The best match of the weekend was Bayley vs. Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover. This is an indisputable fact. Why did this match work so well when the "#DivaRevolution" tag match with assigned teams and convoluted rules didn't? Well, it's called storytelling. WWE is attempting to brand an evolution, but there hasn't been a single story told with Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Brie Bella, Nikki Bella, Alicia Fox, Tamina, and Naomi. Until they actually tell a story about one or two or nine of these women, WWE's main roster can never produce anything like Bayley vs. Sasha.
- Randy Orton and Sheamus love wrestling each other. I don't love watching it. I could have slept through this one.
- Mick Foley was a pleasant surprise.
- "No more business suits for Lana!" Well, I'm glad Lana learned the horrible anti-feminist lessons of Grease and changed for the man she is utterly dependent on for validation. What an absolutely depressing character arc.
- The New Day was absolutely amazing on this show. The four way tag match was really good. Everything Big E touches and dances with turns to gold.
- Stardust and Cosmic King Barrett vs. Stephen Amell and Neville was quite fun. This was a good celebrity match and Amell looked more than game in his spots. The celebrity angle was hurt by Jon Stewart's involvement later in the show, but not in a massive way. Amell should be proud of his performance.
- I was surprised the match didn't end with Amell pinning Stardust.
- Intercontinental Champion Ryback just makes me happy. I'm not sure why, but he does.
- Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper and Bray Wyatt was far more definitive than I expected it to be. This match wasn't bad, but it wasn't exciting. It suffered from being in the middle of the show where very few were keen on caring. I guess the story of Roman losing ever since Bray started tormenting him is over.
- Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro in the pre-main event slot didn't bother me. They had a very good match and Owens received a big win. He needed the win far more than Cesaro did. Hopefully these two can both get some wins going forward, though. Cesaro can only come "this close" for so long.
I don't know if this show was good or bad. Most of the matches totally delivered. Most of the stories depressed me by the end of the night. I'll give the show a C because of the good action. Hopefully WWE can make their storytelling quality match their in-ring quality soon.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? If they aren't super annoying thoughts, hit me up with them! Check the Twitter twitter.com/itswilltime or email me at email@example.com.
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