By Jason Powell
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WWE SummerSlam Hits
AJ Styles vs. John Cena: The best match of the show with both men working hard and overcoming the big match feel that WWE failed to create this time around. Styles inexplicably lost to Cena in the six-man tag match last month along with other matches. Fortunately, the Brooklyn crowd treated this like a showdown match between two top stars, and the wrestlers delivered memorable performances. My only nitpick is that it felt like they went to the near falls so early. I didn’t buy into those early two counts, and it felt like they were overdone by the end of the match. Again, though, this was a gem of a match and it was refreshing to see Styles go over clean. I also like Cena leaving his “Never Give Up” wristband in the ring as it left me anxious to hear his promo on Smackdown.
Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton: The Beast is back. This wasn’t just the Suplex City version of Lesnar. This was badass, completely out of control Lesnar, who drew blood on a show where you do not expect to see it. Lesnar scored a violent and dominant win at a time when some fans had convinced themselves that WWE would punish him by having him lose. I never bought into that mentality, because WWE actually would have punished themselves by damaging Lesnar. It should be a huge deal when someone beats Lesnar, and the right person needs to do it. Randy Orton was not the right person. Furthermore, Orton isn’t going to lose anything by losing to Lesnar. He’s a cool RKO away from winning over anyone who might be looking at him differently today. The apparent tease of Shane McMahon facing Lesnar made me roll my eyes. It’s a spectacle match and it could be very entertaining to watch Brock beat the hell out of the boss’s son, but WWE showed no discipline with Shane’s match against Undertaker. I have no desire to watch Lesnar sell Shane’s MMA holds or act in any way like Super Shane is a threat to beat him.
Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship: The Brooklyn fans spoke for the masses in hating on the new WWE Universal Championship. Seth Rollins wasn’t happy about it, but WWE did this to themselves by (a) not introducing the title sooner to let people get this out of their system (b) not having better taste in title belts. Seriously, that belt looks like it was designed by Eva Marie for Kane. That said, I enjoyed the Demon King entrance at SummerSlam more than on Raw. The actual match was strong, though I couldn’t help but wonder how much better their future matches will be once they develop a stronger rivalry for the fans to invest in. It’s fair to label the fans mocking the title as disrespectful, but their actions are also a product of two guys with no history together feuding over a title belt without history.
Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks for the WWE Women’s Championship: A good match with a surprising outcome. Jake Barnett nailed it last night when he said that Sasha is a rough babyface. She’s basically playing the same Boss character that got her over as a heel in NXT. That’s great for the NXT fans who grew to respect her work, but not so good for the rest of the audience that must be wondering why they are supposed to cheer her arrogant character. So if anything good can come from the back injury she reportedly suffered, hopefully it is that they either turn her heel or tweak her character to make her more likable to the masses. The spot with Charlotte dropping Sasha was downright scary. I’m not sure exactly what they were going for (Jake Barnett guessed that it was supposed to be a fallaway slam). I do know that as good as the top women are in WWE and NXT, we’ve seen some “near misses” in their matches.
Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho vs. Enzo Amore and Big Cass: A good opening match with the surprising outcome of the heels going over. I suspect this means Enzo and Cass will get their win back tonight on Raw in front of the Brooklyn crowd. Enzo’s pre-show mic work wasn’t as hot as I expected it to be. It played well to the New York crowd, but I wonder how many fans in the other 49 states were with me in losing interest in the single state love fest. I had to laugh when Corey Graves pointed out that Enzo isn’t even from New York, though I’m not sure I would have called out Enzo on that when he didn’t have a chance to depend himself, though maybe we’ll hear more tonight. Owens and Jericho are a riot together and I would really enjoy seeing the two of them in a meaningful feud with New Day over the tag titles.
Sheamus vs. Cesaro: A good first match in the best of seven series. I’m more excited by this series than a lot of people seem to be. It’s certainly odd that there’s not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Most of these “best of” series are fought over titles, and in this case they haven’t even announced that the winner will get a title shot. Still, I look forward to seeing if both men challenge themselves to come up with new things over the course of seven matches.
Sami Zayn and Neville vs. The Dudleys: A minor Hit for a showcase match for Neville and the fan favorite Zayn. The fun with the Dudleys occurred late with the latest sign that a split is imminent. By the way, bonus acknowledgement for the Hit worthy appearance of Baron Corbin on the pre-show.
WWE SummerSlam Misses
Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler for the WWE Championship: Remember all the fuss that WWE made over the coup of Smackdown earning exclusive rights to the WWE Championship? No matter what you think about the look of the Universal Championship, the title meant more than the belt with all the lineage before it was ever shown on television. The Ziggler experiment failed. Having Ziggler in the title match didn’t elevate him, it devalued Ambrose and the WWE Championship. Fortunately, they gave AJ Styles a huge win over Cena, and one can only hope that the plan is to build him up to take the championship. Ambrose is a fun rebellious babyface, but he’s not the long term answer as champion.
New Day vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson: Dreadful. If Jon Stewart is a true pro wrestling fan, then surely he knows how annoying it is when a celebrity shows up to take part in lame comedy segments. I really enjoy Stewart’s comedy and political commentary. I just don’t need to see him taking part in WWE skits. The WWE fans clearly do not enjoy it and, quite frankly, these hokey segments are beneath him. Is anyone laughing at Anderson and Gallows wearing the lab coats and doing the nut humor? I wanted these guys to have a heated feud with New Day, not to join them in campy comedy skits. The only highlight was Big E making his return.
The Miz vs. Apollo Crews for the Intercontinental Title: WWE kicked off the post-brand split era of Smackdown by showcasing Crews enough to have him earn his way into the match to determine the No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship. Crews didn’t win that match, but he did win another match to become No. 1 contender to the IC Title. What happened? He seemed to peak at that point and the build for his match with Miz was rushed and uninspired. I just didn’t care about this match going into SummerSlam and I don’t care about the IC Title coming out of it.
Becky Lynch, Naomi, and Carmella vs. Natalya, Alexa Bliss, and Nikki Bella: I laughed at WWE still doing the Eva Marie entrance routine even though she is suspended. I can’t believe they didn’t claim that Eva was held up at gunpoint to explain her absence. Anyway, it was good to see Nikki return from neck surgery. The match didn’t excite me on paper and it did nothing to wake up the live crowd from their slumber that started after the Styles vs. Cena match and continued until the Universal Title match.
Rusev and Roman Reigns brawl: A minor Miss for what felt like WWE’s latest attempt to protect Roman. This crowd would have been all over him if he had a full length match, so they went with a lopsided brawl instead. I couldn’t help but wonder why Reigns was so angry that he repeatedly attacked Rusev. Reigns went from comedically getting under the skin of Rusev throughout the build to beating him on Raw clean to suddenly hating the guy to the point that he just wouldn’t stop attacking him. It protected Reigns for the night and the crowd did enjoy his big spear down the ramp. However, it failed to leave me anxious to see what comes next.
American Alpha, The Usos, and Hype Bros vs. The Vaudevillains, The Ascension, Tyler Breeze, and Fandango: Much like SummerSlam itself, this match went longer than it needed to. We just watched the same babyfaces beat the same heels on Smackdown five nights earlier, and I we didn’t need a longer version of what felt like a throwaway match to begin with. On a positive note, they created some tension between Alpha and the Usos, which should lead to a really good tag team feud.