By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Prowrestling.net Live returns today at 3CT/4ET. Will Pruett and I will be taking your calls coming out of one of the most loaded pro wrestling weekends to date live at PWAudio.net.
WWE SummerSlam Hits
Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship: A strong main event to close out a solid show. I still don’t think they needed to have Lesnar destroy Rollins repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the match. I get what they were going for, but sometimes the simple story of a showdown match between two healthy star wrestlers sells itself, especially when the company has told the underdog story with Lesnar and his challengers so many times. This was a huge win for Rollins. There were some boo birds during his entrance and dueling chants early in the match, but he seemed to win people over based on how overwhelmingly positive the crowd reaction was to his win. So who is next in line if they don’t go back to a Lesnar rematch? WWE hasn’t groomed anyone for this slot and its too soon to rush Bray Wyatt into that role.
“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt vs. Finn Balor: The debut of Wyatt’s new Fiend persona was excellent. I’m not complaining, but I was surprised to see family friendly WWE go as dark as they did with it by including the lantern head with its eyes sewn shut on the ring apron. Finn Balor’s unnerved reaction to Wyatt’s entrance was really good. The match was what it needed to be with Balor getting in a little offense, but Wyatt going over strong in the end. Nothing about this felt like it was a sendoff for Balor, who is reportedly going to be taking some time off. While it’s possible they will follow up with Wyatt doing something to write off Balor, I wonder if it will actually be The OC who end up sending off Balor with a beatdown given their backstage interaction.
Becky Lynch vs. Natalya in a submission match for the Raw Women’s Championship: A good submission match with the wrestlers making good use of the match stipulation. It’s become routine to enjoy the pay-per-view matches a lot more than the storyline build and that was definitely true in this case. But what comes next for Lynch? Barring an NXT call up, it’s not like they’ve been building up any heels to serve as a strong challenger for her.
Trish Stratus vs. Charlotte Flair: A good farewell match for Stratus in her hometown. Jake Barnett stated in last night’s Dot Net Members’ exclusive audio review that he’s convinced that Flair is on the verge of winning the Smackdown Women’s Championship again. I assume she has to be next in line for Bayley barring the surprise return of Sasha Banks.
Goldberg vs. Dolph Ziggler: A brief and entertaining match with Goldberg going over strong. That’s the formula that worked best for Goldberg over the years. And they even shook it up a little by having Ziggler surprise us with a couple of quick near falls before Goldberg came back and hit the inevitable spear and Jackhammer. Ziggler calling for more gave the fans another satisfying spear from Goldberg. Ziggler calling for even more felt like it was pushing it, but it all turned out well with Goldberg redeeming himself after his match with Undertaker in Saudi Arabia. By the way, I wonder what it was like when Goldberg and Bret Hart crossed paths backstage last night.
Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon: A minor Hit for a match that felt like more of a satisfying television main event than a big pay-per-view match. It just didn’t live up to all of the creative attention it was given going into the show. The stipulation that Owens would be forced to quit WWE if he lost never felt important because Owens never felt like he was at risk of losing. Elias played his part as the ringside enforcer, but we’ve seen Shane stack the deck by also using Drew McIntyre, so it felt strange that he didn’t get involved in this match. Owens winning clean was a crowd pleasing moment and all. It just felt like all of that pre-match attention required Owens to deliver more of an ass kicking rather than seeming satisfied to simply pin Shane.
Drew Gulak vs. Oney Lorcan for the WWE Cruiserweight Title: A minor Hit for a good match that fell a bit below my high expectations. It didn’t help that the match was thrown together at the last minute with Lorcan winning a Six Pack Challenge on Tuesday to earn the title shot.
Buddy Murphy vs. Apollo Crews: As much as I wish this had been a showcase match for the talented Murphy, it served its purpose with Rowan attacking him while Daniel Bryan watched on a backstage monitor. It was an easy story to follow with Rowan telling Murphy to keep his name out of his mouth just days after Murphy referred to him as the culprit when Roman Reigns roughed him up and demanded to know who’s been targeting him. Speaking of Reigns, it’s strange that someone as high on the WWE food chain was left off one of the big four pay-per-views.
SummerSlam show length: Two hours is still way too long for a Kickoff Show and I have no idea why they feel the need to fly in so many panelists for something so pointless. But they finally got the message about their main shows running obnoxiously long. The main card was listed as going 4.5 hours in Canada, but WWE showed restraint for a change by finishing the main show in roughly 3.5 hours. I’m not sure what new pointless statistic the executives will brag about to replace the average number of hours consumed by WWE Network subscribers, but I’m sure they’ll come up with something else that the financial analysts will let go in one ear and out the other.
WWE SummerSlam Misses
Kofi Kingston vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Championship: The match was enjoyable until the bad count-out finish. I get the idea of stretching out the feud and making it more personal, but this was just a lazy ass finish that didn’t feel SummerSlam worthy. The count-out itself was awkward in that the referee actually started his count quickly and showed no hesitation unlike all the other times when referees go with long, drawn out counts while the wrestlers fight at ringside. I am hopeful that the general idea of this feud becoming even more personal with Orton looking at Kingston’s family will ultimately lead to a more serious and less pancake loving Kingston.
WWE broadcast teams: The story told in the WWE Universal Championship match was that it was a foregone conclusion that Lesnar would win because Rollins was so beat up coming into the match. They laid it on so thick that it became counterproductive in that it felt obvious they were setting up Rollins for the miracle win. Two matches earlier, Corey Graves made it seem like it was a forgone conclusion that Randy Orton was going to beat Kofi Kingston. And he also laid it on so thick that it was hard not to assume that Kingston was going to retain his title.
AJ Styles vs. Ricochet for the U.S. Championship: A flat match that just didn’t hold my attention. And I never thought I’d write that about a Styles vs. Ricochet match, but the story going into it wasn’t very compelling and the presence of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson at ringside made it feel even more obvious that Styles was going to retain his title. WWE needs to reevaluate the way they are booking Ricochet as an underdog. Not every babyface they view as undersized has to be booked as an underdog. Ricochet should have been the exception in that he’s a sensational talent who can do some amazing things in the ring. So rather than make him a small town underdog, why not build him up as a sensation who has confidence in his ability and thus make him stand out from every other cruiser-weight type?
Bayley vs. Ember Moon for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: This match was plagued by an awful creative build that made Moon look like a weak challenger and the once lovable Bayley character a turnoff. WWE has to do a better job of building up challengers for their champions. The women’s division is built around Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Alexa Bliss. Bayley holds a championship, but she doesn’t feel like a strong champion, and everyone else is built up as a challenger of the month type.
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross vs. The IIconics for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles: A mild Miss for a match that left me feeling confused as to what viewers are supposed to feel about Bliss and Cross. Their relationship started with Bliss being a heel manipulator who was using the naive Cross. It’s morphed into more of a genuine friendship and it came off like they wanted Bliss to be received as a babyface last night. Perhaps that’s because they were working opposite the heel IIconcis duo? They can still have Bliss turn on Cross somewhere down the road, but I hope we get some clarification as to whatever the dynamic is between the two and whether fans are supposed to like them or not.