By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE SummerSlam Hits
Roman Reigns vs. John Cena for the WWE Universal Championship: A terrific main event. This was a highly entertaining dream match that put the longtime face of the company against the modern day face of the company. Cena’s 1-2-3 themed promos were so effective when it came to setting up his early near fall hope spots while Reigns was dominating the early portion of the match. The near falls down the stretch for both men were terrific, and they broke out some impressive big match spots, including the Super AA. Paul Heyman was great at selling concern for Reigns through his facial expressions at ringside. Ultimately, the modern face of the company went over, but it didn’t end there. I love that WWE had something big planned to follow. I enjoy Finn Balor’s work as much as the next guy, but the Reigns vs. Balor title feud was going to feel like a big step down from Reigns vs. Cena just in terms of star power and importance. But WWE avoided the post dream match hangover by setting the stage for the next big dream match between Reigns and the returning Brock Lesnar. And while I never want to see another babyface Reigns vs. heel Lesnar match again, the shift to heel Roman defending against babyface Brock makes this rivalry feel fresh and new. Plus, the story of Heyman being thrust in the middle of the battle between his two cash cows is a lot of fun. SummerSlam had its flaws, but the show definitely closed with a bang.
Edge vs. Seth Rollins: This was another match where the stories told in the promos set the stage for the way the match unfolded. Both men did a great job of making it seem like Edge was one Stomp away from the end of his career and even worse. Those Stomp tease spots came off great as a result and really added to the drama of the match. While it’s hard to top the star power of the Reigns vs. Cena main event, this was the highlight of the night from a match quality standpoint. Edge going over was a feel good moment and I’m anxious to see where both men go from here. Do they heat things up again by having Rollins attack Edge on Smackdown, perhaps even hitting him with a Stomp to send Edge away until it’s time for his next big match? Do they keep the feud going into Extreme Rules? Or does it end here with both men moving on to face new opponents?
AJ Styles and Omos vs. Randy Orton and Riddle for the Raw Tag Titles: In some ways, it feels like this match took place a week ago because SummerSlam was such a long show They opened the event with the crowd pleasing moment of RKBro winning the Raw Tag Titles in a surprisingly brief match. Styles stated in a Raw promo that he and Omos had already beaten all of the other teams in the division, so this was right move on that level. More importantly, Orton and Riddle are one of the few acts truly clicking on the Raw side these days and it was a rewarding payoff to their odd couple story.
Sheamus vs. Damian Priest for the U.S. Championship: A good match that concluded with Priest winning his first title on the main roster. Sheamus continued his streak of strong in-ring performances in big matches. It was hard to tell whether Priest was legitimately injured when he took the bump on his hip or tailbone early in the match or if that was a planned injury spot. Hopefully it’s the latter. If so, kudos to him for pulling it off in a way that still has me wondering.
Nikki ASH vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley in a Triple Threat for the Raw Women’s Championship: A very well worked match involving three talented wrestlers who fell victim to the terrible booking that exists on the Raw brand. The game of hot potato that’s been played with the Raw Women’s Championship really hurt the match in that I just didn’t care about who walked away with the title. Flair is presented as the division’s elite wrestler regardless of who holds the title, so while it definitely as a feeling of been there and done that, she might as well be the champion.
Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso vs. Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio for the Smackdown Tag Titles: An enjoyable tag title match with a surprisingly straight forward finish. I assumed that this would end with another overzealous Dom mistake. Rather, Rey actually took the pin for his team without any Dom errors. Was this a necessary step in the father and son story? Will Dom get cocky and call out his father’s mistakes similar to the way that Rey calls out his?
Drew McIntyre vs. Jinder Mahal: It’s hard to imagine that McIntyre and Mahal are pleased by how little time they were given, but I’m not complaining. Mahal, Veer, and Shanky are ice cold as personalities and it’s hard to imagine that a great match was going to make fans see them in a new light. McIntyre needed a quick and decisive win, and now he needs to move on from this feud with Mahal. Meanwhile, Jinder desperately needs to abandon the “Modern Day Maharaja” gimmick. We’ve seen him with small sidekicks and now large sidekicks, but he just stays the same. I’d like to see what kind of personality the guy has when he’s not playing such a one-dimensional character. I can’t say that this is the answer because I have no idea what the guy is really like, but at this point it’s not like they have anything to lose by trying something new and letting him be more authentic. Speaking of which, now they have established the sword and the kilt, how about McIntyre puts them both away and only brings them out for special occasions?
WWE SummerSlam Misses
Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: As the stadium crowd was going absolutely nuts for Lynch’s return, it was hard to imagine that I’d end up putting this segment in the Miss section. But there was a dramatic difference in the crowd’s huge pop for her return compared to the flat reaction they gave her to her post match celebration. This was a mess. WWE knew that Sasha Banks was unable to appear and yet they continued to advertise her anyway, presumably deciding that Lynch’s surprise return would be more than enough to make up for the cancelled match. They were right, but this was damaging on multiple levels. The crowd was red hot all the way through Lynch asking Belair if she wanted to face her and blow the roof off the building. Why tease fans with a classic and then have Lynch win in just 27 seconds? A couple of big ifs here. If Banks was sidelined due to a bout with COVID, and if she was willing to let the company acknowledge that publicly, the fans would have understood had it been announced on Smackdown. Belair could have faced another opponent and received a spotlight win at SummerSlam, and then Lynch could have made her big surprise return as a teaser for a future showdown match. Everyone would have been happy and we could have avoided this mess. Apparently, though, WWE didn’t want to remove one of their top matches from the SummerSlam advertising and/or acknowledge that anyone from their roster other than sympathetic babyface Drew McIntyre has battled COVID-19, and so they went with this disaster that actually managed to put a damper on Lynch’s return while making their fastest rising star in Belair look terrible by losing so quickly. I do believe that both women are going to be fine long term, but this was terrible in the moment. And it also deprived Lynch’s character of having a big storyline mountain to climb now that she regained the Smackdown Women’s Championship on her first night back.
Bobby Lashley vs. Goldberg for the WWE Championship: I was fine with the idea of a brief one-off match that put Lashley over strong and put Goldberg back on the shelf until next year. But they actually created the need for a rematch for a match that many fans never wanted to see in the first place. Let me guess, Goldberg’s injured knee recovers just in time for the trip to Saudi Arabia?
Alexa Bliss vs. Eva Marie: This was a waste of a slot on the SummerSlam card. Just think of some of the talented wrestlers who were left off this card and yet they found room for another Eva Marie clunker.
Big E vs. Baron Corbin: A basic television match that was fine in terms of quality. The problem is that WWE actually built this feud up on television by having Corbin steal the Money in the Bank briefcase and then couldn’t be bothered to advertise this match in advance.
King Nakamura entrance: The Rick Boogs and Pat McAfee jam session entrances are really fun in small doses. But WWE has to be careful to avoid overexposing it, and having them do it just for the sake of doing it at SummerSlam was a bad call. Why not just book Nakamura in a brief title defense in place of the Bliss vs. Eva match that no one wanted to see?
The Miz, John Morrison, and Xavier Woods: WWE’s obsession with “drip” got old about a week in and yet they just keep running it into the ground. This was a terrible skit that added more time to a needlessly long show.