By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE SummerSlam Hits
Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar in a Last Man Standing match for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship: Outstanding. Lesnar driving the tractor to the ring felt like a scene out of the Attitude Era. It felt like a cute gag at first, but I never expected them to use the tractor in the way they did. Lesnar diving out of the bucket onto Reigns to start the match was fun. Even then, I never would have guessed that Lesnar was going to use the tractor to tip the ring up, causing Reigns to tumble out of it to the floor. I suppose if a company wants to incorporate a tractor, there’s no one more equipped in modern day pro wrestling to drive it than farm boy Brock. The tractor stunts were a blast, though I do feel pity for fans who paid good money only to watch the remainder of the match on the big screen because the ring was blocking their view. Aside from the tractor, the match felt like a hard fought battle. Last Man Standing matches tend to be rather dull and repetitive with the referees making long, dull counts at times when no one actually thinks the match will end. In this case, there was legit drama around whether Reigns and/or Lesnar would make be able to beat the count on numerous occasions. I don’t know if Vince McMahon had the wheels in motion for this match or if Paul Levesque and his crew stepped in and came up with this after McMahon’s retirement. It was either a hell of a final main event for McMahon or a sensational start to the Levesque era. In an era where five-star style matches happen so frequently that many are quickly forgotten, this was a spectacle that will be talked about for years.
Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch for the Raw Women’s Championship: Another strong match from Belair and Lynch. The near falls were believable and they got the show off to a great start. The post match scene with Lynch offering a handshake and then hugging Belair was an unexpected twist. As much fun as Lynch’s heel run has been, I remain baffled to this day by Vince McMahon’s decision to turn one of his most over babyfaces. The post match scene with Bayley’s return from injury followed by Dakota Kai coming back from the WWE scrap heap followed by Io Shirai/Sky’s elevation from NXT purgatory was unexpected fun that sent a clear message of change. Lynch coming to the defense of Belair and seemingly returning to the babyface side was abrupt and yet another welcome and exciting twist.
Liv Morgan vs. Ronda Rousey for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: I recently wrote that in order for Rousey to feel special, she needed to stop working the same style matches as all of the other wrestlers. While it may simply have been the story they wanted to tell in this match and not a shift in her long term direction, Rousey felt dominant and special again. She rag dolled Morgan throughout the match and came off like an unstoppable killer. The finish wasn’t for everyone, but I found it to be creative and well executed with the referee focussing on Rousey’s shoulders and missing Morgan tapping out (hey, Jeff Jarrett, don’t throw away that referee shirt yet). Rousey’s post match meltdown felt like a heel turn. Then again, Morgan smiling at ringside while holding a title belt that she knows she should have lost could also be framed as a heel move. I’m not sure where this is going and I like it.
Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso vs. “The Street Profits” Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins for the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Titles with Jeff Jarrett as the special referee: A good match that wasn’t as hot as their Money in the Bank encounter. The addition of Jarrett as special referee really didn’t amount to much. They scared me during the opening minute by having Jarrett assert his authority after he declared on Smackdown that he was only there to count the pin, but then he just settled in and wasn’t a factor the rest of the way. Sure, the wrestlers grumbled about his counts, but the broadcast team was quick to point out that he did a fine job. The spot where Ford did his best Rob Van Dam impersonation by hitting the frog splash and then selling his ribs before going for the pin provided a nice explanation for one of the Usos kicking out of his finisher, and for the frustration of the Profits continuing to build. Ford barked at Jarrett even though his count was fine, and that was followed by Ford staring blankly ahead after he and Dawkins took the loss. Are they turning Ford heel? Either way, it seems like the end of the Profits tag team is near.
Logan Paul vs. The Miz: I came out of the show with mixed feelings about Paul coming off like a modern day Shane McMahon. He gets to borrow the moves of other wrestlers, perform the big stunt table spot, and then go home until it’s time for his next special attraction match. But I can’t begrudge Paul for doing it. He’s a good athlete and it’s impressive that he’s able to do what he does in the ring with limited training. This big spot approach clearly served Shane well for many years and Paul is merely doing what the company asks him to do. I’m still not convinced that booking him as a babyface is the right approach when so much of the success that he and his brother Jake have had as boxers is due to people paying money with the hope of seeing them get their asses kicked.
Pat McAfee vs. Happy Corbin: Even Michael Cole said the match wasn’t pretty. McAfee has had smoother outings and yet this was still over with the live crowd and a fun match overall. The post match scene with Corey Graves telling McAfee he got lucky followed by the McAfee crotch chop left me wondering if those two will eventually meet in the ring. Graves is medically cleared and while he’s downplayed the idea of actually wrestling again, that’s exactly what you would expect him to do if he wants to eventually surprise everyone. Either way, I remain happy for Graves that he was given the peace of mind of knowing that his head trauma issues have made a remarkable improvement.
Bobby Lashley vs. Theory for the U.S. Championship: A basic match that saw Lashley plow through Theory in less than five minutes. The match easily could have aired on Raw and yet it also felt satisfying for its place on the card.
Overall Show: A terrific show that blew away my expectations. I went into SummerSlam expecting a solid show, but I was really looking ahead to next week’s television shows as the likely real beginning of Paul Levesque’s era as the head of creative. But the change arrived at SummerSlam. The match finishes felt stronger than usual across the board. There were surprise returns and surprise turns. Michael Cole was armed with far more statistics than usual. The storytelling was strong and everything came together to make this a much more memorable show than it seemed like it had any right to be.
WWE SummerSlam Misses
Finn Balor and Damian Priest vs. Rey Mysterio and Domnik Mysterio in a No DQ match: The ring work was solid. My complaint is the lack of logic regarding the No DQ stipulation. I predicted that the stipulation was likely there to let Edge interfere on behalf of the Mysterios. And while that’s what happened, the body of match was a head scratcher in that the teams worked a traditional tag match style even though there was nothing stopping them from all being in the ring at once. This felt especially strange when one of the Mysterios was isolated or even being double teamed while the other Mysterio had to stand in the corner and wait for a tag for no good reason. Meanwhile, Edge’s return was well received by the live crowd, but he really needs to follow up with a home run promo to get his character back on track.