STRANGEST PARTY OF THE SUMMER
By Sam Jones
Emanating from Brooklyn, NY
Annoucers: Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves (RAW) John “Bradshaw” Layfield, David Otunga, Mauro Ranallo (Smackdown Live)
ENZO & BIG CASS vs. CHRIS JERICHO & KEVIN OWENS
WWE WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP- SASHA BANKS (C) vs. CHARLOTTE
INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP- THE MIZ (C) vs. APOLLO CREWS
AJ STYLES vs. JOHN CENA
WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP- THE NEW DAY (C) vs. LUKE GALLOWS & KARL ANDERSON
WWE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP- DEAN AMBROSE (C) vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER
NIKKI BELLA, ALEXA BLISS & NATALYA vs. CARMELLA, BECKY LYNCH & NAOMI
WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP- FINN BALOR vs. SETH ROLLINS
UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP- RUSEV (C) vs. ROMAN REIGNS
BROCK LESNAR vs. RANDY ORTON
SPOILER WARNING: MATCH RESULTS MAY BE REVEALED- PROCEED WITH CAUTION!
Well after a solid month of anticipation, the alleged “biggest part of the summer” is upon us: SummerSlam! With a card that felt refreshingly different and the promise of some truly spectacular matches, my expectations (and more than few others) were through the roof for this one. The question is, did it deliver? And did SummerSlam even come close to topping TakeOver the day before?
SummerSlam was kind of a strange mixture of elements, which only felt stranger after I switched it off following the show’s highly questionable main event. At some point about halfway through its lengthy 4 hour run, SummerSlam’s gears shifted in some truly odd ways that left a bad taste in my mouth. So, in order to emulate that feeling, I’m gonna start with what worked and work on way down to where the show started going off the rails.
Of everything on this show that didn’t really work, the wrestling on display would not make that list: most of the matches on the card ranged from good, to great, and in the case of Cena vs. Styles…phenomenal, dare I say? That’s not hyperbole for the sake of a dreadful pun, either. Cena and Styles not only had the best match of the night, but they also easily topped their previous Money in the Bank encounter by a wide margin, bringing the crowd to their feet more than anything else on the card. The scintillating match was also capped off by an unbelievably perfect finish, with a fit of sanity in the booking awarding Styles an appropriate and desperately needed win. The somber send-off to Cena that followed even managed to win the crowd over- thought whether it leads to anything on Smackdown this week remains to be seen. Outside of Cena and Style’s excellent clash, Finn Balor and Seth Rollins also delivered in their battle to crown RAW’s first ever Universal Champion. While it started off sluggishly, the momentum picked up into a thrilling conclusion that saw Balor pick up an important and historic victory: as unlikely as it seemed at times, Balor now stands atop the mountain, with the promise of bright future for himself, RAW, and the WWE at large. Sasha Banks and Charlotte’s Women’s Championship collision was a fine match as well: not nearly as great as their RAW encounter earlier in the month, but a fine follow-up regardless.
The finish of that match, however, was where the bad tastes started worming their way in. Charlotte, for seemingly no reason, came away with the win; ending Sasha’s hugely anticipated inaugural run as champ barely a month after it began. Why this decision was made to cut Sasha’s legs out from under like this so fast is anyone’s guess, but the finish definitely put a damper on the match that preceded it. Other matches on the card were plagued with similar booking problems. The Tag Title match suffered somewhat for the juvenile and nonsensical “ringpostitis” tripe that preceded it rearing its head during the match, coupled with the less-than-well-received presence of Jon Stewart (who thankfully didn’t run this match too). While Big E’s surprise return ended things on a high note, the stuff that preceded it was frustrating. The IC title match and the 6 women tag match both suffered from a lack of decent build-up, and resulted in both of those matches falling flat with the crowd. A special mention goes to the women’s tag match for giving the returning Nikki Bella the completely unneeded win when there were so many other up-and-comers in that match who could have used it more.
But it wasn’t until the WWE World Championship match where the show really began to fall down. In spite of a reasonable build-up and a lot of great performances from all in involved in the lead-up, Ambrose and Ziggler ended up turning out a performance that was slow, plodding, and failed to ever really get going. This wasn’t helped in the slightest by a crowd who clearly had no idea how to react to either man, with their roles having been so blurred in the lead-up, as well as Ziggler being so difficult to take seriously as a credible opponent at this point.The excellent Universal Championship match was followed by the utter farce that was the US title match, for the reason that the match never even happened. WWE weirdly decided to have the actual match on RAW and saved the baffling non-starter for the paying pay-per-view crowd, which isn’t exactly doing much to earn goodwill for the constantly waning Roman Reigns. All these brutal disappointments were capped off by a main event that ended in truly awful fashion. Lesnar and Orton’s big clash ended with a whimper via Brock brutally bloodying Orton and winning by “TKO” (which is apparently the same thing as a “doctor stoppage” now). Why WWE felt it was a good idea to end their biggest show outside of Wrestlemania with not one, but two consecutive non-finishes (the US title “match” was before the main event) is beyond me, but it sure was a great way to poison any good feelings that the show’s high points may have earned from its audience.
SummerSlam was a show of high peaks and deep valleys: it certainly had its great moments, but every great moment tempered by something disappointing or underwhelming. For being built like a second Wrestlemania, SummerSlam unfortunately underwhelmed in a frustratingly similar way to this year’s Wrestlemania. Outside of the Cena/Styles clash, the Women’s Championship match, and the Universal Championship match, the rest of the card doesn’t have a great deal else to make it worthwhile: by all means, get a look at those matches if you can, but don’t feel like you’re missing out if you don’t catch the rest of it.