It’s been a while since we sat down and watched a WWE PPV… so let’s give this a try.
The WrestleMania of the Summer has been the unofficial tagline of this show for a while, and this year they tried to mimic it in more ways than one… with a two-hour pre-show and a “four hour minimum” PPV. Just… how is that a selling point?!
The Miz, Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas vs. Jason Jordan & Hardy Boyz (Matt Hardy & Jeff Hardy)
My word, how empty is the Barclays Center?? They show an outside shot early because there can’t have been 100 fans in seats at this point, which is just hard to watch. “These guys deserve better” is a bit of a cliche, but this was embarrassing – seeing all the empty seats…
They gave these guys plenty of time, and lots of tightly-zoomed close-up shots too. Gotta mask those empty seats! Axel pulls Dallas out of the ring as we headed to our first break following some forgettable action… after break, Axel trips Jeff off the top rope as we continued to watch large chunks of the match via a camera seemingly draped on the ring apron.
Oh God, the “one, two… sweet!” crowd are back here. That’s not going to get annoying again! Miz surprises Matt with a short DDT for a near-fall, before a series of kicks just gets Miz too cocky as he runs into a Side Effect. Jordan comes in and works over the Miztourage of Dallas and Axel, but he’s either not over or this crowd is saving themselves for the rest of the night.
It might be the numbers as the crowd barely mustered polite applause for a Twist of Fate before a blind tag allows Miz to drop Jason Jordan with a Skullcrushing Finale for the win. Before the camera catches him mouthing off towards an empty block of seats for the benefit of social media. Whoops! The match itself was fine, but nothing special. **¼
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Akira Tozawa (c)
Tozawa shocked Neville for the title on Raw last week, which seemed a little weird given this match was still taking place. There wasn’t any real surge at the bell, but Neville comfortably took control the match from the off, before Tozawa threw him outside as he turned the tide.
A crushing back senton flattened Neville ahead of a teased dive, but Neville cuts it off and throws the champ into the LED ring apron as we had another break. Back from commercial, Neville’s in control again, dropping Tozawa with a missile dropkick to the back for a near-fall, The champ rebounds with a tope to take Neville out, before almost dumping Neville on his head with a back suplex.
Tozawa manages to catch an Octopus hold after Neville had caught a springboard attempt, but Neville was able to escape and then kick out from a Shining Wizard. However, Neville started to target Tozawa’s injured shoulder with an arm whip, but he’s unable to get off a superplex as Tozawa shoves him down for a back senton… which Neville blocked with the knees!
Capitalising in a hurry, Neville heads up for a Red Arrow to the back, and that’s enough to regain the title! Another decent match, but it felt like they had a fair amount of downtime in this, despite getting almost 12 minutes. So… why did Tozawa win the belt? ***¼
WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship: The Usos (Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso) vs. The New Day (Big E & Xavier Woods) (c)
It’s weird to see the New Day working as Big E and Xavier here, but it’s a nice change to see Xavier in the ring. Apparently their match at Battleground was really good… except I’ve not seen it yet, so this is me cherry-picking, I guess.
After an initial flurry, Woods found himself firmly on the defensive… at least until Xavier shrugs off some attacks in the corner as one of the Usos ran himself into the ring post. Jimmy Uso pulls Big E off the apron just in time to save a tag, and that keeps the Usos in the game as Woods kept getting worn down, with a backbreaker/forearm combo getting the challengers a near-fall.
Woods surprises Jimmy with a wheelbarrow facebuster as he finally got the tag out to Big E, who ran through his usual power game, dumping Jey with plenty of belly-to-belly suplexes. A uranage out of the corner gets another two-count, before E powerbombs Woods onto Jey. The favour’s returned when Xavier lifts up Big E for an elevated splash that connected for a near-fall, but the Usos managed to rebound, landing a double-team spinebuster for a two-count of their own.
Jey smashes Big E with a hip attack in the corner, but the champs come back with a uranage/backcracker combo to nearly get the win, as another blind tag gets Jey into the match… and into the path of a running knee from Woods. Big E tries to go airborne, but he’s cut-off with a superkick in the ropes as the Usos wiped out Big E with a big splash as he was hung in the ropes. Woods gets one too, but he’s able to kick out, and slip in a Koji Clutch!
Jimmy tries to make a save, but Big E drags him out… only for Jey to roll up Xavier for a near-fall. A Shining Wizard clocks Jey for another two-count, before the New Day tried to end things with the Midnight Hour… but somehow Jimmy’s able to pop back in to break up that cover. A nasty spot sees Jimmy pop-up Xavier to the outside… but Woods almost landed on Jey’s head in the process as the Big E spear through the ropes kept the insanity high.
A superkick to the gut saves the Usos from a Big Ending, before some more superkicks finally put down Big E for the Double Uce big splash… and the Usos regain! I’m not used to WWE giving away matches this good on the pre-show… if you’ve not seen it, get yourself over to YouTube and watch this! 20 minutes and perhaps the best match on the entire show! ****¼
John Cena vs. Baron Corbin
On SmackDown last week, Corbin cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and lost to an ultra-quick roll-up by Jinder Mahal. So yeah, it’s fair to say that the wheels are off the Corbin train!
There’s mind-games early from Cena, which Corbin plays into as he’s mocked over that loss on Tuesday… and it doesn’t help that the crowd only cares about “let’s go Cena/Cena sucks”. Poor Baron. The crowd really don’t care, but given that they’ve gone from a hot tag title match to “stomp stomp” (not like Jessie J), what do you expect?
Corbin barely gets a two-count when he counters a crossbody into a slam… and you get the feeling that there’s a few subtle messages being sent here. Cena starts cycling through his Five Moves of Doom, but the Five Knuckle Shuffle misses and earns Cena a chokeslam backbreaker, then a Deep Six, but it’s not enough!
Frustrated, Corbin beats Cena down, but his slide out/slide in trick’s caught at the third attempt as Cena hits a clothesline then an AA for the win. Well… a rather straightforward win for Cena, one which you’d have been convinced was a standard Raw/SmackDown match than a big singles match for someone at SummerSlam! Pass the shovel… **½
SmackDown Women’s Championship: Natalya vs. Naomi (c)
Since I last watched a WWE PPV, Naomi’s made her belt all glow-in-the-dark. It suits the act, but it looked like this’d be a short one as Natalya flew into the champion at the bell, only for Naomi to slap Natalya to the outside.
A Blockbuster off the ring steps got the crowd to take notice, but Natalya hits back by slingshotting the champ into the XXL ring post, and it’s all Natalya from there. It’s weird, for years Natalya was touted as one of WWE’s lesser-utilised talents, but unlike many others, she doesn’t seem to get the buzz when those chances come around. A Michinoku Driver gets Natalya a near-fall, but it seems that this crowd’s still taking their time to get into things, barely reacting when Naomi countered an abdominal stretch with a hiptoss.
Naomi keeps up with a Russian legsweep off the middle turnbuckles, before a rear kick sets up Naomi for a headscissor DDT that picks up a near-fall. The cavalcade of kicks follow, but Natalya drags Naomi into a splits for a near-fall, but neither woman can seem to keep any momentum. A sunset flip nearly gets it before Naomi tried for an Anaconda Vice… but Natalya slips out and applies a Sharpshooter in the middle of the ring, which Naomi escapes by rolling Natalya into a sunset flip, crashing her into the bottom buckle.
A split-legged moonsault follows, but Naomi crashes and burns as it’s back to the Sharpshooter…and that’s all folks! Naomi taps, and we’ve got a new Women’s champion! This was decent, but I can’t help but feel that a more dominant result would have gotten a better reaction. So far, every title’s changed hands on this show. Is someone hitting the reset button?? ***
Big Cass vs. Big Show
The shark cage was back for it’s latest airing as Enzo Amore was to be locked in it and held above the ring… In the build up to this, Big Cass broke Big Show’s punching hand, so we’re meant to think that the KO punch is going to be a non-factor in this match. Which was handy, given that Cass had been punched out two weeks in a row!
Enzo and Cass have been split for several weeks now, yet Enzo’s Titantron still proclaims he’s part of “Certified G Protection”. Yeah, I think I’ll pass on that offer of a bodyguard!
Enzo runs his mouth for pretty much the whole match – he may as well have been on commentary – and that’s about the most entertaining part of this. Show hits a sidewalk slam, but he hurt his own arm in the process… and a Vader bomb out of the corner doesn’t help things either.
Show punches Cass with the injured hand, but it’s only enough for a near-fall as Enzo’s dancing around in the cage, and now Cass targets it with stomps. An armbar keeps Show down, but nobody really cares in this arena. Heck, even JBL looked to have fallen asleep.
Cass gets thrown across the ring as Show makes a one-armed comeback, nearly finishing Cass with a left-armed chokeslam for a near-fall. All of a sudden, Enzo strips off and tries to slip through the bars in the cage… and after oiling himself up a la Joey Ryan he finally slips through. Someone didn’t think the shark cage through…
Enzo eventually drops to the mat… and gets booted instantly by Cass. Should have stayed inside. Another big boot puts Big Show down for a near-fall, before a second boot and an Empire Elbow gets the win. This did little for anyone – the big spot with Enzo barely got any sort of a reaction after the “he got out”, and this match probably could have done with being a little shorter. ¼*
Daniel Bryan and Kurt Angle are backstage arguing over who’ll be putting on the better show: Raw or SmackDown? They steal each other’s catchphrases, and I’d rather be watching these guys healthy and wrestling each other instead.
Randy Orton vs. Rusev
Splat. Rusev has fallen so much this year, and the path continued here. He jumped Orton in the ring (rather than having his own entrance), and we start with some brawling around ringside as Orton takes a fallaway slam into the barriers. When the bell rings, things quickly change as Rusev misses a charge into the corner. Orton hits the RKO, and that’s the win. It certainly beats being elbowed until you’re bloody, eh?
Sasha Banks runs into an injured Bayley backstage. Man, this crowd don’t like Bayley at all. They hug, and Sasha walks on…
WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss (c)
In the seconds since she hugged Bayley, Sasha found time to put on a headdress that brought back memories of Saba Simba. Google it, kids!
They open up in such a way that you’d really believe that they had a beef that stretched beyond any storylines, with Bliss responding to some early punches with a right hand that epitomised her “Five Feet of Fury” slogan. There’s a curious counter to a crossbody, with Banks kicking out and flipping over into a reversal, rather than the usual “roll through and get the pin yourself” counter.
Bliss slows down the match with some hair pulling and a chinlock, but gets caught as she goes up top… only to catch Sasha in a hanging choke from the top rope. Some double knees nearly win it for Bliss, but this quickly descends back into a brawl, with Bliss going for that top rope choke again.
Banks eventually throws Bliss to the mat and hits a running knee to get some separation, before stuffing a Code Red by flipping the champion into the turnbuckles. Again, the crowd here’s dying, but at least they react when Sasha flips into a Bank Statement… but they’re too close to the ropes and Bliss pulls herself to the floor.
Bliss trips Banks to the floor as the challenger looked to run off the apron, and that’s a tease of a count-out… not helped by the fans “10”ing everything. Back inside, Bliss goes for the injured shoulder, but it’s not enough as Sasha manages to get the Bank Statement in – and forces a submission out of nowhere. The rather abrupt finish aside, this was a pretty decent match – perhaps the best on the main show thus far! ***
WWE’s adverts for KFC have morphed from Enzo Amore trying to make out with chicken, to him being one of a long list of guys pretending to be the Colonel. The punchline is that Shawn Michaels is the new Colonel… o-kay…
Bray Wyatt vs. Finn Balor
A year ago, Finn Balor became the first ever Universal Champion. Tonight, he’s in a feud with Bray Wyatt because… reasons. Still, for all of the critics of Wyatt and his baffling promos, the crowds still love him. Or at least, his entrance.
Wyatt dumping a bucket of blood, sorry, “a red, acidic substance” on Balor prompted the return of the Demon King. Dreadlocks, body paint and fog, oh my! Of course, the appearance of Balor meant that the Bullet Club obsessed fans were able to chant “too sweet” at a guy who’s been out of the Bullet Club for over three years. Move on people!
Balor gets the upper hand early, charging away at Wyatt as he tried to play some mind games on the outside. Wyatt grabs the ropes to avoid being pulled, and so we head outside again, with a tope con hilo seeing Balor crash into the “Eater of Worlds”. Bray manages to turn things around, dragging Finn out of the ring into a suplex to the floor, before we go back inside for a litany of dizzying camera cuts.
The pace quickens as Balor takes Wyatt outside for a dropkick and a PK off the apron as he looked to go for the Coup de Grace… but he misses and runs into a Sister Abigail attempt, only for Finn to escape with a Slingblade! Wyatt comes back with a uranage for a two-count, but he takes too long to follow up and is met with a kick in the corner then a reverse DDT.
Again Wyatt heads outside, but he’s met with a running dropkick from Balor before whacking him with a simple clothesline as Finn tried to charge back at him. Another crab walk from Wyatt’s no-sold by Balor, who pops up with a Slingblade, a dropkick and the Coup de Grace… and that’s all! Three moves do it, and this was a match that fell a little flat. I don’t know what you do with Bray Wyatt, but without the family, he’s really rudderless. **¾
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship: Sheamus & Cesaro (c) vs. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose
After several weeks of Seth trying to get the band back together, Dean Ambrose finally relented and reformed the sort-of Shield. They still came out separately though, but it’s still early days.
It’s incredibly even early on, with the sort-of Shield perhaps edging things as they sent Cesaro and Sheamus to the outside… but Rollins’ dive is caught and he’s thrown to the floor as this crowd again seemed a little distracted at times. This time, we find out why: cretins with a beach ball! A Blockbuster from Rollins takes down Cesaro, who then tags out and heads into the crowd to rip apart that beach ball.
Why the hell would you spend however much ringside tickets for SummerSlam cost… to bat around a beach ball? Even if the show was Godawful (it wasn’t), you just don’t do that.
Once that’s taken out of play, the champs keep isolating Rollins, to the point where Dean Ambrose decided to fly into everyone on the floor with an axehandle smash. Still, Rollins struggled to tag out, shrugging off both champs before Ambrose finally gets into the match legally with a tag. Dean gets a near-fall with a backslide on Cesaro, before the sort-of Shield land a pair of topes as the crowd started to get into it.
Please say there isn’t another beach ball…
A Hart Attack-style Slingblade gets a near-fall as Ambrose is forced to fight out of the Neutraliser, rebounding off the ropes with a lariat to take the Swiss champ down. Ambrose keeps up a superplex before a Rollins frog splash nearly won them the belts… so they keep up on Sheamus, stomping on him in the corner for a spell.
The champs come back after Cesaro creates a distraction to break up a double-team powerbomb, but Ambrose nearly gets it with the Dirty Deeds, only for Cesaro to counter into a Giant Swing then a Sharpshooter. Ambrose almost made the ropes, but Cesaro switches out into a crossface, before another escape led to Sheamus kicking away another rebound lariat.
A clothesline/powerbomb combo out of the corner’s only good enough for a near-fall, so the champs double-team Ambrose for a spell… but the spiked White Noise ends when Rollins ‘ranas Cesaro into the Irishman as a flurry of moves ends with Sheamus eating a Rainmaker Knee from Rollins, before Ambrose threw in the Dirty Deeds for the win! This one started slow but got going pretty well – I just wish a certain section of fans weren’t morons with more money than sense. ***¾
WWE United States Championship: Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles (c)
It’s easy to be cynical over this, but I sure do love feuds where the focal point isn’t any of the wrestlers… especially when the pre-match video package is flat-out building up to Shane McMahon “getting involved”. Speaking of, Shane’s the guest referee for this, since Owens and Styles have had more than their fair share of run-ins. Or because they want to do Owens vs. Shane in the near future. I see there’s a Cell-based pay-per-view coming up soon…
They brawl from the start as Shane’s forced to separate Owens, and they quickly head outside where AJ drills Owens with a running knee off the apron. After trading some shots to the throat, Owens cracks AJ with a clothesline before some mounted punches put the challenger in the driving seat. Another clothesline in the corner gives way to a big cannonball for a near-fall, and now we get Owens arguing with the referee… with a little more intensity than normal.
Some chops keep AJ on the ropes… and that quickly gives way to a slugfest! AJ manages to sneak in an ushigoroshi for a near-fall, but his attempt to go flying’s cut-off as Owens shoved Shane into the ropes, only for a sunset bomb off the top take Owens down again. Owens does it again, pulling Shane over him to act as a human shield against AJ’s springboard 450 splash – something that annoyed the champ.
A pop-up powerbomb only gets a near-fall as Owens rants at Shane’s inability to get into position quickly enough – “You fall off buildings and get back up. You can’t make the three count?!” – which leads to a rather sweaty staredown. After Owens charges into the ring post, AJ counters back with a Calf Crusher, but Owens again frees himself by any means necessary.
Another ref bump follows as AJ’s kicked into Owens, but that just means that nobody sees Owens tapping to the Calf Crusher, which now angers AJ. Shane shoved AJ into a roll-up for a near-fall, before a spinning superplex gets a similar count for Owens, but he can’t capitalise as AJ flips around into a Styles Clash to almost get the win. Second time was the charm for the pop-up powerbomb… and Shane counts the three despite AJ getting a foot on the ropes.
That angers Owens again as Shane reversed his call, and then we have a full-on shoving match. AJ capitalises with a Pele kick, then a Phenomenal Forearm before the Style Clash gets the win. A fun match, but one that I’d have enjoyed more without the sidebar of Shane McMahon… but hey, he gets to throw himself off of Hell in a Cell again, I guess. ***½
WWE Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jinder Mahal (c)
Remember at WrestleMania last year, when Nakamura stole the weekend with that match against Sami Zayn? It’s been wobbly since there, with his main roster call-up yielding weirdly awkward matches against Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin. Meanwhile, this alternate universe has also produced Jinder Mahal as a more than a flash-in-the-pan champion.
Then again, it’s fair to say that the publicity that this is getting in India (going by what WWE aired in a video package), this isn’t going away any time soon. Regardless of the perceived quality of his matches (or lack thereof). Speaking of weirdness, Rev Pro footage on a WWE PPV? What world are we living in?! Lee England Jr. is there again to play Nakamura out with a violin – an aesthetic that will never not be cool for Nakamura.
In my mind, Mahal was the fourth-best member of 3MB – yes, I’m putting Hornswoggle above him – and Nakamura’s entire WWE run has been hot and cold. Today, it was lukewarm at best. Having not seen much of Mahal’s WWE title run, I was taken aback by how we got a split-screen of the Hindi commentary team… and I swear one of them said “Botchamania” in there. Oh, the match? What do you think?
A slow start as Mahal started on the wrist as if this were a Superstars taping, as opposed to the semi-main event of SummerSlam. Mahal’s headlock is broken when Nakamura takes him to the ropes, and for some reason the Brooklyn crowd start chanting for 3MB as Mahal waits on the floor. Perhaps he thinks they’ve gone to a commercial break? We get a split-screen of the Japanese announcers, which sadly isn’t just Funaki yelling “Indeed”…
Mahal loves the outside of the ring, but that leads to an attack as Nakamura throws him back in… then gets distracted by the Singh brothers as Mahal took over with some stomps. A chinlock keeps Nakamura – and the crowd’s interest – down, but Nakamura frees himself and decks Mahal with a running boot before going for those kicks to the chest.
Nakamura goes for the inverted Exploder – the same move that dumped Cena on his neck a few weeks earlier – but Mahal avoids it… only to get caught in a triangle armbar! Mahal breaks it by getting his feet onto the ropes, before sidesteppng a Kinshasa attempt. Jinder gets a knee in for a near-fall, before Samir and Sunil Singh get into the ring to save their charge from a Kinshasa. That distraction just leaves Nakamura for the cobra clutch slam, and that’s it… and apparently that’s the Mahal template? Uninspiring, and that’s saying something when you’ve made a match with Nakamura borderline unwatchable! *
WWE Universal Championship: Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar (c)
Four big lads. One ring, and a whole lot of clubbering! Commentary heavily plays off the idea that Brock Lesnar could leave and go to UFC (again), without mentioning those three letters. Strowman and Reigns head outside immediately for some brawling, but it’s not long before we’re left with Lesnar and Reigns… and yes, Lesnar opens up that can of German suplexes.
The crowd pops for a tease of Strowman/Lesnar, but that’s delayed – then returned to – as Strowman takes Lesnar into the corner and clotheslines him to the floor. Tasty! Reigns tries to spoil the party before Braun misses a shoulder charge to the outside, and we next see Reigns spear Lesnar into the timekeeper’s area as Samoa Joe’d held the champion there with a Kokina Clutch!
More carnage with a uranage onto a commentary table before Joe’s barged there by Braun, who then picks up a revived Lesnar… and slams him through the Spanish announce table. Well, that’s keeping the crowd awake!
Braun returns by throwing one of the commentary chairs at Joe and Reigns, before he slams Lesnar through a second table. The referee signals for help, and they’re sure making you think that Brock’s going to lose… and leave too! There’s one more table… but instead of throwing Brock through it, Strowman just tips the German announce table onto him. MY GOD!
Lesnar gets carted to the back on a stretcher, but of course… Braun’s not finished with anyone! He takes apart the ring steps and throws them into Joe and Reigns, before Roman returns the favour. Samoa Joe tries to capitalise, squashing Reigns with a back senton for a near-fall, only to take a Samoan drop as Reigns traded those two-counts.
Joe countered a Superman punch with a kick before going for the Kokina Clutch… only for a double chokeslam from Braun to get him a near-fall. Strowman looked to have been bloodied by the ring steps earlier… and all of a sudden Brock’s wandering out, barely any of the worse for wear. He makes a beeline for Braun, before a Superman punch breaks up a hanging Kimura.
Yeah, the crowd didn’t like that.
A spear from Reigns almost won him the title, but he wanders into another Kokina clutch as Braun makes the save… only for Lesnar to pull out the ref for the latest save. Another Superman punch to Strowman gets a near-fall… but Braun kicked out with some force before Lesnar again breaks the count after a powerslam to Reigns. The bedlam returns as Joe catches Lesnar in the Kokina clutch, only for Lesnar to escape and land an F5 for a near-fall following a save from Reigns.
More Superman punches leave Lesnar staggered, but a spear’s blocked and turned into an F5… and that’s how Brock retains! A massively enjoyable car crash of a main event – yeah, you can argue that they relied on the usual tropes, but for a multi-way big lads’ match, you’re going to struggle to get much better than this. ****
This show reminded me a little of the heyday of the Attitude Era in some ways – an undercard that was decent, but wavered a lot, only it all to be forgotten with a barnburner of a main event. The sheer number of title changes was a little odd, but it’s not like any of them felt like they were done for the sake of it at the same time.
Yeah, SummerSlam could have done without being six hours long – you don’t need 13 matches on a show, nor do you need some of what we got being on a pay-per-view. Keep it short, keep the fans sweet, and you avoid stupid things like morons batting around a beach ball during a match.
Hey, if you’re the kind of fan who loves that… why not go to a beach or a park and do it for free, and just PayPal us the money (less the cost of a WWE Network subscription) that you’d have spent instead?