Review: WWE SummerSlam  PPV
WWE’s second biggest pay-per-view of the year was… interesting to say the least. Several hours have passed since the final bell was rung, and I still don’t know exactly know how I feel about this show. It’s definitely one of the better pay-per-views of the year, especially for the female competitors, but it’s surprisingly long length and disappointing final two matches keep me on the fence. Maybe as I write this review there will be some kind of revelation that puts me on one side or the other, but for now, let’s just say I had a blast watching SummerSlam but it definitely wasn’t a perfect show.
The Usos & Hype Bros. & American Alpha vs. Breezing & The Ascension & The Vaudevillains
My first thought when they said a 12-man tag match was, “Dear lord, not again. Please.” They’ve done too many of these multiple tag-team matches in recent memory, and all of them were either too confusing or too clunky, making them more like watching snow melt rather than a compelling wrestling match.
While this match wasn’t one of the greatest ever, it’s one of the better 12-man tag matches I’ve seen. All the teams worked well together, mixing and matching styles and tag moves in a fun and compelling way. It was a good showcase of the talent WWE has in the tag-team division, possibly foreshadowing great rivalries and matches in the future.
In the end, the match was entertaining and a good start to the show, but there were too many guys and not enough time for them to turn the clustered nature of the match into anything worthwhile. It still was above average, though.
Match Grade: C+
Neville & Sami Zayn vs. The Dudley Boyz
Another tag-team match and another Kickoff Show for the Dudley Boyz. Age really has been the recent enemy of the Dudley Boyz, but I’m the type who believes greatness is a terminal trait and not a short-lived one. I believe the Dudleys are still excellent veterans to have around for the younger generation to learn from, and that’s exactly what they were for Neville and Sami Zayn. These two youngsters aren’t necessarily green in the professional wrestling world, but they most certainly are still youngsters to the WWE style.
With the two talented green cards working with established veterans, what you get is a good, solid outing. Nothing too small, nothing too big, nothing too special. It was an awesome match for the Kickoff Show, and it showed how well Neville and Zayn work together with their innovative offenses, and how their years of experience on the independent circuit allows them to mix seamlessly with veterans like the Dudley Boyz.
Match Grade: B-
Cesaro vs. Sheamus
This match-up is the beginning to an exciting endeavor. It has been awhile since the WWE has done a Best of 7 series, so when two excellent superstars like Cesaro and Sheamus are matched up for one, fans know it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.
With high energy and a great mixture of their styles, these two created the perfect ending to what was a surprisingly good Kickoff Show. I’ve always liked Sheamus and the way he tries so hard to entertain regardless of who he is facing, but I’m hoping this series is going to be what finally proves to WWE Creative that Cesaro needs to be more of a top dog in the industry. He’s got the perfect gimmick and the hearts of the crowd, and even though he loses this match, the entertainment level created by him and Sheamus only proves my point even more.
Match Grade: B+
Enzo & Big Cass vs. Jeri-KO
After an excellent promo cut by Enzo and Big Cass, what proceeded was a fun tag-team match. It was better than the typical 5-10 minute sequences you usually see on Raw or Smackdown, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. All four superstars demonstrated their chemistry with each other and against each other. We know these are four of the most charismatic superstars WWE has right now, so the way they crafted an entertaining story around their match didn’t come as a surprise.
Their charisma transferred over to the intense energy felt throughout the match, which had some excellent momentum and timing. With all of their personalities and gimmicks molded together with their unique styles and fun tag-team moves, this was a solid outing for both teams. It wasn’t anything like what the Hardys, the Dudleys and Edge & Christian did back in the day, but this match proved they will be capable of doing so if they get the chance, creating hope for the future.
Match Grade: B-
Women’s Championship: Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks
Match of the night.
If you’ve read my previous PPV reviews, you’ve probably seen my distaste for this whole “Diva’s Revolution.” It’s not that I dislike the divas division. I love women, and I adore women in professional wrestling. Just the product making the switch from NXT to the main roster has been a rough road filled with lackluster matches, turning me off of the whole “Revolution” ordeal. But, that’s okay, because Sasha and Charlotte gave the entire WWE Universe hope with this title bout.
Plenty of innovation, counters, chances taken, and entertainment are tattooed throughout this match. One of Sasha’s reversals on Charlotte from the top rope might even be my moment of the night. They revived the energy and prowess that seemed to have been lost in the fray of switching from NXT to WWE. Sasha vs. Bayley at last year’s NXT Take Over: Brooklyn might’ve been the final statement saying Women’s wrestling had taken over NXT. Sasha vs. Charlotte at this year’s SummerSlam might very well be the first, official statement that Women’s wrestling has returned to the WWE.
These two worked synonymously together, sticking to their characters and creating a story at the same time. I was completely invested in watching these two show everyone that they have the potential of being two of the best to ever step into a WWE ring. That’s a fact that some have thought to be impossible, but with the story they told and the match’s perfect ending, the rivalry between Charlotte and Sasha Banks might very well be exactly what the Women’s division needs right now.
While I am a fan of Charlotte, I’m an even bigger fan of Sasha. No matter if she’s a face or a heel she always produces a quality product with whoever she works with, and she really shined during this match. Everyone says Charlotte is the best woman to come out of NXT, probably because her father is Ric Flair, but in my opinion, Sasha takes that crown. I won’t have my official determination until Bayley has a few more main roster bouts, but for now The Boss is the Queen of the Women’s division.
Match Grade: A
Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Apollo Crews
This match started off with some quickness and fiery energy, but all that subsided and the match soon turned into a basic Raw/Smackdown mid-card title defense. This is a good and a bad result. Mid-card title defenses on Raw/Smackdown can go in a decent direction or a completely frustrating direction. Miz vs. Crews went in the former direction and showcased some excellent timing and momentum switches. But that’s about it, to be honest. I was hoping to see something of a more enthralling quality, but I guess I cannot be completely upset with the match’s decent outcome.
I totally believe Crews is the next Intercontinental champion, but tonight was only a subtle approach to what he’s truly capable of. That’s a sad fact, yet there’s something about his rivalry with Miz that intrigues me. It makes me want to see more and hope for the rivalry to become great. Perhaps that’ll happen down the road, but there will have to be better matches than the basic direction they went in during this show.
Match Grade: C+
John Cena vs. A.J. Styles
This rivalry has been brewing for awhile, but hasn’t been all that great in my opinion. I do like Cena and everything he has done for his fans and the WWE, but when you’re saying you can legitimately beat A.J. Styles, that’s completely unbelievable at this point. Maybe back when Cena was the Doctor of Thuganomics I would be a little more receptive of the idea that Cena could go over A.J., but not now. Not when Cena is pushing retirement and his style is very generic and safe. He’s still capable of having a good match, but it’s usually because the other guy carries the match. This isn’t me saying Cena isn’t good at his job. This is me saying Cena is excellent at making his opponents look good while they carry him.
That’s what happened during this match. The reason this one didn’t receive a higher grade is because the entire match was A.J.’s show. He’s so much fun to watch, especially when he shows off his high-flying skills, but it was very evident he and Cena’s styles do not mix very well. It was obvious A.J. was carrying the match and Cena was there to do his one or two famous sequences and then put A.J. over.
Entertaining, yes, but very one-sided, which ruined it in a sense. Maybe that’s what the WWE wanted? I don’t know, but I do know it will be interesting to see what’s going to happen on Smackdown, since A.J. did just “dethrone” the face of the WWE.
Match Grade: B
Tag Team Championships: The New Day vs. Anderson & Gallows
With the “injury” to Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods were the representatives of the New Day for SummerSlam… oh, and John Stewart also joined New Day at the last second… I won’t go into further detail about that.
Kofi and Woods worked very well together against the veteran and talented team of Anderson & Gallows. The match itself had the makings of being a very entertaining title bout, but then Big E returned to get his revenge on Anderson & Gallows. There’s nothing wrong with Big E or his return, but it caused a disqualification and ended the match, which hadn’t been going on for very long anyway. I guess it’s fine to do this on a PPV, but at least let the match build into something great before doing it. There wasn’t enough time for it to do so, and even though Kofi and Woods showed they don’t need Big E to be a compelling tag-team, Big E’s return ruined what could’ve been a nice glimpse into a new version of New Day.
Storyline wise, the match wasn’t a complete waste. Big E’s return adds fuel to New Days’ rivalry with The Club, so I cannot wait to see an actual title defense in the future.
Match Grade: C+
WWE World Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler
This is my most anticipated match simply because I’ve been yearning for Ziggler to get another title shot. Once he became the number one contender, my excitement got stronger and stronger as the weeks went by. I even told myself that it probably won’t be that great of a match because WWE always seems to brush Ziggler to the side in recent years, but regardless, my anticipation was at an all-time high to see one of my favorites get a title shot.
The match itself could’ve been better, in all honesty. While each superstar held onto their gimmicks with masterful expertise and took advantage of their slick chemistry, the match felt no different than a great main event of Raw or Smackdown. It was good yes, but not PPV good. Not good enough for WWE’s second biggest PPV of the year.
Of course they didn’t give Ziggler the title, but I do wish he got more of a chance to tear the house down with his one shot. Will this be his last shot? That isn’t known at this point, but with how WWE has handled Ziggler over the years, then yes it most likely is.
Match Grade: B-
Naomi & Carmella & Becky Lynch vs. Nikki Bella (Not Eva Marie) & Alexa Bliss & Natalya
Eva Marie was scheduled to be a part of this match, so I don’t know what transpired behind the scenes that eventually led to the return to Nikki Bella. It could’ve been scripted to happen the entire time, but in this day-and-age, I really don’t know.
Anyways, 6-Diva/Women tag matches haven’t been great in the past, but this one surprised me, just like the 12-man tag match earlier in the night. It wasn’t anything special or something I’d call a classic, but it showed off the talent these women have, and they created a decent match out of it. Clunky, at times, but I came away from this match saying, “Yo, these women could compete on the same level as the guys.” This match entertained me just as much as the 12-man match did, so the boys better watch out because when these women get the chance to truly shine down the road, all of the boys might be out of a job.
Match Grade: C+
WWE Universal Championship: Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins
I hate the fact that the “Universal Championship” was named the “Universal Championship” and how it looks exactly the same as the “World Championship,” except the belt is red not black.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time to talk about the second best match of the night. I think everyone in the universe knew this was an excellent match-up. Just look at their careers, WWE and independent, and you’ll see there really aren’t two better candidates to fight for a new championship. Their styles are relatively the same, which is a fact WWE creative incorporated beautifully into the rivalry, and their popularity with the fans is also on the same level.
It was an even match-up that could’ve gone either way, which is the first ingredient to an incredible recipe. This match was like watching a master face another master. They were neck and neck the entire way with excellent timing, a compelling flow, and seamless changes of momentum. It was on the way to being better than Charlotte vs. Sasha, but then it ended five minutes too early.
During the match, Balor kept kicking out of Rollins’ finishers, which tends to happen during matches of this magnitude. This was setting up Rollins to kick out of a few of Balor’s finishers, but then he didn’t. Sure, Balor missed some of his finisher attempts, but that’s not the same as Rollins kicking out of them. I believe an extra five minutes of Rollins kicking out of some finishers would’ve helped the integrity of the rivalry and would have made the match a sliver more compelling. Even though Balor, the right man, won in the end, the match felt like it was missing that extra juice it needed to propel it into A+ territory. With an extra five minutes, they would’ve achieved that.
Match Grade: A-
United States Championship: Rusev vs. Roman Reigns
This is when the night went sour. Every time I grade a match, the rating starts off at a C. What happens before and after the match does affect the grading, but if the match actually starts, it will always start with a C, and I’ll add on the extras after the fact.
This match didn’t even start. Rusev and Reigns literally beat the crap out of each other for 10 minutes. Yes, it was brutal and fun to watch and kept it from receiving an F-letter grade, but the match, a title defense, didn’t even get a chance to start. This onslaught of brutality did wonders for Reign’s gimmick/character, but watching two powerhouses destroy each other can’t erase the fact that this was a waste of time. With how good the show had been going, there needed to be a match. I wouldn’t have cared if they beat each other up beforehand, then the match started, and then Reigns was disqualified for hitting Rusev with a weapon or something, because that would’ve fit the integrity of their styles and the emotional direction of the match. But… the match didn’t even start. You promote this for weeks, and then this happens? Come on, man.
This onslaught should’ve been a vignette that was shown during SummerSlam or perhaps used from Raw/Smackdown. All I could think while watching this was the these extra 10 minutes could’ve gone to other matches, Balor vs. Rollins in particular.
Match Grade: D+
Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar
15 years in the making.
Two years ago, it was great to watch WWE hype up Lesnar vs. Cena at that year’s SummerSlam. The anticipation was high throughout the universe, and the match itself was surprising but satisfying. We got to see Lesnar destroy Cena and take the titles; something nobody was really expecting. It was a fine move by WWE, and I will defend it to this day.
In regards to Lesnar vs. Orton, things are a bit different. With this being the first time they have ever met on PPV in 15 years, there needed to be a quality match. Everyone wanted a quality match, even if Lesnar ended up destroying Orton in the end. We didn’t get that. The match started off very similar to Lesnar vs. Cena (suplex after suplex after suplex) and then Orton turned it around with a few RKO’s out of nowhere. Once Orton kicked out of an F5, I thought that was when the match was finally going to get rolling and we were going to get a satisfying result… yet, no we didn’t.
After Orton kicked out, Lesnar started throwing vicious elbows at Orton’s head, which cracked it open. Blood was everywhere, and the medical team had to get involved. I believe this was scripted because usually when there’s a “real” injury, the refs and medical team legitimately keep every one away from the injured superstar. While Orton was bleeding out and being tended to by the medical staff, Lesnar kept interfering and punching Orton’s wound. This fit Lesnar’s gimmick perfectly, but all this eventually led to a TKO win for Lesnar.
Now, disappointment is an understatement to how I felt. This was hyped up for weeks and weeks, and then it happens like this? There’s truly nothing wrong with the ending, but there was no quality match to go along with it. It was suplexs, a few RKOs, an F5, and a couple broken tables… yeah. That’s it. No story, just Lesnar being brutal and Orton trying to come back from it. Maybe WWE has something brewing that will explain all this, but initially it’s very hurtful to think we, as the universe, were tricked into thinking this match would be something worth our time.
When the “Goldberg” chants took over the crowd, I got hopeful that this match would be redeemed with the return of a legend, but no… Lesnar did give an F5 to Shane McMahon, which I’m sure will be the start of yet another suspension, but that’s pretty much it, and the night ended on a sad note.
Match Grade: C
SummerSlam had the chance to be a truly memorable PPV. There are plenty of positives to take away from this show, but with how it ran out of steam during some of the most anticipated matches puts a bad taste in my mouth rather than an overall satisfied opinion.