Sunday night, the WWE put on its biggest pay-per-view of the summer when it brought SummerSlam live on the WWE Network. It was held in the Barclays Arena in Brooklyn, and a raucous crowd helped carry a lackluster event.
In the main event, Brock Lesnar smashed Randy Orton into oblivion with a TKO finish. It was an odd ending to the night, though it continues to establish Lesnar as a dominant force, whether it’s WWE or UFC.
Dean Ambrose, New Day, Rusev and Miz all kept their titles tonight, while Charlotte and Finn Bálor became champions. Charlotte was able to recapture her Women’s Championship by besting Sasha Banks in a rematch. Bálor became the first man to ever win the Universal Championship by going over on Seth Rollins.
Let’s hand out the awards for the night, and make some notes and observations from SummerSlam 2016.
Wrestler of the Night: Finn Bálor
Could anybody have even gotten close to the night that Finn Bálor had? In his WWE pay-per-view debut, Bálor became the first ever WWE Universal Champion. Yes, in his first month on the main roster, Bálor became a world champion in the WWE. The WWE is very high on Bálor if they are willing to give him the strap this early. His match with Rollins was definitely a solid bout, but the image of the Demon King holding the belt for the first time made this his night, especially given how weak most of the night was.
Match of the Night: AJ Styles vs. John Cena
No match held a candle to AJ Styles-John Cena. It’s not saying much, but my lord did Cena and Styles produce a dynamite match. These guys have tremendous chemistry, though I think Styles could have a 5-star match with a green horn. Plus, I think it was unexpected of Styles to beat Cena. That made the match even better, the unexpected outcome. It’s not the best match of the year for either man, but it was enough for best of the night.
Notes and Observations
Pre-Show Matches = Carbon Copies of Previous Encounters
Many WWE fans have come to the notion that the pay-per-view kickoff matches are generally throwaway bouts, but SummerSlam’s were complete wastes of time. The 12-man tag match was literally the same match as they had on SmackDown last Tuesday. The only difference is that Zack Ryder, aka 50 Shades of Orange, was even more fake spray tanned than normal. There was the spot fest where guys kept entering the ring and hitting big moves, a 12-man brawl in the ring and the babyfaces going over.
Then, Neville and partner of the night (Sami Zayn) took on the Dudleyz, who have suddenly forgotten how to wrestle tag matches, even though they’re the most accomplished team in wrestling history. Their last three matches, they have had miscues on clotheslines that have suddenly become the most dangerous move in WWE history, as the Dudley who receives it is taken out of commission for the rest of the match. Even Stan Hanson or Bradshaw should be jealous about that.
And of course, it’s topped off by Cesaro vs. Sheamus in the best of eternity series. Well, it’s supposed to be best-of-seven series, but they just had a couple matches before this so this match No. 1 was really match No. 3. So it’s a best-of-nine series in reality. The matches will be good, but I am already tired of seeing them wrestle just each other.
It’s just another set of examples of how WWE matches have become too formulaic, as opposed to the matches on NXT. If you missed the pre-show, you missed literally nothing new.
JeriKO Proves They Are a Better Team
If there’s something the WWE is good at, it’s making a good thing bad. If there’s another thing it’s are good at, it’s making the supposed heel team more popular by accident. Don’t get me wrong, I still like Enzo and Cass, and think they are future tag team champions. However, their schtick is kind of getting old already. This fact is highlighted by the fact that when Kevin Owens mocked them, I liked him better and didn’t get upset that he was mocking the babyface.
Enzo is still very limited in the ring and Cass gets the hot tag for the same move-set every time. JeriKO’s win shows that they are not only the better team in-ring wise, but they have already become more entertaining than the formulaic schtick that is Enzo and Cass. Owens and Jericho forever!
The match itself was solid, but Enzo and Cass need to evolve or they will go stale quickly. That would suck for two guys that have a plethora of potential.
Side note: Every JeriKO interview should be done by Tom Phillips. I could listen to Owens and Jericho call him by the wrong name multiple times every day of the week, twice on Sunday.
Women’s Matches: The Tale of Two Bouts
There were two women’s matches at SummerSlam and it was the tale of two bouts.
On one hand, you have the good which was Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte. Although it was a bummer that Banks has already dropped the title back to Charlotte, it was an entertaining match that will continue an interesting rivalry between the two.
The one bad thing of that match was that Banks took a couple of really nasty bumps. That includes an incredibly dangerous spot in the corner where Banks looked hurt when she landed on her neck. It looked to have affected her throughout the match.
Then there’s the bad, the second tale of this story: the six-woman tag team match.
It was a microcosm into how far the women’s division still has to go. Of the six women in the match, only two of them are good workers and true wrestlers. Those are Becky Lynch and Natalya.
Alexa Bliss has potential to be good, but she is still pretty raw. So the jury is somewhat out on her. At least she has the heel mentality down and has a good chance of being a good wrestler.
That said, Naomi, Nikki Bella and Carmella are three of the problems with women’s wrestling right now.
Naomi is the best of the three, but for how incredibly gifted she is in the athletic department, she still botches a lot and is somewhat dangerous in the ring. I will say that her succession of rapid-fire kicks was cool, but other than that, her moves don’t really look damaging. The Rear-View and her splits pin are both weak. For as long as she’s been with WWE, she should be better.
(Side note: She was a couple superkicks away from becoming the third Uso).
Nikki Bella got a huge pop for her return. Why? I don’t know. I was never a huge fan of her. Although she’s lightyears ahead of Brie in terms of talent, she dresses like a frat boy in the ring, she still isn’t that good of a worker and she only gets pushed because she’s Cena’s girlfriend. It’s that simple. I am glad she overcame her neck injury, but I could do without her wrestling.
And finally, there is my least favorite: Carmella. She does the moonwalk way too much. It should be outlawed. She looks stupid and obnoxious every time she does it. She’s supposed to be a babyface, right?
Also, she is still way too green to be in the ring. Her offense doesn’t even look believable. She works way to soft (sawft; ironic, isn’t it?). She is extremely annoying in the ring and she’s just overall obnoxious, and she’s supposed to be a babyface. She needed Enzo and Cass, they didn’t need her.
Crews Squandered by Clean Loss to Miz
OK, so my prediction of Apollo Crews taking the Intercontinental Championship didn’t come true against The Miz. However, that wasn’t why I am kind of mad at the squandering of Crews in this match. Not only did he not look especially great given the time, but he lost clean in a match he didn’t even come off as strong in.
Quite frankly, I am tired of Miz getting constant opportunity after opportunity. He’s had his chance to get over and it just doesn’t happen. It’s time for the WWE to use the midcard title as a stepping stone for the younger guys. It doesn’t have to be Crews, but it should be a guy they are trying to get over.
It was a disappointing match overall. The only saving grace would have been to have Miz win in dirty fashion so it could set up something interesting in the future. I guess that future will not include Crews, but another SmackDown wrestler.
Clean Styles Win a Step in the Right Direction
Had you told me that AJ Styles would not only take his second singles victory over John Cena at SummerSlam, I would have called you crazy. Nobody wins a feud against Cena. Had you told me he’d do it with a clean pin after a Styles Clash and a Phenomenal Forearm, I would have had you checked into a looney bin.
I guess you can put me in a looney bin. And I will more than gladly go.
In what was nothing short of a classic, Cena and Styles had the crowd in the palm of their hand. They worked yet another work of art, with near falls, incredible moves and a great physical story being told.
This match is a step in the right direction. Cena is a guy that is known to go over guys and hold on to his spot with an iron fist. However, he made a monumental move by putting over Styles, who figures to be a top guy in the big picture going forward.
Now that this feud is seemingly over, Styles can now get into the title picture with Dean Ambrose. Styles as WWE Champion would be awesome, especially given the amazing work Styles has put in since coming to the company. He has put in some of his best mic and ring work, showing he is truly world class.
In an interesting turn, Cena took off his Never Give Up arm band and left it in the ring. What could this mean? Is he going somewhere or is it just a tease? Tune in to SmackDown to find out!
Babyface Champions Cheat to Retain… So Who are the Heels?
In a night of questionable booking decisions (outside of Styles over Cena), the bookers had the babyfaces get DQ’d to retain their tag team titles. The heels were on their way to victory, and not only did they get DQ’d because of Big E’s interference, but John Stewart interfered on their behalf. So who really were the heels in this match? Because Gallows and Anderson didn’t really cheat… at all.
A decent tag match was hurt by shenanigans, a no-finish and a lack of title change. I truly think that the tag titles should be around the waist of Gallows and Anderson. They need them to legitimize their run thus far. That, and I think The New Day is played out.
The reaction that Big E got upon his return was deafening, though. He is easily the best and most over of the crew, so when New Day eventually does break up, I think he will be the breakout star. He will be the one that makes the main event scene. And he should; he has the charisma, look and in-ring skills.
(Two side notes: 1. Big E drinking from the jars with his “balls” in it and spitting out the liquid was funny. Even more funny than that is my second side note: The fact that Gallows and Anderson had a jar for Jon Stewart and it was the smallest of the jars. That was awesome. They really should have ring posted him, though.)
By the way, if The New Day hadn’t jump the shark before, they now officially have by having Jon Stewart introduce them and corner them. Consider me off the bandwagon. The WWE ruins everything I like.
Ambrose and Ziggler Impress, Despite Heel/Babyface Assignments
Generally, wrestling matches have a good guy-bad guy dynamic. For the WWE Championship match, there was really no discernible heel-babyface assignment, and despite that, the match delivered on all fronts.
It’s not surprising that Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler had a strong match. Both men are notorious for putting in their great work, and although nothing really stood out as amazing in the match, it was still of high quality.
Going forward, what’s to come of this feud. Ziggler has been great on the mic lately and should stick around the main event picture, but there are men that should be feuding over the title more than him such as AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt or Randy Orton.
As for Ambrose, his improbable run as WWE Championship continues to be fun and has evolved his character. It will be interesting to see how long he will stay champion. My thoughts are he will lose it before the end of the year.
Universal Praise for Rollins-Bálor
Wow, what a great match that Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor had. Not only that, I cannot believe the WWE pulled the trigger on Bálor’s first world championship so quickly into his main roster run.
In terms of work, the match was astounding. Both men are great workers, and not only that, they worked well together. Bálor’s move-set is certainly more limited than that of Rollins, but it didn’t restrict him from doing some amazing things with his adversary.
I don’t think the aftermath of the match was as great as it could be though. The announcers should have shown more emotion for a guy who literally just made the main roster and captured the world title. There should have been more of a celebration with Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon. There should have been confetti from the ceiling and something that would have made the title win feel more significant.
Either way, that was a great match with an unexpected ending. I think most people thought Rollins would walk away champion, but Bálor scored the victory. That should make for some good story line down the road.
No Contest the Right Call
At first, I hated the no contest in the match between Rusev and Roman Reigns. However, in retrospect, it was a good booking decision in my eyes.
We all know that Reigns will capture the U.S. title, but it’s all a matter of when. Rusev is firing on all cylinders right now and is one of the best characters on the main roster. Having him lose the title this early in his reign would take the wind out of his sails that he somehow regained after that terrible League of Nations grouping.
Reigns came off as strong without winning the title. Not only that, his spear after returning from the initial beating up of Rusev was awesome. Their feud will continue and there is much interest now. Hopefully, they can continue to top what they’ve done so far.
It’s a midcard holding pattern for Reigns, but that’s OK. I just hope Rusev still comes out looking good win, lose or draw.
Massacre in the Main Event
I don’t really know how I feel about the main event. If they were gonna make it that short of a match and that type of stoppage, it probably shouldn’t have gone on last.
That said, was that a shoot? Lesnar looked like he was legitimately beating the hell out of Orton and it was out of nowhere. Maybe that’s why it looked so legit. It’s not as if the match was being established as an all-time classic, but it was the turd cherry on top of a mostly crap SummerSlam event.
The TKO stoppage is interesting, especially because Lesnar is an MMA fighter who uses TKOs in his real fights. However, it robbed the fans of a classic match in the main feature. If they wanted to go that route with the finish, it should have gone on before Bálor-Rollins.
The F-5 on Shane McMahon was also important. What will it be setting up down the line? Lesnar is on Raw, but doing that certainly creates an inter-brand rivalry now with SmackDown.
Overall, SummerSlam was a large disappointment. WWE really screwed the pooch Sunday night.