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I genuinely never thought I would write these words but with SummerSlam this year we prepare for the first ever WWE event without Vince McMahon in charge or calling the shots, since his retirement weeks back. And as Triple H steps into creative charge of WWE, many were primed here for a show that would re-set the WWE as we know it, bringing back an era in this company of attitude, of innovation and of excellence. The stakes were already big. What with this being the biggest show in WWEs summer, or the fact that Money in the Bank was ok but forgettable and this needed to be a better follow-up. But this event now had massive expectations to live up too now considering McMahon’s departure. But did it?
The show opens with a video package dwelling largely on the main event but anchoring the country music Nashville connection and altered theme for the biggest party of the Summer.
1. WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match
Becky Lynch vs. Bianca Belair (c)
The first of six rematches on this card, this match was a decent start to this big stadium show but also set a bit of a precedent, in that it was a rematch inferior to the original. Apparently suffering a legitimate injury early on, this might explain why Becky Lynch’s match with Bianca Belair here had a few rougher moments. That said, it was still an entertaining bout and both ladies worked really hard to try and measure up to their superior WrestleMania outing. And in fairness they still delivered a good match and the post-match hand shake, as Becky finally turned face again, being much welcome. Though the real story here was in the aftermath, because after Belair scored the pinfall win over Lynch, a returning Bayley popped the crowd, and she brought some former NXT friends with her, in the returning Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky (formerly Io Shirai). A stare down between the three and Belair & Becky took place, marking the first taste of Triple H booking this evening. Good start!
2. Logan Paul vs. The Miz w/ Ciampa and Maryse
After making a good start to his WWE career at WrestleMania I actually had a good feeling about this match between – shudder – social media influencer star Logan Paul and The Miz, as they paid off their post-Mania match set-up here. And this was a great little match, with Paul making a great singles impression against the ever game and dependable Miz. Ciampa (whose unexpected main roster union with Miz is yielding equally unexpectedly great results) played a part early on, before AJ Styles came out and ran him off. This was a good match, with a chance to show off Paul’s commendable dedication to the craft and Miz’s dedication to making his opponents look great and turning in a reliable shift himself. The Shane McMahon-esque turnbuckle to announce table dive at the height of the match by Paul, even won over his harshest of critics, before he eventually scored the victory with the skull crushing finale (Miz’s own move). An embarrassing loss for the awesome one but a darn good suggestion that Paul’s wrestling career has seriously strong legs going forward.
The Maximum Male Models crew seductively sell water in a skit that borders the odd, this team could go somewhere but I’ve not made up my mind yet.
3. WWE United States Championship Match
Theory vs. Bobby Lashley (c)
Sadly, this match marked a varying moment in quality for the show. After turning in a great contest at Money in the Bank, this US Championship rematch between Bobby Lashley and Theory was really only filler. Running not even 5 minutes, this was practically a squash match for the current champion, as Lashley looked great and current Mr. Money in the Bank Theory ended up tapping to The Hurt Lock reasonably easily. Utterly forgettable and not really necessary for such a major show.
4. No Disqualification Tag Team Match
The Mysterios vs. The Judgment Day w/ Rhea Ripley
I was actually was really looking forward to this one, not least because everyone involved in it was talented but also because we would inevitably get the payoff from those cryptic “I am Coming” vignettes that have been airing for weeks. Vignettes that have been the source of much online theorising (is The Fiend Bray Wyatt returning? Is it Edge? Is it both?). Well, we got our answer, it was Edge…duh! The match was remarkably not really much to write home about. It was ok but nothing that you wouldn’t see on any house show, and it never properly got going. Plus the No DQ stipulation was barely used, other than to build to the climax as the Rated R- Superstar Edge did indeed make an awesome fiery entrance return, with a cool electro-laced The Brood theme remix. He got involved and helped get Rey Mysterio and Dominik this big win over Finn Balor and Damian Priest. The conclusion delivered, but the match itself was an afterthought sadly. The inevitable Clash at the Castle bout between Edge and Balor ought to be a belter though.
5. Happy Corbin vs. Pat McAfee
After making a huge moment at WrestleMania, I was really up for this match between Pat McAfee and Happy Corbin. The night’s second and last fresh match, and arguably the best built feud on the show, this was far more interesting than any Happy Corbin rivalry had any right to be. Now I know many have proclaimed their disappointment with this one, and it is admittedly McAfee’s weakest match yet on a main stage but I still enjoyed it, despite some mistimed moments and styled out wobbles. It felt fun and energetic and both guys made the best of their time to deliver a blast of sports entertainment. As McAfee got another win with lowblow followed by a rope dive power bomb style manoeuvre for the win…a bit of payback for Corbin’s dirty tactics prior to this night.
Drew McIntyre comes out to talk in front of the capacity crowd about his upcoming number one contendership for the winner of tonight’s main event at the first major WWE event in the UK in 30 years Clash At The Castle.
6. WWE Undisputed Tag Team Championships Match
The Usos (c) vs. The Street Profits
Special Guest Referee: Jeff Jarrett
OK, we have seen this match many times but after the show stealing effort they put in at Money in the Bank, and despite my tiring of all things Bloodline, I was ready for this, and the unexpected addition of Jeff Jarrett as guest referee was rather cool actually. Unfortunately, this one came in well below expectations. It was fine, sure, but after all this build up and off the back of the last match, this fell really flat. Underdeveloped and ultimately unsatisfying by comparison, this was another poor rematch. The Usos got the win yet again, the referee angle played virtually no part, and overall this did nothing but advance the current champions’ reign for the sake of it and leave the Street Profits with nowhere to go from here. Odd and deflatingly ordinary. Shame.
Riddle runs out into the ring, despite being injured, and calls out his would have been opponent Seth Rollins, and the sharpest crazily dressed man in WWE came right on out and curb stomped the defiant Bro. I mean, this was all kind of all pointless, why not pull a WrestleMania and have Rollins face a mystery opponent. This show desperately needed a major shock at this point!
7. WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship
Ronda Rousey vs. Liv Morgan (c)
Without doubt this was the weakest match on an already wonky show. After gaining her long awaited title win last month, Liv Morgan would have to face the insurmountable challenge of a fully functioning Ronda Rousey this time and WWE made no effort to even try and create the sense that she had any chance at all. There was some scrappy spirit on show but, despite Rousey going into heel turn mode, Morgan actually lost the crowd here herself with an inane cliche “she tapped, she didn’t” pinfall reversed arm bar “victory” over Rousey, in a bout that barely went over 4 and a half minutes. Afterwards Rousey went bananas and assaulted officials. I thought Vince wasn’t booking this show?! This left almost as sour a taste as the stupid ending to an otherwise awesome The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar match at SummerSlam 2015.
WWE Hall of Fame and current mayor Kane, is in the ring to announce the event’s 48,449 attendance total. He also gives us a fire turnbuckle pyro for ‘ol times sakes.
8. WWE Undisputed Championship Last Man Standing Match
Roman Reigns (c) w/Paul Heyman vs. Brock Lesnar
Credit where it is due, I came into this match (despite loving the Last Man Standing stipulation) with virtually no excitement, and this chaotic match was by far the best match Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar have ever had, barring perhaps their special WrestleMania 31 match. Although surely this is it now…surely! Anyways, this was pure spectacle, Brock came out on a tractor and jumped off of it into the ring to start the match! It didn’t get any saner from there, with suplexy, heavy hitting offense being the order of the day here, before the ring itself got lifted in the air on one side by Brock in the tractor. There were moments where Reigns’ stranglehold on the titles looked done, as Brock was a monster here and by far the match’s standout. Theory tried a cash in but was halted, The Usos of course got involved (a lot) and Paul Heyman even got F5’d through the announcer’s table. No matter how much Reigns had in his back pocket, nothing kept this Brock Lesnar (who has been ace in this farm fed face monster character transformation) down for 10. That is until Reigns and his cronies buried Lesnar under the announcer’s table remnants for the final win. Reigns wins again folks and after this, I am not really sure who can conceivably be believed to beat him, WWE have booked themselves into a hell of a corner here because if this wasn’t the night, when the hell will it be? Not for a long time I reckon, especially as Reigns’ Bloodline are always on call and WWE love them 100%. Great match but while people call this Bloodline stuff the best of WWE, I am kind of uninvested in this part time title picture under Reigns. Hopefully Brock finally is free of working with Reigns and (if he hasn’t called it a day – as has been rumoured) and can put this great renewed character energy to better use in a fresher feud with someone else.
Overall, SummerSlam was an uneven show. Arguably it will be heralded as a major change of pace for WWE due to Vince stepping down and Triple H stepping in but, if we are honest this was not the case really. Were it not for that first match and Theory being demolished, you would have really thought Vince’s team had booked a lot of this. As it had some of his worst overly used cards on proud show: Usos win in a meaningless match, Reigns wins against all odds, screwy major title bout finish, rematches overly played out, etc. Undoubtedly this is the first step towards a new era but it was a night that came with major expectations, and while the show had a lot to like (Miz/Paul, Last Man Standing anarchy, Edge’s return, a whipped up Raw Women’s division, McAfee’s fun), it also had lots to forget. It was ok but missing something, be it another major shock or some matches living up to what came before, especially after that opening post-match promise of a night of surprises & different WWE flavour. Fine, but not a night I’ll be remembering for years to come, like some of the classic SummerSlams many moons ago, or recent standouts like SummerSlam 2019 or SummerSlam 2014. Cardiff, let’s see what you got when we Clash at the Castle!