In the week’s leading up to Summerslam, WWE had some rather hit and miss TV. Where WWE Monday Night Raw was struggling to fill its 3 hours, WWE Friday Night Smackdown was conversely excelling, with fresh faces getting a shot and some better all-round content. In the run up to WWE’s summer spectacular PPV, there’s no doubt about it that things were somewhat interesting. From Shane McMahon debuting the divisive Raw Underground to Alexa Bliss intriguingly being placed in the middle of “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman’s impending showdown, this was certainly an unexpected build to Summerslam.
So, as Dominik Mysterio (after being beaten black and blue – literally – with kendo sticks) makes his in-ring debut and we prepare for either Mandy Rose or Sonya Deville to leave WWE, did WWE manage to deliver a sublime summer sizzler? Or a big fizzle out? At one point rumoured to be taking place on a beach or a boat, instead it took place in the “Thunderdome” (no Tina Turner impressions please), with a virtual crowd and audio from the comfort of their own homes. Did it work? Did the card turn up the heat? And exactly what went down at Summerslam? And did the masked group Retribution (who have been terrorising the weekly shows) show up?
Well, here is the lowdown from this past Sunday from one of WWE’s big four PPV’s and “The Biggest Party Of The Summer”…
1. (Kick-Off show) WWE United States Championship (The Hurt Business banned from ringside)
MVP vs. Apollo Crews (c)
This one was moved to the kick-off last minute. Which was surprising, as I thought they’d make another match – King Corbin vs. Matt Riddle perhaps? – but no, the vocal leader of The Hurt Business MVP was looking to topple defiant youngster and current U.S. Champion Apollo Crews. This match was scheduled to occur at The Horror Show at Extreme Rules you might remember but didn’t due to health concerns, but, as expected, it was a fun little starter to the night’s proceedings. MVP has still got it and this faction of his is really catching fire, but with fellow members Lashley and Shelton Benjamin banned from ringside, the veteran expectedly fell to the lightening fast Crews in a standard but still enjoyable singles match.
The main show opens with a video package as usual with all the “You’ll never see it coming” tagline and whatnot, with the big title matches being bigged up. Once the show opens there’s a cool fireworks display in the Thunderdome and a real big event feel here already, which is most welcome. This Thunderdome approach is a pretty cool move from WWE (although as you may have read some idiots tried to ruin the fun by taking advantage of the virtual experience but I’m not giving them any more word space here…fools).
2. WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship
Bayley (c) vs. Asuke
Asuke was pulling double duty here, and first she would challenge Bayley fore her Smackdown Women’s Championship. A sensible choice for an opener, Bayley and Asuke went back and forth with Bayley’s buddy Sasha Banks at ringside. As per usual Bayley and Banks had some great heel work going and Asuke was the skilled and dangerous warrior. Though ultimately Banks sacrificed herself to help get her buddy the win to retain her title in an enjoyable match. No two belt Asuke tonight then, but would Bayley return the favour for Banks later on?.
3. WWE Raw Tag Team Championship
The Street Profits (c) vs. Andrade and Angel Garza w/ Zelina Vega
The whole ‘who poisoned Montez Ford’s red solo cup?’ angle has been an odd one and I am wondering if they have something else up their sleeve rather than it just being Zelina Vega. Anyways, it was fun seeing the Thunderdome showered with red solo cups during the Street Profits’ entrance. The match itself pretty much played out as expected. However, with these four guys, you can always be assured something decent at the very least and it was a good Raw tag title match, that saw both teams battle equally before the Profits came away with their gold. Worth noting too that Zelina really sold the loss perfectly for her team – she’s one hell of a onscreen manager! Not anything show stealing here overall but enjoyable action all the same.
4. No Disqualification – Loser Leaves WWE
Sonya Deville vs. Mandy Rose
Originally slated to be a hair vs. hair match, the stakes were upped to a no disqualification loser leaves WWE match and I’m really happy this feud got PPV space because it thoroughly deserved it. Mandy Rose has really improved with her ring work and Sonya Deville has natural talent and together these two ladies gave us a ferocious little no DQ match, considering how plans were change at the last minute. Using tables and chairs to interesting effect (with a neat tabletop chair frisbee spot), this one was better than many may have thought, and was a well told story with Rose coming out victorious over her best friend turned jealous adversary (doubt this is the last of Deville). Yes there were a couple of botches but both worked hard with the time they had, delivering another strong match.
5. Street Fight
Dominik Mysterio w/ Rey Mysterio vs. Seth Rollins w/ Murphy
15 years after featuring in the Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio custody of Dominik ladder match, Dominick Mysterio is all grown up and making his WWE in-ring debut. This story has been personal and rather well done, even if the “Eye for an Eye” stuff last month was a bit silly, they turned it back round here, with a good old fashioned feud built on defending family honour from a self-righteous heel – the latter part being played perfectly by Seth Rollins (whose Mysterio themed ring gear here, was just another great twist of the knife). Many feared this would be a bust but do you know what? It kinda rocked! Dominik gave this a hell of an effort and despite the huge shadow of his legendary dad looming over the young man’s head, he matched really well with Rollins and showed he has a good career ahead of him and some great ring ability. The match was vicious, well delivered and had some wisely placed uses of weapons. The finish with Rey’s wife/Dominik’s mother Angie added to some strong drama without being exploitative, and the end result with a handcuffed Rey seeing his defiant son curb stomped and pinned by the bruised but victorious Rollins was a great way to end it. This one delivered and was reminiscent of an unsanctioned style fight. Great stuff indeed and Dominik had a fantastic debut.
6. WWE Raw Women’s Championship
Asuke vs. Sasha Banks (c)
After the Russo-esque cluster…you know what finish and awful storyline between Banks and Asuke last month and since, I was hoping WWE wouldn’t pull out any shenanigans here and thankfully (or rather refreshingly) they didn’t. Instead they let the two ladies and their natural chemistry do the work, in a match that accomplished what their previous PPV encounter failed to do. The wrestling was great and the moment where Bayley shied away from taking the hit for her buddy was subtle but good for the developing story, as Asuke this time overcame the odds and left the night with the Raw Women’s Championship. Bravo.
7. WWE Championship
Randy Orton vs. Drew McIntyre (c)
Randy Orton is better than he has perhaps ever been at the moment and with Drew McIntyre both men have found a perfect foil for one another. Their rivalry building up to Summerslam has been excellent, with honest bombshell promos and raw emotion, as even Ric Flair has fallen prey to the resurgent legend killer and McIntyre was out for blood. Of all the matches, I wasn’t sure which way they’d go with this one but the result was both old school and yet, nowadays, a really rather novel move. As both men pounded away at each other for 20 minutes, this was a real prizefight, which even turned bloody for Orton, and yet, unlike the Brock Lesnar style showdowns, neither man hit their finisher at all. This was a beautifully withdrawn approach in that one respect, and it needed to be, as it left us craving more because in no way is this over. Instead of this bruising battle being Claymore vs. RKO, it was a wrestling contest, one which ended with a backslide pin, as McIntyre shocked Orton to retain his gold. A wrestling manoeuvre wins the day in a war…excellent and unexpected.
8. WWE Universal Championship – Falls Count Anywhere Match
“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt vs. Braun Strowman (c)
The Fiend’s return and Braun Strowman’s depraved character transformation have been well done and Alexa Bliss has intriguingly played a part too. Surprisingly Bliss did not appear at all here though, nor did Retribution, both probably due to the decision to do what they did with the aftermath. Anyway, Strowman and Wyatt did not get long to work with (at around 12 minutes) but made the best of what they had in a Falls Count Anywhere match that was a real destruction derby. One sickening table spot, to a brief backstage battle, to a great finish (reminiscent of Lesnar/Undertaker Hell in a Cell 2015), this one was a fun main event that saw both men on monstrous form but The Fiend proved too much and left Braun lying, after sending him into the exposed wood of the torn ring apron. Meaning he’s our new Universal Champion! The only thing that irked me with this, was oddly the one thing everyone has been singing and dancing about…Roman Reigns’ return!
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great he is confident and healthy to return to work but how they delivered this genuinely shocking aftermath left something to be desired for me. As Reigns made his return (with a new set of gnashers and a seeming attitude change) immediately after Wyatt’s win, to attack The Fiend and Strowman. Instead of maybe allowing the win to sink in and saving this for Smackdown this week, they went straight on in there. With Roman spearing The Fiend (leaving him lying motionless for what seemed like minutes), then virtually called him a nobody, after beating on Strowman, before spearing Fiend again. It made the unstoppable brand carrying force look very stoppable and seemed like a a real slap in the face as these characters were brushed aside for a new Roman fanfare, which could be setting another dangerous precedent. But that’s just my reading I guess.
Overall, Summerslam did not have one bad match and saw much of the card shock us with its quality and the ending admittedly lived up to the PPV tagline. Dominik and Seth delivered a belter, Asuke deservedly got her belt back, The Fiend is champion again and McIntyre/Orton is only just getting started. True, the Roman return finish was a shocker and a treat for his fans but for me had a Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar Summerslam 2015 ending tarnishing effect (negatively affecting that which came before it, simply to create a shock). Plus, WWE has already announced a triple threat no holds barred match (isn’t that an oxymoron?) Universal title match between Reigns, Strowman and The Fiend this Sunday at WWE Payback…suggesting The Fiend’s days are already numbered as champ. That said, let’s see where it’s going (as if we didn’t already know)…hey, I’m choosing to believe here. Oh and yeah, you read right, there’s another PPV coming Sunday folks. The shortest gap between WWE PPV events since Evolution and Crown Jewel back in 2018. Crikey! So, with all that said, Summerslam was the best WWE pay-per-view event since Wrestlemania 36 and certainly had a big night feel. See y’all Sunday peeps!