Scott Saffran is back to take a look at SummerSlam. Outside of the AJ Styles/John Cena match, NXT Takeover Brooklyn II was far better than everything on this one. Let’s see what Scott had to say.
Five Worst Things
1. Show Format
Instead of dedicating each element of the disastrous show format its own spot on the list, I thought I’d cram them both together for the sake of fairness. The tamest problem with the format was the duration. Five hours is nothing to shake a stick at. While it never dragged for me, it was clearly the crowd affected most by the marathon pace. SummerSlam is a massive spectacular, yet I think it would have been better served aiming for quality over quantity.
The most significant sin against this pay-per-view was the card order. This card was structured in the absolute worst way. I know many will argue what constitutes Main Event and whether position on the card has any say in that; but when a pointless Six Woman Tag Match goes on after the WWE World title, then there is a significant error in the ordering of matches. I can see how WWE wanted to go for ‘warmup’ and ‘cool-down’ matches between big events, but this was just not an appropriate scenario; the pacing of the card was absolutely brutal.
2. The Universal Championship
Honestly, I don’t hate the belt. I’ve come to accept that creativity in belt designs is a fad passé and we will be faced with a lot of big, corporate logos whether we like it or not. The color scheme isn’t great, but it does its job in a weird way.
I despise when wrestling publications report crowds as having ‘hijacked’ matches. Crowds come to have fun and they will, in fact, do whatever they want if they’re pleased or otherwise. This is the match I have come closest to giving in on. The soured crowd did not hold back on the title design and the ensuing match felt the effects of a severely disinterested Barclay’s Center. It is a true shame that the belt became dictator of the atmosphere, but dissatisfied wrestling fans have never been known for their leniency
3. Lesnar vs. Orton
With the massive amount of energy and production invested in this match, the WWE Universe had high hopes for a spectacle worthy of the SummerSlam main event. What we got was…something. The vicious beating which Lesnar applied to Mr. Randall Keith Orton was only briefly interrupted for some obligatory RKOs, and the match concluded via TKO, a rarity in the WWE.
It’s kinda cool that Brock Lesnar doesn’t care, that he’s there for the money. It’s embarrassing to the WWE that he cares so little as to leave his opponent bleeding in the ring with a deep, jagged gash across his forehead. This match epitomizes Brock Lesnar; incredible hype turned into a disappointing squash match that ends with an audience more exhausted than excited. The more I see of the man, the less I want to in the future.
4. Reigns vs Rusev
This was a bungled mess since last week’s RAW. Two of the top in-ring talents were used in a double-turn angle (I think?) without any in-ring action. Watch Wrestlemania 13. That’s the gold standard. This was a rough go at best. Roman looked strong and Rusev looked sympathetic, yet neither looked respectable. I will, in fact, hold my breath for better things to come down the line for this feud. But on the Second-Grandest Stage of Them All, a non-match beat-down is without a place.
5. New Day vs. Gallows and Anderson
This was not a bad match. As the early stages of the confrontation progressed, I actually thought about where I’d stick this match on the Five Best Things rankings. And then the finish happened. Look, I really like Jon Stewart. He’s very funny, quite bright, and he’s another ‘famous fan’ boon for the industry. I thought it was riotously hilarious when he cowered in the corner, holding up ‘Too Sweets’ to tame the furious Club. And yet, I really don’t like when Jon Stewart ruins good, promising matches. Maybe it’s a bit harsh to say he ruined the whole match, but he was the impetus for a ‘returning after 2 whole weeks’ Big E to end the match in DQ.
Non-finishes have their place. They can be excellent ways to have both forces retain their strength in the eyes of the crowd. A non-finish was entirely pointless with this pair of teams. Put the Club over and the New Day doesn’t lose strength because they were down their powerhouse and Xavier (unfortunately) has traditionally been booked as the weakest link. Put the New Day over and the Club still looks strong because they were at a numbers disadvantage from the get-go with Jon Stewart ringside. Or just give the Club the belts clean and work a story with a divided New Day! Disappointment of the Night to a promising match turned mood-killer.
Five Best Things
Cena vs. Styles
There is nothing I can say about this match to do it justice. Seldom have I been so thoroughly entertained. Go find it and watch it until you’re blue in the face. I’m actually almost mad at this match for being so good.
Balor vs. Rollins
As critical as I am of the Universal title and its repercussions in the match, the actual physical battle was very good. It’s quite difficult to go wrong with either Balor or Rollins, and having the two together in a match is a guaranteed win. While it wasn’t a technical spectacle or filled to the brim with jaw-dropping moments, it was a well-paced and exciting affair that made both competitors look formidable. I was overjoyed with Finn going over, but I give special points to Rollins for resurrecting God’s Last Gift. That was one of my biggest personal pops of the night.
This Finn win has cemented one of the most lunar pushes in the last five years and locked in Balor’s star power for the coming years. I was thoroughly floored with the audience participation in his entrance. The last time I saw that many hands in the air simultaneously, Daniel Bryan was in the ring. I could not think of a greater compliment.
Banks vs. Flair
While I and many others were confident that Sasha was one of the safest bets going into SummerSlam, the decision to give the victory to Charlotte will definitely pay off in spades down the road. This was a win-win situation as Sasha may be getting some time off after running the gauntlet these past couple months, and Charlotte seems to be firming up her role as lead heel of the Women’s Division. The constant in-ring berating is some solid heelwork that has been tremendous for Charlotte’s character.
The match itself was a heart-stopping affair peppered with some frightening botches and spectacular spots. I do genuinely fear for Sasha and her daredevil nature. She really doesn’t need to prove that she’s the most fearless wrestler who has ever lived every single night. That said, though often cringey, many of the dangerous spots during the match were absolutely thrilling and help make the match one of the best on the card.
JeriKO vs. Enzo and Cass
The event opener was no show stopper, but featured the incomparable Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens doing what they do better than everyone else on the roster. While Enzo and Cass did their best with their shtick to keep up with JeriKO, the Greatest Canadians had an iron grip on the match and the atmosphere. Even in their hometowns, Enzo and Cass were at the mercy of top-notch heelwork coming from both Jericho and Owens, who sealed the evening with a hilarious celebration at the top of the ramp. The highlight of the whole match was Kevin’s wonderful impression of Enzo’s step dance. Truly something needed to be seen to be believed.
I’ve said it pretty much every PPV since I started watching wrestling: the only thing WWE consistently excels in is video package promos. SummerSlam was not to disappoint as the Cena/Styles and Ziggler/Ambrose packages delivered a serious dose of energy and emotion pre-match. When I get chills, I know they’ve done a stellar job.
This was one of the weirdest pay-per-views I’ve seen in some time. The division of the card seemed antithetical to the goal of amping up the crowd. I was more tired at the end than satisfied, but sorting through my thoughts has made me realize that there was a lot of great wrestling on display and a lot to enjoy. Don’t sit down to watch or rewatch the whole thing anytime soon, but keep Cena vs. Styles II on your viewing list for the foreseeable future.
The non-finishes really hurt me the most, but I’m more than happy to be wrong on most of my picks. God bless AJ Styles. More than anything, I’m pretty shocked for how close I was to the Orton vs. Lesnar finish.
Photo Credit: WWE.com