It’s the biggest event of the summer and given how impressive the previous night’s NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II was, it needed to give us something special to keep fans happy. Unfortunately this didn’t quite come to pass, as despite some solid bouts in the early half of the show, with three phenomenal matches, the lackluster ending is sure to leave many fans unhappy.
WARNING! There will be spoilers beyond this point.
The first match on the pre-show was a twelve-man tag-team match as The Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch), The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor) and Breezango (Tyler Breeze and Fandango) squared off against The Hype Bros (Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley), The Usos (Jimmy and Jey) and American Alpha (Jason Jordan and Chad Gable). Given how poor most of the pre-show matches are, I was pleasantly surprised by the way this played out, as despite being far off what we’d expect from the main card, it showcased the SmackDown Live tag team division perfectly. Things did, however, end in a bit of controversy, as whilst American Alpha hit Grand Amplitude, Jey Uso tagged himself in to pick-up the win, upstaging their teammates.
The second pre-show match saw The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von) take on Sami Zayn and Neville and one thing that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around entering this was why Zayn and Neville weren’t on the main card in some form or another. Overall I have to say the match was a little lackluster, as despite the two young guns, Zayn and Neville, giving us some spectacular moves, we once again got the usual level of clumsiness from the Dudleyz. Despite this, the match was still worth watching for the closing moments alone, with Neville pinning Bubba Ray following a Helluva Kick from Zayn and a Red Arrow.
The final match on the pre-show saw Sheamus take on Cesaro in the first of a Best-of-Seven series. Given that both superstars had a chip on their shoulder for being picked later on in the draft, it was disappointing to see this on the pre-show, with the potential of a sensational main card bout being just what they needed to prove the roster and management wrong. Unfortunately this pre-show match didn’t really give the two superstars enough time to show their worth, as bar some excitement from Cesaro, the match was easily missable. It was, however, Sheamus that left with the win, going 1-0 up by pinning Cesaro following a Brogue Kick, having gouged his eyes moments before this.
The first match on the main card saw the new team of Jeri-KO (Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens) take on Enzo Amore and Big Cass. Despite Jericho becoming one of the most insufferable members of the WWE roster over the last year, this was worth watching for the other three wrestlers alone. It was, on the other hand, the chemistry of Enzo and Big Cass that stole the show, as despite Owens‘ impersonation of Enzo being rather funny, there wasn’t a huge amount of exciting double team action from the new team. That said, the way they closed the match was simply phenomenal, with it looking as if Owens was going for his pop-up powerbomb only to throw Enzo into a Codebreaker.
The first title match of the night saw Sasha Banks put her newly won Women’s Championship on the line against former champ, Charlotte. Being one of the best matches on the card, this reminded us just how good the women’s division can be, as despite a couple of clumsy moves this was easily overlooked by the sensational back and forth action. I was, however, surprised by the outcome of the match, as given how long Charlotte had the title before dropping it, I never expected her to regain it so soon. She did this by countering the Bank Statement into a pin.
The first SmackDown Live match on the main card came in the form of the Intercontinental title match, with The Miz (w/Maryse) putting the gold on the line against up and comer Apollo Crews. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t really expecting much heading into this match, as despite both being talented superstars, the Intercontinental title has lost some credibility over the last year or so. Despite this we did get some exciting moments, with Crews impressing us with his phenomenal agility. Nevertheless this didn’t quite outweigh the cons with The Miz win being very predictable.
The best match on the card came from AJ Styles and John Cena, as given the controversial way their last encounter ended at Money in the Bank and the fact their last contest at Battleground was a six-man tag, there was a lot of tension to see who was the best in a clean match. Much like their previous one-on-one encounter, we got a tremendous back and forth contest, with some big moves from both, including yet another super Attitude Adjustment from Cena. One of the surprising highlights for me, however, was the variety of moves Cena displayed, with him showing more in this one match than he is in the last decade (even if he went for one too many AAs). Just as it looked like the match was going to end with the predictable “good guy” Cena win, Styles got the 1, 2, 3 following a Styles Clash and Phenomenal Forearm.
Just as one Club member picked up a win, the remaining two came out to challenge The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) for the Tag Team titles, with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson looking to take advantage of an injured Big E. As expected from both teams we got some solid action, with there being some moments where The New Day had the advantage and others where The Club dominated. Despite this all would prove for naught, as when special guest Jon Stewart looked to get involved, Big E would return attacking Gallows and Anderson resulting in a DQ win for them.
The first of our two main title matches came as WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose put the gold on the line against a surprising challenger in Dolph Ziggler. Now given the way Ziggler has been used on WWE TV and PPVs over the last couple of years, I was worried we were going to get a pushover match, hoping for Ziggler‘s sake that he got the opportunity to steal the show. Unfortunately that was far from the case, as despite there being some back and forth action between the two superstars, the match as a whole was rather dull and lacking excitement. Even the predictable win for Ambrose came way too sudden with the Dirty Deeds coming way too early in the match.
Filling the gap between our two big title matches was a six-woman tag team match that saw Naomi, Carmella and Becky Lynch take on Natalia, Alexa Bliss and their surprise partner Nikki Bella (who replaced the suspended Eva Marie). Despite there being some exciting moments from these six women, with Nikki Bella‘s return getting a huge response from the crowd, the match as a whole felt rather weak next to the fantastic WWE Women’s title match we got earlier in the evening. That said, the match as a whole did a solid job of showing what the SmackDown Live women’s division is capable off, with Lynch and Natalia finally being in an PPV match that didn’t suck. As for who picked up the win, that unsurprisingly went to the returning Nikki Bella, pinning Carmella following a TKO.
Next up we got the WWE Universal Championship match, where Finn Bálor took on Seth Rollins to determine the inaugural champion. Now before I go any further with the match itself, I have to say what a lazy belt design. Will every new title be this generic? Anyway, onto the match itself, and right from the opening bell you got the sense that Bálor wasn’t messing around, with the Demon King flying around the ring and hitting Rollins with a combo of explosive moves. Things would, however, quickly start to slow down a little as Rollins gained control of the match, with “The Man” giving it everything he had, even hitting a Pedigree. When all was said and done, it was Finn Bálor that left as the first ever WWE Universal Champion, pinning Rollins following a Coup de Grâce.
The penultimate match was set to be Rusev defending his United States Championship against Roman Reigns, but following a brawl instigated by the champion we were left with a no contest, as Rusev could no longer compete. Now I know this isn’t the first time WWE have went with this sort of angle, but after the hype and the fact this is SummerSlam is just poor fan service. Let’s just hope that when the two finally square off for the title it’s worth it (which I doubt it will be).
The main event saw Brock Lesnar (w/Paul Heyman) take on Randy Orton with there being a lot of hype surrounding this one. In the early minutes it looked as if this was indeed going to be everything that we hoped for and more, but with barely 10 minutes left in the shows runtime, I had a bad feeling that something unsavory was going to happen. It quickly turned out that this fear was vindicated as despite there being some marvellous back and forth action in the early moments, Lesnar would get the upper hand, beating Orton to a bloody pulp, with the match ending in a TKO. Now the problem I have here isn’t even the fact that it essentially became a squash match, that would have been somewhat acceptable. But to see something so brief and messy was just poor decision making on WWE‘s part. Even the arrival of SmackDown Live commissioner Shane McMahon didn’t help ease the crowd, who were chanting for the arrival of 2K17 coverman Goldberg (who had stated he was in New York).
SummerSlam was ultimately a little too messy, with the main event being a complete waste of time. Heck, you might as well have turned off after the WWE Universal title bout and you wouldn’t have missed much. Despite this there was some highlights to be found throughout the event, as despite some of the outcomes leaving me a little frustrated, the likes of the AJ/Cena match and the aforementioned Universal title match definitely stole the show.