REVIEW: WWE Summerslam

imageSummerslam is WWE’s second biggest show of the year and the first proper Pay Per View (PPV) since the brand split. Both Raw and Smackdown were able to build and present their matches for the ‘biggest party of the summer’. The only exception to this was the main event which featured Brock Lesnar of Raw and Randy Orton of Smackdown.

The matchup had been promoted for many weeks, built as a match 15 years in the making. Unlike the main event of UFC 202 the previous night, this contest failed to live up to the hype. With the exception of an RKO on the announce table, Lesnar physically dominated and abused a 12 time world champion. Now this is not unheard of, a similar fate was endured by 15 time world champion John Cena a few years ago. However with Cena seemingly taking time away from WWE, the destruction of Orton belittled Smackdown’s only other marquee star. With the Miz holding the Intercontinental title and Dolph Ziggler falling short once again, the blue brand surely needs to push AJ Styles to the top-level and challenging for the WWE title to give their top prize credibility.

imageAnyway, back to Lesnar v Orton. The conclusion of the match was shocking and unexpected, even to long-term fans. There was no escaping the obvious. Lesnar caught Orton with an elbow to the head which split him open hard. If that was indeed the intended finish then it was a bold move. Since the move to the TV-PG rating WWE’s output has been significantly watered down with blood loss an obvious absentee. So for the main event on the second biggest show of the year to be stopped in this manner was unexpected to say the least. It was quite grizzly too as Orton clutched his head and when eventually Lesnar was pulled off the third generation superstar he was prone in a pool of his own blood. To complete the finale a F5 was delivered to Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon, which will inevitably lead to a storyline suspension. Brock Lesnar’s limited dates contract means that he’ll have some time off, possibly get in another UFC bout and return around Royal Rumble for Wrestlemania season. As a result, this main event achieved nothing whatsoever other than a mildly entertaining watch. Like the majority of Summerslam it was therefore a disappointment.

imageWith the exception of the AJ Styles and John Cena match, which was spectacular, the rest of the card could be described as average at best. Sasha Banks failed to defend her women’s title as a back injury necessitated her dropping the strap back to Charlotte. During the match Banks took a nasty looking bump off the turnbuckle which could easily have broken her neck. It’s no wonder she’s injured her back based on that evidence. None of the other championship matches were much to write home about. One of them didn’t even happen as Rusev and Roman Reigns brawled without actually having a match, robbing those who had bought the event on PPV of seeing another title up for grabs. A new addition to the Championship scene also debuted at Summerslam as the Universal Championship belt was unveiled.

imageThis new title is not just ridiculous sounding, a champion of the entire universe, but now also looks terrible. It is so odd that the current Intercontinental title belt is an old version but at least it has a unique look to it. Now the WWE World, WWE Universal and WWE Women’s championships are almost identical with the only major differentiation being the colouring of the strap. I don’t have a problem with the consistent design but the red leather ruins it for me. What is more important however, and has rightly been pointed out by Mick Foley online, is that two competitors at the top of their game put on a good match for it.

imageAlthough good the match was a little disappointing, there’s no getting around that. The first time Finn Balor and Seth Rollins had met in the ring was hoped to have had instant chemistry but although exciting and entertaining it just lacked a little something. As it has turned out Finn Balor suffered a shoulder injury early on and incredibly popped the dislocated joint back in within seconds. However, this did not seem to hamper his performance. The capacity crowd also seemed more concerned with voicing their displeasure to the appearance of the new belt than following the action in the ring which killed the atmosphere. The moment that Balor won the title should’ve been met with a deafeningly positive reaction. Sadly that reaction was absent. I had concluded that the PPV debut of the Demon couldn’t possibly end in failure. Perhaps the crowd had also reached this verdict. It set things up nicely for a series of Rollins/Balor classics as Seth fails to overcome the Demon, elevating the myth of this dark side of Finn Balor. Depressingly we have now been denied this feud as news broke that Finn would be spending months on the sidelines following surgery.

imageOn Raw just 24 hours after winning the title, Finn Balor relinquished it, causing the intended plan for the next few weeks to be ripped up and a hastily arranged series of matches worked out to crown a new champion. I am a big fan of Seth Rollins. Like most of the WWE Universe I am keen to cheer him despite his persistent heel character. But his buckle/throw powerbomb has not only caused the neck injury that retired Sting but has also embarrassed the WWE by injuring one of the company’s most exciting new talents. The curb stomp was replaced by the Pedigree as that was deemed too violent a move and surely now the buckle bomb has to be culled too.

Following three nights in a row at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn there needs to be a time for reflection. Both rosters need to scramble together and analyse who is left without suspension. As discussed injuries have also struck with even Samoa Joe breaking his jaw at NXT Takeover Brooklyn II. The Dudley Boyz have retired too. But such is the fast paced turn around of the business the show must go on. Bayley made her debut on Raw. Nicki Bella is back and thought to be joining Smackdown. The blue brand will also now start building for their Backlash PPV which starts with Smackdown Live tonight…

Update: Smackdown Live

Opening the show it was announced that the blue brand would have new tag team and women’s titles to be crowned at the Backlash PPV. Continuing the pattern identified by WWE the new belts match the current ones on the Raw brand but with a change to the colours, incorporating the blue of Smackdown. Personally I prefer the blue, particularly on the silver penny tag title design.

 

The episode saw Nicki Bella get beaten up by Carmella, more Heath Slater related irritating comedy and set up an intriguing encounter between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt. There was also the implication that a Shane McMahon v Brock Lesnar stunt match could be on the cards. I also noticed that David Otunga said during commentary, on two separate and unrelated occasions, that “desperate times call for desperate measures”. Otunga is like a confused and bewildered pensioner. Spouting total nonsense. Yet Jerry Lawler is reduced to pre-show duty.

As I hoped AJ Styles was rewarded for his Summerslam performance with a title match. He also proved his worth by defeating Dolph Ziggler in the show’s main event. Styles will now challenge Dean Ambrose for the WWE World Championship at Backlash. Perhaps by then that title belt might have got a blue updated strap.

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REVIEW: WWE Sumerslam 2015

Summerslam_TakerLesnar

WWE’s second biggest PPV offering, ‘the biggest party of the summer’ and now extended to a 4 hour show. The intention is clear, this is an event to match Wrestlemania. In the very near future I can see Summerslam being held in a stadium, which actually makes more sense, the summer weather and an outdoor venue. Anyway, onto the event, skipping the pre-show for the sake of time and the maintenance of sanity.

Sheamus def. Randy Orton

Two solid performers deliver a solid match. Both are in a difficult point of their careers, having achieved the big prize and not looking likely to challenge for it again any time soon.

New Day regain the Tag titles

First and foremost I cannot stand New Day. 3 guys with nothing in common, besides skin colour, are thrown together and credit to them they have made the most of it. Unfortunately, the tag team division has been dead in the water for a long time but perhaps the return of a classic favourite will reignite it once again so PPV matches are no longer time filler.

Dolph Ziggler Vs Rusez (Double count out)

Huge disappointment this one, purely because there is no resolution to the feud. A double count out is the classic way of prolonging a rivalry but this one didn’t need it. Lana is with Dolph, Russev has Summer Rae, let’s move on. But no. However, it’s not likely we will see a rematch at Night of Champions due to the self-imposed restraint of having to have every championship defended. Therefore it makes little sense to extend it further but sadly the double count out did just that and even worse it wouldn’t be the last occasion at this event where the outcome of a match is completely unsatisfying.

Some guy from a show I don’t watch in a match, yawn, I don’t care, skipped it.

Ryback retains the IC title

As pointed out by the commentary team this was classic triple threat material. I don’t really have much to add other than that. Pleased that Ryback retained the belt, it took him long enough to win his first championship so a decent run is just what he needs.

Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose def. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper

Almost a throw back match to a time now passed. Makes sense as the upper echelons know not what to do with any of the four so why not go back and revisit their former glory. It is ammusing however to see how the fans boo Roman Reigns, resenting his elevation at the start of the year but now he is in limbo, not popular enough to finish his push, not unliked enough to remove him from TV. As with all those who have gone before the mid-card beckons for Reigns.

Seth Rollins retains the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and wins the US title

What had been a really good match was completely ruined by the moronic conclusion. First and foremost this was a stupid match to book. Cena winning the US title was a great call, elevating the belt once again but really he should’ve dropped it to Kevin Owens in one of their tremendous PPV contests. As a result losing it to Rollins effectively negates the US title all together. Also, the fact that Cena was competing to equal the legendary Ric Flair’s record of (supposed) 16 world titles is insane. Cena has been the face of WWE and their biggest merchandise peddler for over 10 years now and the fact he is on 15 titles is an indicator of how frequent the title changes have been during that time. 15 wins means he has also lost them 15 times. Perhaps it is the age we live in but title changes are often an easy book.

Back to the match itself there were plenty of near falls for one of them to be the proper finale. Instead guest host Jon Stewart, who I know of but have no interest in seeing, having an influence on the outcome of such an important match. The commentators also pointed out on multiple occasions how big a match it was and yet the finish was urinated upon by a rubbish chair shot to the gut by some guy from American television in order to generate press coverage.

Seth Rollins could really have done with a clean win over Cena but he still remains a fluke champion. Despite this he put in another good performance proving that he certainly deserves his position, delivering at the top-level.

Team PCB def. Team Bella and Team Bad, which is a ridiculous sentence.

The Diva revolution has been a tremendous boost for a much derided female division. All the best women’s matches have all been on NXT and it made perfect sense to bring top performers like Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks over to the main shows. The main problem with the division is the dominance of the Bella Twins, they are not the best technical wrestlers, to put it mildly, but to associate their success to be based on their respective high-profile partners is unfair but probably still accurate. However, on the two biggest shows the Bella’s have lost to a team featuring Paige. Surely therefore Paige is the future and matches with other NXT graduates will reignite the division so they are no longer Divas but women once again. The Bellas can then go back to the egofest that is Total Divas.

Kevin Owens def. Cesaro

Two individuals deserving of proper title runs put on a tremendous match. In hindsight Owens had to win the match given he had lost his two previous PPV outings plus at ‘Beast in the East’ and NXT Takeover the previous night.

The Undertaker def. Brock Lesnar

A huge rematch 16 months in the making and it more than lived up to the physicality expected but once again was spoilt by the finish which I don’t imagine was very clear to those in attendance at the arena. When the bell rang first thoughts sprang of Montreal revisited but instead the reality was much more confusing. So instead of getting a clean win and revenge it appears the Undertaker had lost once again, submitting to the kimura lock. However, the beast didn’t submit but passed out, retaining his aura. Basically there is going to be a third match, probably at Wrestlemania 32. It would make sense for Taker to bow out having overcome Lesnar at Wrestlemania but I could also see match 3 at Survivor Series.

RAW highlights

Sting is back! Hurray! Hopefully he will go up against Rollins now for the WWE World Heavyweight Title but will he hold the strap? Probably not but it would final cement him as a legend to WWE fans who didn’t see him at his peak in the 90’s.

Also the Dudley Boys are back and that should be exactly the boost the Tag Team division needs.