WWE SummerSlam – August 22nd 2016
Barclay’s Centre: Brooklyn, NY.
As we discovered with WrestleMania this year, watching a WWE show for six hours is no easy feat and the 2016 edition of SummerSlam was further evidence that 360 minutes is simply way too long for a WWE produced PPV. Sadly, SummerSlam was not like one of those stacked Tokyo Dome cards from the 90’s which had enough talented workers and different match styles to make such a long show at least somewhat bearable. Instead Vince & Co. launched a two-pronged attack on the viewers’ senses, with insipid McMahon vernacular assaulting the ears for six hours while a bunch of stagnant characters performing sanitised WWE-style matches made sure the eyes were sufficiently punished too.
There was a lot of big news coming out of the show, as the main event of Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton was stopped due to a TKO when Lesnar split Orton open hardway with some brutal ground-and-pound. It was the only match on the card that broke away from the WWE formulaic structure and the finish, planned or not, undoubtedly had a lot more gravity than any other match due to blood/ref stoppages being so rare in this day and age. I can’t even remember the last time WWE booked a referee stoppage due to blood; maybe that Shawn Michaels/Chris Jericho match from 2008? Anyway, regardless of whether it was the scripted finish, the idea for Brock to hardway Randy was almost certainly part of the plan and when you consider Orton’s history of concussions the decision becomes even more reckless. After the match, Brock gave Shane McMahon an F5 to presumably write him off TV perhaps until the end of the year.
Refreshingly, Finn Balor was not beaten in his first night as the Demon and he became the first ever WWE Universal Champion with a win over Seth Rollins. The match was good, but the crowd were more interested in voicing their displeasure with the new Universal title belt, which is exactly the same as the WWE title only with red leather instead of black. We’ll see where they go with Balor, but hopefully they keep him strong and actually treat him lie an actual top guy now he is the champion. There was a tease with Balor coming across AJ Styles & The Club in the back, however Balor shunned them and walked away. It was a nice way to leave the story open.
AJ Styles pinned John Cena clean in the match of the night. It was the usual WWE big match recipe with a healthy amount of finisher kick-outs thrown in, but even the most jaded wrestling fan had to concede it was a great encounter. Cena will be taking some time off to film his lackluster American Grit TV show, so Styles winning was really the only option. Still, it was somewhat jarring to see Cena essentially come out on the losing end of a feud for the first time in over a decade. He will probably get a win back eventually, but for now Cena is out of the picture and logic would suggest that Styles is next in line for a WWE title shot.
Speaking of the WWE title, Dean Ambrose retained over Dolph Ziggler in a match that nobody cared about. It was totally fine, but the crowd didn’t buy Ziggler as a real threat and Ambrose didn’t seem to be all that over either. Of course, they had to try and follow the fantastic Styles/Cena match which the crowd never really recovered from.
I would not recommend watching two hours of a WWE pre-show to anyone; my brain felt like it was slowly being turned into mush and by the time it was over I was not excited about a further four hours of wrestling. Renee, Lita, Booker T & Jerry Lawler were on the panel; they were all annoying as sin. The 12-man tag took place in front of a half empty arena. American Alpha, The Usos & The Hype Bros beat The Vaudevillains, Breezango & The Ascension in 14:25. Match was decent. Finish saw Alpha hit Gran Amplitude on Gotch, but Jey Uso made the blind tag and stole the pin. They teased tension between Alpha & the Usos afterwards, (** ¾). Sami Zayn & Neville beat the Dudley Boyz in 8:01 after the Yakuza Kick and Red Arrow on Bubba. Once again, Bubba bonked into D-Von, so the split is still coming, (**). Sheamus won the first match in the Best of Seven Series with Cesaro in 14:20 after he sent Cesaro into the ring post and hit the Brogue Kick. In the end it turned into a pretty good match, although I suspect Cesaro’s shoulder hitting the post will have no impact on the other six matches, (*** ¼).
Enzo Amore & Big Cass opened the show and got a big reaction from the Brooklyn crowd. Enzo rattled off a bunch of New York related song lyrics and Cass did the SAWFT line. Corey Graves amusingly pointed out that Enzo is actually from New Jersey.
Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Chris Jercho & Kevin Owens. – Jericho & Owens over in 12:10. Match was kind of a struggle and it is clear that as good as Enzo is on the mic, he should not be in the ring on the main roster. Cass threw Enzo over the top onto the heels and both guys were so excited that Enzo barley cleared the ropes while Cass ended up falling out of the ring. Heat on Enzo, comeback from Cass. Finish saw Owens & Jericho hit an assisted Codebreaker, which Enzo messed up and it looked like his neck got jacked. (** ¾).
Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan showed up and did a backstage skit with Jon Stewart. Stephanie & Mick Foley got involved, as did the New Day, who appeared to wake Stewart’s son out of his slumber.
WWE Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks (C) vs. Charlotte. – Charlotte regained the title in 13:51. While the show was still going on, reports of Sasha being pulled from house show dates for the next 30 days emerged and the story going around is that she is taking time off due to an injury. We’ll likely have more in this wee’s Pro-Wres Digest. Match was scary as both women tried to kill themselves to prove they belonged in the spot, however the risks they took didn’t equate to a particularly good match. Charlotte tried a Backbreaker across the turnbuckle and Sasha landed on her neck in a terrifying manner; she seemed to be shaken up for a good couple of minutes. Later, Charlotte went for a super Splash Mountain and Sasha turned it into a Hurricanrana; both women came scarily close to landing on their heads. Sasha hit a Meteora off the ring post to the floor. Finish saw Charlotte counter the Banks Statement into a roll-up to get the clean pin. – It was weird for the heel to go over clean and prove she didn’t need Dana Brooke to beat Sasha. Whoever is agenting the womens matches needs to stop the girls from trying dangerous spots that they are barely capable of executing without killing each other. (** ¾).
In the back, Anderson & Gallows admired their testicle in a jar when AJ Styles appeared. They had a love-fest and Styles said he would beat up John Cena. Finn Balor showed up and the Club threw up the “Too Sweet,” however Balor smiled and walked away.
IC Championship: Miz (C) w/Maryse vs. Apollo Crews. – Miz retained in 5:45. Filler match. Only thing of note was Maryse’s 10 billion star outfit. Crowd didn’t care about this at all and Maryse distracted Apollo to allow Miz to hit the Skull Crushing Finale for the win. (**).
AJ Styles vs. John Cena. – Styles over in 23:10. Tremendous match. Styles hit a Suplex on the apron early on – it didn’t play into the rest of the match at all. Cena hit the AA at 8:30 to start the near-falls nice and early. Styles hit an Ushigoroshi and JBL like an idiot tried to get over that he stole the AA; Mauro Ranallo politely corrected him. They hit all kinds of moves and kicked out of all of them. Cena worked the STF then hit a Tornado DDT at 17:00. Styles came back with a Springboard Rana and the Phenomenal Forearm for another near-fall. Cena hit a super AA at 20:45 and everyone in the building bought it as the finish; it wasn’t, as Styles kicked out as Cena sold disbelief. Crowd chanted for Styles and Cena went for another AA. AJ countered into the Styles Clash then followed up with the Phenomenal Forearm to get the clean win. – Easily the match of the night and probably the weekend. Styles will probably remain a heel but he was loved by the Brooklyn crowd and the win firmly established him as a true WWE main eventer. (**** ¾).
Jon Stewart was sent out to take the crowd down. He was hated and did some unfunny comedy then said he would take Big E’s spot in the New Day. Anderson & Gallows showed up with a jar with Stewart’s name on it.
WWE Tag Team Championship: New Day (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) (C) w/Jon Stewart vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson. – Anderson & Gallows over via DQ in 9:09. They built to a spot where the Club tried to crotch Stewart on the post but Big E returned to make the save and he attacked the Club for the DQ. New Day sent the Club packing then Big E opened the testicle jar and drank the ball juice. (**).
Shane & Bryan were out for the WWE title match. They separated Ambrose & Ziggler before the in-ring introductions and Mauro Ranallo made a Conor McGregor/Nick Diaz reference. JBL replied that the difference was that Ambrose & Ziggler were “adult sized.” Pathetic.
WWE Championship: Dean Ambrose (C) vs. Dolph Ziggler – Ambrose retained in 15:18. Match was okay, but the crowd were still exhausted from the Cena/AJ classic. They went back-and-forth early with some moves; Ambrose used an Implant Buster and Ziggler hit the Fameasser. Dolph Superkicked Ambrose over the barricade on the floor then hit the Zig-Zag for a near-fall. Finish saw Ziggler go for a Facebuster off the top, but Ambrose landed on his feet and hit the Dirty Deeds to get the win. It was a pretty anticlimactic ending.– Even if this went on before Cena/AJ I doubt the reaction would have been much different. Dolph was thrust into the main event picture after years of being a total joke and only a few weeks after losing to Baron Corbin on every show. Ambrose was booked as a weird tweener character for this program and it certainly devalued his appeal as a top babyface. (** ¾).
Becky Lynch, Naomi & Carmella vs. Natalya, Alexa Bliss & Nikki Bella. – Nattie, Alexa & Nikki over in 11:04. They actually did the phony Eva Marie entrance and the announce guy said she was on vacation due to all the anxiety and stress brought on by the mean WWE fans. Nikki Bella returned as her replacement and got a big reaction, which soon died down once the fans remembered it was still just Nikki Bella. Match went way too long and nobody cared. Nikki pinned Carmella with her Misawa forearm of doom and a TKO. (* ¾).
The WWE Universal title was on display in the ring and the fans booed the red leather strap; Foley & Stephanie were at ringside for the title match.
WWE Universal Championship: Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins. – Balor became the first Universal Champion in 19:24. Good match, although these guys are capable of much more. Fans were not into it at all early on and chanted things like “that belt sucks” and “we want a new belt.” Rollins hit the Sting Breaker Powerbomb into the barricade on the floor to start the heat; they sat in a chinlock for a while and the crowd got restless. Balor made his comeback and they went to the near-falls; Rollins hit the Buckle Bomb and followed up with a Superkick. Somewhere along the way Michael Cole said it was a no DQ match, despite it not been announced as such. Rollins broke out the God’s Last Gift Small Package Driver, Balor landed a double stomp to the back then Rollins hit the Pedigree for a series of near-falls. Finish came when Balor countered another Pedigree and hit some Dropkicks before getting the win with the Coup de Grace. – The last few minutes were really great, but the bulk of the match was hurt by the fans caring more about the stupid red title. Balor’s Demon entrance was over big, however JoJo announced him as “Finn Balor the Demon King,” so they are determined to run it into the ground as quickly as possible. (*** ¼).
There was some hideously goofy and gaudy commercial for KFC, with Doplh Ziggler dressed as Colonel Sanders and Miz in a chicken suit.
US Championship: Rusev (C) w/Lana vs. Roman Reigns. – Match never got started. Rusev went after Reigns on the floor, but Roman beat his ass forever and a bunch of referees eventually broke it up. Roman came back and gave Rusev a Spear to end this mess. – So that’s why we got the 20 minute match on RAW, because they had this stupid angle planned for the PPV. Maybe it was an attempt to protect Reigns from the Brooklyn crowd, who still managed to chant for CM Punk and Heath Slater during the brief brawl they did. This sucked.
Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman vs. Randy Orton. – Lesnar over via TKO in 11:55. Match was the usual Lesnar Suplex laden domination and it ruled. I will never understand people who don’t like or get bored with Brock throwing men around. They went outside about five minutes in and Brock threw Orton through one of the announce tables; it looked like Randy landed awkwardly. Brock took his Suplex count up to seven then set up Orton on another announce table. Orton hit a quick RKO on the table, which didn’t break, then followed up with a nasty looked Hangman DDT for a near-fall. Orton hit another RKO but Brock kicked out, so Randy set up for the Punt. Lesnar countered into the F5 but Orton kicked out of that too. This is where the match got crazy, as Lesnar removed his MMA gloves and proceeded to punch and elbow the grounded Randy Orton until he opened up a huge wound on his head. Orton was pouring blood everywhere and the referee called the doctor in to check on him. Brock tried to go back on the attack, but the ref held him back and eventually they called off the match due to the damage and announced Lesnar the winner via TKO. Shane McMahon hit the ring to try and get Brock out of there, but Lesnar drilled him with an F5 which Heyman sold as a serious deal. Of course, Shane ended up sitting up and staring down Lesnar instead of actually selling the move. – This point has been made in a lot of places by a lot of people, but I completely agree that if you are going to do blood then using an actual blade is much safer than having a huge man like Brock Lesnar get colour hardway. I actually enjoyed the match and the finish, however there is no doubt that WWE put Orton in a bad position by allowing the spot to happen. Hopefully they are not setting up a Shane vs. Brock match, because that would just be ridiculous, however I could see Shane bringing in a surrogate to face Lesnar and Samoa Joe would appear to be the perfect choice. The crowd were left kind of flat after the finish and it didn’t help that the US title match ended up in a schmoz also. It definitely made Brock look strong but was not the best way to end a six hour show. (*** ¾).