PPV Review – WWE Summerslam (23rd August, 2015)

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So, another Summerslam gone. Going into it, it was hard to make any real predictions as 90% of the match ups could have gone either way. Unpredictability (within reason and logic) is one of the key elements in making a big PPV work, so it had that going for it. As always, I’ll break down the evening match-by-match and mention any significant events besides if and when I need to. So, Summerslam 2015. Let’s do this.

Jon Stewart opened proceedings. He talked about the night in store and wanting to interview Brock Lesnar, despite being an Undertaker fan. He said he needed backup and so called in Mick Foley. They had what could be charitably described as a “gently amusing” bit and then the show started. Good to see Foley again.

Sheamus vs. Randy Orton
Ok, so we’ve seen this particular fight a lot. No escaping that. I think I’ve finally twigged why it just doesn’t gel, despite me liking both wrestlers individually. It’s because there’s a significant disconnect between the scripted and in-ring physical storytelling. Sheamus should be a badass heel through and through. He’s got a cool entrance, a cool look (hey, I like it, despite what the crowd says) and he’s got some great moves at his disposal. In his Orton feud he doesn’t get to do any cool heelish stuff outside of the ring. Same with Orton on the flipside. What even is his character right now? He’s just a generic babyface with an awesome finisher. There’s no chemistry to their characters and it puts a party-pooping blanket on everything they do.

It’s irritating because the match was pretty good. The physical storytelling was decent. It was a solid back-and-forth. I liked the fact that Orton went for the career-ending punt for the first time in a while. I just wish he’d actually hit the fucker for once. I wasn’t expecting Sheamus to win. The feud will continue, but I wish they’d just either commit to a properly written personal rivalry or just abandon it.

The New Day vs The Prime Time Players vs Los Matadores vs the Lucha Dragons in a Fatal Four Way Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship
This was a fun one. Whilst it didn’t have the best build up, I like all of the teams enough to make any meeting between them enjoyable. There was a great energy to the match. New Day are my favourite team right now. All three are clearly having a blast being goofy heels and it’s hard not to feel part of the fun. Hype man Xavier Woods always yells some choice lines and tonight was no exception. I choked on my drink when Woods screamed “You can’t even get a hamburger in WWE because Big E’s got the market cornered in TRICEP MEAT!” to the crowd. I also loved him getting vengeance on El Torito. Darren Young and Titus O’Neil were also great. Young’s a good grappler and it’s always brilliant to see Titus get hot tagged and come into the ring and start wrecking shop. The finishing sequence where O’Neil managed to lift and slam down three opponents in one “Tower of Doom” move had me cheering, despite watching on my own in the wee hours of the morning. Lucha Dragons and Los Matadores were also entertaining. Props to the second Matador who saved the Titus tower spot by quickly taking his partner’s spot after he fell from the turnbuckle. New Day won and we got to see a hilarious and very gif-able victory dance. It’s a New Day, yes it is. I’m so happy!

Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev
The feud between Ziggler and Rusev is the most soap opera-ish we’ve had in quite a while. I’ve been split as to whether defend or condemn it. My mind has been made up. It’s a shit storyline. It may have talented people involved and have some fun moments, but it’s not worth it to see the erosion of two great characters. Ziggler’s been on a slide for a while now. Last thing I can remember liking about him was his lionhearted performance at Survivor Series last year. This angle has actively leeched away Lana’s character. She used to be an incredible presence. Now she’s Ziggy’s gal pal who dresses like an extra in a Poison video. Rusev’s remained pretty constant, although he deserves better. Same with Summer Rae. I’ve grown to like her and her “Lana- but trashier” approach to fashion.

The match was alright, I guess. Ziggler sold his ass off and Rusev looked beastly for the most part. The action spilled outside and Ziggler superkicked Rusev onto the announce table. However, Dolph was too exhausted to clamber back into the ring and both men were counted out. What a horseshit end. It’s clear that WWE are merciless masters who will continue this angle until my brainstem snaps itself out of protest. It’s just so underwhelming to have a match finish like that, especially for a PPV and especially especially a big PPV like Summerslam.

Neville and Stephen Amell vs. Stardust and King Barrett

I think this whole comic book thing has been working rather well. The crowds have been responding to it and why not? The inclusion of actor Stephen Amell is great. The guy’s up for anything and his performance in the match proved it. I’m glad Stardust has gained some proper traction. Cody Rhodes is supremely talented.

The match was great and the wild card Amell got way more involved than I expected. We all knew it was only going to go one way, but how they chose to get there was the question. I was seriously impressed by Amell. Celebrity guest spots are usually the worst, but him and Jon Stewart are the new gold standard. Get cool people in who are actually fans of the business. It can’t be that difficult. Nobody wants to see some douchebag overact their way through just to shill whatever crap they want us to buy. Amell not only did well in the backstage stuff, but he held his own in the ring. Being a mere mortal in comparison to Stardust, Amell took quite a sound beating, but his leaping crossbody from the top rope to the outside was amazing. His enzuigiri was also on point. I’ve never seen a celeb do something like that. Also fuck the cameraman for cutting before Amell did a kip up. It would have been awesome to see live rather than in replays. Neville was also on his usual phenomenal form. He wrecked the opposing team and his kicking sequences are works of art. Amell threw King Barrett back into the ring after clobbering both villains outside and Neville hit the Red Arrow for the second time of the night to secure the win for Team Arrow. Great fight.

Ryback vs. The Miz vs. Big Show in a Triple Threat match for the Intercontinental Championship
I’ve been very critical of the Intercontinental angle. I feel that all the momentum has been sucked out of the chase for it and it doesn’t seem as important or as dynamic as the United States Championship. Colour me surprised then when the match managed to be entertaining. The Miz played a great chickenshit routine where he was constantly trying to poach pin opportunities after leaving the big guys to slug it out. It was a simple match that didn’t overstay its welcome. Ryback ended up retaining but not without a little controversy. The end sequence involved Big Show knocking Miz out and having Ryback tip Show out of the ring to steal the pin victory- the exact same thing the heelish Miz was attempting to do. There probably won’t be anything made of it, but I found it interesting that the only real babyface in the match won by successfully pulling off a heelish manoeuvre Short but sweet match, but I wanted Miz to win, dammit.

We got some backstage action with Jon Stewart next. Stewart sought out Brock Lesnar for an interview, but was met at the door by Paul Heyman. They eventually got onto the subject of The Undertaker’s broken streak and Stewart launched into a well-written monologue of how he hated the streak ending and how dare Heyman and Lesnar deprive the fans of their “Christmas morning”. Heyman shrugged it off and disappeared back into the dressing room. Cool segment.

Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper vs. Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns
Summerslam -Bray-Wyatt-Luke-Harper-Dean-Ambrose-Roman-Reigns
This one has had a strange journey. It started as a personal rivalry between Reigns and Wyatt, but it’s slowly grown to include Ambrose and Harper so as to have a “family vs. family” angle. I dig it. In my opinion, Creative have been failing Reigns by not playing to his strengths. Adding current hottest thing Ambrose into the mix takes the pressure off Reigns’ character and puts the focus on two bros from the Shield. Same with Luke Harper. Creative ran out of things to do with him and Erick Rowan as soon as they broke up the Wyatts. Now he’s back where he worked best. I saw a lot of reactions ranging from hate to indifference for this one, but I liked it.

There were some awesome spots. I liked Ambrose running across the three announce tables to launch himself at Bray Wyatt in the timekeeper’s area. I was a fan of the team up moves both teams did. I loved Bray’s second rope suplex to the outside on Dean Ambrose. I thought Dean’s punchdrunk version of his rebound clothesline was such a great touch. Dude can sell. The story of the match seemed odd though. Reigns took a hefty kick to the jaw that sent him tumbling over an announce table and out of the match for a while, leaving Ambrose open to a two-on-one assault by the Wyatt boys. Ambrose got stomped from post to post until he managed to reverse Wyatt playing possum and changed a Sister Abigail attempt into a successful Dirty Deeds. Ambrose tagged Reigns and Reigns finished Wyatt off with a decisive Spear and pinned him. Perhaps it’s because I was expecting a big story twist that it felt rather unsatisfying. Also, I wish Bray Wyatt would win cleanly or hell, just win occasionally. So, I liked the match, but it felt a little off.

Seth Rollins vs John Cena in a Winner Take All match for the United States Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship
What a goddamn match this was. The rivalry going into this wasn’t anything special, but it was coherent enough to give this match stakes other than the gold on the line. You can see where Cena’s coming from. Rollins is a delusional jackass who misconstrues situations, be they dumb luck or sometimes straight-up losses, and uses them to feed his massive ego. There’s nothing out there that directly flies in the face of “hustle, loyalty and respect” than that. Rollins came out in a number that made him look like the White Power Ranger, which I loved.

Cena’s been putting on a clinic for months now and Rollins is an amazing worker, so my expectations were high. For the most part, the match hit or exceeded those lofty wishes. It was a fast paced, surprisingly equal battle. Rollins had an answer for everything Cena had to throw at him and vice versa. There were some awesome spots that left me smiling like a loon. I loved Rollins mocking Cena by rolling through a ground move still grabbing Cena and hoisting him up to his shoulders to perform an AA. The sequence is so often used to show the strength of Cena, so it was a real kick seeing Rollins do it. For most of the match, Rollins wrestled like a classic flashy babyface. He dug out a standing backflip, attempted the Phoenix Splash twice and hit a beautiful Frog Splash on Cena. Cena nearly caused the Internet to melt down when it looked like he’d win the match and equal Ric Flair’s 16 time WHC record by using the Nature Boy’s own Figure Four Leglock. I almost wish he had, just to see the reaction. After some fuckery with the ref being knocked out, Cena hit the AA and pinned Rollins only to discover no-one was counting. At a loss, Cena called for another ref whilst Seth Rollins tried to flatten his face again with a high knee. All of a sudden, Jon Stewart came out holding a chair. Stewart ran into the ring and went to hit Rollins but pulled back and after a moment’s hesitation, slugged the blinded Cena in the gut. Stewart threw the chair down and made his escape and Rollins Pedigreed Cena onto the chair and got rid of the evidence before the ref stood back up. Rollins pinned Cena and became the new United States champ as well as retaining the World Heavyweight Championship.

It was an odd ending. I like being surprised, but the reveal has to be grounded in what’s come before. This was completely out of nowhere. I think it may have to do with Stewart’s earlier bit when he said that some things should be kept sacred. Perhaps he didn’t like the idea of Cena equalling Flair’s record. Who knows. Anyway, a disappointingly weak finish to a fantastic match.

Team PCB vs. Team Bella vs. Team BAD in a 3 on 3 on 3 Divas Elimination Tag Team Match
Much has been made of the “Divas Revolution” and I would say it’s mostly been a success. The womens’ division has finally got some energy back and it has three of the most talented NXT recruits involved. I’m starting to get impatient for some proper singles action in the division as this whole faction war is getting a bit unwieldy.

I didn’t rate the match much. It just felt pointless. There was no gold on the line for starters, but there was nothing to be gained from winning at all. It was just the same as the matches they have on RAW each week. The pacing was off too. Team BAD got eliminated early on and it was down to Team Cheerleaders and Team Tim Burton. Funniest moment of the night for me was Brie Bella screaming her trademark “Brie Mode!”, leaping off the top rope and missing a dropkick, eating shit and allowing Becky Lynch to scoop her up, hit her with a pump handle slam and pick up the pinfall victory. Team PCB win, I just wish I cared.

Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro
I’ve said in my weekly Raw recaps how much I love both these guys and this match proved that carving “OWENS AND CESARO RULE” into my chest wasn’t a foolish decision. They have fantastic chemistry together and this match ended up being my favourite of the night, despite it not being for any championship gold. It was such an enjoyable match filled with awesome power moves and very near falls. It’s the little things that make both men so entertaining. I love that Owens takes time to yell at Michael Cole each week. He’s weirdly obsessed by him. Cesaro has an amazing arsenal of moves that he’s made his own and it’s a joy to see him hit uppercuts and show amazing feats of strength. Kevin Owens pulled out all the stops and went for the rarely seen moonsault as well as hitting Cesaro with a WWE first outing of his front flip legdrop. The guy has a surprising amount of grace and it’s always a treat when he goes for something a little out of the ordinary. Owens ended up winning, but I would have been equally happy with a Cesaro victory. This is one rivalry I’m glad they’re not done with. I could watch these guys tear it up for a good while yet.

The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
On to the main event- the rematch “too big for Wrestlemania”, whatever the hell that means. I started off very sceptical about the whole thing, but their brawls on Raw convinced me a rematch was a decent idea. Brock Lesnar ending the streak was the last huge thing WWE did and I half wanted them to preserve it, but seeing Taker return in great shape made me want to see the two duke it out again.

I thought the match was a cracker. It didn’t quite beat out Cena/Rollins or Owens/Cesaro for me, but when stacked up against their last fight at Wrestlemania 30, it was leagues ahead. Undertaker and Lesnar traded blows and hit each other with everything. Undertaker went through his full bag of tricks, ranging from a bit of Old School to the Last Ride to try and put the Beast down. There was a genuinely inspired spot late on when Lesnar sat up in a Taker like way and mockingly laughed only to have the real deal do the same to him and start brawling again. It was some solid physical storytelling. Taker was desperately clinging to his old ways to try and stave off the Beast’s relentless offence.

Then the ending happened. It was confused, but having watched it twice now, here’s what I think went down. Lesnar had Taker in the Kimura Lock, trying to break the Deadman’s arm. Taker tapped, but we and the ref didn’t see it as we were on the wrong side. The timekeeper apparently did see the tap and rang the bell, causing the referee to yell that only he may call for the bell. This was enough of a distraction for Taker to low blow Lesnar and wrap him in his Hell’s Gate submission hold. Despite being defiant to the last and holding up his middle finger to Taker, Lesnar passed out giving Undertaker the win. I get the idea, but I think the execution could have been better. Undertaker has been doing a lot of heel stuff recently (the low blow is practically his finisher at this point) and him cheating to win is interesting. Similarly, Lesnar passing out but going down swinging is babyface stuff. It’s one of the things that set Stone Cold Steve Austin on the road to superstardom when he refused to tap out to Bret Hart’s Sharpshooter back in the day. The timekeeper ringing the bell must have been planned, but I feel more clarity was needed to sell their weird-ass ending. This rivalry isn’t over and Undertaker can still go. I’m going glass half full on this.

So, that was Summerslam. I was slightly disappointed, to be honest. Being one of the big PPVs, I expected some narrative altering twists or debuts or returns or fuckin’ something. Most of these were holding patterns for another PPV down the road. Most of the matches were of high quality, I just wished there had been some definitive ends to at least some of these long running storylines. Still, I can’t complain too much when Angel Rollins now holds two belts, Cesaro and Owens did stellar work, New Day became champs again and Lesnar/Taker was solid. It’s an average three, but like last week’s Raw, it’s a very high three.

Ben Browne