Call me cynical, but I don’t believe the best way to kick off a show is to have Triple H and Stephanie McMahon just read off the card for the next Pay Per View. As we are less than a week away from Summerslam, I was expecting it to come up a few thousand times, but to just read the matches out for a punishing eight minutes smacks of laziness. Still, it was confirmed that Jon Stewart would be hosting Summerslam. Stewart was awesome in his last WWE appearance and he genuinely loves wrestling, like all the best celebrity guests do.
We opened with a big tag match- Randy Orton and Cesaro vs. Sheamus and Kevin Owens. It was mainly to sell the two Orton/Sheamus Cesaro/Owens rivalries going in to Summerslam, but it worked well. I liked the heels refusing to give the crowd what they wanted by tagging each other in so they didn’t face their rivals and generally slowing the match down. It’s an element of heel behaviour that seems to get lost and I was glad to see it in play. It makes the actual confrontations that much more exciting and makes you hate the heels on a level you don’t quite understand. Everyone was impressive, but Cesaro was a dynamo. His rebound corkscrew uppercut is a thing of true beauty. The match ended a little scrappily, thanks to a few missed spots, but it didn’t take away from the enjoyment overall in the slightest. Randy Orton hit an RKO on Sheamus and got the win for Team Babyface. Good stuff.
We got a rare smoky room Undertaker promo next. I liked it. Taker made some elaborate threats to Brock Lesnar in his gravelly-as-fuck voice with some fabulous purple lighting in the background. Cool.
We caught up with Seth Rollins, Triple H and Stephanie backstage as the contract was readied for Rollins’ title for title, winner take all match with John Cena at Summerslam. Rollins mentioned going around WWE HQ and seeing the statues of previous greats like Andre the Giant. Like a child asking for extra pocket money, he asked whether a statue could be made of him, considering he’s already one of the greatest champions of all time. They stated that if Rollins beats Cena, he’ll get his wish. I now have another reason to hope for Rollins to win both belts. I hope this wasn’t some last-ditch attempt to remind everyone how douchey Rollins is. That Raw where he gave Apple Watches and a car to his Authority cronies was tacky brilliance. I would love Rollins to get so deluded and egotistical that he has a statue made of himself. I need to see it in all its gaudy glory.
Roman Reigns took on Luke Harper next. Both men were accompanied by Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt respectively. Ambrose took a spot at the commentary desk, ostensibly to prevent Bray Wyatt from getting involved in the match. The match was solid enough. Both Reigns and Harper are great workers and capable of awesome power moves. What elevated the match for me was Ambrose’s commentary. The guy is seriously talented on the mic and it was a pleasure to listen to, whether he was threatening the seated Bray Wyatt or driving home what bros he and Roman are. His line about them both being good at three things: “drinking, fighting and making women fall in love with us” was fantastic. I’ve been frustrated with how Ambrose’s character has been treated. It feels like he hasn’t been given enough space to breathe. More mic time like this is needed. Anyway, Reigns won after a hard-fought battle. I’m looking forward to their Summerslam match.
Becky Lynch had singles action against Tamina Snuka. It was a disappointingly short match, but it had its moments. Becky Lynch is extraordinarily talented and I love seeing Tamina wrestle. Lynch reversed a power move into her signature submission The Disarmer and Snuka tapped out. The match felt a little rushed and I could have done with more, but it was decent.
Rusev fought Mark Henry. Henry came out waving Old Glory, which struck me as odd. I thought we were done with the dumb country vs. country thing, especially since Rusev isn’t even billed as being from Russia any more. Lana was on commentary. I like her a lot, but I feel Creative have no idea how to write her as a babyface. Her motivations are all off. Having said that, I found her talking about being put in the Accolade by Summer Rae last week rather endearing. The actual match was over fairly quickly. Rusev squashed Henry and soon had him in the Accolade and tapping. Rusev winning meant that we got to see the awesome face flag unfurl again. It’s still funny.
The match ended and Lana got in the ring to challenge Summer Rae to a fight. Rae accepted and Lana slapped her. Lana then challenged Rusev who rounded on her. All of a sudden, Dolph Ziggler‘s music hit and Ziggler came storming out to get some revenge. He beat Rusev down and went for a superkick, only for Rusev to grab Summer and hide behind her, leaving Ziggler to abandon the move. Rusev is such a great heel. Lana high kicked Summer in the face, leaving Rusev open to a successful superkick by Dolph. The pair cleared the ring and then snogged each other’s faces off whilst Ziggler’s music played. I still don’t know what to feel about this. The crowd certainly seemed into it. I’m hoping that Summerslam is the end of all this. I kind of like it and hate it at the same time and it’s been messing with my brain for weeks. Anyway, good to see Dolph Ziggler back.
We picked up the Intercontinental belt thread next as champ Ryback went up against The Miz with Big Show on commentary ahead of their Triple Threat match for the title at Summerslam. If and when Big Show does finally retire, he should definitely be a commentator. He was great. He highlighted the main story points and tapped into the psychology of the match. The fight between a a six foot plus pile of muscles and the comparatively reedy Miz was only going to go one way. Ryback hit the Shell Shock on Miz and got the three count. Ryback called Big Show out, but Show declined. Only The Miz winning can redeem this feud to me. It’s really low effort stuff and I just don’t care about Ryback or Big Show.
It was then time for the official Rollins/Cena contract signing. The Authority made their entrance and then Seth Rollins came out to rile up the crowd. He cut a lengthy promo about how John Cena is actually the villain in the piece and how he’s held the WWE Universe hostage. Rollins is chuffing brilliant on the mic and it hid the fact that this promo seems to be the only anti-Cena promo there is and has been said a thousand different ways by a thousand different men. With shades of The Matrix’s Agent Smith, Rollins called Cena a disease and himself “the cure”. Cena’s music cut Rollins short. Cena delivered one of his best promos in a long time. People forget how good he is. I found it interesting that he brought Triple H into his monologue, earning a death stare from The Game. Cena calling Rollins “the answer to a trivia question” was a sweet burn. I genuinely can’t call how the Summerslam match is going to go down. I was certain that Cena was a lock, but now I’m not so sure. They seem to be bringing in too many elements for it to be as clear cut as that. At least I hope that’s the case.
The New Day with Los Matadores had a tag match with The Prime Time Players and the Lucha Dragons. It was entertaining if nothing else. One thing I really liked was the battle of the comedy mascots outside the ring as Xavier Woods and El Torito had an altercation. The match was won by Lucha Dragons and PTP as Kalisto launched himself and scored the pin. The all tag brawl should be interesting, but I can’t see PTP dropping the titles any time soon.
Stardust cut a fun promo next. Surprisingly, King Barrett joined Stardust in the starry room. Apparently, they’re a legit partnership now and Stradust gifted Barrett with a silver cape adorned with metal shoulders and a chain. We’re now to call Barrett “The Cosmic King”. Hey, I’m down with it. I’m a sucker for comic book goofiness and at least Barrett has an excuse to chew more scenery. I seriously can’t wait for them to square off against Neville and Stephen Amell.
More Divas action followed. Nikki Bella took on Sasha Banks in singles action. Whilst it was longer than the first Divas match of the night, this one didn’t gel with me. It was awkwardly staged at times and as such I couldn’t relax into it. The crowd didn’t help either, choosing to chant “We want Lesnar!” repeatedly. Nikki hoisted Banks for the Rack Attack, but Naomi got up on the apron and distracted her and the ref. Sasha took advantage and hit Nikki with a double knee back drop before locking in the Banks Statement, making the champion tap.
Finally, Paul Heyman came out to host Brock Lesnar‘s Minnesota homecoming. After a sizzling introduction, Lesnar came out to deafening cheers. Once Lesnar was in the ring, Heyman started singing, which is a first. He sang “Glory, Glory Brock Lesnar” and it was wonderful. Heyman’s always at his best when he turns up the toadying to 11. As he screamed the last note, a familiar gong was heard and the arena went dark. The lights came back very quickly and Heyman was mid-retreat. Undertaker was nowhere to be seen and was playing apparent mind games. Heyman then ranted and stated that even if Undertaker brought God and the Devil with him to Summerslam, all three would be taken to Suplex City. I love a fired-up Heyman speech and this was a fantastic one. A gong rang out and the arena went dark again, only this time Undertaker was standing in the ring when the lights came up. He kicked Lesnar in the groin again (it’s fast becoming a signature move), chokeslammed and then Tombstoned the Beast onto the canvas. The show ended with Taker doing a Breakfast Club on the ramp and the Minnesotan crowd booing the living shit out of him. I’m down for their rematch. I’m hoping for the best.
The “Go Home” show before Summerslam was a partial success. It was a good night for talking and promos, but less so for the actual wrestling. Damn near every match was a preview of what we’re seeing on Sunday. It makes the PPV matches feel less special and harshes my wrestling buzz. Still, it managed to be enjoyable and whilst it gets a standard three out of five, I will qualify that it’s a high three. See you after Summerslam.