WWE Summerslam 2016
Going from Vince's screaming about heat to a generic pop song and editing that seems like a NBA TV commercial is a bummer.
Enzo/Cass vs Chris Jericho/Kevin Owens
They went all out for the set this year, at least. Outside of WM, I can't remember the last time a set looked big and unique. I have some questions about the booking of this match, considering the guy that beat KO at the last PPV (Sami Zayn) was on the pre-show in a random tag. Enzo gets the crowd to sing Biggie, then chicken dances like an asshole. Then Cass sings New York, New York. This is the most pandering promo I think I've ever seen. How many songs about New York can you reference in one promo? The answer is about a dozen. Enzo isn't even from NYC. He's from Jersey, yet you'd think he grew up literally on the streets of NYC. I'm really quite bothered that Enzo wears emojis on his gear. This is not particularly interesting. Mostly because every Enzo/Cass match is exactly the same, and it isn't even like they have a story to their formula match, nor are they particularly good in the ring (especially Enzo). Cass almost drops Enzo on Air Enzo, then falls over the ropes himself. That could have gone much better. Considering how often Enzo seems to have trouble with the ropes, maybe they should cut that spot from their repertoire. The highlight of this match is definitely KO's shit talk and mocking. Enzo is of course FIP, and the only thing he really does well in the ring is getting knocked out of the air when diving for tags. JeriKO win with what is essentially the Revival's finisher, except it looked like shit and Enzo ended up taking the move all on his face. I guess that was okay for a TV match. Definitely not for the second biggest show of the year.
TO THE BACK. Shane and Daniel bump into Mick Foley. Jon Stewart and his son then show up. Holy shit...JON STEWART IS BIGGER THAN DANIEL BRYAN. Jon shits on Stephanie, who of course is right behind him. Will she slap him? This is terribly unfunny. And then New Day show up. This goes on forever and not a single part of it was funny. This would have been much, much better if Steph slapped the shit out of Jon.
Sasha Banks vs Charlotte WWE Women's Championship
Weird that a year ago, in this same building, on the same weekend, Sasha had a way bigger entrance as NXT Women's champion than she got as WWE Women's Champion. Sasha ended Charlotte's record breaking title reign on the first post-draft Raw with no hype. Both go for their finishing submissions early, with the familiarity between the two seeming to be the story. Charlotte looks like she's going for a super fall away slam, or possibly a back breaker on the ropes. I don't know what it was, but it sure looked like Charlotte just straight dropped Sasha, who then fell off the ropes and landed on her god damn head. Right after, they botch a Gory special. Sasha seems dazed from that fall. What a dick move doing a Guerrero move to Sasha, though. This is very sloppy. Bad strikes and bad bumps everywhere. It feels to me that Charlotte decided to call an audible after the corner bump, but since she's never had to call a match on the fly, she's having trouble thinking of what to do. Just speculation, of course. She just seems kind of lost. Then they do an avalanche Razor's Edge into a super rana, which holy shit, who the fuck cleared that spot? Have they not seen how often Sasha lands directly on her head on those kind of spots? She barely made the rotation. I don't trust her to do shit like that. Actually, her head might have hit the mat. One of the replays looks like she might have landed forehead first. Sasha gets the Bank Statement on, only for Charlotte to roll back and pin her. New champion. What a mess. Sasha is going to break her fucking neck before she's 28. I can't believe how sloppy she's been on the main roster. Every match I'm afraid she's going to cripple herself doing stuff she shouldn't even be attempting. Actually, this whole match was full of shit that neither should have even been attempting.
It seems pretty clear that the match they had on Raw was the match they had planned for this show, as that was structured and paced like a big time PPV match, while this was just a mess with no flow or even the big time spots to match a random TV match.
TO THE BACK. The Club are doing some ball based humor. In the middle of a hallway. With no one around. And an invisible camera man. Does that mean they're just doing this by themselves? In the fucking hallway backstage for no audience? AJ then shows up for a reunion. Finn Balor shows up and declines to too sweet them. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time Balor has had any interaction with Anderson and Gallows on WWE TV, and it's in a random backstage segment where they're playing with balls while dressed as doctors in the middle of a hallway with no one watching. Seems as appropriate as anything considering their WWE careers so far.
The Miz vs Apollo Crews WWE Intercontinental Championship
Miz comes out wearing a bedazzled Phantom of the Opera mask. It is tremendous. Apollo made his WWE debut in this building last year. No idea how he got an IC title shot, considering how his entire year has been a big box of nothing. Miz dominates the opening minutes of the match. Crews comes back with some neat power spots, but man, he's so generic. No personality at all. Miz wins with the SCF in a short, nothing match. Title retained.
John Cena vs AJ Styles
Finally, something that should be good. An hour in to what was actually hour 3 of Summerslam, since there was a 2 hour pre-show with matches. The story of this match is that AJ has to beat Cena without the help of his goofy bald buddies to prove he actually is better than Cena, while Cena is looking to prove that he's still "the face the runs the place". Cena seems primed to beat the shit out of AJ in this. Going for a FU off the apron just minutes in. But we live in a world where John Cena is doing apron bumps now. Cena is much more deliberately violent and bruising in this, really using his size and strength advantage for more than shoulder blocks and slams. AJ clearly has gotten into his head. It's neat, because that's not really a side of Cena you see very often. I do take a bit of an issue Cena thinking he has to do indie spots with indie guys to please indie fans, but sometimes it works out. With this match and the Bryan match in 2013, it was great to see. Random Raw matches, not so much. The standard finisher kick outs spot happens about half way through the match, although in this case, the FU and Styles Clash aren't finishers against top guys anymore. It would be similar to Misawa hitting a tiger driver 15 minutes into a 30 minute match against Hansen or Kawada as opposed to Fuchi. It's not going to end the match, but it does establish power levels of moves and characters alike. Cena totally stole Big E's finish. Weird. Fuck, JBL is so bad. AJ hits the Ushigoroshi, and JBL repeatedly calls it the FU, saying AJ was going to beat Cena with his own move, despite Otunga and Mauro both telling him it wasn't the FU. He just ignored them and continued. Lol. This gets movez heavy at times, but it makes sense in the context. Very dope reversal of the calf crusher into the STF. That was smooth as fuck. Cena kicks out of the Phenomenal Forearm, but AJ kicks out of the avalanche FU, the only man to ever do so to my knowledge. I'd say they are even. In Japan, this would lead to Cena hitting a minor move right after for a quick win, or debuting a new super finisher. Instead, he sits in the corner feeling completely bewildered, wondering if AJ actually IS better than him. Cena goes for another FU, only for AJ to reverse and hit the Styles Clash, then the Phenomenal Forearm to beat John Cena completely clean. "Legacy affirmed. Career defined."
This is a match where with lesser guys and lower card talent, I would not have cared for it much, but context matters. Cena got a standing ovation after the match, leaving his arm band in the ring, which would indicate a retirement in most sports. This was the end of (or at least a major turning point) Cena's story that started in 2015 as US Champion. From that point on, he's been saying repeatedly that the future runs through him, and he's not going anywhere. That moved on to him actively looking for someone who could replace him. Then AJ Styles comes into the company, instantly becomes a huge star, and beats John Cena with help of his buddies. Cena rationalizes that it didn't really count, and challenges AJ to a straight match to prove AJ can compete as a man. After 2 months of AJ saying he's better than Cena, Cena does everything he can to prove he is as good as ever, going out of his way to do moves more suited to AJ to prove a point. But none of it works, and AJ actually does prove he's better than Cena. Cena, being bested and accepting that time has passed him by, retires in the ring. For AJ's side, his entire career has been truly validated, and he went from superstar to super nova. This was a match where MOVEZ and kick outs made sense in context over an overarching story that really encompasses 14 years worth of matches and stories from WWE, TNA, NJPW, etc. It's really great. In a perfect world, AJ Styles has just replaced John Cena as the biggest star in the company. Time will tell, but if you cut the story off here, it was excellently done.
Jon Stewart returns to Summerslam, one year removed after costing John Cena the title against Seth Rollins. He shits on his involvement in the show last year, and the crowd completely turns on him about 2 minutes in. Mostly because this is terrible and he's trying to speak like a wrestler. However, he reveals a Booty-O's shirt, and claims to have joined New Day. This was awful.
New Day vs The Club WWE Tag Team Championships
So, The Club's thing now is that they are "doctors" who bring a jar with a testicle in it because they smashed Big E's balls on the ring post a few weeks back. And the sad thing is that, as stupid as this is, this is the most personality they've shown in WWE by a large margin. Festus continues to have the worst look and gear in the company, and they're in a match with guys wearing salmon and blue tights with unicorns on them. If only Xavier was just a bit better in the ring. He's passable, but not to the point where I want to see him in a long PPV match. Great as a hype man, though. Just remember, Jon Stewart is replacing Big E for this match. Xavier gets a lot of shine in this, which makes sense since he gets the least amount of ring time of the group in general. Club hits the Magic Killer on Kofi, which causes Jon Stewart to hit the ring. Jon Stewart tucks his shirt in to make sure his gut doesn't come out when he gets beaten up this year. Before they can bust his balls, Big E returns to make the save. And causing a DQ. The match should have been thrown out when Jon Stewart was hanging out in the ring for 3 minutes after breaking up a pin. Big E drinks fucking FORMALDEHYDE. New Day and Jon Stewart then dance. This entire thing from start to finish was a complete waste of time. And it's only HALF WAY THROUGH THE SHOW. Shit.
Dolph Ziggler vs Dean Ambrose WWE Championship
Fuck. If you wanted to know why Smackdown is the B show, this is your answer. When WWE announced they were bringing back the brand split, the first thought I had was, "I hope Dean and Ziggler get put on the same show so I can watch the other show". Little did I know they'd be SD's first title match. The build up is based around Ziggler being a fucking loser who complains about his spot and glass ceilings. So now, he gets his shot and if he loses this match, it cements him as an absolute loser who can't fall back on getting screwed by management (which is a fucking terrible story, since the first SD after the draft, they straight up told you Dolph has been such a loser because he's been booked to be one), while Dean losing means he just lost a shoot fight, based on the logic of the writing. It's a no win situation. And both guys are garbage in the ring, so fuck this match. This match has no heat. Dean randomly decides he's going to work heel, then does comedy spots with the ref. And you haven't seen shit until you've seen Dean being confused at amateur cradles. David Otunga is very bad at his job as a commentator. He was much better as an analyst on the panels. Dolph sells leg work by holding his back. Ziggler might actually have worse strikes than Dean. I'd like to point out that Dean no sold both a low blow and actually getting hit in the face back to back. Dolph hits a superkick on the floor, which sends Dean into the railing, and it is some of the worst selling I've ever seen. Like Bubba Ray trying to gingerly sit on a table. Jesus Christ. Looked like he was casually trying to pop his back. I can't believe how much screen time and promotion he gets when his execution of everything is embarrassingly poor. Dean wins with the Dirty Deeds in what was just a traditional, standard ass Ambrose match. Which is quite funny after he publicly called Brock Lesnar lazy and unwilling to do anything for their WM match together. Title retained.
The story would dictate that Ziggler should probably quit or be released since if he couldn't get things done without "management" interfering with him, because now all of his bluster meant nothing and he's just a big fucking loser after all. The build for this was Russo levels stupid, because worked shoots are dumb as fuck. You can't have a guy cut a "management is holding me back, I'm too good so they make me lose" type promos and then expect anyone to care about your next match. This is basically like ex-WWE guys showing up in TNA to cut the "they held me back, they wouldn't push me, they're afraid of what I'd say" shit, and then go back to normal wrestling logic and storylines right after. You can't do that. You have to make the whole show like that, or don't do it at all. Imagine you're watching The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger turns to the camera to complain about Christopher Nolan cutting his lines, then the movie goes back to normal. This match fucking sucked. Dean Ambrose fucking sucks. Dolph Ziggler fucking sucks. Smackdown is an absolute joke.
Naomi/Becky Lynch/Carmella vs Natalya/Alexa Bliss/Nikki Bella
Wow, poor Carmella. ZERO reaction. Absolute silence. Made even better and more brutal by the huge reaction Becky got right after her. Eva Marie was supposed to be on the heel team, but was popped for a Wellness violation. She still gets her hilarious voice over entrance that tells the audience she's suffering from exhaustion and depression from WWE's fans treatment of her. Lol. Nikki Bella got a huge reaction in her return to action after many months off due to a neck injury and surgery. This will probably be better than the previous match, even with Carmella and a Nikki Bella who hasn't wrestled in like 10 months. Probably better than the women's title match, too, since I doubt anyone will be doing shit that can kill them in this. I don't think anyone can figure out why Carmella got called up. NO ONE cares about her. In any building. It's fascinating. Most people would get booed to hell if they aren't liked. Carmella is so genuinely not over that people just don't react at all. This is a nothing match, but at least it isn't offensive like some of the other matches on this show. The only women this crowd gives a shit about are Becky and Nikki. Nikki blasts Carmella with the Misawa Elbow, then debuts her new finisher: The TKO.
TO THE MARIA. Maria Menounos returns to talk to Rusev. He will crush "Romans Reign" tonight.
Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor WWE Universal Championship
Man. Fuck. Before the match, Raw's brand new title is revealed, which is the same as the WWE Championship, but all red. It looks like beef jerky. Why are people not upset that Rollins is using white power logos on his gear now? Lol at the camera crew catching Balor waiting in position when you weren't supposed to be able to see him through the smoke. I'm sure that's a sign of things to come in this match. Balor's paint manages to get worse every time he uses it, as now half of his body is covered in marker scribbles from Suicide Squad's Joker. Why is he still wearing that head dress made up of old belts? Why is super in shape Finn Balor looking like he's breathing heavy from his entrance? They actually call him "The Demon King" now, officially. That's part of his name when he's in the paint. Why should Seth be afraid of this little dude over some body paint? He's got like 4 inches and 50 pounds on him. Oh, you don't say, a dive 30 seconds in. Balor focuses on the legs early on, which I'm sure will not stop Seth from doing multiple dives in this match. Fans seem have worn themselves out from Finn's entrance, and now are chanting about the title sucking. What a great first PPV impression for Balor. Seth does a barricade powerbomb, which had a super weird landing that looked like it could have caused an arm injury. Finn immediately grabbed it, stretched it out, then went back into the ring favoring it heavily even though it wasn't a focus of the match or even acknowledged by the announcers. This is bland as shit. Oh hey, that leg work earlier? Lol, time to do some springboards and frog splashes. Seth has no focus, and Balor sells nothing but his potentially real injury that has nothing to do with the rest of the match. Rollins has put on too much muscle to keep doing all the things he used to do. Combined with him still looking tentative about his knee, he can't land any of his stuff clean anymore. It's weird. He also can't decide if he wants to still work junior style, or be a bruiser heavyweight, so he ends up as some super awkward hybrid that doesn't do either particularly well. And then he starts doing MMA shit. What. Wait, this is no DQ? Why? Their FIRST MATCH is a gimmick match? The fuck? It's not even a heated feud. This is so bland. Balor kicks out of the pedigree, because of course he did. Balor wins with the double stomp. New champion. What a completely bland and aimless match.
I had some real issues with this. Whoever laid this out had no idea what they wanted from the match. Balor starts with leg work, which makes a ton of sense, but it goes absolutely nowhere and is completely ignored by both men after about 5 minutes. Balor comes out in the paint to intimidate Rollins (and because he's mad Seth made fun of his name), but the same Rollins who was scared to death on Raw doesn't react at all. Seth then bounces between trying to do junior stuff, then heavyweight stuff, then chin locks, with no focus on anything. Balor kicks out of the pedigree in a feud with no personal stakes with 3 weeks of build, then immediately hits his finisher to win. We're told that this is already some kind of blood feud, but again, Balor has only been on the main roster for less than a month, and he and Seth really have no reason to be beefing beyond that they're competing for the title. Yet, commentary would lead you to believe that they really hate each other and it is a very serious personal issue. If that were the case, you'd expect an intense match instead of Balor wrestling exactly the same as he always does and two guys aimlessly trading signature moves with no cohesion or progression to the match. There was no build to the finish. It was just Balor kicking out of a finisher before hitting his own. Compare that to a similar ending in Cena/AJ, and the difference between actual story and character work is night and day. Not to mention the crowd didn't give a shit unless they were throwing their big moves out.. And speaking of signature moves, neither guy has signatures that actually build to their finishers. Not to mention that Balor does 2 different versions of his finisher as regular moves throughout his matches. This was just a waste, as utterly unremarkable from a quality standpoint as you'll see. This big "dream match" and it came off like two dudes playing video games. It wasn't a spot fest, it wasn't a methodical and psychological match, it wasn't a brawl, it wasn't technical. It was a boring WWE 2K My Career match.
If Seth actually injured Balor, you would think that would mean he would be moved down the card. You can't destroy a dude's face, break a dude's neck, and fuck up the arm of the next champion in a calendar year and keep your spot. And that's not even taking into consideration that Seth even injured himself doing shit he didn't need to be doing. I would lean towards an actual injury, since Balor doesn't sell shit, yet he sold his arm the rest of the match despite Seth having done zero arm work the entire match.
TO THE PANEL. These professionals acting like this show has been great. God bless them.
What the fuck. A KFC ad with Ziggler as Col. Sanders and Miz as a chicken. In front of a live crowd. As if Ziggler's night couldn't get worse.
Rusev vs Roman Reigns WWE US Championship
Please save the show, RuRu. These dudes immediately start brawling, with Rusev throwing Roman shoulder first into both steps and screaming like a monster. ROAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRR. Roman is my dude, but Rusev is fighting for the honor of his wife! Oh, this never even starts. They just beat the shit out of each other on the floor until refs come out and try to break it up, then they keep fighting. Roman appears to have broken a rib or two of Rusev's with a chair shot. THAT'S ENOUGH! HE'S A FAMILY MAN, DAMN IT! Lol, WE WANT SLATER chants break out. After Rusev finally gets back to his feat and the match is officially called off, Roman returns to spear him. When in doubt about Roman's reactions, have him beat the shit out of someone. It works literally every time. And while I'm disappointed that they didn't have an actual match, these dudes are heated at each other and fought like men. Fuck yo pinfalls.
Brock Lesnar vs Randy Orton
The match "14 years in the making" that happened on TV 14 years ago and can be seen on the WWE Network while they tell you that they've never never faced off before. The hype video is hilarious, because Orton seems to have this long term personal grudge over Brock leaving in 2004, while Brock couldn't not give a shit that Orton even exists. "Randy Orton's just another guy." "People forget, I've been doing this since I was 5 years old. I'm like a fucking robot. I train, I eat, and I shit out my opponents." Brock has the most incredible quotes in his sit down things.
The difference in crowd energy with this and Cena/AJ as compared to the two title matches is amazing. That's how you can tell who are actual stars, and who are just internet favorites. Brock his the first German about 2 minutes in. Utter destruction. Brock/Cena level here. I'm just going to assume this is probably no DQ based on it being a Brock match and who is going to DQ Brock in a main event match? Then Orton hits a RKO on the table. OUTTA NOWHERE! Orton then hits a crazy DDT when Brock crawls back to the ring. Just spiked that big fuck. Another RKO. Brock kicks out! Lol. The whole build is that "it only takes one RKO", but Brock has taken two already. You ain't shit, Orton. Brock gets pissed, takes off his gloves, and then beats the shit out of Orton. Then he hits two absolutely disgusting elbows that exploded Orton's head. It might have knocked him out, too. That cut is POURING blood. Jesus fuck. Brock keeps pounding on Orton until the ref finally stops the match Brock continues to maul Orton until Shane McMahon comes out. Brock also fucks Shane up to end the show.
God damn did Brock need this match. After a boring as shit WM match, a good feud with Taker that ultimately went nowhere, being saddled with Seth last year, and coming straight off a UFC win, he returns to WWE to reassert his dominance and regain the aura he had after he destroyed John Cena in 2014. This was absolute destruction, and ONLY Brock can have this match. That's part of what makes him so valuable. Half the guys on the roster can have a Finn Balor or Dean Ambrose match. Only Brock Lesnar can have a Brock Lesnar match. He's a unique force of nature and it is wonderful. People complaining about how he doesn't do enough moves are missing the point. Brock Lesnar is a violent savage. His matches are violent and savage. It's wonderful. It works even better after training the audience for years that this type of thing doesn't happen anymore. This put him back at the top of the super boss god-tier character after coming off like a normal guy for the better part of the last 2 years.
This show was quite poor outside of Cena/AJ and Brock/Orton. Both of those matches had some serious storytelling that belied their surface level simplicities. Cena/AJ had the explicit ending that AJ Styles is better than John Cena, and the implicit ending that Cena is walking away from the thing he loves most in the world now that he is no longer the best. Brock had the return of the beast, getting rid of all that Paul Heyman singing songs and Brock coming to bounce around for a few minutes trash. He's back as the monster he should have been for the past 2 years, and that's great. I'm very confused at how anyone would not understand the point of that finish. It was brutal, perfect, and absolutely needed for the Brock Lesnar character.
As for the rest of the show, both title matches were duds with weak crowd reactions. Dean continues to look just terrible, Dolph's career is more dead in the water than ever, Seth and Balor put in a bland 2K17 simulation and neither came out of it looking particularly impressive. Balor getting no push back after winning the title not even a full month into his main roster career, after WWE fans have been ruining shows for Roman's "rocket push" that took him a year and a half to get the title sure is something. It would certainly be an interesting twist of fate if Balor actually did get injured in that first title match. The women's match was a mess from start to finish. Both women looked they had no idea what they were doing out there. Neither tag match was memorable, and I actually forgot about Miz/Crews all together until I looked over the card again. NXT again blew Summerslam out of the water.