What a SummerSlam. There were highs: four title changes and a handful of total bangers (thumbs-up for Seth Rollins–Dolph Ziggler, Miz–Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles–Samoa Joe, and the Charlotte Flair–Becky Lynch–Carmella affair). And there were lows, mostly involving the length of the show, wacky match sequencing (Bálor and Corbin was kickoff stuff) and lightning-quick finishes in some matches that underscored their unnecessity. Chop an hour or two off this show and streamline SummerSlam into a four-hour trip to the Roman Colosseum and we’d have had a perfect night. Fortunately for you all, we waded through all six hours of high-flying and face-palming action, and are here to break it down—one consequential outcome at a time.
Roman Reigns Finally Has Brock Lesnar’s Numeral
We’ve been waiting for this for a long, long time. As far as possible verdicts that involved Reigns winning the belt (relatively) cleanly go, this was—wait for it—a pretty good match! Of course, the Universal Championship changing hands was secondary to the plates sent spinning as a result, until tonight’s Raw marches in with whatever shenanigans it brings. But make no mistake: Reigns will, at long last, wake up on a Monday morning the biggest dog in WWE’s yard (apologies to Matilda). He started strong, with a flourish of Superman punches and spears, and ended opportunistically, with one last spear to an unsuspecting Lesnar, who was too busy peacocking over a felled Braun Strowman. See, Strowman—the self-professed “Monster in the Bank” (a nickname that seems to fundamentally misapprehend Money in the Bank’s mechanics)—showed up before the opening bell, went on about being no blindsiding chicken and told them he was going to cash in his title shot on whoever the winner was after the match. Then he kinda just waited outside the ring like a chicken until one or both of his prey were prone. Serves him right that Brock beat him down. If only Lesnar hadn’t all but handed his title to Reigns in the process by fatally loitering at the scene of his destruction and literally turning his back to the hungry challenger 20 feet away. For all the theatrics on Raw in recent weeks, there was no real story to Lesnar’s loss, nothing communicated by him and Reigns beyond the mandate to wrestle and Brock’s increasing orneriness. Lesnar and Strowman sure would make an ideal exhibition at October’s Super Show-Down in Australia, though lord knows what Brock’s contract situation is now. If he’s gone, that would leave a vacuum for Strowman to pursue Reigns with or without the briefcase, but if that was the plan, couldn’t Kevin Owens have at least walked away with that much earlier in the evening? Ya know what? Just let Ronda Rousey have at the champ. She can kick all their asses anyway.
- Seth Rollins claimed his second Intercontinental Championship in as many legacy PPVs (so defined as constituting WrestleMania, Royal Rumble, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series), defeating Dolph Ziggler in a 10/10 match with more than a few dekes and a final assist on the outside from reemergent man-pal Dean Ambrose, who otherwise mostly rolled his shoulders and did his best impersonation of Billy from Double Dragon. As has been rumored, a tag-team tussle pitting Ambrose and Rollins vs. Ziggler and his personal muscle, Drew McIntyre, is a pretty good bet for Hell in a Cell this September (or the inverse of SummerSlam’s scenario, with Dolph and Dean in Seth and Drew’s corner). But the bigger picture beckons Ambrose turning on Rollins as long-overdue comeuppance and a measure of notice that he’s no Architect’s helping hand. Not to mention that McIntyre and Ziggler are merely spinning wheels till the carpool of convenience runs out of gas.
- After dethroning SmackDown division leader Carmella, Charlotte Flair gets to sit alongside her father, Ric, as the co–record holder for most top singles titles among her gender (dad’s tied with John Cena at 16 runs with various world championship belts), notching no. 7 against former BFF Becky Lynch. The other WWE legend linked in history at that number? Trish Stratus, who happens to be sorta unretiring to face Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss at Evolution in October. Hmmmm … by the way, Lynch lashed out and clobbered Charlotte after the loss, but even though they wanted us to boo, Becky’s too beloved and Charlotte’s a little too obvious, so fans ate up the beatdown. (We’ll see how they treat Lynch on Tuesday.).
- A little bloodshed and a long stare from AJ Styles went a long way in legitimizing a slapdash story line between the still-reigning champ—in light of his being disqualified—and Samoa Joe, whose storied, pavement-pounding career hasn’t quite yet arrived at its ultimate WWE crescendo the way Styles’s and fellow road warrior Daniel Bryan’s have. Joe deserves a year-stealing feud, and, after taunting Styles’s wife and daughter mid-match and giving AJ something more to fight for than the perfunctory glory of coming up on a year as SmackDown’s gold standard, he may have helped telegraph a future brawl at Hell in a Cell—and, ahem, hell—maybe even a blowoff at Survivor Series.
Speaking of potential second-generation superstars in the house at Barclays, Monroe Sky Mizanin was rapt in her stroller (not really) as papa Mike met all-time foe Daniel Bryan. But it was mom Maryse who made her presence felt, almost certainly setting the stage for some kind of confrontation with Bryan’s suddenly ubiquitous wife, Brie Bella, by slipping Miz the old brass knuckles and helping him to a 1-2-3. This is, in fact, a win for all: Bryan, Miz, Maryse, and presumably Brie get to go the distance enriching a rivalry that predates anyone’s romantic entanglements and a good chunk of the active roster’s wrestling lives, and fans can rest easy that this rarefied grudge wasn’t counterintuitively squandered in 30 minutes or fewer. Can’t wait for Birdie Joe vs. Monroe Skye at SummerSlam 2038.
Well, we probably just saw four members of Team Ronda at this year’s Survivor Series side by side, as Ronda Rousey was congratulated by Brie and Nikki Bella, along with Natalya, who was rather brave for attending so soon after her father, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, died. Rousey dismantling now-former Raw women’s champ Alexa Bliss wasn’t unexpected. Witnessing her lose composure after winning and racing around the ring in ecstasy was. I mean, we knew Rousey would bring some realism to WWE, what with her MMA background and all, but who knew she’d bring realism to title celebrations too? Rather than a pitbull who just put down her scripted competition, Rousey seemed like a person who just achieved her real-life dream. Props to Alexa Bliss for being a compelling foil and a totally unconvincing opponent—she was exactly the rival Ronda needed for this moment—the Piper, if you will, to Rousey’s burgeoning Hogan. (And no, no props for succumbing to a fake hold.)
What Else There Was to See
The New Day def. SmackDown Tag-Team Champions the Bludgeon Brothers via DQ (Bludgeon Brothers retain, New Day keep being insanely popular)
The B-Team retain Raw Tag-Team Championship vs. the Revival (and continue their reign of light comedy)
Braun Strowman retains Money in the Bank Briefcase vs. Kevin Owens (who got to work a short—if painful—shift Sunday night)
Shinsuke Nakamura retains U.S. Championship vs. Jeff Hardy (with bonus post-match lurking by Randy Orton)
Finn Bálor def. Constable Corbin (Bálor came out as his Demon character, which was the only thing justifying this match being on the card)
Cedric Alexander retains Cruiserweight Championship vs. Drew Gulak (both of these guys should get promoted to NXT so people would get up for this)
Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega def. Rusev and Lana (and Aiden English didn’t even get involved)