Monday, 24 August 2015

WWE SummerSlam 2015 review

Traditionally SummerSlam has been positioned by WWE as their number two pay-per-view. It's not felt like it for a long time though. The importance of the Royal Rumble has helped that show surpass it. It could be argued that Money in the Bank has done the same. This year WWE awarded SummerSlam a four hour run time, attached an NXT Takeover special to the weekend, and did even more media work than usual all to turn SummerSlam into a big deal. It's a smart move. If the profile of the event can be raised there's a chance it can claw back some of its importance and, in turn, become a more profitable brand. Because brands are what WWE is all about in 2015.

Awkward bants.
The show kicked off with Lillian Garcia introducing former Daily Show front man Jon Stewart as the evening's host. He got the "What?" treatment from the crowd before changing up his cadence and quipping that he'd "spent the last sixteen years talking about politics, it's nice to be back in reality." Then he played into the shouts by listing guys. This, to me, proved that he really is a fan of the company.

Mick Foley (who looks a mess) was then introduced to act as backup for an interview with Brock Lesnar. They did some awkward non-lol comedy and teased that The Rock might join them. He didn't, and wouldn't appear on the show at all. They left. The crowd seemed happy with all of this.

Then, presented by Mountain Dew and Edge shave gel, SummerSlam began.

Randy Orton v Sheamus was up first. I've made my feelings about these two abundantly clear before. 'The Viper' is so dull as a character that it's impossible to be interested in anything involving him. I'm not wild about Shaymo either, so that didn't help. The match wasn't anything special. The crowd agreed. They spent a stretch of it amusing themselves with NXT related chants. Sheamus survived a top rope draping DDT and an RKO to win with two Brogue kicks in a row.

The lads.
Things picked up with match two, the four-way tag team championship match pitting defending champs the Prime Time Players against New Day, the Lucha Dragons and Los Matadores. Before the match New Day took some microphones to say that New York knew nothing about hip hop. Then they did some singing. It was great. None of the other entrances could compare.

The match was enjoyable and competently performed. Aside from several minutes of Kofi and Big E double teaming Darren Young it kept a quick pace and gave everyone except Los Matadores (who don't seem to actually matter to anyone in WWE) moments to shine. The Lucha Dragons got to work some slick doubles spots, including a monkey flip into a 450 form Sin Cara to Kalisto. New Day got to be irritating heels. D-Young got to be babyface in peril and Titus got to look like a beast when he received a hot tag and ploughed through everyone.

The finish saw the Luchas double suplex Fernando, with Titus power bombing them as they did so. Titus went for a cover but Kofi had made a blind tag and ran in to kick him in the face. Big E pulled Titus from the ring as Kofi covered Fernando to earn his team the tag straps for the second time. Which was the right result. With so many face teams on the roster, and the Usos getting closer to a comeback, New Day are the logical choice to sit atop the division. It doesn't hurt that they're the most over thing in it either.

Backstage Jon Stewart told Adrian Neville and Stephen Amell that he was pals with Undertaker. Then some spooky lighting was turned on (or off) and 'Taker strolled by, followed by dry ice. I'm sure somebody, somewhere found this hilarious.

Dolph Ziggler v Rusev was the next match. Lana was dressed in denim to match 'The Show Off' and looked faintly ridiculous. Despite liking everyone involved in this match I found myself not enjoying as much as I'd expected to. There were a few too many rest holds and lengthy selling spots while the various big bump spots felt uninspired. It never felt as though they'd brought the match up to full speed, surprising with Ziggler involved. That said I did like Ziggler's top rope X Factor and Rusev's tumbling senton.

The match ended in a draw. Rusev had the match won with the Accolade but released it when Lana slapped Summer Rae to the ground. Rusev then dragged Ziggler out of the ring and again got distracted by Lana, allowing Ziggler to sneak in a super kick. Neither man got back to the ring before the ten count. This finish, and the spirited post-match scuffle in which Lana and Summer did some nasty-looking hair-pulling, were presumably designed to set up a mixed tag match.

Stephen Amell, taking it like a champ.
The Neville and Amell v Stardust and King Barrett match was preceded by a fun recap video done in a style that was reminiscent of both comic book movie trailers in general and the Batman 60's TV show. It was great. As was the entrance of the Cosmic Kings. The match itself was also good, giving us exactly what we needed from it: Stardust going full-on supervillain, Amell holding his own, Neville playing the stand-up babyface, and Cosmic King Wade Bad News Barrett I acting like a creep who just wanted to win a match on pay-per-view. Stardust was the undeniable star. Based on his performance here he deserves a guest role on Arrow.

Amell was isolated for a while towards the beginning of the bout. Neville was eventually tagged in to hit some fancy flips to heat the audience back up. Surprisingly he also got the pin for his team, pinning Barrett off a Red Arrow. I'd expected Stardust to lie down for Amell. It felt like the natural finish but this was better. It was sensible to have one regular pin another.

After a self-congratulatory puff piece about how much WWE "gives back to the community" we got the triple threat match for the Intercontinental championship. Big Show v Miz v Ryback. Not the match we want but the match we deserve. It's possible that the highlight of the match was Ryback's singlet, which featured the Statue of Liberty with his face on the front and "Ryback Kong" scaling the Empire State Building on the back.

The story was that 'The Awesome One' wanted to leave the fighting to 'back and Show and pick up a win by sneaking in when both were exhausted. Which made sense for his character and the way WWE three-ways are usually booked. The match was good. Big Show put in some rarely seen effort by busting out a second rope somersault senton (yes, really). Ryback demonstrated his #incrediblepower by hitting Show with a spinebuster and Shellshock. Miz was great trying to steal wins on both guys and getting frustrated when he couldn't.

The finish could have been better though. Ryback took a KO punch as he hoisted Miz up for Shellshock. Miz broke up the following pin attempt and tried for one himself. Show swatted him off and hit him with the WMD punch. Before 'The World's Largest Athlete' could get the pin Ryback threw him out of the ring and covered 'The A-Lister' to retain. They didn't outstay their welcome and made good use of their time but I was surprised Ryback was booked to look so opportunistic. Pinning Miz instead of the more physically imposing Show did no favours to a guy's whose deal is meant to be power.

Backstage Jon Stewart knocked on Brock Lesnar's door. Paul Heyman answered. They discussed Lesnar ending The Streak and how it was a bad thing. It ended with Heyman singing and asking if Letterman was busy. Comedy is not WWE's strength.

Just a bunch of lads appreciating one another's vests.
One of the hottest feuds of the last few years was officially revived in match six. Former Shield boys Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns reunited to take on the Wyatt Family of Luke Harper and Bray Wyatt.  This was, as it was always going to be, one of the best matches of the night. They stuck to the old Shield v Wyatts formula of making liberal use of signature moves, suicide dives and double teams to ensure there was always something to hold the fans' attention.

Reigns got taken out of the match after the opening brawl, leaving Ambrose to survive alone for several minutes. Reigns would eventually return to the corner just in time to receive a tag from 'The Lunatic Fringe'. The Shield lads hit a Doomsday Device and the assisted power bomb before Reigns put 'The Eater of Worlds' down with a spear. Despite being surprisingly short at just eleven minutes the match was, as stated above, one of the best of the night. I'd have no problem with the feud continuing and us getting a rematch at Night of Champions.

Speaking of champions, the title versus title match was up after that. It was preceded by a great video package that began with Cena talking about the people of New York being everyday heroes (presumably a token effort at winning the crowd over) before moving onto Rollins breaking Cena's nose and the all-time tally of world title reigns Cena has. At fifteen he's one off Ric Flair's (official) record of sixteen. They made sure to include Cena's words to Triple H on the subject of Flair being his mentor, which really helped to emphasise the title versus title stuff and the importance and significance of Cena's sixteenth world title win, whether it was to come here or not.
The initial lockup was a stalemate. Cena got the best of the second with a headlock takedown. Rollins fought back to his feet, floored Cena with a drop kick, and mocked his "You can't see me" bit. That earned him a punch to the face and another headlock.

Good guys wear white.
Rollins fought back to his feet and hit Cena with a Blockbuster before knocking him out of the ring for a pair of suicide dives and a tope. Back in the ring Rollins reversed a back drop and took Cena down with a sling blade for a two count. Cena fired back with a belly-to-back suplex and prepared for a Five Knuckle Shuffle but Rollins kicked him in the head and went for a Pedigree. Cena back dropped out of it and nailed the springboard Stunner before getting the Shuffle he'd missed moments earlier.

Rollins slipped out of an early attempt at the AA onto the top rope then launched himself knees first into Cena. He followed that with a running Shooting Star Press for a two count. He kept control by hanging Cena in a tree of woe and blasting him with a double stomp from the top rope. 'The Future' trash-talked Cena and was grabbed for a desperation AA. He kicked out and made it back to his feet for a boo-yay punch exchange. Another Pedigree attempt failed, this time with Rollins ending up taking a face plant from Cena's shoulders.

Cena got his never less than dangerous-looking top rope leg drop as Rollins staggered to his feet. That earned him a two count. They mostly botched a second rope AA counter but Rollins just about held things together for a sunset buckle bomb. He followed that with a nice frog splash but Cena kicked out and hoisted the WWE champ into position for the Attitude Adjustment. Rollins landed on his feet, hit an enziguri and rolled through a cross body to hit Cena with an AA of his own.

When Cena kicked out Rollins went to his backup option of a phoenix splash. Cena avoided that and grabbed 'The Future' for the STF. Rollins was barely in the hold before Cena released it to reapply, at which point Rollins kicked him away. Cena recovered and attempted an AA. Rollins wriggled free and tried a Pedigree. Cena broke free of that and slapped on a figure four, nicely tying into the back-story of Cena trying to equal Flair's world title reign record.

Rollins managed to flip over onto his front, reversing the pressure and forcing Cena to make the ropes and break the hold (because it's Cena, of course he does both). Cena returned to the top rope but got cut off and superplexed, with Rollins performing a surprise roll-through into a falcon arrow. Cena kicked out but remained spent on the mat. Rollins tried the phoenix splash again but missed and got scooped up for an AA. Cena hit it, but not before a ref bump took place.

After checking on the referee (whadda guy!) Cena turned around and took a knee strike t the face, the same move that had broken his nose on RAW. At that point Jon Stewart ran down to the ring with a chair and, after several awkward pauses, tapped it into Cena's stomach. A recovered Rollins then Pedigreed Cena onto the chair to retain the WWE championship and win his first ever United States championship.

Screwy swerve turn finish involving a non-contracted former political pundit aside this was the match of the night. Rollins and Cena work well together and they once again showed it here. The finish was made far easier to stomach because I'd been expecting some sort of DQ that prevented either title changing hand. The change presents some interesting options for Night of Champions. Rollins making two separate defences could be interesting and something I'd like to see.

Booker T and Byron Saxton were irate at Stewart's action over at the analyst table. Corey Graves no-sold the finish and focused on the "history making" result. Booker put over New Day and did some clapping as Renee threw to the Divas trios three-way.

After a recap video that reminded us of Stephanie McMahon taking credit for Paige's on-screen quest for a better division we got a match that was somewhat of a mixed bag. There were a handful of sloppy moments but the most awkward aspect of the match was a booking decision: the match was fought under elimination rules and saw Team BAD out first, eliminated after Brie had pinned Tamina. This showed no foresight. Had Team Bella been the first team eliminated, at the hands of the team that wouldn't ultimately win, that would have demonstrated that the newcomers on both opposing teams are every bit as good as the more established women. It would have left the fresher faces to battle amongst themselves and set up all members of both teams as potential contenders to Nikki Bellas Divas title. A later half carried by Sasha Banks and the newer girls on the PCB team could have been great.

A lot of people have picked holes in this entire Divas revolution thing. For the most part I feel it's been a little unfair. I understand the grievances people have with it but I feel it's best to focus on the fact that WWE are at least trying to go in the right direction. But booking like this, that hampers the progression of the newcomers in favour of positioning the Bellas as formidable forces, is irritating and does nothing for anyone. Not even the Bellas benefited because Nikki now has fewer credible potential title challengers than she could have had.

There was a lot wrong here but the result was entirely correct.
It wasn't all bad. The Bellas hit a nice stereo suicide dive and Nikki did a nice Alabama slam on the outside. The audience were invested in Sasha Banks, despite her not getting a great deal to do. Alicia Fox broke out her beautiful northern lights suplex. And the right team won, Becky getting the win with what can generously be called a pump handle slam. Although even this didn't seen entirely sensible. Someone (Charlotte would likely have been the best choice, all things considered) should have pinned Nikki to set them up as an obvious challenger.

Cesaro v Kevin Owens took the semi-main event slot. The reactions they got for their entrances and during the match disproves the theory that WWE fans need a cool down period before a pay-per-view main event. Both guys entered performances that made it clear they had something to prove. Each guy hit a tope to the outside. Cesaro busted out a cross body from the top rope, a gut wrench suplex from the second, and a springboard uppercut. Owens pulled out a cannonball on the outside, an inverted TKO, a somersault leg drop, and the double jump moonsault. They worked, in the words of Steve Austin, snug. KO won an enjoyable match with a top rope fishermanbuster and the pop-up power bomb.

Which left only the Undertaker v Brock Lesnar main event. The pre-match video focused on the ending of The Streak, with a variety of wrestlers appearing as talking heads to give their opinion on the subject. I'm not going to go into the history of the match here. I did that in the preview, which you can read at this link. Suffice it to say I liked the way WWE built to this rematch.

This match set a brisk pace from the start. Lesnar jumped Undertaker as he entered the ring. 'Taker fought back and knocked 'The Beast' out of the ring and to the floor. Lesnar paced about a bit before returning and taking 'The Dead Man' down to the mat to hit him with forearms. The two then returned to their feet to trade right hands as duelling chants of "Undertaker!" and "Suplex City!" rang through the arena.

'Taker got the better of the punch exchange and set up to walk the ropes with Old School but got pulled into an F5 position. He escaped and went for a choke slam. Brock escaped that. And then the suplexes started.

Undertaker took a belly-to-belly and a German suplex before managing to drive 'The Pain' head-first into a turnbuckle. He followed up with snake eyes and a big boot which sent Lesnar tumbling out of the ring. There 'The Phenom' rushed his foe into the barricades before setting him up for the apron leg drop.

Brock recovered. They traded jabs. Undi' went for a choke slam. Lesnar slipped out of it in mid-air and hit a German suplex. Then another. And another. Undertaker rolled from the ring as the duelling chants started back up. Lesnar followed and cleared the French announce table (because nothing says an event is on the scale of WrestleMania like foreign language commentary teams being flown in). 'Taker recovered and tried to Last Ride Lesnar through the table but Lesnar broke free and F5ed him through instead.

Taker returned to the ring just before the ten count expired. Lesnar looked mildly shocked before telling Undertaker he'd kill him. Undertaker again told Lesnar he'd have to then hit him with a surprise choke slam and a Tombstone.

Lesnar kicked out and was the first to sit up. Undertaker was seconds behind him and they traded right hands as they returned to their feet. Lesnar locked in a kimura in the corner, which 'The Last Outlaw' countered into a Last Ride for a two count.

If only 'Taker had tapped when Robinson was there.
Lesnar hit an F5. Undertaker kicked out. Lesnar hit another. Undertaker kicked out again then trapped Lesnar in Hell's Gate. Lesnar powered out and applied the kimura. Then the shenanigans kicked in. Undertaker tapped out as the referee was in position checking to see if Lesnar's shoulders were down for a pin and the bell rang. The ref told the timekeeper it was his job to signal for the bell to ring. Undertaker took this opportunity to hit a low blow and got Lesnar back in the Hell's Gate. Officially the match ended with Lesnar flipping off the Undertaker as he faded into unconsciousness.

After the match Heyman took a mic and said that everyone had seen 'Taker tap out. He then declared Lesnar the winner via submission. The commentators bickered about the finish for a little longer before the show finally went off the air.

This was a finish designed to keep both men strong and, possibly, to set up a rematch. Based on this I've no interest in a third bout in the series. Neither man was helped by this ending. The match and the paying audience deserved a clear winner. Either Undertaker should have won for vengeance and to show he still has it ahead of his retirement or Lesnar should have won to keep his aura intact and so as not to invalidate The Streak ending. Personally I'd have preferred a Lesnar win. That would have kept him strong and allowed for an a story in which an Undertaker plagued by self doubt boldly announced he'll retire if he can't win at WrestleMania. They could even had had 'Taker enter the Royal Rumble and winning to show that he's still as good as ever.

Overall I thought SummerSlam was perfectly fine. It was not the show it needed to be though. There were too many poor booking choices, odd run times, and matches that simply didn't have enough reason to be happening to justify this being a four hour, ten match card. The main event and the title versus title match, the things the event was built around, both failed to deliver entirely satisfying endings and for that alone it's hard to see this SummerSlam as anything more than a good but flawed time.


Results summary:
Sheamus defeated Randy Orton
New Day defeated the Prime Time Players, Los Matadores and the Lucha Dragons to win the tag team championship
Doph Ziggler v Rusev ended in a count out draw
Stephen Amell and Adrian Neville defeated Stardust and Bad News Barrett
Ryback defeated The Miz and Big Show to retain the Intercontinental championship
Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose defeated Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper
Seth Rollins defeated John Cena to retain the WWE championship and win the United States championship
Paige, Charlotte and Becky Lynch defeated Team BAD and Team Bella
Kevin Owens defeated Cesaro
The Undertaker defeated Brock Lesnar via referee stoppage

1 comment:

  1. I reckon Rollins should fight Ryback at NoC! All three belts!