WWE Summerslam 2017
August 21 2017
We’re in New York for the second biggest WWE show of the year. The pre-show was two hours long. I did not watch it. The actual show itself is four hours long. The temptation to skip ahead to the important stuff is palpable. Hosts are everyone but we start with Tom Phillips (who knows a thing or two about staying alert for four hours), JBL and Byron Saxton.
John Cena vs. Baron Corbin
Hey, look who’s jerking the curtain? Even the kids are booing Big Match John. Corbin cashed in his MITB last week and got pinned by Jinder Mahal in a matter of seconds, courtesy of C-Note. It was an interesting twist on the MITB storyline and one that made Corbin look like a bonehead. Cena is immediately in his head. As are the crowd; chanting “where’s your briefcase?” Perhaps predictably this falls into the pigeonhole of every John Cena match against a lower skilled opponent. Corbin alternates between slightly flashy offence and boring rest holds. It’s a monster for Big Match John to slay. It’s significantly better than Cena’s last PPV outing against Rusev, I’ll give it that much. I like the trio of Corbin spots where he slides under the ropes. It works twice before Cena cuts him off with a stinging lariat at the third attempt and the FU finishes. It does feel like WWE have lost faith in Corbin after the MITB win. First the failed cash-in and now a relatively straightforward loss in the opening match at Summerslam.
Final Rating: **3/4
Mad props to Rocket League tag champs Neville and Sasha Banks.
SmackDown Women’s Championship
Naomi (c) vs. Natalya
When the Women’s Revolution kicked in these are two women that got largely overlooked. After all they were already on the roster. They’d both been on Total Divas. But this year they’ve had the chance to shine. Naomi in particular, as she’s been given a lot of big matches and title runs. There’s clearly a message to be sent here. These two ladies want to remind the nxt generation that they’re still relevant and top talents. They come out fast and Naomi hits a sick Blockbuster off the apron. It settles down a little after that with Nattie working heat. The crowd, who’ve already been out here for the length of a normal show, struggle to stay invested. I appreciate WWE giving two female talents this amount of time but it may have benefitted from being a sprint. Natalya’s work at least makes sense; going after the leg to set up the Sharpshooter. When she has it on the sight of her screaming “tap” makes the build up all worthwhile. Naomi gets out but a second Sharpshooter finishes and Natalya wins the belt! This was a shocker. I had Naomi as a firm banker. The match seemed set up against a strong yet disposable opponent to prolong Naomi’s run with the gold. The one telling factor was Naomi’s face when she passed the belt to the referee at the start. She looked more emotional than expected. This is reflected post match where Naomi weeps openly in the ring.
Final Rating: ***
Well, I have a new nightmare/desktop wallpaper. It’s an advert for WWE’s No Mercy; September 24 in Los Angeles.
Big Show vs. Big Cass
The stipulation sees Enzo Amore trapped in a shark cage above the ring. I would rather they battle for the “Big” suffix. Imagine Paul Wight walking around being dubbed “The Show”? Enzo’s pre-match promo where he says his worst day on the microphone is better than Cass’ best match is standard high quality. Cass has been fed to the wolves here. He’s lost his mouthpiece, for no real reason, and he’s been tossed into a feud with Show, which is a dead end for everyone. Putting Enzo over the ring means he’s yelling constantly throughout and good lord it’s irritating. Show brings in a taped right hand, courtesy of Cass last week. The idea being it eliminates the KO Punch. It doesn’t but it takes the sting off it, so Cass isn’t beaten. Show does some killer selling of the hand, teaching a generation how to feign pain. The crowd are not impressed and start to chant “boring”, confirming they should have either a) done a wild brawl or b) finished this quickly.
Bored himself Enzo starts stripping and oiling himself up to try and slip out of the shark cage. He’s so small he does so easily. Cass, predictably, boots him in the mush. Show eats a big boot too and the Empire Elbow finishes. This was awful and pointless.
Final Rating: DUD
Video Control takes us backstage where Kurt Angle is met by SD counterpart Daniel Bryan. They have a dick measuring contest where Daniel thinks Jinder vs. Nakamura will be better than the four-way Kurt has put on. They start yelling at each other. General Managers eh? No wonder both brands are shit.
Randy Orton vs. Rusev
This is taking place because neither man has anything better to do. Rusev jumps Orton in the aisle and they tease the best possible scenario – the match not happening at all. Instead of that Rusev charges into an RKO and loses in five seconds. I can only assume that Rusev’s contract is running out because he’s been buried of late. Every time he feuds with Cena it pretty much finishes him as a draw. Orton continues his awful run on PPV this year.
Final Rating: DUD
Video Control takes us backstage where an injured Bayley wishes Sasha Banks all the best. Sasha replaced Bayley in her title match tonight. The crowd are very hostile toward Bayley, which is fairly unexpected. I know she’s a white-meat babyface and they tend to hate that but Sasha vs. Bayley in Brooklyn a few years back made them both. You’d think they’d have residual love from that.
RAW Women’s Championship
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Sasha Banks
Bayley’s absence is probably for the best based on her last match with Alexa, which was terrible. The roar that greets Alexa Bliss reflects what a great year she’s had. Alexa still isn’t particularly good in the ring, although she’s improving, but her personality and presence go a long way. Bliss controls a lot of the match and it’s scrappy. They hope that the match can coast by on presence and the duelling chants are evidence of this. If you watched this with the sound off it would be very disappointing. Sasha does the best work. She’s quietly added more strikes to her game, throwing knees like she’s Kenny Omega. They slip in one innovative spot; Alexa yanking the skirt off the apron to dislodge Sasha from the apron. They have a throwback to Bayley’s shoulder injury with Sasha taking the same bump and staying down holding her shoulder. The biggest shock for me, again, is that no one marks out for the Sparkle Splash (which got changed to Twisted Bliss but I loved that original name). The shoulder plays into the psychology with Alexa blocking the Banks Statement but Banks grabs her own arm, guts it out and gets the submission for her fourth women’s title. Fourth! Now they can do that babyface Sasha vs. Bayley match they’ve been itching to do for months.
Final Rating: ***
Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt
Bray saw the ‘Demon King’ and decided to out-psychology Finn. Which isn’t hard. Finn isn’t a demon or anything. He’s a troll. He’s a prankster but he’s not scary. Both guys have kick-ass entrances, which is basically why they’re feuding.
The focal point of the match is both guys trying to wig the other out and Balor having marginally more success. Which is weird to me because why would you take Bray’s biggest strength and turn it against him? It’s not like he has a move set to fall back on. To be fair to Bray he’s not terrible here, in between chinlocks. They make a point of going after trademarks and countering them. Bray takes a few nasty looking double stomps. The great thing about Finn being so small is can do those double stomps and not hurt his beefier opponents. Bray’s spider walk is no sold and Balor hits the Double Stomp for the pin. Here’s the story of this match:
Bray: I like to play mind games. Come play with me little boy.
Finn: Fuck you.
Final Rating: **1/4
RAW Tag Team Championship
Sheamus & Cesaro (c) vs. 2/3rds of the Shield (Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins)
This is all a bit strange. If I’m Dean I don’t trust Rollins at all. The build up video gives me a decent idea how they got there though.
I get suddenly fired up about it! I kinda hope Ambrose abandons Rollins in mid-match as payback. The match should be good because there are plenty of great wrestlers out there. And Dean Ambrose. The crowd decide to start playing with a beachball, which is tad disrespectful. I bet Seth gets mad about it on social media. Cesaro gets pissed off and leaps the barricade to destroy it. After Cesaro’s act of vandalism the match picks up and it pelts along at a decent kilter. It’s a complex match so it has issues. Like Sheamus’ delayed move to the top rope and Dean’s sluggish cut-off. Presumably they’re waiting for Seth to get in position for the double team that occurs moments later. It’s not an isolated incident either and it occurs to me that such timing errors should be more frequent with these complex storylines the boys keep telling. Sheamus pops me by booting Dean to stop his stupid rebound clothesline. Worst move in wrestling! The match peaks with Seth busting a flying super rana out of nowhere to send Cesaro into Sheamus and stop White Noise. Ambrose hits Dirty Deeds moments later and we have new champions. The Shield is back! This match had some very serious issues when a lengthy narrative went off a sharp bend but the finish was sublime. People were standing in shock at Seth’s cut-off.
Final Rating: ***1/2
United States Championship
AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens
I’ve lost track of the US title this year. It keeps changing hands. These two guys should have a phenomenal match in them but their series has been weak. It’s set up to fail again here as the referee is Shane McMahon. Which means he’s wrestling Owens at some point and this is the set up match. AJ naturally has issues with Shane being ref as Styles wrestled him at ‘Mania. Both guys start fast and intense. Shane gets in the way but they do a fine job of working around him. Apparently this title dates back to 1975, which is news to me. There are several breaks in that lineage. The belt has been defunct at least twice. Owens hooks a lot of the same rest holds that Bray Wyatt and Bobby Roode do but during them he’s still working. Either yelling at AJ or criticising Shane’s refereeing prowess. When they speed up they have tasty sequences based on their mutual arsenal of awesomeness. Owens drags Shane into the action twice. The second time in the way of the 450 Splash. When Shane is then late for a count Owens is beside himself. “Where were you? You fall off buildings and get back up. You can’t count three?” Shane manages to get himself bumped again. Where’s Poochie? This could have been a blinding match, again, but for Shane’s incompetence. He manages to miss Owens tap out. Keep up Greyhead. In spite of Shane the match keeps delivering. One of the best moments is when AJ almost completely screws up the set-up for the Styles Clash and improvises an alternative route in to it on the fly. Everyone makes mistake, it’s how you recover from them that counts. Shane screws up again counting three when AJ has his foot on the rope. Shane gets into an inevitable shoving contest with Owens and AJ recovers to hit the Phenomenal Forearm and the Styles Clash finishes. The bits with Shane were overdone and consistently the worst parts of the match but they are also what people will remember. Oh well. Good match (considering Shane was the focus).
Final Rating: ***1/4
Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Jinder’s title run has been a series of dire matches against Orton so it’s tough to judge it. Honestly I don’t think I’ve ever seen him wrestle a good match. Nakamura’s entrance is a reminder of how much he’s touched the WWE Universe since his NXT debut. Everyone loved this guy from day one. Now they’re singing his music before his first ever WWE title match. His main roster run has been decidedly cold. This is a chance to improve two situations; the WWE title and Nakamura’s relatively listless WWE career. Nakamura and his crazy movements looks like he’s from a different galaxy to the champ. The crowd amuse themselves by chanting for “3MB”. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants if they reunited those wacky guys? Jinder is typical. He just grinds away at stuff. It’s drab. Nakamura’s ripostes include a tidy array of strikes but Mahal is incapable of hanging with it. He looks clumsy and ill-prepared. Nakamura has to shove him into position half the time. Shinsuke has an additional issue. It seems like someone told him to pantomime more so he does a lot of goofy visuals and makes them good and large so even the people in the cheap seats can see. The Singh boys try to interfere but get dispatched thus allowing Jinder the joke to retain. The horror of the Jinder Era continues! The longer it goes the closer he edges to worst WWE champion of all time.
Final Rating: *1/4
WWE Universal Championship
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe
Lesnar has claimed he’ll leave WWE if he loses the title. There is some serious meat in this match. Four big dudes. Everyone is over huge too. Braun as the monster. Joe as the other monster. Roman as the guy all the smarks hate (and by god I love him so much). Brock as Brock. All get massive reactions. A big contrast to the last match and a sign that RAW is doing better than SmackDown right now. The size of these lads means that Samoa Joe looks small. The match I want is Lesnar vs. Roman. It was great the first time and they’ve gone ages without a second match. Brock throws everyone around until Braun squares off with him. That’s another big time match. The crowd come unglued at the prospect and it’s Braun that dominates! The match is absolute carnage. Roman putting Lesnar through the timekeepers wall and all the lads getting decimated by other bigger lads. Braun is so big he makes Lesnar look like a punk. The powerslam through the table is murderous (both times). Also throwing the announcers chair at Roman and Joe while they’re fighting. Unreal. Braun Strowman beating the crap out of Brock Lesnar is amazing. This is how they should have booked Lesnar to struggle for the first time. He never should have lost to Goldberg. Braun throwing the third table onto Lesnar is incredible. Brock throwing up his own X before being loaded onto a bodyboard is the equivalent of him tapping out. Braun has the kind of strength that’s utterly terrifying but he’s also become a world class entertainer. Braun is the monster that Roman needed. Only the crowd love monsters because this is New York and modern fans don’t want white meat babyfaces. Braun could easily have become another Sid. A charismatic bore. Instead he’s learned to mix the strength of a Sid with the finesse of Lesnar. Braun gets busted by the ring steps and Lesnar finally takes him down. The match is a mass of heavy hitters throwing themselves around. It’s beautiful. It’s exhausting. Four massive men wearing each other out. Big Lads Wrestling! Braun spends so much of the bout dominating that it’s a surprise he’s not around at the finish. First Lesnar takes out Joe with an F-5 and Roman, trying his luck, eats one too. Brock retains, despite getting tabled three times and speared through a wall. I like the narrative that Lesnar beat Joe and Reigns before and he beat them again but he got owned by Strowman.
Final Rating: ****1/4
This was the kind of show that reminds us that doing six hours in front of one crowd is always a bad idea. You burn them out, end up with random failures all over the card that hurt careers and bore TV audiences. That said the main event was nutz. If Braun wasn’t already made this would have tipped him over the edge. Keeping the belt on Lesnar means we’re heading towards a singles showdown. Brock vs. Braun. As for Jinder, he’s a walking disaster. Everything he touches turns to shit. A brand contrast. The once great SmackDown turned, once again, into RAW’s bitch.