Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE SummerSlam: The Universal Championship was born, and Finn Bálor became the first-ever WWE Universal Champion. The reign lasted most of a day. Also, Jon Stewart joined the New Day and Brock Lesnar mauled Randy Orton’s face.
If you missed SummerSlam and (1) don’t know how to watch it, somehow, or (2) are too lazy to go to WWE Network and find it yourself, click here to watch it.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE SummerSlam 2017 for August 20, 2017.
Worst: The Kickoff Show That Time Forgot
For some reason, this is the crowd WWE chose to have the Intercontinental Champion take on one of the most popular tag teams of all time and the flagship show’s general manager’s son.
I don’t know if there was a problem getting everyone into the building and into their seats or if Brooklyn just got together and decided not to hit up the first fourth of the show, but the building was hilariously empty for the first pre-show match. I’ve gotten a lot of “POST A PHOTO FROM DURING THE MAIN EVENT YOU HATER” tweets in response to that picture, so let me make my point clear: I’m not trying to do one of those “look at the TNA crowd, LOL” gags, I’m trying to say how weird it is that WWE decided to run a match featuring a secondary champion and some legends so early they ended up working in front of a smaller crowd than some of the local indies.
It’s also probably not a good sign that (1) Jason Jordan had the on-screen personality of a kumquat and (2) took the pin in a pre-show match performed at the dawn of man, but it is what it is. If a tree has the worst entrance music and nobody’s around to hear it, did the Casio keyboard demo make a sound?
Best/Worst: All The Title Changes
The second match of the kickoff was the Cruiserweight Championship rematch between Akira Tozawa and Neville. Maybe I’m digivolving into Jim Cornette or something in my old age, but shouldn’t it be a horrible idea to put championship matches on your pre-show? I don’t want to sound melodramatic about it, but aren’t you blatantly saying that some of your championships aren’t as important as mild interpersonal beefs on your show? Just one of those little things that could subconsciously convince our brains that the shit these guys are supposed to be fighting for matter.
Anyway, Tozawa vs. Neville was pretty good again, because it’s probably genetically impossible for these guys to have a “bad” match with each other, but man, how impotent was Tozawa’s title reign? It’s the “United States Champion Kalisto” of 2017. What’s the point of having Tozawa win the Cruiserweight Championship six days before SummerSlam, presumably to build interest in a rematch and give the PPV version some heat, only to switch the title back and run the match in front of 1/4 the audience? You blew an 8-month title reign for that?
Also appearing on the kickoff show for some reason is the match that stole the show at Battleground, the New Day versus the Usos for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship. And hey, guess what? They stole the show here, too. The show they technically weren’t even on.
I can’t say enough about how good these teams are together. The Usos have been my favorite tag team for most of the year now, and they really light a fire under the New Day’s asses. I’m also super into the rise of Super Worker Xavier Woods, who went from being the New Day’s trombone-playing third man and kinda-sorta manager to being the MVP of every match he’s in. New Day was breaking out a ton of new stuff here, from the corner slam/lungblower combo to Woods’ impressive squat lift of Big E for a splash. Woods is the shit right now.
The silver lining of this being on the pre-show, I guess, is that it happened three matches in. Most of the crowd had gotten to their seats by then, so the match could have some heat and get them going. How much better of a pay-per-view opener would this have been than John Cena vs. Baron Corbin? They went from crazy spears through the rope to the floor in the pre-show to slow taunting and slower chinlocks in the opener. I don’t know, man. I’ll probably never know.
SummerSlam would’ve been the best pay-per-view of the year if they’d run a five match show. The main event, both tag title matches, Tozawa/Neville and like, Styles/Owens without Shane McMahon’s sweaty ass pointing at himself for 15 minutes.
Best: Big E’s Cape
I think my favorite part (besides it being goddamn Big E Langston in a goddamn cape with a huge E on it) is that animated Kofi and animated Xavier are also both super into it.
Worst: Remember Baron Corbin?
You wanna know how good the Cena/Corbin opener was? The YouTube highlight of the video is John Cena’s entrance.
If you missed what’s been going on, Baron Corbin tried to cash in his Money in the Bank contract on Tuesday, got distracted by John Cena and lost to Jinder Mahal via roll-up in six seconds. Most of us were like, “well, maybe it sets up Corbin getting serious and getting some revenge against Cena at SummerSlam.” And then our brains were like, “oh, wait,” comma
There’s Good John Cena, and then there’s Bad John Cena. Good John Cena works harder than he needs to, and even though he still probably wins too much, he can elevate his opponent and make them look like they’re John Cena Good. Bad John Cena is the biggest star in the company and all the worst parts of Hulk Hogan jammed up with all the worst parts of The Rock. And I know that doesn’t sound like a terrible combination to most people, but imagine a guy who no-sells everything and calls you a pepperoni poopy face. John Cena, right?
It’s just garbage. Corbin spends most of the match wandering around the ring yelling at the crowd like it’s a house show, and then Cena nonchalantly beats him to … uh, send the crowd home happy, like at a house show. Did they not know this was SummerSlam? Regardless, Corbin is dead in the fucking water and we might as well toss him in the rubbish bin with Rusev, Bray Wyatt and the other guys who aren’t popular enough with the Internet for Cena to actually put over.
Speaking of that, take a step back and look at that Cena vs. Nakamura match they did on Smackdown two weeks ago. The winner moved on to face the WWE Champion at SummerSlam, right? Nakamura won clean. But then Cena got a match against the WWE Champion first, which he clearly had won until interference happened, then moved on to SummerSlam to happily trounce the guy who interfered. Nakamura moved on to lose to Jinder Mahal in the worst match on the show. Did Nak win so Cena wouldn’t have to lose to Jinder on pay-per-view? Can we get that Internet about it?
Worst: Nobody Cared About These Women’s Matches
I know that sounds contentious, so let me say this right away: neither women’s championship match were bad. They were just the same version of the matches you’d see on the weekly show, with title changes that felt more like “huh?” than “woo.” Maybe only Charlotte title wins feel like woo.
Up first was Naomi versus Natalya, and your mileage may vary. Natalya probably deserves another run with a title of some kind for her veteran status, and hey, it’s been a while. At the same time, I feel like Naomi is a thousand times more important feeling and looking than Natalya and has so much more of an upside, and it’s sad that Naomi’s dope post-WrestleMania title run was “not being in the important women’s matches” and “beating Lana a lot.”
I joke a lot about how the announce team thinks Bret Hart is Natalya’s dad, but it’s really starting to bother me that 2 out of 3 Smackdown announcers are former pro wrestlers and they all think the Sharpshooter hurts the legs. Natalya went after Naomi’s leg early, but didn’t stay on it. But then she locks in the Sharpshooter, and the announcers start in on what a ring general she is for working a limb she barely worked. And she’s using a submission hold that hurts the back, not the legs. You could Gordon Solie it and explain that she worked the legs to keep Naomi from having the power to break out of the hold, but Naomi broke out of the hold once, using her legs. So I dunno what to say, other than “bring Lance Storm down to the Performance Center to teach everyone the difference between a Boston crab and a single-leg.”
There was also no cash-in from Carmella, meaning we get six more weeks of IS SHE CASHING IN THIS TIME winter.
Later in the show we had Alexa Bliss versus Sasha Banks. They both worked hard, but got stuck in the pseudo-middle of a 7-hour event and couldn’t keep the crowd engaged. There are few things more disappointing on a WWE show than a well-worked match with a point getting completely whiffed on by a crowd for reasons out of the wrestlers’ control. That’s why you need cool down matches that aren’t important title matches, and you don’t cram all the important shit together in a row.
Here’s what I said would happen in our SummerSlam predictions:
One thing WWE loves is booking a match, having someone get injured or suspended or whatever, then watching the Internet assume that since the replacement wasn’t the original participant in the match, they’re going to lose. Then they pull the trigger and have them WIN, because that’s their very favorite “you didn’t expect this!” So no matter how hard we’re building to Jax/Bliss, my years living with WWE booking makes me think Sasha wins, the Raw Women’s Championship feud defaults back to Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, and Bliss and Jax end up being perma-buddies who never fight each other for the championship.
It’s like I’m a crazy scientist!
Worst: Ah Ah Ah, You Didn’t Say The Magic Word
I know Charlotte’s not here, but that doesn’t mean you get to be Charlotte.
Worst: Randy Orton And Cricket Wireless Present The 11 Shittiest Pay-per-view Minutes Since The Last Time Randy Orton Wrestled
Since last year’s SummerSlam, Randy Orton has:
- lost to Brock Lesnar via “oh God, please stop hitting my face”
- won a Royal Rumble by not being Roman Reigns
- rode a sperm to the ring at WrestleMania
- won maybe the worst WWE Championship match in WrestleMania history via slide projector
- wrestled in a haunted house in the worst WWE match I’ve ever seen
- lost the WWE Championship to a jobber
- wrestled in a Punjabi Prison, lost because of the Great Khali
Most people thought Orton was getting this match with Rusev at SummerSlam so he could, I don’t know, wrestle a good match or something for once. Instead, here’s the entire thing, bell to bell, in one GIF:
Brutal. Congratulations to SummerSlam in the year of our lord 2017 for having John Cena and Randy Orton embarrass a couple of guys who I guess are never going to be stars. We wish Rusev and Baron Corbin the best in their future endeavors, which are probably “showing up in Global Force as ‘Rexton Crushar’ and ‘Wolfer Craxler’ respectively.”
Join us for Randy Orton’s next pay-per-view match, in which he spends 45 minutes chinlocking Erick Rowan on a spooky cruise ship and then pins Tyler Breeze with half an RKO.
The other 10:30 of that horrible 11 minutes is Big Show versus Big Cass with Big Enzo locked inside a Big Sharkcage having above the Big Ring. If you thought this angle couldn’t get any less helpful for everyone involved, hahah, holy shit, I can’t wait to show you this.
Cass and Show wrestle the same match we’ve seen them have what, three times now? In front of a crowd I’d call tumbleweeds if tumbleweeds weren’t so fun and dynamic. Enzo spends the entire match mugging in the cage, trying to get everyone’s attention and getting people even less interested in what’s happening in the ring. His pre-match promo where he expected Brooklyn to still adore him despite the last year of televised programming was pretty rough. But then when it’s time for the finish, Enzo starts taking off his clothes, oils himself up and escapes the little shark cage. You know what that accomplishes? Him taking forever to get into the ring, where he and Show’s only option is blatant interference against the one stipulation of this match, then getting kicked in the face and immediately knocked out.
Cass easily wins, once again defeating the two guys he beats up every week, one of whom has a broken hand. The Cass singles run makes Jason Jordan look like Kenny Omega.
Best: Watch Out For His EVIL RIBBONS
I was hoping with the year absence they’d give me a version of the Demon Bálor that wasn’t just a hat full of belts and some crawling. And they did, because now he has a decorative sash and does rhythmic gymnastics with a ribbon on the way to the ring! Remember in New Japan when he was coming out of coffins, or in NXT when he had bat wings and was swinging around a chainsaw?
I’m just kidding, it’s still a great visual. I’ve got nothing but love for Ol’ Belty. As for the match …
Worst: LOL Bray Wyatt
Once again, Bray Wyatt says he’s a God who will kill you for real and then can’t win a wrestling match when it matters. If it wasn’t telegraphed enough heading into SummerSlam, they did the match and gave Wyatt a clean pin on Raw six days ago. Finn was like, “I’m gonna PAINT MYSELF,” which is hilarious wrestling code for FINN IS DEFINITELY WINNING, so Wyatt didn’t have a chance in hell and everybody knew it. The best thing we can do now is calmly move Finn into something important, and please, for the love of God, if you do nothing else, PLEASE give Bray Wyatt an angle beyond “showing up on the TitanTron to say corny shit he can’t back up.” The performer is too good for the character to be this much of a dry handy.
Best: Cesaro Hates Your Stupid Beach Balls
I don’t know if I’d call this the greatest moment in WWE history, but it’s definitely the greatest moment in WWE history. When the WWE Universe buys tickets to watch WWE live events they can boo or cheer or enjoy the show however they want or whatever, but if you bring a beach ball to a show or start a wave, Sheamus and Cesaro should be able to hop the fence and punch you in the side of the head.
Best: Fist Pals Triumphant
I mentioned it earlier, but seriously, the tag team wrestling on this show was OUTSTANDING.
I really enjoyed how juxtaposed the matches were, too. New Day vs. the Usos was on the pre-show with a lighter crowd, and while it got a great reaction, it didn’t get the nuclear response Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose were getting for doing ANYTHING. At the same time, I thought the Smackdown tag match was a little better. So it’s like a yin and yang of how wrestling works. Crowd reactions plus good work plus engaging the crowd WITH the work equals a good wrestling match.
One of the most positive things happening on WWE TV right now is the rehabilitation of Dean Ambrose, who has spent most of his post-Shield career slumming it as one of WWE’s dumbest characters. Giving him an actual, functional goal — “reuniting with an old friend I maybe shouldn’t trust because we’re great together and could win the Tag Team Championship” — beats the hell out of his feud with the Miz, in which his goal always seemed to be, “I guess I’d like the Intercontinental Championship, but I don’t really care, unless I super care, SQUIRREL.” Seth Rollins is also bringing the fire, and I wouldn’t be terribly upset if we got more than one but fewer than three more Bar vs. Fist Pals matches.
Plus, if “free agent” John Cena is heading to Raw, moving a couple of stars into the tag team division to bolster that and give them important TV time helps everybody. The tag division needs it, especially with the injuries and/or the Hardy Boys having to wrestle before Sunday service has let out, and the fewer guys who’ve been in WWE for less than a decade Cena can throw to their futile doom, the better.
Worst: Special Guest Ruiner
I’m so depressed that I don’t like any of these AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens matches. They’re all pretty good with dumb finishes, or have something cornball in them that distracts from the work they’re doing. SummerSlam got Shane McMahon, America’s most sunburned and sweat-covered man, as special guest referee. So instead of “Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles for the United States Championship,” we got SHANE MCMAHON with flashing arrows pointing at him.
The entire thing from beginning to end, angle included, felt like a way to brush off Styles and build to Owens vs. McMahon in a Hell in a Cell or whatever. The only highlight for me was Owens rightfully noticing that Shane “falls off buildings” and is fine, but as a referee can’t withstand a strong gust of wind without breaking his legs and falling into a coma. It was the worst. You build up the guy as the “referee who can take a hit,” then have him crumble at every hit? Mike Chioda wouldn’t have gotten in the way of half the shit Shane put himself in front of.
I want to like Shane, so can we like, stop building to Shane McMahon matches in 2017? It especially sucks that the GM situation involves Kurt Angle and Daniel Bryan, two of the very best pro wrestlers of this century, and Shane’s the one who’s gonna have two PPV matches this year.
Worst: What Happens When You Make Enhancement Talent Your WWE Champion
So hey, this match was a fucking bummer, huh?
What can we expect from Jinder Mahal, you know? The act is a main event level act, but Jinder’s not the kind of wrestler who can carry it. The guy has been enhancement talent his entire career. Then suddenly you make him champion. What’s he gonna do, start putting on main event-level matches? He’s never had to do that. So he’s out there wrestling house show-ass preliminary matches in the WWE Championship match on your second biggest pay-per-view of the year against one of the most popular wrestlers in the world. It’s almost unfair to everyone involved. It’d be like the Cleveland Cavaliers signing Anthony Bennett and being like, “hey, you have a great look and you work really hard, you’re LeBron James now.”
And why do Jinder Mahal matches only have one finish? They’re gonna get to that Singh Brothers distraction into a Khallas whether it makes sense or not, huh? But hey, at least we missed the opportunity to put the WWE Championship on a worldwide superstar who can have top level matches that everyone loves! That would’ve sucked, because his English isn’t great! Am I right, folks
Best: Braun Strowman, History’s Greatest Man
Braun Strowman is the only pro wrestler.
I can’t imagine being a pro wrestling fan, watching Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman do what they did to each other at SummerSlam and not losing your mind. That joint was at Defcon HOSS. You could practically see dollar bills falling out of their armpits. I was sold on the crowd reaction to their staredown and Strowman being the one guy with an answer for Lesnar’s strength and offense, and then the dude started powerslamming him through tables. AND THEN HE FLIPPED A TABLE ONTO HIM. BRAUN STROWMAN FLIPPING ABILITY PSYCHOLOGY.
It was just bonkers, balls-out fun from beginning to end, and proved that as long as your main event delivers, people are gonna have an overall favorable view of your pay-per-view. I’m serious. If any other pay-per-view this year had matches as good as this main and the two tag title matches on it, we’d be calling it a WWE show of the year candidate. Unfortunately, those three things I listed came with six hours of additional footage.
But yeah, there’s so much to like here. The Brock return, which was more unexpected than it should’ve been because of how easily the stretcher spot could’ve written him out of the finish. The teases that Brock’s going to leave for UFC, with the “hey hey hey, goodbye” chants. Strowman’s everything. Joe popping up to choke people whenever he got the chance, and tossing Brock into a spear through the barricade from Roman. Roman’s inherent awful crowd reactions, and how they hate him for doing literally anything, and how he’s spent the last month bragging about being the “one guy here who can beat Brock Lesnar” despite (1) never doing it and (2) taking the pin from Brock as the finish. Pitch-perfect Roman Reigns character work there.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Braun Strowman had a fundamental misunderstanding of what Table for Three was about.
I fully expect to see Braun take Alexa over his shoulder and climb the Empire State Building as the finish.
I’m gonna tell a story about the time I went drinkin’ with Braun Strowman. We go off lookin’ for a bar and we can’t find one. Finally, Braun takes me into a vacant lot and says, “Here we are!” Well, we sat there for a year and a half. Sure enough, someone constructed a bar around us! P. J. McGinty’s! Well, the day they opened it, we ordered a shot, drank it and then burnt the place to the ground. Braun yelled over the roar of the flames, “Always leave things the way you found them!”
Heyman selling like his rancor just died, outstanding.
Kevin Nash Booked This
Why didn’t they cut to a couple of wolfs barking into headsets during the Baron Corbin match?
Shinsuke’s entrance is Dario Cueto’s favorite: it highlights the violins in wrestling.
When SummerSlam has gone on so long that your TV goes to Automatic Power Shut Down mode.
Bray: “I got it!”
Ron Howard: “He didn’t”
30 minutes later
Enzo: ….I guess the first time I realized my dad didn’t believe in me was the 6th grade science fair.
The Real Birdman
*Unsubscribed person watches New Day v Usos*
“That was awesome, I should subscribe to the Network!”
*HBK comes out dressed as Colonel Sanders*
And that’s SummerSlam. Brock sticks around, and if there’s a God, we build to Brock vs. Braun with a title change in a straight-up, one-on-one match. Braun deserves it. The guy is like a signature mannerism and better ring gear away from being Hulk Hogan. In the good way. The title changes — all five of them — were mostly unexpected and occasionally downright strange, but at least they shook things up again. Big Match John is probably switching brands, Jinder Mahal’s one bit increasingly lacks an endgame, and tag team wrestling rules. SummerSlam was the best of what WWE does, and the worst. And it was way too long.
Hey, “best and worst and way too long” sounds like a great idea for a wrestling column!
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Hey JBL, think you could help out Shawn again? He must really need money.