Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE SummerSlam: Braun Strowman buried Brock Lesnar under an entire announcer table, Randy Orton defeated Rusev in a single GIF, and Enzo Amore was suspended above the ring in a shark cage for a Big Cass match because we still had to deal with those guys.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE SummerSlam 2018 for August 19, 2018.
Worst: Can I Return The Kickoff?
Before we get into this, I’ll make a quick note that the less said about the SummerSlam kickoff show the better. It was such a Factory of Sadness. There were three (3) roll-up finishes, the Cruiserweights were sent out to work their asses off in front of nobody for the thousandth straight time, The Revival lost to the B-Team by accident via bumbling mishaps, and Rusev and Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas — two of the best, most reliable, and most increasingly popular guys on the Smackdown roster — were not only sent out to fight on the pre-show, they were sent out at the beginning of the pre-show, where the only dudes watching were Sam Roberts, who seems like he just discovered what WWE is five minutes before he was put on TV to talk about it every single pay-per-view, and the duo of JBL and Peter Rosenberg, who side-by-side shoot looked like Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins.
Brutal, especially considering the remaining five hours of the show featured three (3) squash matches, a segment about a guy who wants to play a song but then doesn’t, and a post-match run-in from Randy Orton where he did literally nothing before leaving. Seems like we could’ve shuffled some stuff around, doesn’t it?
Best: To Defend The Intercontinental Championship Would Be To Court Seth Itself
All right, let’s get to the good stuff. SummerSlam 2018 was legit one of the strangest and most unpredictable shows of the year, for better or worse.
We started out on an extremely high note with Dolph Ziggler losing the Intercontinental Championship to ACE AGE Seth Rollins, with hulking leather daddies Dean Ambrose and Drew McIntyre watching from ringside. A major highlight for me here was Rollins showing up dressed like Thanos, which is easily his best and dorkiest look since he showed up to WrestleMania as the Night King. I especially love the Infinity Gauntlet boot, which presumably curb stomps you into dust. On an unrelated note, Seth, I don’t know where the Soul Gem is, but if you’re looking for it in the WWE Universe, I’d start with Slick.
I loved how this was put together, because they gave it 22 minutes, but kept it relatively low key and chill until about the 18 minute mark. I’ve read a lot of reviews online that chastised it for not being a “hot opener” or whatever, but I like that it earned its crowd response with good in-ring (and ringside) character work, and didn’t just coast on everyone being excited to see wrestlers they like. That happens a lot, which is why Raw will often start out really hot and be pin-drop dead for 2 1/2 hours. Rollins and Ziggler built to the excitement, which made the excitement matter. That’s why the final four minutes were nuclear hot, and by the time Drew Mac was tossing around Jeans and Rollins was countering superkicks with superkicks, we were all roaring and counting along with the pin. It wasn’t the best match on the show — it might’ve even been the third best match of the night — but it was smartly put together and, aside from his lifelong quest to never sell a knee, Seth Rollins continues to be the most on-point Superstar they’ve got.
One thing you know I had to type, though… you know how mad I get every time Rollins does a goddamn superplex and then floats over, deadlifts his opponent, and Falcon Arrows them, and it never gets the pin? You know how a stomp to the back of the head, however, somehow always does and how hard it is for me to reconcile what I know with what I’m seeing? Here’s Rollins getting a two-count on an inverted superplex into an inverted Falcon Arrow. AND GETTING TWO:
That’s absolutely incredible, like RKO at WrestleMania 31 incredible even, but JESUS CHRIST, GUYS.
Let’s just hope Charlotte doesn’t do any crazy moonsaults and completely whiff on them and at best maybe graze somebody’s arm on the way down so I don’t sit here complaining about the same things I always complain about!
… son of a –
Charlotte Flair is an incredible athlete, yes, and she’s had some of the best women’s matches in the history of the promotion, so let’s be clear that my ongoing shade to this move is specifically for this move. Someone pointed out to me recently that she moonsaults like this presumably because she’s doing less of a “wrestling move” and more of a gymnastics tumble, and she can’t properly land the tumble if somebody gets in her way, so she has to just tumble between people and ask them to fall down around it. Look at poor Becky Lynch in that GIF. Why is she bumping for that? Charlotte didn’t even touch her outstretched fingers. But shout-out to Carmella for putting herself more in the way of that than anyone I’ve seen in like six months.
Best, Though: The Pink Ladies Pledge To Act Cool, To Look Cool, And To Beeeee Cool
Real quick, a supplemental Best for Carmella just in general. Flair generally rules, but she seemed pretty off here, and yet Carmella — the “diva living in a women’s era” who is supposed to be the one who never tries and doesn’t know how to work — was in there on her horse, sprinting around and diving (well!) and hitting her spots. I mean, mostly. It was the best Carmella performance I’ve ever seen, and a sign that she gets it more than we’re usually allowed to see because she’s been one of two concurrent Honky Tonk Man champions in WWE’s women’s divisions. I think she’s actually better at the in-ring stuff than Alexa Bliss, but Bliss seems to have more ring awareness, if that makes sense. I’d like to see what would happen if Carmella was put into a series of challenging, physical matches and asked to continually rise to the level of her opponents, instead of the booking seeming to symbiotically wrap her in “turd in the wind”-level bullshit all the time.
Best, With A Little Worst: Becky Lynch Turns Heel, Becomes Twice As Beloved
Or, “YOU AIN’T SHIT, CHARLOTTE.”
Remember when Bayley finally snapped on Sasha Banks, beat her down, tossed her into the railing a few times and WWE thought we’d be worried about their friendship instead of cheering for her wildly? They did that again at SummerSlam. Before the match and throughout, the crowd was nearly 100 percent behind Becky Lynch. I think everybody with clear eyes and full hearts were. She earned the title shot, she deserved the title shot. Then Lady Charlotte of House Reigns showed up and just kinda reputation’d her way into ALSO a title shot, stealing the thunder from her friend. The match happens, and Charlotte not only wins, but wins by sneak-attacking Becky with a Natural Selection when she had Carmella dead to rights in her armbar and was about to become champion. What Charlotte did was totally fair and on the level, but it was also kind of a dick move. A totally justifiable, understandable dick move, but a dick move nonetheless, in front of a crowd that DESPERATELY wanted Becky to win.
So when the match is over, Becky and Charlotte do the contractually obligated women’s revolution hug and cry, and the crowd starts BOOING. Because it feels like Charlotte’s just going to get a golf clap for opportunistically waltzing her way into a seventh championship run at the expense of her “best friend.” Then, in a moment of pure magic and horrible WWE booking, Becky slaps the goddamn taste out of Charlotte’s mouth and the building EXPLODES. Like, maybe the biggest pop of the entire weekend, followed by YES and BECKY LYNCH chants. Becky beats her down, and the crowd chants, YOU DESERVE IT. The announce team tries to play it off like it was a heel turn, Charlotte sits on the floor wiping away tears trying to sell an unexpected betrayal, and everyone watching in the crowd and at home is like, “actually tho.”
The best news here is that we’re going to (hopefully) get a one-on-one Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch Smackdown Women’s Championship match with a real grudge and some real emotions behind it, which we probably should’ve just done in the first place. Don’t know if that’ll happen at Hell in a Cell or if they’ll save it for Evolution, but I’m into it, even if we’ve gotta come back around to them being friends in time for Shayna Baszler and Jessamyn Duke to take them to the fucking woodshed at Survivor Series.
For further, more in-depth analysis:
Worst: Oh No, It’s The Bella Twins
The Bella Twins show up in a minute-long backstage interview and still manage to (1) take credit for “being part of the women’s evolution since the beginning,” which, again, they weren’t, the women’s evolution was almost directly created in opposition to them and everything the cast of Total Divas were doing to women’s wrestling, and (2) announce that they’re too busy to return to WWE because they’re “really focused on their YouTube channel.” Nothing says “women’s revolution in wrestling” like being too busy with your clothing line and reality shows to be women’s wrestlers, while there’s literally a tournament going on featuring like 30+ women who have been grinding for years and would give anything for a chance to prove themselves. ESPECIALLY when Nikki or Brie or possibly both are going to decide later they actually do want to be at Evolution, and end up in advertised, marquee matches, and possibly in the main event for a championship. To set up more footage and angles for their reality shows. They’re like The Miz if he was actually The Miz and not playing a character.
And speaking of not getting opportunities, Asuka, Ember Moon, Nia Jax, the IIconics and tons of other wrestlers couldn’t make it onto the seven-hour SummerSlam show, but the Bellas get a backstage interview, get a follow-up where Brie Bella can’t convincingly talk to her husband like a human being, have the B-Team comedically reference them in a third segment, and then jump in the ring after the Raw Women’s Championship match to celebrate with Ronda Rousey and Natalya, who have actually been participating in shows and stories for the past couple of months.
If we’re doing the Four Horsewomen vs. the Four Horsewomen at Survivor Series, can we do Ronda and Shayna vs. the Bellas in a shoot fight at Evolution? Hell, let’s make it a Bob Wire match.
Best: Daniel Bryan Vs. The Miz, Act 1 (Of Many)
I think everyone (including most of us in our predictions post) assumed The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam, Eight Years In The Making™, wouldn’t be the payoff or the end of their feud. Many of us hoped this would just be act one, and that it would set into motion a series of events to keep them feuding through the autumn, into the Royal Rumble, and (best case scenario) into the main event of WrestleMania 35 with the WWE Championship on the line. Wishful thinking, yeah, but we’re thinking it.
The good news is that that’s exactly what we got, as Bryan and Miz continue to come about as close as the main roster can come to a Ciampa vs. Gargano rivalry. It honestly felt like a match that could’ve happened in the middle of a late-80s NWA Starrcade, like Miz was Ric Flair Classic and Daniel Bryan was Barry Windham. They didn’t do much beside trading basic holds and strikes and working the crowd, but they got 23 engaging minutes to do it, and Miz in particularly was GRAND in his awfulness. Even the finish was straight out of Starrcade, with Miz’s doting wife handing him a pair of brass knuckles so he could knock Bryan out without the referee seeing and steal the pin to the delight of no one.
I’m not kidding with the Ciampa/Gargano stuff, either. These guys put so much character and history into the match that you don’t even have to be an obsessive nerd to pick up on it. Bryan has been accusing Miz of working a “soft” style (spelled properly) and needing to take shortcuts to win his matches. How does Miz end up beating Bryan? By taking a soft-ass shortcut to win the match. Miz has been accusing Bryan of endangering himself with his reckless style, and not thinking before he puts his body on the line. How does the finish go down? With Bryan going for a wild dive through the ropes, not paying attention to what’s actually happening in front of him, and getting popped in the brow with knucks.
And how gloriously, thematically appropriate is it that Bryan’s been saying for YEARS that all he wants to do is “punch Miz in the face,” only to lose his first match with the Miz via a punch in the face? Brilliant, brilliant stuff, and I’m glad to have these guys back in the ring together now that Miz is so good at the wrestling parts of wrestling.
Worst: Two Disqualification Finishes In Championship Matches On The Same Show
… or …
Best: The First One Was Purposeful, At Least, And The Second One Was AMAZING
When WWE builds a 13-match card and only ever really uses five or six finishes for their matches, you’re gonna get some repeat offenders. That’s why the pre-show had three straight roll-up finishes, why they ended up with three squashes on the main card, and why two of the championship matches ended in disqualification.
The first one was New Day vs. The Bludgies for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship, which continues New Day’s attempt to win a humanitarian award for their work in the field of tag team wrestling. While it was still a distant star away from hot shit, this was almost definitely the best Harper and Rowan tag team match I’ve seen since they became woodland Hammer Brothers, for two big reasons: (1) it was an actual match that lasted nearly 10 minutes, instead of the poor Usos getting fed to the Filler Elite Squad in three, and (2) the Bludgeon Brothers were actually forced to have some character and do something with reason for the first time ever. They get a little shook by their inability to put away New Day in short order, so Rowan attacks them with his hammer. The Bludgeon Brothers are actually bludgeoning! It’s a SummerSlam miracle!
Then we’ve got our WWE Championship match, which combines the in-ring wizardry of AJ Styles and Samoa Joe, with a tense, gripping, and realistic family narrative about how Joe’s gonna do AJ’s wife and adopt one of his several children.
I’m kidding, but also that’s completely true, and really great. This is by far the best AJ Styles match I’ve seen in a hot minute and far and away the best match of the night, because let’s be real: Samoa Joe and AJ Styles could have a blindfold match with their arms tied behind their backs and just instinctively put on a three-plus-star match. Plus, not only is Joe’s ASMR sexual harassment so over the top that it’s less “problematic” and more “OH NO HE DIDN’T,” but it actually gives Styles some personal motivations behind defending the championship, saying he wants to keep defending the championship, and ending all of his championship matches in the stupidest ways possible. I mean, this one ends when Joe randomly decides to get on the microphone and threaten a child, causing Styles to fly into an unhinged rage and attack him with a chair for a disqualification, but it’s constructive and makes sense and is exciting, as opposed to, say, Styles getting counted out because he got his leg stuck in the announcer’s table, or Shane McMahon running in and baby-jabbing everybody.
This was so good that it gave me the opposite reaction of all those Styles/Nakamura matches — I want to see another one, and I’m already on board with a Hell in a Cell match where Joe brings the condescending fire and sassy brimstone and beats Styles down flatter than the planet we live on.
Best: When You Realize You Married AJ Styles When You Could’ve Been Hooking Up With Samoa Joe
Even Erick Rowan back there can’t believe it.
Worst: This Elias Segment
Did Bobby Lashley get stuck in traffic or fail a drug test or something? Did Elias just start a feud with himself? Why in the hell was this even on the show? They could’ve had us sit in darkness and silence for five minutes and it would’ve done the same thing.
Worst: WWE Wants To Literally Kill The Hardy Boys
Guys, I know apron spots are the hot thing right now — sorry, Tower of Doom spots! — but there’s no reason this poor guy in his forties who reportedly stopped doing the Swanton Bomb at live events because doing it for 24 years has turned his insides to mush should be doing Swanton Bombs from the top rope to the apron. ESPECIALLY not when his brother might be forced into retirement due to years of dropping bow-legged leg drops and fusing his pelvis and spine, turning him into a life-size LJN action figure.
Hilarious Worst: Randy Orton’s Breathtaking Run-In
h/t to the homie Dave Lagana for making me laugh out loud at that comparison last night.
The Night’s Three Jobber Squashes, Ranked Form Worst To Best
Number one with a bullet for worst use of talent at SummerSlam goes to Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens, which was built up by weeks and weeks of Kevin Owens looking like a cowardly chump who can’t stop getting his ass kicked by Braun Strowman. They even gave this a ridiculous heel-friendly stipulation of, “If Braun Strowman loses the match IN ANY WAY, Kevin Owens gets his Money in the Bank briefcase.” So how do they pay that off? With Owens getting completely murdered in less than two minutes and Strowman winning easily and cleanly.
It’s like… yeah, OK, Braun Strowman is great and should be massacring dudes on the reg, but why even have this match? It’s like WWE accidentally put together a 13-match card when they meant to book an eight-match show and were like, “shoot, how do we do like five of these matches without anything actually happening?” Poor Kevin Owens. Poor, poor Kevin Owens.
The feeling in the arena was that they needed the match to happen here and for Braun to look this strong because they wanted to remind us that he’s super powerful and has the Money in the Bank briefcase to get us excited about a potential cash-in on Brock Lesnar or Roman Reigns. Strowman fulfilled that by showing up before the main event like a total hero and declaring his intention to challenge the winner, because he challenges people face-to-face and doesn’t have to resort to sneak attacks like lame heels. Or, uh, the War Raiders. So what happens? Lesnar casually beats him down during the match and tosses his briefcase away, and Braun just disappears in shame.
Somewhere between good and bad for me was Ronda Rousey squashing Alexa Bliss. On the positive side, Ronda showed up looking like the Black Swan on her first day of work at Lululemon, which was great. Oh, and the lady who does armbars for a living has no better opponent than someone who’s double-jointed. It makes a lot of sense to just go ahead and put the title on Ronda, because she’s a multimedia superstar with a lot of passion for pro wrestling who will bring a lot of casual eyes to the product heading into your first all-women’s pay-per-view.
On the negative side:
- To quote our own Elle Collins, “Thank god Lesnar’s gone, so we no longer have to put up with an MMA jerk with weird politics who doesn’t wrestle nearly often enough holding a belt hostage… oh.”
- What, are we supposed to be excited to see Alexa Bliss face Trish Stratus at Evolution after watching her get beat down like the world’s worst wrestler and beg for her life for five minutes? What does this match against a rookie who murdered her say about the past couple of years of Bliss dominating the division as champion? Is everyone but Ronda supposed to be terrible?
The best squash of the night, and maybe my favorite thing on the entire show due to it being such an unexpected treat, was Finn Bálor waking the hell up, bringing the Demon King back to WWE TV without warning, and absolutely WRECKING “Hi Welcome To Chili’s” Constable Corbin. I think everyone predicted a boring Monday Night Raw kind of thing that smiley-ass Finn might win, but whoops, WHOOPSIE, here he is as the Demon with a new Demon look and everything, not falling into the stencil he seemed to be using for a while — hitting everything with power and intensity and emotion and URGENCY. FANTASTIC. Please, please stay good now, Finn. We need the schizophrenic gang leader back, not the child pageant star whose most notable feud this year has been against a guy dressed like he’s about to seat you at Olive Garden.
Best: The Roman Reigns Era Has Begun
Roman Reigns pinned Brock Lesnar and finally became Universal Champion and that’s great so now Raw’s most important championship gets to be on Raw and let’s all agree to move the f*ck on with our lives.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
The Real Birdman
Nikki Bella syphoning off cheers from the success of others. Her ex-boyfriend must be proud
HOLLY HOLM IS CASHING IN HER MONEY IN THE….sorry, fantasy booking.
Nak: “Hey Jeff, nice facepaint.”
Jeff: “I’m wearing facepaint?”
Beige Lunatics, King of String Style
BARON CORBIN: Man, losing a 30-second squash feels terrible. I owe an apology to all those NXT guys from 2015.
Damn, Bryan’s concussions are back, he thinks that wooden cutout is real.
Typical of a company run by a Republican….demonizing a representative of the LGBTQ+ community
Flair didn’t just give Miz the figure 4, he gave him Charles Robinson.
“OK baby, on my signal, you throw the fake baby”
“Mike, this is our Monroe. This is our actual child.”
“It’s fine, she’ll do.”
Total B-vas was right there, you nitwits
Even a singing segment gets a non-finish.
Before I wrap things up, one final Best to Natalya for making it to the show last night and wearing her dad’s jacket from SummerSlam 1990. It was an understated, simple, human moment on a show featuring baby mama drama, sledgehammer attacks, betrayals of friendships, and Irish ballerina demons with belt hats putting the fear of God into a chain restaurant’s most up-his-own-ass server.
That’s it for the Best and Worst of SummerSlam, folks. It was a crazy show, and like I said, for better or worse it gave us something entertaining and unusual to talk about. Time for me to lie facedown in the floor and not move for the next 12-24 hours. Thanks for reading. Make sure you drop us a comment below, share the column on social media to keep us in the business of wrestling jokes, and be here throughout the week for all the fallout from the show.
♫ it’s just a, sweeeeet sen-say-shownnnnn ♫