Previously on the Best and Worst of SummerSlam: Roman Reigns won the Universal Championship from Brock Lesnar, Finn Bálor broke out The Demon just to beat up Constable Corbin, and Becky Lynch finally got tired of playing second fiddle and threw hands at Charlotte Flair. One of those things ended well!
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE SummerSlam 2019, originally aired on August 11, 2019.
Kick Off, With Me Oh Yeah, Kick Off, With Me Tonight
Two-hour Kickoff Shows are a strange beast. If there’s anything WWE needs to get better at in the near future from a production standpoint, it’s time management. They can run a one-hour show, fill it with great matches, and still have time for promo packages, backstage interviews, vignettes, and moments of character development; but they run a 3-hour show and the matches are all 90 seconds long so they can do 20 minute promos about nothing and air 45 pizza, fried chicken, and Cricket Wireless commercials. It’s a George Lucas thing. When he’s got no money and nothing but troubles, he makes essential art. When he’s a billionaire who can do whatever he wants, he sits in a chair drinking coffee and farts out the Phantom Menace.
So on a two-hour Kickoff Show, the matches that get shuffled down to the pre-show should get more time to do whatever it is they want to do. You get something like Drew Gulak vs. Oney Lorcan for the Cruiserweight Championship, and you get hype … but then you can’t run it too early, because you don’t want to run it in front of an empty building, so you run an hour of promo videos and SummerSlam commercials first. Then, as soon as the match starts, you throw it to another SummerSlam commercial and don’t even show the whole thing. EVEN THOUGH YOU JUST WATCHED AN HOUR OF THEM, and honestly, how many people are watching a SummerSlam pre-show on a live streaming YouTube channel and are still on the fence about tuning in to SummerSlam? Who is like, “I really want to see if they run an Apollo Crews vs. Buddy Murphy match, but fuck Brock Lesnar and AJ Styles and literally anything that matters or has consequences on WWE TV?” It’s gotta be pretty small.
And then you can’t even let the match have a lot of time, because you’ve added two extra unannounced matches and an Elias performance interruption segment. And since you started the first match late, you’ve got to cram everything into the last hour, which means nothing gets to really go anywhere or accomplish anything. That leaves us with Oney and Drew having a good match, but with a screwy finish, and for only about half as long as they’d get on a better episode of 205 Live.
So yeah, this was fine, but goddamn did it deserve a bigger spotlight and a larger chunk of pre-show time. But I guess we’ve gotta give Booker T five full minutes to stammer through a match prediction for a story you can tell he hasn’t been following. Unless Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins is supposed to remind us of a, “great romance novel.”
It’s good to see Edge with long hair again, and it makes me happy that he’s healthy enough to kill Elias with his signature Running Hug.
At the same time, it’s another in an endless string of segments where a current WWE Superstar stooges for a guy he’s never going to get to wrestle, like when Cena humiliated him at two straight WrestleManias, or The Rock showed up to emasculate Rusev, or when D-X and the nWo scare away the Good Brothers or beat up the Revival for fun. Just once I want to see someone get interrupted in a promo by Hulk Hogan or Steve Austin or whoever and just kick the ever-loving shit out of them for doing it. These current stars still have to come to work next week, you know.
Like Gulak vs. little bully Busick, Buddy Murphy vs. Apollo Crews is pretty good until the abrupt finish. Instead of a cheap shot into a finisher, this is a continuation of the Roman Reigns Murder Mystery from Raw and the past couple of Smackdowns.
In case you haven’t been following along, someone improperly drove a forklift into some production equipment and ruined Roman’s main event interview time, but didn’t really hurt him. Then, someone slowly drove a car into his rental car in the parking lot, and also didn’t really hurt him. So he got to the bottom of it via torture a la Netflix’s Daredevil and got Buddy Murphy to implicate Rowan. In response to this, Rowan shows up and beats up Murphy for snitching. Roman Reigns, who has incensed enough to basically threaten to kill a man in the Smackdown locker room over it, didn’t show up to SummerSlam where the guy who tried to murder him would definitely be, because reasons? I guess Roman Reigns has a hard Dennis Stamp-style “I’m not going to the show if I’m not booked” rule. I don’t know, but that’s where we’re at.
So now Murphy’s looked like a goober getting tossed around by Roman, and like a chump getting brutalized by Rowan. Up next, he’ll get a Faramir gimmick so he can get humiliated by Rohan.
Finally we have a Women’s Tag Team Championship match, which is enjoyable for a few reasons:
- it’s a Women’s Tag Team Championship match that’s actually on pay-per-view, so maybe Alexa Bliss will finally be important enough to WWE to force them to start paying attention to the division and remembering it exists
- Bliss’ Buzz Lightyear cosplay was cute, even if Nikki Cross didn’t commit to dressing like a cowboy and Corey Graves would not stop angrily screaming about it
- the IIconics made SummerSlam, technically, and got to be delightful in the first actual wrestling match I think they’ve had since before WrestleMania
Their teamwork is just off the charts:
It’s still too short, though. They should’ve run Murphy vs. Crews (since it was unannounced and for nothing) at like 5:30, run the Women’s Tag Team Championship match from about 6 to 6:15, and then let Gulak and Lorcan stretch and stiff each other to death from about 6:30 to 6:45. Even with Edge and Elias between the championship matches, you’d still have at least an hour to show us video packages you’re gonna replay on the pay-per-view anyway.
Best: And Now, A Kind Word About Natalya
Let me drop my characteristic pessimism and pragmatic complaining for a second to admit that the submission match between Becky Lynch and Natalya was probably the best Natalya match ever. The Charlotte Flair vs. Trish Stratus match was probably the best Trish match ever, too, so SummerSlam 2019 was a great night for Divas Era women we’re supposed to think are the best in the business in 2008.
There were some iffy calls made here, like having a submission match without rope breaks — they’re a pretty important part of the whole vibe, as you’re still supposed to adhere to the rules of professional wrestling, you just have to win by submission — and that random threat of a disqualification the ref was throwing out, but it ended up making sense in context. The absence of rope breaks gave us some creative spots, like the Sharpshooter on the second rope and Lynch having to escape it by hanging halfway out of the ring. The finisher stealing and trading was pretty predictable, too, but again, it worked in context. I think whoever agented this deciding they should just wrestle the shit out of each other for 12 minutes and not do anything goofy during or after the finish really did it a favor.
So yeah, it was good. Like I said, the best Natalya match ever, and probably the best match Lynch has had so far as Raw Women’s Champion. Although when you exclusively wrestle Lacey Evans for three months, that’s not a high bar to clear. Hasn’t it been nice since Evans and Corbin fell into the Springfield Mystery Spot and disappeared forever?
(oh no, did I jinx it)
Best: Old Goldberg Hates Fake Shawn Michaels
This time around, Goldberg’s match was exactly what it should’ve been.
In the past, we’ve either gotten a Goldberg in his 50s winning the Universal Championship and pinning Brock Lesnar and Kevin Owens in a matter of seconds when he absolutely should not have, or we’ve gotten him trying to go 10 minutes in Saudi Arabia with a concussion and nearly killing the also-in-his-50s Undertaker. Neither of those really vibes with … you know, watching wrestling shows in this decade.
Here, they had Goldberg do what he does best — no-selling a couple of moves before hitting a spear and a Jackhammer and getting hype about it — against a guy who (1) can sell the hell out of ANYTHING and make it look like a million ridiculous dollars, and who (2) nobody really cares bout. It was a perfect set-up and apology for Super Showdown. If you like Goldberg, this is what you wanted to see. The spears looked great, and he got in and out. He wasn’t even bleeding from his forehead this time. Great job, everybody.
Plus, shout-out to Ziggler for bringing back the Gary Jackson sell of the Razor’s Edge for that first spear. The second spear looked the most impactful but kinda took Dolph’s sell to the ground with it, and the third was the full Dwayne Johnson. Dolph’s exclusive role in the company should be, “guy who makes your finish look stupid powerful.” Additionally, he should be a mute.
Best/Worst: Canada Hates Bayley
What in the world did Bayley do to Toronto to deserve being treated like 1997 Shawn Michaels in Montreal? I know that Bayley’s character’s been pretty crummy for a while now, the match didn’t have any heat, and the build had been pretty terrible — they didn’t even get a video package — but they were straight up booing her out of the building for the first half of the match.
It’s a shame, too, because they were working hard and put on a pretty solid match. Ember Moon was seriously working her ass off in there and looked great. I hope they come around to realizing they’ve been neglecting the women’s divisions post-Ronda Rousey and remember to give them character motivations and development, because people like Bayley and Ember are too good at this to get left behind. Although I guess that could be said about the tag team divisions, or the cruiserweights whenever their ropes aren’t purple, or any number of things.
Still, look at Bayley murder Ember Moon in cold blood with this belly-to-belly off the top and tell me they weren’t giving it all they had:
Worst: New Day Meets Drake
Between this and Ric Flair dancing with the Street Profits, it was a banner night for what 73-year old white billionaires probably think is funny. I will only accept this joke if they re-do it by having The O.C. (or whoever) go to Dallas expecting to meet Dirk Nowitzki and run into the wrong Maverick.
Worst: Ricochet’s Gear
Bro. Who told Ricochet this was a good idea? I know he’s supposed to be cosplaying Nightwing or whatever, but he straight up looks like a gamer chair. He looks like he’s wearing what Joel Schumacher would’ve put Chris O’Donnell in if they’d done another Batman Whatever. It looks like the pajamas a super hero would wear in one of those late-90s early-2000s movies where a Hollywood executive has decided super hero costumes are embarrassing if they’re comic accurate, so everybody dresses like a motocross leather-daddy. Dude looks like the floor mat of a shitty sports car driven by a guy who loves blueberry energy drinks.
Best: The Actual Match
Styles vs. Ricochet was pretty good, but it still feels like they’re refusing to get out of second gear. This is AJ Styles and Ricochet, you know? If Natalya’s bringing innovation to her matches on pay-per-view, why are Styles and Ricochet holding back? It’s good, but not great, and I feel like maybe I need to accept that WWE and AJ Styles sat down at some point and decided the idea of great matches is more important than actually having them. I always feel like I’m being way too critical of Styles championship WWE pay-per-view matches, and I know I shouldn’t be. I should just like them for what they are. Those Nakamura matches really dulled their colors. It’s still a Best.
The finish here is probably breathtaking and unforgettable if you’ve never seen it before, as it’s an AJ Styles classic: the Phoenix Splash from the top rope countered into the Styles Clash, which is still a pretty inhuman thing to be able to pull off with regularity.
He did it with Low Ki back in the day, because Low Ki weighs about 35 pounds, and broke it out again (more famously) against Kota Ibushi in New Japan. Maybe Ricochet was dressed like an independent baseball league catcher’s chest pads so Styles could get a good grip on him. Anyway, compare and contrast!
Fun note: That bit with Ricochet walking on the shoulders of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson to headscissors Styles on the floor was a Jody Fleisch spot from 20 years ago Michinoku Pro, but I assume a lot more people watch NJPW than worn out tape-traded VHS.
Secondary fun note: The O.C. (don’t call them that) beats up Ricochet after the match, because I guess Ricochet doesn’t have any friends. Aleister Black won’t jog out there to help him because nobody specifically asked him to.
Speaking Of Not Having Any Friends
Finn really should’ve let these guys help him, huh?
Best: Fienders Keepers
I think we expected The Fiend to have a pretty cool vibe heading into his vacation-friendly mauling of Finn Bálor at SummerSlam, but I don’t think any of us expected a baller new remixed entrance theme and Bray Wyatt carrying a lantern made out of his old head. That visual is JARRING. The whole thing is legitimately creepy and like something out of a movie, which is brilliant and lucky, as the line between THE FIEND and a wacky wrestling clown is thinner than you’d think.
Finn really summed it up best, I think:
The match was short, to-the-point, and didn’t wear out its welcome.
It was the decisive, dominant win Bray needed to ensure that the character has gravitas. If he’d built up all this fear and ominous foreboding with a cool entrance only to get in there and take a dumb, competitive, 50/50 loss it would’ve flushed the whole thing down the toilet. If anything, I think Bray should either only compete on pay-per-view going forward — infrequently, even — or wrestle as his Firefly Funhouse persona when he’s on Raw or Smackdown. Save The Fiend for big matches and important situations, so we don’t get burned out on it. Let it be his Murder Death Kill mode.
Although while we’re on that subject, maybe don’t keep the “Giant trying to end Hulkamania” neck snap in dude’s moveset, unless you want him accidentally actually snapping some guy’s neck on Raw and murdering him for real. He’s a wrestling character, not Superman at the end of a Zack Snyder movie. It’s especially dumb if you’re gonna have a guy get his neck snapped in the middle of a match and then fire up for a comeback, instead of immediately being gurney’d out and rushed to a Local Medical Facility.
Worst: The Two Low Points Of The Show
I really enjoyed SummerSlam a lot more than I was expecting to, but there were two major low points for me.
The first was Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon. I’m done with Shane McMahon. I can’t even bring myself to make jokes about how he looks like a gas station hot dog became a man and developed an opinion on the capital gains tax. He’s just horrible and a complete drag on the show, and even his crowd pleasing match with Owens had to involve multiple ref bumps and an evil general manager character (facing absolutely zero consequences, as admitted and acknowledged on Smackdown by both parties) adding an “enforcer” at ringside.
The match was barely a match, and it didn’t even make sense. If Owens attacks Elias, he can get disqualified. Unless he visibly attacks Elias in a way that knocks down both Elias and the referee. That’s fine, I guess? And when the referee is down, he can destroy Elias with a steel chair, which is also fine. The referee then just recovers and helps him do the bit from the end of the first fall of Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano at TakeOver, move for move. He acts like he’s going to use a chair, the referee takes it away from him, and he uses the distraction to kick his opponent in the balls.
The crowd liked it, which is good. Owens getting one up on McMahon is also good, even if Shane made it clear that he barely cares, didn’t want to put anything on the line, and would just reverse himself out of peril if he had. Owens wins, but in a way where McMahon can still brush it off and say he didn’t actually win, and what, are we continuing the feud into Hell in a Cell? Can we not? Can we seriously, seriously not?
The other low point was the WWE Championship match, which was supposed to be a “banger” (via Kofi Kingston himself) but ended up being every lackluster Randy Orton championship match ever. Except maybe the ones against Christian.
It was slower and more lethargic than it needed to be, and decided to do the exact same finish as the WWE Championship match from last year with Samoa Joe and AJ Styles. Orton “harasses” Kingston’s family, Kingston flips out on him and beats him up, and the ref throws the match out. Only that story had Joe actually stalking and bothering and harassing Styles’ family. Here, what, Orton looked at them too aggressively? He didn’t really do anything to them, and Kofi’s rage didn’t really seem to come from anywhere. Plus, it bothers me that we have to go to the “you talked about my FAMILY” well for a feud that already had a 10-year old, compelling story involving actual business and competition. I’d rather see the ending to Kofi’s 10-year quest for interpersonal redemption in a company he currently represents than the beginning of another “Randy Orton made snake faces at my kid” goof.
Super disappointing. This should’ve had grit and pathos, and been great. The only part of it I enjoyed is when Kofi went to the top rope and was about to jump off face-first into Orton’s arms and the entire growd gasped at once, like, OH MY GOD KOFI DON’T JUMP DIRECTLY INTO THE GODDAMN RKO, I’M IN THE BACK ROW OF THE UPPER DECK AND I CAN SEE THAT SHIT COMING.
Best: A Battle Of A Trish’n
As mentioned earlier, I thought the Charlotte Flair vs. Trish Stratus match over-delivered. Trish’s whole thing wasn’t that she was the best wrestler in the world or anything, it was just that she was a sponge for knowledge, and developed (via mass effort) faster than anyone we’d seen outside of like, Kurt Angle. But even Angle sorta came out of the box as a top-level performer. Trish started off HORRIBLY, like Jackie Gayda horrible, and worked at it until she was who we associate an entire generation of performers with.
Putting her in the ring with Charlotte was a great idea, because there’s nobody in the company with a better idea of how to keep a big match together in the women’s division like Charlotte. She’s in all those top level spots for a reason, and it’s not all because of her name. She’s extremely good at this, good-to-great at every aspect of pro wrestling aside from connecting on moonsaults and maybe promos, but she can even elevate and nail those sometimes. It was the match I think Trish and the rest of us wanted it to be: a reminder that Stratus really did put so much effort into pro wrestling that it helped WWE at least momentarily reconsider the importance of women’s wrestling in its company, and that she was probably born a generation too early. If she’d been around 10 years later, she probably would’ve been in that batch of NXT performers who show up one way and end up “getting it” enough to run the game.
I also appreciate that, you know, she lost. It was good business. She got probably the best match of her career long after it was over, Dustin Rhodes-style (although not quite to THAT degree), and got to show her family and hometown that she always had it, and never forgot it. Really good stuff.
Best: Beastmaster II
Surprise! Brock Lesnar is still the most reliable big match performer in WWE. If he didn’t hold the top championship hostage for so long and develop a reputation for “not wanting to do business” or whatever, we’d probably deify him. I know that’s an unpopular opinion even in my own little echo chamber, but it’s true. The guy knows how to make everything he does feel like the most brutal and important and dangerous shit you’ve ever seen.
I haven’t spoken positively about Rollins for a bit — intergender wrestling isn’t any less realistic than you beating up Brock Lesnar in a fight, guy, and nobody cares how much money you make, we just wanna see you be cool and have good matches — but he really brought it here. He also took a giant swing via rib tape, which I imagine is what Diamond Dallas Page sees when he has nightmares:
It was mostly a re-do of WrestleMania for some reason with that weird tangent at Extreme Rules, but it is what it is. Rollins left everything he possibly had in and around the ring, hit a gorgeous frog splash from the post to the table, and made everything count. Also, probably most importantly: he beat Lesnar without getting the jump on him or punching him in the balls over and over. The Beast is truly slain this time, and SummerSlam becomes one of those rare modern WWE shows where the main event ends up being the best match on the card. At least for me.
Now let’s bring Brock back for a few big matches every year, but never, ever give him another Universal Championship match. Raw needs a championship belt at the top of its card more than we need confirmation that the nigh-unstoppable guy who rarely loses wrestling matches can win a wrestling match.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Becky Lynch: (wiping a tear) “that’s my girl….”
Finn: Bray, no, your fingers have too many calories, Noooooo! My weakness
He’s so evil that snapping your neck is only a transitional move!
My friend’s son asked how RTruth got the title back, I told him he threw a baby at his opponent. Kid answered, “Must’ve learned that from hanging out with Miz”. I do have to get this kid an uproxx account ASAP.
No-selling superkicks? Goldberg’s getting tuned up for AEW.
Well, it makes sense that Fiend is an evolved version of Mankind.
Mankind was supposed to represent the evils of mankind in 1990s.
Obviously, in 2010s mankind got worse.
I demand a Demon puppet on the next Firefly Funhouse
The Real Birdman
“Come on Nikki!”
Oh no. I just got Bella PTSD flashbacks
Ace Trucking Co.
Dolph “These old superstars keep wanting to relive 20 years ago, unlike me, who wants to relive 7 years ago.”
That’s it for the Best and Worst of a very good SummerSlam. For any and all other SummerSlam related news, make sure you’re following along with the SummerSlam tag page. Lots of good stuff in there.
Thanks for reading, as always. Drop a comment, share us on social, and make sure you’re here on Monday and Tuesday night for all the fallout. Lesnar’s going to be champion again, randomly, Luke Harper will be revealed as the guy who actually attacked Roman Reigns, and Bray Wyatt’s gonna get pinned via roll-up in a tag team match! Oh no, see you then!