With Summerslam looming on the horizon, WWE had little time left to put the final pieces together for a card which is, thus far, a little underwhelming for a PPV of this magnitude. The blue brand looked to remedy that this past Tuesday night on its go-home show before Sunday’s massive event. Would the intensity be ramped up on existing feuds? Would there be any last-minute additions to the card? And would Roman Reigns and the WWE Universe finally discover who his tormentor has been these past couple of weeks?
The Queen kicks off Smackdown
Charlotte Flair made her way to the squared circle and looked to remind everyone that she was the standard bearer of the women’s division. She highlighted this with a video package of her triumphs. This footage was hijacked by a showreel of her Summerslam opponent, Hall of Famer Trish Stratus. To compound the Queen’s anger, Stratus’ music hit and she faced up to Flair, reminding her that she paved the way for today’s generation. After some goading from Charlotte, Trish ending the segment with a slap across the face of the nine time champ.
These two superstars are undoubtedly towards the top of the list when talking about the most influential women in WWE history, and their encounter on Sunday is rightly being dubbed a ‘dream match’. However, there seems to be very little chemistry between the two icons, and the crowd was completely flat for the whole segment, until Stratus slapped Flair, which doesn’t bode well for Sunday. The intensity is not there, and there are also question marks over Stratus will be able to hang with Flair on Sunday, which have been intensified through the lack of physicality between the two in recent weeks (Stratus didn’t see any action in the tag match last week). Seeing the two go nose-to-nose at Summerslam will be a sight to behold, and they may upset the odds and produce a classic worthy of their pedigrees, but this go-home segment didn’t produce.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Rey Mysterio
It was announced on Raw last night that Ziggler was ‘next’ on Goldbergs’s list, in what is likely to be a glorified squash match on Sunday. In preparation, The Showoff prepared to square off against another legend in Mysterio. Goldberg’s music hit as the WWE Universe went nuts. Instead it was the antagonistic Ziggler who appeared, immediately laying waste to The Master of the 619, before the bell could even ring. As the medical team tended to Rey, Ali appeared for an impromptu match with Ziggler.
Ali vs. Dolph Ziggler
Ali controlled the early portion of the match, attacking Ziggler and looking to avenge his brutal beatdown of Mysterio. He connected with a massive kick but Ziggler fought back with a clothesline and a superkick for the three count.
Ziggler looked vicious here, both in his decimation of Mysterio and with his quick dispatching of the talented Ali. His recent angle has focused on multiple run-ins with numerous legends over the past couple of weeks and he will be facing Goldberg at Summerslam. He sent out a strong message of intent here, but it’s likely to be in vain, as Goldberg is the overwhelming favourite. The encounter doesn’t elicit much excitement. Apart from the drawing power a name like Goldberg brings, he’s coming off a horrible showing with the Undertaker at Super Showdown, and this match will likely be used as his redemption, and it is a shame it will come at the expense of somebody with Ziggler’s talent.
Roman Reigns addresses the recent attacks on him
Roman Reigns sat down and reflected on how having scaffolding tipped on him and narrowly avoiding being the victim of vehicular homicide has impacted him and his family. He spoke of how it has threatened his livelihood and vowed to find the perpetrator.
The assailant still remains a mystery, which is a novel way to build intrigue for the Big Dog’s potential opponent on Sunday. The serious nature of the attacks also ensure that when the encounter does come to fruition, it will be a hard-hitting, intense affair. Above all, it will put the Big Dog in a prominent position on the card and maybe even give him a prolonged, meaningful feud over the coming months.
Natalya vs. Ember Moon
The Queen of Harts tried to put Becky Lynch out of commission last night when she refused to let go of the Sharpshooter, and looks determined to take the strap at Summerslam. She entered this match similarly determined, against a superstar who also has her eyes on the gold on Sunday. The two women traded arm-bar takedowns as neither competitor gained an obvious foothold in the early exchanges. Moon countered a sunset flip, with a big kick and a clothesline. As the action spilled outside, Nattie hit a Jim Neidhart-style clothelsline, before slapping on the Sharpshooter. She refused to let go, prompting a DQ. Bayley made the save for her Summerslam opponent as Natalya retreated.
This version of Natalya is the best version. She is nasty and determined, and will provide a stern test for Women’s champion Becky Lynch on Sunday. Though Lynch would be considered favourite heading into the bout, it is not a foregone conclusion; it is a submission match, which plays into Natalya’s hands, she seems more focused and vicious than ever, and she has home advantage. These factors will guarantee it won’t all be plain-sailing for the Man.
KO Show with Shane McMahon
Owens, thriving in the babyface role, questioned why McMahon isn’t also putting his career on the line in their match at Summerslam, and implored him to do so. As the arena rang with ‘Yes’ chants, the Boss’ son declined the offer. He proceeded to tell the Prizefighter all the ways he could beat him on Sunday and send him packing from the company. KO claimed the Best in the World had no balls, and was jumped from behind by Elias. He responded by delivering a stunner to the Drifter on the announce table, but McMahon pounced, flooring Owens and tipping the table onto his adversary, before finishing him with a steel chair to the face.
For all his detractors, McMahon showed here how to perfectly sell a match as a heel. He was cowardly in gaining the upper hand and he was relentless when he did so. As a result, the work from the two men here has now made this one of the more eagerly anticipated matches on the card, which will make the payoff of McMahon getting his comeuppance all the more sweeter for KO and the WWE Universe. It will be interesting to see, given the events at the end of this segment, if there is a further ‘No Holds Barred’ style stipulation added before Sunday.
Sami Zayn vs. Aleister Black
Zayn addressed the WWE Universe, bemoaning the fact that Black hasn’t responded to his call for a match at Summerslam, and claimed he doesn’t want to face him. Black appeared, stating that the match wouldn’t be happening at Summerslam, but right now. A shell-shocked Zayn regrouped to take control early on, flooring Black with right hands and hitting a clothesline for the two count. He followed this up with a back breaker but a frustrated Zayn still couldn’t put the Dutchman away. Black made the babyface comeback after being second best for the entire contest and pinned Zayn after the Black Mass.
Black is riding a wave of momentum at the moment having successfully stepped up from NXT. He has now knocked off two talented superstars in Cesaro and Sami Zayn and will be looking for his next meaningful feud. Zayn, on the other hand, is floundering at the moment, and completely likes direction, which is a travesty for someone of his ability and popularity. Leaving off on this match and saving it for Summerslam would have at least give him something to do at the party of the summer.
New Day vs. Daniel Bryan and Erik Rowan
Bryan went straight for Woods from the off, but the New Day mouthpiece hit back with a dropkick, sending Bryan outside the ring. A somersault over the ropes kept the Bearded One grounded as he looked to regain some composure. After the break, Big E took the fight to Bryan, and tagged in Woods. Rowan entered the action and took Woods out with a big slam, though Woods valiantly fought back before being taken out with a huge cross-body from the Big Red. The former Wyatt family member then isolated Woods in the corner and tagged Bryan, who joined his partner in double teaming one half of the tag team champs. Bryan slowed the pace by taking the fight to the mat before Woods somehow fought back and made the hot tag. E exploded into the match with a couple of belly-to-belly suplexes and a big splash. Bryan levelled the playing field by taking out the leg of the powerhouse and putting on the LaBelle Lock. E fought out with a powerbomb for a near-fall as the crowd got behind the big man. The size advantage was negated when Rowan tagged in, felling Big E with a spinning kick. Woods tagged in and produced a stunning elbow drop only for Bryan to make the save. The action broke down when Rowan used the steel stairs and prompted a DQ. The former champs then destroyed the tag team champions to close the segment.
Backstage, a hellbent Roman Reigns beat Buddy Murphy into telling him who it was who attacked him. He revealed it was Rowan, leaving the Big Dog looking confused and puzzled. The match between the New Day and Rowan and Bryan was excellent, showcasing all four men. It was what happened backstage, though, that has the most ramifications going into Summerslam. It was revealed that Rowan was the attacker on Reigns. Was he doing Bryan’s bidding on his behalf? And what are their issues with the Big Dog? Either way, a potential match between Bryan and Reigns promises to be a belter, if their Fastlane 2015 clash is anything to go by. That Rowan is also featured in this storyline would suggest he will get involved on Sunday night and prolong this feud through the summer months.