Wrestling Review: WWE SummerSlam 2019 feat. Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins

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WWE SummerSlam 2019

Whether it was about Feeling The Heat, travelling down the Highway To Hell or experiencing the Biggest Party Of The Summer, SummerSlam has always been a highlight of the wrestling calendar, often delivering some of the most memorable matches of the year. The 32nd annual edition took place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (which also hosted the 2004 event), and so we are looking at what went down at WWE SummerSlam 2019. These were our predictions; did they come true?

Kick-Off Show

WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match
Drew Gulak (C) vs. Oney Lorcan

As usual, the pre-show opened with a Cruiserweight Championship match, as Drew Gulak (who won the title at Stomping Grounds) defended the purple-and-silver belt against Lorcan, who is becoming more and more prominent on 205 Live. Though he got a good reaction by the standards of 205 Live-provided Kick-Off Show bouts, and his offence was thoroughly believable, Oney’s quest to win the title didn’t seem stronger than Gulak’s desire to retain the prize he had chased, on and off, for nearly three years. And so it proved as Drew pinned Oney with a Cyclone Crash to remain Cruiserweight Champion. Drew remains the titleholder for now, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lorcan defeat him for his coveted prize at some point in the future.

Buddy Murphy vs. Apollo Crews

Buddy was here to capitalise on his appearance this past Tuesday on SmackDown, where Roman Reigns blamed him for the mysterious “accident” the prior week. Though Murphy is a heel, and he has barely competed since leaving 205 Live in April, he had some support in Toronto as he faced Apollo Crews, whose mini-push a few weeks back seemed to have ended faster than any other attempted push all year. This was an okay bout, but it was easily forgettable due to its abrupt ending, as Rowan attacked Murphy at ringside for the disqualification finish. Rowan mowed down Murphy in brutal fashion, in response to Buddy name-dropping Rowan as the chief suspect in the Roman situation, as Daniel Bryan looked on from backstage. Though it was expected, there were no developments at all on the Roman storyline during either the pre-show or the PPV itself, which was a surprise.

Before the next match, Elias cut one of his usual town-slating songs as the expense of Toronto. He was interrupted by local boy Edge, who got a huge pop. Even better, The Rated R Superstar even Speared Elias, marking the first time that he hit his finishing move since retiring in 2011. It was a safe Spear that wouldn’t have damaged his neck badly, hence why he hadn’t hit his signature move at any point in the past eight years. I can’t see this leading to anything more, but it was cool to see Edge appear at all, and for him to hit a Spear was a nice bonus.

WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Match
Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross (C) vs. The IIconics

Because my WWE Network feed via the PlayStation 4 console was poor during the pre-show (doing an update right before SummerSlam, and temporarily eliminating Chromecast as a platform to stream content, was not advisable), I only got to see portions of this bout. In a nutshell, Alexa and Nikki won the titles on Raw, and this was the big rematch for Billie Kay and Peyton Royce. Alexa’s gear had a Buzz Lightyear theme, which gave Corey Graves plenty of material on commentary. Aside from a neat inverted Women’s Peak on Bliss by Royce, what I got to see from this bout was uneventful. A brutal forearm and a Twisted Bliss ensured a successful title defence, though the already-announced BlissCross vs. Kabuki Warriors title match on Raw was also a big give-away.

Main Show

Raw Women’s Championship Submission Match
Becky Lynch (C) vs. Natalya

Opening the PPV proper, we had pyrotechnics, for the first time in a while on a show that wasn’t WrestleMania, or held in either Saudi Arabia or Matt Hardy’s back garden. In the ring, we opened up with this Submission match, as home country hero Natalya aimed to unseat Becky Lynch as champion. Though she got cheered, and her reactions increased as the bout went on, Becky still received plenty of cheers herself, though The Man was booed on occasion. This was a well-worked match, and a logically-worked contest as well with each woman repeatedly either weakening a body part or going for a hold, as opposed to hitting big moves that made no sense just to get a big reaction. Natalya hitting a Sharpshooter across the top rope was pretty cool, followed by a suplex in a homage to Bret Hart-British Bulldog at SummerSlam 1992 (probably). Both attempted the other’s finishing move, and Nattie locked in the Sharpshooter for a close call, but Lynch escaped and trapped Nattie in the Dis-Arm-Her for the win. Had this been a regular match, the odds for the title switching hands in a surprise outcome might have been significant, though the Canadian location made me think Nattie could do the impossible. But that’s exactly what it was for the challenger, though she did put on a strong performance in a big opener. Becky’s next opponent will either be a filler, or it will be a big name returning to the scene; from what I can see, there is no in-between.

Goldberg vs. Dolph Ziggler

Ziggler had run down legends for weeks, with several pops at Goldberg’s expense. What began as some dark comedy by Ziggler led to Da Man himself appearing to confirm a PPV showdown with The Show-Off. Dolph tried to run down Big Bill some more prior to the bell, but Goldberg came out to his pyro to a big reaction and the usual “GOLDBERG!” chants. Ziggler actually caught Goldberg with a Superkick for a one-count, followed by another kick for another one-count, only to be Speared damn near in half in a moment that you knew was coming, but you still had to see (and, as expected, Dolph sold it fabulously). A Jackhammer ensured the quick pinfall win for Goldberg, though we weren’t done. Dolph called Goldberg a “dips–t” (censored on the Network) before daring Goldberg to come back and fight him. Da Man did so, and Speared him again. A knackered Ziggler still badmouthed Goldie some more, causing him to come back out and hit him with one more massive Spear. Whether there’s anything left of Dolph to face The Miz on Raw remains to be seen, but at least Goldberg has now joined The Undertaker (who returned for Extreme Rules) in putting their unfortunate bout from Super ShowDown to bed.

WWE United States Championship Match
AJ Styles (C) vs. Ricochet

As the international announcers were being introduced, we saw Carmella and R-Truth disguised with the Japanese team, only for Drake Maverick (who had done a deliberately poor Drake impression with The New Day backstage moments earlier) to spot them and chase them off (Drake had been searching for them on the Kick-Off Show, not initially noticing that Truth and Mella were hiding underneath the panel’s table). As for this bout, both AJ and Ricochet (wearing gear inspired by Nightwing, apparently) put on their usual strong bout here, with Ricochet using the shoulders of OC members Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows to dive onto Styles at ringside. From there, the offence went back-and-forth, though the challenger would rebound again, even locking in an Anaconda Vice. In the end, Ricochet dived onto Gallows with a moonsault and kicked Anderson away, only to Phoenix Splash himself straight into a Styles Clash to ensure a successful title defence for AJ. We might get a rematch, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that was it for this feud (a post-match Magic Killer suggests they will meet again, though).

SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Bayley (C) vs. Ember Moon

Unfortunately for these two, whose bout had been eagerly-anticipated by die-hard fans, this ended up feeling like a low point due to a lack of interest by the Toronto fans. It wasn’t a bad match by any means, with both Bayley (who had stars painted in her hair, which looked bizarre) and Ember hitting some nice moves. But when you take two babyfaces and put them into a match that has little in the way of a real storyline, it is usually hard to get a crowd invested, unless it is an absolute barn-burner of a bout. That wasn’t the case, though; it was proficient, but unmemorable. I thought a heel turn might have been on the cards for one of the participants, but instead Bayley hit a Bayley-To-Belly off the top rope to get the win. At least the finish was cool. Again, it’s possible that we will see a rematch, but with Clash Of Champions held in Charlotte, North Carolina (the hometown of somebody who has Flair), it’s unlikely.

If Kevin Owens Loses, He Must Quit WWE
Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon

Over the last six weeks, Kevin Owens has suddenly revitalised his career as the latest anti-authority babyface rebel. He isn’t quite piping hot to the level of, say, CM Punk in 2011, but KO has definitely become one to watch again, and while being in Canada clearly helped, Owens still earned a massive pop for his entrance here. In contrast, Shane was booed out of the building, and was the recipient of numerous derogatory chants. To further enhance his heel heat, Shane brought in Elias as a special enforcer, and The Drifter’s distractions allowed McMahon to gain and maintain the advantage. But Owens fought back, despite Elias trying to convince Owens to use a steel chair, which would have given Shane the DQ win, and forced Owens to quit. But KO managed to keep his composure long enough to take out Elias at ringside, knocking over the referee in the process. The ref nearly caught Kevin using the chair anyway, but as he discarded of the weapon, KO booted Shane in the balls, leading to a match-winning Stunner. This could be the end of this mini-feud, but Shane could argue that Owens cheated, plus he had previously refused to quit himself in the event of a defeat, so one more major showdown between two rivals from 2017-2018 (albeit in opposite roles nowadays) is possible.

Charlotte Flair vs. Trish Stratus

Earlier, Trish had suggested that she was the Queen Of Queens as a way to suggest that Charlotte was out of her league, though the story was whether Stratus could return and hang with Flair in what was set to be her unofficial farewell match. If this is indeed Trish’s swansong, then she went out in style, because this was an awesome showdown, probably Trish’s best match ever. From the start, Stratus was able to keep up with and even occasionally prove her superiority over Charlotte, though The Queen was also at the top of her game with some fantastic offence. There were plenty of major near-falls as the fans chanted “This is awesome!” on more than one occasion. A top rope hurricanrana and a Figure-Eight by Trish were her highlights, though she also took a nasty back-first bump on the floor off a big boot by Flair. Charlotte survived the Stratusfaction and the Chick Kick, eventually locking in the Figure-Eight herself for the win. This is well worth seeing, and for anyone who thought that Trish was merely the best performer of her own era as opposed to being someone capable of slotting into today’s women’s scene and thriving, this was evidence to the contrary. A great match, and arguably the highlight of the entire show.

WWE Championship Match
Kofi Kingston (C) vs. Randy Orton

The story to this match was intriguing: the long-running rumour is that Orton was legitimately responsible for Kofi’s big push in 2009-2010 screeching to a halt. Whether it’s true or not, WWE smartly used it to promote this match, with Orton saying that Kofi still isn’t ready in his mind. That we were in Toronto gave Randy further reason to fancy his chances, given that he won his first World Title in the city at SummerSlam 2004. The slower pace and less flashy offence helped this to stand out from other matches on the show, though it also meant that it felt a little less exciting than other bouts. Nevertheless, it was well-worked, with Orton playing up his role as a vile heel to perfection, while Kofi displayed his never-say-attitude once again in his efforts to finally get a major singles victory over The Viper. In the end, Randy countered a huge Kofi dive into an RKO, but he didn’t go for the cover immediately, allowing Kingston to rollout to ringside in front of his family, who Randy then bad-mouthed, leading to Kofi violently attacking him as the referee counted both men out. Kingston then battered Orton with a kendo stick, as a lot of fans booed the ending and/or Kofi (Toronto booed many faces at SummerSlam 2004, at a time when babyfaces were very rarely jeered, so I wouldn’t worry about the response here). A rematch at Clash Of Champions is inevitable, and while many believe that Orton will win the gold here, I’m expecting Kingston’s dream title reign to continue beyond that match.

Finn Balor vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt

Bray Wyatt’s much-anticipated first match as The Fiend made this one of the matches to look out for, not so much for the action but for the presentation, as it was vital that WWE gave us a spectacle to remember, and they hit a home run. Balor made his usual non-Demon entrance, but Wyatt’s arrival was something else. A fade-out of the Firefly Fun House theme led to darkness, the words LET ME IN written on the screen, and The Fiend slowly walking to the ring in pitch black to a rock version of his original theme song, all while holding a new lantern formed in the shape of his own severed head. Damn. The match was a comfortable win for Wyatt, with Balor getting a bit of offence in but otherwise being dominated; after tasting Sister Abigail, Balor was pinned via a Mandible Claw by The Fiend, whose exit included further shrieks and his own maniacal laughter. If we only see The Fiend wrestle on Pay-Per-View, with occasional Fiend cameos on television along with Firefly Fun House segments to present Bray’s alter ego as being totally different to the children’s presenter, this could be something really special, and it could make The Fiend one of the most fascinating, and certainly frightening, wrestling characters ever.

Universal Championship Match
Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Seth Rollins

The main event was a WrestleMania 35 rematch, where Rollins had pinned Lesnar for the gold; Brock then lifted the Money In The Bank briefcase (at, erm, Money In The Bank), took up boom-boxing for a hilarious few weeks, then he successfully cashed it in at Extreme Rules to regain the title, leading to this rubber match. Lesnar had destroyed Rollins and his ribs multiple times recently, giving Seth long odds of pinning Big Bad Brock here, but a surprise was on the cards. There was surprisingly, and refreshingly, no blood as the two men instead concentrated on delivering a genuinely great match. An early Stomp gave Seth hope, and he landed on his feet to escape attempted German Suplexes. Brock soon caught him and, after an F5, he suplexed him like a ragdoll, as well as swinging him around by holding his rib-tape in a darkly comical visual (Heyman’s ridiculous maniacal grins made it even funnier). A bearhug was a logical attack on the ribs by Lesnar, who had now removed his gloves, but Seth fought back with several topes and a Frog Splash through an announcer’s table. This led to two more Stomps by Rollins to pin Lesnar to regain the Universal Title to big cheers, an achievement considering that fans were booing Seth earlier on. Rollins held the title up in front of pyro going off, looking teary-eyed, to close the show.

Overall, WWE SummerSlam 2019 was one of the better PPVs from the series, but not one of the best. It lacked that truly iconic moment that will have fans rewatching this show in years to come, but it did boast several high-quality matches (Charlotte vs. Trish and Lesnar vs. Rollins in particular), as well as a major title change in the main event, and the unforgettable debut entrance for The Fiend. Considering the lacklustre build-up, SummerSlam 2019 was a moderate success in my opinion; we now have to see where things go from here for the rest of the year in WWE.