Wrestling Review: WWE SummerSlam 2010 feat. Team WWE vs. The Nexus

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WWE SummerSlam 2010

WWE SummerSlam 2010 occurred at a time when The Nexus were at their peak. Wade Barrett’s faction of NXT Season 1 participants had run riot on WWE for more than two months, causing chaos and ganging up on innocent victims in a manner not seen since the days of the nWo. In retaliation, Raw’s main babyfaces grouped together, led by John Cena, and the upshot was this much-anticipated 7-on-7 match. If it went well, then The Nexus had the potential to be as big as the new World order with zero exaggeration. As things turned out, though the bout itself was enjoyable, this would mark the beginning of a slow decline for The Nexus as I will explain.

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match
Dolph Ziggler (C) vs. Kofi Kingston

Opening proceedings was an IC Title match between Dolph and Kofi, whose rivalry really has lasted forever. Dolph had recently captured the gold from Kingston with help from his new associate Vickie Guerrero, which led to this rematch here. Unlike the previous year’s SummerSlam, where Dolph and Rey Mysterio tore the house down in the Staples Center, this contest (also in LA) didn’t match those expectations. At the time, the Mysterio barn-burner was a bit of an aberration for Ziggler when it came to having a great bout, and though Kofi was popular at the time, it was a long way off The New Day and KofiMania. What’s more, the match was interrupted before it could truly accelerate by The Nexus, who ran in to pummel Kofi with Ziggler wisely retreating. A quick promo by Barrett gave The Nexus further heel heat, but this should have happened on television, not in the first match of the second or third biggest event of the year depending on your perspective.

WWE Divas Championship Match
Alicia Fox (C) vs. Melina

This would be the match that future Funkadactyl and Tough Enough competitor Cameron would suggest to be her favourite to the hilarious bemusement of Stone Cold Steve Austin. It sounds a bit cruel and harsh in hindsight, because if a young female trainee said in the early 2020s that her favourite match ever was Sasha Banks vs. Bayley or Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair, nobody would laugh. But this was at a time when WWE’s women were given a few minutes to have a match that would be deemed a success if it didn’t fall apart. This marked the peak of Alicia Fox’s WWE tenure since she was Divas Champion, but this wouldn’t be considered a great showing for her. Melina had recently returned from a long injury lay-off, and while she was still rusty, she still proved to be far superior to Alicia. A faceplant gave Melina the win and the title, only for her (and Fox) to be interrupted and attacked afterwards by LayCool, who were then co-Women’s Champion on SmackDown. This would lead to a unification bout at Night Of Champions and the death of the original Women’s Title, with the Divas Title being chosen as the focus of the female scene in WWE to the chagrin of the smarks.

Handicap Match
Big Show vs. Straight Edge Society

I personally feel that The Straight Edge Society was a bit overrated as an actual gimmick, but it was definitely interesting and different. Which made it frustrating to see the SES suddenly phased out, a situation that was gathering pace when they targeted Big Show. CM Punk had received a shaved head from Rey Mysterio and wore a mask to hide his shame, only for fellow baldie Big Show to unveil it. In response, the SES smashed Show’s arm (Punk wore a shirt here saying “I Broke Big Show’s Hand”), leading to this bout. Show actually has a good track record in three-on-one bouts, and he proved it again here by making fairly quick work of the SES. Punk cowered away as best he could, but he, Luke Gallows and Joseph Mercury couldn’t withstand the giant’s offence for too long, with Show eventually Chokeslamming Joseph onto Luke to get the pinfall win. This was a decent time for Show when it came to his babyface popularity and his spot on the card, but the smarks weren’t happy at seeing Punk lose both here and at Night Of Champions the next month to Show (you’ll notice a theme here).

We then had an in-ring promo from The Miz. As the storyline went, with The Great Khali injured, Team WWE – led by John Cena – needed a replacement partner, and they reluctantly approached Miz, an arrogant heel rising up the ranks with the United States Championship and the Raw Money In The Bank briefcase in his possession. Miz, with Michael Cole on commentary endorsing him, ran through all of the concessions each team member was willing to make while firing subtle insults along the way, such as John Morrison supposedly admitting to him that he was the Marty Jannetty of their previous tag team, and that Miz was the Shawn Michaels, but better! Miz saying that he received a Fozzy CD from Chris Jericho, which he admitted to throwing away, was also amusing. Revelling in the attention that these established names were giving him, Miz eventually decided that, yes, he would indeed be a part of Team WWE in the main event, as Cole rejoiced. More on this later.

WWE Championship Match
Sheamus (C) vs. Randy Orton

These two had previously battled at Royal Rumble, at which point Orton was a heel. Randy was now a clear babyface, but while Sheamus was in the midst of his second WWE Title reign, he had still only been on the scene for little more than a year. The upshot is that this was not the most appealing of championship matches (partly because we had already seen it), and the action itself was only adequate at best. After exchanging some big moves and avoiding some finishers, the match went to the big finish of Orton kicking out of the Brogue kick, giving fans hope of a title change here, only for Sheamus to deliberately get himself disqualified with a chairshot. Orton snapped afterwards and RKO’d Sheamus on the announcers table, but it didn’t make up for the second DQ finish of the night. Randy would recapture the WWE Title in a six-pack challenge at NOC, and these two would finally have a thrilling match inside Hell In A Cell a few weeks after that.

World Heavyweight Championship Match
Kane (C) vs. Rey Mysterio

Aside from The Nexus, the other big storyline in WWE at this time concerned The Undertaker being left in a vegetative state in May, and with Kane going on the rampage to find the culprit, only for Rey Mysterio (who Kane had claimed the WHC from via a Money In The Bank cash-in) to accuse The Big Red Machine of the crime. Kane brought a red casket to the ring for this bout, which was a hint of things to come. The match itself was alright, nothing particularly memorable, but acceptable enough given the clash of styles and size differential. Kane retained cleanly via a Chokeslam (and because Rey looked so small compared to Kane, it looked truly devastating), and afterwards he opened the casket to roll Rey into, showing that it was empty. He then decided to do some more damage and hit another two Chokeslams and a Tombstone Piledriver, before returning to the casket. But when he opened it, The Undertaker was inside! I liked how Kane opened it first to try and diffuse expectations of Taker appearing, only for UT to then actually turn up in the box. Undi looked at both Kane and Rey to identify the victim, and he seemed to choose Rey, only to turn towards Kane thus proving that his own brother had taken him out. The Brothers Of Destruction then fought a bit before Kane surprisingly left Taker laying with a Tombstone Piledriver. Taker was weakened from the previous Kane assault in a neat wrinkle to the storyline, and fans would have to wait for UT to get revenge, but as it turned out, he never would (which we’ll cover in other retro reviews for autumn 2010 PPVs).

14-Man Tag Team Elimination Match
Team WWE vs. The Nexus

The Nexus boys comprised of Wade Barrett, Skip Sheffield (the future Ryback), Justin Gabriel, Darren Young, Heath Slater, David Otunga and Michael Tarver. Team WWE, meanwhile, consisted of John Cena, Chris Jericho, Edge, Bret Hart, R-Truth, John Morrison and, as mentioned earlier, The Miz (standing in for Great Khali), or so we thought. As Miz made his entrance, Cena interrupted him and noted how Team WWE couldn’t afford waiting any longer for Miz to make his decision, so they had selected somebody else instead. That somebody was Daniel Bryan, which was a big surprise because Bryan had been fired from WWE in June right after the original Nexus angle because he accidentally violated the PG rating by choking ring announcer Justin Roberts with a tie, and under pressure from other parties, Vince McMahon himself chose to fire Daniel. But chants for Bryan (even then) were audible in arenas for a while, and so WWE brought him back here. Bear in mind that Daniel had yet to have a major WWE match, so this was quite the endorsement, and his unexpected return was a major, welcome shock (WWE’s website leaked it beforehand, which quelled the surprise for those who had seen it; as social media hadn’t become as big as it would, though, most onlookers were still unaware that Bryan was back). As an aside, it’s fascinating to think of how things would have transpired had Bryan not been fired and remained with The Nexus, because the future of both the company and his career would have been very different. Maybe that should be our next What If article …

Back to the match itself, and Cole was irate on commentary that Bryan – with whom he had made enemies during Daniel’s time on NXT – had come in and received this opportunity, especially given the high stakes in the event of Nexus winning. But Bryan quickly proved his worth by tapping out Darren Young inside a minute, instantly giving Team WWE a numbers advantage. Nexus went from having six members left in the match to five when Tarver was pinned by Morrison after Starship Pain. At this point, The Nexus didn’t look particularly menacing, but they would rebound after Sheffield hit Morrison and Truth with the future Meat Hook clothesline, pinning both in quick succession to put things at 5-on-5. Soon, Bret (by now a Hall Of Famer whose offence was limited due to a stroke he had suffered in 2002 and a major concussion he had suffered prior to that, but whose popularity was high after he finally returned to WWE at the start of 2010) tagged in and destroyed Slater; as he attempted the Sharpshooter, Wade threw a chair in, only for Bret to pick it up and pummel an interfering Sheffield, causing him to be disqualified (the third DQ decision of the night). Bret was out before he could take any real punishment, understandable due to his health situation, and aside from one or two cameos in tag bouts on television and the occasional house show, this marked Bret’s last match on a major stage. Sheffield, weakened by Bret, tasted the one-two punch of a Codebreaker and Spear to send him on his way.

We were now at 4-on-4, with Otunga being eliminated next with the Walls Of Jericho. But Y2J was then sent close towards Cena on the apron by Slater, allowing Heath to roll up Chris for a surprise pin, and moments later, a very similar situation led to Edge going out. Since Jericho and Edge were both heels and had both suggested they were teaming with Cena and co. out of principle, they resumed their villainous ways by attacking John before they left. It was now 2-on-3, and Bryan was the only Team WWE guy on his feet, which had Cole on the verge of a panic attack. But again Daniel shone, and he submitted Slater to bring it to 2-on-2. But before Bryan could do anything else, Miz ran in and whacked him with the MITB briefcase, allowing Barrett to pin him to big boos. The presentation of Bryan was great under the circumstances because he proved that he belonged in a PPV main event from the start, and his elimination segued right into a feud with Miz that fans were dying to see, and not for the last time.

So, we had Cena remaining to face Barrett and Gabriel, and we’re about to delve into the controversial aspect of this contest. Johnny Boy had barely been in the match throughout, yet the impression was that he was destined to go down to Nexus, especially after Wade DDT’d him on the exposed concrete floor. However, Big Match John – at the height of his SuperCena phase – rebounded spectacularly by pinning Justin off a missed 450 Splash and submitting Wade to an STF, all within two minutes of the concrete DDT. Matt Striker celebrated on commentary like he’d won the lottery and married Stacy Keibler at the same time. Team WWE had won, and more importantly, The Nexus had lost.

Before we address the outcome, we need to address some confusion. Chris Jericho has gone on record saying that he and Edge strongly disagreed with the concrete DDT spot but Cena disagreed and got his own way, only to admit afterwards that he was wrong. But fans have since twisted this story to suggest that Cena had actually refused to put over The Nexus, and as far as I am aware, this was not the case. We’ll talk about the booking shortly, but the narrative that Jericho said Cena refused to lose is just wrong. And ultimately, Chris and Edge were right, because the concrete DDT in this particular scenario only made things worse for the young talent on the heel side.

Now, we come to the big talking point: Nexus losing. SummerSlam is often seen as a show where red-hot storylines die, rightly or wrongly, and many view this as the beginning of the end for Nexus, noting that Wade and the gang had to win in order for their faction and their storyline to truly leave a major impact. The evidence is overwhelming: Tarver was thrown out of Nexus the very next night and was soon released, while Young didn’t last long in the group either. Sheffield was injured right after this PPV for ages, and when he finally returned, he was reborn as Ryback. The remaining four Nexus members were joined by, erm, newer newcomers Husky Harris and Michael McGillicutty, and Cena himself had to temporarily join the group in October after losing a stipulation bout. However, by the end of the year, Nexus in its original form was done. We then got Nexus 2.0 and The Corre, neither of which had anything close to a lasting impression. Barrett occasionally flirted with the main event scene on his own, but he never did reach the top of the mountain. Some will say that he did get a few title shots later in the year while still serving as Nexus leader, but the story had lost a lot of steam by that stage, and he didn’t capture the gold anyway.

Now, if The Nexus had won this particular match, they theoretically would have had enough momentum to carry Barrett to a future WWE Title win and a decent reign on top with his faction backing him up. Further additions like Harris and McGillicutty would have strengthened their cause rather than coming on board to try and salvage it. A surprise heel turn by a big star could have allowed the story to stretch all the way to WrestleMania XXVII, and while all of the Nexus members couldn’t have remained undefeated for another seven or eight months, Mania could have been where Nexus was truly trounced once and for all, and a post-Nexus Barrett could have still been a player, while the other members might have had a bit more to offer. Instead, by losing right out of the gate, the invading young stars instead appeared to be out of their league (this was the other issue with the storyline: unlike the nWo which had bona fide superstars, the Nexus had seven unproven members, some of whom weren’t quite ready from an in-ring standpoint, and some of whom never would be).

It didn’t necessarily have to be a clean win for Nexus, because many were expecting a big angle to end the match, perhaps with that aforementioned major heel turn. Around the same time, Raw was taken over by an anonymous General Manager, and many believed he/she and the Nexus story were linked, meaning that whomever showed up at SummerSlam to help Nexus win would have also held power on Raw, making that faction even stronger. Though some hoped at the time that it wouldn’t be him, Triple H would have been ideal because he could have easily carried that position, and it would have ensured that Nexus were taken very seriously. Whether a second subsequent injury to HHH scuppered those plans or not, the upshot was that there was no big angle, no big heel turn, and instead Cena triumphed against all the odds. Some of the criticism towards Cena (by the smarks, of course) is harsh, and as I noted earlier my impression is that he didn’t actually nix putting Nexus over, but certainly this is seen as the most damaging example of Cena “burying” younger talent by his critics. Again, I don’t blame him necessarily, and losing and being buried are two very different things, but even so, this is seen as a hot-button topic for those throwing shade at Cena. What cannot be denied is that The Nexus were never the same again after this event, and who knows what could have happened had they won this crucial match.

Aside from that, though, WWE SummerSlam 2010 is an unusually weak major show for the company. Only the main event is truly worth watching when it comes to the in-ring action, and it is more intriguing from a story standpoint than in terms of the wrestling itself. Two other DQ finishes and two forgettable lower-card matches don’t help matters. Undertaker and Bryan returning and the much-debated nature of the final match are the only things that make SummerSlam 2010 memorable in any way. Not one of the best, and that’s putting it mildly.