Wrestling Review: WWE SummerSlam 2017 feat. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe

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WWE SummerSlam 2017

The thirtieth edition of The Biggest Party Of The Summer felt a bit lacklustre in terms of the line-up to the 2016 edition, and that proved to be the case as WWE SummerSlam 2017 will not be remembered as an all-time classic card. It did, however, boast some very exciting matches, which ultimately made it a worthwhile effort on the whole.

Kick-Off Show

The Hardy Boyz & Jason Jordan vs. The Miz & The Miztourage

The pre-show had three matches, with the first taking place in an almost-empty Barclays Center. It is anybody’s guess as to why these six performers were sent out so early that the cleaners were still finishing up from the night before (a cynic might suggest it was to limit the unwanted booing towards Jason Jordan). Whatever the explanation, the six men in the ring did their best to put on a decent match, but having almost no fans be visible or audible definitely hurt the match presentation. Miz ended up pinning Kurt Angle’s son with a Skull-Crushing Finale, which may not be the best finish to book based on the likelihood of an upcoming Miz vs. Jordan bout for the Intercontinental Championship.

WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match
Akira Tozawa (C) vs. Neville

Tozawa surprisingly ended Neville’s reign with the purple title on Raw, meaning that this planned championship opportunity for Akira suddenly became a title defence. It was a good match, which is not surprising when you consider that Neville has been tearing it up all year as the King Of The Cruiserweights. With his sub-205 pound kingdom to reclaim, Neville would not be denied no matter what Tozawa threw at him, in spite of Titus Worldwide being a potential factor. As you would expect, there were some major spots to grab one’s attention, but as I said, Neville simply would not be stopped, and a Red Arrow reunited him with the gold (well, silver) after a fairly pointless six-day reign for Tozawa, albeit with this being a really good match.

SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match
The New Day (C) vs. The Usos

This was simply an awesome bout, so much so that it’s a sleeper candidate for Match Of The Year. You could look at this in one of two ways: either having this match on the Kick-Off Show was an insult to and consequently an extra motivating factor for those involved, especially considering that their rivalry has been a big deal on the blue brand, or you could suggest that their pre-show placement gave them extra time and, as a result, that made for this being the best possible match under the circumstances. After all sorts of high spots, double-team moves, near-falls and partner saves, both Usos superkicked Big E down to the mat for him to suffer a double splash to reunite Jimmy and Jey with the titles that they had lost at Battleground. Never let it be said that the Kick-Off Show is worthless, because this was sensational.

Main Show

John Cena vs. Baron Corbin

Corbin has clearly peed in someone’s drink lately (probably not William Regal’s) because his push has come to a sudden, screeching halt. He lost his Money In The Bank briefcase in a failed cash-in against Jinder Mahal on SmackDown, and here against Cena, a huge name who could have elevated him even if Baron was pinned in the process, he was largely treated as a second-rate opponent, with Cena taking the time to put on JBL’s hat while fighting somebody who had a golden ticket to the WWE Championship a few days beforehand. Though Baron hit a couple of big moves, it really did feel like WWE were sending him on a trip down the card here, as he was easily pinned with an Attitude Adjustment. For an opener to such a major card, this was not very good, but for Baron’s career, this was a disaster. Hopefully he can rebound, but as it was, this felt unnecessary, and a bad way to open the show properly.

SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Naomi (C) vs. Natalya

I found this to be refreshing, as it provided a break from the usual pattern of one or more of The Four Horsewomen getting a title shot (okay, Sasha Banks had a crack at Alexa Bliss’ crown later on, but the SD prize was free of this trend). What’s more, I felt that both ladies really stepped up, and while the crowd weren’t particularly invested, the action was on a strong standard, with some convincing near-falls. Naomi’s relatively long reign with the gold came to an end here, with the veteran Natalya clinching the title via a Sharpshooter. I enjoyed this match, though it’s sad that Naomi’s glowing version of the belt will now have to be consigned to the vaults.

Big Cass vs. Big Show

On paper, this had the potential to be, well maybe not good, but intriguing. As it was, the match wasn’t very interesting, though how much of that is due to Cass being less than charismatic as a heel is debatable. Enzo Amore, Cass’ old tag team partner and still an entertaining yet annoying babyface, was in a shark cage above the ring to prevent him interfering. If you know your wrestling history, that usually means they will get involved somehow. In this case, Enzo stripped down to his boxer shorts and oiled himself up to slip through the bars, allowing him to land in the ring, where he took a vicious boot to the head from Cass. Cass then brought Show down and kept him down with an Empire Elbow to win a boring match, which depending on your point of view was enhanced or further hindered by Enzo’s shenanigans.

Randy Orton vs. Rusev

Orton RKO’d Rusev and won in ten seconds. Seriously, that was it. Moving on.

Raw Women’s Championship Match
Alexa Bliss (C) vs. Sasha Banks

Beforehand, Bayley (who had originally earned this title shot, only to suffer an injury) wished Sasha luck backstage, which was booed by Brooklyn fans as part of the ridiculous ongoing campaign that fans have to suddenly jeer Bayley (it’s only WWE that wrecks careers though, right?). Sasha has come up short on PPV so many times in title bouts that her latest opportunity against Little Miss Bliss seemed like it would be her chasing another lost cause, despite her getting a DQ win over Alexa the previous month at Great Balls Of Fire. But as it turned out, this would be Sasha’s night, as she not only broke a supercard curse but also a Brooklyn curse, and she submitted Alexa to the Bank Statement to win the Raw Women’s Championship for the first time since Charlotte Flair captured the gold from her at Roadblock: End Of The Line. The match was alright but nothing special, yet it was still the second best match of the main card so far at this point.

Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt

For the first time since SummerSlam 2016, The Demon was in the house, as Finn Balor needed to bring in his evil alter ego to fight the maniacal Bray Wyatt, who had poured “viscous red liquid” (definitely not blood) on Finn on Raw. This has been some time coming, with Wyatt having originally targeted Finn shortly after WrestleMania 33. Here, The Demon was able to bring a stronger fight than “regular” Balor might have, though Bray did manage to get some significance offence in on occasion. Nevertheless, The Demon wasn’t coming to SummerSlam to lose (apparently he is a backstage politician as well as a wicked kick-ass anti-hero), and so Finn was able to pin Wyatt with the Coup De Grace. A nice win for Finn here, and best of all, The Demon managed to avoid injury at SummerSlam this time.

Raw Tag Team Championship Match
The Bar (C) vs. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose

This was set up rather well, with a Rollins/Ambrose reunion teased for weeks before they finally kissed and made up (well maybe not that far, but they did put their fists together in unison) on the pre-SummerSlam episode of Raw. Add to that how Sheamus and Cesaro have put on some great doubles outings this year, and you had all the ingredients for a real barn-burner, which is exactly what we got. Indeed, this was a great tag match (the second fantastic doubles contest of the evening), and Cesaro even delivered a nice jab at the smarks: after idiots in the crowd began throwing around a beachball early on during the probable best match of the card, Cesaro stopped what he was doing in the ring and jumped into the crowd (to the bemusement of Michael Cole and his fellow announcers) to tear up the beachball, which got huge cheers from the fans who actually came to watch wrestling. And those spectators will have been very satisfied by this thrilling match, not least because the babyfaces came out on top: Seth’s jumping knee sent Sheamus into a Dirty Deeds, allowing Dean to score the pin to make him and Rollins the new Raw Tag Team Champions.

WWE United States Championship Match – Shane McMahon Is Special Guest Referee
AJ Styles (C) vs. Kevin Owens

The AJ-KO feud has been a big disappointment, in my opinion, as the matches simply haven’t been very good. The Backlash bout was fine before the screwy finish, and the ending to their less exciting Battleground clash was botched big-time. This third, and probably final, PPV collision took a different twist due to Shane McMahon being the special guest referee, with Owens having teased a feud with Shane for a little while now by claiming a conspiracy against him. Whenever there is a special ref, it is inevitable that he or she will be a part of the action somehow, just like the shark cage situation earlier. And, yes, that theory was proven to be correct yet again: Shane was involved several times, arguing with Owens more than once and also arguing with AJ in a call-back to their spring rivalry. In the end, a Phenomenal Forearm/Styles Clash combo ensured that AJ retained. This was alright but not great, which is a fitting way for this rivalry to end, while it seems likely that Owens will move on to face Shane O Mac in the ring in the near future.

WWE Championship Match
Jinder Mahal (C) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Could The Artist, who had not lost a singles bout since coming to the main roster and who received a live violin performance of his entrance to a loud crowd response, dethrone The Modern-Day Maharaja, generally considered to be the weakest WWE Champion in many a year? The answer was no, with Jinder capitalising on a distraction by The Singh Brothers to hit the Khallas for the victory. More worrying than the result for fans of Nakamura was his performance: after some disappointing displays following his promotion from NXT to SmackDown, Shin didn’t shine in the ring here either. One can criticise WWE for its booking, but while Nakamura might have been asked to tone things down ever-so-slightly, there’s no way that they would want him to wrestle in such a slow and uneventful fashion. Nakamura might get another chance since he didn’t lose cleanly here, but the only hope he has of winning the WWE Title will be if his in-ring showings take a marked improvement, because right now casual fans would be wondering what all the fuss is about concerning Shinsuke.

Universal Championship Fatal Four Way Match
Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe

At this point, the show desperately needed something memorable to happen, or it would be remembered as a flop due to several disappointing matches, in particular Mahal vs. Nakamura (not that anybody was expecting a five-star affair there, to be fair). Thankfully, these four stepped up and put on a superb match, one of the best four-ways that I can remember. It succeeded because everybody went all-out in their efforts to not only win, but to cause damage. None more so than Strowman, who looked like the absolute monster that WWE bills him as being, especially when he powerslammed Brock through not one but two announcer’s tables. Lesnar was supposedly too hurt to continue, and Braun continued his rampage on both Roman and Joe. The two remaining participants managed to slow down Strowman long enough to wage their own war with some good near-falls, before Lesnar returned to unleash havoc on all in front of him. After all sorts of big moves, finishers, kick-outs, pinfall break-ups and more, Lesnar managed to turn an attempted Reigns Spear into an F5 for the win. Lesnar retained his title amidst rumours of him returning to UFC if he had lost (which was played up in the hype as being a real possibility), triumphing in the first four-way main event in SummerSlam history, and by pinning Reigns, which certainly pleased the detractors. Strowman looked incredible, though, and the inevitable Lesnar vs. Strowman showdown could be quite the treat based on how this went. Not forgetting Joe, who also looked excellent and who held things together, as did Roman, whose defeat should not cause people to ignore that he more than held his own.

WWE SummerSlam 2017 was a mix of the excellent and the awful, the long and the short, the memorable and the forgettable. If we include the Kick-Off Show, it boasted an awesome main event, two sensational tag matches, and two adequate women’s bouts. But it also had a terrible WWE Title bout, a ten-second Randy Orton win and a pointless John Cena near-squash, with the remaining contests being mediocre and/or filler. There was enough to enjoy that people will revisit aspects of SummerSlam 2017 in the future, but judged in its entirety, the card was uneven and ultimately didn’t quite live up to the expectations that a Big-Four event normally would. Still, at least nobody got their skull caved in at the end of SummerSlam this year.