Written by: Scrooge McSuck
– Presented LIVE on the WWE Network on August 21st, 2016 from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. Monday Night Raw is represented on commentary by the weekly trio of Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, and Corey Graves, while Smackdown Live is represented by Mauro Ranallo, John “Bradshaw” Layfield, and David Otunga, unless otherwise noted… but first, the results from the SummerSlam Kickoff Show…
1. American Alpha, The Usos, and The Hype Bros def. The Vaudevillains, The Ascension, and Breezango in a 12-Man Tag Team Rematch from last week’s episode of Smackdown Live.
The entrances began at 5:25 ET, which means we’re in store for over 5 hours of wrestling content. It also means the house lights are dimmed since more than half of the crowd had yet to make it to their seats. Unlike the Smackdown match, this got a considerable amount more than 4-minutes. They didn’t do a lot, but it was entertaining. They did the big 12-man brawl to set up for the commercial break and Zack Ryder ended up as the face-in-peril. After a bit of chaos, American Alpha hit Aiden English with the Grand Amplitude, but Jey Uso tagged himself in and stole the pin fall with a Splash from the top rope at 14:32. It looks like they’re going to make the Usos vs. American Alpha the main rivalry. Maybe a heel turn for the Usos will freshen up the act. **1/2
2. Sami Zayn and Neville def. The Dudley Boyz.
Since they’ve done the Brand Split (Version 2.0), the Dudley Boyz have had problems getting on the same page, which usually means it’s a break-up angle, and hey, didn’t they do the Dudleys break-up in 2002 too? Paint-by-Numbers Match with the whacky, random team of Zayn and Neville getting to showcase a little of their offense sandwiched around Neville playing the face-in-peril. It’s a shame that the whole point of the split was to showcase more talent, and yet the man involved in a MOTYC at Battleground is an after-thought and in the most meaningless match on a 13-match card. Neville avoided the 3D, we had heel miscommunication, and the Helluva Kick and Red Arrow puts Bubba Ray away at 7:55. Is this the end of the Dudley Boyz? Probably. *1/4
3. Sheamus def. Cesaro in the 1st match of their nonsensical “Best of 7 Series.”
I guess those two wins on Raw over the last few weeks were Spring Training matches and thus don’t matter towards the overall tally. Logic says the heel should go up to start the series, no matter how opposed I am to the idea of such a concept of an official series of matches. Good, hard hitting action that we’re used to seeing from these two. I hate to be that guy, but since the build-up to Money in the Bank it feels like we’ve seen these guys go at it more times than I can count (knowing my luck, I’m probably imagining things and it really hasn’t been that much, but it just feels like it). Sheamus countered a Sharpshooter with a well-placed thumb to the eye and finished with the Brogue Kick at 14:10. That’s better than my original pick of something like a handful of tights on a roll-up. **1/2
– And now, for the PPV portion of the card…
Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens:
Jericho and Owens, collectively known as JeriKO, seems destined for a split-up that leads to a Kevin Owens face-run. Enzo has a super-extended introduction, including a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” from Big Cass. Who remembers his little sing off with pre-Vaudevillain era Aiden English in NXT? Thankfully Corey Graves reminds us that Enzo’s pandering should fall on deaf ears because he’s from Jersey. Graves hatred of Jersey… the greatest rivalry in WWE. Fun tag team match, but nothing that really stood out and will surely be forgotten quickly. Enzo played the face-in-peril to the surprise of no one, teasing a few times before making the big hot tag to Cass. He scored a near-fall off the Empire Elbow, but the Rocket Launcher (I refuse to accept the ridiculous name they gave it) was interrupted. Owens took out Cass on the floor with a Cannonball into the security wall, and they hit Enzo with a double-team Pop-Up into the Code Breaker for the three count at 12:08. I know Super Teams tend to have the advantage, but the “hometown guys” in the opening match is usually a good spot to put the babyface team over. **3/4
WWE Women’s Championship Match:
Sasha Banks © vs. Charlotte:
Special stipulation is that Dana Brooke is banned from ringside. Sasha won the Women’s Title at the 1st Monday Night Raw of the Brand Split Era (2.0) so it makes sense to keep her strong with a good performance and retaining the title here. This was a really good match, but it was hampered by a few major flaws, all falling under the same umbrella: Sasha Banks’ reckless offense and bump taking. In one spot, it was an accident, but she had a nasty fall from the top rope, catching her leg, and landing on her head. The next was a suicide dive where she, once again, landed strong on her chest and bent her body in half on the impact. Finally, a head scissors spot from the top rope where she landed clean on the top of her head. These spots killed my enthusiasm for the match, and her being in obvious pain didn’t help matters. Credit where credit is due, she sucked it up and finished the match. They managed to work around all the flaws and from a completely unbiased point of view, it was a good performance, with Charlotte rolling through a Crossface and pinning Banks shoulders down to become a 2-time Women’s Champion at 13:51. With Sasha hurt and Paige suspended, the Raw Women’s Division is in a sad state with only Alicia Fox to represent the babyface side. ***1/2
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match:
The Miz © (w/ Maryse) vs. Apollo Crews:
These guys are definitely not in the best spot for the show, following two hot matches and coming before one of the top matches of the show. For those who missed the buildup, the Miz pissed Apollo off because he insists on calling him Apollo Creed, otherwise known as one of the main characters from the Rocky movie franchise. Miz came out wearing a studded Phantom of the Opera mask and Maryse looked like a stripper. Solid match if it were featured on Smackdown Live, but they kind of rushed through things and traded near falls with little crowd support. Crews managed to hit his standing moonsault, but only got a two count for it. Crews eventually hit the HUMONGOUS ring post on a charge attempt and Miz put him away with the Skull Crushing Finale at 5:45. Huh. Well, so much for Apollo’s “push”, I guess. Losing decisively to the heel Champion is never a good career move. *1/2
John Cena vs. A.J. Styles:
With all the hoopla surrounding this and the constant reminders that Styles is going to win this on his own, even with the Club in the building, you had to expect shenanigans, or John Cena going over, depending on which side of the fence you were sitting on. At least we shouldn’t expect Jon Stewart to make another senseless run-in for a John Cena match. They started off slow and quickly went into the typical trading of big moves and counters. Before we reached the 10-minute mark, Cena hit Styles with the Attitude Adjustment and Styles hit Cena with the Styles Clash. Cena spent the second-half of the match trying to get Styles in position for the Super-AA from the second turnbuckle, a move that to my knowledge is rarely, if ever, kicked out of. They did some great counters involving their respective submission finishers, but both men were able to escape each predicament. Cena eventually shrugged off Styles’ attempts and hit him with the AA from the middle rope, but Styles kicked out at two in the biggest “holy crap” near fall I can recall in a long, long time. Styles basically pulled a “John Cena” on Cena himself, kicking out of a sure thing and leaving Cena stunned with surprise. Cena allowed Styles to slowly make it back to his feet and went for another AA, but Styles countered with a second Styles Clash, and finished with the Phenomenal Forearm for the surprisingly clean three count at 23:10. Cena stayed behind afterwards, leaving his “Never Give Up” wristband in the ring before making his exit. This felt like every other “Cena rematch” with the trading near falls and kicking out of finishers, but the finish carried it out of the normal pattern and truly ended with the best possible scenario. ****1/2
WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
The New Day © vs. The Club:
(Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson)
Big E is still selling the ring post attack, with a kayfabed contusion to the groin as the explanation for his absence… what, it was either that, or go with “Ringpostitis” as a legit thing. We start the match off on a sour note, as Jon Stewart makes his way to the ring and declares himself an honorary member of the New Day, and butchers their introduction. Thankfully the crowd picks up his slack to keep things moving along. Not much of a match here, as they just seemed to be filling time before going to the finish, with the Club laying out Kofi and Woods, but Stewart getting involved to prevent a title change. They went to give him the ring post to the nuts spot, but Big E. made his surprise return from a fake injury to clean house of both men, drawing a Disqualification at 9:09. At least this allows the New Day to continue their reign as Champions, and probably sets up a rematch at the first Raw Exclusive PPV, Clash of Champions. *
WWE World Championship Match:
Dean Ambrose © vs. Dolph Ziggler:
It seems like they can’t make up their minds on whether to call it the “WWE Title”, “WWE World Title”, or “WWE World Heavyweight Title.” Tonight it’s the WWE World Title. After several weeks of decent build up to drum up interest in Dolph Ziggler as the unlikely contender who is trying to reclaim glory, they went out there and delivered a fat turd. The first problem was neither man seemed to know what their motivation was, with neither man playing the face, but at times doing heel-ish antagonizing and showing attitude problems. Second, the crowd couldn’t give a crap. You can blame it on Ziggler’s “reheat in the microwave” push, but they didn’t care for Ambrose either, and we’re officially approaching the 4-hour mark since the first bell. They did an alright match, doing their typical spots, but this did nothing to come to the defense of the WWE Title and how it is being treated as second-rate to the Raw Universal Title. Third, near falls mean nothing when neither man has established the ability to win matches with any of their secondary offense, so to no surprise, the crowd never reacted up until Ambrose countered a spot from the top rope with Dirty Deeds out of nowhere and quite casually covered to retain the belt at 15:18. So much for Ziggler, and now Ambrose as Champion seems to be winding down. **
Becky Lynch, Naomi, and Carmella vs. Natalya, Alexa Bliss, and Eva Marie:
Even in front of a smart crowd that is very familiar with the NXT talent, Carmella’s reaction is luke-warm at best, and that is VERY generous. Becky Lynch has a new awful outfit that looks like someone dressed her in the dark. They did the big Eva Marie entrance, and this time she cannot compete due to exhaustion and will be taking a vacation in Europe, so her replacement is… NIKKI BELLA. Decent pop for that, and I bet even without the Wellness Violation, this is what we were going to get as the final product. Decent at times, but when it was Carmella or Alexa in the ring, especially Carmella since she had an extended face-in-peril segment, things really came to a halt, and the crowd didn’t give much of a crap to any of it. It came down to Nikki vs. Carmella, and without much effort, Nikki laid her out with a forearm smash and finished with the TKO, replacing the Rack Attack as her finisher, at 11:07. *
WWE Universal Championship Match:
Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins:
After a month’s worth of hype and suspense, they revealed the exact same belt as the WWE World Title, except with a red strap, and boy did the Brooklyn crowd HATE the damn thing, booing it out of the building every time it was featured on camera and at times ignoring the match (their loss, since it was a good match). Why, why, WHY are they introducing him as Finn Balor, The Demon King?!? Is that REALLY necessary? Not long into the match, Mr. Reckless sent Finn crashing awkwardly into the barricade with a form of the Buckle-Bomb (the same move that ended Sting’s career). They did some great sequences and counters, and traded near falls. I must’ve missed it in the introductions, but when Rollins had Balor in a Triangle Choke, he refused to break the hold when Balor made it to the ropes because this was No Disqualification. Balor actually kicked out of the Pedigree, possibly the only man besides Reigns to do so in recent memory. Balor made the big comeback, rocking Rollins with several running dropkicks, knocking him back into the turnbuckles, and eventually finished with the Coup de Grace at 19:24 to become the 1st WWE Universal Champion. 24 hours later, and he’s out for a minimum 6-months with a torn labrum and had to relinquish the belt. That REALLY sucks. Great match that suffered a bit from a light crowd, but they got into it as the match went longer. ***3/4
WWE United States Championship Match:
Rusev © (w/ Lana) vs. Roman Reigns:
Before we can get the introductions, Rusev attacked Reigns and they began brawling around the ring area. Reigns dumped Rusev into the timekeeper’s section and began pounding away with him as several referees tried to break things up. Rusev grabbed a chair, but Reigns blocked it and continued to pound away and somewhere in the chaos, it was decided that the match wasn’t going to take place. Oh well, not a big deal. I expected a short match, and this serves the same purpose of saving the match for the Clash of Champions. After leaving Rusev laying, Reigns decided to come back out and lay him out with a Super-Sized Spear. Just watching this show and listening to the commentary, you’d think Rusev was the face, getting sympathy from the crowd and announcers, and Lana looking on helplessly while he struggled to walk away under his own power. Unfortunately, it’ll be ignored and we’ll have cookie-cutter babyface Reigns vs. evil Russian Rusev moving forwards.
Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar (w/ Paul Heyman):
I’m not surprised this is the show-closing match, since it was announced during the last Pay-Per-View and has been the focus of attention on both shows ever since. Crowd was into both men, which is always a good sign after mostly sitting on their hands for the last hour. Lesnar controlled early, throwing Orton around with Germans… was it me, or was Orton sandbagging a little on some of the earlier ones? Lesnar continued to dominate until they took it to the floor. He tossed Orton around, but an RKO Out of Nowhere© onto the announcer’s table (and not breaking it) was enough to balance the match to give Orton a chance of winning. Back in the ring, Orton with another RKO, but it only gets two. Lesnar came back with an F-5, also for a two count. He decides enough is enough, takes the gloves off, and throws some lame looking punches before going bonkers and RIPPING ORTON’S HEAD OPEN with a pair of vicious elbows. Orton is bleeding buckets and the referee calls for the trainers to check on the cut, and he’s already leaving puddles of blood on the canvas. Lesnar continues to attack, so the bell rings out of nowhere™ and they call it a victory for Lesnar by TKO at 11:45. Lesnar continued to stalk the barely conscious Orton until Shane McMahon came in to check on him, and after a brief confrontation, Lesnar left him laying with an F-5 to close the show. Hard to rate, but this was different, and hopefully it was a complete work, otherwise I don’t see the justification of keeping Lesnar around. ***
Final Thoughts: Watching this in one long viewing is not recommended. Just going to get that out of the way right now. There’s some questionable stuff, some uncomfortable moments, and for a while following the Styles/Cena Super-Clash, it might as well have been one of the least heated sections of a major PPV I’ve seen in a long time… however, watch the show in parts, and you have a handful of really good-great matches, a hot opener, and even a pair of decent matches given time to work on the Kickoff Show. The injuries to key players is a bit of a downer, and both shows seem to have a cloud of mystery hanging over their heads. All things said and done, this was a good show, but it wasn’t knocked out of the ball-park must-see stuff. Mild Recommendation, mostly for the poor quality of the show between Styles/Cena and Balor/Rollins.
31-year old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Longtime fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Vikings. Avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on the old school wrestling.