First, a Word on Optimism
There’s this thing the WWE does, after an endless flood of monotonous fluff, where they remind you that they’re still the best wrestling company in the world. It’s by pure force of talent, some excellent writing, and a general knowledge of when to strike. SummerSlam was probably my favorite show all year, and I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment. These are the best wrestlers in the business, that’s why they’re signed. If watching a nonstop barrage of quality doesn’t reassure you even a little bit, I don’t know what will. Summerslam, where dreams are mended. When you watched SummerSlam last night, you remembered that there is a point to all this, that payoff does exist, and that at its best, pro wrestling can be the most riveting stuff in the whole wide world.
A Match Where Absolutely Nothing Happens Except the Bare Essentials of its Details
Dolph Ziggler beat The Miz. He landed the ZigZag. Miz sold it well. Ziggler won the IC Title.
Look there’s really not much to say here. The match kicked off the show because on a pay-per-view with a much higher profile card, there’s only so much hype to go around. It’s telling that I deeply enjoyed this fight, and had my memory immediately rendered blank by ALL OF THE OTHER GREAT WRESTLING on the show. That’s a good thing, there’s a headliner and an opener for a reason, and hey! Dolph Ziggler has a belt he can carry around now! Woo!
Paige is Having So Much Fun
So during Paige’s thwacking of AJ Lee, culminating her reversing the Black Widow into a skull-shattering DDT, we got the following beautiful moments.
- Paige skipping to the ring with the unhinged glory of someone who deeply enjoys causing deep, psychological trauma.
- Paige crawling over AJ’s incapacitated body like a lover, or a hyena, depending on your perspective.
- After the bell, Paige hugging AJ Lee’s unconscious body close to her chest, like the bizzaro world version of that justgirlythings tumblr, and skipping off out of the building.
I love weird, evil Paige. Most heels don’t try to hide their anger, but Paige covers up her rage with an insincerity so toxic it actually begins to radiate. Cloyingly malevolent Paige with a belt? That sounds like trouble.
I Bought It
When Jack Swagger popped out of the Accolade and got the Patriot Lock on Rusev. I was ready for the streak to end and Swagger’s weird kayfabe history of racism to be washed away in the spirit of generalized nationalism. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, so I’m guessing scumbag-patriot John Cena shows up by November.
You have to sorta feel bad for Jack Swagger. This will probably be the last time he’ll ever be relevant. They’re not going to throw him at Rusev anymore, which is a shame, because Jack’s all-American pomp got him over in a company where he’s been consistently marginalized, some of that self-afflicted. Having him lose at SummerSlam is the WWE admitting that as hard as he worked and as over as he is, they’ve got bigger fish to fry with Rusev. So yeah Swagger, hope you enjoy jobbing to Adam Rose again.
Okay You Were Right WWE, the Lumberjack Match was a Good Idea
The premise of a lumberjack match is simple. You get about 30 wrestlers that aren’t doing anything else on the show, and you have them surround a ring. If anyone ends up outside of the ring, the “lumberjacks” force them back in. Dean Ambrose made his SummerSlam bout with Seth Rollins a lumberjack match, because Dean Ambrose loses due to interference from other wrestlers. Lumberjack matches are usually dumb.
And to be fair, this match was, in some ways, pretty dumb. But it was also great. Because when you let the inherent chaos boil to the point of EVERYBODY IN THE RING TAKING SWINGS AT EVERYBODY I am always going to pop. When Kane stomped down only to have Goldust stand up and get in his face? Hell yeah. The match itself was pretty short, but you can make up a lot of ground with adrenaline.
Rollins went over with a blindside shot to the back of the head with his briefcase, but with Lesnar holding the belt it’s hard to really know where this storyline can go from here. I mean, these two could keep fighting and that would be fine. But Ambrose has better things he could be doing, and Rollins has to figure out where he stands with an Authority that just gave a title to someone who’s, in all likelihood, going to hold it until Wrestlemania. I do hope our days of Dean Ambrose hiding in things are not over; I want to watch Rollins over-sell his paranoia at least one more time.
Bray Wyatt Gets the Victory that Bray Wyatt Needed
This match was pretty boring until the last five minutes. It was right around the time when Bray dropped to his knees and beckoned to Jericho, “YOU CAN’T KILL ME CHRIS. I’M ALREADY DEAD. I’M ALREADY DEAD,” that I started to perk up.
I’m beginning to think that Bray Wyatt is best when he sticks to the mantras. His winding promos can be occasionally great, but you’ve got a psychopathic demon southern preacher on your hands. Those people don’t need to be reciting a litany of rhetorical points, they need to be shouting simple, declarative and utterly gothic messages. So when Bray Wyatt informs Chris Jericho that the very concept of having a fight with him was utterly pointless in the mindless, nihilistic hellscape they’ve found themselves in, he’d best do it with a short sentence. And he'd best do it shortly before launching an absolutely killer Sister Abigail into the barriers.
So yes, Bray Wyatt goes over clean, and if it wasn’t for Brock Lesnar, he’d leave looking like the scariest guy in the company.
The Sickest Swerve of the Century
As it turns out, Stephanie McMahon should be wrestling all the time. Has anyone ever looked so natural working in the ring after a 10-year absence? Her DDT looked great! She sold that hands-up Ric Flair “oh s---, I’m about to get my head torn off” like a veteran! I love Stephanie, I need more Stephanie; that “YOU STILL GOT IT” chant halfway through genuinely warmed my heart.
But DUDE that swerve.
So Brie Bella is twin sisters with Nikki Bella. You probably know this because every time she’s on camera she makes reference to “my sister, Nikki Bella.” About halfway through this match, with Brie putting Stephanie in the Yes Lock, out trots Triple H and Nikki Bella. “Oh great,” you sigh, “some tired interference to muck up the story.” But then something amazing happens, Nikki Bella climbs into the ring, and just as it looks like she’s going to side-slam Stephanie, she instead turns to her sister and knocks her cold.
Yes, Nikki Bella joined The Authority, and her first act was knocking her sister unconscious. Stephanie then puts Brie in the Pedigree, and it’s the highlight of the entire show. That Brie/Nikki match next month will be SO GOOD. CAN WE PLEASE GET A STEPH/NIKKI TAG TEAM?
A Quick Lesson on When a Match Should End
I was pretty cool on the Randy Orton/Roman Reigns feud. I liked watching Orton beat Reigns into a pulp a couple weeks ago, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve been watching these two fight for months now, and a random stopgap pre-headliner with nothing except abstract incantations like, “HE STOLE MY TITLE SHOT” on the line… well… it’s not exactly Rock/Stone Cold.
That being said, this was a great match. Randy Orton can do this thing sometimes where he moves really slowly, and kids on the internet call it “methodical” when really it’s just kinda boring. But here he ups his pace a half-step and all of a sudden it comes off as prickish and sinister, just like he’s always wanted. Roman Reigns, who I’ve been critical of lately, does a lot of cool stuff, and sorta reminds you why he resonated in the first place. Dude always makes you squeal when he gets outside of the ring, and that counts for something.
But here’s the thing, the penultimate moment of this match is Randy Orton catching Reigns’ Superman Punch with his RKO. It is sick, the sort of coldness that makes you root for an abject heel He gets the cover and… a kick out.
A few minutes later Reigns lands a spear and wins the match.
Listen I don’t have a problem with Reigns going over. But when he finishes the match with a goddamn spear, after EATING AN RKO COUNTER OF HIS SIGNATURE MOVE, it feels a little disingenuous. If your signature move gets countered by someone else’s signature move, you’re done. Match over. Roman Reigns should’ve gotten up, realized what happened, and jogged out of the ring.
Brock Lesnar Just Did Something to John Cena That Nobody Has Ever Done to John Cena
So the wrestling in this match was kinda boring. An endless barrage of German Suplexes, which are generally the sort of mid-card transition moves that don’t do much damage and don’t provoke a whole lot of selling. A couple of brutal F5s, a barrage of very-fake-looking punches, and exactly two moments of offense from John Cena. It was over a lot faster than any of us was expecting, which would suck, if the circumstances and result of this match weren’t unprecedented in the history of wrestling.
You see, friends. John Cena Overcomes the Odds. That’s what he does. That’s his MO, that’s his slogan. His voice wavers a bit, he talks about how some people love him and some people hate him, but that doesn’t matter because he Never Gives Up.™
So when Brock Lesnar destroyed him, in every way Brock Lesnar said he’d destroyed him, it was pretty poetic. This wasn’t even close. Cena lands a desperation Attitude Adjustment halfway through, and Brock just laughs. He is, right now, the most unstoppable heel in the history of the WWE, because nobody dismantles John Cena that cleanly. Brock Lesnar left the ring last night under the weight of his own feet, with a smile, after delivering 16 suplexes to John Cena, you know, the 15-time champion who always wins. This was a desecration by Lesnar, a pure hate-filled romp through a poor soul’s body. For the first time in his career, John Cena never had a chance. When you pull the trigger on something like that, it’s always going to feel profound.