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Full of Surprises, SummerSlam Delivers Much-Needed Positive Night for WWE

In the first pay-per-view under the creative leadership of Paul “Triple H” Levesque, the world of wrestling received an energy jolt.

 The Bloodline is the most dominant faction in WWE, and that was the prevailing theme last night at SummerSlam. The main story moving forward will be who can dethrone Roman Reigns–and following SummerSlam, it is clear it will not be Brock Lesnar.

Lesnar lost, but he was spectacular in the main event, working a 23-minute Last Man Standing match—the equivalent of a 60-man Iron Man for him—against Reigns. This was one of his most engaged, energetic, and action-packed matches since his return in 2012. Lesnar was certainly in his element, working a tractor, hitting F5s, and maximizing all of his strengths. There was added intrigue when Theory made his sprint to the ring during the match and a cash-in was teased, but ultimately the story was Reigns teaming up with Jimmy and Jey Uso to ensure The Bloodline remained atop WWE. Finishes to Last Man Standing matches are notoriously predictable, and this was no exception, but the match itself was compelling.

The Usos also defeated the Street Profits, a solid match that lacked any fireworks. Jeff Jarrett was the special referee, calling the match down the middle, and Montez Ford did not turn on Angelo Dawkins. So The Bloodline held onto all the top belts, and it will be interesting to see who is presented as their next challengers. The card also saw Bianca Belair and Liv Morgan retain their respective titles, and overall, it was a very successful pay-per-view. With so much attention surrounding WWE following the retirement/resignation of Vince McMahon, SummerSlam served as a much-needed energy boost.

This marked the first pay-per-view under the creative leadership of Paul “Triple H” Levesque, who replaced McMahon as the head of creative. McMahon is likely still heavily involved in the product’s creative direction, but Levesque’s fingerprints were also noticeable, especially so during the return of Bayley and introductions of Dakota Kai and Io Shirai. Edge also reappeared for the first time since May, taking out The Judgment Day’s Finn Balor and Damian Priest in their no-disqualification match against Rey and Dominik Mysterio.

Featuring a WrestleMania-esque setting, the visual of a night of big matches at Nissan Stadium in Nashville was spectacular.

A celebration breaks out at SummerSlam.

SummerSlam served as a much-needed energy boost for WWE.

Here were the results:

  • Raw women’s champion Bianca Belair defeated Becky Lynch
  • Logan Paul defeated The Miz
  • United States champion Bobby Lashley defeated Theory by submission
  • Rey and Dominik Mysterio defeated The Judgment Day’s Finn Balor and Damian Priest in a no disqualification tag match
  • Pat McAfee defeated Happy Corbin
  • The Usos successfully defended the unified tag team titles against the Street Profits
  • SmackDown women’s champion Liv Morgan defeated Ronda Rousey
  • Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns defeated Brock Lesnar in a Last Man Standing match

The next-level chemistry between Belair and Lynch was again on display in the opener. Belair kicked out of a Mandhandle Slam, but Lynch could not kick out of the KOD. It served as another important victory for Belair, making last year’s 27-second loss to Lynch at SummerSlam a distant memory. Following a post-match handshake, with Lynch shifting back to a babyface, it was clear a new villain needed. That role was immediately filled by the returning Bayley. She came with backup, as Kai–who was a star in NXT but was released in April–and Io Shirai, now known as Iyo Sky, both made surprise entrances.

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The new faction, which has the potential to be one of the most exciting groups in wrestling, was ready to attack Belair until Lynch came to her defense. Instantly, this storyline adds significant momentum to Raw, which will be boosted by the additions of Bayley, Kai and Sky. This is also a strong indication that the women will be presented in a stronger, more legitimate light–a hallmark of NXT during Levesque’s leadership–moving forward.

Logan Paul made his WWE singles debut, defeating The Miz with a Skull Crushing Finale. There was something cruel about seeing accomplished pro wrestler Tommaso Ciampa stand ringside as Miz’s muscle, watching as Paul–a social media influencer–claimed a spot on one of the year’s signature wrestling cards. Ciampa is too talented to be cast aside, and hopefully his time will arrive in WWE. The highlight of the match was Paul delivering a frog splash off the top rope onto the announce table. A.J. Styles also made an appearance, and the narrative from the broadcast team was that Styles will be introduced as the one training and preparing Paul for WWE. Realistically, Styles should be in the mix for the world title, but just like with everything else he does, Styles will certainly add value to this program, which is set to continue.

In other action, Bobby Lashley made extremely quick work of Theory, successfully defending his United States title by submission in a shade under five minutes. Edge made an exciting return, laying out The Judgment Day’s Balor and Priest, allowing a chance for Rey Mysterio to cover Balor for the win. Edge brings excitement whenever he appears on-screen, and his return is a resounding positive. But couldn’t The Judgment Day be presented in a more realistic, less cartoonish manner? Balor certainly deserves that chance.

Pat McAfee also returned to the ring, defeating Happy Corbin. This didn’t quite meet the standard McAfee set at WrestleMania 38, but he was his usual athletic marvel in the match, though the finish was never in doubt. A highlight of the night came during the Ronda Rousey heel-turn. After the referee missed Morgan tap out, which cost Rousey the match, she exploded in the aftermath and laid out Morgan and the referee. Morgan needs more time with the belt to establish herself as champion, and while the finish didn’t make her look strong, it was necessary to reinvent Rousey as a full-fledged heel.

Despite multiple opportunities, Rousey failed to connect with the crowd as a babyface. That isn’t indicative of her as a talent, as certain stars are simply built better to play a heel. Rousey has the potential to be an absolute force as a villain. No time should be wasted before adding Shayna Baszler to her corner.

WWE now moves forward to Clash at the Castle in September. There is genuine optimism for some more compelling weeks of Raw, especially with the additions of Bayley, Sky, Kai, and Edge. Rousey as a heel on SmackDown is full of potential, and the new focus will be centered around Drew McIntyre pursuing Reigns and knocking off The Bloodline.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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