Summerslam 2015

There were many who questioned WWE’s ability to follow up the excellent NXT Takeover Brooklyn with a Summerslam show anywhere near the quality of what the ‘second string’ offered their New York audience. However, Summerslam delivered. Whilst it may not have been as good as Takeover or had a match as good as Banks vs Bayley, it was very enjoyable for the most part. There were bumps in the road during this four hour show, and not everything was killer rather than filler, but you can consider the WWE two for two on their run of successive events.

Sheamus vs Randy Orton

It might be just as easy for me to copy and paste my review from Battleground in terms of what these two guys offered the crowd in the opening match on the Summerslam card. They both work hard, and the matches are never that bad. Unfortunately, when you meet as often as these guys seem to, it is never going to offer you much in the way of excitement beyond the perfunctory.

Even with that having been said, both men did utilise some nice and different moves to try and offer the crowd something different to the previous times they have battled. Sheamus dropped a beautiful top rope kneedrop (a personal favourite move of mine), whilst Randy Orton employed the use of the top rope in his hangman’s DDT for added impact. The match felt slow and plodding at times though, and the limited reaction for potential big spots like the Sheamus cloverleaf was telling. The first move to get a real pop was the RKO from a Sheamus springboard, leading to the heel wisely rolling his way to the floor.

The other move which offered the crowd a chance to pop was the teased Punt, an attack that Sheamus was lucky enough to avoid. This led to a nearfall of White Noise, before two Brogue Kicks gave Sheamus the pinfall victory over Orton. This was a necessary result, as Sheamus had already been defeated by Orton at the previous special event. I was surprised at the clean nature of the ending, though I guess this brings some closure to the feud as a whole. A solid, if unspectacular way to start Summerslam.

The PrimeTime Players (c) vs The New Day vs The Lucha Dragons vs Los Matadores for the WWE Tag Team Titles

If anyone was likely to kick Summerslam into high gear, it was going to be The New Day. Their promo before the match had me in stitches, as they mocked New York’s hip-hop scene before dropping their own song to the tune of ‘Empire State of Mind’. This team at the moment are money, and they proved this throughout a thoroughly enjoyable tag team encounter. From beginning by attempting the Outlaws victory (pinning your partner) to Xavier Woods’ loudmouth ranting at ringside, The New Day once again showed how vital they are to WWE TV.

At times, this felt more like a straight tag team match between the champions and New Day, with occasional additions from the other two teams. Big E and Kalisto offered a nice little big man/little man sequence, before a splash from Big E on the apron almost crushed poor Darren Young. This led to a control sequence that saw what are becoming staples of the New Day’s offense; double team mudhole stomping in the corner, Big E abdominal stretch with additional percussion. All this control built up to the inevitable Titus O’Neill tag, where he proceeded to barrel through everyone and anyone who got in his way. Kofi almost got killed with a big boot, before O’Neill threw a couple of other competitors around the ring like ragdolls.

The ending stretch was also highly enjoyable, as the ref completely lost control of the match. One of the Matodores hit (barely) Sin Cara as he attempted a dive; Woods hit a wheelbarrow facecrusher on El Torito; Big E ended up spearing Darren Young through the middle rope and off of the apron. In all the confusion, Kingston was able to get a blind tag and capitalise on O’Neill’s use of the Clash of the Titus on one of Los Matadores to sneak in, break up the cover and get the three count himself! The New Day are the new tag team champions, and whilst I like the Prime Time Players, you can’t argue with this booking. The New Day offer so much more, and it will be interesting to see where the booking takes them post-Summerslam.

Dolph Ziggler vs Rusev

This match just made me feel sad. I like Ziggler, I love Rusev, and this was just a complete waste of both men. Only last Summerslam, Ziggler was winning the IC Title as Rusev continued his undefeated dominance over Jack Swagger. The match saw limited reaction from the crowd, which is damning considering how over Ziggler was earlier in the year.

Even the bigger spots looked awkward. Ziggler stopped Rusev on the top rope with an X-factor type move, as well as turning a press slam into a DDT, but neither looked particularly smooth. Rusev himself got some reaction from a spinning bossman slam and a cannonball senton. Following a sleeper hold to wear the big man down, Ziggler almost picked up the win with the famouser, yet Rusev was eventually able to lock him in the Accolade.

The ending, which saw Rusev break the hold to save Summer Rae from Lana, and both men get counted out, was horrible – mainly because all it suggests to the audience is that there is more to come from this feud after Summerslam, something that no-one really wants. I don’t look forward to the inevitable mixed-tag at the next special event, and just hope that this feud is over sooner rather than later.

Stephen Amell/Neville vs King Barrett/Stardust

In the next match on the card, we saw the second celebrity appearance at Summerslam (following John Stewart’s introductory interview at the start of the show) as Stephen Amell teamed with Neville to battle the supervillain team of King Barrett and Stardust. This match was always going to live or die based on Amell’s role in the match, and to be fair, the guy showed he had some decent athleticism. In terms of moves, they gave him enough to make him look useful, without asking him to do anything too complicated, and the result was a pleasantly entertaining match.

Following an initial flurry by the face team, including Neville’s customary backflips out of the corner that always impress, Amell ended up playing face in peril. This wasn’t the way I’d expected the match to be structured, though it worked well, allowing Neville to play the role of the hot tag. An enziguiri by Amell both looked good and allowed him to make the tag to the fired-up Geordie. Dives to the outside followed, including an impressive looking crossbody off of the top turnbuckle from Amell. All this outside activity left Neville free to floor Barrett and nail the Red Arrow to leave us with the obvious victors. Perfectly acceptable wrestling, which still leaves a window for the Neville and Stardust feud to continue if needs be.

Ryback (c) vs The Miz vs The Big Show for the WWE Intercontinental Title

A match probably vying with Ziggler vs Rusev for the worst match on this Summerslam card, all three men tried but failed to engender any real excitement over this title match. Occasional spots gave a glimmer of enjoyment – Big Show choosing to chokeslam Ryback onto Miz and the Miz’s multiple attempts at pinfalls after a Ryback Shellshock to Big Show allowed him to hit the Skull Crushing Finale amongst the best bits. In the end, Ryback capitalised on a KO punch by Big Show to the Miz, clotheslining the bigger man out of the ring and pinning the Miz for the win. Completely forgettable, and a waste of all three men if I’m honest.

Roman Reigns/Dean Ambrose vs Bray Wyatt/Luke Harper

A competitive match between two teams of men who feel like they are in somewhat of a holding pattern until bigger things become available (Reigns, Ambrose and Wyatt especially). Considering Reigns and Ambrose have main-evented PPVs this year, it seems odd to have them so far down the Summerslam card. However, they all did the best with what they were handed, giving us a good slice of tag team action in the middle of the card.

After an initial flurry of offense (including a dive following a run across all three announce tables by Ambrose), we fall into the predictable Dean Ambrose in face-in-peril mode that the match required. The Wyatt Family use a nice variety of offense to keep him under control, including a suspended suplex from the second rope to the outside by Wyatt and a slingshot guillotine into the second rope by Harper. Ambrose does a good job of gaining sympathy generally, though the audience in attendance are definitely more inclined to cheer him than Reigns, who gets a fair selection of boos whenever he is on offense.

The finish felt anti-climactic due to the seemingly sudden nature of it and the fact that there felt like there had been limited struggle leading up to it. Ambrose and Reigns hit a variant of the Doomsday Device for a nearfall, followed by a Reigns spear getting them the three count. Considering this has been written several days after Summerslam, and with Raw already complete, it is clear that this feud is far from over.

Seth Rollins vs John Cena in a title for title match (World Title and US Title)

These two men just work well together. Whether they are able to produce that world class match that has everyone raving, I’m not sure, but you know that they are both going to offer their all. In this match, I also felt like I saw the better side of Rollins, and the side that makes the decision for him to have had a run with the World Title make all the more sense.

Rollins provides a sense of urgency within this match that shows us the importance of the title to him, as well as his awareness that Cena is a legitimate contender and danger to his title reign. Three successive suicide dives showcase this need for Rollins to bring out his big moves and not give Cena an inch of respite. A standing shooting star press and a suspended double foot stomp further indicate Rollin’s gameplan to hit Cena hard and fast, before he really has a chance to settle.

A match like this wouldn’t be a match without big match Cena though, and Cena holds up his end admirably. An AA out of nowhere gets him a two count, before seeing him on the end of a frog splash, powerbomb into the corner and an AA of Rollins’ own that gets a very close nearfall. In a nice nod to Ric Flair (due to the number of title reigns being an aspect of the storyline), we even see Cena lock in a figure four leglock, only for Rollins to eventually turn it over to reverse the pressure.

Cena eats a huge knee in a callback to the move that broke his nose, before Rollins gets a huge nearfall with his superplex/falcon arrow combination. In the following scuffle, the ref gets bumped and we see the arrival of John Stewart. Stewart had had an off and on rivaly with Rollins, but the chair he has in his hands gets used on Cena, leaving him prey to the pedigree and gifting Rollins the victory and the US title in the process. An odd booked ending to a good match – it had me laughing, and not necessarily in a bad way. An easy way for the WWE to get Summerslam some press coverage in the media, even if it might not make a lot of sense in the long run.

Team PCB vs Team BAD vs Team Bella

A real comedown following the exciting Bayley vs Banks match from NXT. Whilst I don’t expect the same due to the multi-woman nature of the match, it just feels that the magic that is being caught in the ‘B promotion’ isn’t quite being showcased in the same way on the bigger stage. It doesn’t help that Sasha Banks is far and away above her associates in Naomi and Tamina.

Before the first elimination, there is a nice sequence of dives incorporating multiple members of the three teams and ending with a Paige cannonball senton that doesn’t exactly get the most air but is nonetheless effective. Team BAD are the first team eliminated when Tamina is pinned by Brie. The second section of the match sees Paige cut off from her tag partners, punctuated by a brutal looking Alabama Slam on the floor by Nikki. When Paige is eventually able to tag out, and following a Charlotte Figure 8,  Becky Lynch and Brie Bella channel Frye and Takayama with a succession of strikes to the face. A missed Brie missile dropkick leaves her prey to a pumphandle slam from Becky and the match is over. A weak looking finish in some aspects, making the finish feel a bit anti-climactic.

Kevin Owens vs Cesaro

You have to be impressed by Kevin Owens. Going from a good and brutal ladder match against Balor on NXT the night before to another hard-hitting encounter versus Cesaro at Summerslam is a measure of what the man is capable of. The fact that the match quality didn’t seem to suffer from one to the other is also indicative of how good both Owens and Cesaro can be when given free reign to go at it. An early trade-off of dives (Owens with a somersault plancha, followed by Cesaro with a twisting press) gets things moving at a fast pace and things don’t ease up until the finish.

Owens high-impact offense versus Cesaro’s strength and strike attacks mesh incredibly well, as we see Owens brutalise Cesaro by using his body as a weapon, only for Cesaro to impress by out-muscling Owens. Owens hits the cannonball senton at ringside, as well as a cannonball legdrop and spinning neckbreaker to work over on the neck and back of Cesaro. A gutwrench superplex is one of the real highlights, as Cesaro dead lifted Owens to once again highlight his strength. We also see a Cesaro giant swing to a huge reaction from the crowd.

Necessarily though, Owens does enough to pick up the victory following a spinning superplex and a pop-up powerbomb.. Following a run of high-profile losses, Owens needed something to stop his star from falling completely. Unlike Owens, Cesaro hasn’t yet been shown to be fully in the league of wrestlers at the top of the card like John Cena, so it made sense for Owens to go over. In losing, Cesaro still looked incredibly impressive, hopefully earning him renewed hope and a push up the card.

Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker

The big worry was that the match both men had at Wrestlemania was indicative of the quality we would get from a match between Brock Lesnar and the Undertaker. Instead, in the Summerslam main event, both men were able to show what they could really do, in a match that would have been excellent if it wasn’t for the nuanced finish that left a lot of people more than a little confused. The two men brawled even before the bell rang, and the momentum continued to build as there were early teases for the chokeslam and the F5.

With Brock’s modus operandi in recent matches being to throw men around the ring with reckless abandon, I had imagined a change in tact for this match. I was surprised, therefore, when Lesnar started to drop big suplex bombs on the Undertaker, including both a belly to belly suplex and several German suplexes. The lengths that Lesnar needed to go to defeat the Deadman were highlighted by a painful looking F5 through the table.

The match felt a lot more urgent than their Wrestlemania match. This sense of pace was helped by a couple of finisher kick-outs, which added to the tension in this match rather than detracting from it as they can do. This even included a kick-out of a tombstone piledriver, which had me out of my seat. The laughter of both men as they were on the floor before trading several big punches only served to add a sense of the complete driven nature of both men.

Unfortunately, the finish left the match falling a little flat. Not because it was a bad finish per se, but because it didn’t make sense until further viewing and could be argued against. A Hell’s Gate submission was turned into a Kimura and the Undertaker tapped (importantly, on Lesnar rather than the mat). The bell was rung by the timekeeper (not the ref) and in the confusion, Undertaker hit a low blow and locked in the Hell’s Gate again. Lesnar passed out, leaving the ref no option but to call for the belt. It was a clever attempt to do something different, but Undertaker’s tapping out was too subtle, especially considering the finish relied on the ability for the timekeeper to see it. Since this was arguably impossible, it made the finish a little weaker than it should have been. With the disputed finish, there can only be one outcome – Lesnar vs Undertaker: One Last Time! At least this match leaves that prospect as an exciting one, rather than one that might have induced groans in the way the initial announcement of this match did. For that, kudos have to be offered to both men for turning in a real performance.

There we have it. Summerslam in just over 3000 words. My overall tiredness from both watching and reviewing the NXT and Summerslam shows over the past 24 hours means that the quality might not be to my usual high standard, but I felt it important to cover both events, even if they are from the weekend. Next stop will be the NXT show that covered the rest of the Takeover matches, as well as the Chilanga Mask show that was aired for free on Youtube. Enjoy!

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