It was a long night in Brooklyn, New York, as WWE SummerSlam returned to the borough for a second time in as many years. The highs of the evening came from some unexpected midcard matches — including a pleasantly bizarre Jon Stewart cameo –while the fights later in the card were a confusing mess of non-starts and anti-climactic finishes.
American Alpha, The Usos, and The Hype Bros (WINNERS) vs. The Vaudevillains, The Ascension, and Breezango
Yes, this was technically a 12-man tag match (and a pretty good one at that), but first bout of the pre-show really came down to four guys: Jason Jordan and Chad Gable from American Alpha and Jimmy and Jay Uso. The two tag teams wrestled for the same side — creating some of the best moments of the match — a stolen pin at the end on the part of the Usos could spell some good things going forward for the SmackDown tag division.
Sami Zayne and Neville (WINNERS) vs. The Dudley Boyz
The match didn’t devolve into the tables-and-chairs extravaganza that everyone hopes for when the legendary tag team makes its way to the ring, but solid wrestling on both sides made for another strong kick-off bout. Also, Neville’s Red Arrow will never not be insane. You just kind of have to feel Sami Zayne getting as far into the corner as he can to avoid the friendly fire.
Sheamus (WINNER) vs. Cesaro
Props to Cesaro for trying to find a gimmick that works for him, but the sound you’re hearing is EON Productions calling to complain about the James Bond rip-off. Not that it violates copyright or anything; they just don’t like any gimmick that lasts all of five seconds, before Cesaro rips off his tuxedo and becomes just another dude. A little follow through is appreciated. It may have helped Cesaro’s case, however, that he pulled off a fantastic jump from the ring posts to the ropes and that the crowd wouldn’t stop chanting, “You look stupid.”
Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens (WINNERS) vs. Enzo Amore and Big Cass
What Enzo and Cass lacked in winning-the-match-ness, they made up for in their pre-match mic time. (Though it would have been nice to get a reply from Jericho.) Either way, the first main card event set the tone for the majority of the night, with Enzo taking some risks that thrilled and worried the crowd in equal measure. Some of those jumps didn’t land quite as cleanly as Enzo’s chiropractor would have liked.
Charlotte (WINNER) vs. Sasha Banks
A heartbreaker for the (now former) Women’s Champion, as well as the crowd, the first title match of the night would end up being the best by far. The highlights came toward the end, when Sasha reversed a Razor’s Edge from the top rope into a Frankensteiner, and just when it looked like things were over, Charlotte rolled out of the Bank Statement straight into a pin.
The Miz (WINNER) vs. Apollo Crews
In the first dud of the night, the Intercontinental Championship was on the line, but the crowd at Barclays Center didn’t seem to care. The arena was oddly quiet throughout as the Miz retained and everyone else ran to the concession stand.
A.J. Styles (WINNER) vs. John Cena
The match of the night came well before its conclusion. Styles took enough of a break from getting dropped through tables to put on a really great show with Cena in a very, very anti-Cena crowd. It was one of those matches that strung together finishers and kick-outs so perfectly that by the time Styles got the clean three-count, “Cena sucks” turned into applause of hard-earned respect. Moments like Styles kicking out of the Avalanche AA were pretty scarce for the rest of the night, and nonexistent in the two final fights.
Gallows and Anderson (WINNERS) vs. The New Day
My feelings about Jon Stewart’s presence at WWE events is split right down the middle between missing The Daily Show more than anything and general second-hand embarrassment. Overall, I’m glad he’s there, and as an honorary third member of The New Day, Stewart was a welcome addition to an occasionally dull show. There wasn’t much of a tag-team match to speak of, before Gallows and Anderson turned their attention to Stewart, setting up a surprise appearance by Big E that resulted in a DQ and no title change.
Dean Ambrose (WINNER) vs. Dolph Zigler
Your mom’s new friend Dean Ambrose successfully defended the World Heavyweight Championship against Dolph Zigler in a match that should have been more thrilling than it was. Though not without its bright spots, the fight disappointing ended up throwing the rhythm of the night off in a big way, especially considering how lackluster (intentionally or not) the final match ended up being.
Natalya, Alexa Bliss, and Nikki Bella (WINNERS) vs. Carmella, Becky Lynch, and Naomi
With Eva Marie out on a wellness policy violation (creatively explained away as “exhaustion” during the show), Nikki Bella made a return to a huge response from the crowd in Brooklyn. Aside from the Nikki comeback and Naomi’s stellar new entrance, there wasn’t much more noteworthy about the six-woman tag.
Finn Balor (WINNER) vs. Seth Rollins
If you polled a random member of the audience in Brooklyn, they may not remember this match even happening. The focus of the crowd was almost entirely on the new Universal Championship, the belt for which was a mystery until Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon unveiled it onstage. And… it… was… red? Yep, the new belt looked like every other belt aside from the red leather backing. The chanting for the match that followed focus nearly entirely on the belt. “Hey hey, we want a new belt,” to Bayley’s call: “That belt sucks.” For me, it’s red. Okay, who cares? The match was actually pretty solid, if you stopped to watch it.
Rusev vs. Roman Reigns
Ugh, this match didn’t even start, which would have been okay if the final event of the night wasn’t a total bust.
Brock Lesner (WINNER) vs. Randy Orton
Speaking of busts, the Beast opened up the Viper to the point where blood was pouring out onto the mat. Was that supposed to happen? Didn’t seem like it, but then again, nothing about this match seemed to go as planned. The ubiquity of WWE 2K17 ads featuring Goldberg primed the audience for a surprise appearance, but that never came. Whether or not the gash on Orton’s head superseded that remains to be seen. Whatever the plan was, the result was a huge disappointment for everyone watching.