So it’s another WWE pay-per-view. Depending on how you classify Beast in the East, it’s either been two weeks or five weeks since our last offering. I could write a big introduction here, but there isn’t a ton to say. Brock Lesnar is back gunning for the title. John Cena and Kevin Owens are facing off. And there will be some other matches that no one really cares about.
Randy Orton vs. Sheamus
Randy Orton is still super over. Admittedly, they’re in his hometown, but the pops are big for the guy no matter where they are. Doesn’t matter that he hasn’t done anything interesting for months. Got to be honest, before they showed the pre-match package I had no memory of why this match was happening. And I’ve watched all the Raws since Money in the Bank. This has been about as generic a feud as it gets. Appropriately, it’s between two guys lacking direction and purpose. In a match-up we’ve seen a number of times before.
There should be some stakes to this match. The winner should be closer to a WWE Championship match, or at least should seem victorious in their personal rivalry. But the rivalry barely exists, and there’s no sense that the winner is actually going to get anything. There’s nothing wrong with this match. It’s a perfectly good contest, and that’s not surprising since these two are excellent in the ring. But I can’t think of a reason I should care about the outcome, and that’s a problem when we have a match between two of WWE’s bigger stars.
I appreciate that they didn’t have Orton kick out of the Brogue Kick and instead just had Sheamus not be able to make the cover. Finisher kickouts have been terribly overused in WWE this year. Finish was fine, both men came out looking like equals.
Rating: **½. Went a bit long, probably had time added due to the IC Title match being canceled. Orton getting the win in his hometown makes sense for the opener. Fine match, but like I said before I couldn’t find a reason to care about it.
Normally I’d complain about a long recap on a pay-per-view, but re-showing the women’s segment from Monday helped show that it was a big deal. So I can live with that. As for the segment, I enjoyed it. Unlike some, I had no problem with Stephanie being part of it. I feel like she elevated the segment beyond what it would have been without her. I hope it’s the start of Stephanie taking a larger role in the diva’s division.
I was thinking they should do a Steph promo, and then it turned out the writers agreed with me. Holy shit is JoJo tiny. Stephanie being so gigantic is kind of weird because she towers over all the women’s wrestlers. Babyface promo from Stephanie. I’d dig the idea of Steph being a face managing the women’s division while remaining a heel overall. I think fans can handle a bit of complexity and it would make sense for her character to be interested in promoting women’s wrestling.
WWE World Tag Team Championship: The Prime Time Players (c) vs. The New Day
I like PTPers. Both guys have talent. They make a solid team. But there was no justification for them getting the belts, and especially not taking them off New Day so early in their run. New Day is only getting better despite getting less airtime than before. WWE seems to have lost the idea of a title chase. Everytime they get a team they like they throw the belts on them right away rather than building up to it. PTPers would have been much better off chasing New Day for three months, getting screwed at every turn, and then finally getting their big win. Doing the big win first took away any reason for the crowd to care about them.
Are those “New Day Rocks” chants? Come on, they were the only real heels on the roster! Modern wrestling fans ruin everything. Boo the heels if they’re doing a good job.
Redundant, but Xavier’s antics were probably the best part of this match. Man, that hot tag to Titus was excellent. I borrow from the Attitude Era Podcast and rate it on the Nando’s Scale: Spicy. And then PTPers won. I’m not really sure why.
Rating: **. Meh. Pretty straightforward tag match. Like both the teams, but this was uninspired.
Backstage segment with Paige, Charlotte, and Becky. It was awkward. I think WWE’s backstage segments all range between awkward and cringeworthy.
Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns
Two of WWE’s top young stars. Both of them lacking in direction and momentum. So put them against each other? Not the typical booking approach. This feud was going in a really interesting direction with Bray talking about Roman’s daughter. And then they dropped that, I assume because they were worried about Bray seeming like a pedophile. So instead we’re back to the same feud Bray always has. Same mindgames, same shenanigans. It’s only been going on two years but it’s a tired formula by now.
People still boo Roman Reigns. At this point I have no idea why. He’s not overpushed. He’s been doing great work the last few months. It’s time for butthurt smarks to get over themselves.
This match was decent, not special. It was physical and intense, but definitely dragged a bit. I was surprised that Bray won, but I’m pumped for The Wyatt Family reuniting. Breaking them up was a huge mistake and they’ve all been worse for it. The question is, who is Roman going to get as his teammates?
Rating: **. Decent match, a bit disappointing.
Brie Bella vs. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks
Alright, welcome to the new era. This is one of the most important women’s matches in WWE history. These women are expected to raise the bar. Brie isn’t someone I would pick for this particular match, so that’s a tough start. But there are a number of skeptical fans and people backstage that need to be won over.
And the match was okay. Not special, not a disaster. Brie was a weak point. Just not on the same level as Charlotte and Sasha. Or anyone else involved here, really. The part where the Bellas were surrounded and everyone just stood there was awkward. Match really could have used a breakdown brawl there. Anyway, Charlotte getting the win was the right call and the response was great. This is just the start of a new era in the women’s division, and I still have high hopes.
Rating: **. Not a great match by any means. Better things are ahead.
United States Championship: John Cena vs. Kevin Owens
One month later, this remains the best thing in WWE. Not a lot has been added to the story since Money in the Bank. The one wrinkle has been the playing up of how rigorous Cena’s schedule has been and how the constant defenses must be wearing him out. I hope they capitalize on this. It’s just like the Batman storyline “Knightfall,” where Bane broke all of Batman’s enemies out of Arkham, watched him wearing himself out catching them all, and then broke Batman’s back.
I could watch these two wrestle for hours. They mesh so well it’s unbelievable. They keep adding new moves to their repertoires, they re-work spots so as to reference their previous matches. And though they fall a bit too much into the “Big move/kickout formula,” they do it better than just about anyone else in wrestling.
Kevin Owens does not only the AA better than Cena, but also the STF. Warms my heart. That top rope Cradle Brainbuster from Owens looks amazing, but also safe. On the other hand, Cena’s Hurricanrana seems like it should have resulted in a broken neck by now. Most dangerous Hurricanrana since Ken Shamrock circa 1998. Also, the Springboard Stunner has to go. Nice try, but Cena just can’t hit it well.
My stomach was churning watching this match. I was invested in the outcome. I was reeling on every AA/Pop-Up Powerbomb attempt. This is what wrestling does in its purest form. Turns us back into marks. I might as well have been watching a Detroit Lions game, I was so invested in the outcome.
Holy Jesus, Kevin Owens kicked out of the Super AA. I mean, finisher kickouts are overdone but that one worked. It’s not an exaggeration to say no one has ever kicked out of the Super AA. And I was heartbroken to see Owens tap out. He’s not hurt by the loss. It was a great match. But I desperately wanted to see him get the win there. Hope WWE has big things planned for him from here.
Rating: ****½. Think I liked that the most of their matches. Elimination Chamber had the shocking outcome, but that was just downright nerve-wracking. Possibly the best WWE match of the year so far. Can’t praise these two enough.
Personally, I would have gone with Owens passing out in the AA. Yes, that’s a babyface finish, but Owens is essentially a babyface already. Cena not being able to pin Owens or make him tap would have given Owens a leg to stand on and set up a final battle for Summerslam.
Not much to say about the Miz segment. A little weird to have Big Show knock him out. Unless Big Show is going to turn face now. Which wouldn’t be a big shock, because it’s been about eight months since he last turned.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Seth Rollins (c) vs. Brock Lesnar
It was a weird path we took to get here. Triple H decided to bring Brock back because…Rollins needed to prove himself, I think. That seemed like a bombshell turn on Triple H’s part, but then it was never really mentioned again. And then the writing team decided that Seth, Kane, and J&J were an unstoppable forced together and they were able to smash Lesnar. Even though they’d been a total joke for the months before that. Brock murdered a car and nearly killed someone with the door. And then Brock killed Kane, Noble, and Mercury.
So there’s no reason to think Seth Rollins should be able to do anything against Lesnar. Brock has destroyed Undertaker, John Cena, and Roman Reigns. Seth isn’t anywhere near the level of those guys in kayfabe. Maybe they could have shown Seth to be more of a bad ass in the last month, give him some big wins, but they didn’t do that. He’s a weasel heel with no backup. He should really just get squashed here.
I love that Brock’s matches are totally different from the rest of the roster. He exists in his own, super-realistic, minimalistic world. He doesn’t do fancy shit, he just Suplexes people. And when his opponents get going, they have to go full force. No time to taunting or posing. Of course, Seth’s fight was all for nothing, because he’s fighting the Baddest Man on the Planet. Brock comes back, destroys Seth with the F5, and…
HOLY FUCK IT’S UNDERTAKER.
We knew it was a possibility. But I didn’t expect it like this. Taker interrupts the match and murders Lesnar. Low blow(?!), Chokeslam, two Tombstones. Utter destruction. He’s back. And he’s back for everything.
Rating: ***. I mean, it was Brock killing Seth and Undertaker showing up. Hard to complain about that.
So I guess we’ve got our Summerslam main event.
Overall: Kind of a weird show. Unlike Money in the Bank, which felt like less than the sum of its parts, this one feels like more as a whole than it did in pieces. Maybe it’s just my anticipation for Lesnar vs. Undertaker, but I feel a lot more excited coming out of this than I did after Money in the Bank. I have no idea who is going to face Seth Rollins at Summerslam, and that’s a good thing.