WWE SummerSlam 2023: 4 Things We Hated And 4 Things We Loved

After weeks, or months, or years of build, it was finally here. The August show. The biggest party of the summer. WWE SummerSlam. With a lineup so stacked they couldn't find room for a match between a future Hall of Famer and a current Hall of Famer, this was one of WWE's most anticipated events of the year, featuring Rhodes/Lesnar 3, Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins, Ronda Rousey vs. Shayna Baszler, and of course, the main event — Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso.

If you've been a regular reader of our review columns, you probably have some idea about which of these matches worked for us and which didn't, but we're going to give them to you anyway. You can (and should) read the cold, hard facts of the show via our live coverage or check out our biggest winners and losers, but to learn what we really thought of this event, here are four things we hated and four things we loved from WWE SummerSlam 2023.

Hated: Not exactly going viral

The show's opening contest, Logan Paul vs. Ricochet, was a decent match with a lot of potential, but in our opinion it never really got there. There were things we liked about it — Paul continues to be unreasonably good at pro wrestling, both men performed some impressive aerial stunts, including a 630 Splash from Ricochet (even though he missed it) and we particularly liked Paul pulling out a running powerslam as an insulting nod to Ricochet's former tag team partner, Braun Strowman. That's the kind of attention to continuity detail that was missing far too often when Vince McMahon was running the show full-time.

That said, we didn't really feel this match delivered on the promise of its build. While the stunts were cool to watch, they weren't structured around a single big spot, which is what we would have expected. As a result, the match didn't really have anything to anchor it. And the finish not involving an aerial move at all, but rather a punch — a punch enhanced by brass knuckles, no less — was disappointing and a bit flat considering everything that had come before. The brass knuckles in particular was a strange choice. Was WWE protecting Ricochet with that finish? We wouldn't have thought he was high enough on the food chain to merit protecting, and if he is, why not just have him win? Overall, the opener was entertaining spectacle, but like so much entertaining spectacle, didn't have anything that made it stick with us.

Loved: Respect is earned

If there was one SummerSlam match we didn't expect to enjoy as much as we did, it was Cody Rhodes vs. Brock Lesnar. As regular readers know, we've been pretty negative about the build for this one, and we still don't love the feud overall. But this match? This match was awesome. They basically did the SummerSlam 2014 Lesnar/Cena match again — the one that birthed "Suplex City" — only this time, the hero somehow managed to survive Lesnar's onslaught and come back to win. Lesnar continually trying to win the match by count-out with increasingly devastating beatings, only for Rhodes to somehow manage to get back in the ring, was excellent, and Cody sold the hell out of his own destruction before somehow making the comeback seem plausible. It might not have been a Cody Rhodes kind of story, but this was definitely a Cody Rhodes kind of match, and very few people in wrestling today do a better job of executing this specific type of narrative.

We have nitpicks, for sure. It didn't make a ton of sense within the context of the broader feud — you'd expect someone who's already beaten Brock once to at least be able to get some offense in, for example — and the brief segment where match inexplicably turned no disqualification was confusing and jarring. But again, as long as you take it only on its own merits, it had a fantastic internal story that kept us gripped in the palm of its hand the entire time. Did Lesnar's show of respect once the match was over make any real sense? No. But it was still a cool moment that made us feel something, so who cares? That was Rhodes/Lesnar 3 in a nutshell.

Hated: Joust into a Slim Jim

Okay, before you get mad, this isn't getting a "hated" because of LA Knight! He did a good job! He even nailed his jump up to the top turnbuckle from the mat thing this time! We're also happy he won, since it makes sense and it's nice to hear WWE listening to the audience (despite what we personally think of the audience's taste). This is not an anti-Knight position.

No, we just really hate battle royals, and this match reminded us why. It's so rare to see a good battle royal. It's like Halley's Comet; it happens once every 75 years or so. Starting the match with everyone in the ring at the beginning is boring and makes it so the match can't really get going until later on, when a few people have been eliminated — there's a reason WWE refined the concept and called it the Royal Rumble, which is now one of the most anticipated matches of any given year. It's hard to tell a cohesive story with battle royals, and most of the time promoters don't try. And while this might have been our own fault, we were hoping for at least one big surprise entrant. Instead, we got Omos, aka "the guy everyone is going to have to gang up on to eliminate." Sorry Bronson Reed, you're just not beefy enough for Slim Jim.

So yeah, good on LA Knight for getting a PLE win, but we would much rather have had Lynch vs. Stratus.

Loved: The (hopefully) last gasp of Ronda Rousey in WWE

It seems like a lot of people weren't into Ronda Rousey vs. Shayna Baszler, and certainly the Detroit crowd wasn't, but we actually liked it a lot! We're not sure it had to be "MMA rules" — it seems to us they could have done most if not all the stuff they did in a normal wrestling match, and that would also have fit the story better — but in a practical sense, it allowed the two of them to really whale on each other, creating a sense of realism without having people bleed everywhere. It was maybe a little slow and certainly not the kind of thing wrestling fans are used to seeing, but we appreciated the innovation and had a really good time with callbacks like Baszler's tribute to the Holly Holm head kick that knocked Rousey out in 2015.

In the end, we got what we wanted: Baszler choked out Rousey and won the match, which could be Ronda going out on her back as she prepares to leave the company. It would be a class act on her part, even if Baszler is her real-life friend; regardless, we are ready for a world where Baszler is the one who drive Ronda Rousey out of the company, and all the opportunities for her that might bring.

Hated: If big meaty men slap meat in a forest...

We're probably going to get almost as backlash for disliking this match as we did for liking the "MMA rules" match that preceded it, but there's really nothing we can do about that. Sorry. It was good, but it didn't blow us away or anything, and it's annoying that the match didn't have much of a story to build itself around. It was just "watch this two big dudes smacking the crap out of each other," which is fine if you're into that kind of thing, but less fine for those of us who are into narrative cohesion.

To be clear, none of this is the performers' fault. Their match Saturday had all the ingredients of being an all-timer, it was that good. Unfortunately, we forgot about it a few minutes after we saw it, because it just didn't have a narrative hook. The build for this one wasn't much to write home about, particularly since McIntyre has been off doing his own thing during a lot of "WWE Raw" episodes lately, so it really rested almost entirely on "these guys are going to turn each others' chests into hamburger." They definitely did that, but for us, it wasn't enough.

We're glad GUNTHER won, though! Get that record!

Loved: The shoulder injury that was promised

Admittedly we were really hoping to see Finn Balor win the World Heavyweight title from Seth Rollins on Saturday night, but the match between the two was so good it doesn't matter. This was everything we wanted their Money in the Bank contest to be — intense, personal, and story-driven, built entirely around Balor's injury seven years ago, the last time he tasted world title gold. Balor came out with a "Seven" design on the shoulder he separated; Rollins came out wearing the vest he had been wearing that night. They began brawling almost before the ring introductions ended and had to be separated so the bell could ring, which is exactly how a match like this should start. Even more appropriately, Balor targeted Rollins' arm throughout the match, even delivering a buckle bomb to the ringside barrier — the actual move that injured Balor when Rollins delivered it back in 2016.

Predictably, things got wonkier when Damian Priest and the rest of the Judgment Day came out, but not in a bad way. We liked the story of Priest trying to give Balor the briefcase to use as a weapon, a move that eventually came back to bite them, and the interference led to a number of extremely believable nearfalls. When Balor finally hit the Coup de Grace late in the match, we, along with the entire city of Detroit, 100% believed he had just won the championship. The actual finish was a slight letdown after that, but again, we can't complain. This was our personal match of the night, even if we didn't like the outcome, and while we're not sure where Balor goes from here, we are guaranteed more hot Judgment Day drama on Monday's "WWE Raw."

Loved: Belair damaged, SKY in control

Speaking of matches that ended up being about previous SummerSlam events, the WWE Women's Championship contest had an entire story of its own — that was immediately upended when the prophecy of Damage CTRL, which came into existence exactly one year earlier, was finally fulfilled.

Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Bianca Belair was not a perfect match. It started out really well, with all three women executing intricate three-way spots to perfection, but that was never going to be sustainable, and at some point things started to go awry. It has to be mentioned that Flair was involved in many, if not all, of the spots that appeared to go wrong — we don't want to pile on her, but it's been pretty difficult not to notice that things have been off with The Queen since her latest comeback. Still, the match was entertaining, and it really got into gear when Belair appeared to injure her knee on a fall to the outside. The injury was a work, but a well-executed work, and when she shoved off the ringside officials trying to help her to the back and limped back to the ring, there was a tangible sense of superhuman determination around her, a total refusal to lose. The injury spot made her picture-perfect 450 splash seem even more impressive, and when she actually won the title back, it felt like a huge win by someone who had gone to their absolute limits for the gold.

...and then IYO SKY cashed in her briefcase.

It was so well done. After all the hand-wringing we've all done about Damage CTRL, all the recent teases that they might break up, none of that mattered Saturday night. Bayley came in like a wrecking ball, smashing Flair and Asuka with the briefcase before tossing it to her partner, who hit her signature moonsault on Belair to win the championship and celebrated with her teammates, including a returning Dakota Kai, still on the shelf with an ACL injury. They might be nominal heels, but watching a member of this group reach the top of the mountain was an incredible moment, and for it to be SKY, who's been one of the best wrestlers in the world for more than a decade, is just awesome. We really hope WWE does some interesting things with her reign ... but to be honest, we're almost more interested in Belair, who just got screwed out of her title again, this time after sacrificing everything she had to win it. We've been waiting for some time now for "The EST" to finally, officially snap, and this might be the thing that does it. The match wasn't perfect, but the storytelling most certainly was.

Hated: Nope, f*** this

We told you we had a bad feeling about this.

We're sure a lot of people hated the slow pacing of Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso. We actually liked it. It made the match feel like an unfolding epic, with the emphasis being placed not on the moves being performed, but on the emotions, facial expressions, and relationships involved. It was tense and exciting despite being slow, and it definitely had us on the edge of our seat. But to be honest, there's not much point in talking about the match itself, because the finish — Jimmy Uso returning to turn heel and cost his brother the title — was a massive all-timer of a mistake, and we don't see how the Bloodline story can recover from it.

When Reigns beat Sami Zayn in Montreal, we defended the decision. When Reigns beat Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania, we defended the decision. Why? Because Zayn and Rhodes didn't make sense as the guys to defeat Reigns. The person who made sense was Jey Uso. There were versions of Reigns retaining the title Saturday night we would have accepted, but those would all have involved Jey making the choice to not become champion, not Jey getting beaten because yet another member of the Bloodline interfered. Jimmy turning on Jey doesn't make any sense, but that's not even the problem. We're sure they'll figure out a way to explain it. The problem is that we just don't really care who beats Roman anymore. Zayn winning would have been fine, Cody winning would have been fine, but Jey winning was the move. Even a symbolic Jey victory in which he refused to accept the title that had poisoned his cousin's mind would have been a win, because it would have taken the narrative to its next logical point. That was the thing that would have convinced us, once and for all, that the Bloodline story was the greatest of all time.

Now, we're just back where we started. Another interference, another betrayal, the Bloodline still in some way a thing, Reigns still on top. This storyline reached heights WWE and wrestling as a whole have rarely achieved, and then it crashed back to the ground, almost exactly in the same place it started. And now we're done defending it, and we're done being invested in it. Whatever happens happens, we're sure there's lots of drama to come, but we don't expect to be moved by it. This was the story we cared most about in wrestling, and now, we don't care at all.

Hell of a way to end the party.