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SummerSlam was not a particularly complicated show, main event aside. Most of the feuds that were presented were pretty simple and there were not too many outrageous attempts at angles or over-saturated stories to drag matches done. The result was a show that was surprisingly very easy to watch and in return, WWE presented one of the best PPVs they have produced all year. Coming on the heels of a truly disastrous Extreme Rules, SummerSlam and the logical booking around it, was a breath of fresh air.
I hope to see similar storytelling and execution in WWE moving forward. They are not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but this kind of basic stuff is what wrestling is built on, and I think a bunch of different people (Roman Reigns,Rose, Deville, McIntyre, Orton, Bayley, Banks, Rollins, Mysterio and Dominick) all saw positive character development tonight.
The Fiend vs Braun Strowman: **1/2
This exceeded my expectations in the sense that I expected it to be full of mystical nonsense, which was pretty much exclusively what the build for the match contained. I suppose you could argue that it doesn't make that much sense for WWE to have built the story around The Fiend having supernaturally-altered Strowman, Alexa Bliss being randomly corrupted, and Strowman trying to kill Bray Wyatt, and then for them to have a pretty average walk-and-brawl at SummerSlam, but I will take that style of match over a cinematic match of any nonsense like that.
Roman Reigns' return is interesting. As a stand alone segment it was pretty good, and Reigns presented an edge and attitude that made him feel exciting after being gone since April. We have been down the road before with Roman Reigns, he is good in a lot of segments, but he never had the charisma or right storyline to reach the level that WWE had envisioned for him. Is working with The Fiend really going to bring that out of him? I'm not sure, everyone The Fiend works with usually comes out looking the worse for wear, but I hope that WWE can find a way to make it interesting because they really don't have many credible main event performers right now and like him or not, Reigns is one of those guys.
Drew McIntyre vs Randy Orton: ****
This was a very Randy Orton match, and I do mean that as a positive. It started out slow, with Orton as the obvious heel building his heat and then feeding McIntyre when he made his big comeback. The finish was quite smart; and a welcome change from what we are used to seeing in WWE. When the main event was dominated by Lesnar, Goldberg and Reigns, the world title matches at shows like SummerSlam were just guys hitting big moves and everyone kicking out of a million near falls. This match was pretty traditional, with a finish that people really didn't see coming, gave McIntyre the win and also protected Orton.
RAW will almost certainly have some sort of angle to set up a match for Payback, which is randomly appearing next Sunday. Really the RAW side does not have a lot of strong heels to face McIntyre outside of Orton, so it makes sense for this feud to extend across multiple shows. They can have a stipulation match for Orton vs McIntyre and that will be a legitimate match to headline Payback and be something that fans really want to see.
Dominick Mysterio vs Seth Rollins: ***½
So last month WWE used this feud to give us the disaster known as "eye for an eye" and the really disappointing aspect of that match was that we all knew that the Rollins vs Mysterio story could be easily told in a compelling way without such cartoonish theatrics. At SummerSlam, WWE thankfully ditched the eye stuff and went back to a basic, traditional style of match and it really worked, this time with Dominick Mysterio making his debut and having a very entertaining match with good storytelling against Rollins.
Dominick was really good in his first match, which was expected when you consider that he has been training for years, he was working with Rollins, and it was a No Disqualification match that would be able to hide a lot of his weaknesses and give him some big pops. Rollins was great as the sadistic heel and came across as just a real asshole, and not like some sort of crazy pariah that he was presented as last week. Plus he didn't throw up, which was a real bonus.
Mandy Rose vs Sonya Deville: ***
WWE often struggles with building meaningful feuds outside of the main title pictures, especially when it comes to the midcard. Oftentimes, for women and tag teams in particular, if they are not involved in a title program they are kind of directionless. Rose vs Deville was an exception, and was one of the best storylines that WWE has come up with in a few years. After they got the Ziggler/Otis story out of the picture, it was a simple, straight forward story told by a few good promos and some well-executed angles on SmackDown.
If the match had remained hair vs hair, I think this match would have been much better just because that is a much more dramatic storyline because people buy that stipulation, especially if it involves women with long hair. Obviously, there is a reason that it couldn't remain the storyline if Deville is taking some time off, but I do hope she comes back soon. The angle was aimed at getting Rose over, but to me Deville came across as the more talented performer, especially during the promos.
Sasha Banks vs Asuka: ***
This match was extremely similar to the Bayley match, but since it was part two, it was more interesting. Obviously the story is building towards Banks vs Bayley after Bayley welched on helping Banks in a similar way to how Bayley, and to the announce teams credit, they did a good job telling that story and building the match for next weekend where they will have to defend the tag titles. I hope Asuka is okay after taking a powerbomb on her head in this match.
Bayley vs Asuka: **¾
The wrestling in this match was fine, although by the nature of it being the first of the two Asuka vs Banks/Bayley matches it felt more like a set-up for the later match rather than a true, honest-to-god title match. WWE in the Bruce Prtichard era have relied way too much on outside interference and DQ finishes, particularly involving Bayley and Banks. I get that it is all storytelling for the later match, but it made this match feel less important.
The Street Profits vs Andrade and Angel Garza: **¾
Simple tag match where the heels got the heat on Montez Ford, who then made the hot tag to Angelo Dawkins and they ran to an honest finish. Goofy poisonings aside, The Street Profits are generally enjoyable if only because Ford has such tremendous potential thanks to his athleticism and obvious charisma. Without many other potential babyfaces to get excited about on the main roster, I'd like to see him get a big push forward.
The Thunderdome for me is a really big improvement for WWE's presentation. Merely getting out of the dull Performance Center with tired NXT wrestlers in the audience and going to a bigger arena with better lighting, and adding basic crowd noise was going to do wonders. The fans on screens don't inherently add much since they just look like fans watching the show on TV, but it does add some color to the background and is again, far superior to the Performance Center. Obviously, what is holding back WWE is the quality of the show and its lack of star power and not aesthetic, but this is a welcome change for the weary weekly viewer.
NXT TakeOver XXX was arguably the most diverse show in TakeOver history. Each of the six matches that took place were different and the various dynamics in general made it an easy show to watch for most of its duration. Depending on what you expect from TakeOver, the show was of varying quality. The show did not have a blow-away match that fans will flock to watch after the fact, which usually happens on a TakeOver show. It did however, have some pretty significant results and came across like a newsworthy show.
Keith Lee vs Karrion Kross: ***
There is a certain standard that has emerged for TakeOver main events that they have to be 20+ minutes and be an epic battle, but this was a match that was dying to be just a 10 minutes sprint with each guy hitting their big moves and rushing to a dramatic finish. Instead they tried to have a traditional match that dragged at times and exposed each mans' weaknesses, particularly Lee's selling and Kross' limited offense. I did like the finish of the match so it wasn't terrible, and they could not have put Kross over any stronger.
For Lee, I think the only real option for him is to have him go to the main roster and get a big push. Lee is a really talented guy with a ton of charisma, but he also has some real weaknesses (mainly selling for long stretches and formal promos) and it doesn't make sense for him to spend years and years in NXT where he is going to be exposed. That time should be spent on the main roster and getting pushed like a big star, so that if he does get exposed, he would have at least been a star at the top level for a while. If he improves on those weaknesses, he will be even better for that position. He also had a short title reign and was beaten soundly; to avoid slipping down the card the only place for him to really go, outside of regaining his title from Kross, is to the main roster. Glad to see them make the call and bring him up to RAW.
Io Shirai vs Dakota Kai: ***¾
This was my favorite match on the show, mainly because Io Shirai is just a brilliant wrestler and perhaps the most complete performer bell-to-bell in the company. Her athleticism and timing are just so clearly above any other woman in the company, some of whom are quite talented in their own right. Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez have a classic heel bodyguard act, and it really works as Kai stands out as the heel who is talented enough to take care of business on her own, but as the heel leans on her heavy to do the dirty work, and it worked into some good near falls. They didn't do anything crazy in this match, but it was just a well-worked bout with everyone playing their roles.
Adam Cole vs Pat McAfee: **¼
For his first match McAfee was obviously very good, and this was a very different match as compared to what we normally see on TakeOvers. It did go too long, and we didn't need to see a chunk of this match with McAfee on offense trying to build heat for Cole's comeback, which exposed McAfee's inexperience. I don't really get what Cole got out of this feud, he basically took a bunch of crap from McAfee to then have a 50/50 match with the guy. Even in the post-match promo he mentioned that he "humiliated" McAfee but the story after the match was actually how good McAfee looked...it was just a weird feud for Cole.
It is hard to do a ladder match without an audience, since the crowd would normally pop for all the high spots. My issue in the match was first with its length, as it went 21 minutes and just felt too long, but also that most of the spots at the top of the ladder were really dumb. First, Grimes was at the top of the ladder and could have won the match, but stopped to look at Candice LeRae, and then had to sell for her offense. Then there was the case of Dream climbing to the top of the ladder, bonking his head off of the dangling titles, and somehow failing to grab them. The final spot with Dream at the top of the ladder and getting launched off to oblivion which the camera had to miss because he landed on a crash pad, was icing on the cake. The guys worked hard but there were a lot of dumb stuff in this match.
Timothy Thatcher vs Finn Balor: ***½
This was a fun match that showed the kind of diversity on the card, with both guys doing a very European-based grappling match which highlighted Thatcher's unique strengths as a performer and Balor is more than capable of working that style. Balor getting the win positions him as probably the next challenger for Kross if Lee is going up, really there are no other top babyfaces in NXT to face Kross other than Balor.
Breezango vs Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza vs Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch:***
Pretty solid match for the pre-show. This was your typical modern triple-threat tag match, with all the teams flying around doing big moves. I don't really see the value in Breezango winning the match and thus getting a title shot; they are a team that have run their course in WWE and that title shot would be better served going for a newer team like Wilde and Mendoza.