For those of you who like pro wrestling, welcome to a critical look at Sunday evening’s Summer Slam event on the WWE network. For those who don’t like wrestling, you probably have stopped reading already.
As one of the four major events on the WWE schedule, SummerSlam gets more attention than most cards. And because it is one of those big events, the WWE feels obligated to get as many of its workers on the show in same way, to get them a payday. As a result, the show is scheduled for four hours (one too many) with a two-hour pregame show. Six hours is a lot to spend on anything, even if you are a fan.
The viewing panel consisted of two teenage boys, two teenage girls, and two adults (one male/one female). Judging by the their reactions, SummerSlam failed big time.
The pre-show, which started two hours before the main show, had one of the best matches. Good for those who watched the pre-show, bad for those who tuned at 7 pm for the main show, to find out one of the matches they wanted to see was already done. Even worse, it was better than most of the rest of the show, according to what I heard, since I was one of those who skipped the pre-show.
The show also exposed the problems the WWE has currently.
- Too much product on television has led to predictability
- Too much internet coverage created one of the evenings biggest disappointments. (The lack of a return of the Undertaker, who was seen getting on a NY-bound plane in Dallas on Saturday. Fans immediately had him interfering in the main event, and wound up disappointed when he did not appear.
- The continued in-ring presence of the McMahon family.
- Too much time spent not wrestling, but showing video packages setting up the back-history of the matches, and overly elaborate ring entrances. What seemed like an hour of the four hour show was dedicated to that.
- Fans that seem to want to be part of the show, not just observers.
A recap of the main show.
John Cena (W) vs Baron Corbin
Cena’s entrance was probably the best thing this match had going for it. Corbin is either being punished for something or the WWE has lost faith in him. Normally you only get asked to look this bad if you are in your home town. (Vince McMahon's way of keeping egos down I guess.)
Naomi vs. Natalya (W) for the Smackdown Women’s Title.
Aside from the girls liking Naomi’s green, glow-in-the-dark hair, no one cared about this at my house, or judging by the crowd reaction, in Brooklyn.
The Big Show vs Big Cass (W) with Enzo Amore in a Shark Cage above the ring.
Amore, was born in Hackensack and grew up in Waldwick, can talk, but not much else. He is fun for the crowd, which likes him talking, about once the bell rings, he loses his audience.
Strictly a comedy match, the highlight was Amore stripping to his skivvies, sliding out of the shark cage, and dropping into the ring, only to get knocked out with one punch by Big Cass, his former tag partner.
Another blah match.
Randy Orton vs Rusev
Two of the best workers had a nothing match. Rusev attacks Orton from behind before the bell. Orton comeback with the RKO out of Nowhere for a finish in 9 seconds. The introductory video package was five times longer than the match. If you went for popcorn, you missed it.
Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks (W) for the Raw Women’s Championship
The women’s match that the teenage girls cared about, as Sasha Banks is a popular character. Boys went back to X-box and the wrestling fans cringed. Banks scores the win and another title change. Alexa Bliss is a good villian because she is pretty and annoying, but a lousy wrestler. Five subpar matches is not the way to start a show.
Finn Balor as the Demon (W) vs Bray Wyatt
This match typifies the problem with the WWE. Both guys are talented wrestlers, despite less than optimal body types. But people are more interested in their entrances, which the fans get to play along with, than what they do inside the ring. Balor was in his Demon character tonight. Another five-minute video package before five more minutes of ring entrances. Balor wins a rather mundane match once the actual wrestling began. What should be a great match on paper was another disappointment.
Sheamus & Cesaro vs Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose (W) for RAW Tag Titles.
Everyone watching with me cared about this match, and it sort of delivered. (Although the crowd was playing with a beach ball in the crowd that Cesaro popped. Not sure if it was planted or not.) The “Would Rollins and Ambrose turn on each other?” storyline had people interested, especially with the way the night had been going with illogical booking decisions. Yet another title change, with Rollins and Ambrose winning title. It will be interesting to see what happens with this as both seem to be losing steam after being top five stars for the previous 18 months. Will this team elevate the tag teams again, or will WWE booking continue to tank? I guess the first above average match of the evening.
A.J. Styles (W) vs Kevin Owens for the US Title with Shane McMahon as referee.
Oh, to be the son of the boss. Shane McMahon screws up a match as the special referee, and two of the best in-ring workers have a decent, but not great match. Styles wins the title, and they set up an Owens – McMahon angle somewhere down the line. Yippee.
Jinder Mahal (W) vs Shinsuke Nakamura for WWE TITLE
On a night where five title changes have already taken place, Mahal, who is one of the worst wrestlers to wear the championship belt, keeps his title. WWE business is down in the US, but booming in India, and Mahal, a native of Canada with Indian ancestry, gets to stay champ a while longer to keep the fast growing market happy. Nakamura, a huge star in Japan loses quickly in a bad match that shocked fans when it ended. Usually shock is a good thing. Not this time.
Brock Lesnar (W) vs Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman vs Samoa Joe for Universal Title
A hard-hitting, brutal affair that lived up to its promise, BUT, was completely predictable. Lesnar, who stretchered out earlier in the match, comes back like The Beast and wins the match. But even the teenagers realized when he was stretchered off that he would be back out to win later.
(NOTE to WWE writers: When you body-board someone off because they are injured, use a neck-brace. Helps the suspension of reason just a bit.)
Once again, the writers lack of creativity kills the show, as this finish has been done a few times in the past five years. Bad enough when longtime fans can guess the finish of the main event, but when teenagers, who are not supposed to have this all figured out, can you better change the formula.
No one stopped watching until they went to the next show, waiting for the Undertaker, or someone to come attack Lesnar and start a new angle. Or something. Anything.
But, what looked good on paper, looked horrible in the ring. Like a lot of movies sometimes things just don’t click, even if the idea is sound. For the WWE SummerSlam 2017 was their version of Heaven’s Gate. Glad I did not pay the exorbitant prices at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn for this one.
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