The first WWE pay-per-view not run by Vince McMahon was a no doubt a win for new head of creative Triple H and the company.
While the shows should give fans reason to hope things will continue to change for the better, it fell a little short of being an all-time classic. SummerSlam at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Saturday saw the return of Bayley, Edge and Dakota Kai and the promotion of Io Shirai (who will be Iyo Sky) to the main roster. Becky Lynch turned back babyface and Ronda Rousey took the first steps toward being a heel. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns went on to deliver a large-than-life main event filled with carnage and destruction to fittingly end their long-term rivalry. While there was plenty of stories laid for future big moments, we didn’t get a title change or a moment of pure WWE joy outside of seeing the returns and maybe Bianca Belair returning.
Here are five takeaways from a fun night at SummerSlam.
Fitting Final Chapter
The main event between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar will forever be remembered for the forklift with a front loader the Beast brought to the ring and used in the contest. He stood on it when it was introduced, looking down at Reigns from it and eventually jumping off it onto him. He later loaded Reigns in it and dumped him into the ring and then later used it to pick up the ring itself – spilling the Tribal Chief onto the floor. It made for a scene straight out of the Attitude Era and signaled Triple H and WWE are going to think outside the box again for these big shows.
With both men laying on the floor, Theory did come out to attempt to cash in his Money in the Bank contract, but never actually got to do so after taking an F5 from Lesnar and eventually briefcase shots from Reigns. So that threat is still hanging over Reigns.
Still outside the ring, Lesnar took a superkick from the Usos and got up and two more spears from Reigns and got up. Michael Cole, who had a really strong night, delivered the perfect line. He yelled at the ref: “For the love of God count faster!” Reigns eventually hit another spear on Lesnar while he and the Uso’s buried Lenar under debris to keep him down as the Tribal Chief posed on top. It’s an ending to a last-man-standing match we have seen before. Reigns wins, hits the 700 days mark as champion and will face Drew McIntyre at Clash at the Castle in Cardiff. Lesnar leaves still looking like a monster. Solid stuff all around.
The End is the Beginning
Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair continue to have superb in-ring chemistry and it showed. My only complaint about this match it felt a little too much like dance at times than a fight and Lynch’s attacks on Belair’s arm never really was paid off. Other than that, this was another good chapter to end their year-long feud.
One of the cooler sequences was Lynch countered a K.O.D. in the ring, Belair rolled out but held onto the challenger and then delivered the K.O.D. on the outside. Later on, Belair kicked out of a Man-handle Slam after being pulled from the top rope by her braid. It all led to a sensational finish with Belair countering an avalanche Man-handle Slam into a Spanish Fly and then going right into the K.O.D. for the 1-2-3 to retain the Raw women’s championship. The two sealed it with a handshake and a hug that foreshadowed what was to come.
After Belair celebrated, first Bayley’s music hit to mark her return from injury after more than a year. She was joined by Dakota Kai (who had been released in April) and then Io Shirai made her long-awaited main roster debut. They appear to be a new faction lead by Bayley – though despite having faced Belair multiple times prior to her injury – is now likely her next challenger with a fresh coat of paint. The capper to the segment was Lynch came to Belair’s side in an anticipated babyface turn. Is The Man back and who will bet their third? Asuka makes a ton of sense as fans really want to see her and Shirai square off. What we do know is Triple H just started a needed restocking the women’s division.
Liv to see another day
Liv Morgan is still your SmackDown women’s champion, but what her character does next could take away some of the small bit of damage done to her as babyface through the finish of her match with Ronda Rousey. Morgan was able to escape the first three arm bars put on by the “Baddest Woman in the Planet”, showing some true babyface grit and heart. But when Rousey was able to put it on again – after the trainers checked Morgan – she put her shoulder to the mat to get extra torque on the armbar. The referee, whose head was down, counted three but did not see Morgan tap at two.
A livid Rousey took the first step in her heel turn by attacking both Morgan and the referee. A babyface such as Morgan should never accept a win like that or else it takes a little luster off them – something Rousey’s friend Shayna Baszler insinuated in a tweet afterward. All of this likely doesn’t bode well for Morgan having a long title reign because at this point she should give Rousey a rematch in Cardiff and the former UFC star should win by nefarious means to complete her heel turn and add some sympathy back to Morgan.
A Paul Order
Logan Paul showed he is certainly a natural at this pro wrestling stuff in his win over The Miz which was filled with some cool story elements. This match was well-paced, starting slow so Paul could get comfortable before really picking up. Miz deserves a lot of credit for this going off so well, too.
The YouTube sensation delivered a blockbuster, the figure four, It Kicks and a standing moonsault. He capped it with a Frog Splash to Miz through the announce table in a move that at least appeared to win over the Nashville crowd. He won by delivering the Skull Crushing Finale to Miz in a callback to how Miz turned on him at WrestleMania 38. One of the cheesier things is that it was set up by Paul avoiding getting hit with a laminated Polaroid of that Skull Crushing Finale from Mania. Maryse solid the threat well, but how much damage are we really suppose to believe that was going to do?
It appears we are heading for Paul and A.J. Styles vs. Miz and Ciampa. Once Ciampa was kicked out by the referee, he refused to leave. Styles’ music hit and he came from under the ring to attack him and fight through the crowd. Miz and Ciampa had attacked Styles a few weeks back and Raw and Paul hit Phenomenal Forearm during the match so WWE leaned into the possibility of Styles having trained Paul for the match.
Rey and Dominik Mysterio over Damian Priest and Finn Balor (No DQ)
We got Edge’s long-tease return and man did it feel underwhelming. The little fire steps by the entrance he rose out of looked less than. He – after Styles did earlier – became the second “surprise” person to come out during a match. The DQ stipulation allowed him to attack Priest and Balor – who kicked him out of the group – so the Mysterios could get the win. The Judgement Day has been treated like nothing but a second-class faction since Balor joined and we are supposed to be excited for Edge to get his payback against them? This was a miss for me.
The Usos over The Street Profits to retain the Undisputed WWE tag team championship
This was one of the more stunning outcomes of the night and showed Jeff Jarrett as special guest referee was more about his wrestling ties to Nashville than writing the wrong against the Street Profits at Money in the Bank. There are only two things that make this all OK, Triple H has a legit tag team waiting in the wings to challenge the Usos or this is the catalyst to a Montez Ford singles run. Ford thought he had the match won after he hit a top-rope splash after Jarrett dodged a kick from the Usos, but he was too “injured” on the move to make a quick-enough cover. The Usos ended up winning with a 1D leaving both teams’ storyline futures very uncertain.
Bobby Lashley over Theory to retain the United States championship
Theory attempted to get an advantage by attacking Lashley with the Money in the Bank briefcase before the match, but it didn’t work and didn’t last long. Lashley made really quick work of the Theory, winning with a Hurt Lock. It’s great to see WWE keeping him looking absolutely dominant while Theory is 0-8 on TV since winning MITB.
Pat McAfee over Happy Corbin
It’s been a while since WWE has made a mid-card feud feel this important and McAfee entering with a choir singing “Bum ass Corbin” was a nice touch. This one went about as expected and McAfee now has wins as WrestleMania and SummerSlam. The dampness on the ropes made some of McAfee’s spots extra difficult and he showed great poising pulling them off, including a Swanton Bomb to the outside/ The match ended with McAfee paying Corbin back with a low-blow kick and them doing an awkward Panama Sunrise to get the win.
Seth Rollins did not have match against a mystery opponent. Instead, Riddle – who was not medically cleared in storyline – came out and challenged Rollins, who proceed to deliver a Stomp to him. This could just be to put some further heat on this match when it likely happens at Clash at the Castle.
Kid Rock, sitting ringside, needed to be censored after flipping the double bird to the camera.
Biggest Winner: Logan Paul
Biggest Loser: The Street Profits
Best Match: Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar (Last Man Standing)