WWE went rolling right on through the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York last night (Sun., Aug. 23, 2015) with SummerSlam, a pay-per-view (PPV) that was really up against it having to follow the wildly entertaining and hugely successful NXT Takeover: Brooklyn the night before. It failed to live up to it.
Let's not waste time with pleasantries and get right to reactions to the show (click here for the live blog with full match coverage).
Death cannot die (but it can tap and lie)
What a mess.
That's the prevailing thought coming out of the Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar clustermuck (family friendly edition, shout out to Steve Austin Show) last night. Here we have a really good match where we absolutely didn't expect one, a phenomenal back-and-forth that quickly gave way to The Beast beating down the sad old man who just can't run with him. It was only a matter of time before we finally got to see the hands of time catch up with "The Phenom."
And then, of course, it got all screwy.
That's not the problem, necessarily, considering the story they're telling -- or even the story I wish they were telling -- needed a screwy finish that would transition into the payoff at WrestleMania 32 (presumably) next year in Arlington, Texas. But there's just no way to feel satisfied with a finish like this.
You know, where Lesnar won clean but you didn't see it at first. No, you needed a replay to figure out what was going on and why the timekeeper was ringing the bell and the referee was looking to him baffled. We only knew Undertaker tapped because Paul Heyman started screaming about as much. It wasn't until a later replay that we were clued in to as much at home.
By then, the referee had restarted the match and Undertaker had used another low blow -- remember, he needed this win so bad he would do anything to get it, including cheating -- to put himself into position to finish Lesnar off.
Brock, like the valiant fighting babyface he is, was defiant to the end.
So they answered our question on how low Undertaker would go. He was willing not only to cheat but to tap and then accept a tainted victory when the referee mistakenly gave him another opportunity.
There's really only one way to go from here: A stipulation match throws out all the rules with everything on the line. Life and death, essentially.
Again, this worked for the story but a finish like this is always going to leave you feeling unsatisfied as a consumer.
GO GO ROLLINS RANGER
Well, Seth Rollins, the white power ranger, holds all the titles now and I'll be damned if the reason he holds all the titles isn't because Jon freaking Stewart turned heel on John Cena.
I don't really know how to feel about this.
On the one hand, Stewart is a pro wrestling fan who has regularly put WWE over and gotten involved at various points in ways that are never harmful and genuinely fun. He's a great ally to have around and someone who can help get WWE in the headlines during a time when they need as many as they can get.
Then again, this was a comedian influencing the decision in a hugely important WWE world heavyweight vs. US title match with two of the top stars in the promotion on one of its biggest shows of the year. Not only that, it was poorly executed, considering Stewart telegraphed the turn multiple times before actually delivering on it.
Plus, how does it make any sense whatsoever?
Hopefully we'll get an explanation but even if we do it's somewhat disappointing that the deciding factor in this match was Jon Stewart. Are the headlines that come from it worth the negative backlash? It's a super wrestling thing to do, but something about it just doesn't sit well.
It feels a little too WCW for my tastes.
The match was really good, at least, and Rollins is going to get that statue, so it's not all bad, right?
All the best to all the rest
Comedy: I'm a Jon Stewart fan. I'm a Mick Foley fan. I didn't quite enjoy the comedy bit they used to start the show, mostly because it felt like a silly waste of time on a show that should be beyond stuff like this. There were 10 matches to get to, I'm not sure what good it was going to do to waste any time on a comedy segment. Cheap pops indeed.
Randy Orton vs. Sheamus: Getting this match out of the way early was absolutely the right call, both because it had the least heat of anything on the card and it would build intrigue for a possible Money in the Bank cash-in later in the evening. The match itself was your typical Orton vs. Sheamus match. You saw an RKOOUTTANOWHERE and all the other usual spots. In a surprise, Sheamus went over after consecutive Brogue Kicks. The problem, of course, is that no one seemed to care either way.
Tag team title 4-Way: "Pitch pipes to C." As our friend Sarah Kaufman so astutely pointed out on Twitter, The New Day were killing it in tune at this show. This is the best heel stable we've seen in WWE in many years. Meanwhile they started the match with smart psychology, tagging themselves in and attempting a Big E pin on Kofi Kingston because that would still give them the straps. We need more of that in wrestling. We also need more of Xavier Woods telling us that "Darren Young is a real nice dude but he's going to lose tonight." Meanwhile, Titus O'Neil remains a surprisingly entertaining hot tag and multi-man matches stay chaotically fun. They missed a spot or two, but the finish was super well done and that post-match celebration was one of the best things I've ever seen. The tag titles are back where they belong.
Rusev vs. Dolph Ziggler: Lana was out with her new boyfriend dressed just like him, so I guess the story here is that in her attempt at asserting her independence she just completely became the same person as her next boyfriend. But this is WWE and hey, she looks hot, right? Right. I expected more out of the match considering the workers involved but really this was all about setting up a mixed tag for Night of Champions next month. Essentially, the ladies getting involved help prevent a rightful finish here, so why not just get them involved in the action? It's a decent story but a double count out is almost always going to disappoint.
Celebrity match: I actually love celebrity wrestling matches because the announcers actually bother to call them. As soon as you see a hip toss and an arm drag, they go insane like we're watching a mat classic. Stephen Amell did a splash off the top rope and Michael Cole nearly shit himself. Jokes aside, all you can ever ask for with celebrity involvement is that they're genuinely into what they're doing, and Amell worked hard and played his part as well as he could have. They didn't do much, and Neville pinning King Barrett was underwhelming for the story, but oh well.
Intercontinental title: Credit where it's due, they managed to get the crowd invested in this match when Ryback planted Big Show with Shell Shock and The Miz ran in with a Skull Crushing Finale on THE BIG GUY before alternating pinfall attempts and failing every time. It was a perfect spot for a match like this in front of this particular crowd. I'm not sure about the psychology behind the booking, with the babyface stealing the heel's finish to win the match and retain the title, but this was much better than I expected it to be.
Shield vs. Wyatt Family: The formula they followed for the original feud when it was three-on-three was chaos, big spots, a cool down to work the match, hot tag, back into the big spots, even more chaos, finish. They followed that basic outline here, but the finishing sequence wasn't nearly as fun and Reigns has officially become one of the cheesiest wrestlers on the roster. He tries really, really hard to be cool and it always comes across so very, very bad. That said, this was harmless fun and they went with the swerve of not giving us a swerve at all. Forgettable but good enough.
Team Bella vs. Team B.A.D. vs. Team PCB: This was actually a perfect illustration of the issues with WWE and how they book the Divas division, especially contrasted with the "Match of the Year" contender from Sasha Banks vs. Bayley in NXT the night before. In that match, everything they did mattered and they were fighting over something important. In this match, nothing mattered and there were no stakes. Just buzzwords and mediocre to bad wrestling.
Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens: This was actually a fine pro wrestling match that had the misfortune of going on at the wrong time. The crowd was absolutely dead for it, so it came off so much worse than it actually was. It was awkward just before the finish with Cesaro looking lost on the ropes but Owens going over clean was a big shock that felt right. He needed this win, and the commentary team treated him appropriately.
The two big matches were really good with screwy finishes that left a bad taste.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?