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WWE SummerSlam 2021 recap & reactions: The Beast in Sin City

WWE’s biggest party of the summer was more sparklers than fireworks. But the future may actually be explosive.

A Beast and His Ponytail Walk into a Casino...

Let’s not bury the lead here. We all knew John Cena was taking the pin so the only question was how and what happens as a result.

How? A very dope match fitting of SummerSlam. It told a great story of a man who knew he wasn’t the man he used to be trying to fight a guy who is at his peak. Roman Reigns pounded on Cena in the beginning, handing out the ass whipping John knew was coming his way. But Cena kept coming back, no matter what Reigns dished out. After getting all of that work during the first half of the match, Cena found his rhythm when he realized Roman isn’t invincible.

To paraphrase one of the two Zack Snyder movies I like, Cena realized that even a god-king can bleed. But none of his usual methods worked. No regular Attitude Adjustment. No Attitude Adjustment from the top rope. No STFU. It was a lot of close but no cigar as the moves Cena used to win so many championships over the years didn’t unseat the Head of the Table.

In the end, Cena, who mocked Reigns for switching up his style, signaled his own downfall when he went for a spear of his own. Of course, he didn’t just go for a spear; he imitated the WWE Universal Champion as well. Cena believed anything Reigns can do, he can do a whole lot better. Well, not tonight. His arrogance left an opening for the Tribal Chief, who proceeded to finish the man devoted to peace with his spear, laying Cena down for the three-second tan.

What happened as a result? Brock Lesnar, in all his ponytailed and bearded glory. Las Vegas—and yours truly—erupted when that Lesnar’s music hit. While Cena is clearly no match for Reigns, Brock is a different story, different book, and possibly a different species. And the best part of the interaction was Paul Heyman.

Heyman’s history with Lesnar is well-documented so I’m not going to bore you with a trip down memory lane. But like any good story, knowing how the past informs the present makes for a rewarding experience. Seriously, the man was cowering when Lesnar walked to the ring.

Since hooking up with Roman Reigns, Paul’s done a lot of things but falling to his knees out of fear is not one of them. Paul knows what Brock is capable of and more importantly, he knows if Reigns is ready to handle it. Because when it comes to that smoke, Lesnar is a damn five-alarm blaze.

A dramatic moment in Rocky III was Mickey realizing Rocky wasn’t ready to fight Clubber Lang. The cats Rocky fought as champion weren’t pushovers, but they looked like baby ants compared to Lang. Mickey did all he could to protect his fighter from Lang’s wrath but Rocky, believing all of his own hype, insisted on fighting Clubber and ignored his trainer’s advice. Mickey was scared and Rocky ignored that fear or didn’t care.

If Paul is scared, that should tell Roman all he needs to know about the challenge in front of him. I can’t wait to see what happens when Reigns ignores his advocate’s advice and dives head first into the den of the man who, according to Pat McAfee, is the “alpha male of our species.”

For Roman’s sake, I hope he watches Rocky III.

The Man Came to Town and All I Got was a Shirt

This was a much longer rant before I started typing, but I calmed down quite a bit. Well, not a lot, but enough. That said, I have one very important question:

What in the actual f*ck was that?

Becky Lynch coming back is great! I love Becky, you love Becky, we all scream for Becky. But this entire segment was weird for several reasons, starting with the fact WWE advertised Sasha Banks x Bianca Belair doing battle before and during SummerSlam. If anyone reading this believes the billion dollar company didn’t know one of its star wrestlers wasn’t performing at their marquee event of the summer, I have a story to tell you about Santa Claus.

Sasha is written out of the match in a way that would shock even the late David Stern in its lack of transparency, resulting in the crowd deflating like a balloon. Out comes Carmella and the crowd goes mild. The woman Belair used as her punching bag for weeks looked prime to get yet another title shot for “basketball reasons.” Bianca, rightly frustrated, is game to to slap fire out of Mella one more time because why not.

Or so we thought.

Once that Irish chant blasted through Allegiant Stadium, it sounded like the Las Vegas Raiders won the Super Bowl. Funny enough, that reaction is probably as close as that stadium will ever get to a championship celebration. But I digress. The Man came to Vegas and it truly was a dope moment. She basked in the reaction after being away for more than a year, then tossed Carmella out on her ass, setting up a one-on-one showdown between The EST and The Man.

And that’s where the record scratch happened and they lost me.

Bianca vs. Becky in an impromptu match should have the dustiest of finishes. Or, at the least, someone in the middle to take the L so neither of them have to. WWE dismissed Carmella with the same effort one dismisses a fly and before I could raise an eyebrow in protest, the “match” was over. Bianca extended her hand in respect, Becky gave her a forearm to the jaw for her troubles, and one Manhandle Slam later, your winner and new SmackDown Women’s Champion is Becky Lynch.

Le boo, which I’m told is how the French voice their protest.

Bianca deserved better than this. Sure, the built-in excuse is she wasn’t ready and definitely wasn’t prepared for Lynch. However, as the reigning champ and inspirational babyface, she has to look better than that. If they got 15 or even 10 minutes and she took the pin, then she potentially looks good in defeat and proves how much she’s learned in her short time on the main roster. The same woman who took Sasha Banks to the brink at WrestleMania didn’t lay a pinky on a woman who was out of action for 16 months. Nah, that ain’t it.

Becky deserved better than this as well. Her first match back should be, ya know, an actual match. To say nothing of the fact she looks foul for just inserting herself into a match, tossing out one of the participants, and hustling the babyface champ in the process. I will shed no tear for Mella, but there’s a disconnect here. While The Man never possessed a pure heart, she had a code. The woman who forfeited her title to Askua doesn’t seem like the one who showed up tonight.

The most infuriating thing is none of this had to happen. Carmella was right there to take the pin, setting up a proper singles match between Bianca and Becky, while giving Becky the same post-match moment with all of the flowers thrown at her feet. Bianca looks strong, Becky looks strong, and Mella remains cannon fodder comic relief. Everybody wins. Instead, we got a situation where no one looked good.

Give WWE props for one thing: They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby

First things first: Edge coming out to the Brood’s theme, and emerging out of the ground, was the dopest moment of the night. Besides looking cool, the moment of nostalgia illustrated the larger point that Edge needed to go to a dark place to vanquish Seth Rollins. Rollins, dressed as either Tale Spin’s Don Carnage or a member of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, was a little shook at what he awoke inside of the WWE Hall of Famer. But hey, he asked for it, right?

WWE has a problem with narrative disconnect. This match, which is built on both men doing their best to to stake their claim to the shadows, started as a simple wrestling match. After weeks of getting very personal and intense, an all-out war was the only option. But like I said earlier, WWE has that thing about missing opportunities.

Luckily for them—and for us—Edge and Seth are two of the best and what started as a wrestling match turned into compelling fight. Rollins pushed Edge and vice versa, with each man doing their ever-loving best to put the other away post haste. The story was just how far was Edge willing to go to get the job done. He speared Rollins onto the stadium floor. He did a swinging neck breaker from the top rope. The man even pulled a freaking Edgecator out of his apparently very deep bag of tricks.

Edge, realizing none of that was enough, put Rollins in a crossface and bashed his head into the ring over and over and over again. That migraine, along with the getting the life choked out of him, was too much for Rollins and he finally said uncle.

What started meh and not befitting of their rivalry, morphed into a dope last sentence for their rivalry. If this is the end. No clue where either of these cats go after SummerSlam, but consider me intrigued.


Meet the New Women’s Champ, Same as the Old Women’s Champ

Ya know, I almost bought it. For more than a few seconds, I thought Nikki A.S.H. was walking out of Vegas the same way she walked in. Why on earth would WWE take the title off of Charlotte Flair a few weeks ago just go give it back? Why else would they poke out their chest to say how inspirational Nikki is to kids and the people who need smiles on their faces? Surely there were plans to really do something with this “almost a superhero” thing, right?

Clearly my optimism isn’t built for this company. The triple threat match for the Raw Women’s Championship barely lasted long enough for me to make a sandwich, and existed purely for Charlotte to notch title reign number 12 and add more decorations to her name.

Either the crowd was really into Charlotte or not feeling Nikki A.S.H. at a-l-l because they erupted when Nikki tapped and Charlotte claimed her prize. Might be time for fake superhero to hang up her very real cape.

RKBro’s Gamble Pays Off

Teaming up with Randy Orton is the type of high stakes risk not many in Vegas can relate to. Riddle took that chance as he and his notoriously treacherous partner faced A.J. Styles and Styles’ personal colossus, Omos. Now that I’m recapping this stuff, I can finally say publicly that Omos has the best moniker in all of wrestling. “Personal Colossus” is dope and says so much in only two words. Omos is a beast, a fact Orton and Riddle were well aware of. So what did they do?

Well, they beat the hell out of A.J. and wanted no parts of any action Omos dished out. The prevailing thought is that the Colossus is unbeatable. RKBro never even tried to test that theory and as a result, they walked out of Vegas with gold around their waists.

Their post-match interview with A.C. Slater Mario Lopez hinted at the uneasiness of their partnership but that’s the fun part. Can happy go-lucky Riddle get along with a man who admits he’s a snake?

From a “Little Town in New York City” to U.S. Champion

All of the props in the world to Damian Priest for finishing his match with Sheamus. Early in the bout, the guy landed the way nobody wants to land when attempting a dive outside of the ring. My back still hurts thinking about it and clearly his did during the match. He’s a true soldier for that, so give him your applause.

As for the match itself? It was cool. Sheamus dominated most of it because Priest never got his offense really going. And when he did, his high-risk offense proved way too risky as Sheamus made him pay a hefty price every single time. The second Sheamus lost his mask aka his superpower, that was all she wrote. Sheamus’ confidence vanished, he focused more on defense, and ate a Reckoning from Priest. Raw has a new United States Champion but my spider-sense says a rematch is on the horizon.

One More Thing...

Pat Mac gave me life throughout this show. Him screaming “Hadoken!” during the Mysterios x Usos tag match was, until the end of the show, my favorite moment of the night.

Grade: C+

If not for the last match, this grade is a lot worse. The crowd was dead through a lot of the four-hour event, there was an unnecessary joke segment, and a good portion of the show was just, ya know, boring. Roman and Cena delivered, Becky’s comeback was dope—result not withstanding—and Brock is back with a ponytail.

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