Outside of Fridays, Judgment Day as a whole is WWE’s main character. Even the World Heavyweight champ plays second fiddle. Much like The Bloodline, each wrestler displays their humanity rather than simply playing stereotypical villains. Nothing epitomizes this more than everything happening between Finn Balor and Damian Priest. Despite weeks where the two best friends seemed on the same page, the cracks showed this week.
And SummerSlam just got better because of it.
Let me set the stage for you. Judgment Day showed up and talked about their dominance. They congratulated Dirty Dom on his championship win at The Great American Bash, bigged up Rhea Ripley for crippling Liv Morgan and making Raquel Rodriguez turn tail, then celebrated Seth Rollins’ potential demise at SummerSlam. Raquel even interfered and got her knee bashed in for good measure.
Now, Adam Pearce promised Raquel she gets her shot at Rhea when she’s 100 percent healthy, so we got that going for us. But that’s for another day. This week focused on Damian & Dom taking on Seth & Sami Zayn.
Of course the match rocked the world because these four know their roles and play them well. For me, the match wasn’t the thing; the intrigue around Seth’s championship gets me going. And no sooner that I thought about it, Damian looked at his briefcase after putting Seth to the ground with a devastating Razor’s Edge.
Damian saw that briefcase standing tall on the commentary table and I saw the wheels turning in his head. He put Seth down and out; this was his moment. He looked at Finn and told his best friend to give him the briefcase.
Finn not only hesitated, but he did so multiple times within a few seconds. He took his time grabbing it, then slowly approached the ring apron. Then, after what felt like minutes, he finally put it in Damian’s hands. The wheels in his head turned too and when he came to, he encouraged his friend to go get his.
Yeah, too late. Damian barely put the briefcase in the ref’s hands before Seth recovered and spoiled Damian’s crowning moment. Not only that, but he took the pin as well after Seth stomped his face into the first circle of Hell.
They played this tune before; Finn puts his ambition and hatred in front of his friend’s success. But this time felt different because the group asserted its dominance so much this summer, plus the upcoming SummerSlam main event. It’s not enough that Seth gets beat in Finn’s eyes. It only matters if he does the beating. It’s also inevitable, right? With everything on Finn’s soul and everything he said about Seth, this felt academic.
We didn’t get Damian’s reaction since he laid flat on his back when the show went off the air, but I doubt he’s peachy.
Like I said, they rule because they’re complex. If Damian’s angry, that makes sense. Even what Finn did makes sense because it’s all relatable. Who can’t identify with any part of Finn’s story to this point? And who won’t see Damian’s side if he goes off on his best friend, or even cashes in at SummerSlam just to spite him?
And to think it was all good just a week ago.
Ludvig Kaiser beugt himself some time this week. GUNTHER gave his own but assessment and told Ludvig to get the W...or else. He’s not happy with Giovanni Vinci either, but that’s for another week. Do or die for Ludvig this week against Matthew Riddle and luckily for the IMPERIUM member, he succeeded.
Great opening match that told a succinct story of one man fighting for his life. Ludvig showed aggression and desperation early and kept Matt on his heels. Literally since the man wrestles barefoot. And don’t get GUNTHER started on that.
But I digress. I like that Ludvig controlled everything until he didn’t. The third act really put him in jeopardy and turned the match into a compelling opening with two guys who work really well together. Matt made Ludvig sweat but not enough. Ludvig got the W and lives another day.
Raw put its best foot forward. Peep this match when you can.
Maybe I’m just hypnotized by the Alpha Academy as a whole but I dug Maxxine’s first match! Especially the ending where Valhalla put her in jeopardy but Maxxine reversed it and finished the match with an impressive bridge suplex.
They didn’t get a lot of time, which makes sense with Maxxine still learning the ropes, no pun intended. But it accomplished its goals with flying colors.
This war between these teams isn’t over and I do hope something pops off for SummerSlam.
Something felt off about Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tommaso Ciampa. Almost like it stayed in first gear and never got going beyond that. Bronson Reed looked on from the back in that way that only wrestlers watch television, but nothing came from it. Yet.
Shinsuke got the W thanks to holding Tommaso’s tights, so, good for him. But the match didn’t do much for me and it lacked urgency.
GUNTHER ran up on Alpha Academy and disrespected Chad Gable. Why? Well, besides his current inferiority complex, he felt Maxxine disrespected the ring when she wrestled right after Ludvig. He also found himself puzzled at why someone like Chad, with all his accolades, runs with Maxxine and Otis. The Ring General said he only needs five minutes to take care of Alpha’s leader. Chad happily obliged and then took him the distance.
Chad basically survived the first five minutes, since that’s all he needed. I like that touch; he tried a few offensive moves but he really just showed his toughness.
Once GUNTHER argued for more time, we got an actual fight. Chad showed more toughness but also strength with an incredible German Suplex on the big man. GUNTHER eventually got the win but Chad made him work for it, which doesn’t bode well for SummerSlam.
I’m surprised how well they built this match with Drew McIntyre MIA for two weeks. Just through establishing that GUNTHER isn’t on his A game and knowing that Drew is, well, Drew, it raises the stakes for the Intercontinental champ. Very effective work from everyone involved, including Chad.
This whole thing with Becky Lynch and Trish Stratus is weird. I assumed after Becky beat Zoey Stark last week that her eventual match with Trish had SummerSlam written all over it. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
But...it happened here. Actually, no, it didn’t happen because Zoey interfered as soon as the bell went ding. Then they did the two on one beatdown thing and walked away smiling.
Is there really a world where Becky isn’t on SummerSlam? Is there a universe where Becky and Trish end up on the show spur of the moment? Apparently yes because their actual match takes place in two weeks in Winnipeg, Canada.
I have no more words. Actually, I lied. This whole thing sucks for both women. Why is this not happening in Detroit? The one thing that makes sense is if Trish’s knows is actually broken. And I think it is since it bruises way too easily for a work. And if that’s the case, then cool, give her nose more time to heal. It’s unfortunate but understandable.
Okay, now I’m done.
Cody Rhodes and Brock Lensar make beautiful music together. Brock called out Cody this week for a simple handshake. I love the touch that Cody didn’t interact with the crowd when he walked to the ring. No posing or preening; he looked at one man and walked with purpose while the crowd sang his song and pyro went off behind him. I wish WWE did this a lot more often but hey, at least we got it.
After the handshake, Cody apparently poked the bear and Brock lost his mind.
Cody’s a wounded animal going into SummerSlam while Brock looks ready to fight a bear. Great segment that established the even bigger hill in Cody’s path if he wants Brock firmly in his rear view mirror. And yes, that’s me referencing SummerSlam’s Detroit backdrop and WWE’s graphics with cars. I’m a writer after all, this is what I do.
Hell of a go home show. The video packages for Brock-Cody III and Ronda Rousey vs. Shayna Baszler really worked. They presented the stories compactly and emotionally, especially with Ronda and Shayna. Those videos typified the focus shown this week as so much worked well.
I’m ready for SummerSlam. What about you?