Well well well, boys and girls, it’s time for the very first edition of To The Matt, featuring Summerslam 2017! Let’s hit the ropes!
Summerslam Kick-Off Show
Miz & The Miztourage vs Jason Jordan & The Hardy Boyz – This was a pretty fun match, and despite the arena being about 90% empty, the Hardys got some good crowd reactions. Jordan needs some new gear now that he’s on his own, because seeing him in his old American Alpha singlets just makes me sad for the loss of such a cool team. Miz won clean with the Skull-Crushing Finale in a good opener, but I don’t like seeing the IC champ not defend his title on one of the Big Four PPVs.
Neville vs Akira Tozawa (c), WWE Cruiserweight Championship – Tozawa came out wearing the title strapped diagonally across his body, which I thought was awesome. Anything that makes you stand out from other wrestlers is usually a good thing. This was another good match from the two guys, with good crowd reactions for Tozawa throughout. I enjoyed the difference in styles they worked, with Neville’s offense more slow and methodical while Tozawa came off fast and explosive. Neville won clean with the Red Arrow to Tozawa’s back after getting his knees up to block the big senton. Didn’t like the quick title change (Tozawa won only six days before), but everything else was good.
The Usos vs The New Day (c) [Big E & Xavier Woods], Smackdown Tag Team Championship – The New Day cut their usual long promo on their entrance which I’m starting to get tired of, but at least Big E’s supervillain cape looked cool. This match built really well, nice and slow at the beginning as the Usos got the heat on Woods, before turning up the speed as the New Day made their comeback. Really loved the combination moves by the New Day during their comeback: Big E powerbombing Woods onto one of the Usos, Woods powering Big E up into the electric chair position before dropping him into a big splash on one of the Usos, and finally a corner STO/Backstabber combo by E and Woods onto…well…one of the Usos. Each double team got a big pop from the crowd, and had them buying into all of the false finishes by the end of the match. The finish saw the Usos put down Big E with a superkick party and hit the double splash to regain the belts. This was probably the match of the night, and was the perfect way to end the pre-show. It got the crowd super hot for the start of the main show…it’s too bad the next match tried to kill them dead.
John Cena vs Baron Corbin – Call me old-fashioned, but I really think it shows disrespect to your championships if they’re defended on the pre-show when there are non-title matches on the main card. I know there’s no way they’d ever put Cena on the pre-show, but this really had no business being here when you could have had the tag titles or even the cruiserweights in its place. The story behind this match was that Baron Corbin was angry at Cena for “ruining” his Money in the Bank cash-in on Smackdown, so he took it out on Cena by hitting him with…a lot of slow, plodding offense, staring at Cena while he was down, talking trash to him occasionally, and taking breaks to go yell at the (increasingly dead) crowd. JBL at one point said Corbin was “apoplectic” as of late, while Corbin shuffled around the ring with a blank look on his face. I like both guys, but this was a really bad opener to the show proper. This was Corbin’s chance to really turn up the aggression, to put the boots to Cena with some really nasty offense, and it just didn’t happen. Cena won clean with the AA off a Five-Knuckle Shuffle. Yawn.
Natalya vs Naomi (c), Smackdown Women’s Championship – Props to the girls for coming out fast after the disaster that was Cena/Corbin. Not much to say here, other than some good aggressiveness from Nattie, and some cool spots throughout, like Naomi’s apron blockbuster and middle rope Russian leg sweep, and Nattie catching a kick and pulling Naomi down into the splits. Natalya got her knees up to counter Naomi’s split-legged moonsault and won clean with the Sharpshooter. Naomi was in tears after the match, and seemingly on the brink of them throughout – maybe an injury somewhere in there? Not sure.
Big Cass vs Big Show [w/Enzo in a shark cage] – This absolutely should have been on the pre-show. I like all three guys, but this really killed the crowd – swap this with the cruiserweight title match and you may have kept them in it. Enzo cut a long, rambling promo to start the segment, only to be interrupted by Cass’s entrance and get completely buried on commentary. Show did his best, selling the hell out of his hand throughout, but this went on waaaay too long and was waaaay too slow. I loved the spot at the end where Enzo stripped down, oiled himself up, and slithered out of the cage, which got a huge pop from the crowd…but then they killed it by having Cass immediately boot him and kill him dead, then win clean with two boots in a row to Show, followed by an Empire Elbow. Why even do the Enzo spot if you’re not going to do anything with it?! This was really frustrating.
Randy Orton vs Rusev – I had totally forgotten that this was even on the show…and it really wasn’t, in the end. Rusev jumped Orton before the bell and tossed him around outside for a bit before throwing him back in and eating an RKO immediately after the bell. This gets a thumbs up from me, because I don’t like Orton matches and the RKO got a huge pop from the crowd.
Sasha Banks vs Alexa Bliss (c), Raw Women’s Championship – Pretty good match, I’m a fan of both ladies. Alexa’s false eyelashes falling off got a laugh out of me – and when did she start doing Kevin Owens’ “That’s why I’m the champ” taunt? Again, a solid match. I felt like it went on a bit too long, but the crowd came alive for the finishers of both women, and Sasha winning clean with the Banks Statement got a nice pop.
Bray Wyatt vs Finn Bálor [Demon Paint] – Finn with a nice creepy intro to his demon entrance, a great crowd response, and really good facial expressions by Wyatt on the outside. This was where the two crowd-killers really got to me, because this match should have been red hot – you could feel the crowd trying to rally at certain points, but during some double-downs and setup moves they were still quiet. Still, a great match between two of my favorites, Finn using his quickness while Bray tried to put him down with his power. Finn won clean with the Coup De Grâce – cold crowd aside, nothing to complain about here. Good stuff.
Sheamus & Cesaro (c) vs Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins, Raw Tag Team Championship – So on one side we have the Evil Foreigners, and on the other we have a crazy person and an arsonist…who is the crowd supposed to root for again? The champs came out first, which I normally hate, but they covered it on commentary with a line about how Sheamus and Cesaro wanted to hold the ring and make Rollins wait on the outside for Ambrose – pretty nice touch. This was a good, physical match that set up the biggest feud of the year – WWE vs Beach Balls. I’m kind of in the middle on this one, because while I can’t endorse anything that disrespects the workers in the ring, the cynical side of me says that it’s the WWE’s job to put on a show that keeps the audience engaged, so if they kill the crowd it’s on them. In any case, despite not being a big fan of any of the four in this match, this was really solid. Loved the contrasting styles of both teams, with Sheamus and Cesaro brawling and using power moves, while Rollins and Ambrose used speed and high flying. The crowd came alive for the near falls by the end, and Ambrose picked up the win with Dirty Deeds on Sheamus after Rollins hit him with a superkick and the absolute worst Kenny Omega Rain-Trigger knee I have ever seen (for the love of God, stop doing that). Great match, great pop from the crowd afterward.
Kevin Owens vs AJ Styles (c) [w/guest referee Shane McMahon], United States Championship – Just as I started typing about the crowd finally coming back to life for the start of the match, AJ hopped up on the apron and did the smoothest running knee I have ever seen. Absolutely tremendous. Owens and Styles are two of my favorites, and their actual work during this match was great, but the bits of interaction with Shane were the weak link. The crowd was there for the beginning, and for the big spots, but I feel like they were expecting shenanigans and couldn’t get into it as much as they otherwise would have. Still, good wresting by Owens and Styles, so I can’t complain. Styles won clean with the Styles Clash off of a Phenomenal Forearm.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Jinder Mahal (c), WWE Championship – First of all, I have to give props to the pre-match video package. It was a lot more subdued than their normal work, with a tone more akin to a legitimate sport like boxing or football. Really well done. Nakamura got the full NXT Takeover treatment, with the violinist playing live during his entrance, to a great pop from the crowd. I’ve heard people complain about the crowd singing his entrance theme…but as a Nakamura mark myself, I absolutely love it. Sue me. I also liked the check-ins with the Hindi and Japanese announce teams in the beginning stretches of the match, especially since it got the overbearing and annoying JBL and Tom Phillips off TV for a bit – JBL’s assertion that a win by Nakamura would make him the first man to have ever held the IWGP and WWE Championships (Brock Lesnar says hello) was especially grating. That aside, I thought this one of the better matches I’ve seen from either man on the main roster – Nakamura seemed to have a bit more fire here than in his matches with Ziggler or Corbin, and Mahal played up his power early before eating some really solid offense from Nakamura. My only issue was the finish, which saw the Singh brothers pop up on the apron and get dragged in by Nakamura for some strikes and a pair of Kinshasas, before Mahal grabbed him from behind to hit the Khallas. So…essentially the exact same finish we’ve seen in three straight matches between Mahal and Orton. Yes, he’s a heel, and yes, distractions and cheating are classic heel moves, but I feel like constant interference really hurts your heel’s credibility in the long run. Look, Jinder’s a big dude. He looks legit. He shouldn’t need guys who weigh like 130 pounds to help him out every single time, especially against a smaller opponent. Anyway, rant over, good match apart from the ending.
Braun Strowman vs Samoa Joe vs Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar (c), WWE Universal Championship – This was exactly what they needed to close the show, an awesome four-way brawl between some of their biggest main event monsters. The crowd was absolutely on fire for this, especially for anything involving Strowman and Lesnar. I’ve only got two complaints, and they’re pretty minor: 1] The stretcher angle. They don’t do it all that often, but almost every time someone gets stretchered out, especially on pay-per-view, you can guarantee that he (or she) is coming right back out later in the match. It’s predictable, and in this case that’s not a good thing. 2] After brawling on the outside, throwing each other through the barricade, through tables, throwing chairs, and hitting each other with the steel steps, these monsters climbed back into the ring to…hit each other with wrestling moves. Roman’s feather-soft Superman Punches looked especially weak here. But I’m nitpicking. This was a really good main event, and they did an awesome job of building Lesnar vs Strowman for No Mercy, as Lesnar retained the championship with an F-5 on Reigns.
Overall, after re-watching it to get my notes together for this post, I’d say this was a pretty good show. If it wasn’t for Cena/Corbin and Cass/Show killing the crowd, I’d even go so far as to call it was great – some really good ring work, and a nice hot crowd through most of the show. Thumbs up.