WWE can sure book the big moments — the rest of it is where they continue to struggle.
The SummerSlam per-view-view at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday night was a perfect example of where WWE is. It delivered massive returns with Becky Lynch – though it even messed that up – and then a bearded Brock Lesnar to confront Roman Reigns to close the show.
Even with those long-awaited moments, SummerSlam was a mixed bag. Sure there were some good matches, but also some creative that shows how out of touch WWE is with their audience at times. Certain things got zero or the opposite crowd reaction WWE is looking for. Lynch and Lesnar will get WWE many of the headlines it craves – especially with CM Punk debuting for All Elite Wrestling on Friday night – but the company continues to prove it hasn’t fixed the problems at its very core.
Here are five takeaways from SummerSlam:
The Beast is back and man does he look scary. Brock Lesnar returned to WWE for the first time since WrestleMania 36 to confront Reigns and his former advocate Paul Heyman after the Tribal Chief defeated John Cena in the main event to retain his Universal championship. Reigns slipped out of the ring and did not get physical with a pony-tailed, bearded and completely jacked Lesnar. The former UFC heavyweight champion looks like he has chopped 10,000 trees at his house in Saskatchewan during the pandemic. Reigns also has other big challenges in front of him as Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Edge and Big E wait.
It, however, does almost feel like Lesnar’s return will overshadow the excellent match Reigns and Cena delivered. The two beautifully told the story they laid out, with Cena getting his butt kicked early, not getting pinning but continually trying to roll up Reigns for the 1-2-3. Reigns three times kicked out at 2 7/8, including on a Super Attitude Adjustment that the Vegas crown really bit on. Reigns finally beat the 16-time champ completely clean with a spear in the middle of the ring. He only got to soak in that moment standing over Cena for mere seconds before the next-level off wrestling bosses arrived. Lesnar even gave Cena an F5 in the stadium after the show went off the air.
Lynch returned to WWE for the first time in 16 months and she’s already a champion again. So is Charlotte Flair. It could set them up for a Survivor Series match at Barclays Center if the Raw vs. SmackDown format continues. Lynch was the replacement for Sasha Banks in the SmackDown women’s championship match. Lynch defeated champion, Bianca Belair, in seconds with a punch out of a handshake and a Man-handle slam for her fifth world title reign.
The squash match is a very questionable booking decision that took a lot of the air out of the building. Belair has been a great champion and is a budding star. She deserved better. Maybe WWE turns her heel to make this a better feud moving forward. Potentially setting up a match that can be as good as Flair-Lynch is fine, but WWE continues to stifle the growth of its fresh and younger talent to do so.
Banks wrestling on the card was uncertain after she and Belair were pulled from recent house shows for ‘unforeseen circumstances.” WWE didn’t announce Banks was not competing until Belair was in the ring. Carmella was named her opponent. Then Lynch’s music hit and the crowd went absolutely bananas. Lynch beat up Carmella and asked Belair: “What do you say the EST and The Man blow the roof off this joint for the SmackDown women’s championship?” before quickly taking it from her.
Flair went the traditional route to become Raw women’s champ again and claim her 15th world title in WWE (though the company only recognizes 12). She tapped out former champion Nikki A.S.H. in a prolonged Figure Eight after her valiant attempts to the ropes failed. This was one of the night’s best matches and another stellar performance from Flair. Neither she nor Rhea Ripley or Nikki had a true advantage until the late stages leaving you feeling like anyone could win.
Bizarro World Booking
Bobby Lashley versus Goldberg was one the strangest things you will ever see and a big example of not knowing your audience. The heel champion Lashley, who won by referee stoppage after brutalizing Goldberg’s knee in storyline, was cheered throughout and the legend booed. It happened after Goldberg got off to a fast start and appeared prime to win and with each heel tactic that ensured Lashley would keep the WWE championship. Lashley was cheered on his way out after pummeling Goldberg with a chair and putting his son Gage in the Hurt Lock. Goldberg kept saying “I’m gonna kill you” for putting your hands on my son, which MVP tried to explain away. It looks like these two may not be done. If so, WWE better make it a non-title grudge match.
Seth Rollins and Edge delivered and then some in a story that dated back to 2014. Each made the other dig deeper and deeper as they hit big move after big move like the story setup. Edge, who came out surrounded by fire in his Brood entrance, used his wife Beth Phoenix’s Glam Slam and his old Edge-ucator submission. Rollins, who continually attacked Edge’s neck, was somehow able to counter a spear with a Pedigree at one point. False finish after false finish kept building drama as Edge had a new counter for each Stomp attempt. After one final counter, the Rated-R Superstar snapped, slamming Rollins face into the mat before locking him in choke/sleeper on the mat for the submission win. Let’s hope these two have an encore planned after a much-needed win for Edge.
RK-Bro win gold
RKO-Bro finally can call themselves Raw tag team champions. The unlikely team, which has become one of Raw’s best stories earned the gold via an RKO from Randy Orton to A.J. Styles in a fast-paced match. It continued to protect the giant Omos, who Riddle was able to run into the ring post on the outside. The crowd popped huge for the victory and it was a great way to start the main card. Orton, known for getting the little things right, wrapped both titles around Riddle after they won and told him “thank you” as they walked to the back. Riddle in an interview later said he has a surprise for Orton at “Monday Night Raw.”
The Usos over the Mysterios to retain the SmackDown tag team championship.
The right team won as the gold needs to stay with The Bloodline. But the match did little to further and potential tactical disagreements between Dominik and Rey, which was the story coming in. This still can be righted, but adding more layers would have been preferred. With Dominik on the outside, the Usos hit double a superkick after thwarting a Rey frog splash, and then Jey delivered and Uso splash for the win. It’s time for something new for both teams.
Damian Priest over Sheamus to win the United States championship
Priest has his first main roster title. Priest ended up ripping off Sheamus’ protective mask, kicking him in the face and then delivering The Reckoning for the win. This felt perfect considering how Sheamus has used the mask to his advantage throughout the build to this feud.
Priest landed really hard on his back early on during his signature flip over the top rope to the outside. He got up gingerly and Sheamus worked the back in a slow and plodding match. It was hard to tell if the back injury was a work or not. Sheamus knows how to get heat with the crowd, and did so here. That and near falls – including Priest kicking out after leaping and getting kneed in the face — added that final touches to a good match.
Alexa Bliss over Eva Marie
It’s hard enough to have a wrestling match, trying to do so while incorporating a stuffed doll just makes it that much harder. These two tried their best – Marie even beat up Lilly at one point – but the crowd was never into it. Hopefully, WWE realizes it needs to try something different with Bliss, who won with a DDT that got zero pop.
The highlight came after the math when Doudrop (Piper Nevin), who has been getting taken advantage of and mistreated by Marie, mocked her by announcing she was the loser of the match and posing in her robe. The split and match between these two is coming, but Marie’s return has been very lackluster.
Drew McIntyre over Jinder Mahal
It lasted longer than Lynch vs. Belair, but was a squash match nonetheless. McIntyre beat his former 3Man Band member in a matter of minutes. Hard to continue this feud, but WWE could find a way.
Big E reclaimed his Money on the Bank briefcase by defeating Baron Corbin in a match on the Kickoff show. His fellow New Day member Xavier Woods, dressed as Razor Ramon, was in a segment that flopped in which he sprayed Miz and Morrison with water.
WWE had Mario Lopez do a backstage interview where he called the company WWF. Tiffany Haddish followed that up by calling Priest, the new United States champion, the “National Champion.” Celebrity interviews went 0-2.
WWE announced it will return to Saudi Arabia for Crown Jewel in October and Money in the Bank will be at Allegiant Stadium on July 4.
The WWE 2K22 video game is scheduled to launch in March.
Biggest Winner: Roman Reigns
Biggest Loser: Bianca Belair
Best Match: Seth Rollins vs. Edge