By Graham "GSM" Matthews
The Usos, American Alpha and The Hype Bros def. Breezango, The Ascension and The Vaudevillians (Kickoff Match)
We had just gotten to our seats when the bell rang for this match. There was hardly anyone in the arena at the time, so I was surprised they had it go on so early in the evening. As a result, those that were in their seats at the time were largely quiet and couldn't have cared less. It didn't help that we saw the same match on last Tuesday's SmackDown Live, but if nothing else, it was cool to see American Alpha in action and hit their signature spots. I didn't notice it from where I was sitting, but I heard from plenty of people say that The Usos seemed to be teasing tension with American Alpha. That's a match/feud I would love to see sooner rather than later.
Neville and Sami Zayn def. The Dudley Boyz (Kickoff Match)
It is an absolute crime that coming off a Match of the Year candidate at Battleground, WWE couldn't find a spot for Sami Zayn on the main SummerSlam card. I guess it's good he was on the show at all, even if it was a meaningless match. I have read that Zayn and Neville might be a regular tandem going forward, and although they have awesome chemistry together, I feel Zayn is above that at the moment. Meanwhile, The Dudley Boyz doing the job wasn't a shocking development, but they sold well for the high-flying athletes.
Sheamus def. Cesaro in Match #1 in the Best of 7 Series (Kickoff Match)
As much as it must have sucked for Sheamus and Cesaro to get bumped from the main card, I liked the move for a number of reasons. Firstly, it gave more time to the rest of the matches (whose wise idea was it to cram 11 matches in a four hour period?). Secondly, it furthered the frustration of Cesaro's character. And thirdly, it probably motivated both of them to have an even better match and prove to officials what they were capable of. They were certainly successful in doing just that by having one of the night's better bouts and a very well-wrestled match on the whole. Sheamus scoring the first fall in the series is logical given he lost to Cesaro in back-to-back matches earlier this month.
Jeri-KO def. Enzo Amore and Big Cass
Having hometown heroes Enzo and Cass kick off the evening was brilliant. The crowd went bananas for them and recited everything in their entrance shtick. Jeri-KO are fantastic foils for them as well and they worked wonderfully together. This was a highly entertaining opener and I didn't at all have a problem with the heels going over. It put heat on them and Enzo and Cass will be just fine. Jeri-KO for tag team champions, baybay!
Charlotte def. Sasha Banks to Win the WWE Women's Championship
At first, I questioned the decision to hold this match so early, but it might have actually worked in their favor before the crowd got tired. Their initial outing over the title a few weeks back was definitely better, but this was still a very good match from the NXT alumni that featured far too many unnecessary risks. I understand they want to prove that they're on the same level as the men by doing crazy dives and whatnot, but they never come off well and Banks is shortening the span of her career. Charlotte regaining the gold shocked me, but with the news that Banks needs time off to heal a back injury, it made sense in retrospect, and the third match between the two should be even more anticipated.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz def. Apollo Crews
This was appropriately placed right after two hot matchups because this bout had very little build going into it. Miz has been doing phenomenal work as Intercontinental Champion, and although I want the belt on Crews eventually, I was fine with Miz retaining. The match itself really wasn't much of note and the crowd had no incentive to care, but I liked Miz winning clean because it helps him gain credibility as champion, and I'm sure Crews' championship chase is far from over.
AJ Styles def. John Cena
Match of the Year candidate alert! I might have to agree with John Napolitano (with whom I attended the event) in that this might my new favorite match of all-time. Yes, that might sound like a huge exaggeration, but being there for it put it on an entirely different level for me given it has been a dream match of mine for ages. Similar to Money in the Bank, they found the right rhythm and told a sensational storytelling. Did they jump to the next gear a bit too early? Perhaps, but it didn't feel like a 20 minute match at all because they took their time with everything they did. Styles beating Cena clean was a major endorsement of him by the company, and something I really wanted to happen but figured it wouldn't. Cena will be taking time off in the near future, but even still, this is a major milestone in the career of Styles and should be treated as such. What a year this has been for The Phenomenal One.
The Club def. WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day by Disqualification
The feud between these two tandems has been a bust by and large and the match reflected that. The crowd was into New Day's act per usual, but the match was rather forgettable. Even Jon Stewart's involvement, while comical, didn't need to happen. Really, the only part of the contest the crowd came alive for was Big E's return. Everything else was mostly mediocre.
WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose def. Dolph Ziggler
Do you mean to tell me that this was the same world title that headlined WrestleMania for the past few years? Wow. Nothing against Ambrose, who deserves better than this, but this match was midcard fodder. I give them props for attempting to make Ziggler a serious threat again, but the crowd didn't think for a single second that he had a shot at winning the strap. They've had Raw matches that were more engaging than this. It appears Ziggler's days as a main eventer are officially over. For shame. A lack of heel turn from either man was disappointing, too.
Nikki Bella, Alexa Bliss and Natalya def. Becky Lynch, Carmella and Naomi
As soon as I heard Eva Marie (whose explained absence was hysterical by the way) was suspended, I assumed it would be a returning Nikki taking her place. As it turned out, I wasn't wrong, and it was nice to see Nikki back after a long lay-off. Fans wanted to cheer her (which is rare for Brooklyn), yet she was on the heel team, so that was a weird dynamic. Nevertheless, I liked this match more than most with everyone involved playing their part well and producing a fun little match.
Finn Balor def. Seth Rollins to Become the First WWE Universal Champion
Let's address the elephant in the room: the design of the new Universal title isn't ugly; instead, it's just unoriginal. It's essentially the same as the WWE World Championship with the exception of its red strap. That said, while I can't blame the crowd for hating it, the relentless chants throughout the bout hindered the quality of the contest. It was still a great match, but even without the fans being annoying, it was lacking that special something and I thought they might have been holding back. Regardless, The Demon's entrance was incredible and it was a cool moment to witness him make history by becoming the first Universal Champion.
United States Champion Rusev vs. Roman Reigns Went to a No Contest
I am likely in the minority here, but I was completely content with this match not coming to fruition. But the booking was ass backwards. They should have done the brawl on Raw and the match at SummerSlam. However, I didn't want Rusev to lose the title so quickly. It's a lose-lose, dammit! At the very least, Reigns' Spear to Rusev made for an awesome visual.
Brock Lesnar def. Randy Orton
There has been plenty of controversy regarding whether Lesnar busting Orton open was the intended finish. I have heard from several people that Lesnar winning by TKO was supposed to happen, but I don't buy the excuse for a second that Lesnar was ordered to make Orton bleed for real. That gash was way, way too deep. The match was just getting good before the abrupt finish, so it was fairly underwhelming. Not every Lesnar match should be the same; otherwise, his matches won't feel like a major happening. On the bright side, Lesnar comes out of this match looking like a total monster and ruthless beast. Thus, when he does ultimately lose to someone, it will mean that much more.
Being there in person will undoubtedly sway my thoughts on SummerSlam, but I truly don't believe the show was as awful as many people have painted it out to be. There were countless booking decisions that left me scratching my head and matches that left much to be desired, but Cena/AJ was absolutely amazing, Balor had his moment, the women delivered and the opening tag was a treat. It was a mixed bag on the whole, but I had a pleasant experience all the same.