For fans who’ve been less than pleased with several of WWE’s flailing story lines lately, SummerSlam did not disappoint. Not only did three title belts change hands Sunday night — including the absolutely stunning upset of John Cena by former UFC champion Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship — but most of the non-title matches were exciting, too.
Well, except for the first match. Cesaro faced Rob Van Dam, who despite being 43, manages to look like an overgrown toddler in his singlet. The match should’ve been an easy win for the dominant Cesaro, but WWE bookers thought otherwise and had Van Dam win instead with his signature five-star frog splash off the top rope. This made no sense, as most fans would agree Cesaro has the goods to carry the WWE World Heavyweight title one day, while Van Dam is on his way out.
No build up whatsoever. But whatever. I feel bad for both of these guys, especially Cesaro.
— Lee Morgan (@HEEL_LCM) August 17, 2014
Second up was The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler. After entering the ring in what looked like one of Dorothy Zbornak’s old caftans from “The Golden Girls,” The Miz put up one heck of a fight against Ziggler, but ultimately couldn’t retain his Intercontinental Championship belt. The star of the direct-to-DVD “Marine 4″ lost via pinfall. The audience was mostly happy with the result, as Ziggler has been the engine that almost could for years now. The platinum-blond star, whose top-notch bumps make even bad wrestlers look good, might finally be getting the push he deserves.
— Jamie (@Jagnarok) August 18, 2014
The first of two (!) female matches came next when reigning champion AJ Lee took on her best “frienemy” Paige, a relatively new addition to the WWE’s main roster. The match was surprisingly compelling despite Paige’s inability to convincingly carry a story line. Turning heel was surely the best thing for her and now that she has the Diva’s belt again (Paige convincingly broke out of AJ’s signature “Black Widow” submission move to deliver a DDT), she can hopefully continue to develop as a true foe.
Ha. AJ Lee just pulled Paige’s extensions out. WORLD STAR! #SummerSlam
— Jonathan Snowden (@mmaencyclopedia) August 18, 2014
Jack Swagger vs. Rusev ended in genuine surprise. Dubbed a “flag match,” the two massive foes and their managers, the mustachioed Zeb and the ravishing Russian Lana, went up against each other with national pride on the line. The WWE surprised nearly everyone when they booked the Russian side to trump the USA. The fight was hefty and filled with convincingly staged faux injuries, especially Rusev’s ankle — that man can sell! And after Rusev managed to take Swagger out with his signature Accolade submission move, the reward was the unfurling of a gigantic Russian flag and a full version of the Russian national anthem. This rivalry is probably not done yet.
— Rusev (@RusevBUL) August 18, 2014
The next match was the strangest of the night. Two ex-members of The Shield, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, took each other on in a Lumberjack match, which is like a regular singles match, but with other wrestlers lined up around the ring as to prevent either man from exiting. Think of it like a human steel cage. Except this human cage was terrible at their job and the wrestlers kept escaping. In the end, however, the unpredictability of Rollins and Ambrose, who are by far two of the most talented athletes on the main roster, made the match incredibly watchable. In the end, Rollins pulled a great heel move by hitting Ambrose over the head with his Money in the Bank briefcase to get the win.
Ambrose v. Rollins may have been the first Lumberjack Match in wrestling history that I actually enjoyed. And it was awesome. #SummerSlam
— Tony Bravo (@RingsideRants) August 18, 2014
Bray Wyatt took on Chris Jericho in a singles match that ended the only way it could — with Wyatt winning. The build-up to this has been steady and compelling, which it should be when you have two guys as talented as Wyatt and Jericho on the mic. The two even took their kayfabe to Jericho’s podcast last week when Wyatt “surprised” Jericho by calling in. In the ring, Wyatt delivered with his patented creepiness by popping up into a backbend before finally nail the second of his signature Sister Abigails that left Jericho “unconscious” on the canvas. Also, so much Wyatt neckbeard.
Bray Wyatt and Chris Jericho should form a tag team called Wyatt2J #SummerSlam
— I am Groot (@dizzodyl11) August 18, 2014
Stephanie McMahon vs. Brie Bella: The match most everyone was least excited about was actually entertaining, not least of which is because of McMahon, who has more talent in the ring than 90 percent of the current Diva’s roster. Really, McMahon was tremendous. Bella, on the other hand, was not. But that doesn’t matter because, unfortunately, this match turned out to be less about the wrestling and more about Bella’s twin sister Nicki turning heel. McMahon won as a result after her husband Triple H also got involved. Meh. The really interesting twist will be how the WWE plans to reconcile Nicki’s new evil persona with her well known, real-life dating life — she’s connected with WWE’s ultimate hero John Cena.
John Cena & Nikki Bella are going to have a real, real quiet car ride home.
— The Nick&Bryan Show (@TheNBShow) August 18, 2014
The build-up to Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns was shaky with Orton reportedly getting in trouble behind-the-scenes for his unenthusiastic view of the story line. This match, while perhaps better than expected, still seemed a bit lackluster. It might have also been because everyone was ready to see the main event, which made Orton and Reigns seem more like filler. In any case, Reigns won with an impressive spear to the gut of Orton.
— Terence (@TOPolk) August 18, 2014
Finally, after one of the best build-ups to a match ever, in which Brock Lesnar promised to leave John Cena in “a pile of blood and urine and vomit,” the truth was delivered. Really, this was probably the most realistic-seeming match the WWE has ever booked. Lesnar handed a beatdown to Cena that was so believable, it made you wonder if you were watching sports entertainment or a UFC match. When Ronda Rousey flashed across the screen in the audience things got even more confusing. This match left viewers simultaneously amazed and confused. After all, Lesnar doled out 16 German suplexes! But… was this a main event squash match? Featuring John Cena as the jobber? That’s truly unheard of in this business. In any case, Lesnar easily won the WWE World Heavyweight title off the broken-down superstar in what was easily one of the most surprising matches of the year.
— Aaron Diaz (@dresdencodak) August 18, 2014