SummerSlam is officially behind us.
WWE went all out in the Brooklyn area this year, hosting four huge shows across four straight nights. Many of the spectators in attendance were present for every show, many more watched each of the four at home on the WWE Network and on Cable TV. It’s (arguably) WWE’s second biggest show of the year so the company always has a lot riding on it. A good SummerSlam can propel WWE to a strong fall and winter season, riding the momentum to the Royal Rumble in January and the kickoff to the Road to WrestleMania. A bad SummerSlam means fans say “see you in a few” and switch to Monday Night Football in the meanwhile.
So how was the weekend? Does WWE have the momentum needed to retain football viewers or are we looking at the beginning of hibernation season for WWE enthusiasm?
NXT TAKEOVER BROOKLYN III managed to be the WrestleMania III of the Takeovers.
The previous two shows in the series had their strengths and weaknesses, and both had much stronger builds than this one, but there’s no question that when the lights lifted and the show ended, Takeover Brooklyn III surpassed all expectations. Going into the show the card was solid from top to bottom and, as we noted in our preview, several matches had the potential to steal the show. Right off the bat Gargano vs Almas did just that. The two cruiserweights put on a clinic and raised what should have been an impossible bar to hurdle. While the Itami vs Black fight wasn’t able to beat it, the hard-hitting contest did rock the house and left both men looking better than they came in: Itami proved he’s not the forgotten man of yesterday’s NXT and Black proved he has the potential to be the next big thing.
The tag title match was the one everyone expected to be the weak link, but the match ended up being a blast. Some of the spots those big men pulled out were unreal. It shows how far wrestlers have come in terms of athleticism, when guys who would have been considered “giants” in the 80’s are busting out moves that used to be reserved for cruiserweights.
While the tag match may have benefited from lowered expectations, the women’s match came in as the most hyped contest of the night, and arguably the second most-hyped of the whole four-day event. It needed to be more than great to live up to the expectations; it needed to be legendary. It was, and despite my supreme confidence, Ember Moon did not win the belt. She managed to look strong in defeat, but the Queen continued her record-breaking reign..before getting injured, vacating the belt undefeated and moving up to the main roster. Bet they’re wishing they’d done the title switch now!
Speaking of predictions, I was a paltry two-for-five for NXT guesses. I had the non-title matches pegged, but I thought Authors of Pain would retain and continue their undefeated streak for another few months. I also thought Asuka was getting called up and Bobby Roode was staying put; turns out both are moving up. Shows what I know: Asuka will be on Raw as soon as her injuries heal, and Roode dropped the belt and then left for greener (bluer) pastures immediately thereafter. Anyone want to take bets on how many successful title defenses Drew McIntyre has? Over/Under starts at one.
It’s becoming a tradition that WWE fans rave over Takeover and then declare the weekend won with no way for WWE’s main-roster show to top what happened between the yellow ropes. In years past the WWE has managed to do just that, but this year Takeover put on maybe the second-best “PPV” in NXT history.
Did SummerSlam top it?
SUMMERSLAM did not.
For one thing, a two hour pre-show and a four-hour main-show was just too much too much too much. The crowd came alive for the main-event, but there was a stretch there after the Big Cass/Big Show slog and Orton/Rusev fiasco where the crowd was just spent. They popped for entrances and finishers but never really came back alive until the main-event. The show itself is odd; the matches that were good were “best of the year” contenders, and the matches that disappointed were the worst turds imaginable, either in terms of ring-work, storytelling, booking-foolishness, or a combination of the three. Unfortunately the bad outweighed the good.
The event will be remembered as a one-match show; by the time the main-event came, an exhausted crowd was plenty angry (Nakamura losing didn’t deflate people; it reawakened them for all the wrong reasons). The main-event saved the show in the short-term, and left fans satisfied (if a bit disappointed they didn’t see someone unseat Lesnar) but in the long-term this will not be a night remembered fondly.
RAW was hardly an “after-WrestleMania” type show.
Two big matches were set up, Strowman vs Lesnar and Reigns vs Cena, and while that’s exciting (though terribly terribly short-sighted), it’s not much to get excited about in the moment. Other than an Ambrose/Rollins vs Hardy Boys match that probably should have been hyped up weeks ahead of time (but this is WWE, where nothing is known weeks ahead of time), nothing about the show was any more or less than what you’d expect to find on a random episode of Raw.
Maybe the show was never supposed to have a big “aftermath” feel to it the way the Raw-after-Mania show does, but you’d think they’d want to try it, considering they hype they give SummeSlam every year and the fact that they reserved the Barclays Center for four nights straight.
SMACKDOWN ended the “SummerSlamMania” festivities right.
Here’s a show that did feel like a mini-“after Mania” episode. We had some good progression of established stories (Owens/Styles/McMahon). We had a great debut (Bobby Roode). We had a surprise return (Shelton Benjamin), and we had a fun main-event (Owens vs Styles with Baron Corbin as special ref) that not only delivered good action but also advanced the McMahon/Owens drama and gave Corbin something to do at the beginning of his rebuilding phase. Oh and we had Breezango, which is enough to keep Smackdown number one in my heart. The Blue brand continues to be the best bang for your buck show every week and they turned in the second best “SummerSlamaMania” event at the Barclays center this year.
Looking ahead to next year, WWE needs to work harder at making the four-night spectacle every late-August something special. That starts with putting on a better PPV in the heart of the schedule. Shave at least an hour off and stop booking jobbers as WWE Champion. That’s a fair start, but it’s also apparently as likely as CM Punk main-eventing WrestleMania 34.
Raw needs something memorable too; a lot of eyeballs tuned in for this post-SummerSlam show (viewership for Raw was the highest in four months), but all the viewers saw was more of the same. Smackdown showed the way, but that’s probably because Vince forgets Smackdown exists except for those times when he looks around backstage on Monday nights and can’t find _____ superstar and wonders where he buggered off to. Try harder WWE is all I’m saying.
As always, this company sucks and I’m never watching another show again.
See you all at No Mercy!