SummerSlam offered an opportunity for WWE to show a new direction. But the premium live event offered fans more of the same.
While one show would not make or break Levesque, it’s always vital to make a good first impression. Unfortunately, it was not a great first impression. SummerSlam brought the spectacle and big moments, but it was lacking in fulfilling stories.
We’ll dive deep into the card and examine some pitfalls WWE made Saturday night — (c) denotes the champion heading into the match.
Raw Women’s Championship: Bianca Belair (c) defeated Becky Lynch
Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch opened the show on a promising note. The beginning of the match was a bit sloppy, but the counter from a second-rope Manhandle Slam to a Spanish Fly, followed by a KOD to finish the match was a fun sequence. Belair got her redemption win from SummerSlam 2021, and this should be the end of her feud with Lynch for at least a year — the match ended on a handshake between the two.
In the post-match segment, Bayley made her return after a knee injury that sidelined her last July. She wasn’t alone as Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky (formerly Io Shirai). Kai had been released by WWE on April 29, and Sky was not under contract with WWE and would only sign if she were placed on the main roster. Sky, a former NXT Women’s Champion, was last seen on the April 2 episode of NXT 2.0.
Lynch came to Belair’s side to confront the trio — turning Lynch face — and that was it for the segment. The fact this was merely a standoff was disappointing. Fans would have blown up if this was an all-out brawl and would have added more intrigue, especially with Kai and Sky being unknown to most of the audience. However, the segment served as a flex for Levesque to show fans the women’s division won’t be taking a backseat.
Logan Paul defeated The Miz
This match served its purpose to show more of Logan Paul in the ring. The social media influencer is clearly a natural in the ring and showed some nice selling during the match. The problem with this match was the story, or lack thereof. The Miz has “tiny balls” — that’s the extent of the story. They tried to make up for it with big spots, Paul’s frog splash on the announce table being the biggest spot. The problem is Paul is miscast as a babyface, but perhaps performances like this could endure him to the audience.
United States Championship: Bobby Lashley (c) defeated Theory
This match had a short rundown in the preview, so this will be no different. Theory just isn’t the guy. The one thing he has going for him is his physique, and he’s in the ring with one of the top body guys in the company. Bobby Lashley looked good, but he deserves a better opponent.
The Mysterios (Rey and Dominik Mysterio) defeated The Judgement Day (Damian Priest and Finn Balor)
Let’s not bury the lede: Edge is back, and he’s continuing his Brood nostalgia. Ever since Finn Balor kicked Edge out of The Judgement Day on June 6, his return was inevitable. Edge continues to get the nostalgia pop and return pop, but everything else about his presentation after coming back from retirement just hasn’t hit for me.
The tag team match itself was fine. It was weird how the match was no disqualification but tags still had to be made. Dominik Mysterio continues to underwhelm. He’s still young but being on television every week has not been a benefit for his career.
Pat McAfee defeated Happy Corbin
At WrestleMania, Pat McAfee showed how over he was to the WWE audience. The former NFL punter and podcast host brought the excitement to SummerSlam, bringing out a choir to sing “bum (expletive) Corbin” to mock his opponent. Unfortunately, that was the high point of the match, except for the superkick to open the match — maybe it should have ended there.
McAfee’s fifth match was his worst, and Happy Corbin’s bland character and pace to his matches didn’t help. There were sloppy moments in the match, and the finish was supposed to be a callback to Adam Cole’s Panama Sunrise? Cole, now in All Elite Wrestling, was McAfee’s debut opponent in WWE.
Undisputed Tag Team Championship: The Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso) defeated The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford)
As I suspected in the preview, Jeff Jarrett would have little involvement in this match, maybe he should have. This match was a far inferior version of the match these teams had at Money in the Bank. It was nearly identical in its spots. Instead of a kick out from the 1-D, The Street Profits lost again, and WWE continues to hint a split between Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford, with the latter expressing frustration over the loss and toward Jarrett.
This match was a clear show of how things in WWE remained with the status quo, despite a new voice in charge. A win for The Street Profits would have added intrigue to the team, but instead, The Usos retained to keep The Bloodline going, and Ford’s push as a singles star appears to be the main priority.
SmackDown Women’s Championship: Liv Morgan defeated Ronda Rousey
The finish of this match was exactly what WWE needed to avoid. The story heading into the finish was decent. Liv Morgan was showing tenacity while Ronda Rousey tried to snap Morgan’s arm in half. Even the finish of pinning someone while in an armbar would have been fine. It’s not what I would have preferred, but it shows Morgan is a fighter.
What WWE instead went with is Morgan tapped out during the pinfall, but the referee counted the pin and not the tap. Rousey turned heel because of the decision, but she was correct in her outrage. The whole cliché of storytelling is, “Villains are people who think they’re heroes in their own stories,” except Rousey is objectively correct.
As WWE showed in countless replays, Morgan indeed tapped out. The win makes Morgan look incredibly weak, and Rousey’s heel turn loses any impact it might have had. Morgan didn’t look great in this match — her work punches were unimpressive — and it marked another McMahon-style booking decision on the show.
Undisputed Universal Championship: Roman Reigns defeated Brock Lesnar
Yes, Brock Lesnar arrived in a tractor while wearing a flannel. It was an amusing sight, and it was not the last of the tractor. Find yourself a friend who trusts you like Roman Reigns trusted Lesnar in this match. Reigns was first placed on the end of the tractor and dumped into the ring. Later in the match, Lesnar lifted the ring with the tractor, causing Reigns to tumble and fall to the other side.
It’s rarely seen in pro wrestling, and it was an amazing spectacle. And that was really it for the excitement of the match. Last Man Standing matches are one of the most anti-climatic matches in pro wrestling. The thrill of a two-and-a-half count is replaced with a referee constantly counting to 10 after a big move. The drama of the match is killed entirely. Theory came in and looked like a geek, which didn’t add anything to the match. This is supposedly the final match between these two, and let’s hope they keep to that promise.
SummerSlam was a mediocre show overall. There were some decent moments, and Lesnar’s tractor moments stole the show. However, I failed to see how the event could attract a viewer from watching more of the WWE product. Poor storytelling and bad finishes hurt this show and continues to hurt WWE and it did not change with Levesque in charge.
WWE will now build to their big United Kingdom show, Clash at the Castle, where Drew McIntyre will challenge Reigns. How motivated people will be to watch the show will be dependent on how closely WWE continues to stick to the status quo.