WWE took over a city and dominated their audience for three days straight. No, it wasn’t ‘Wrestlemania weekend’ and no, ‘The Rock’ wasn’t in town, ‘Stone Cold Steve Austin’ didn’t lace up his boots and Triple H was wearing a suit the whole time. Hulk Hogan, for proper reason, was nowhere to be found, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart was most likely at home watching the events and there wasn’t one glimpse of Vince McMahon on television, despite the fact it was the bosses birthday on Monday. Instead, it was WWE SummerSlam weekend and all the newest stars came out to shine for everyone to anticipate a revitalized product from the biggest wrestling company in the world.
For the first time ever, the WWE took over a city for an entire weekend and it all unfolded on television. Saturday was the first ever NXT Takeover show in Brooklyn, Sunday night was WWE SummerSlam and the culmination of the weekend was on Monday Night Raw, a show I had the privilege of enjoying live at the Barlcays Center. The domination of the events were led by not-so-household names like Sasha Banks, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Bayley, The New Day, Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins. Sure, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Undertaker, Mick Foley and even Ric Flair made an appearance but it wasn’t their time. It was no longer their show. This past weekend in Brooklyn for all three events – NXT Takeover, SummerSlam and Monday Night Raw – the WWE’s newest talents, and some returning fan favorites, were on full display and the one thing that comes from all of this is realization that this won’t be the last time such a momentous weekend occurs. Especially with the future plans it appears the company has for these new and revamped stars.
There was an amazing Diva’s match, between Sasha Banks and Bayley for the NXT Women’s Championship on the NXT Takeover show on Saturday. The ending of the epic match between Banks and Bayley featured something that didn’t happen in a wrestling ring in New York in close to 20 years. When something like this happened last in the WWE, a performer was buried on the roster and two of the men departed from the company shortly after. Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch – or the ‘four horsewomen’ – had a ‘curtain call’ in front of the soldout Barclays Center crowd. In 1996, ‘The Kliq’ – Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall – had their own curtain call and it wasn’t as widely accepted as the recent show of respect from the newest generation of WWE superstars.
For every great match like the classic for the NXT Women’s Championship, we get a botched filled snorefest from a Diva that’s supposed to be the next big thing in Eva Marie during her NXT match with Carmella. The ‘Staten Island Princess’ did all she could but there was just too much red in more ways than one. The crimson hair of Eva Marie flowed as she botched move after move after move, much of the normal trend we’ve gotten from the newest star of Total Divas over the last few years.
The ‘Divas Revolution’ 3-team elimination tag team match featured the nine most important divas in the company today on SummerSlam. While the match went as we expected, the night after presented a lackluster showing from the Divas. There were some obvious stars missing in action and we got a rebellious Monday Night Raw crowd who clamored for their new star, Sasha Banks, during a 6-person tag team match between ‘Team PCB’ and ‘Team Bella’. Essentially, it was the same match from WWE SummerSlam minus Banks and her crew, ‘Team B.A.D.’. It wasn’t bad enough that Sasha barely got into what was hyped up to be the most important Diva’s match of all-time during the Sunday night pay-per-view, possibly due to injury, but she didn’t even make an appearance on the longest running weekly episodic television show, as Michael Cole always manages to make sure you know about on every episode of Monday Night RAW. The same woman who possibly had the match of the weekend when she unsuccessfully defender her NXT Women’s championship against Bayley during the ‘NXT Takeover’ show, was not on the final show during the biggest weekend in her young career. The RAW crowd knew something was missing as they blatantly disrespected the Diva’s in-ring but they had to do something to get their point across. As a fan, you would expect a match that was so over with the fans would include one – or both – of the women from the huge contest to appear on Raw but nothing. No Banks, no Bayley.
The classic NXT Takeover main event between Finn Balor and Kevin Owens was a match that didn’t end with a confusing finish and the story told itself, it let you know who the clear winner was at the end of their classic ladder match. No announcers were needed, you know Finn Balor walked away NXT Champion. For every clean finish like that, you get a match with a messy finish like the one between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker, a match that was hyped up to be bigger than Wrestlemania.
BIGGER THAN WRESTLEMANIA. That’s like saying a conference championship matchup between two teams in the NFL is bigger than the Super Bowl. That’s what WWE billed it as and although their contest was much better than the one they had at Wrestlemania 30 – a match which saw Brock Lesnar end the historic Wrestlemania undefeated streak of ‘Taker – the ending had much to be desired with no real payoff. Lesnar had ‘Taker locked up in his submission move, the kimura lock – a move that has ‘broken’ many arms over the years including Triple H, Shawn Michaels and John Cena – to which the Undertaker attempted to reverse by pinning Lesnar’s shoulders to the mat. Something had to give, either Lesnar would hold the lock and ‘Taker would score the pin or Brock would let ‘Taker go. Either way in that scenario it appeared nothing could go wrong.
Then, the ring bell rang and everything stopped.
Lesnar let go of ‘Taker, the ref yelled over to the timekeeper to let him know that match shouldn’t have been stopped and Undertaker, the face that could do no wrong, delivered a low blow to Brock. The ‘Deadman’ locked Lesnar up in his ‘Hell’s Gate’ submission maneuver and as Brock began to fade, he flipped the bird to ‘Taker, one last defiant stand in what will go down as a match that Undertaker won, evening the score with Lesnar. That is until we were shown a replay of what the timekeeper saw, what half the WWE audience in attendance saw and what Lesnar felt on his leg, the Undertaker was tapping out, unbeknownst to the referee.
Upon further review, we see Senior WWE referee Charles Robinson hopped over the bodies, lean in to see if Lesnar’s shoulders were on the mat and on the other side of Brock’s body, there it was, Undertaker tapped out. So with such a muddy finish, there had to be some sort of payoff the next night on Raw in front of a crowd that was expected to be very animated.
Instead, the Undertaker was home in Texas, according to reports, and Brock Lesnar opened the show with his advocate, Paul Heyman. Out comes Bo Dallas and the man who is all about positivity and was fed to the ‘Beast Incarnate’ and he was sacrificed in an attempt by the WWE to have them make the fans ‘bolieve’ they would be getting more Lesnar, as opposed to bringing out Undertaker and possibly settling the score once and for all.
Yep, that was it. All that buildup for the match ‘bigger than Wrestlemania’ just for a less than stellar finish and a horrible temporary end to the fued. A finish that fans in attendance at SummerSlam had no clue about and left them booing as the show went dark. A sold out Barclays Center, booing the WWE as their second biggest show of the year ended.
That wasn’t the only strange finish of the night at SummerSlam. For the first time ever, we have rare dual champion, someone who would hold the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and the United States Championship. It’s a feat that no one has ever done before. Not one single WWE legend. So in a match that featured John Cena facing off with Seth Rollins it was almost guaranteed that we’d see Cena take the title, right?
That was until we saw Cena on ‘Tough Enough’ just a few weeks earlier draped in his newest bright orange and green Cena shirt with “15 X” written on the back of it, in reference too Cena being a 15 time WWE World Champion, a number he was looking to make 16 in his match against Rollins. The only other 16-time champion in WWE history is the legendary ‘Nature Boy’, Ric Flair. So for the smart fans, the writing was on the wall, Cena wasn’t winning the title because there was no way the WWE would only let a Cena shirt last only 2 weeks with the ’15 X’ written on the back.
Rollins was going to win but it was how he was going to win that racked the brains of the WWE faithful. The weaselly, often scared heel champion had to win in some sort of way that would play into his character arch. Someway, we would need to be forced to believed that Seth Rollins would be in the same conversation as legendary world heavyweight dual champions much like Chris Jericho, Ultimate Warrior and Bret Hart before him.
So why not make the host of SummerSlam, Jon Stewart, come out and deliver a chair shot to John Cena’s stomach. Then Stewart provided Rollins – the same man he’s feuded with on ‘The Daily Show’ and prior episodes of RAW – the same chair to help Rollins deliver the match-ending pedigree. Stewart later gave the reason for this action as simple as, he didn’t want to see Cena tie Flair. A horrible ending to an otherwise stellar match between the company’s two biggest regular stars.
The big payoff for this match was very similar to the payoff to the Undertaker/Lesnar match. Cena was fed a person who the star could easily take care of and then he was absent for the remainder of the show. A quick five minutes of John Cena, in the ring with Ric Flair and Jon Stewart, led to Cena hitting Stewart with his finishing move, something for national media to be fed so they could make their Monday night deadlines.
All these payoffs to big matches, while they were bad for the pay-per-view and RAW events, are possibly going to lead to bigger and better things for the future of the company.
While the Diva’s Revolution might be put on hold for the time being based on the lack of an appearance of Sasha Banks and her team along with the eventual culmination of Nikki Bella being the longest reigning Diva’s champion, erasing newly retired AJ Lee from that designation, there might not be a major move in the Diva’s division. Instead, it’s the WWE Tag Team division, on both the main show and NXT, that will be getting a revolution.
The Fatal Four-Way tag team championship contest between ‘The New Day’, ‘Lucha Dragons’, ‘Primetime Players’ and ‘Los Matadores’ on WWE SummerSlam was executed well, until both the Dragons and Matadores botched some pretty important spots in the match. Quick fix? Bring back the most decorated tag team in the history of the WWE to challenge the most over and entertaining tag team in the company today, ‘The New Day’, for their tag team championships. The Dudley Boyz made a surprise return that made the Monday Night RAW crowd go nuts. This also allows the other inexperienced tag teams to also get in the ring with established legends like the Dudleyz and it will most likely lead to a Tag Team championship match at Night of Champions.
On NXT, the ‘Dusty Rhodes Memorial Tag Team tournament’ will feature some of the best tag teams on the development show and also some new interesting teams with Baron Corbin and Rhyno teaming up also with Samoa Joe and Finn Balor reportedly teaming up so it could lead to an eventual match between two of the best performers remaining on the NXT roster for the NXT championship. Not to mention the most dominant NXT tag team, The Ascension, will be returning to the developmental show. A Tag Team revolution is real and is happening.
Seth Rollins is now the top man in the WWE, officially. He beat the man in John Cena and it might be a long-time until we see Cena in the main picture again. WCW legend turned WWE part-time superstar Sting returned on Monday Night Raw to surprise the new top dog in the WWE and once again piss in the Cheerios of Triple H and ‘The Authority’ by ruining Rollins’ bronze statue presentation. It will set up Rollins versus Sting at Night of Champions; not SummerSlam, Wrestlemania or even Survivor Series, the match is at Night of Champions. Night of Champions is the same pay-per-view that Rollins will have to pull unprecedented double duty when he defends his United States Championship, setting up a night that could possibly be one the biggest nights of his career.
The final surprise of the weekend was one from the ‘Wyatt Family’. A new member of the family, Braun Stowman, was introduced and he made easy work of Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. It’s expected to be followed up by a new female character being introduced. ‘Sister Abigail’ will reportedly be the newest member of the family to be revealed on television and when Erick Rowan returns, the ‘family’ will be five people deep, possibly setting up one of the most dominating mixed gender factions since Degeneration X rant the show in the mid-90’s. The newly formed Wyatt Family might even go after Sting, who could be the next WWE Champion, setting up another chance meeting between ‘The new face of fear’ and ‘The Icon’ almost 20 years in the making.
While we might have been let down on Sunday with SummerSlam, the crowd on Monday Night Raw voiced the fans displeasure by doing the wave during the divas match lacking our new favorite star and random chants throughout the night fitting for a college football game. Instead it was the WWE universe, making sure our voice was heard because finally, it appears after this historic weekend for the WWE, the company is listening to the people and is starting to give us what we want.
Whether you live in kayfabe-land and believe this is all real or you watch, much like I do, for the pure entertainment of the show itself, then you will appreciate the direction the company is going in. One that gives us some fresh faces and some old ones that we love to watch perform at their highest level. This past weekend in Brooklyn was overall, a success and it could be the first step towards a new trend in which the ‘Big Four’ shows all get a huge weekend paired with it.