Matt’s Last Look: SummerSlam 2014

summerslam14poster

It’s either the second or third biggest event of the WWE PPV year depending on your opinion of the Royal Rumble, but one thing is for sure – SummerSlam is the biggest party of the summer. This past Sunday, the Staples Center in Los Angeles hosted the event for the sixth consecutive year, a streak which will end in 2015. Unlike the past few PPVs that seemed to be booked to on the fly as a result of injuries and changing plans, the build to the main matches (and most of this show in general) had been pretty strong. It was also the first PPV to air on the WWE Network since it expanded internationally (at least officially). I have to say that being able to access the Network directly resulted in an absolutely flawless feed for me. No delays or any other problems that I had for previous events. Thats a good sign going forward. Without further ado, lets dive in to what was a fairly memorable event. On the pre-show, Rob Van Dam defeated Cesaro in a decent match that went 8:05. It was a TV level match, but it was fine for what it was. I wouldn’t say I was surprised with the result because Cesaro has been losing a lot lately, but it was disappointing. He’s not in danger of being released like some would have you think, but he definitely needs to be built back up. After getting a win on Raw the following night I hope thats starting sooner rather than later. After all, it happened with somebody else on this show that we’ll see in a few. We kicked off the actual PPV with a quick promo on the stage by Hulk Hogan. It was just a basic Network plug, but its always good to see the Hulkster back home in the WWE. He kept it short. Say what you will about how they market the Network, but the “$9.99” thing is getting over with the crowds. I hope it translates into more subscriptions because its absolutely worth it. We followed up the promo with the opening video package which was the typical good stuff that you expect from the company’s production team. After the opening pyro, we were welcomed by the usual announcers – Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler & John Bradshaw Layfield. There was a German announce team as well as the Spanish announcers (for I believe the first time) which would be part of the Network going international I imagine.

WWE Intercontinental Championship: The Miz (c) vs Dolph Ziggler My pick heading in: The Miz Winner: Dolph Ziggler by pinfall following the Zig-Zag at 7:52. This was a good choice to open the show. I expected that it would. I like both these guys and they put on a fun match that had me wondering who would win the longer it went on. While the Miz had lost a lot of momentum before his return a few months back, he’s been really good with his new Hollywood persona and he played up the “money maker” thing in the early part of the match after cutting a promo before the bell. I thought he might have been able to pull off the face run back in late 2012, but its clear he’s much more natural as a heel. I’ve talked about how poorly Ziggler has been used for ages in these reviews, but I was pleasantly surprised to see him get the win here. A year ago I was saying he was above the I.C title level, but now its a big win for him because of how far he fell down the card. The crowd have stayed behind him all the way though and it paid off with a return to his winning ways here. I just hope his reign doesn’t go the way of Big E or Curtis Axel for example where he has a lack of feuds because they don’t usually book the midcard titles well. Ziggler looked really good when he stayed in the figure four for about a minute without giving up, but I figured Miz would get the win off the following Skull Crushing Finale. Ziggler kicked out at the last moment though and I started to think the impossible was going to happen. Alas, it did indeed as Dolph Ziggler put the Miz away with the Zig Zag to win the Intercontinental Championship. It was a cool moment to start the show and a good pay off to Ziggler being cheated out of the title last month. These guys have good chemistry together, and it looks like Miz will get a rematch at Night of Champions which is fine with me. We need more feuds like this to get the titles on the map again. My Grade: ***

After a recap of the arrest angle from the past episode of Raw, Tom Phillips got a word with Brie Bella backstage. Brie said she had thought a lot about what Stephanie had done to her and those close to her over the past many months and mentioned that she had paid Bryan’s physical therapist to lie about the affair. It was a decent promo. Brie’s come a long way.

WWE Diva’s Championship: AJ Lee (c) vs Paige  My pick heading in: AJ Lee Winner: Paige by pinfall following the Rampaige at 4:57 After a pretty good match last month that saw AJ retain her title against Paige, we got the rematch with the former champion well and truly in the heel role after snapping the night after Battleground. The heel turn has definitely helped Paige, as while I’ve been a fan since her NXT days it was clear that she had lost momentum as a face since coming in strong the night after WrestleMania. She’s done a great job as this crazy woman that has played mind games with the crazy but popular champion to get back her title. AJ is better off as a face at this point as well as you want to cheer for her. She just has that about her. I was glad that there wasn’t many “CM Punk” chants at the start of this match unlike in the past, but there were a few later on in the match. Its not going to bring him back and its disrespectful to those in the ring regardless of whether or not he’s AJ’s husband. Anyway, I liked this match better than the match at Battleground which was good in its own right. They brought the physicality to the table as Paige sent AJ into the barricade on the outside and even tried to bite the champion. I thought AJ had the match won when she locked in the Black Widow, but Paige fought out and delivered a stiff Rampaige DDT for the win to get back her title on her 22nd birthday. This is another feud thats going to continue with AJ likely getting her rematch at Night of Champions.  My Grade: **3/4

After a video for 2K15, we went right into our next match after an explanation of the rules. Lana did her usual stuff on the mic before being interrupted by Swagger and Colter.

Flag Match: Jack Swagger w/Zeb Colter vs Rusev w/Lana My pick heading in: Jack Swagger Winner: Rusev after Swagger passed out in the Accolade at 8:55 I should preface this by saying I picked Swagger thinking that this was to be contested under rules stating to that the winner would be the man who retrieved his flag. That way Rusev could have taken the loss without actually being pinned. Once it became clear it was a regular match with the winner getting his anthem played it was clear that Rusev would win. Again, Swagger has really surprised me with this face run after falling off the face of the earth as a heel. Of course, it helps having a brilliant talker like Zeb with him in terms of getting crowd support, but he seems revitalized in the role all the same. Sure, he took the loss here, but he was strong in defeat – not tapping out but rather passing out in the hold. This wasn’t Austin/Bret by any means though. The match was okay for what it was, but Rusev is still a bit hit or miss in the ring for me. He’s slowly winning me over, but he’s not quite there yet. At least he has great entrance music. Speaking of music, he should have had Nikolai Volkoff come out to do the Russian anthem. Back to the match, they did a decent job of building up the threat of Swagger’s Patriot Lock as he targeted Rusev’s ankle during the contest, before Rusev came back and put him away with the Accolade. After the match he took out Zeb as well on Lana’s orders. It appears this feud is over now based on this past Raw. Rusev has Mark Henry in his sights while Swagger looks to be starting up a program with Bo Dallas (I bet Scott Criscuolo loves the idea of that one!). My Grade: **

Up next we got a video package for the Ambrose/Rollins feud.

Lumberjack Match: Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins My pick heading in: Seth Rollins Winner: Seth Rollins by pinfall after a briefcase shot to Ambrose at 10:52 Best lumberjack match ever? Well, its not exactly a category with a bunch of contenders, but this definitely takes the award by a long stretch. I’ll admit that I wasn’t all that thrilled by the stipulation for the match when it was announced, but they made it work. That aside, I’ve loved everything about this feud including the controversial thrown out match last month at Battleground. I feel like I’ve been repeating myself each month since the split of the Shield but in hindsight I am so glad Ambrose stayed face whilst Rollins went heel. I’m sure both guys can excel in either role, but for this feud they have been awesome in their respective characters. My big concern heading into this match was that this feud calls for wild brawls all over the arena whilst a lumberjack match would clearly prevent that – or so I thought. Instead they fought into the announce area and went all the way out into the stands taking out any lumberjacks that got in their way. Rollins was after any chance to escape as he has for this entire feud, whilst Ambrose was his usual frenetic self with the crowd fully behind him. In the end the match got so out of control that Kane came down to ringside to try to restore order and return the match to the ring. I’ve made my feelings on “Demon” Kane recently clear in other reviews, but he’s more bearable in the Corporate role if it keeps him out of the ring on a regular basis. Meanwhile the crowd started chanting “This is Awesome” as the chaotic pace of the match continued. When they finally returned to the ring, Ambrose delivered Rollin’s own curb stomp to Mr Money in the Bank only to have Kane break up the pin. This led to Goldust, who was one of the lumberjacks, getting in Kane’s face which caused anarchy to break out between all the lumberjacks. Fun spot. As Ambrose took out the remaining Harper & Rowan, Rollins smashed him with the briefcase for the win at 10:52. I really enjoyed this match because it was so different to what I was expecting. There’s still a better match in these guys, but that will come down the line. I was slightly hesitant in picking Rollins to win here since they normally book the guy with the briefcase to lose a lot while holding it, but it made sense here with Ambrose getting the better of him in the brawl at Battleground and in the weeks leading up to this. The feud is obviously continuing, but with Ambrose being taken out by Rollins the following night on Raw I wouldn’t be surprised if he missed Night of Champions. I’m not sure how long he’s supposed to be out for his movie, but either way I think we’ll get the blow off in Hell in a Cell, especially if we don’t have a title match at that show (more on that later). Good, different stuff here. Innovative is always good. My Grade: ***1/2

Up next we got a brief video looking at the Wyatt/Jericho rivalry.

Chris Jericho vs Bray Wyatt My pick heading in: Bray Wyatt Winner: Bray Wyatt by pinfall following Sister Abigail at 12:57 This was probably the easiest match to predict on the entire PPV. Bray Wyatt winning was a given, especially after his surprising (and illogical) loss to Jericho at Battleground. Unlike last month, the stipulation for this match was Harper & Rowan were banned from ringside, making this one of the rare occasions where Wyatt was truly on his own for a match. I think he needed that, as a strong decisive victory was the right move to get him back on track after floundering since the Cena feud. He’s still really over with the fans though, and his entrance with all the phone lights turned on his an awesome visual. By the way, there’s something about him wearing that apron that creeps me out – I’ve thought it ever since the Wyatt vignettes last year before their debut on the main roster. Thats why he’s going to be fine no matter what. Now despite all that praise, this match was a disappointment just like Battleground. Don’t get me wrong, it was still good by a regular standard (and I liked it more than Battleground), but something just isn’t there with Jericho this time around. I got to see him live for the first time a few weeks ago so I’m glad he’s back for this short stint, but he’s just not performing at the level we expect from an all time great like him. His awesome match with Punk at Payback last year seems so long ago. I don’t know what it is, and I hate to criticise Jericho because I’m such a big fan of his, but the come and leave schedule seems to be hurting his ability to deliver to his normal level. Its a shame but this is the second PPV since he’s been back where my expectations weren’t met. As I said, it was still a decent match, and there were some cool spots including the return of the Sister Abigail to the barricade that Wyatt used on Bryan back at the Rumble. He followed up with another Abigail in the ring to get the clean, much needed win at 12:57. Afterwards, Wyatt told Jericho that he now knew what it meant to follow the buzzards before leading the crowd in song. This is another feud that is continuing to Night of Champions with both men now at a tie in the feud. Night of Champions is also the end of Jericho’s current deal, so expect to see Wyatt go over there to end the feud.  My Grade: ***

Up next we got a video package for the upcoming Stephanie/Brie match.

Brie Bella vs Stephanie McMahon My pick: Stephanie McMahon Winner: Stephanie McMahon via pinfall following the Pedigree at 10:16 Aside from the angle on the Raw heading into this show with the physical therapist, I really have enjoyed the slow build to this match going all the way back to Daniel Bryan’s injury. Stephanie McMahon is an AMAZING heel who deserves all the praise in the world for her current role on WWE TV. She gets the heel boss character even more than Triple H most of the time in my view. Its her McMahon heritage, but its also a huge improvement from her past runs as a character on television (although I did like her as the Smackdown GM back in 2003 – her hottest year by the way). Speaking of appearances, Stephanie looked right out of the Attitude era on this night with the way her hair was curled. It was a blast from the past for sure. I think Brie has also come a long way since actively improving in the ring starting around the fall of last year. She’s not Trish Stratus or Mickie James, but she’s far from useless. Now, if you were expecting a workrate marvel from this, I don’t know what to say. Thats never what we were going to get and I was thinking we might get something like Stephanie/Trish from No Way Out 2001. It was a different type of match though with Stephanie on offence for the most part with Brie getting her bursts in towards the end. Stephanie definitely didn’t look out of place after her lengthy absence from the ring, and the crowd responded to that with a “You’ve still got it” chant. Anyway, as Brie went into Brie Mode with the crowd behind her comeback, Triple H made his way to the ring followed by Nikki. Meanwhile Brie put Stephanie in the Yes Lock in an homage to her husband, only for Triple H to pull the ref out. Brie responded by drop kicking Triple H to a big pop from the crowd. From there Nikki entered the ring and after teasing going after Steph, we got the heavily rumoured double cross as she nailed Brie and allowed Stephanie to get the win with the Pedigree. It was obvious that it was coming and was a given as soon as Nikki got in the ring. I’m not saying its a bad thing though as Brie is much more likeable than her sister, just like Naomi was with Cameron in the Funkadactyls. This will lead to a feud between Nikki and Brie which they can follow up on Total Divas with. I don’t expect to see Stephanie in the ring often, but this was entertaining for what it was supposed to be. Afterwards the Authority kissed as Nikki left ringside. My Grade: **1/2

As Randy Orton made his entrance for the next match, we got a video showing his recent attack on Roman Reigns.

Roman Reigns vs Randy Orton My pick heading in: Roman Reigns Winner: Roman Reigns by pinfall following the Spear at 16:17 Our second to last match of the night was the clash between Roman Reigns and Randy Orton, which stemmed from Reigns attacking Orton the night after Battleground, costing him a shot at the WWE title. Since then I’ve felt like the feud has been fairly basic, but Randy Orton has fallen a long way since entering WrestleMania as WWE champion, so this just didn’t feel like the big match they were billing it to be to me. What we got here was a good but not great match, which was about what I expected going in. Reigns winning was another very predictable outcome but its obviously the right one since Reigns is going to be pushed to the moon over the next six months. I’ve said it since I think even this year’s Rumble, Reigns is winning that match next year and challenging for the WWE title to become the next face of the company. Thats the plan at the moment anyway, although some reports suggest Vince wants it to be the Rock instead (I don’t think thats happening – he’ll headline the Hall of Fame). Anyway, this has led to a lot of people saying that Reigns is not going to be ready for that spot. That’s far too premature a judgment. I will concede that at this moment in time he’s definitely not ready, but he has time on his side. John Cena and Batista were nowhere near being ready to main event WM21 in August 2004, and I’d say they turned out alright wouldn’t you? Reigns has some really good spots like the superman punch, the spear and the outside legdrop. He just needs to work on the rest of his moveset because Orton had to dictate a lot of the pace here and as a result the match went on about five minutes too long in my view (it was the longest of the night). You could have given that time to the opener or the lumberjack match. Anyway, Reigns comeback was good as always, but the next six months is going to be very interesting to see unfold for the heir to the face of the WWE position. I’m not sure what is next for him in the immediate future. I figured he’d move on to Triple H for Night of Champions but there was no indication of that on Raw. There’s still time for that to be built, but a rematch with Orton is possible too.  My Grade: ***

Before the main event we got a video package for next years SummerSlam which will be from “New York and New Jersey” like WrestleMania 29. I don’t know why they don’t just say Jersey. From there we went to the awesome video package for the main event.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship: John Cena (c) vs Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman My pick heading in: Brock Lesnar Winner: Brock Lesnar by pinfall at 16:06 Eat, Sleep, Victimise, Repeat. Those were the words used by Paul Heyman to describe Brock Lesnar’s mantra heading in to the biggest fight of the summer, and the victimising of John Cena is exactly what we got. This match definitely had the big match feel that a show like SummerSlam should have. The last time these two met we got a classic. What we got here was a very different match that will go down in history as one of the most memorable of all time, just like Brock’s previous match this year. This was not so much a match, but a destroying of John Cena. There was a grand total of two instances during this where Cena got in some offence, and one of those was an AA that Brock kicked out from clean and sat up afterwards mocking the Undertaker! The rest of it was the Beast Incarnate conquering the face of the WWE, delivering sixteen German suplexes mixed in with knees and punches. Cena would not stay down as the ref kept asking if he wanted to stop the match, and he even kicked out of an F-5 less than a minute in. He could not overcome the beating dished out by Lesnar however and in the end Brock decimated Cena to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The show ended with Lesnar leaving the ring with Heyman and both belts, whilst trainers checked on Cena in the ring. It was another match that was fairly predictable, but its going to be very interesting to see the way the company handles Brock’s appearances as champion going forward due to his schedule. Obviously Cena gets his rematch at Night of Champions. That will be more competitive than this, but Lesnar will still win. From there its going to be very intriguing. This was a match that was very difficult to rate as its not your conventional match. It was a total squash, but the booking was exactly what it would be. Brock Lesnar in 2014 is one of the strongest heels of all time now and this only added to that after he ended the streak in the super dome. Huge credit to John Cena as well for going out there and letting Brock destroy him for the sake of the story. My Grade: ****

Three Stars of the Night: 1. John Cena – the guy is a pro, that’s never been questionable. Tonight we saw that yet again as he was destroyed to continue to put Brock over as unstoppable. 2. Brock Lesnar – Eat, Sleep, Conquer, Repeat. 3. Dean Ambrose/Seth Rollins (tie) – a very innovative performance in a match type that many, myself included, questioned.

FINAL THOUGHTS: SummerSlam was one of the stronger PPVs of 2014. It had a fairly good build heading in and while there wasn’t a great match from an in-ring perspective, everything was solid at the least, and the main event is one of those matches that we won’t ever forget simply because John Cena never gets destroyed like that. I recall that the original plan was for Bryan to be in Cena’s spot for this show. Now before anyone jumps down my throat, I’m a huge fan of the guy and obviously Bryan’s injury is terrible and there is nothing good about it, but on this night, having Cena as the guy to get destroyed like this definitely worked to establish Brock as unstoppable more than beating Bryan in a great match would have. Right now Brock Lesnar is the kind of heel the company has not had in years, or ever when you think about his schedule and the way that can factor into storylines. Its going to be very interesting to see how his reign plays out after he beats Cena next month. The result of that match isn’t in doubt. You don’t end the streak and destroy the face of the company for the past decade for a one month reign, especially if your dropping it back to the guy you won the title from to begin with. From there its going to be uncharted waters into Mania season. My gut says Brock isn’t going to be at each PPV after Night of Champions. He’ll be at Survivor Series and the Rumble, and most likely Elimination Chamber (obviously Mania is a given). Who he faces at those shows is anybody’s guess right now. I think he’ll miss Hell in a Cell and TLC. They are both PPVs that you can market around the stipulation matches. At Hell in a Cell you can have Ambrose/Rollins and Reigns/Triple H (assuming thats still on the cards and TLC will have something going as well (its too far away to predict a show like that). SummerSlam has got us thinking about what comes next in the main event picture. Thats a good way to get people to renew Network subscriptions out of interest. The other interesting thing to watch over the remainder of 2014 is going to be the growth of Roman Reigns. At this point in time I think there’s a 95% chance he is the man standing across from Brock Lesnar in the main event at Silicon Valley next year for WrestleMania 31. The next few months are going to be most critical for Roman Reigns if he’s going to be the guy going forward. He’s not there yet, he had a fair way to go, but he also has time.  The only way I can see Reigns having a chance of not being the number one contender at WrestleMania, is if (and its a big if) Daniel Bryan is back for the Rumble. We saw what happened with Batista this year. Reigns got a few boos tonight during his match (not that they were very noticeable so its not much to worry about yet), but if you have Reigns win the Rumble over a healthy Bryan who still hasn’t got his rematch, thats when you run into major problems for the Roman Reigns push. CM Punk is not coming back, so I’m not even going there. Back to the show at hand, I really enjoyed it. A lot of the big matches were predictable, but well booked (aside from Reigns/Orton which could have been shorter) but we also got a few surprises like Ziggler seemingly getting back in the good graces of the company. I’ve also liked the recent focus on the diva’s division as we have two very different feuds going there. It was a shame that the Usos and Sheamus were left off the show being champions, but aside from the pre-show there wasn’t really anywhere for them on the line up. They’ll get their time next month at Night of the Champions.  A good show to cap off a very up and down summer.

FINAL GRADE: 8 out of 10

2014 PPV Rankings Thus Far:

  • WrestleMania XXX (9.5)
  • SummerSlam (8)
  • Payback (7.5)
  • Money in the Bank (7)
  • Elimination Chamber (7)
  • Battleground (7)
  • Extreme Rules (7)
  • Royal Rumble (6)

Author: Matt McCulloch