WWE Summerslam took place on Sunday from the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
The WWE’s blockbuster event of the summer and third biggest show of the annual year felt like an average episode of Monday Night Raw until Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar came through with a dynamic main event that saw Rollins slay the beast one more time to capture the Univeral championship.
Here are match grades and a recap, courtesy of SN’s Steven Muehlhausen and Andreas Hale.
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WWE Summerslam Grades
Drew Gulak def. Oney Lorcan to retain WWE cruiserweight title
Muehlhausen: Have to feel bad for Gulak and Lorcan. They worked hard, but the fans didn’t care until the final moments when Lorcan was making his comeback before coming up short, and Gulak won to a minimal reaction.
The tricky thing is the matter of WWE not showing they care about the division so hence why should the fans?
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Hale: I don’t know what to make of this 205 Live situation. For whatever reason, the best matches are on the weekly shows that nobody watches. And then they get a chance to open up a PPV and deliver a standard affair match that nobody is into. They need to figure this out.
Buddy Murphy def. Apollo Crews by disqualification
Muehlhausen: You see the names and think if they are given time and have a story behind it, we’d see a good match. However, the match was thrown together with no backstory and was only used to get Erick Rowan involved to attack Murphy on the outside to cause the DQ.
Hale: This was what it was. And what it ended up being was a vehicle to get Rowan involved. Yuck.
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross def. The IIconics to retain the Women’s Tag titles
Muehlhausen: The bar was low heading into this one, but they exceeded expectations due to Bliss and Cross. Some of the moves by Billie Kay were executed too slow, and Peyton Royce was clunky in spots. But to be fair, The IIconics are improving but at a slow rate.
Hale: As much fun as the IIconics are outside of the ring, they are just as bad inside of it. I’m also tired of Alexa and Nikki’s relationship. Having these four in a match and no sign of Asuka, Kairi Sane, Naomi or anybody else that matters made this a clunky affair. Pass.
Becky Lynch def. Natalya to retain the Raw Women’s title
Muehlhausen: Good booking to start the show with the star of the company in Lynch and Natalya being from Canada. The crowd, for the most part, were into both females, which enhanced the bout.
But it was still hard to envision Natalya winning because of Lynch being the top female wrestler in the company. The one thing Natalya gave Lynch is credibility because she’s a great worker and her moves are crisp, which made this Lynch’s best in-ring work since she won the belt at Wrestlemania from Ronda Rousey. The knock on the match was when they exchanged their respective finishers, and Lynch popped up from the sharpshooter after being in agony for over two minutes into the dis-arm-her like it was no big deal.
The question now is what’s next for Lynch? She’s running out of credible opponents because she needs those to legitimize her as a draw. Lynch’s lost steam after going from Rousey to Lacey Evans but picked a bit of it back up with Natalya.
Hale: Plain and simple: Babyfaces don’t lose submission matches so the drama was sucked out of this one the moment the bell rang. Aside from that, it was solid work and storytelling from the two as Nattie and Becky traded submission holds.
The rationale behind the booking was that Nattie would be over in Canada, and that wasn’t the case. So we ended up with a cool match that could have main evented RAW. Meanwhile, we’re waiting for Becky Lynch to have the feud that she needs as her title run has been pretty ho-hum.
Goldberg def. Dolph Ziggler
Muehlhausen: Predictably, WWE kept it short, quick and to the point. Ziggler showed great fire by putting it all into those three superkicks. Goldberg gives the best spear in the history of pro wrestling. He puts everything into it, which makes people love the move even more. We could have done without Ziggler continuing to egging on Goldberg to come back to the ring only to suffer another spear.
Hale: I mean, what did you expect?
AJ Styles def. Ricochet to retain the U.S. title
Muehlhausen: A pretty good contest but one that could have used another five minutes as Styles and Ricochet were starting to get into a rhythm even though the flip off of the top rope and catch by Styles into the Styles Clash was quite breathtaking. Ricochet is a phenomenal talent and the best athlete WWE’s had in recent memory.
He checks all the marks needed to be the “face” of the company, which made Styles winning more surprising.
With that said, what do you do with him now? Hopefully, he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle and tossed to the side.
Hale: Not enough can be said about Ricochet as an in-ring performer. The psychology sold on the leg injury was fantastic – punctuated by an impressive springboard clothesline off of one leg – and had the fans completely bought in on Ricochet pulling off the victory.
Unfortunately, this was a bit too short to reach the levels that most thought it would as Styles caught Ricochet coming off the top rope for a beautiful Styles Clash to pin him clean as a sheet and retain.
These two could have definitely been given more time to steal the show. That being said, it was still a very good match.
The real question is where Ricochet goes from here.
Bayley def. Ember Moon to retain the Smackdown women’s title
Muehlhausen: Bayley and Moon are talented workers, but the program didn’t stand a chance after Moon lost on Smackdown to Alexa Bless. The work was solid, and they did nothing wrong in the ring. The crowd gave them no reaction, including the excellent Bayley-to-belly suplex from the top rope for the win.
It’s a shame Moon got her legs cut from underneath as the fans would have been behind her more.
Hale: This was a weird one. Ember Moon is extremely talented but is missing something that keeps her disconnected from the fans. Bayley has kind of been treading water despite being the champion and needs the right dance partner to bring out the best in her.
What ended up happening was a serviceable, yet relatively tame match between the two that lacked any real drama. Ember Moon looked good but nobody cared and we didn’t get a serious threat to the title.
I guess we can just move on.
Kevin Owens def. Shane McMahon
Muehlhausen: There wasn’t a doubt Owens because of the stipulation if he lost then he would have to leave WWE. Retirements in WWE are as firm as toilet paper.
The crowd was behind their fellow Canadian throughout. Unfortunately, there was too much interference from special enforcer Elias. Let’s pray McMahon is gone since he finally lost and is no longer the “Best in the World.” While a good character, his in-ring work is long in the tooth.
Hale: An extended squash match that saw Kevin Owens pretty much dominate Shane McMahon from bell to bell while getting in some underhanded tactics to keep his edge despite being a babyface.
Owens is really, really good at just about everything and this match hopefully served as an appetizer of what’s to come. The match itself ended up being relatively ordinary with an unnecessary injection of Elias to stack the deck. Hopefully, this means that Shane will take some time off.
This was fine.
Charlotte Flair def. Trish Stratus
Muehlhausen: A pretty good affair that really picked up in the last ten minutes after a slow beginning. Give Flair a ton of credit. She got the crowd to get behind Stratus which in turn helped Stratus get going as she looked extraordinarily tentative and sold every Stratus move like a million bucks.
Surprised Stratus tapped out to the figure-eight leglock. But that’s what a veteran does to further establish their opponent in what was a ringing endorsement of how Stratus views Flair.
Hale: There was really no rhyme or reason for this match to happen aside from Trish being from Canada and wanting one last match. That being said, it was a match that worked perfectly fine considering that Stratus hadn’t worked a match like this in years and Charlotte played the role of ring general to a tee.
It had a very dead middle section where Trish was working from underneath and Charlotte eventually worked her magic to bring the crowd back to life with some well placed in-ring commentary when she got the upper hand.
Business picked up when Stratus slapped on the Figure-Eight and sent the crowd into a frenzy. But the right woman won because Charlotte certainly doesn’t need to lose to a legend at this stage of her career.
Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton battle to a countout
Muehlhausen: Yes, you read that right. A countout in a WWE title match on the third most significant event of the year for the organization. For a great build featuring tremendous video packages, Kingston and Orton were stuck in neutral until right at the end when Kingston went for another frog splash from the top rope, but Orton turned around and hit a beautiful RKO. Kingston rolled to the outside where his family was ringside, and Orton stared at them intently that resulted in the countout.
The fans booed loudly at their disapproval of the non-finish. They paid to see a good match with a conclusion. Instead, WWE took the cheap way out. It’s going to be hard to get the people back after what happened here.
Hale: Just when this match began to hit its stride as Orton caught Kofi in midair off the top rope with an RKO, we get a…
I understand that they want to extend this feud with a proper build but you do that finish at a PPV like Extreme Rules, Backlash or something. Not one of the Big 4. Totally unacceptable.
Bray Wyatt def. Finn Balor
Muehlhausen: What everyone expected to happen took place in Wyatt squashing the former Universal champion.
The entrance was a remix of his old theme, and the Leatherface type of mask is a sight to see.
The potential is there for Wyatt to become a main event player once again. Wyatt is over with fans but can WWE let the character grow?
Hale: This grade isn’t as much about the match as it is the presentation. The WWE has flubbed the Bray Wyatt character so many times and there was concern about how this would go over when he finally debuted.
Well, this was about as pitch-perfect as it gets. He ran roughshod over Balor, who is expected to take a vacation. Everything about this felt spectacular. The entrance, his moveset, ring attire (complete with a lantern made with a mold of his face on it) and the altering of his finish to the Mandible Claw was 100% on the money. My only concern moving forward is how the WWE will keep from overexposing him.
Let it breathe and feel special.
Seth Rollins def. Brock Lesnar to win the Universal title
Muehlhausen: By far the best match on the show. Rollins and Lesnar delivered a high octane battle with no rest whatsoever.
I know it’s probably an unpopular because of the disdain for Lesnar, but the wrong guy won. If you’re going to beat Lesnar, it should be for someone WWE is trying to establish as a headliner, not someone whose already in the position. Rollins didn’t deliver when he beat Lesnar the first time around at Wrestlemania as his programs with AJ Styles and Baron Corbin were flat and ended up losing a lot of steam. Maybe Rollins proves the doubters wrong and goes on historic title reign as he has the talent to do it.
Hale: Say what you want about Lesnar, but when he shows up, he provides an electricity like no other. Couple that with the WWE figuring out a formula where every Lesnar match starts off with a bang that leaves fans in awe, and you have the perfect recipe for the Lesnar-Rollins rematch.
This was what we needed in a PPV that was solid, yet unimpressive. Lesnar nearly getting stopped in the opening minutes, Rollins backflipping out of German Suplexes, a table spot outside the ring and a few near falls. There was drama and non-stop action. No, it’s not a match of the year contender, but it was damn good to see.
Hopefully, Rollins’ run with the Universal title will be much better than the last one.