Summerslam is normally the second biggest show of the year in WWE but in 2021 given the circumstances it may be the biggest one. A Full capacity crowd at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas makes a big difference, among other things, but there was also the expectation of some big returns as well, particularly with the arrival of one Phillip Jack Brooks aka CM Punk on the other side of the street and the rumors of more names to come. This was a big deal in light of the surroundings and they couldn’t afford to turn in a B effort. Now in wrestling the goal is to make you feel something and to blow you away with wonder at what you’re watching. And in the world of the WWE that can lead to some home runs but also some major crashes and burns. They went for it all here, but how did it turn out? Let’s see. But before I get to the most important stuff there are….
The other matches
- The opener was short but fun. The question coming out is how long do the respective teams stay together before the inevitable breakups. Does Omos start singles before he and AJ split or not until after? And just when exactly does Randy do what we know he will and punt kick Riddle to hell?
- Alexa and Eva was about what I expected. And as with the opener the question is how long until Piper clocks Eva upside the head
- Damian Priest and Sheamus was a good, hard hitting match like we expected. I’m excited to see where Priest goes from here and this looks like it could be the beginning of something good. Sheamus is well overdue for the respect he deserves for a low key great career, too.
- The Usos and the Mysterios had an very good Smackdown tag title match. These two teams can do this the rest of the year for all I care and I’ll still enjoy it, they work great together. The only stickler is that Dominic is the slowest of everyone in this match so he’s gonna hopefully develop that by working with his Dad and Jimmy and Jey.
- Drew and Jinder was shorter than I expected and looks to be over now. They were stuck in a spot on the card where people were still getting their heads wrapped what just happened before too, which did them no favors.
And now on to the rest of the show……
Smackdown Women’s Title Match
This was one of the most anticipated matches of the weekend, the rematch of the ESPY award winning first night main event of Wrestlemania 37 between two of the most talented and flat our best wrestlers in the world, Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks. And then the rumors came that it wasn’t going to happen, followed by the reports the day of that Banks was out. The question loomed of just what was going to happen. Would there be a replacement? Would it just be skipped altogether? Is Sasha injured? Well we don’t have an answer to the last question but boy did we find out about the first two….
This could either be a the beginning of a brilliant character change and storyline or a major crash and burn depending on how things go. They committed to the work by not announcing Banks couldn’t go until the last second (those tickets were sold before Sasha vs Bianca was announced, so it’s not really a bait and switch), I’ll give them that. And bringing out Carmella to disappoint everyone before Becky’s music hit was a nice touch albeit one to make you feel a little sorry for Mella essentially being sent out there to get crapped on. And then……the shot heard around the world.
Look, I have no idea how this will play out. Right now it looks like they did it because Becky is Becky and F U that’s why. If it is what I think it may be then after a day to reflect there is a train of logic I can guess at. This is essentially a heel move against a genuinely likeable babyface in Bianca Belair, and if it leads to Becky going heel then it makes sense on paper. But it leads to the million dollar questions: One, will the so called smart fans buy in or will they just heap their venom on Vince for booking it? Will these same folks boo Becky even if she commits and goes all the way?
Right now the heat is on Vince for what looks like is a major snub to Bianca to just shine up his top star again, which is totally a Vince move. Letting everyone know just what the pecking order is in his company has been a Vince trope from day one, for all its potential pitfalls. And Becky is head and shoulders above all right now, hands down, so anyone and everyone can get slapped down to prove it. Becky’s back so move whoever is there aside and put the title back on her ASAP.
(Side note: let’s not act like some people didn’t want this very thing! They just wanted it to be against someone like Charlotte, that’s all. Bianca being the victim makes a lot harder to swallow, though. Be careful what you wish for!)
So at the end of the day it all comes down to what the plan is. If it’s a planned heel turn and Becky commits and people buy in (outside the folks who just aren’t gonna boo her no matter what) then this could be great. It’s also a chance for Bianca to take the next step from happy to be here to a wiser woman who recognizes what kind of world she’s in while maintaining her innate and natural goodness. If this thing is not planned, or of it is and everyone from Becky to creative doesn’t go all the way then this could backfire more than it appears to already have. We’ll see. Either way it’s not safe, which is a charge that gets thrown at them as a company a lot and with merit.
That being said if you’re super pissed on Bianca’s behalf I am not here to tell you to chill out. The one part of all this where I’m not willing to let it play out is the 30 seconds where she got punked out. And you can explain it all you want, I’m not here for it. Things may eventually play out in such a way that works out for her long term but it’s ok to look at what happened here and say ‘that was bs, FU for that Vince’.
RAW Women’s Title Match: Nikki ASH (c) vs Charlotte Flair vs Rhea Ripley
Very good match overall, and it really played out like a showcase for what Charlotte can do as a performer. They had the tough task of waking the crowd back up after Becky and Bianca left a lot of people scratching their heads, and they managed to do that. Charlotte and how different parts of the fanbase take her is one of those weird things of this era. She’s at her best when she gets to play heel and go full King of the World in the ring, and the Thanos inspired robe was a perfect symbol of what was about to transpire.
Nikki and Rhea in essence tried to put her down, both on their own and together, and could not stop the inevitable. That’s one of her best portrayals in the ring, as the Terminator who won’t be put down by your little wrestling moves. Yes it makes some people get on the internet and say ‘no fair!’ but it is what it is and quite frankly it’s better to do that and make people level up their performance to match or surpass hers than to ask her to go 50/50 with her opponents so it looks more even in there. Those who can have already done so.
The question now, is will she get to keep the title this time? She hasn’t won a title with the point of having a reign for herself since she beat Natalya in 2017. Every win since has been to quickly pass it on to someone else and shine them up in the process. Given the makeup of the RAW Women’s roster right now another quick hand off makes zero sense as there is no Becky/Sasha/Bayley or Bianca there to take it and run with it, and it would really be stat padding that she herself doesn’t appear to be that fixated on outside of kayfabe to have her keep winning and losing the title.
As for her opponents in this match, Rhea has gotten her legs under her after a shaky start in RAW and Nikki is to be commended for the transformation that she cooked up herself for her character. But both of them are still ‘now what?’ when it comes to the next day or week when it comes to winning the title back. I’d bet on Rhea being able to answer that question soon, she has all the tools to be the standard bearer on RAW once Charlotte is gone and she’s only 24 so she has time, and Nikki should at least come out of this as a regular for TV time going forward which she was not just six months ago. But for now and as long as it lasts, all hail the queen.
Edge vs Seth Rollins
What a classic this was, from the Edge entrance to the very end. It also had the best build of any match on the show. (The callback to the Brood bloodbath on the go home show is the best match setup segment of the year hands down). I think that as far as his own performance this is the Edge match to watch since he returned. There no mitigating circumstances like in the title matches with Roman and it wasn’t too long to rewatch like the Orton matches. This is the first match in a while for Seth to just go all out, too, maybe since Summerslam 2019 vs Brock Lesnar.
And while both men pulled every move out that we know them to have, they did it in ways that made sense to the conflict at hand. Nothing was done for the sake of doing and there was a build to pulling out the big moves to lead up to the finish. This is as about as close to perfect as you can get from a workrate match, down to the match time itself (21 minutes). Just outstanding work all around from both guys in what was a true dream match.
WWE title match: Bobby Lashley (c) vs Goldberg
The match that many people were dreading was…..kinda weird. We all expected a sprint with both men unloading that went five minutes or less. Instead we Goldberg of all people with his work boots on selling a leg injury all the way to being helped to the back afterwards. Bobby looks like a million bucks here, and was cheered by the crowd throughout that was clearly not here to see Bill. And then the highlight, Bill’s son Gage coming in to help him and getting put in the Hurt Lock!
And now we have an obvious rematch instead of what we thought was a one and done. It’s all bizarre. Goldberg actually selling a leg injury is just weird, and now this. Totally unexpected development here.
Main Event: Roman Reigns (c) vs John Cena
I don’t have a million thoughts here. It was great and had a big fight feel that’s needed for big shows like this. John showed out and Roman hit another gear with his in ring trash talk that makes this a much watch affair. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate one year since Roman’s surprise return last year. They played this out in a way that there was genuine suspense even in light of Cena’s event calendar saying otherwise. That you can overcome such an obvious tell to make people doubt the outcome is a testament to both guys.
And then the aftermath…..
Brock Lesnar’s music hitting was a genuine surprise that no one knew about. There were no rumors, no reports, anything out there about this. And the reactions from Roman and Paul Heyman were perfect. Paul looking like a cheating spouse caught in the act with his mistress was gold as was Roman’s exasperation at seeing his most frustrating rival re-emerge to torment him again. And now the stage is set with a different set of circumstances. Roman isnthe champion, Brock the challenger and now Paul is stuck in the middle.
A few good matches early on, a few forgettable matches and a WTF moment that will either fly high or crash badly followed by three great matches sandwiched around a weird WWE title match. It was definitely an emotional roller coaster if nothing else. And quite frankly that’s what it’s supposed to do. Having well worked matches can happen anytime. The difference is the spectacle, the drama, the suspense, the anticipation of what’s next,nthe elation when your favorites win, the despair when they lose, and the outrage when they get screwed. All of those happened in droves this weekend in major ways so mission accomplished.