Friday, 28 August 2015

TV Review: WWE Summerslam

It's billed as the hottest event of the summer, but did it live up to expectations? That was what I was hoping to find out by watching WWE's Summerslam, shown live in the early hours of this past Monday morning on Sky Box Office here in Britain.

After an opening segment which saw Mick Foley decline Jon Stewart's invitation to interview Brock Lesnar it was on to the first match, with Randy Orton taking on his long-time rival Sheamus.

As far as show openers go this was pretty entertaining. But then again, these two have faced each other so many times it would be hard for them to have a bad match.

It almost ended within the first few seconds when Orton went for an RKO right off the bat, but after the big Irishman exchanged a few words with the crowd and the action began in earnest these two put together some nice back and forth exchanges, with Orton almost taking the win after he finally managed to take Sheamus down with the RKO. Sheamus rolling out of the ring put a stop to any pin attempts though.

Sheamus managed to get his act together and fight back a few moments later, one brogue kick sending Orton into la-la land and a second while coming off the ropes sending him into the middle of next week. A three count later and the man with the Mohawk took the win.

The first title match of the evening followed as the New Day's Big E and Kofi Kingston, Sin Cara and Kalisto of the Lucha Dragons, and Diego and Fernando of Los Matadores challenged Titus O'Neil and Darren Young of the Prime Time Players for the Tag Team titles.

Well, that was two enjoyable matches in a row. The action was fast and furious throughout here, beginning with the rather unique sight of the New Day trying to pin each other so they'd win and lose the match at the same time.

It wasn't long before the action settled down and Young began to take the punching bag treatment from his various opponents. The hot tag to big O'Neil signalled the start of the all hell breaking loose segment as bodies began to flying around the ring, including those of ringside observers Xavier Woods and that annoying bloody bull.

Eventually O'Neil and one of the Matadores were the last two men standing, but the big man didn't spot Biggie tagging himself in, so when he took the masked man down with his clash of the Titus finisher Kingston took him out with a big boot before Biggie pinned the Matador for the title-winning three count.

Then it was back to singles action as Dolph Ziggler, accompanied by the lovely Lana, took on Summer Rae guy Rusev.

So I'm guessing that President Putin isn't too keen on Rusev now, given that he's back to being a Bulgarian. Anyway, back to the matter at hand. This speed versus speed and power battle made it three for three as far as the enjoyment factor goes. These two were well suited to each other, and their exchanges made this a pretty decent back and forth encounter.

As expected there was a cat fight between the ladies at ringside, and it was this that stopped Rusev from getting the win he wanted so badly because after Lana slapped the taste out of Summer's mouth Rusev broke off his accolade hold on Ziggler and began to confront his former love interest at ringside.

Summer eventually got her own back after Rusev threatened to inflict more damage on Ziggler, only for the returning star to take him down with a superkick that left the big man prostrate on the announcer's table. But while all of this was going on they failed to notice the referee making his count, and while there was no way Rusev was going to make it back in time Ziggler almost did, failing at the last moment as the official finished his count and declared the match a double count-out.

This didn't stop them from engaging in another brawl, which was only broken up with Lana and Summer engaged in another cat fight, which was only broken up by Rusev and Ziggler.

More tag team action followed as King Barrett and Stardust went up against Neville and Arrow star Stephen Amell.

You know, I have to admit that I had my doubts about this one, but when all was said and done Queen...I mean Amell pulled it off, and looked pretty good in doing so. Okay, this probably won't get onto any match of the year lists come December, but it was what it was, very entertaining. (That's four in a row now folks!)

Amell did a good job of taking the punching bag treatment after Neville's initial flourish, and he even took to the air at one point, taking out Barrett and Stardust at ringside with a bodyblock off the top rope. He then pushed Barrett back into the ring so Neville could finish the job with the red arrow.

The second title match of the evening saw the Big Show and the Miz challenging Ryback for the Intercontinental title.

I think the best way to describe this one would be short and sweet. As expected the Miz played the cowardly heel at first when he left Show and Ryback to do all the work, and as the match went on we saw some interesting moments, such as when Miz made countless pin attempts on both of his opponents.

At one point it looked like Show was going to take the win after he took Ryback out with his KO punch, only for Miz to break up the count. The film star then went for the pin himself, only for Show to swat him away like a fly.

A few seconds later Show took Miz down with the second KO punch of the match. But instead of going for the pin he went for Ryback, who dispatched him over the top rope with a clothesline before covering the still-unconscious Miz for the title-retaining pin.

Yet more tag team action followed as Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper faced Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose.

You know what? I really enjoyed this one. It began with some wild and crazy brawling before Reigns was taken out of the picture and the Wyatts gave Ambrose the crash test dummy treatment. The lunatic fringe took a hell of a lot of punishment from the crazy guys before a recovered Reigns, greeted by chants of "Roman's breathing" made it back to his corner in time from the hot tag.

Which, of course, signalled the start of the all hell breaking loose segment, with more wild and crazy brawling until Ambrose took Wyatt down with his dirty deeds DDT and Reigns sealed the deal with a spear for the winning pin.

The final title match of the evening was the battle of the champions, as United States Champion John Cena faced WWE World Champion Seth Rollins in a winner takes all match.

This may well be the best match Rollins has had in his WWE career, and you can probably thank his opponent for that as well, because for nearly twenty minutes these two put on a title match that would have been a great main event had it not been for the return of a certain dead man.

Cena and Rollins put together some great back and forth exchanges throughout this encounter. It was one of those matches you couldn't take your eyes off in case you missed something. Both guys came close to winning the titles on numerous occasions, and when Rollins came out with moves that you don't normally see him do it made you realise just how big the match was, and that includes when he almost put Cena away with his own attitude adjuster.

But as good as this match was, it did have one minor drawback. As Cena was about to take Rollins down with an AA of his own the referee took an accidental hit. This mean that the official couldn't make the count after Cena finally executed the move, so while the ringside doctor attended to the stricken official Rollins connected with a knee to Cena's previously injured nose.

So as both wrestlers licked their respective wounds our host for the evening Jon Stewart raced down to the ring, steel chair in hand. But just when it looked as if he was about to clobber his old verbal sparring partner he clobbered Cena instead. Rollins then took advantage of this by taking Cena down with a pedigree on the chair, and when the referee finally returned to the ring the first thing he saw was Rollins covering Cena. A three count later and Rollins had added the United States title to his collection.

The Divas were up next as Team Bella, Team BAD and Team PCB faced off in a three-way elimination match. Moving on.....

The penultimate match saw Cesaro taking on Kevin Owens.

If this match had been in Ring of Honor a few years ago I would have probably praised it to the heavens, but as it's in a WWE ring I'm still going to praise it to the heavens because it was pretty damn good.

They put together some great sequences, and in doing so put in great performances. It's kind of hard to separate them in that respect, because they both looked so good, and if I go on much longer I'd be in danger of going into hyperbole mode.

Now the ending I really liked. As the two of them jockeyed for position on the top rope Owens took advantage with he crotched Cesaro. He then lifted the Swiss Superman into a suplex position and slammed him down to the mat from the top rope before whipping him into the ropes and taking him out with a pop-up powerbomb for the winning pin.

The main event saw Paul Heyman guy Brock Lesnar taking on the Undertaker.

I think the best way to describe this would be brutal, but in a good way, because the match that was sixteen months in the making was a great contest, even if the finish seemed a little screwy.

It began with Lesnar attacking 'Taker before he'd taken his ring coat off, and from there we were treated to some brutal back and forth action as these two beat the proverbial out of each other. There wasn't much fancy dan stuff here, this was an encounter between two guys who wanted to fight.

All of the ingredients were there. The Dead Man took a few trips to Suplex City while dishing out a great deal of punishment, but when Lesnar put him through one of the announce tables with an F5 it looked all over, until the Undertaker barely beat the count that is.

Then they kicked it into top gear. Lesnar kicked out after a tombstone and the last ride powerbomb. The Undertaker kicked out after two F5's, and after all that it became apparent to all that it would take something special, or something a little screwy, to finish this match.

It soon happened. After the Undertaker failed to put his man away with his hell's gate submission Lesnar locked in a kimura, and as they jockeyed for position the referee made a one count. The bell then rang, much to the surprise of the referee, and as Heyman celebrated the win with his guy, screaming about how the Undertaker had tapped out, the referee admonished the timekeeper for ringing the bell without his call.

While all of was happening 'Taker came up from behind and took Lesnar down with a low blow before applying the hell's gate again. Lesnar held on for as long as he could, giving the Dead Man the finger before he passed out. The referee then called for the bell, giving 'Taker the submission win, although a later replay showed that the Undertaker had indeed tapped out, which was why the timekeeper rang the bell.

In conclusion - I had considered skipping this review, mainly because I've been feeling pretty crappy after having had one of my wisdom teeth extracted last Tuesday. But having read some social media comments the day before about how this show sucked I knew that I had to form my own opinion, no matter how long it took me.

So I'm going to use one of the old clich├ęs that's been used against me countless times over the past fifteen years. If those people thought that Summerslam sucked then they must have been watching a different show to me, because I thought that this year's event was pretty good.

I really enjoyed every match I saw, from the Orton/Sheamus opener right through to the Lesnar/Undertaker main event. Every match delivered in varying degrees, and for the life of me I really can't see why some people didn't like this show. It's either that or the headaches I've been suffering from this week have really clouded my judgement.

All of this enjoyment meant that I had a little difficulty picking the winner of my match of the night no-prize, but in the end I decided to go for the Cena/Rollins title match, with Cena passing the proverbial torch as Rollins enjoyed the best match of his WWE career.

So with all of that out of the way I'm going to upset those people a little bit more by giving this year's Summerslam the big thumbs up.