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WWE – Summerslam 2016 (Cert 15)

1 Disc Blu-ray / 2 discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 241 minutes approx.

The first dual brand PPV in the wake of the second draft split just happens to be one of the “Big 4” and like last year, Summerslam is being treated like Wrestlemania, with a four hour run time, a two-hour pre-show and lots of head-scratching booking.

Among the numerous matches on offer here the RAW brand seeks to crown its own heavyweight champion since Dean Ambrose took the WWE World Title to Smackdown, so RAW commissioner Steph McScreech introduced the Universal Champion (because the universe is bigger than the world). The top contestants vying to make history are Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor, who, as we have seen on NXT, wrestles PPVs as the Demon King.

Just like last month, the WWE decided to once again compromise my “no spoiler” policy by giving away the two title match results on the DVD cover! Tch!

Summerslam took place on August 21st 2016 at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York before 13,400 fans. Your commentators are now two teams consisting of Michael Cole, Byron Saxton and Corey Graves for RAW and Mauro Ranallo, JBL and David Otunga for Smackdown.

Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers but plenty of opinion.

 

Enzo & Big Cass vs. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens

It’s Brooklyn so who better to open the show than Enzo & Cass? Last year they were in the supplementary matches taped before the NXT Takeover show, this year they open the main show on the main roster. Usual mic work from the Noo York pair before taking on the newly formed team of JeriKO.

Match was fun for an opener with a surprisingly silent crowd once the talking stopped. JeriKO showed great chemistry already for what was a quickly put together makeshift team.

 

WWE Women’s Title Match – Sasha Banks (c) vs. Charlotte

The Boss dethroned Charlotte on the RAW after Battleground with this being Charlotte’s mandatory rematch. Banks also beat Dana Botch to eliminate her from ringside for the match.

A good hard worked bout with a couple of sloppy spots in places, not helped by some scary moves that no wrestler – male or female – should be taking. Banks was working with a back injury which makes the spot where Charlotte literally dropped Sasha from the top turnbuckle and into the ropes, with Banks landing on her head absurdly careless and dangerous.

 

WWE IC Title Match – The Miz (c) vs. Apollo Crews

Crews won a triple threat match to earn this IC title shot after someone remembered he was on the SD roster. For all his athleticism Crews really need a bit more time for a little more seasoning in NXT before getting the call-up, although he wasn’t presented with any fanfare upon his arrival resulting in the apathy he engenders from the fans.

The fact the match went just five minutes says all you need to know about the confidence WWE has in Crews as a serious challenger and a future player on the SD roster. A TV filler match at best.

 

John Cena vs. AJ Styles

Once again the fans were firmly on the side of the heel, AJ Styles, whose new gimmick is to brag about beating up Cena as his favourite pastime. Cena’s response is that Styles needed The Club to aid his victory over Cena at Money In The Bank and can’t handle Cena one-on-one.

Really good match as you might expect with Styles being one of the best “big match” wrestlers going. They told a great story that “old timer” Cena can’t hang with the “younger” Styles (they are practically the same age), buttressed by the fact that Cena has slowed a bit upon his return. About halfway through it turns into a “kick out of the finishers” fest but they pulled it together to keep the narrative intact.

 

WWE Tag Title Match – The New Day (c) vs. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows

US TV personality Jon Stewart makes his second consecutive Summerslam appearance this time in the corner of the tag champs to cover for the absence of Big E, who was taken out by The Club when they crotched him on the ring post.

Sadly this act of testicular violence has seen The Club adopt a doctors gimmick which is just plain stupid, undoing the hard work they put in to making themselves into a bad ass tag team in Japan and in their WWE debut. Stewart’s presence should tell you all you need to know about the finish of this bout. 

 

WWE World Heavyweight Title Match – Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

As overdue as shot at rehabilitation is for Ziggler after years of being jobbed out and put in terrible feuds, it is also a little too late as no-one sees him as a world title threat, while Ambrose doesn’t need the title nor has he been elevated from being WWE Champ.

Therefore the match garnered little interest or investment from the fans while the lack of chemistry between the two men was evident, robbing it of the big match feel it should have had. Not a good moment for either man if we are honest.

 

Natalya, Alexa Bliss & Nikki Bella vs. Becky Lynch, Carmella & Naomi

It’s rather unfortunate that this match features almost the entire SD woman’s division, bar one. Eva Marie was meant to be in it but failed a Wellness policy test and was suspended for 30 days so Nikki Bella’s return from a neck surgery was fast tracked (presumably she’s inherited Cena’s mutant healing genes) to act as her replacement.

Despite being on the heel side, Nikki received a huge face reaction which upset the psychological dynamic of the match, but in the long run worked out quite well. The match itself was pretty good with all women working hard and given a chance to shine, giving some hope that the SD women’s division will be “quality over quantity”.

 

WWE Universal Title Match – Finn Bálor vs. Seth Rollins

You can always count on WWE fans to undermine the importance of a big match as they do so here. The Universal Title belt was unveiled prior to this match and was booed and greeted by chants of “that belt’s ugly”. This enraged Mick Foley who expressed his upset on Twitter afterwards. But it is an ugly belt – it’s the same as the RAW Women’s Title but with red leather against a red face plate.

Marking Finn Bálor’s WWE PPV debut this was as good a match as it could have been after Finn suffered a dislocated shoulder from a powerbomb into the security barricade early in the match. Time Rollins retired that move, I think. However it was nice to see some fresh blood in the RAW title picture for a change.

 

WWE US Title Match – Rusev (c) vs. Roman Reigns

Vince McSenile still hasn’t given up on Reigns as a top babyface, hence this utterly ass backwards feud. Rusev and Lana celebrated their real life marriage on RAW, which Reigns gate crashed and threw Lana face first into the cake. And Reigns is the babyface in this feud?

In another bizarre move, this match took place FOR FREE on RAW a week before only it was non-title. You can guess who won so why should fans care for, let alone pay to see this match? It seems Vince thought of that because it didn’t happen, the two men brawled and the bell was never rung that was that. Yup, that’ll get Reigns over.

 

Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton

Quite why this was the main event with its terrible finish is baffling. Apparently 14 years in the making, the usual display of scary brutality on Lesnar’s part and little from Orton was fine while it lasted but the finish deflated the crowd as it came from nowhere. It was violent by design to get people talking, which it did, but not positively, ending an already poorly booked and overlong show on a flat note.

Backstage Chris Jericho, a friend of Orton’s, didn’t know if that was a planned finish or if Lesnar went into business for himself. Lesnar heard this and went after Jericho, with Triple H and Vince breaking it up!

 

Bottom Line:

The saying “Less is more” is fast becoming a doctrine which applies to WWE PPVs of late. With Summerslam following in Wrestlemania’s footsteps by being an extra long mega event – and regular PPVs now sneaking past the three hour mark – fan burnout is an encroaching problem which can only be saved by an exciting product.

With four plus hours to fill  – including the pre-show – ennui and fatigue begins to set in by the time the main show hits its stride, the number of matches diluting the show’s overall quality. In this instance the early going was solid with the Cena vs. Style match tipping the scales, but then the wheels came off and the show failed to regain that momentum, despite some valiant efforts from the wrestlers.

Again, the booking left a lot to be desired, remaining circumspect in the case of Vince’s favourites while baffling in others. One match result had a good reason behind it revealed afterwards, while the Reigns vs. Rusev bait and switch was ill-advised hubris at best.

It doesn’t help that they tried riffing off Brock Lesnar’s MMA credentials in the main event, but while UFC can get away with abrupt stoppages in the headline match, in wrestling that won’t fly. Plus Lesnar’s routine of throwing suplexes and clubbing people into oblivion is getting a little tiresome now, creating a sense of diminishing returns on his multi-million dollar contract.

For one of the “Big Four” PPVs Summerslam 2016 is a mixed bag that might be a good show if the wheat is separated from the chaff. A shame as it had potential to be a better one.

 

Best match – John Cena vs. AJ Styles

 

Extras:

 

Blu-ray Only:

Summerslam Kick-off Matches:

The Usos, American & Hype Bros vs. Breezango, The Ascension & The Vaudevillains

Sami Zayn & Neville vs. The Dudley Boyz

Best Of Seven Series – Cesaro vs. Sheamus

 

Rating – ***  

Man In Black

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