WWE – Summerslam 2020 (Cert 15)
1 Disc DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 178 minutes approx.
After the steaming turd that was The Horror Show At Extreme Rules, a show universally panned by fans and critics alike, Vinnie Mac got into a panic about how to restore the faith of the WWE fanbase and came up with the WWE Thunderdome!
This latest lick of paint to avoid addressing the real problem of the hopeless creative as spearheaded by Vince himself is shifting the action from the WWE Performance Centre to an arena set up but instead of a live audience there is a virtual one! In other words, the fans appear via banks of video monitors where the seats would be to give the impression of a full arena.
Of course, there are strict rules such as not wearing non-WWE wrestling related T-shirts, no anti-WWE signs, or rude or disruptive behaviour. This didn’t stop trolls from showing images of AEW wrestlers as if they were actually watching, or worse a KKK member in full regalia on RAW the next night. There is a “coordinator” delivering instructions like “cheer now” or “boo now” though we can’t actually hear the fans as the pipe their own crowd noises in.
Whilst it makes for a better visual and atmosphere than an empty PC it still is papering over the cracks and not fixing the real problem of the lousy booking and poor use of the top tier talent WWE has.
Incidentally, this year’s Summerslam has the subtitle “You’ll never See It Coming!” and for once there was a huge surprise in store although I am sure the cover artwork for this home media release will spoil it as it always does.
Summerslam took place on August 23rd 2020 at the WWE Thunderdome located inside the Amway Centre in Orlando, Florida in front of virtual crowd seen via a bank of video screens. Commentary is provided by Michael Cole and Corey Graves for SD and Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton and Samoa Joe for RAW.
As ever, while my match review won’t contain (m)any results or major spoilers, expect plenty of opinion and backstory to the matches:
WWE SD Women’s Title Match – Bayley (c) vs. Asuka
If you wondering “isn’t Asuka a RAW wrestler?”, yes she is but Vince clearly has no faith in any of the SD women to challenge Bayley so they had Asuka win a tri-branded battle royale on SD meaning she is doing double duty on this show as she is already facing Sasha Banks for the RAW Women’s title.
Not that I am complaining as an unabashed Asuka mark and that is does have some relevance to the ongoing feud between Asuka & Banks and Bayley, so there is that, but this also means a lot of women are stuck on the sidelines as a result when this division needs freshening up. Anyway, damn good match to kick off the show, but knowing Asuka was to return later does telegraph the result of at least one of her two matches, with additional thanks to the post match beat down on Asuka that occurred.
For some reason they decide to recap the Retribution angle, in which a group of masked militants have been hijacking WWE TV shows and attacking the wrestlers, then made no further mention of them, nor were they seen at all. Much like the angle itself, this was a waste of time.
WWE RAW Tag Title Match – The Street Profits (c) vs. Angle Garza & Andrade
This was the match we were supposed to have at Wrestlemania 36 but Andrade was injured and replaced by Austin Theory. Now Andrade is back these two teams have faced each other on RAW numerous times already, not to mention the champs always retain so why do we need it again? Maybe because there aren’t any other teams aside from the Viking Raiders on RAW?
Of all the matches that took place on this PPV, this was most certainly one of them.
No DQ Loser Leaves WWE Match – Mandy Rose vs. Sonya Deville
We have a unique situation here in which an advertised stipulation had to be changed at the last minute due to a worrying real life situation. As part of the feud since Fire and Desire split up, Sonya cut Rose’s hair short so Mandy challenged Sonya to a Hair vs. Hair match. Then, a few days before the show, a crazed stalker fan of Deville’s broke into her house whilst she and Rose were upstairs asleep. They managed to get out and call the police who arrested the guy, finding equipment suggesting he had violent plans for her.
Sonya’s lawyer suggested it would be a bad look to show up in court with a shaven head as result of her job, so the stip was changed to give Deville the time off to deal with this case. Yes, I’ve spoiled the result but the story was made public so it is hardly a surprise. Anyhoo, to their credit, the ladies had their best WWE match to date, and worked hard to make the storyline hatred believable. Mandy doing the Caterpillar with Otis however was not so fun to watch…
Street Fight – Dominik Mysterio vs. Seth Rollins
In the feud that never seems to end, Dominik Mysterio – who made his first WWE appearance at Summerslam 2005 aged just 8 in the turgid paternity storyline with Eddie Guerrero – makes his in-ring debut as father Rey is injured after Seth “gauged” his eye out at Extreme Rules. The Street Fight rules is to help cover for Dominik’s lack of experience but the kid did surprisingly well in his first match. The only problem was it went far too long at 22 minutes which is ludicrous for a rookie.
Rollins showed up in tights in the same design as the costume Rey wore for his famous match against Eddie Guerrero at WCW Halloween Havoc in 1997 to mock Rey as he stood at ringside, having promised his son not to get involved. This again telegraphs how it would play out as Seth had Buddy Murphy with him but they told a decent story and the match was good enough to pass muster under the circumstances.
WWE RAW Women’s Title Match – Sasha Banks (c) vs. Asuka
Asuka dropped the RAW title under the dumbest pretence at Extreme Rules then lost a rematch on RAW when she left the match to save Kairi Sane from a backstage attack by Bayley. Kairi is now back in Japan, leaving Asuka to fight the Golden Role Models alone.
Something that irked me here was Asuka coming out and doing her full entrance like the earlier beat down never happened or didn’t faze her. She should hit the ring a ball of fire keen to rip Sasha’s head off but you know Vince and his need for razzmatazz every time. Despite having already wrestled earlier, Asuka had another hard hitting but different style match with Banks, full of counter wrestling and submission holds as well as a scary powerbomb spot onto the floor. I’m not saying anything here but Sasha has never had a single successful title defence on WWE PPV. An omen perhaps?
WWE Title Match – Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Randy Orton
With Edge out of the picture due to an injury suffered when doing reshoots for their “Great Wrestling Match Ever” at Backlash, the third bout in their series due to take place at this event had to be dropped. Thus Orton is back in the title hunt and whilst he bores me to tears, he at least is a marquee name that is needed for McIntyre to be seen as a worthy champ.
The feud has been built up by Orton taking out legends like Ric Flair, Big Show, Shawn Michaels, and Christian, whilst exchanging tit-for-tat attacks. Fair play to them, they had a good match with both guys bleeding from hardway cuts to the head, which gave the tension between them some extra validity. Plus a finish I can say we didn’t see coming.
Universal Title Falls Count Anywhere Match – Braun Strowman (c) vs. The Fiend
Apparently Vince felt we needed a third match between these two as if the first two weren’t bad enough. The one at Money In The Bank was pretty dire partly as it needed a live crowd to make the storyline drama work, but nowhere near as awful as the Swamp Fight at Extreme Rules. That ended with Braun apparently drowning in the swamp by The Fiend yet still champ as it was a non-title affair.
So get this – Braun resurfaced a few weeks later and supposedly a heel with The Fiend now the babyface which makes no sense nor was it ever explained as such on TV though this is what Vince was aiming for. Quite how The Fiend kidnapping Alexa Bliss to taunt Braun makes him a face is beyond me but I’m not an insane septuagenarian.
The match was a formless slugfest with weapons and big bumps that didn’t venture too far away from the ring despite the Falls Count Anywhere stip. There was no psychology to delineate the heel/face roles making it hard to invest in, but it was all for nought as the big story was in what happened after the match and we definitely did NOT see THAT coming!
As much as the Thunderdome gimmick is gilding the lily, it does give the presentation a better look and something more akin to a full arena show, giving wrestlers something to focus on and feed off, even if it is virtual. It hasn’t helped inspire the booking though one isn’t beholden to the other but sometimes, all round change is often a good thing.
There isn’t really much point going over the same old complaints already shared on this site in prior WWE reviews, since they are all evident just by looking at the card. Nobody has been elevated – the possible exception being Dominik Mysterio in his debut but it will be a long time before he is credible – and the titles contested stayed within the same camps.
Unfortunately, whilst Dominik taking his lumps or Asuka being a workhorse would be big news coming out of this show, it was the final act that made the headlines, and deserved to. Whether this is the start of something new or more of the same old remains to be seen, but as always we should all err on the side of caution because of the caprice and impatience of the chairman wanting results straight away and not building on them.
One moment does not a pivotal show make but it was a step in the right direction and followed a decent card to boot. At least it was better than Extreme Rules and kept under three hours!
Best Match(es) – Sasha Banks vs. Asuka / Bayley vs. Asuka
Summerslam Kick-Off Match: WWE US Title Match – Apollo Crews (c) vs. MVP
Rating – ***
Man In Black