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August 21, 2017

WWE SummerSlam 2017: Brock Lesnar feels the hurt from Braun Strowman

Wrestling WWE
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Braun Strowman pushed an announce table on Brock Lesnar Sunday night after putting him through two others, forcing Lesnar to leave the arena on a stretcher.

The “biggest party of the summer” once again took place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Sunday night as WWE brought SummerSlam to the northeast for the third year in a row. For three years, the main roster had an opportunity to outshine its colleagues in NXT after NXT tore down the house the night before with TakeOver. This night would be no different.

NXT TakeOver on Saturday night was an amazing show, and I’ll have a short recap with thoughts after running down SummerSlam.

Let’s get to it:

The Miz and The Miztourage [w/ Maryse] defeated Jason Jordan and The Hardy Boyz in a six-man tag team match

I have a hard time thinking anyone in WWE thought the stands would be packed by the time they decided to put this match on the Network. Before the preshow started, two hours before the main card was supposed to take the air, Renee Young said that the doors had just opened.

This match went on less than a half hour later. Would everyone be in their seats by then? Probably not. So, either the company wasn’t worrying about how bad it came across seeing this match play in front of at least a half-empty arena, or they just assumed everyone would get to their seats as quickly as possible.

It wasn’t a terrible match, but seeing the Intercontinental Champion and The Hardys on the kickoff preshow was a bit strange. Honestly, I don’t have a huge issue with match placement on the preshow, and I’ll explain that a little bit later.

The Miz pinned Jordan via a Skull Crushing Finale after a blind tag.

Neville defeated Akira Tozawa © [w/ Titus O’Neil] by to win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship

I said on Monday night after this match was made for Raw that I could see Neville losing the title just to win it back during the regularly scheduled SummerSlam match.

Today, I’m going to play the lotto. After losing the title Monday night, Neville won it back after countering Tozawa’s diving senton with knees to the back, then hitting the Red Arrow for the pin.

I thought WWE had something with the disheveled Neville angle, but it only lasted about six days.

The Usos defeated The New Day [Big E/Xavier Woods] © by pinfall to win the SmackDown Tag Team Championship

It shouldn’t be a surprise that these two teams gave the audience the match of the night just three matches into the pay-per-view. I thought their match at Battleground in July was great - and it was - but this match was better. The many near falls, the heightened drama, and the opposite outcome of having Jimmy and Jey Uso regain the tag titles left many wondering why this match wasn’t on the main card.

And I get it. I do. Generally, I don’t really care much about match placement on a pay-per-view, but I understand the fact that these three aforementioned matches won’t be available on the actual SummerSlam pay-per-view on the WWE Network when someone goes to watch it. That’s a raw deal, no pun intended.

John Cena defeated Baron Corbin by pinfall

I like to see a storyline play out. But in this case, it’s becoming more and more obvious that someone’s lost faith in Corbin. When he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase last Tuesday night and lost in seconds, due to Cena’s distraction, I thought Corbin would exact revenge here.

He didn’t. Not in the slightest. Corbin didn’t have a bad match with Cena by any means, but Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment out of nowhere for the pin. Corbin got some offense in, but it certainly wasn’t a match where he came out of it a star. At all. Not even close.

Natalya defeated Naomi © by submission to win the SmackDown Women’s Championship

Natalya hasn’t been a champion since 2011, so having her defeat Naomi here was something I didn’t expect. Carmella’s Money in the Bank cash-in hung in the balance, so I thought Naomi could win here and then have Carmella cash in and win the title.

But Carmella stayed away, and this was Natalya’s moment. Natalya locked in the Sharpshooter, dragging Naomi away from the ropes, but the champion eventually countered. This is where I thought Naomi would make her comeback, but Natalya was able to lock in the Sharpshooter once again after knees to the back, and the champion was forced to tap.

Big Cass defeated Big Show by pinfall while Enzo Amore was suspended above the ring in a shark cage

Talk about a match that belonged on the kickoff preshow. Here, Amore allowed the match to go on for a few minutes before oiling himself up so he could escape the cage. He eventually got out and then climbed down into the center of the ring where a big boot from Cass was waiting for him. Cass then hit Show with a couple of big boots and an Empire Elbow, eventually pinning him.

Randy Orton defeated Rusev by pinfall

Rusev attacked Orton during his entrance, but once Orton gave the referee the okay to ring the bell to start the match, he hit Rusev with an RKO out of nowhere to get the pin. Yeah, that was it.

Sasha Banks defeated Alexa Bliss © by submission to win the Raw Women’s Championship

This was a great match. Close calls and innovative moves like Bliss pulling the apron while Banks was ready for a high-risk maneuver really gave this match some substance. Bliss is a fantastic heel, and Banks is beloved, and they both really played off each other for the crowd very well.

Of the two women’s matches, this was better than SmackDown’s offering. They told a great story and there’s no doubt in my mind Bliss and Banks will have a rematch … soon.

Banks locked in the Bank Statement after kicking out of Twisted Bliss, and Bliss broke out of it. But not for long, Banks locked it back in and Bliss tapped out, making Banks the four-time Raw Women’s Champion.

'The Demon King' Finn Bálor defeated Bray Wyatt by pinfall

One year ago, we witnessed the birth of “The Demon King” on WWE’s main roster as Bálor took on Seth Rollins for the chance to become the first WWE Universal Champion in history. Bálor won that match, but suffered a shoulder injury, causing him to relinquish the championship just one day later. Bálor returned the night after WrestleMania earlier this
year, but didn’t unveil the “Demon” character until Sunday night.

But, regardless of how little we’ve seen of the character since his main roster debut, the entrance never gets old. Wyatt never stood a chance. The match was good, and it was cool to see Bálor’s instincts against Wyatt’s instinct, especially when Wyatt did his reverse walk of doom and The Demon returned fire. Bálor got the win after hitting the Coup de Grâce to get his win back from last Monday night, and hopefully catapults him into a new feud, quickly.

Seth Rollins/Dean Ambrose defeated Cesaro/Sheamus © by pinfall to win the Raw Tag Team Championship

While we didn’t have the old Shield introduction, both Rollins and Ambrose were decked out in black and red. In the middle of the match, a beach ball made its way around the Barclays Center, and Cesaro was none too pleased.

However, the entirety of this match was just fantastic. In the ending sequence, Rollins hit a hurricarana on Cesaro from the top, sending him flying into Sheamus who was setting up Ambrose for a double-team, then Ambrose hit Sheamus with Dirty Deeds. Two-thirds of The Shield are now Raw Tag Team Champions.

AJ Styles © defeated Kevin Owens by pinfall to retain the United States Championship. Shane McMahon was the special guest referee

Shane McMahon’s got to be one of the worst referees in WWE history. The guy always deems to be in the worst place in the ring at the worst time, and is quicker during a Hell in a Cell match than refereeing a match.

McMahon was knocked around a bit during this match, but it didn’t really play into the narrative on commentary when he counted three when Styles’ foot was on the rope. He noticed it after his hand hit the mat for three, and Owens was convinced he was being screwed. Styles wound up landing the Phenomenal Forearm and a Styles Clash to Owens to get the pin.

Will we see an eventual Owens/McMahon match? Hmmm....

Jinder Mahal © defeated Shinsuke Nakamura by pinfall to retain the WWE Championship

Both Nakamura’s and Mahal’s entrances are pretty cool. I’ll give them both of that.

In a couple of pretty neat segments, the English commentary was cut into by the Hindi announce team and then a few moments later, the Japanese announce team. I thought that was a nice added feature to this match, and really hammered home that this company truly is global.

This match, however, left a lot to be desired. It wasn’t a great match, and it wasn’t terrible. But the ending was slow and plodding, having the Singh Brothers come in the ring, have Nakamura take them out just for Mahal to hit the Kallas for the pin.

Brock Lesnar © [w/ Paul Heyman] defeated Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns in a Fatal 4 Way Match by pinfall to retain the WWE Universal Championship

This main event almost made up for the lackluster matches that came before it. Almost.

It started out hard and heavy with these behemoths hitting each other with so much physicality that I was wincing at home while watching it. Eventually, Strowman completely took out Lesnar, powerslamming him through two announce tables and lifting the third announce table and pinning it on top of him.

As a result, Lesnar did a stretcher job. Yeah, Strowman made Lesnar leave on a stretcher. That’s important.

Lesnar, of course, would return minutes later, taking out Strowman. He suplexed Reigns and Joe before getting Strowman in the Kimura Lock. Reigns would then knock everyone out with a Superman Punch, and then speared Lesnar, but only got a two count. Joe then locked in the Coquina Clutch to Reigns, but Strowman knocked both of them silly with a dropkick into the corner.

Then, Lesnar’s days as champion seemed to be numbered. He tried F5’ing Strowman, but it was countered into a running powerslam. Reigns took out Strowman with a spear, while Joe locked in the Coquina Clutch to Lesnar again. Lesnar reversed that into an F5, but Reigns saved the count. Then, getting ready to put Lesnar away, Reigns ran right into an F5 and Lesnar pinned him to retain his title.

It’s one of the best Fatal 4 Way matches I’ve ever seen. Definitely go out of your way to catch it if you haven’t already.

Overall thoughts:

     ● There was no full Shield reunion Sunday night, and that might be a good thing. If the plan is ever to reunite Reigns with Ambrose and Rollins, it should be a bit drawn out like the Ambrose/Rollins reunion was. Now, after officially reuniting, Ambrose and Rollins are Raw Tag Team Champions. A bit early, but I’m excited to see where this takes Rollins and Ambrose. What’s next for Reigns?

     ● It seemed like a lot of the finishes came out of nowhere, at least to the live crowd. Much of the reaction seemed like, “Huh?” Watching some of the matches back, there was more buildup to the finish than what I initially saw, but commentary didn’t play it up at all. Especially the Raw women’s title match.

     ● While I’d love to see Nakamura as a world champion, I think WWE’s thinking in keeping the title on Mahal is to make it special when he loses it. It seems like fans hate that he has the title, whether they think he’s a “bad worker” or whatever. He’s a heel and it’s up for a huge babyface to dethrone him. Nakamura hasn’t been given that “WWE machine” behind him yet like Cena and Reigns have, so I’m not sure if we’ll see him win the title any time soon.

     ● Every title that was defended changed hands up until the United States Championship match. Then, the top three matches on the card all had the champion retain. Out of those three matches, it sure seemed like Mahal would be the one to lose.

     ● Strowman is, dare I say, almost over as much as Daniel Bryan was? That guy needs to be a world champion soon, whether it’s on Raw or SmackDown. The crowd loves him. One year ago, I never would’ve expected this, and many others would agree with me. Give him a title run. And have him be the one to beat Lesnar. This guy is made.

     ● WWE should add the preshow matches to the full PPV show. Or just make it one six-hour show when it goes On Demand. That the SmackDown Tag Team Championship match won’t be on the PPV show on the Network is a travesty.

NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III results and reaction

On Saturday night, the NXT roster invaded the Barclays Center as well for another edition of TakeOver. Heading into the show, there was a bit of what could be described as apathy from the fan side of it. It didn’t seem to have much buzz, and a lot of the matches weren’t the “must-see” type we’ve been accustomed to during these shows.

But, these performers went out there and made it one of the best TakeOver shows in history. And that’s saying something, because virtually every TakeOver show has delivered. On Saturday night, that was no different. Here are the results, followed by my reaction:

     ● Andrade Almas (w/ Zelina Vega) d. Johnny Gargano by pinfall.

     ● Sanity (Alexander Wolfe and Eric Young w/ Killian Dain and Nikki Cross) d. The Authors of Pain © by pinfall to win the NXT Tag Team Championship. After the match, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish attacked both tag teams.

     ● Aleister Black d. Hideo Itami by pinfall.

     ● Asuka © d. Ember Moon by submission to retain the NXT Women's Championship.

     ● Drew McIntyre d. Bobby Roode © by pinfall to win the NXT Championship. After the match, Adam Cole debuted and destroyed McIntyre in the ring with the help of O’Reilly and Fish.


      ● The rumors were running rampant that Cole would make his debut at TakeOver, but nobody knew what kind of impact it would have. It seems pretty clear he’ll be settling into a main event program with McIntyre for the championship. Of course, aligning with O’Reilly and Fish makes it a bit more interesting. Everyone knows where these wrestlers have come from, so it’ll be interesting to see if WWE plays that up in NXT or if they peg these as new guys with one goal.

     ● Never bet against Asuka. As great as she would look on either Raw or SmackDown, I have a feeling she will lose what made her special in NXT. It almost seems like she will never lose that championship unless she just gives it up. At a time where it seemed like a perfect decision to have Ember Moon defeat her, Asuka still prevailed. Moon came out of the match looking like a star, and a spot on the main roster for her may not be far behind.

     ● Sanity winning the NXT Tag Team Championship was a bit of surprise. They’re basically babyfaces now despite their acts being heelish. The Authors of Pain could be heading to the main roster soon, but they also will probably be looking for revenge on O’Reilly and Fish.

     ● Gargano is a star. He can make anyone look good in the ring. Some guys on the main roster need a guy like Gargano. He should be called up as soon as his program with Tommaso Ciampa, if that’s what they have in store, is over.

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