Dolph Ziggler def. The Miz
Ziggler has an ability to bring the best out in many opponents, particularly Miz. They worked at an accelerated pace that never felt too fast because they told an interesting story about knowing what one another wanted to do. Ziggler’s superkick looked fantastic, his ability to kick out of the Skull Crushing Finale made appear very tough, and the way he won after he avoided a running kick showed intelligence. Miz is not the top heel in the company, but he has been hot lately, so Ziggler’s win means something
Paige def. AJ Lee
I really enjoyed what Page and AJ did to maximize their time in the ring, though they did not have enough to have a great match. Just to get in the few creative spots they did, there was very little time left for the wrestling match. Still, AJ coming off the top turnbuckle to the floor is unique for women. Paige’s cradle, lifted DDT as a counter to the Black Widow was a great finish. Paige should be far more compelling as a heel champion than she was as a face and I am glad she will get a chance to show that.
Rusev def. Jack Swagger
Very little worked about this match. It felt like they went straight into rest holds as soon as the match started. The match was nominally a flag match, but the flags had next to nothing to do with the match itself. The finish consisted of each wrestler sitting in the other’s submission hold for far too long until Rusev finally got the win with the Accolade. Rusev probably gets some heat for the way win, but Swagger’s burgeoning face run lost far more.
Seth Rollins def. Dean Ambrose
The general script for a wrestling match requires a gradual build to get fans to reach their emotional peak, but this match got to the zenith almost instantly. Rollins and Ambrose found a really creative way to use the lumberjack stipulation- they fought through the lumberjacks and fought with them enough for them to get involved in the fray. Ambrose looked great because he hit tons of exciting offense, and then Rollins pulled out the cheap win with a briefcase shot after Kane’s interference. The match was very good an the rivalry is set to continue, which is a win-win.
Bray Wyatt def. Chris Jericho
Everyone knew that it was Jericho’s job to make Wyatt look good by the end of their feud and he did that very well at SummerSlam. Their contrast between Wyatt’s powerhouse style and Jericho’s technical mastery looked different than any other match on the card. Wyatt also executed a memorable finish with his Samoan Spike (that move needs a new name) and Sister Abigail’s Kiss into the barricade and another SAK in the ring. Even when you know what is coming, it can still be enjoyable if done well.
Stephanie McMahon def. Brie Bella
When the fans chanted “you’ve still got it” to Stephanie, it reminded me that she never wrestled as well as she did at SummerSlam. The match went through so many more phases than I expected. First, it was a creepy sideshow while Jerry Lawler raved about Stephanie’s dominatrix-inspired ring gear. It moved into a straight wrestling match and then a beatdown by Stephanie. Brie turned it into a brawl when she got control and HHH and Nikki Bella joined to turn it into a storyline. Nikki’s turn on Brie to set up Stephanie’s win via Pedigree was telegraphed and felt smaller than the Stephanie-Brie feud. Still, it was far more good than bad.
Roman Reigns def. Randy Orton
A match that was originally positioned as the semi-main even started out feeling like a popcorn match before the actual main event. Instead, Orton and Reigns built methodically to a very good finish. There were enough big moments along the way- including a great superplex by Orton and a second-rope Samoan Drop by Reigns- that the deliberate pace was not boring. I loved how Orton countered a Spear with a snap powerslam. Orton usually takes off autopilot and raises his game for big PPVs, and he did so here. The RKO has been one of the biggest and most effective finishers in wrestling, so it is no small thing that Reigns kicked out of one with no mitigating factors. His spear for the win felt like Reigns was moving back on the right track in his ascent.
Brock Lesnar def. John Cena
Not since the day of Diesel and Bob Backlund has a WWE Title match been so thoroughly one-sided, and Lesnar became an even more valuable wrestler in the process. His merciless beating of Cena included dozens of knee strikes and German Suplexes and was only interrupted by a random AA and STF, neither of which got Cena close to a win. Maybe more importantly, Lesnar showed a boatload of personality in the ring that got even the Cena haters to feel bad for him. It was a completely different sort of match and the lack of a big swerve was its own swerve. Paul Heyman and Lesnar said for a month that the match would be a one-sided evisceration, but no one expected it to go down quite so cleanly.