8/2/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Seth Rollins def. Neville to Remain WWE Champion
Last week, Rollins laid the groundwork for an exciting feud with John Cena, wrestled a great main event match with Cena, and created the indelible image of his adversary’s mangled nose. This week, he was challenged to follow that performance with his foil on the shelf. Wisely, Rollins and WWE pivoted in a different direction to create a memorable match of a very different type.
Rollins started the show by gloating about Cena’s broken nose, so much so that the crowd actually started to back him. He challenged Cena to a title vs. title match at SummerSlam and even borrowed Cena’s Open Challenge gimmick for Raw. His challenge, though, had two stipulations- the opponent had to be under 6’ and 200 pounds. While he expected El Torito to answer the challenge, Neville emerged instead as a legitimate challenger who snuck in under the size limits.
Neville came out on fire with a corkscrew plancha early on. He couldn’t connect with the Red Arrow, but he did hit a version of the Phoenix Splash to the floor. Neville couldn’t keep up the momentum forever- he suffered a running knee that sent him into the table. Rollins followed that with a hot shot and a sling blade. Neville quickly turned the control again and got near falls off of an inverted hurricanrana and a deadlift German. When he countered a Pedigree into a jackknife, he got so close to a pin that the fans booed the referee for apparently pulling his count early.
Rollins climbed to the top rope and Neville continued his assault with a top rope hurricanrana. He delivered the Red Arrow and Rollins barely got his foot on the rope before the three count. The fans chanted for him to do it again, so Neville went back to the top rope and missed his second Red Arrow. Rollins answered with a Pedigree and retained his title.
Even though this match led off the show, it was the top attraction of the three-hour program. I am a big proponent of occasional wins by the Champion over lesser challengers because it reminds fans why the Champion belongs atop the card. More importantly, Rollins and Neville put together a very dramatic match. While there was no rational explanation for Neville to win here, it legitimately felt like he had a chance at various points in the match.
Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Randy Orton def. Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, and Sheamus
Although this match fell in the main event slot, it was clearly secondary in importance. One element that it had in its favor is that both teams had fun taped promos that felt like old school Survivor Series team promos. Wyatt said that he wants to show that even Reigns, as the chosen one, can be exposed like a flower without petals. He also formed an alliance with Sheamus as the enemy of his enemy. Meanwhile, Ambrose quoted the late Roddy Piper when he said, “I’m here to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and I’m all out of bubble gum.”
It was clear that there wasn’t much of a plan for the main event when everyone involved got an extended entrance. The match was reasonably fun to watch, but not much happened for a very long time. Eventually, it developed into a brawl outside and Reigns fought through the whole opposite team. A flurry of big moves gave way to finishers. Shemaus missed a Brogue Kick on Orton and ran straight into a spear by Reigns for the pin.
Paul Heyman Antagonizes Undertaker
We have come to expect Heyman to deliver with great promos, so it’s easy to take him for granted. The speech this week, though, was on another level and deserves special recognition. He called Undertaker a “submissive bitch” when it comes to his rivalry with Lesnar. He introduced Lesnar, and he stood ominously on a set of ring steps in the middle of the ring. Heyman continued to say that Vince McMahon turned down Undertaker’s request for a Wrestlemania rematch and said that the upcoming rematch was simply too big for Wrestlemania. He worked himself into a frenzy as he delivered Undertaker’s Last Rites in Latin. As if the Lesnar-Undertaker brawl left anything on the table, Heyman hit a home run explaining the stakes in the great SummerSlam main event.
Cesaro Chases Kevin Owens off of Miz TV
On a show full of Rowdy Roddy Piper tributes, none felt more sincere than the one from The Miz. He adapted Piper’s dress, paid tribute to Piper’s Pit, and got choked up talking about one of his heroes. Miz went on to say that Ryback should vacate the Intercontinental Title and give it to him as the top contender.
When Owens joined Miz in the ring, he said that Cesaro has targeted him because Cesaro is jealous of his natural ability. When Cesaro also entered, Owens went on to say that he has accomplished more in three months than Cesaro has in three years. Cesaro responded that, unlike Owens, he is better at fighting than talking, and challenged him to a fight. Owens started to walk and then jumped Cesaro when his guard was down. Nonetheless, Cesaro took Owens down and set him up for a Swing. Owens wriggled free and ran away from the fight.
This segment was important because it gave an explanation for why we should care about Owens and Cesaro wrestling. They are sure to have a good match, but without this narrative, the ceiling was lower. Additionally, it’s nice to see some effort in a story for Cesaro, which was something that had been extremely rare.
Paige def. Naomi
Team BAD laughed at the Submission Sorority (a truly awful name- hard to say, uncool, and not very descriptive) and Naomi challenged Paige to a match. Paige led off with a huge knee and a series of elbows. Naomi bulldogged Paige into the turnbuckle and stretched her around the post. Paige caught Naomi’s attempt at a cross body and turned it into a fallaway slam. Shortly after, Naomi missed a splash off the top rope. Paige hit a superkick and the PTO to get the submission win. It was clear that Paige was going to get the win headed into her post-show podcast with Steve Austin. It helped her to continue the trend of good matches and keeps the Divas division on a positive path.
Charlotte and Becky Lynch def. Bella Twins
The first women’s match of the night was not as strong as Paige and Naomi, but it reinforced the idea that there are challenges to Nikki Bellas Title coming from all directions. Becky put Brie in the Disarmer early and Brie barely made it to the bottom rope. The Bellas isolated Becky and kept her in the ring for a long stretch. When she finally reached Charlotte, Nikki quickly hit her with a spine buster. Charlotte turned the tide and made the Champion tap out to a Figure Eight. Despite the average match, the way Nikki has been protected made the outcome feel important.
Rusev def. Mark Henry
Rusev got a relatively easy win over Henry with two thrust kicks. He hit another kick after the bell to get some additional heat. Setting aside the treatment of Henry, this was the first week in which the lack of Dolph Ziggler exposed the flimsiness of this one-man feud.
New Day and The Ascension def. Lucha Dragons and Los Matadores
The Prime Time Players were on commentary again and made the most of a fairly boring match again. Kofi Kingston got the pin when he hit Trouble in Paradise to Kalisto while he was perched on the top rope. These eight man matches are too cumbersome to be on the show every week. Mixing and matching real tag matches would be far better.
King Barrett def. Zack Ryder
Barrett had to dig very deep into the past to establish a motivation for this match. He said that Ryder is a pretender to the throne because he used to consider himself the king of the internet. After a Broski Boot, Barrett hit the Bull Hammer and got another meaningless win.
Eden Interviews Stardust
I don’t care about Stardust’s ridiculous promo or feud with Stephen Amell. What entertained me in this backstage segment was the look on Eden’s face while she interviewed her husband in his lycra body suit.