1. Main Event Feels Flat
I wrote repeatedly that the HHH-Brock Lesnar buildup felt formulaic and uninspiring, but that I was excited for the match itself. It turns out that “The Perfect Storm” was more rainy day than hurricane, as neither wrestler was especially impressive or memorable. While part of me wants to blame HHH for not having enough athleticism left to have a great match with another big man, he put on a great match with Undertaker at Wrestlemania and Lesnar had an entertaining match with Cena earlier this year. Neither of those opponents are notably “athletic.” The low point of the match was when HHH shoved Lesnar into the announce table and Lesnar sold a stomach injury, supposedly related to his bouts with diverticulitis. I would have expected WWE to understand that there is a difference between an injury and a disease. A bruise is an injury; diverticulitis is a disease. If you have leukemia, the disease does not make you susceptible to being hit in the blood. On the bright side, Lesnar winning was the proper result, and gets him over strongly for the rematch at this year’s Wrestlemania when HHH will win his last official match. Hopefully they will redeem themselves there.
This match also demonstrated something that was a bit of a problem for SummerSlam at large. In the interest of building the #2 PPV of the year, most of the matches were fresh match-ups that have not been seen recently. The downside to freshness is that the feuds have not fully developed yet and the big SummerSlam match ends up being a stepping stone to the culmination at a later event. Wrestlemania has suffered from the same problem for several years- Backlash/Extreme Rules has actually been the better event for serious fans lately since it cashes in on the stories that developed at Wrestlemania. I think this issue is symptomatic of the light-speed feud development in a 14-PPV cycle, and it will always be a challenge for the show’s writers.
2. Punk Retains in Yet Another Non-Main Event
Several commenters sagely pointed out on Twitter that it was appropriate that Punk could not even get in a main event match when paired with John Cena. I enjoyed the action in this match that primarily saw Big Show effectively beat back both adversaries individually. As a result, Punk and Cena had to form a tenuous partnership that resulted in a pair of strange conclusions. First, Punk locked Big Show in his modified leg choke hold and Cena joined the fray by adding his STF on top of Punk’s submission. When Big Show tapped out, it was unclear who properly won, so AJ emerged to restart the match. After the restart, Cena hit the AA on Big Show- teased by Punk’s earlier inability to lift Big Show into position for the GTS- and Punk snuck in to vulture the pin and retain the title. Even though I thought Punk might have stopped his character transition as a tweener, his tactics in this match leave little doubt that it was just part of a slow turn to a full heel, albeit one who is still likable for many adult fans.
3. Chris Jericho Wins the Big One
One aspect that I did not like in the otherwise excellent buildup to this match was the disregard for the things Jericho has won since returning to WWE. Namely, Jericho won a battle royal to become the number one contender to the WWE title at Wrestlemania. Even though it did not happen at a PPV, isn’t the result of that match comparable to the Royal Rumble? And isn’t that more important than a random PPV match against Dolph Ziggler? In any case, it was probably the most entertaining match of the night, and it ended with Jericho making Ziggler tap to the lion-tamer version of the Walls of Jericho. I still assume that the feud will end with Ziggler going over Jericho, which means that this strong match was really part of the buildup to the final blow-off.
4. Sheamus Uses Heel Tactics to Win
Sheamus retained his title after hitting Alberto Del Rio with Ricardo Rodriguez’s shoe, then pulling Del Rio’s foot off the ropes after the pin to shield the break from the referee. For much of the feud, Sheamus has played the nefarious villain- stealing and trashing Del Rio’s car- while Del Rio has been more virtuous- agreeing not to file a police report to allow their match to go on. There is obviously more to come between these two, but it still feels like they are killing time until Ziggler cashes in his contract.
5. The Rest
Daniel Bryan’s roll-up victory works for him and Kane. He reestablishes some legitimacy after losing several matches and Kane comes away looking irate, which is the only way Kane ever seems meaningful… Miz got some heat back by avenging an earlier defeat to Rey Mysterio in one of the better matches on the show. I get that he is being booked as a big match wrestler, but I worry that if he loses so often on free TV, the huge segment of fans that does not watch PPVs will not respect him… R-Truth and Kofi Kingston retained their titles against an AW-less Prime Time Players. I suspect that AW was kept away from Staples Center after his Kobe joke. It will be interesting to see if they use his absence as part of the storyline. I think there is more to come between these two teams… Antonio Cesaro beat Santino Marella for the U.S. Title. I prefer him as a serious U.S. Champion but his character still needs development. It is interesting that he won a title faster than some of the other newer wrestlers who debuted this year and seemingly received a bigger push- Ryback, Tensai, Clay, Sandow.