More isn’t always better. SummerSlam 2016 was definite proof of that.
As always, the WWE tried its best to load up the second-biggest pay-per-view card of the year, one that returned to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the second straight year. While it started with promise, reaching a crescendo with the best match John Cena and AJ Styles have had to date, it ultimately strained to deliver consistently thanks to its own bloated weight.
The result was a crowd that was showing signs of fatigue even before the main event rolled around. That featured a match-up sold entirely on the not insignificant star power of Brock Lesnar and the recently returned Randy Orton, a true novelty due to the fact that the two had somehow never faced off at a PPV before.
That the showdown earned a higher place on the card than either a WWE Championship match or the christening of the brand new WWE Universal Title said volumes about how the promotion is still finding its way after the most recent brand split.
Paul Heyman gave Lesnar a custom ring introduction before Orton joined him in the ring. A short staredown also preceded the opening bell, and it didn’t take long for Lesnar to back Orton into a corner to lay into him with shoulders and punches. Orton tried for an early RKO, but Lesnar merely shrugged him off and smirked.
With Mauro Ranallo talking about how many suplexes Lesnar delivered in prior main events, he opened his account for this one, mixing knees in-between German suplexes. Five came in fairly short succession, then a sixth.
Out on the floor, Orton tried some forearm shots to get back into it, but that just made Lesnar bounce him off the top of one of the announce tables. Since it didn’t break the first time, Lesnar threw Orton from the other side of the barricade through that same table.
Up onto another table they went, but this time it was Orton pulling off an RKO — of course, it didn’t break the table. Lesnar attempted to climb back in the ring, where he was greeted by an elevated DDT. A second RKO followed, causing a moment of doubt in Heyman before Lesnar kicked out.
An F-5 caught Orton coming in, and Lesnar showed a look of some disbelief when his foe kicked out as well. The gloves came off for the Beast, as he rained down punches and elbows with both hands. Blood flowed freely from Orton’s face, with the ref and the doctor both checking on Randy. Lesnar came back from the corner and threw another series of punches just for good measure. Another attack followed as “Goldberg” chants broke out.
The ref called for the bell as Lesnar stood over Orton, and Shane Mcmahon came out to confront Lesnar as well. One F-5 later and even Heyman was screaming for his client to stop.
And then things just kind of … ended. No Goldberg, no surprises, no huge crowd reaction as the fans at Barclays tried to digest how things wrapped up. Lesnar was declared the winner by TKO, which isn’t even a thing in most WWE matches.
The next WWE pay-per-view is the Smackdown only Backlash on September 11.
Because we care so much, we sat through the pre-show as well, stretching four-plus hours of wrestling out for more than another hour. Befitting a tale as old as time, Nick’s comments are in plain type, while Dale’s musings are in italics.
American Alpha, The Usos and The Hype Bros vs. The Ascension, The Vaudevillians and Breezango
This is the same match we just saw on Tuesday night. And guess what? The result is too, except this time after hitting Grand Amplitude, Jey Uso makes the tag and hits a Superfly splash to get the pin on Simon Gotch.
Winners via pinfall: American Alpha, The Usos and The Hype Bros
The Dudley Boyz vs. Sami Zayn and Neville
So we are a month into the brand split and this is the only thing they have for Sami Zayn? The good news is that he is on the card. And he gets the win with Neville after Bubba Ray accidentally takes out D-Von with a clothesline. Sami connects with the Helluva Kick and Neville gets the pin after hitting the Red Arrow.
Winners via pinfall: Sami Zayn and Neville
Sheamus vs. Cesaro – Match #1 in a Best of 7 Series
It’s the best of seven series that no one is asking for. Sheamus gets on the board first after slamming Cesaro into the ring post and then hitting a Brogue Kick.
Winner via pinfall: Sheamus
SummerSlam Full Results
Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho
Lots of wrestlers give props to the city in which the pay-per-view is being held, but not many do it with the style of Enzo and Cass. Also, the seven-footer is a pretty good singer. Who knew? Their well-oiled tag team tactics rule the early going, including several different variations of Cass throwing Enzo at their Canadian opponents. The heels eventually swing the momentum in their favor, with Enzo taking the obligatory extended sequence of punishment. A missed cannonball by Owens gives Cass the opening he needs to get into the game, and he finds Jericho with an Empire Elbow. The faces go for their finisher only to have KO break it up and smash into Cass on the outside. Enzo tosses Jericho off the top turnbuckle and hits a DDG, but Owens drags him away and tosses him into a Codebreaker.
Winners via pinfall: Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens
Match Rating: 7/10
Mick Foley runs into Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan backstage for some good-natured inter-brand banter, and they’re quickly joined by Jon Stewart. The former TV host is distraught by Mick working for Stephanie McMahon, who of course is standing right behind him. That classic bit is interrupted by the arrival of the New Day. Is Steph actually misunderstood? And what’s this about tap dancing? We never get answers to those questions.
Sasha Banks (champion) vs. Charlotte (challenger) WWE Women’s Title match
Charlotte regained the WWE Women’s title. — WWE SummerSlam photo gallery
Expecting a physical match-up here? You got it, though Sasha lands awkwardly on a move in the corner and looks for a second like she might be hurt. Her neck and back can’t feel good. She sells the pain to her back as Charlotte presses forward for some more near falls. The challenger goes for a Razor’s Edge off the top rope, but the champ reverses it into a hurracanrana that leaves them both down. Charlotte takes a double knee to the back in the corner but manages to kick out. After a series of reversals, Charlotte ends up in the crossface until she wriggles free. A neckbreaker and chop block set up the Natural Selection, but this time it’s Banks who kicks out at two. The Bank Statement is administered, but Charlotte manages to roll over so Sasha’s shoulders are on the mat, and Banks loses her belt. Now the question is how badly she’s hurt.
Winner via pinfall … and new Women’s Champion … Charlotte
Match Rating: 6.5/10
A.J. meets his doctor friends backstage as The Club revels in what they’re going to do tonight. Finn Balor stops by briefly but refuses to make the “too sweet” hand sign with them, disappointing the fans.
Apollo Crews (challenger) vs. The Miz w/Maryse (champion) – WWE Intercontinental Title Match
Miz dodges a dropkick and counters into a DDT. Crews hits a series of running clotheslines and gets a pinfall attempt after a Samoan drop. Miz flips over and looks for the Skull Crushing Finale, but Crews counters and goes for a standing moonsault. Miz gets his knees up to block. Crews catches Miz in the corner and tosses him across the ring. He connects with the standing moonsault, but still can’t get the pin. Miz rolls to the floor, but Crews follows him, tossing him back into the ring. Maryse provides a distraction, allowing Miz to set up the Skull Crushing Finale. Apollo rolls through and nearly gets a pin. Crews goes for the Stinger Splash, but Miz dodges. Apollo crashes and burns on the ring post. Miz hits the Skull Crushing Finale and gets the pin.
Winner via pinfall … and still Intercontinental Champion … The Miz
Match Rating: 5/10
John Cena vs. AJ Styles
AJ Styles lands a punch on John Cena. — WWE SummerSlam photo gallery
The crowd is hot for this match tonight. AJ and Cena size each other up to start the match, with neither man getting the upper hand. Cena shoots off the ropes, right into a dropkick. Styles celebrates, and Cena nails him and beats him into the corner. Cena goes for an AA on the apron, but AJ counters with a suplex on the apron. Cena sends AJ flying with a huge back body drop. Cena hits the Five Knuckle Shuffle and goes for the AA. AJ lands on his feet and hits the Styles Clash. Cena kicks out of the pin. Cena hits an AA and Styles kicks out. Cena sets up AJ on the middle turnbuckle for an AA, but AJ counters into a torture rack and then hits a powerbomb. Cena kicks out. AJ takes a cutter from Cena and kicks out. AJ goes up top and misses the springboard 450. Cena follows with a Canadian Destroyer. AJ kicks out of the pin. AJ counters another AA with a German suplex, followed by a facebuster. Cena kicks out and is able to lock in the STF. AJ reverses into a crossface. Cena is able to get to his feet with AJ on his back. Styles escapes and locks in the Calf Crusher. Cena reverses into an STF. Styles reverses into a pinfall attempt, and Cena kicks out. AJ attacks Cena in the corner, but Cena hits him with a tornado DDT. Cena hits a leg drop off the middle rope, but can’t get the cover. Cena sets AJ up on the middle rope for an AA, but Styles escapes and hits Cena with a Frankensteiner. Styles hits the Phenomenal Forearm, and Cena kicks out. AJ runs into a lariat, and Cena takes him up top again. Cena hits the AA from the middle rope, but AJ is able to kick out. Cena is stunned and goes for another AA. AJ counters into a Styles Clash and follows with a Phenomenal Forearm. AJ covers and gets the pin.
Winner via pinfall: AJ Styles
Match Rating: 9/10
Most of the Brooklyn crowd stands and applauds Cena after his loss, which they should because that was one heck of a match. He leaves his “Never Give Up” armband in the ring, which might be symbolic of the fact that we’re not going to see him around as much. Or maybe I’m reading too much into that.
Because you don’t get Stewart and just have him in one backstage segment, he heads down to the ring. Jon calls the last match “magic” and says he’s happy some idiot didn’t interfere for no reason and hit one of them with a chair. He shows his true colors by declaring that he’s joining the New Day to help with their intro.
The New Day (champions) vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson (challengers) – WWE Tag Team Championship Match
The New Day rules the early going, with Gallows experiencing a unicorn stampede and absorbing a dive out to the floor by Kofi. Both members of the champs have unicorn horns on their boots, which probably help Woods walk out onto the ropes to launch into a flying elbow that gets a near fall on Anderson. The heels rally to hit a Magic Killer on Kingston, but Stewart climbs in the ring. He tucks in his shirt to follow his own advice on not showing old man belly, though it appears the doctors have some ringpostitis in mind instead. Big E runs down to save the day, and the ref calls for the bell. Stewart and the New Day celebrate together, and their title reign continues.
Winners by disqualification … Gallows & Anderson, but The New Day retains the tag team titles.
Match Rating: 6/10
Dean Ambrose (champion) vs. Dolph Ziggler (challenger) – WWE Title Match
Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon are in the ring as Dolph and Dean make their entrances. And they do their best to keep Dolph and Dean separated before the bell.
Ziggler nearly gets a pin with an early roll up. Dean goes to the floor, but Dolph follows and hits a Stinger Splash on the barricade. Back in the ring, Dolph goes for a DDT, but Dean counters by throwing him clean out of the ring. Ambrose gets Dolph on the top turnbuckle and hits a modified suplex. He follows with a single leg Boston crab and then a snap suplex. Dolph dropkicks Ambrose out of mid-air as the champ comes off the top rope. Dean warms up the band to mock Ziggler, who drops him with a DDT. Ambrose blocks a Famouser but then gets run into the ringpost. Ziggler hits a Famouser but only covers for a two count. Ambrose hits a running bulldog and climbs the turnbuckle. The WWE champ lands an elbow but only gets a two count. Ziggler locks in a sleeperhold, and both men fall to the outside. Ziggler connects with a superkick and rolls Dean into the ring. Ziggler locks in a choke hold. Ambrose breaks free and hits the Lunatic Lariat. Ambrose goes up top. Ziggler follows, but Ambrose fights him off. Ambrose knocks him to the mat, leaps down and hits Dirty Deeds to get the win.
Winner via pinfall … and still WWE Champion … Dean Ambrose
Match Rating: 6/10
Naomi, Carmella and Becky Lynch vs. Natalya, Alexa Bliss and Eva Marie
So Eva Marie is suspended, but she still got her entrance with the giant disembodied voice. They tell us that she is suffering from exhaustion caused by WWE fans, but we know the truth. Eva does have a replacement, and it’s Nikki Bella, making her return from injury.
Nikki returns to form, taunting Carmella by doing push-ups after slamming her. Nattie tags in, locking in an abdominal stretch. Carmella elbows her way out, but is cut off from the tag. Becky Lynch gets the hot tag, suplexing Nattie and Alexa and then whipping Nikki into the corner. She delivers kicks to all three women. She hits Nattie with the Bex-sploder suplex. An enziguri sends Nattie to the mat, and Becky goes up top. She drops the leg, but Nikki breaks the pin. Naomi makes a blind tag and catches Nattie with a springboard body press. Nikki tags in, only to catch a superkick from Carmella. Alexa and Nattie run in to break the pin. Nikki hits the Rack Attack on Carmella and covers for the win.
Winner via pinfall … Nikki Bella, Alexa Bliss and Natalya
Match Rating: 5/10
Maria Menounos wants to talk to Rusev and Lana backstage for some reason. Guess what? Rusev is still angry. He and Lana vow that the Bulgarian Brute will crush Reigns into dust.
Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor
Finn Balor is the first WWE Universal champion. — WWE SummerSlam photo gallery
Rollins does his best to look unimpressed at Balor’s elaborate Demon King entrance, but he has to change his tune after Balor fires out of the gate. The fight goes out to the floor, but Rollins outwits Balor returning to the ring. Finn goes to work on Rollins’ knee only to be launched into barricade on the floor and rolled back in for a two count. The action slows as Rollins works over Balor on the mat, and the fans aren’t as into this as you might think. As evidence, there’s very little reaction after Rollins hits a huge splash and Balor kicks out. Finally some dueling chants break out as Balor tears into Rollins with chops and a low dropkick. A Sling Blade has Balor looking confident, but Rollins counters that only to get countered in return. A backbreaker and the 1916 get a near fall for Balor, though he blunders into a leg triangle right after that. There’s no rope break because of the stipulation that the match can only end by pinfall or submission, so Rollins brings Balor back in the ring. A powerbomb into the turnbuckle and a kick to the head both connect, but Balor kicks out once again. Rollins digs into the back half of his playbook for a small package driver, and a moment later he hits a Pedigree as well. It’s still not enough. Seth tries a superplex followed by a Pedigree, but Balor rallies with a series of moves. There’s the Coup de Grace, and Balor is the first ever Universal Champion.
Winner via pinfall… and first ever WWE Universal Champion … Finn Balor
Match Rating: 7.5/10
KFC’s sponsorship plays out in a Colonel Sanders vs. Chicken Little spot that features The Miz in a chicken suit and Dolph Ziggler as the Colonel. Kind of surreal. Maybe it’s a shared hallucination brought on because this show is so long.
Rusev w/ Lana (champion) vs. Roman Reigns (challenger) – United States Title Match
No waiting for the bell to ring here. Rusev hurls Reigns into the stairs not once, but twice. Roman buys himself a moment by hurling the champ into the timekeeper’s area and then keeping him back there with a Superman punch. After an extended brawl, a group of refs comes out, and for some reason, it’s Roman who gets sent to the back, maybe because of the chair shots. The ring announcer says that Rusev is unable to continue. Reigns comes flying back down the ramp to deliver a spear, and that’s not going to make whatever Rusev’s boo boo is any better. Sorry folks, no actual match in the second to last spot on the card.
Match Rating: N/A
Brock Lesnar w/ Paul Heyman vs. Randy Orton
Winner via TKO: Brock Lesnar
Match Rating: 4/10
Total Event Time: 4 hours and 4 minutes
Event Rating: 6.5/10