The problem with building to trying to build everything to a crescendo at the same time, as WWE does every summer in the run-up to SummerSlam, is that it’s tricky to have it all come off in the best possible fashion. The 2018 edition of the second-biggest event on the WWE calendar, once again held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, was certainly loaded with both title matches and intrigue, but it fizzled after a hot start amid a third act full of abrupt and occasionally unsatisfying developments.
There were two big questions surrounding the main event, which featured Brock Lesnar defending his Universal Championship against Roman Reigns in what was expected to be the culmination of their long-running saga. But with Lesnar’s future with the company legitimately hazy and Money in the Bank contract holder Braun Strowman breezing through his match with Kevin Owens earlier in the night, an air of possible hijinks hung over the final bout and seemed to dampen the enthusiasm of an already tired crowd.
Samoa Joe plants A.J. Styles. Photo: George Tahinos, SLAM! Wrestling.
Spirits picked up when the popular Strowman made his way toward the ring right after the two bitter rivals were announced. Instead of turning the tilt into a Triple Threat Match, Strowman instead announced his intention to cash in the contract in his briefcase against the winner, whoever that might be. He was true to his word, standing right beside the ring to find out.
Reigns did his best to end things early, firing out of the gate with multiple Superman punches and three consecutive spears. However, the third one left him in the clutches of a guillotine choke by the champ, who reapplied the hold a short time later and quickly turned momentum in his favor.
After some trademark suplexes, Lesnar turned his attention to Strowman, catching the Monster Among Men by surprise with an attack and an F-5 on the floor. Lesnar followed up by beating the big man with his own briefcase and hurling it up on stage before following with chair shots – all legal since Strowman wasn’t actually part of the match.
Alas, the champ spent a bit too much time on the behemoth of a bystander and returned to the ring only to walk into a fourth spear by Reigns. A cover was quickly made and in less than 10 minutes, the belt changed hands. The broadcast ended right after that, leaving fans to assume Strowman simply suffered too much damage to seek his immediate title shot as planned. It’s clear that a large chunk of WWE fans will support him if he goes for Reigns’ new belt, as clearly audible chants of “You both suck” could be heard during the short main event.
Seth Rollins gets a little help from buddy Dean Ambrose. Photo: George Tahinos, SLAM! Wrestling.
No such derogatory descriptions were hurled at the night’s other big winner, Ronda Rousey. The former UFC champion got her first opportunity to pursue WWE gold and made the most of it, dispatching of Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss in what amounted to a glorified squash match.
The wiley Bliss attempted to avoid locking up with the determined Rousey early on, sliding out of the ring several times. That led Rousey to sit in the ring and turn her back on the champ, making it clear that Bliss could take a free shot.
She gave it her best effort, trying for a sleeper, but Rousey simply muscled her overhead and slammed her into the mat. A flurry of strikes and slams followed before Rowdy turned her attention to Bliss’s arm. After first trying to simply bend it backwards, Rousey eventually transitioned to a proper armbar, the hold that won her so much UFC fame. Bliss tapped out quickly, leaving Rousey to soak in the cheers and celebrate with her friend and training partner, Natalya.
Ronda Rousey is the new Raw Women’s Champion. Photo: George Tahinos, SLAM! Wrestling.
Despite that crowd-pleasing outcome, the Rousey triumph was one of a handful of very short matches on a card that still managed to pull off the unique trick of dragging in its second half. If it’s possible for a wrestling show to feel both bloated and rushed, SummerSlam 2018 pulled it off, leaving one that much more impressed at how the truly fantastic pay-per-view cards the company still manages from time to time come together.
The next WWE pay-per-view is Hell in a Cell on September 16th.
SummerSlam Kickoff Show
Guess who’s back? Back again? Alright, there’s no real need for us to quote old Eminem songs any more than that, so we’ll simply remind you that we’re using our typical SummerSlam recap style here, with Dale’s thoughts in italics and Nick chiming in using plain type.
Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega vs. Rusev and Lana – Mixed Tag Team Match
After having Rusev chase him around the ring, Almas takes a moment to pose on the ropes with Vega. Rusev and Lana flex at them as the Brooklyn crowd chants “Rusev Day!” Rusev gets slammed shoulder first into the ring post, but is able to avoid a splash. Vega slinks around the ring to yank Lana off the apron, not allowing Rusev to make the tag. Almas calls for the DDT, but Rusev fights him off the turnbuckle, sending him to the floor. Lana gets the tag and takes out Vega with a bulldog. She delivers double knees to the back of the head but can’t get the pin. Lana is sent face first into the turnbuckle. Lana pops up and connects with a running kick. Almas tries to distract Lana; she slaps him, but this allows Vega to roll her up. Vega uses the ropes for leverage and gets the pin.
Winners via pinfall: Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega
Drew Gulak (challenger) vs. Cedric Alexander (champion) – WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match
These two know each other very well, as in you could have ignored 205 Live for months and returned to find them feuding with each other and been just fine. Gulak gets an early taste of an Alexander dropkick and tries to roll out to the floor to catch a breather, but he rallies quickly by smashing the champ with a big kick to the face. After taking a bit of extended punishment, Alexander connects with a Flatliner, and both men are slow to rise. Alexander pummels Gulak with repeated shots on the mat and flies to the floor when the challenger tries to escape again. Gulak gets the better of an exchange of strikes and sets off a crazy sequence of attempted pinfalls. Alexander ends up the better man this time, pinning Gulak and retaining his title.
Winner via pinfall … and still cruiserweight champion: Cedric Alexander
The Revival (challengers) vs. The B Team (champions) – Raw Tag Team Title Match
Curtis Axel eats a Shatter Machine early on, perhaps some kind of meta commentary on The Revival getting a hard time for doing the Hart Attack in the middle of a match. He wasn’t the legal man, though, but of course, he ends up semi-accidentally being in the right place at the right time to get the pinfall. Dash and Dawson are upset, but there’s not much they can do.
Winners via pinfall … and still Raw Tag Team champions: The B Team
SummerSlam main card
Seth Rollins w/Dean Ambrose (challenger) vs. Dolph Ziggler w/Drew McIntyre (champion) – Intercontinental Championship Match
How long will it take McIntyre and Ambrose to go face to face? About 45 seconds. The seconds try to do some intimidation when the combatants both end up on the outside, and Ziggler decides to zero in on the challenger’s knee. Good thing the Kingslayer’s mismatched boots look like they have knee protection built in. Even with a wonky knee, Rollins is able to catch Ziggler coming off the top rope, which is pretty impressive. Ziggler nearly rolls up Rollins for a pinfall, but Seth returns the favor with a brainbuster. An even cooler spot comes a few minutes later as the champ delivers a huge DDT on the apron, and Rollins just barely slides back into the ring in time to beat the referee’s count. The next big move is Rollins’ superplex rolled through into a Falcon Arrow, except it turns into a side slam instead. McIntyre finally launches an attack on Ambrose, and a Zig Zag gets a two count for the champ while also busting open Rollins the hard way. It doesn’t stop him from a Buckle Bomb, and Ambrose neutralizes McIntyre just in time for Seth’s Stomp to keep Ziggler down for three. New champ to kick off the show? Yes indeed.
Winner via pinfall … and new Intercontinental Champion: Seth Rollins
Match Rating: 7.5/10
The Bella Twins are on hand tonight, deflecting a question about whether they’d entertain thoughts of returning to the ring themselves. Brie Bella does an excellent job pushing everything else they’re doing, and both women remind us about the upcoming all-women Evolution pay-per-view and how they’re looking forward to seeing Ronda Rousey defeat Alexa Bliss. Elsewhere, Jon Stewart is ringside. Keep an eye on that guy, because he might get involved. He’s done it before.
The New Day (challengers) vs. The Bludgeon Brothers (champions) – Smackdown Tag Team Title Match
Xavier Woods and Big E represent the New Day. Woods has to kick out of an early pin. Rowan splashes Woods and covers, but he can’t get the pin. Harper gets the tag, hitting Woods with a senton over the ropes. Big E gets powerslammed on the floor as Woods gets tossed out of the ring. Woods escapes from getting slammed onto the ring steps. Harper hits his head off the steps and Woods gets the tag. Big E hits a belly to belly on the Brothers on the floor, then hits Harper with another one in the ring. Woods takes out Rowan with a plancha and Big E spears Harper off the apron. Back in the ring, Big E takes a dual slam. Woods makes a tag after hitting an enziguri. He gets double-teamed and powerslammed, but kicks out of the Harper pin. Kofi gets taken out by Rowan, but Big E hits Rowan with the Big Ending. Big E with a side slam off the apron as Woods kicks Harper. Harper rolls to the floor, so Woods drops an elbow from the top turnbuckle. Rowan cuts off Woods on the top turnbuckle with a shot from the hammer. The ref calls for the bell. Harper then bludgeons Big E with the hammer. The Bludgeon Brothers retain the tag team titles.
I have to apologize because I said The New Day was doomed as soon as I saw Woods was in the match, and then he had the best spot of anyone. Sorry, Xavier.
Winners via disqualification: The New Day
Match Rating: 6/10
Kevin Owens vs. Braun Strowman – Money in the Bank Contract Match
KO figures to take some big bumps, and boy, it happens quickly. Several shoulder tackles on the outside, a chokeslam on the ramp and a running powerslam in the ring and it’s all over. Owens deserves to be the 2018 MVP for agreeing to be in this feud.
Winner via pinfall … and still Monster in the Bank: Braun Strowman
Match Rating: N/A
Becky Lynch (challenger) vs. Charlotte Flair (challenger) vs. Carmella (champion) – Smackdown Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match
Becky and Charlotte show respect to each other only for Carmella to blow up Becky. Lynch fires back but misses a leg drop. Carmella covers and Flair breaks it up. Carmella cowers in the corner, baiting Becky and Charlotte. Becky tosses Carmella out of the ring and then trades rolls up with Charlotte. Lynch with a few deep arm drags to Flair. Charlotte goes up and over to the apron, only for Carmella to yank her to the floor and smash her into the ring post. Carmella then slams Becky into the ring steps before tossing her back into the ring. The champ taunts Lynch and then pulls her into a kick from Charlotte. Flair chops away at Carmella and hits her with a fallaway slam. She hits a belly to back suplex. Carmella blocks the Figure Four and Becky hits Flair on the apron. Lynch with a double drop kick off the top. Flair rolls to the floor, as Lynch kicks the champ in the get. Lynch with the Bex-sploder suplex. Carmella cuts her off on the top turnbuckle and slams her to the mat with a head scissors. Flair with a spear to both women, but can’t get the pin. Flair is set on the top turnbuckle, but she blocks the head scissors. Flair drags Carmella to the middle of the ring and locks in the Figure Four. Lynch breaks the hold with a leg drop from up high. Carmella knocks Lynch off the apron and follows with a suicide dive, while Flair goes up top and takes out both women with a corkscrew moonsault. She tosses Lynch into the ring, but Becky counters into the Dis-Arm-Her. Carmella breaks up the hold. A kick to the temple sends Flair to the floor. Becky eats a superkick, but is still able to lock in the Dis-Arm-Her. Carmella is able to get to the ropes. Lynch with a Bex-sploder and locks in the armbar again. Charlotte breaks the hold with Natural Selection and covers Lynch to get the pin.
Winner via pinfall … and new Smackdown Women’s champion: Charlotte Flair
Match Rating: 7.5/10
After the match, Flair and Lynch embrace in the middle of the ring, but then Lynch punks her out, beating her down to the floor. Becky tosses her friend into the security barrier and then over the announce table.
Samoa Joe (challenger) vs. AJ Styles (champion) – WWE Championship Match
AJ Styles has his wife and daughter in the front row to show support for him. Styles tries to chop Joe down with kicks to the legs. Joe takes down AJ with one kick and then punches him into the corner. AJ dodges a forearm smash and catches Joe with a drop kick. Styles goes back to working the legs with kicks. Joe goes to the floor, so AJ nails him with a sliding drop kick. Joe blocks a sliding knee and slams the champ onto the apron. Joe then connects with a suicide dive, sending AJ into the announce table. Styles runs into a clothesline in the ring, and just barely kicks out of a pin. Styles blocks a suicide dive with a enziguri. He unleashes a flurry of strikes and hits the Stinger splash. Joe runs into an elbow and gets hit with a DDT. Joe kicks out of the pin. Joe is set on the top turnbuckle. He shoves AJ to the mat and connects with a flying knee strike. AJ runs into an atomic drop and Joe follows with a senton. Joe runs into the Ushigorosh. Joe fights off the Styles Clash and dodges the Phenomenal Forearm. Joe quickly hits a power slam. Styles with a kick and connects with the Styles Clash. Joe kicks out at two. Styles punches Joe into the corner. Joe fights out and then counters a corner splash by driving Styles into the mat. AJ gets out of the corner by locking in the Calf Crusher. Joe slams AJ’s head into the mat and then counters into the Coquina Clutch. AJ is able to get a foot on the ropes to break the hold. AJ fights off the top turnbuckle, but Joe connects with an enziguri, sending AJ to the floor. Joe slams AJ into the ring steps. Joe grabs a microphone and tells AJ’s wife that AJ isn’t coming home, but he’ll be her new daddy. AJ knocks Joe off the announce table and into the timekeeper’s area. AJ grabs a chair and nails Joe. The ref calls for the bell.
Winner by disqualification: Samoa Joe
Match Rating: 8/10
AJ’s wife pleads for her husband to stop. AJ apologizes to his daughter and walks out through the crowd with his family.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elias. After a heartfelt speech about making his best music ever, Elias goes to start playing and discovers his guitar is broken. Listen all of ya’ll, this is sabotage!
Backstage, The Miz runs into the B Team, his former Miz-tourage. Miz tries to order them around. Bo Dallas tells Miz that the B stands for Daniel Bryan.
I enjoyed that segment simply for the look on Miz’s face, as this was his first time getting the complete B-Team experience and he clearly had no idea what to make of his former flunkies.
The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan
Maryse is in the front row with the baby. Bryan and Miz face off, but Miz backs into the corner, refusing to fight. The two finally lock up. Miz sneaks in with a cheap shot and beats Bryan into the corner. He kicks Bryan in the corner and connects with a drop kick. Bryan fights back, unloading with kicks of his own. Bryan with a bulldog, but he only gets a two count. Bryan takes a knee to the mid-section and Miz locks him in a surfboard. Bryan breaks free, kicking Miz in the hamstrings. Bryan shows the Miz how it is done with a surfboard of his own. Bryan gets crotched on the top rope and Miz drills him with a clothesline. Miz with a neck breaker, but he only gets a two count. Bryan connects with a drop kick in the corner and unloads more kicks. A head scissors sends Miz to the mat and out of the ring. Bryan hits a wrecking ball drop kick. Bryan gets caught on the top turnbuckle. Bryan drops down and crotches Miz, who gets hung up in the tree of woe. Bryan tees off with kicks and nails a low drop kick. Bryan with a superplex, but Miz kicks out at two. Miz ducks one of the Yes kicks and drops Bryan with a DDT. Miz tees off with his IT kicks. Bryan catches the leg and hits a dragon screw. Miz catches Bryan and looks for the Figure Four; Bryan fights him off, but Miz catapults him into the corner. Miz hits the Skull Crushing Finale, but Bryan kicks out. Miz mocks Bryan’s yes chant, but he runs into a kick from Bryan. The fight spills to the apron, where Bryan misses a kick, catching the ring post. Miz locks in the Figure Four. The two trade punches while in the hold. Bryan flips the hold, but Miz is able to get to the ropes. Bryan unloads elbow strikes and applies the YES! lock. Even while getting punched in the back of the head, Miz is able to get to the ropes. Miz is knocked into the security barrier in front of his wife, and she hands him something, possibly brass knuckles. Miz blocks a suicide dive with a punch. Miz scrambles back into the ring and covers to get the pin.
Winner via pinfall: The Miz
Match Rating: 7/10
Baron Corbin vs. Finn Balor
You know, most people didn’t think we’d see Balor bring out “The Demon” for a match like this. Most people were wrong. Corbin is so spooked by the paint (and Corey Graves is livid on his behalf, saying the Constable isn’t ready for this) that he ends up getting squashed. At least we got to see that awesome entrance.
Winner via pinfall: Finn Balor
Match Rating: N/A
Brie checks on Daniel Bryan backstage. Bryan is extremely upset that Miz cheated. Brie tries to build him back up, telling him to fight for his dreams. The fight isn’t over. Bryan tells her to go back out and enjoy the show.
Jeff Hardy (challenger) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (champion) – United States Championship Match
The two feel each other out, with Nakamura taunting Hardy. Jeff runs into a knee strike, but then ducks several strikes. Hardy turns the tables by mocking Nakamura. Hardy breaks a head lock with a chin breaker. Nakamura with a spinning kick on the apron. He follows with a knee lift on the apron and kick to the back of the neck. Nakamura with more strikes, but then runs into a back elbow. Hardy connects with a sling blade and an inverted atomic drop. Nakamura kicks out of the pin. Nakamura connects with a spin kick. Shinsuke blocks the Twist of Fate, then sets Hardy on the top turnbuckle. Hardy dodges it and then hits Whisper in the Wind. Nakamura kicks out. Hardy gets caught up top, and this time Nakamura connects with the knee strike. Hardy goes for a Twist of Fate as Nakamura misses on a low blow. Hardy with a jaw breaker and hits a swanton bomb. Nakamura breaks the pin by grabbing the bottom rope. Hardy hits the Twist of Fate. Nakamura climbs to the apron as Hardy stands atop the ring post. Hardy dives, but Nakamura rolls away and Hardy crashes and burns on the apron. Nakamura delivers a kick and follows with the Kinshasa. Nakamura covers for the win.
Hardy might be getting up there in years now, but that missed swanton bomb on the apron was perhaps the nastiest bump anyone took all night. Mad respect for that.
Winner via pinfall … and still United States Champion: Shinsuke Nakamura
Match Rating: 6.5/10
After the match, Randy Orton walks halfway down the ramp. He looks at Hardy in the ring, shakes his head, and walks back to the locker room.
If anyone understands what they are doing with Orton, please let me know.
Ronda Rousey (challenger) vs. Alexa Bliss (champion) – Raw Women’s Title Match
Winner via submission … and new Raw Women’s Champion: Ronda Rousey
Match Rating: N/A
Roman Reigns (challenger) vs. Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman (champion) – WWE Universal Title Match
Winner via pinfall and new WWE Universal Title: Roman Reigns
Match Rating: 4/10
Total Event Time: 4 hours and 3 minutes
Event Rating: 5/10
Dale and Nick have been at this a long time and love wrestling but still find the longer WWE pay-per-views with two-hour Kickoff Shows to be … well, a little much. Agree with them or tell them to suck it up by hitting up Dale on Twitter @dplummer627 or Nick @nick_tylwalk.