** KICK-OFF SHOW **
Can I once again state how annoying it is for me to have to sift through two hours of video to find a couple of short matches?
THE HARDY BOYZ & JASON JORDAN vs. THE MIZ & THE MIZ-TOURAGE (w/Maryse) - 4.5/10
Can someone please explain to me to purpose of doing these matches so f*cking early into the show that 90% of the ringside seating section is still empty because the fans haven't shown up yet? Why can't they just do a one-hour pre-show with just hype and talking and then give us an extra hour of PPV time to use to fit in all of your matches including these Kick-Off Show matches.
The match was what it was. The finish, on the other hand, was terrible. WWE decided that the best way to build Jason Jordan up was to have him get pinned cleanly by The Miz. Yes, really.
Oh my G-d are Seth and Dean STILL talking? I've made an entire f*cking pot of spaghetti since this segment started.
WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Akira Tozawa (c) (w/Titus O'Neil) vs. Neville - 6/10
They keep explaining to us that the crowd is still "filing in" and that's why there are so many empty seats. Here's an idea for you, WWE: If you don't like the optics of all of these empty seats to the point where you feel the need to constantly explain to us that the seats were, in fact, sold, then why don't you just schedule the matches for AFTER the crowd has mostly filed in?
Oh. Right. The match. Neville worked over Tozawa's back and won the match cleanly, winning the title back just six days after losing it. If you were going to do this when why did you even put the belt on Tozawa in the first place?
THE DRIFTER PLAYS HIS SONG - And he doesn't get interrupted? That is definitely the biggest swerve we'll see all night. Or all weekend. Or all year. WHAT THE F*CK?! He even got through TWO songs without anything happening to him at all?
WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The New Day (c) (w/Kofi Kingston) vs. The Usos - 8.75/10
We have yet another match where I'm not quite sure why they changed the belts back, but I'm slightly less inclined to complain when the match is this awesome.
** MAIN SHOW **
JOHN CENA vs. BARON CORBIN - 5.5/10
This match was nowhere near as intense as it should have been in order to make Cena screwing Corbin out of his MITB title shot feel like a big deal. Corbin should have been going nuts from before the opening bell and should have been trying to kill Cena after the match. Instead we got every Corbin match ever and a clean Cena win with no follow-up at all.
WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN'S TITLE MATCH:
Naomi (c) vs. Natalya - 5.75/10
Nattie wins a decent match with a very good finishing sequence. Hopefully this means that Naomi's push is over and we'll never have to hear the word "glow" again. Nattie has her big celebration... and then we cut to a WWEShop commercial.
After all of that teasing- even after showing her watching this match backstage- Carmella didn't cash in. At this point it honestly feels like their main priority in booking tonight's finishes was to make them as unpredictable as possible, which is a receipt for disaster. You top priority in booking finishes should always be to do what is best for the story, regardless of how predictable it is.
ENZO AMORE IS LOCKED IN A SHARK CAGE ABOVE THE RING:
Big Show vs. Colin Cassady - 4.75/10
Enzo cut a pointless promo before the match. Big Show and Cass were actually having a pretty decent match built around Big Show's injured hand. Then Enzo managed to escape the shark cage by taking his clothes off and slipping through the bars. Didn't they measure the space between the bars before building the cage? Anyway, Enzo escapes the cage, thus violating the rules of the match, so shouldn't this be a DQ? Then Cass just laid Enzo out and also beat up Big Show and got the win. Has there ever been a bigger loser than Enzo?
KURT ANGLE & DANIEL BRYAN BACKSTAGE - Atrocious in every way. Kurt was forced to say "we've had shark cages and title changes." Perhaps even more humiliatingly, Bryan was forced to say that "the Smackdown brand will steal the show," and then follow up that statement by with the words "our WWE Championship match has Jinder Mahal." More cringe-worthy dialogue followed. This was two guys forced to utter horrible dialogue while bickering about which brand will is going to put on a better show, which is something that not one single fan could possibly care about. There was no reason for this segment to happen, and it was utterly embarrassing to think of someone walking into the room while it was on. This is Bryan Danielson and Kurt Angle. Why could they not just go to Vince and tell him that the segment was atrocious and pointless and they weren't going to do it?
RANDY ORTON vs. RUSEV - DUD!
Rusev jumped Orton during his entrance and beat him up. Randy says he'll fight anyway because he's a babyface and that's what babyfaces do. The bell was rung, Rusev charged at Randy and missed, bumping into the turnbuckle. Then Randy hit Rusev with the RKO and won the match. This does not help Randy at all and completely buries Rusev. I really hope Rusev's contract is coming up soon so he can leave WWE and go to a promotion that will actually appreciate his talents (ROH and New Japan seem like the best bets, but LU could work, too).
WWE RAW WOMEN'S TITLE MATCH:
Alexa Bliss! (c) vs. Sasha Banks- 6.25/10
Just when I thought I couldn't love Alexa Bliss! any more than I already do, Corey Graves told me that she likes to call herself "the Yankees of WWE."
Alexa worked over Sasha's mid-section before switching to her arm in an attempt to weaken the Banks Statement but Sasha still made Alexa tap to it... which reminds me that I forgot to factor the "Alexa Bliss! loses a title" -10 modifier into the rating for this match. Revised final score for this match is -3.75/10. A shame, because without that totally mandatory and not at all subjective modifier, this would have been the best match on the main show so far, and second best match of the night, which is sad considering that we are half way through the card for what is ostensibly the second biggest show of the year in WWE, and probably the third biggest for wresting overall behind Mania and Wrestle Kingdom (maybe you could argue that the Royal Rumble or CMLL Anniversary Show are bigger than SummerSlam, but I don't think so).
BRAY WYATT vs. FINN BALOR - 7/10
Finn Balor has some paint and goofy hat on. Sorry everyone, but I don't see why people are going so gaga over this whole "demon" thing. I just don't. Maybe if this was CHIKARA or some other promotion where the booker knows how to make something like this matter to the character as anything more than a catchphrase I would care, but this is WWE where they just like coming up with things they can repeat over and over and over and over again.
The match delivered enough in the ring and they did a good job with their silly little story of Balor not being phased by Bray's "spooky" antics, but if I'm being honest with myself, I really just want this feud to be over.
WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Sheamus & Cesaro (c) vs. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose - 8.75/10
Seth and Dean entering separately was interesting to me. Between that and neither of them having The Shield's music, I don't feel comfortable calling this unit "The Shield" yet.
Dean Ambrose has been taken out, so Seth Rollins is the babyface in peril. He is being an excellent babyface while Sheamus & Cesaro are being excellent heels. Meanwhile, some assholes in the crowd are playing with a beach ball. These "fans" are supposedly the "the hardest of hardcore," but the only people they are fans of are themselves. I was SOOO happy when Cesaro went into the crowd and popped the beach ball.
I think I'd put this above the Smackdown Tag Team Championship match, but not by much. Go see this one.
WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH WITH SHANE MCMAHON AS SPECIAL GUEST REFEREE:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens - 6.75/10
AJ jumps Owens just because. Shane tries to get between them but then Owens goes after AJ. This felt like it was done for no reason other than to immediately create tension between both wrestlers and the special guest referee. Speaking of, Shane of course gets to have his own custom referee shirt, even though printing "Shane O'Mac" in white across the front of a black and white striped shirt is a crime against both fashion and vision.
I couldn't get into this match because so much of it came across to me as Shane purposely putting himself into spots where he was almost certain to get hit. That 450 spot was the worst of it. They kept claiming he was trying to "check on Owens" but it seems to me that the best way to do that would be to talk to Owens' face, not leaning over his face so you can talk to his stomach.
As Special Guest Referee shirts usually are, Shane's referee shirt was laced with Kyrptonite, although this seemed to be a lesser amount than usual, especially when the plot demanded that it be less. I think the big mistake they made here was spending way too much time trying to build things up between Shane and AJ so as to make the question "which wrestler will Shane cause to lose the match?" rather than having Shane be involved as little as possible until it is time for the big spot to come. We all know they're going with AJ vs. Shane, so having the only time Shane being the referee matters be something that is bad for Owens makes it a lot more reasonable for Owens to think that Shane came into this match with the specific intention of screwing him.
Aside from that, thought their choice of finish was pretty good (although, again, not having Shane get bumped earlier and miss Owens tapping out would give Owens more legitimacy), although the execution on the Styles Clash did not look anywhere near as good as it usually does.
WWE TITLE MATCH:
Jinder Mahal (c) (w/the Singh Brothers) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - 6/10
They made us listen to the Hindi or possibly Punjabi (they never mentioned which) commentators for a bit before the match, then gave us some Japanese commentary during the match. I found this quite annoying. The reason I listen to commentary in English is because I am nowhere near fluent in any other language that WWE has commentary in, and I would imagine I'm not alone in that. Meanwhile, the people who do speak those other languages are probably already listening to commentary in the language of their choice (there's no way it can be worse than the English), so this didn't do anything for them, either. The people who are hearing this are watching your f*cking PPV, many via a service that they pay you money to subscribe to. You don't to need to show us how much "international appeal" you have in order to turn us into customers. We're the people who already know. I know there are some people out there who do enjoy being preached to despite being part of the choir, but I doubt many of them enjoy it if the preaching is in a language they don't understand.
The match was every Jinder title defense since he won the belt. In other words, stuff happened for a bit until the Singh Brothers interfered to distract the babyface, allowing Jinder to hit the Khallas and win. This time it was even more egregious, as they were both running around inside the ring, right in front of the referee. This has been going on for five months now, and yet not once has either Shane or Bryan had the common sense to book a match where Jinder will be stripped of the title if the Singh Brothers interfere. They haven't even ever raised the idea!
WWE TITLE MATCH IN WHICH IF BROCK LESNAR LOSES HE PROMISES TO LEAVE WWE:
Brock Lesnar (c) (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe - 9/10
This was one hell of a crazy brawl early on, up until Brock got carted off, at which point it turned into more of a traditional multi-man match. Having Brock get carted off might seem odd if it wasn't intended as a way to write him off for a while without having him get pinned/submitted, but I thought it did an excellent job of getting over the idea that Braun can dominate Brock. Brock pinning Roman was quite the surprising finish, as I had figured they wanted to keep Roman hot as a challenger, and it makes the "Brock will quit if he loses" stipulation into a kind of odd (albeit admittedly effective) red herring. This is definitely a match worth going out of your way to see, and one that very much feels like it saved this show from being a major disappointment... which is an odd thing to say on a show that already had two matches that I rated 8.75/10, and yet that was very much my feeling. This show was, unfortunately, what WWE has become. They just do sh*t without much of an intelligent rhyme or reason, preferring to rely on branding and attempts to surprise us rather than trying to tell good stories. They're extremely lucky that they have the money to afford so many extremely talented wrestlers, because that is almost always what winds up saving their ass.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES:
1. Corey Graves- "It was in this very building several years ago that Sasha her best friend Bayley had a match that some would say kick-started the women's revolution."
Those people would be idiots because the then-"Divas Revolution" had already been decreed by Steph on TV before that. All glory be to Queen Stephanie, liberator of women everywhere. Did you know that it was Stephanie McMahon who not only inspired Sally Ride to become an astronaut, but who also was the one who convinced NASA to start training female astronauts in the first place?
(And really. If we're going to give credit to any match for starting all of this it is Nattie vs. Charlotte from NXT Takeover)
2. Booker T said that beating Nia Jax last week was "one of the biggest wins of [Sasha's] career."
She's a multiple-time women's champion, but beating Nia Jax in a match with no build is one of the biggest wins of her career. Right. Why can't WWE ever just simply say something is a "big win?" Why does everything always have to be "the biggest win of her career" or "one of the greatest matches of all time" or an "all-time great" or other such hyperbole like that? The more you tell the truth, the more likely people are to believe you when need to lie.