Summer Slam Review

It was a rough week for Baron Corbin, as he lost the MITB cash-in and then was pinned cleaned a few days later on pay-per-view. Depending on what you want to believe, there’s speculation that a series of tweets in response to a dirt sheet might’ve gotten him heat with management. Unless the situation is directly addressed by someone involved, there’s not a way to confirm it, but it certainly seems like something caused WWE brass to sour on the Corbin project.

Despite his stock plummeting, Corbin still has a tremendous amount of potential, assuming he continues to evolve in the ring. The former golden gloves winner is a natural heel and has the agility to work with a variety of opponents, both useful tools to draw money if he eventually works a major program with an established baby face. The Summer Slam bout appeared to be a definitively conclusion to the current Corbin push.

With the exception of the solid Smackdown Women’s title match, the middle of the show was very average, another reason why it can be difficult to book a four hour event. The Big Cass/Big Show match resembled something that you can see weekly on Raw, and the Enzo antics became more of a distraction than anything. Cass was put over strong, which makes sense, but the generic presentation must eventually be evolved if he will make noticeable progress. As unfortunate as the ACL injury was on Raw, the recovery process provides an opportunity for him to return without the goofy Enzo antics to hinder his development as a heel. The Randy Orton/Rusev match might’ve only been booked as a reason to put Orton on the promotional material, because it was a throw together match with a finish that did nothing for either competitor.

The Raw Women’s title match was decent, but again, it seemed more like something on Raw than a pay-per-view. The women’s division is really the prime example of the bigger overall problem of 50/50 booking the plagues the entire product. The random switch to Sasha wasn’t presented as a standout moment, mostly because the bout was made just a few weeks before the show after Bayley was injured. Don’t get me wrong, Sasha undoubtedly has the star quality, but the booking of the characters in the division is sub par. I’m still stunned at the damage the writing team did to Bayley’s persona, and it’s almost unbelievable that they took one of the most over baby faces in the company, and through a series of lame segments, managed to get her lost in the shuffle.

The Bray Wyatt/Finn Balor match was solid, but not anything spectacular. The Balor victory more or less closes the door on the feud, which essentially was a way to add some steam behind Finn within the span of just a few weeks. In many ways, it was very similar to the Rollins/Bray series, another feud that used Wyatt to get his opponent over. That was basically the story of Bray’s career, he kept himself strong with promos, but usually ended up doing the job. Even his WWE title run earlier this year was mostly just a role as a transition champion. These rather short feuds where Wyatt does the job haven’t done anything to help his progress on Raw or Smackdown. At this point, Bray has almost zero momentum so who knows where he goes next? It might be a wise decision to pair him with Harper and Rowan again to try add some feud to his persona because his promos are very similar regardless of the opponent and the presentation is somewhat stale. Don’t get me wrong, Wyatt is a great performer, but he was used as almost a glorified enhancement talent in recent months.

The Raw tag title match was solid, and with the main event scene booked right now, this tag detour for Rollins and Ambrose is smart booking, as it gives the two stars something meaningful to do while others are in the WWE title picture. Sheamus and Cesaro have done extremely well as a duo. Cesaro might not be “main event material” to WWE brass, but he consistently delivers quality matches, which makes him a true asset to the company. The US title match was decent, but the pairing just has a “been there, done that” atmosphere to it. AJ vs. Owens took place several times, both on TV and pay-per-view so it might be time for them to each go in a different direction with fresh opponents.

The WWE championship match was perplexing to say the least. Jinder was pushed from jobber obscurity to the title in the span of literally a few weeks. During his time as champion, ratings continue to slip and his pay-per-view bouts garnered less than stellar reviews, including the abysmal Punjabi prison match last month. You can’t necessarily blame Mahal, because management didn’t put him in the most favorable circumstances to succeed with the rushed push in a sudden attempt to capitalize on the Indian market. It will be interesting to see if the India experiment yields a profitable return or just a considerable amount of press in the country. The bottom line is revenue, and unless there are a surge of network subscriptions from India, is this mega push really worth the decline in TV ratings?

On the flip side, Shinsuke Nakamura, the charismatic Japanese star that made a name for himself in NJPW prior to his WWE arrival, is one of the most over stars in the company. It speaks volumes to his charisma and ability to connect with the audience when you consider that English isn’t his first language. But, the crowd follows his entrance and mannerism intently so he undoubtedly transcends any language barrier. Plus, he’s also one of the best in-ring athletes in the promotion. The point being, Nakamura is money, and it seems obvious that he should play a role in the championship scene. I was surprised and hopeful when he won the number one contender spot on Smackdown. I was equally as disappointed when he was defeated after a partially botched finisher. The conclusion of the bout fell very flat, and the reality is that despite the forced push, Mahal still doesn’t have the credibility to be viewed as a championship-level performer. There’s a difference between heel heat and the heat that makes the audience change the channel. The only redeeming aspect of the result of this contest would be a potential AJ Styles feud next for Nakamura. I’m not sure what Jinder does following this, as he has very little momentum right now, but it probably won’t be drawing ratings for Smackdown.

The WWE title match was great, booked well, and delivered a quality main event for one of the marquee events of the year. Braun Strowman was highlighted, which led to the announcement on Raw that he will challenge Brock for the championship at the next pay-per-view. Each competitor looked strong in this contest and it enhanced the perception of each athlete. The Strowman match certainly creates intrigue for the No Mercy pay-per-view.

Overall, Summer Slam was a solid event, but the four hour format makes it difficult for the show not to stall at some point, especially when you consider there was a two hour pre show prior to the actual pay-per-view. While the main event was quality, the problem of 50/50 booking and the lack of fresh matches was seen during the event.

-Jim LaMotta