WWE SummerSlam 2016
August 21, 2016
Barclays Center – Brooklyn, New York

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our Reviewers

Garrett Kidney: Watches more TNA than any reasonable human being ever should and also writes about it for Voices of Wrestling. Follow Garrett on Twitter @garrettkidney.

Kelly Harrass: Newcomer to the VOW roster that’s looking to prove himself and climb the power rankings. Follow Kelly on Twitter @comicgeekelly

Rich Kraetsch: One of the primary owners of Voices of Wrestling, co-host of VOW Flagship podcast and primary website editor. Follow Rich on Twitter @VoicesWrestling

SummerSlam Kickoff Show
American Alpha (Jason Jordan and Chad Gable), The Hype Bros (Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley), and The Usos (Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso) def. Breezango (Tyler Breeze and Fandango), The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor), and The Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch)

Garrett Kidney: While totally inessential, this was good fun for what it was. Fun, briskly paced and well executed across the board. Now these folks just need a reason to exist. ***

Kelly Harrass: I came into this match a little while into it (I’m at work for the preshow, don’t tell anyone). From what I saw this was a ton of fun. It was pretty much what you would expect the match to be. Fast paced and exciting in the closing stretch. This was a good showcase of Smackdown’s fairly deep tag roster. ***

Rich Kraetsch: This match has a ceiling with so many guys having to get in the ring. This was your prototypical “get everyone on the show” match but overall it was impressive. The pace was great, nobody screwed anything up and a few of the company’s lower acts including Breezango got some decent reactions so that was fun. **1/2

Sami Zayn and Neville def. The Dudley Boys

Garrett Kidney: An awful lot has been said already about Zayn being demoted to a pre-show match the month after a career defining win and rightfully so. The brand split was supposed to afford the likes of Owens, Zayn, and Cesaro greater opportunities – not less. Squandering momentum like that is unforgivable. Zayn and Neville would actually make a fun team for a while but with the new Cruiserweight division on the horizon that seems unlikely. This existed primarily to further Bubba and D-Von’s issues rather than to showcase Zayn or Neville. The Dudleys’ decline over the last twelve months has been sad to see considering they were generally always pretty productive in TNA. Turning Bubba and hoping he recaptures a little of the Bully Ray magic is the best course for them now. WWE could use a Bully. The match was a perfectly acceptable, entirely forgettable effort. Zayn deserves better. **1/4

Kelly Harrass: Well, this match sure did happen. Unless I missed some build for it on Raw this week, this match was just slapped together to help fill the time in the absurdly long two hour preshow. There was nothing really to this match. The work was solid enough, but it was hurt by being completely meaningless. I’d like to see more from Zayn and Neville as a team, but something makes me think that this was just a one-off. The treatment of the Dudley’s here confirmed that they’re a non-factor in the current Raw tag division. **

Rich Kraetsch: Now D’Von was never a super worker but man has he regressed mightily in recent months. I don’t know if he’s hurt, if he’s got retirement on his mind—his ever-expanding waistline may be an indication of that—or he’s finally slowing down at age 44 but he’s putrid. Like indefensibly awful. There was a portion of this match that saw Sami Zayn do whatever he could to get D’Von, who may have been sandbagging on purpose given how difficult even basic moves were for him. Either way, this was an okay match. Zayn and Neville being buried on the middle of the pre-show is startling and really hard to justify, particularly given what Zayn accomplished last month: defeating his long-time rival Kevin Owens in the blow-off match. The big takeaway from this match is the inevitable breakup of the Dudleyz as the two had communication issues throughout. **

First Match in Best of Seven Series
Sheamus def. Cesaro

Garrett Kidney: Any series of matches is tricky. Not only do you have to overcome the sense of inevitability regarding going all the way to match seven but you also can’t really go all out in match one because you need to leave yourself somewhere to go. That wasn’t really the case here as these two basically had to best match possible given this was a pre-show match and these two are coming in relatively cold. I’m interested to see where they go from here and how they build on this match in the rest of the series. I was kind of hoping Cesaro would just take this series 4-0 just to kick start him again but that was wishful thinking. If they can repeatedly build on this match this series could be an awful lot of fun. There is only so often you can see Cesaro deliver over and over and over again and get very little reward for it though. ***1/2

Kelly Harrass: I’m very disappointed to say that I missed most of this, but what I saw was awesome. It’s an absolute shame that this wasn’t on the main card, but Cesaro and Sheamus made the most of it. I can’t wait to go back and watch this. NR

Rich Kraetsch: I think I’m going to enjoy this series. Match 1 of the Best of the Seven was a hoot. There’s nothing that jumped off the page, no huge highlights or super memorable spots—it was simply a well-worked, well-paced match between two of WWE’s best. The inevitably of the series going to the full seven takes away some of the intrigue but when it features two men as talented as Sheamus and Cesaro, I won’t be complaining. ***3/4

Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens vs. Enzo & Big Cass

Garrett Kidney: This was aggressively formulaic, particularly with the seemingly endless heat segment. While I can respect the degree to which Enzo and Cass are over, they do absolutely nothing for me. Their schtick grates in too large doses and their work is fine but nothing remarkable. Enzo and Cass losing is an interesting choice especially to a thrown together team but it looks like Owens and Jericho are next up for the New Day. Owens and Jericho’s banter was the highlight of this. The most notable thing to come out of Jericho’s 2016 after his work with Styles and Owens is that he’s best suited as a tag team wrestler these days. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. **1/2

Kelly Harrass: The result of this match was more than a little surprising to me. As you can read in our group preview of this show, I predicted that Enzo and Cass would pick up a win to set them up for a future tag title shot. Little did I expect them take a loss to the seemingly slapped together heel tag team. Enzo and Cass did what Enzo and Cass do in this one, but the real stars were Owens and Jericho. Those two have real chemistry as a tag team and I love the pop-up code breaker as their finisher. I’m looking forward to whatever comes next for this team. This was an incredibly basic tag match, but Owens and Jericho have so much to offer as a unit. **1/4

Rich Kraetsch: This is quickly becoming my favorite run of Chris Jericho’s career. His entire character dynamic and the relationship with Kevin Owens just works so well. Becoming a tag worker could be perfect for Jericho’s future as he’s clearly lost a step or two but still has elite ring awareness and match construction. As far as this match, it simply was a victim of a four-hour show. It was needlessly long when a shorter match would have done more favors for everyone. It worked in slow motion almost as if they had a eight minute match planned and got some extra time lumped before they walked through the curtain. There wasn’t anything wrong, it was a perfectly acceptable match but lacked a certain next gear. **1/2

WWE Women’s Championship
Charlotte def. Sasha Banks (c)

Garrett Kidney: This is a difficult match to discuss. Because while both women did a good job winning back the crowd after a shaky start and delivering some strong sequences – there were two separate stages while I feared for Sasha Banks career. The spot where Charlotte dropped Sasha in the corner was shriek inducing and Sasha’s huracanrana in the corner was genuinely frightening. I don’t want to see these two kill themselves. I can’t overlook that stuff and certainly don’t want to endorse it in any other ways. There is generally a tradeoff between ambition and safety in wrestling, especially when accounting for ability, and that equation should always weighted in favour of the latter. Some of the work was very good, but some of it was amatuer stuff. The title change is a strange choice especially after Sasha’s big win but with Bayley potentially being called up it makes sense to move the title back to Charlotte. ***

Kelly Harrass: I think it’s safe to say that we’re finally getting the main roster performances from Sasha Banks that we were all hoping for when she was called up. That being said, if she wants to keep her quality of work to this standard, she can’t keep taking reckless bumps on her head and neck the the two major ones that she took here. This match was fantastic, but I had to worry about the safety of both women at multiple points. I feel quite confident in saying that this ranks as one of the best women’s matches in this company’s history, but with the talent that these two have the ceiling of quality in the women’s division hasn’t been hit yet. Sasha took quite a beating and lost the title, but she still looked dominant coming out of this match. Charlotte honestly didn’t need this win and that taints the match for me in a way. Sasha would have been much better served soundly beating Charlotte and moving onto the next challenger, but it seems that this isn’t the end of the story for these two. I’m torn on how I feel about this one. The in-ring work was great and sloppy at the same time and the booking didn’t make much sense. I want to give this a higher rating, but there are too many issues with this one to do that. ***¾

Rich Kraetsch: What a weird but oddly awesome match. There was an sense of danger surrounding this match as Charlotte was sloppier than usual and Sasha appears hell bent on killing herself in the ring. Seriously, this was the most dangerous women’s match in WWE history there was a real fight feel that rarely ever comes from this division. There were multiple times in this match where I watched a spot through my fingers including a horribly botched super backbreaker attempt and a shockingly well done top rope hurricanrana. Regardless of the sloppiness—which actually became an asset in this match—you couldn’t take your eyes off it. The result really bothered me. Sasha’s win felt special and now a few weeks later is rendered utterly worthless. These two aren’t done and they may trade titles back and forth but you can never re-bottle that FIRST win, first moment, first visual. This is what they did with it and that was a huge mistake. ****

WWE Intercontinental Championship
The Miz © Apollo Crews

Garrett Kidney: This was a perfectly acceptable midcard match. Crews needs to be fleshed out as a character and Miz is a great midcard heel but nothing more. The worked the “We don’t have much times so we’re going to make the most of it” pace. Keeping the title on Miz is probably the right choice for now – he’s the right guy to carry the division whereas Crews doesn’t really have much going for him after being called up too early. **

Kelly Harrass: This was kind of a nothing match, but it made me realize something. The Miz is very similar to Taichi. Their gimmicks are verging closer together and their ring gear isn’t too different once Taichi rips his pants off. I’d also argue that they get similar crowd reactions. This has nothing to do with this match really, but we weren’t given much to talk about here. Crews has the building blocks, but he’s not there yet and they’re not really trying with him. Miz’s never ending title reign continues and I’m ok with that. **

Rich Kraetsch: I wanted to like this match but I couldn’t possibly care less about the current Apollo Crews character nor could this sold-out Barclays Center. The crowd was nearly muted the entire match merely waiting for it to end so they could get to a match they actually cared about. That’s damning of both men but Crews in particular who is not endearing himself well so far. I’m not sure it’s all his fault but he’s not entirely blameless. I hate calling a match, just a match but god damn if this wasn’t just a match. **

AJ Styles def. John Cena

Garrett Kidney: Yet another notch in the belt of AJ’s claim to being one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.For the last eleven years Styles has delivered countless world class performances. He is a special pro wrestler. I can’t find enough ways to praise just how good Styles is and how we should be treasuring the work he’s been doing for so long now. Put Styles in a big match environment and he will deliver every single time. Without fail. Of course the same can be largely said of Cena so it’s no surprise that they delivered. There was a portion of this match where I felt like it was less than whole, but then it kicked up a gear and added that emotional hook of Styles simply being better. Cena gave Styles his very best shot and it wasn’t good enough. Styles going over was absolutely the right choice and Styles should dethrone Ambrose next month. Why wait? Strike while the iron is hot. Cena having a crisis of confidence and showing real vulnerability is an interesting story if they don’t just blow it off as Cena is wont to do. Considerably better than their first match, this was tremendous. ****1/2  

Kelly Harrass: This was the dream match that we all hoped for. What an incredible effort from both men. Styles walked in as a man with a tainted victory over Cena and he walked out as the definitive winner. This reached the heights that Cena’s incredible run last summer did and maybe delivered even more. Styles and Cena treated this like it was a main event and put it all out there. While Styles wasn’t in the G1 this year, this was up to par with his great performances in that tournament last year. Both of these men proved that they’re two of the very best that this business has to offer. While I wouldn’t say this is the best match of the year, it’s certainly in the conversation as one of the top ten matches. John Cena vs. AJ Styles was a match that I never thought I would see, but man am I glad that we did. I have a hard time seeing anything top this tonight. ****¾

Rich Kraetsch: This had incredible expectations and god dammit, they met them and then some. They did a lot but never veered into the too much territory, every big move was given proper time between to really let it savor and sink in. This was the perfect blend of the indie Cena from last year’s series with Kevin Owens and the polished WWE main event worker. And Styles, what more can be said, he’s just one of the best ever and is on an unbelievable run that shows no signs of slowing down. This is going to be your match of the night, I don’t see anything else topping it. I hope everyone appreciated what we saw tonight, these are two of the best ever at the peak of their powers putting together all-time special matches. We were lucky to have seen this. ****1/2

WWE Tag Team Championship
The Club def. The New Day © by Disqualification

Garrett Kidney: In the WWE Universe, what’s the disincentive for getting disqualified? The babyface tag team champions just retained their titles after one of their members interfered all while the announcers cheered. Why don’t they just do that all the time? I’m over The New Day. They’ve held the tag titles for a year and they’ve had one match that I remember (vs. Styles and Jericho earlier this year). They’ve went all in on schtick without any substance to keep them grounded. And Big E has totally outgrown the group. The match was a vehicles for some Jon Stewart silliness. Little more. The Club look like such dorks. Anderson looks a quarter the wrestler he was in New Japan and they never win. Who could possibly care about them? *1/2

Kelly Harrass: I’m not sure what to think of this one. The match itself was worked fine. I thought Gallows and Anderson looked good here. They were fairly dominant and if not for John Stewart and the returning Big E, they probably would have taken home the gold (or bronze, I guess). The booking of this was not very good. The New Day doesn’t need the belts and they haven’t needed them for a while. Gallows and Anderson don’t look bad in this loss, but they obviously would have looked stronger with a victory. I didn’t hate it, but this can’t be called good. *¾

Rich Kraetsch: Overall, this segment and match was pretty cringey. I’m not a curmudgeon but the Jon Stewart involvement in the match and the focus on Big E’s, uh, testicles in a jar was too much for me. The match was no great shakes either, this would fit perfectly in the 2nd hour of a random RAW but stuck out like a sore thumb on this show, particularly following Cena and Styles. This wasn’t meant to be a “workrate”/kick ass match but it wasn’t very good at being a comedy segment either. *1/2

WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Dean Ambrose © def. Dolph ZIggler

Garrett Kidney: I’m not one of these absurd people who claim Dean Ambrose is a bad wrestler but I have absolutely no idea who he is, what he’s trying to achieve or who he’s trying to be. Other than that he’s craaaaaazy of course. He’s so poorly defined as a character that I can’t invest in him. While they tried their best to rehab Ziggler this month, that was coming off the back of a never ending bland programme with Baron Corbin so it’s not like he had much in the way of momentum going into this match. Ziggler outworked Ambrose but this never really hit the heights you’d expect from a World title match. The sooner they get that titles off the lukewarm Ambrose and onto Styles the better off Smackdown will be. ***

Kelly Harrass: If I have to describe this match in one word it would have to be this: disappointing. The quality of the WWE Heavyweight Championship match never lived up to the quality of the promo work from Ziggler and Ambrose in the lead up to this show. The lack of intensity hurt this more than anything. During the ring introductions, Ziggler and Ambrose had to be held apart, but the work in the actual match didn’t even live up to that. Add in a lackluster finish and we were given a match with a bunch of potential that just didn’t deliver. Ambrose moves onto the next challenger while Ziggler goes back that what I assume will be the prelims. It’s a shame that this went the way it did. **¾

Rich Kraetsch: As lifeless a World Championship match as you’ll see in this modern era. The build had so much fire, so much realism integrated within but the match was dull and lifeless. The crowd couldn’t have possibly cared less, likely damage done over the years to Dolph Ziggler’s cache. The work was fine but failed to ever reach the fever pitch typically in big time World Title matches. In the end, this acted as more of an extended squash to build up Dean Ambrose’s reign than any story of Dolph Ziggler redemption we may have thought. **1/2

Nikki Bella, Natalya & Alexa Bliss def. Carmella, Becky Lynch & Naomi

Garrett Kidney: If this match was a harbinger for the forthcoming Smackdown women’s division it was a foreboding one. Disjointed, messy, and heatless – this wasn’t very good. Becky Lynch will have her work cut out for her if she’s to be the glue that somehow holds this division together. Nikki is still serviceable but mediocre. Naomi is still athletic but inconsistent. The rest are fairly meh. *3/4

Kelly Harrass: I’d like to state for the record that Naomi is making better use of drugs as a gimmick than Rob Van Dam ever did. The intrigue going into this one was seeing what they were going to do with Eva Marie after she was suspended. In a hilarious move we got her full announcement and were then told that she would be taking a vacation. Taking her place was the returning Nikki Bella who now uses a cutter as her finishing move in what I can only assume is a tribute to her new dad, Johnny Ace. I don’t think this was the worst match on the card, but it was far from the best. **

Rich Kraetsch: I don’t know if it was a rib but having Carmella play Ricky Morton for the majority of this match was maybe not the best idea. To her credit, Becky brought everything back together and coupled with Nikki and Alexa Bliss resurrected this match into something more than the DUD it was on the path towards. **

WWE Universal Championship
Finn Balor def. Seth Rollins

Garrett Kidney: This was a mechanically sound, technically proficient match – everything about it was perfectly professional. There was just no emotional hook to it at all. And that’s Finn’s biggest flaw. Any time it comes to conveying any sort of emotion it just feels incredibly robotic. He is a tremendous wrestler but he never quite makes that 100% personal connection with the audience in the same way say a Sami Zayn does. And maybe in that way the Demon gimmick plays to his strengths in that regard – in that context the lack of emoting makes sense. And working his Seth – who has problems of his own connecting – compounded that problem. Finn winning was absolutely the right call though. Seth has had his time and largely failed – especially after being shoehorned into a weird HHH mini-me role. It can’t hurt to try and make somebody new – especially considering how successful Balor was as champ in NXT. Push him to the moon. What’s the worst that could happen? Also…THE DEMON KING THE DEMON KING THE DEMON KING THE DEMON KING THE DEMON KING THE DEMON KING. ***1/2

Kelly Harrass: Finn Balor and Seth Rollins put on a match fitting of a contest that would decide the first owner of a new world title. Balor looked like he belonged here in his first shot at a big spot. While the demon reveal was blown on Raw, it still felt like a big deal here. The closing stretch of this match was awesome and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t pop for Rollins using God’s Last Gift like this was 2008 ROH. While I really enjoyed what we saw, I do think that this was a few steps away from greatness. A big part of that had to be a crowd that did not seem interested at all in the match and seemed more invested in mocking the new Universal title. By this point the crowd has been there for somewhere near five hours so I can’t entirely blame them for being out of it, but it did hurt the flow of the match. Overall, this had some warts, but it was an enjoyable start to Balor’s run as a top guy in WWE. Hopefully it only gets better from here. Let’s not say “the Demon King” so much though, huh? ***¾

Rich Kraetsch: I have no idea what to make of this match. In a vacuum, it was a very solid, well-worked, WWE main event style match. There was a ton to like though. For one, Balor’s Demon entrance got over huge and the closing stretch was great. The problem was crowd connection throughout. During a bulk of the match, the Brooklyn crowd was concerning themselves with various chants including ones putting down to new Fruit Roll Up-esque WWE Universal Championship. Even when they weren’t chanting, they didn’t seem to get fully invested in either guys’ hunt for the title. I can’t put my finger on why though. Did they believe there was going to be interference so why bother caring? Is it one of the two guys? Is it both? I really don’t know. This could also be a victim of a four-hour show beginning to get long in the tooth. Either way, this match should have been and probably was a lot better than any of us will give it credit for. This may be one to re-watch down the line and see if your opinion changes. Tonight, it was disappointing.

I should talk about the result. While I like the idea of making Fin…sorry, THE DEMON KING a big deal out of the gates, I’m worried we’re getting an all-too-similar to NXT story with Finn. Now I enjoyed his NXT Title run a lot but we just had that. I was hoping for more of a chase. Overall though, the title win means there’s some amount of faith in The Demon “Finn Balor” King so I look forward to his run over the next few years. ***½

Oh and here’s our Demon King count thanks to follower Adrian:

WWE United States Championship
Rusev © vs. Roman Reigns – No Contest

Kelly Harrass: Just when you thought the Rusev and Reigns feud couldn’t get any worse they decide to have a no contest on a big show. This is how you have Roman win the feud without him winning the US Championship from Rusev. This whole thing has been stupid. Why can’t these twins just get along? I suppose this no contest kept this show from running even longer so I can’t really complain.

Rich Kraetsch: I won’t give this a rating because, well, it never got started. Reigns took out Rusev before the match started. If you’re keeping count at home this feud started over a cake, on RAW they had a legit one-on-one match and now a no contest Roman Reigns beat down.

Brock Lesnar def. Randy Orton

Garrett Kidney: I’m totally sick of Brock Lesnar. His ship has sailed. He no longer serves any real purpose other than to undermine everybody else. He coasts in, dominates anybody he wrestles, only puts over broken down old timers, takes liberties with his opponents, receives concessions that are available to nobody else, smashes anybody under the age of 40 and swans back out to wrestle again in three months. I’m incredibly sick of the Suplex City formula. What was shocking and novel when Lesnar massacred Cena, and spontaneous and organic when Lesnar coined the phrase against Roman Reigns has become a trite counterproductive marketing gimmick. Lesnar is presented as so dominant and so head and shoulders above the rest of the roster that it makes everybody else feel less important. A great deal of the damage that we see done to Dean Ambrose today was inflicted by Lesnar at WrestleMania. Lesnar achieves nothing. This match was pretty solid before the bizarre abrupt finish as rather than being punished for failing a number of drug tests and publicly embarrassing the company Lesnar was instead presented as utterly dominant over the second biggest WWE star of the last decade. The whole Orton just needs to hit the RKO thing didn’t land at all and the crowd didn’t even really buy the RKO nearfall. Imagine working every day on the road, toeing the line and working hard and then seeing the opportunities availed to Lesnar over everybody else. Lesnar sucks. I’m done with him. **3/4

Kelly Harrass: I haven’t been made this actively angry by a wrestling match in quite some time. I’m over Brock Lesnar. What purpose did this match serve other than to stroke his ego? That elbow that busted open Orton was reckless and cut off a match that never really got going because Lesnar has becomes one of the most boring big match workers there is. What a garbage ending to this show. Send Brock away, I’m done with him. Orton should have won this match, but instead they decided to destroy him and stop any momentum he may have gained in his return. The only way this can be saved is if Orton wins a return match in a very decisive fashion, but I very much doubt that we’ll see that. To put this on as the main event was a slap in the face to every top name talent that was in a match earlier on the card. This is my vote for worst match of the year thus far. DUD

Rich Kraetsch: Another confounding match in what was one of the more bizarre second halves of a show I can ever remember. Lesnar mauled Orton in the closing stretch busting him wide open in the process. The referees immediately called a TKO ending the match before it really had a chance to get going. In between you had some nice brawling, Orton hitting RKOs on the table but it seemed all negated with the bloody TKO in the end. Some people won’t like the match and I don’t blame them, it wasn’t very fulfilling but I’m still into the mystique of Lesnar and I enjoy that his matches look and feel different. Still when coupled with the Rusev/Reigns match/no match, this was a weird, unsavory way to end a four hour show. If that had happened in the first hour, we may have a completely different take on the match. In the end, I enjoyed it though I’m very curious what the next step in this story will be… or, as is often the case with Lesnar, if there will be a next step. ***1/4