- WWE Universal Championship match: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe vs. Braun Strowman
- WWE Championship match: Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
- John Cena vs. Baron Corbin
- United States Championship match: AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens (w/ Shane McMahon as guest referee)
- Raw Tag Team Championship match: Sheamus/Cesaro (c) vs. Seth Rollins/Dean Ambrose
- Raw Women’s Championship match: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Sasha Banks
- SmackDown Women’s Championship match: Naomi (c) vs. Natalya
- Randy Orton vs. Rusev
- The Big Show vs. Big Cass (with Enzo Amore above the ring in a shark cage)
- “The Demon” Finn Bálor vs. Bray Wyatt
- SmackDown Tag Team Championship match: The New Day (c) vs. The Usos
- The Hardy Boyz & Jason Jordan Vs. The Miz & The Miztourage
- Cruiserweight Championship match: Akira Tozawa (c) vs. Neville
WWE’s big four pay-per-view shows have practically become viewing gauntlets, four-to-six hour tests of will that aren’t even guaranteed to pay off your mettle with a memorable main event. (Remember Triple H vs. Roman Reigns? Ugh.) There are always bits of goodness buried in there, but you’ve got to dig and stick with it to find them. This year’s SummerSlam was another one of those long, rocky shows that makes you work to find its best bits.
Those who tuned into the pre-show and stuck with it until its final half-hour were treated to a wild championship match between The Usos and The New Day that featured some of the most innovative tag-team offense to grace a WWE ring in a long time. It was one of the best matches of the night, if not the best, and it deserved better than closing out the kick-off show. Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, another tag-team title match from much later in the card, delivered some exciting nearfalls throughout, but it eventually erupted into a frenetic closing sequence that made Rollins look more like a star than anything he’s done since returning from injury.
The biggest payoff of all, of course, was the much-anticipated main event. After getting through the rest of this show, which was stuffed to the gills with plodding matches, we were given an opening stretch that was nothing short of amazing, as these four giant men flew around at a seemingly impossible pace. Things finally slowed down once Lesnar was taken out, but even the resulting solid multi-man main event that it turned into couldn’t detract from the glorious four-car pileup of its first several minutes. Braun Strowman looked like an absolute star here, destroying everyone and everything in sight to the roaring delight of the Brooklyn crowd, and this felt like it should have been his coronation. Instead, he got Speared by Roman Reigns and didn’t play into the last several minutes of the match. Hopefully, the powers that be heard the kinds of reactions Braun was getting and take a hint, already.
The other positives seem more like silver linings than actual highs. A few matches, like Naomi vs. Natalya, ended up over delivering. It’s not going to be anyone’s match of the night, but it was far better than what most anyone would have expected out of those two. You could say the same for Corbin vs. Cena. The Lone Wolf got in some nasty offense, but this was ultimately a match about Cena teaching this knucklehead a lesson, and it just felt right. Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss had another surprisingly stiff match, that didn’t quite live up their bout from Great Balls Of Fire but had some solid character work from both women. The same could go for AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens, which, as expected, became an utter mess thanks to guest referee Shane McMahon. Shane’s presence slowed the match down and distracted with his wacky overreactions, but Owens’ interactions with him were just priceless and this smells like it’s the start of a much longer conflict between them.
Elliegrll—“What’s the reason for keeping the title on Lesnar?”
It feels like they kind of worked themselves into a bit of a corner with this one. I had my doubts that Lesnar would retain, but as soon as Heyman threw out his “If Brock loses his title, he’s gone for good!” proclamation, I lost all hope we were seeing a change. To me, Brock retaining is mostly about building more tension around who’s going to take the title off him. The obvious, cringeworthy route is Roman, and like I said, if you want to be cynical about it, you could easily read the finish of this match as a bit of foreshadowing for the moment Roman finally does hit Lesnar with that Spear and put him down for real.
WWE Universal Championship match: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe vs. Braun Strowman
Plague—“Whoever the idiot is who thought these three matches were deserving to be the main compared to the ones on the pre-show needs to be shown the door”
Seriously. Uso/New Day might have been one of WWE’s best matches of the year, and instead we got the shark cage.
Why yes, the pre-show did end with Shawn Michaels dressed up like Colonel Sanders for a giant KFC ad. Here’s what that looked like, in case you missed it:
ElBandito—“They better be pushing Roode to the main card after that title loss last night”
Agreed. Plus there’s less and less room up at the top of the card what with the ROH invasion. I’m not sure where he’d fit in at this point.