The public execution of Cena capped off what was a very good SummerSlam, with very little in the way of cutesy BS, instead delivering conclusive finishes and heavy action throughout the three-hour duration. Like the previous year's event, the overall goodness of one of WWE's time-honoured tentpole events would sadly fail to set the table for the autumn months, as the fall of 2014 was a collection of average to dismal events, culminating with the insulting TLC pay-per-view.
But SummerSlam 2014 bears no responsibility for the putrefied gunk that followed. A hot crowd, as some truly good matches (Rollins vs. Ambrose, Reigns vs. Orton, hell, even Rusev vs. Swagger), combined to form a show that relied more on satisfying showings than overbooked nonsense. It was ambitious and simple all at once.
10. Escape From LA
The 2014 SummerSlam brought to an end the tradition of holding SummerSlam in the "City of Angels". Beginning with the 2009 event, six consecutive August extravaganzas would be held inside Los Angeles' Staples Center, and the weekend would coincide with the usual amount of celebrity hobnobbing, spruced up galas, and other media events designed to put more eyeballs on the WWE product.
The 2014 event was much more sparse in terms of its celebrity and media outreach, with little else besides the annual 2K Games symposium. In fact, the roster spent the night before the pay-per-view working a house show in San Jose, in which four of the SummerSlam matches (including Ambrose/Rollins and Reigns/Orton) were contested in front of 6200 fans. The announcement that the 2015 show would take place in Brooklyn came during the 2014 event's broadcast.
9. Rebooked Since Day One Ish
Prior to WrestleMania 34, it seemed like Jimmy and Jey Uso were only allowed to work the pre-show of pro wrestling's grand spectacle. Their unofficial title of "Dark Match Deacons" was set to be put to the test at the 2014 SummerSlam, as earlier plans for the card had them wrestling Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, Ryback and Curtis Axel, and Goldust and Cody Rhodes in a fatal four-way match, for the Usos' Tag Team championships.
Somewhere along the way, those plans went out the window, and WWE instead ran with a singles match pitting Rob Van Dam against Cesaro, which wasn't for any sort of belt whatsoever. It's not clear why the match was changed, though it's possible that WWE was only keen to pay two guys for a dark match instead of eight.
8. A SummerSlam Tradition Renewed
It may not have been the best Intercontinental Title match that The Miz and Dolph Ziggler would ever have against one another (hello, No Mercy 2016), but the two men's opening match at the 2014 SummerSlam was an action-packed, supercharged opener that set a nice tone for the evening. Ziggler would capture the belt with the Zig Zag, after just eight minutes of wrestling.
The match marked the first time the IC belt changed hands at SummerSlam in six years, since Santino Marella captured the gold in a mixed tag team match at the 2008 show. It's rather curious that the Intercontinental gold changed hands in 12 of the first 15 SummerSlams, but only twice in the last 15 SummerSlams. Perhaps Seth Rollins can get that old tradition back on track this year.
7. Double Feature
In the second match of the evening, Paige defeated AJ Lee in less than five minutes to capture the WWE Divas Championship for the second time. Lee would regain the belt at Night of Champions the following month, ending the series of title swaps between them in 2014.
With Paige's victory, SummerSlam 2014 became the only event of the SummerSlam lineage to see title changes in the first two pay-per-view matches, as Ziggler's IC title win immediately preceded this. The 1999, 2001, and 2005 SummerSlams were the only other ones to see a title change in the opener, but there would be none in the second match. However, at both the 1999 and 2001 events, a title did change in the third match of both shows, so there's that, at least.
6. False Flag Operation
When Rusev decided to pack up all of his belongings and move from Bulgaria to Russia, he brought the sort of pro-Russian spiel to WWE that would've gotten him matched up with Hulk Hogan for a house show tour in 1985. At SummerSlam 2014, he squared off with All-American Jack Swagger in what was billed as a Flag Match.
Ordinarily in wrestling, flag matches are contested under capture-the-flag rules, and indeed WWE.com announced just such rules for this bout. However, those rules were later removed from the website for unexplained reasons, though it was a clear case of WWE changing their mind on how to do the match. Instead, the winner merely got to raise their flag while their anthem played, which is, umm, err, kind of a Flag Match, sure.
5. High Time To Leave
After defeating Cesaro in the SummerSlam dark match, Rob Van Dam acted as one of the 20 lumberjacks for the wild and woolly Dean Ambrose-Seth Rollins brawl, which was as out of control as a gasoline fire. This would mark Van Dam's last pay-per-view appearance with WWE as of this date, as he would be finishing up with the company the following week.
The week after SummerSlam, Van Dam put Cesaro over on Raw, and Rollins on SmackDown, before departing from the company. Since then, Van Dam, now 47 years old, has worked primarily with independent promotions, mostly in his home state of California, but has said in interviews that he would do another run with WWE before officially retiring, but under the right circumstances.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
Anyone that had low expectations for the match pitting Stephanie McMahon against Brie Bella had to be at least a little bit surprised. It may not have been on the level of respective husbands Triple H and Daniel Bryan's titanic struggle at WrestleMania XXX, but the wives held their own with a rather enjoyable match.
It was noted in The Wrestling Observer that Stephanie and Brie spent much of the week prior to SummerSlam rehearsing the match in Los Angeles, going over the spots until they had everything in working order. They wouldn't be the first two wrestlers to extensively practice a match (Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI comes to mind), but the benefits of working to get on the same page showed themselves by the time this match came to an end.
3. A Fate Worse Than Sitting At Home
It was a sad day when Daniel Bryan, due to injury, had to vacate the unified WWE World Heavyweight Championship that he'd won in an emotionally-charged WrestleMania XXX main event. Bryan's absence on WWE programming throughout the remainder of 2014 was palpable, with the main event of SummerSlam being just one of the events he would miss.
Yes, Bryan was originally set to defend his gold against Lesnar in the SummerSlam finale, and he would've lost the belt just as Cena had. The plans for the match were apparently to have seen Bryan take a similar excessive beating that Cena did (read: lots of spine-bending Suplexes) at the meaty hands of Lesnar. When you realize what bad shape Bryan was in at the time, that's a scary thought.
2. Simplify, Simplify Says Thoreau
Ever since Randy Orton had defeated Cena in the main event of the TLC 2013 pay-per-view to unify the two World titles, he took to carrying around both belts for some reason. Bryan and Cena, in their ensuing reigns, would do the same thing. But once Lesnar ground Cena's bones into dust in Los Angeles, that silly little ritual would change.
Late in the night after SummerSlam, Lesnar and Paul Heyman took part in an interview with TMZ, in which the new champion was asked about carrying the two straps. Lesnar chuckled, "I ain't carrying around two friggin' belts - are you kidding me?!" Sure enough, the next night on Raw, Lesnar was awarded a singular belt that would become the standard WWE Championship going forward. It does beg the question: why, when Orton unified the belts, was there no catch-all belt waiting for him?
1. Immediate Sequel
You'd think after dying a terrible, painful death that night in Los Angeles, Cena would need about two, maybe three, years to recover enough to be able to tie his shoes without assistance. But no, WWE made a point to book a Lesnar/Cena WWE Championship rematch for the Night of Champions pay-per-view five weeks after SummerSlam.
While rushing things like this tends to earn WWE some fair criticism, the WWE Network was on their mind. The Wrestling Observer noted that the original six-month subscriptions were due to end in early September, and WWE (long before offering free months like crazy to new subscribers) wanted a strong main event for the next PPV to get customers to re-up their subscriptions. Since Cena and Lesnar were their most bankable stars by a country mile, the rematch seemed like the smartest idea.