The 2017 show was one of those events that didn't hit its groove until late, as the early portion of the card struggled to follow that Usos/New Day hit match. John Cena and Baron Corbin was a joke, Big Cass and Big Show was a less-humorous joke, and Randy Orton vs. Rusev was a colossal waste. Up until the beloved two-thirds of The Shield battled Team Murder Death Kilt, the show seemed rather bland and lacking. Three of the last four matches fixed that assessment.
While four hours is still too damn long for a non-WrestleMania (and even longer, when you factor in the interminable pre-show), SummerSlam 2017 delivered where it needed to, and it's easily one of WWE's better events of last year. Does 2018 have a chance at topping it?
10. The Strongest Link
Since SummerSlam moved into Brooklyn's Barclays Center three years ago, WWE has made a weekend of it inside the Beastie Boys' sleepless borough. In 2017, the company produced four shows on four consecutive nights from the building - NXT Takeover on Saturday, SummerSlam Sunday, Raw Monday, and SmackDown Tuesday. While the weekend is something of a destination gala for diehard fans, there was a rather curious stat that came out after the fact.
According to The Wrestling Observer, SummerSlam was the only event of the four that sold out. Not even the anticipated third Brooklyn Takeover, headlined by Drew McIntyre and Bobby Roode for the NXT Title, could sell out, and was, in fact, the least attended of the four shows (doing about 10,300 sold). SummerSlam did 13,200 sold, standing tall over the other three.
9. Robbed Of A Gem
Two tag teams emerged on the Monday Night Raw scene in April 2017, and one was a re-emergence - The Hardy Boyz, who thrilled fans the world over with their WrestleMania 33 comeback. Meanwhile, one night later, The Revival popped up on Raw, bringing their territory-ish tag team tenacity to the main stage. After feuding briefly in the summer of 2017, the two teams were set to face off at SummerSlam.
But it wasn't to be. The Revival were already shelved once shortly after their debut when Dash Wilder fractured his jaw, and it happened again shortly before SummerSlam when Scott Dawson sustained a ruptured bicep. The two teams were set to face off at the August event, and the Hardyz were instead shoehorned into a six-man tag on the pre-show.
8. Time Is Of The Essence
Usually on normal pay-per-views, you get a variety of match lengths. Maybe a couple of epics that go beyond 20 minutes, some promising matches that get more than 10, and a handful of novelties that ring in at seven minutes or less. Some matches are designed to be great, and others are relegated to buffer spots.
SummerSlam 2017 was unique in that of the 13 total matches (Kickoff included), 12 of them went past the 10-minute mark, with eight of the 12 clocking in between the 10 and 15-minute marks. The only exception to the 10-minute rule was on the main card, when Randy Orton defeated Rusev in a mere 10 seconds, which doesn't include the untimed beatdown period beforehand. So there's quite the disparity between shortest and second shortest matches.
7. Reclaiming The Crown Of The King (Of The Cruiserweights)
It may not have quite been on the level of Usos vs. New Day, but Neville vs. Akira Tozawa for Tozawa's Cruiserweight Title made a solid run for best match of the Kickoff show, and was quite possibly fifth or sixth best match of the night total. Neville, of course, regained his title following a Red Arrow.
Dave Meltzer has noted that Tozawa's title win over Neville on the previous episode of Raw was not in the original plans, but was implemented by Vince McMahon as a way of shaking things up. Neville's 197-day reign ended on an apparent whim of freshness, and Tozawa's reign has ultimately been relegated to being a mere footnote. But perhaps Drew Gulak can keep the SummerSlam Kickoff show Cruiserweight Title change streak going when Sunday rolls around.
6. The Summers Of Cena
Well, John Cena found the best way to end his SummerSlam losing streak: take on Baron Corbin when the office is apparently cooling on the future "Constable", clown him for the duration of the match, win cleanly in 10 minutes, and then jump over to Raw. It wasn't the most auspicious start to the SummerSlam pay-per-view, but it was whatever.
Win or lose, the match would bring John Cena to 14 total matches at SummerSlam, giving him the second most all-time at the event. The only individual that ranks ahead of him is The Undertaker, whose 16 matches between 1992 and 2015 will sit at the top for at least a few years more. Cena's record at the event, however, is less impressive, coming in at 5-9. Had Team WWE done the job to The Nexus in 2010, Cena would be the only person with double-digit losses at SummerSlam, which would be surprising.
5. Hustle, Loyalty, Open
That Cena/Corbin match was also notable for the fact that it was the pay-per-view opener. How many shows does John Cena, of all people, open? He's been the face of the company for about a decade-and-a-half, and (SummerSlam record aside) has been as well protected by WWE as a rare baseball card. Seeing him open a show is almost as rare.
In fact, SummerSlam 2017 marked only the third time in Cena's career that he wrestled in the opening match of a Big Four pay-per-view. The prior example was his US Title win over Big Show at WrestleMania XX. The other instance wasn't too far before that, coming at Survivor Series 2003 when he and Chris Benoit were the survivors of the opening bout, coincidentally facilitated by Cena pinning Show.
4. Bad Luck Cannot Be Taught
The low point of the 2017 SummerSlam was when Big Cass defeated The Big Show in a match that was big on clunkiness. Enzo Amore was suspended above the ring in a Mattel-approved shark cage, while Cass and Show lumbered through a dim hossfest - and you thought Carmella vs. Asuka, with James Ellsworth playing the part of a chandelier, was an anti-delight.
This match took place in the midst of a major push for Cass, but a bad break was on the way for the seven-foot New Yawker. One night later on Raw, Enzo and Cass battled in a Street Fight, and Cass would end up tearing his ACL. The injury would put the giant on the shelf for close to eight months, killing off any momentum he may have been building, bad match or not.
3. Rise Of The Modern Day Maharaja
Fans were mostly unimpressed by Jinder Mahal when he became WWE Champion at Backlash 2017. They were less impressed when he brought the belt into SummerSlam, defeating crowd favourite Shinsuke Nakamura to retain the gold. Mahal's rise to the main event scene was as sudden as a hiccup, as evidenced by his pay-per-view resume.
The victory over Nakamura was the first time Mahal ever won a match on the main show of a Big Four pay-per-view, stretching back to his first run with the company that began in 2011. Bear in mind that by the time SummerSlam rolled around, Mahal had been holding the richest prize in the business for three months. And for the record, Mahal only wrestled on the main show of three other Big Four events previously, all in battle royals: the 2012 and 2012 Royal Rumble matches, and the inaugural Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXX.
2. Four's A Crowd
The main event four way for the Universal Title, pitting Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe, and Braun Strowman in the ultimate mean guy match, was the absolute show-stealer and is likely among the 15 greatest matches in SummerSlam history. As fun as the match was, and as much as Strowman shined as an untamed force of nature, neither he nor Joe was apparently originally scheduled for the match.
Meltzer claims that Lesnar vs. Reigns, which had long been slotted for WrestleMania 34, had been moved up to SummerSlam 2017 as a one-on-one clash, but that would be changed in short order to include Joe and Strowman. From an aesthetic standpoint, it was the right call, as the wild brawl was the perfect punctuation to a SummerSlam that wasn't short on fun matches.
1. Conquering The Summer
Lesnar planting Reigns with an emphatic F5 and pinning him to close out SummerSlam was a bit of a stunner, seeing as you figure WWE would wanna protect The Big Dog in a multi-man match by having someone else eat the fall. For the champion in his successful defense, he would extend his own high mark when it came to SummerSlam participation.
With the win, Brock Lesnar won his fifth SummerSlam main event, breaking a tie with Hulk Hogan's four for most wins in SummerSlam closing matches. Lesnar conquered The Rock in 2002, before tapping Triple H in 2012. From there, he folded up John Cena in 2014, made Randy Orton bleed to death in 2016, before surviving the four-way in 2017. Does Lesnar make it to six this year?