There were excellent matches (Rollins vs. Ziggler and Styles vs. Joe, with Bryan and Miz not far behind), just as there were emphatic squashes with varying degrees of fun (Braun vs. KO, Ronda vs. Alexa, Balor vs. Corbin). It wasn't a perfect show, but it was one that hit on many different senses, while fighting to keep the show interesting for its duration. Mostly, it succeeded.
And as always here at Cultaholic, I shall list off the things we learned from each pay-per-view, little lessons and tidbits that we can carry with us through the days. This is what we learned from SummerSlam 2018, aside from "there's no shame in finishing second to Cultaholic in a predictions contest." Especially if you enjoy singing in public.
10. Countdown Clocks Are Unnecessary Unless It's January
In our unending criticism of the Pittsburgh fans and their mindless need to mimic Royal Rumble countdowns during last month's Iron Man match, we didn't dole out enough blame for WWE for going the Iron Man route in the first place. While nobody would've astutely thought "but what if the fans use the provided timer to hijack the match?", it's not like Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler *needed* an Iron Man match. Drew McIntyre could've just as easily screwed Rollins over after 20 minutes to prolong the feud in a standard match.
Calling the SummerSlam bout a "standard match" is understating it, though, as Rollins and Ziggler delivered what is probably SummerSlam's best IC title match since The Rock vs. Triple H in a ladder match 20 years ago. It was a genuine crowd-pleaser with an array of wild moves (reverse Superplex from the top, Bah Gawd). Iron Man matches are dead, and Pittsburgh wasn't the killer - this uncluttered match was.
9. Too Many Crazy Spots Will Only Make a DQ More Deflating
I liked the match between The Bludgeon Brothers and The New Day, I really did. It was unformulaic, and a bit video game-like when it came to its accelerated spottiness, but that was part of the charm - it didn't adhere to a formula. Sometimes it seems like fans know a match is going to go, say, 15 minutes, so they sit on their hands for the first 10 as the talents build the match's body, and then get invested when the important sequences start. This match broke from that.
But in doing so, they strung together one outrageous spot after another (Xavier's flying elbow to the floor, Big E's mid-rope Spear to the outside, and more), and cut it off with a DQ finish. I'm not opposed to DQ finishes (as we'll see in a bit), and I'm not opposed to zany collections of spots. But when there are so many risks being taken, it may be better to pay off with a tangible finish. Just an opinion.
8. Fans Don't Buy Finishers If They're Hit Early
Braun Strowman's win over Kevin Owens was more one-sided than any of us on a see-saw with a science class skeleton, and that wasn't the worst thing. You were expecting Owens to try to bait Braun into getting himself DQed or counted out, so when Braun just quickly killed him with laser focus, it read as a bit shocking. Psychologically, it made sense for Braun, but since it didn't follow an extended "formula", it had a flatness for many.
This was evident when Strowman Powerslammed Owens almost through the canvas (you know, his finisher), and fans were waiting for a kickout that never came. Since not even two minutes had elapsed, fans were conditioned to think "well, this can't be the finish," before going, "wait, that was the finish?!" From a storytelling standpoint, it made sense, not that those expecting a three star match with a few twists would necessarily agree.
7. Becky Lynch's 'Face Turn' Was The Stuff Of Legend
Wait, she turned heel? Coulda fooled me - when Becky fell short in the SmackDown Women's Title triple threat, there was a palpable annoyance in the Barclays Center since, you know, Charlotte gets another reign with the belt. I'm not saying it annoyed me, but I can see how fans of the widely-loved Becky would be irked beyond measure.
That sentiment was made clear when Becky snapped, striking Charlotte across the face in the post-match. The fans cheered as though they'd each won thousands on scratch-off lotto tickets, and continued cheering when Becky prolonged the assault. WWE, for whatever reason, doesn't seem to see Becky as the face of a women's division (rumours have persisted that her accent is a deal-breaker, internally), and fans who make note of all of the blonde-haired champions have more ammo. Charlotte, for all of her amazing talent, athletic ability, and poise, just doesn't register as "cool" to the fans as some of her contemporaries, and that's the truth.
6. TNA Is Cool, Ya'll
An awesome Slammiversary pay-per-view, coupled with some enjoyable booking through 2018, have pulled IMPACT Wrestling out of the sludge and into respectable graces once more. They're a long way from the glory days, but it's far from rock bottom as well. And that's good to see, because so many beloved TNA stars of the past are in WWE now, two of whom competed for the WWE Championship in an appropriately-intense battle.
When 15,000 or so fans in Brooklyn took to chanting "TNA!" for AJ Styles and Samoa Joe's test of human limits, it had to sting a little for diehard IMPACT fans to have the longtime incompetence of their company (they lost THESE two, for goodness sakes) brought up, but it can be seen as a positive as well. TNA is capable of great things when their head isn't lodged up their own ass, as Styles and Joe's decorated careers have shown. If 2018 is the year we give IMPACT the benefit of the doubt again, seeing Styles and Joe rip each other apart can only stir up that nostalgic feeling.
5. Not Every Match Needs To Be Epic Length
I'm Seeing a lot of underwhelmed reception for Daniel Bryan and The Miz's match. Personally, I thought it was quite good, with some genuine intensity toward the end (everything in and around Bryan kicking the ring post shell, to be specific). But I do concede that a feud with such tension and hatred at hand could've been represented with a more appropriate match. Twenty-three minutes with a cheap finish? I see their point.
If this show proved nothing else, it's that a shorter match can achieve the desired effect. Yes, it's a pay-per-view, and there will be fans who will look at an 11-to-14 minute blow-off, no matter how fitting, and say, "that was it?" While some will feel cheated by a shorter match, it can be preferable to a 23-minute match that solves nothing, except mollifying fans who judge more with asterisks than their hearts and guts. Sometimes, the best wrestling doesn't require a ruler and a scale.
4. People Can And Will Change Their Minds Quickly
When Samoa Joe and AJ Styles went on fifth, many among our faithful Cultaholic followers were aghast - "Finn Balor vs. Baron Corbin's going on after this?!" I'm not trying to sound like a know-it-all braggart, but when I realized Balor/Corbin was still to come, I figured it'd be a buffer match, a palate cleanser after something of considerable length. The fear seemed to be a Baron Corbin match eating up 14 minutes in the deader half of the show, hence the outward rage.
Oh, but we now know that Balor/Corbin was far from 14 minutes - it was a tenth of that. When Demon Finn emerged, swallowing up Corbin like a sweating, fearful snack, it was the sort of squash that worked. Yeah, some were mad that the Demon was wasted on Corbin (it fit the story of Balor employing something to wipe the smug look off of condescending Corbin's face), but for others, the match was what it should have been. Suddenly, the complaints about the match order went out the window. Axl Rose is right: all we need is just a little patience.
3. Swanton Bombing The Apron Has To Suck
In another time, perhaps another place, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jeff Hardy would've been a gem. Instead, it was essentially extended buffer before two matches with a greater amount of hype, and that was probably for the best. Hardy at 40 can still do many of the same things that his 18-year-old self performed with aplomb, but it's clear that he's physically not the same any more. Given that his hole-punched bump card is down to just slivers of cardstock confetti at this point, that's easy to understand.
That's why it's also horrifying to see the longtime risk-taker attempt a Swanton Bomb onto Nakamura, who lay on the apron, only for the US Champion to slither away, bringing Hardy down with a jarring thud onto the hardest part of the ring. On a show where everybody up to and including Charly Caruso and Jon Stewart took bumps on the apron (it seemed that way, anyway), this was the sickest of them all. Do we really *need* apron bumps?
2. Ronda Rousey Is Genuinely Scary
Thirty years after the face-painted Ultimate Warrior ripped apart the irritating Honky Tonk Man in thirty seconds to win the Intercontinental title, we were treated to an expanded rendition with Ronda Rousey sadistically mauling Raw Women's Champion Alexa Bliss in about four minutes, treating her arm like that of a Stretch Armstrong doll. If you hate Alexa's mean girl character (or just plain hate Alexa), this was your bag.
Rousey bore another similarity to Warrior - war paint. When she appeared briefly on the pre-show, she looked like a hybrid of Black Swan and Mac's Nightman from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - another comically-garish make-up job for a woman's wrestler, we thought. By match time, she worked the look into a more multi-hued scheme, and it's safe to say that Demon Ronda is more horrifying than Demon Finn. The lack of a hint of a smile as she beelined toward the ring reminded me to never cross her - I think I'd rather spit in Haku's face, frankly.
1. Braun Strowman Is The Perfect "Distraction"
Other than a loud "YOU BOTH SUCK" chant halfway through the Roman Reigns/Brock Lesnar Universal title match, there wasn't much in the way of oppositional hindrances from the vocal crowd. That's because WWE booked the six-minute affair tightly enough to neutralize the perpetual rage, adding a big wrinkle that would serve as a distraction.
When Strowman showed up to announce that he would be cashing in on whoever won between The Beast and The Big Dog, fans waited for the battle of Disinterested Millionaire and Rejected Savior to come to a close so that the more beloved Strowman could chew up the survivor. That was before Lesnar took advantage of a Spear-gone-awry to cancel Strowman out, before walking into the fatal Spear himself. WWE got the ending they wanted with a minimum of fuss, and a colossal assist from Strowman's presence. Strowman can always beat Reigns later, anyhow. I agree that Strowman winning would've been a better capper for the show (as a Braun fan, personally), I'm just happy to see the main event as something other than a disastrous mess.