Last year, it became pretty clear that the WWE wanted to make Summerslam feel as special as Wrestlemania. ESPN hyped the show, even broadcasting live from Brooklyn the day of the event. The show features two more hours of programming than routine pay-per-views – one added on to the main card, one added on to the kickoff show. Creative has ensured that the show is booked with Wrestlemania caliber matches.
Summerslam 2015 was a huge success. Undertaker returning to face Brock Lesnar and avenge the streak led to one of the all-time classic main events. The Undertaker laughing meme even broke the internet for a day or two following the event. Seth Rollins and John Cena put on one of the greatest title matches of 2015, despite the lame Jon Stewart interference. Even with that, a great wrestling-mainstream media crossover moment was created. Those were just the two main events.
A strong midcard boosted the show as well. The New Day began their epic journey as the longest reigning WWE Tag Team Champions on this night. Kevin Owens and Cesaro were given nearly 15 minutes towards the end of the show. Stephen Amell didn’t totally blow it as a lot of celebrities in wrestling matches do. Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns had a solid bout with The Wyatt Family.
Not to mention, you know things are trending upward when Sheamus and Randy Orton wrestle for the millionth time and you actually catch yourself thinking, “hmm…not a bad way to start the show.”
Though the match itself wasn’t the strongest showing, the three-team divas elimination match was still a sign of things to come. This was during the early stages of the ‘Divas Revolution,’ and it was just about as hot as the angle would be.
About the only criticism you’ll hear regarding 2015’s Summerslam is of the five-minute Intercontinental Championship triple threat featuring Ryback, Big Show, and The Miz. Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev was marred by an abomination of a love triangle storyline, but the match itself was good.
Those were meager bumps in the road on what was largely a successful show that felt like a major event.
This was quite an accomplishment. Lest we forget, Wrestlemania 31 was actually a pretty solid show of its own accord. Reigns vs. Lesnar (vs. Rollins) was one of the all-time classic Wrestlemania moments and endings. Triple H vs. Sting was a nostalgia-fest that delivered to every kid of the Monday Night Wars era. Orton and Rollins stole the show early on. Overall, it ran like an episode of NXT. Great wrestling with few distractions.
Fast forward to 2016, and much feels the same. Summerslam has two highly anticipated main event level matches in Lesnar vs. Orton and Rollins vs. Finn Balor. The show starts at 6PM CST, so viewers will be treated to around five hours of coverage (if you tune into the kickoff show). Jon Stewart is back. New Day is in a WWE Tag Team Championship match. Rollins is competing for one of the main titles.
The main difference? The preceding Wrestlemania. The WWE took over Dallas earlier this year and delivered one of the all-time Wrestlemania duds. All 100,000 of the fans in attendance saw the Reigns win coming (okay, that’s opinion – not hard science). The main event was clunky and dragged on a tad bit. Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker felt thrown together and now we’re seeing that the consequences of the match didn’t matter at all. Four months down the road, we can honestly say that that match meant absolutely nothing.
Perhaps the most anticipated match of the evening, Ambrose vs. Lesnar failed to be even remotely entertaining. It’s easily the biggest disappointment of the year so far. Thanks, Brock. New Day taking on the League of Nations was boring. The Rock’s appearance felt like a jumbled mess. Zack Ryder’s Intercontinental Championship win was exactly what a Wrestlemania moment was supposed to be, but he lost the title the next night on Raw. AJ Styles and Chris Jericho had a solid match, but botched the finish.
The show just felt “off,” and the highlights (Women’s triple threat, Corbin winning the battle royal) didn’t do enough to offset the feeling of “bleh.”
In other words, the bar was set pretty low. This year’s Summerslam feels more like Wrestlemania than Wrestlemania 32 did.
The same formula is in place from last year – build around a big main event, support it with a strong undercard, and promote the hell out of it. The two main title matches are going to be excellent – Balor vs. Rollins and Ambrose vs. Ziggler could both be ‘Match of the Night’ contenders. Whether it closes the show or not, Lesnar vs. Orton feels big.
Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks, Roman Reigns vs. Rusev, and John Cena vs. AJ Styles comprises the midcard. THE MIDCARD! Are you kidding me? Any of these matches could potentially headline a pay-per-view.
Under those six main events (yeah, I’ll go ahead and say it – Summerslam has six main events), the WWE has booked New Day vs. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, Cesaro vs. Sheamus, and The Miz vs. Apollo Crews.
In a stroke of genius, Jericho and Owens paired up to take on Enzo Amore and Big Cass. The promos have been solid gold. I dare anyone to find a bad match on this card.
NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II hasn’t even factored into this article. So, pile all of this on top of a weekend that will also feature Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Bayley vs. Asuka, and The Revival vs. Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano. What a time to be a wrestling fan!
Bottom line: the WWE has made great strides towards making Summerslam what it once was in the early years of its inception. Sunday’s show will only further that progress.
Stoney Keeley covers the WWE for WrestlingNews.co, covers the NFL’s Tennessee Titans for Pro Football Spot, and is the Editor of The SoBros Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @StoneyKeeley and the SPOT’s Tennessee Titans Twitter feed at @spot_titans.