This year SummerSlam was packed full of surprises. Not only did Becky Lynch return, but Brock Lesnar came back too. The show ended with Lesnar -- now sporting a manbun, maybe the biggest shock of all -- confronting Roman Reigns.
WWE seesand counters with a Brock Lesnar.
It was a big ending to a big night. Roman Reigns pinned John Cena in a terrific main event, and we also got to see a brilliant bout between Edge and Seth Rollins. Of course, it wasn't winner after winner, as many matches suffered from a lack of time. Too many matches, too little space on the card: One of the best parts of the pandemic era was pay-per-view events with just five or six matches, while SummerSlam had 10.
Scroll down for a full recap and analysis of SummerSlam.
Brock Lesnar returns
As Reigns posed above Cena's body following the main event, Brock Lesnar's music hit. And huge swerve: Lesnar now has a man bun. Lesnar came to the ring, and Michael Cole points out that Paul Heyman has seen a ghost. We get a brief staredown between Reigns and Lesnar before Reigns makes an exit.
The show ends with Lesnar posing triumphantly to the crowd.
Roman Reigns pins John Cena
Like other Reigns main events, this one started slow. Reigns beat Cena down, trash talking him extensively while doing so, as Cena tried to catch Reigns with a variety of surprise rollups. The story going into the match is that Cena doesn't need to dominate Reigns, he just needs to pin him for three short seconds to make history.
There was a great moment early on where Cena went for his classic shoulder tackle, but Reigns decked him with a hard right hand. It was a great "we're in a new era now" moment -- even if Cena hit the sequence proper mere minutes later. Again, there was a great exchange there where Cena went for his "You can't see me " taunt and Reigns snatched him into a guillotine choke.
Cena countered a spear with a stiff kick, and moments later hit an Attitude Adjustment for the first nearfall of the match. There was an outstanding spot around this point where Cena was on the outside and Reigns tried to nail him with a spear, but Cena turned it into an Attitude Adjustment through the announcer's table. Another two count.
Reigns would go three for three kicking out of Attitude Adjustments when Cena planted him with an avalanche AA from the middle rope.
Having taken Cena's best, it was Reigns' turn to dish it back. Cena tried to takeout Reigns with a spear, but Reigns caught him with a kick. From there it was two Superman Punches and a huge spear for the win.
Rating: 4.25 stars. This was a fabulous success. The mission was to pass the torch from Cena to Reigns. Cena hit Reigns with everything, including an Attitude Adjustment from the top rope, but it wasn't enough. Reigns defeated Cena with one decisive spear. It's been the Reigns Era for at least a year now, but this is still a milestone moment.
Bobby Lashley beats Goldberg by ref stoppage
This went differently than I thought it would. Lashley dismantled Goldberg's leg, such that Goldberg couldn't stand up. After Goldberg twice tried unsuccessfully to stand up, the ref called for the bell.
It's not news anymore, but Goldberg looks unbelievable for a 54 year old. Just insane. Though he may look amazing, he certainly doesn't move like he once did. That said, he did much more here than his usual spear and jackhammer. When the match began he hit a high shoulder tackle and then a powerslam on Lashley, before spearing Lashley on the outside.
Goldberg setup another spear back on the inside, but Lashley rolled out. MVP then hit Goldberg's leg with his cane. Lashley then cut Goldberg down with a chop block to the injured leg, then on the outside rammed Goldberg's leg into the turnbuckle twice. That's when Goldberg, after rolling back into the ring, was unable to stand and the ref called for the bell.
This won't be the end of their fued, as Lashley smashed Goldberg's leg with a chair after the bell rang. Gage, Goldber'g son, then jumped on Lashley's back. Lashley put him in the Hurt Lock, and then MVP made him back off. The segment ended with Goldberg telling Lashley he's gonna kill him.
Rating: 2 stars.
Seth Rollins taps out to Edge
Edge came out to his old Brood music. As soon as you saw that, you knew this would be special.
And special it was! I was worried for a hot minute there: After the opening sequence, we got a long heat sequence where Rollins wore down Edge in not particularly exciting fashion. But once it picked up, it really picked up.
Just fantastic action. Rollins hit a superplex into a Falcon Arrow. Edge used his wife Beth Phoenix's Glam Slam as a nice false finish. Rollins tried to Curb Stomp Edge on the ring arpon as Edge was crawling out of the ring, but Edge moved out of the way and then landed a gnarly spear to the outside.
There were some outstanding near falls throughout, including Rollins countering a spear into a Pedigree, and Edge dodging a corkscrew splash from the top then cutting Rollins down with a spear. The psychology of the match was very well done, as it was built largely around the curb stomp. Rollins kept going for it, but Edge kept finding creative ways to counter.
The finish came with one such counter, as Rollins attempted a stomp but Edge turned around, grabbed his leg and put Rollins into his Edgecator submission hold. He then transitioned into the crossface submission. As it looked like Rollins would roll out, Edge took his head, slammed it into the mat and then turned it into a chokehold. Rollins tapped.
Rating: 4.5 stars.
Charlotte Flair wins the Raw Women's Championship
Charlotte Flair has won her four-millionth women's championship. She made Nikki A.S.H. tap out to the Figure Eight.
This was a very good match, thanks mostly to Charlotte and Ripley. These two are superstars -- not the way WWE uses the term, they actually have significant star presence -- and they work so well together. That's no surprise. It was hard to get into at first, mostly because Nikki A.S.H. started strong, and she's such an incongruous champion.
If the women's titles are meant to be similarly important to the men's world titles, then having an opening-match comedy wrestler be champion just throws everything off.
The bout eventually featured less and less of Nikki, which was for the best. Charlotte Flair was the star of the match, taking the middle third and looking amazing in the process. She hit a beautiful corkscrew moonsault to take out both Ripley and Nikki. There was also a standout spot where Ripley and Nikki double teamed her by hoisting her up for a double vertical suplex, but Flair countered into a double DDT.
Later, Flair and Ripley were brawling on the outside and Nikki did a top-rope splash onto both and hyped herself up to the crowd. Again, she just stuck out as a cartoon character who shouldn't be in a marquee match.
She did, however, contribute to a great false finish: Flair had Ripley in the Figure Eight, but Nikki jumped off the top-rope out of nowhere to break it up. Ripley went for the Riptide on Nikki, but she countered it into a Figure Eight. Flair then put Nikki in the Figure Eight for the win. She's being called a 12-time champion now -- so WWE is not counting her NXT runs.
Rating: 3.75 stars.
Drew McIntyre defeats Jinder Mahal
A nothing match here. The fued between Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre has always been asymmetrical: McIntyre was the company's biggest star of 2020, while Jinder is a lower-middle-card guy. This match reflected that. It was a five minute Raw match, basically. McIntyre won with a Claymore.
Mahal's goons come to his aid after the match, but McIntyre scares them off with Angela, his giant sword.
Rating: 2 stars. Nothing to see here.
Becky Lynch returns, wins SmackDown title
We get set up for Bianca Belair's SmackDown Women's Championship defense against Sasha Banks. It's announced that Sasha Banks is unable to compete tonight -- with no explanation, though Banks has been off live shows over the last week probably due to a COVID complication -- so Carmella is replacing her.
The crowd is not happy. Belair cuts a brief promo saying she's also not happy, and will take out her frustrations on Carmella. Just before the bell rings Becky Lynch's music hits to a huge response from the crowd. Becky tosses out Carmella, then walks outside and throws her into the steel steps.
Back inside the ring, Lynch proposes a match between The Man and The EST. Belair accepts. Becky Lynch hits a "Man-Handle Slam" -- pretty much a Rock Bottom -- straight away for the win. Awesome stuff.
Not a match, so no rating, but a great segment. You can certainly argue that Belair being bested by one move cheapens her title run, but Becky Lynch is one of the company's biggest cash cows and it's crucial that she get the biggest return possible. In a perfect world, these two would have gotten a 20-minute match. But considering the time constraints of SummerSlam, which is crammed with matches, it's better to have a quick upset than a 4-minute so-so match.
Look forward to the rematch, and welcome back to The Man.
The Usos retain SmackDown tag titles
We get a lucha flurry to begin with, culminating with Dominik hitting the Three Amigos onto one of the Uso brothers. Dominik, perched on the top rope to splash onto Jimmy Uso, then gets cut off by Jey, who runs up on the apron and pushes Dominik down to the floor. From there it's a two-on-one beatdown of Dominik. They cut Dominik off from his side of the ring, but the crowd pops big when Dominik is eventually able to tag his dad in.
Rey eventually hits a 619, which gets the biggest response of the night so far from the live crowd. He then scales the ropes and does Eddie Guerrero's Latino Heat taunt and goes for a Frog Splash -- but Jey puts his knees up to counter. The two Usos then hit a double superkick, Mysterio eats a splash and is pinned.
3.25 stars. Good, but nothing special. It felt especially unremarkable since these four have wrestled so much over the past two months.
Damien Priest wins US Championship
The match started strong, with these two bruisers exchanging big strikes and slams. There was a really nice counter when the two were on the outside: Priest tried a spinning heel kick on Sheamus but Sheamus caught him and rammed him into the ring post. It was heat from there, perhaps a little too slow and plodding -- Priest isn't over enough yet for the crowd to really get behind him during extended heat.
The match picked up significantly when Priest mounted his comeback. He hit a spinner heel kick from the top for a two, and then we got some solid back-and-forth wrestling. Sheamus went for a Brogue Kick but got caught with a high kick and Chokeslam from Priest. Later, Priest went for a springboard kick but Sheamus countered with a bicycle knee strike.
Sheamus used some Jiu-Jitsu moves that I've never seen him use before to get Priest into a heel hook. Priest got out of it by pulling Sheamus' mask off. He then hit another spinning heel kick and then his Reckoning finish for the win.
Rating: 3.75 stars. Really good, especially considering Priest has lost much of his post-WrestleMania momentum.
Alexa Bliss beats Eva Marie
It begins with some grappling, and the crowd chants "We want Wyatt!" Eva Marie then grabs Alexa Bliss' doll Lily, slapped it around and then smacked Bliss with it. Bliss got mad an barraged Marie with sloppy offense. Doudrop tells Eva Marie that she believes in her, then Bliss hits Marie with a DDT and pins her.
After the match Doudrop announces, "And the loser of this match is Eva Marie!"
Rating: 0 stars. What you'd expect.
Randy Orton and Riddle win Raw Tag Titles
We have new tag team champs. Randy Orton and Riddle defeated AJ Styles and Omos in the opening match of SummerSlam, with Orton hitting an RKO on AJ Styles to get the pin.
It was a very basic match, with AJ working most of it with Riddle and Orton and Omos occasionally interjecting to play the dominating big man. Omos would eventually flatten Riddle with a wicketd chokeslam on the edge of the ring, but he wasn't able to save AJ from eating an RKO. Orton was positioned as the star of the match, getting the big hot tag and coming to the rescue of Riddle to snag the win.
The match was too short, as it ended just as it was kicking into gear. Hopefully that means we'll get a more thorough match on the next pay-per-view. Either way, we got a happy ending to the first match on the card. The crowd was stoked to see Orton and Riddle as new tag team champions.
Rating: 3 stars.
Kickoff Show results
Baron Corbin wrestled Big E in the Kickoff Show match, as the two have been feuding over the Money in the Bank briefcase that Corbin stole from Big E.
Baron Corbin's run of bad luck continues, as Big E pinned him following a Big Ending in the Kickoff Show match. Big E took back his Money in the Bank briefcase after the match.