SummerSlam delivered a rare genuine surprise, and possibly the Roman Reigns we’ve been waiting for.
WWE made good on the pay-per-view’s tagline of “you’ll never see it coming” on Sunday as Reigns returned for the first time in months. He attacked “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman to close the show. Reigns stepped away in late March at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. He has had past battles with leukemia and was welcoming newborn twins into his family and wanted to be cautious.
His return was a shocking end to an entertaining SummerSlam that fell just short of being great. Add in the “ThunderDome” at Orlando’s Amway Center really bringing back some of the big event feel and it appears WWE may be finally turning the corner.
Here are five takeaways from SummerSlam:
Reigns, wearing a T-shirt that read “Wreck Everyone & Leave,” did just that — reclaiming his “yard.” He decimated the new Universal champion Fiend by spearing him twice and walloped Strowman with a chair. It came with an edge we have yet to see from Reigns — he even called The Fiend “just a freak in a mask” before holding the Universal championship belt over his head. This didn’t feel like a heel turn, just the unleashing of a killer instinct in Reigns that’s long overdue, possibly unlocking the character he was meant to be.
The close really was the highlight of the Strowman-Fiend match that just never seemed to take hold. For the first time, it felt like we were watching Wyatt in a mask and not a mythical being. None of the spots felt big enough for two monsters and the falls-count-anywhere stipulation only took us as far as an empty Gorilla Position.
The finish was also wonky. Strowman exposed the wood planks in the ring, giving Fiend enough time to recover to deliver two Sister Abgails on the wood and pin him. This all feels headed for a triple-threat match.
Drew McIntyre earned the most important victory in his reign as WWE champion in one of the matches of the night. McIntyre was able to counter the RKO with a backslide and pin Randy Orton to end a methodically paced match that told a good story early and felt like a true fight late. That fact that neither wrestler hit their finisher should be a sign there is more to come.
This had a big-match feel from the start with Orton even staring down the virtual crowd during his entrance and both competitors getting pyro in the ring. Orton controlled much of the match early, one step ahead of a frustrated and bloodied McIntrye. That changed as later it was the champ who had a counter for everything Orton threw at him even until the end.
In the first match of the night, Sasha Banks sacrificed herself and took a hip attack from a running Asuka into the ropes after Bayley avoided it. It allowed Bayley to roll up Asuka for the pin to retain her SmackDown women’s championship. Banks than immediately jumped on Asuka and delivered a double-team move with Bayley to soften Asuka up for their match later in the night.
Bayley did not return the favor in the exact same situation. Instead, she avoided the contact. It left Asuka with enough wherewithal to counter a Bank Statement attempt into an Asuka Lock to tap out Banks and regain the Raw women’s championship. Banks has yet to successfully defend a main roster singles title.
The Banks-Asuka match was the better of the two. It was hard-hitting (Sasha delivered a flipping powerbomb from the apron that looked amazing) and had some great transitions and counters.
This all will start to put cracks in the Banks-Bayley friendship. It separated the singles titles again and we will likely see Asuka and Shayna Baszler (who should eventually get a singles feud with the Asuka) go after the tag team titles at Payback. Eventually, I can hear Banks saying to Bayley: “Since I don’t have any more gold, I want yours.”
Dominik Mysterio may not have beaten Seth Rollins, but at no point did it feel like you were watching a young kid making his WWE debut. While some credit goes to how good Rollins is, Dominik looked very capable with frog splashes, smooth counters and plenty of emotion.
The street fight pulled together many elements of this story, from Dominik taking and dishing out a kendo stick beating to nearly getting his eye attacked by Murphy as Rollins did to his dad. But this was ultimately about a father and son. Rey wanted so badly to help against Dominik’s wishes as Rollins taunted him.
He even had to keep his emotional wife from entering the match area as she walked out on the ramp. Rey got the emotion across of ultimately having to watch his son get stomped as he was just out of reach because Rollins had handcuffed him to the ropes. There are still matches left here because the Mysterios need to put Rollins and Murphy in their place.
The stipulation for the match between Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose went from hair vs. hair to a no disqualification and loser leaves WWE match at the last minute. The exact reason is unclear, but it could be so Deville can deal with the trial of the fan who entered her home (with Rose there as a guest) with the alleged intent to try to kidnap her. Or maybe Deville has another venture she wants time to pursue. Whatever the reason, it’s a shame to see her have to step away with her character starting to really click.
The match itself was OK at best. It didn’t take full advantage of the no disqualification stipulation — maybe because Rollins-Mysterio was a street fight up next. Rose even set up a table that no one went through. The hero Rose, who got to celebrate with Otis at the end, never felt in serious danger of losing.
Apollo Crews over MVP to retain the United States championship (Kickoff show)
With the Hurt Business barred from ringside, Crews was able to dispatch MVP in a pretty ordinary match. He even slipped out before Shelton Benjamin and Bobby Lashley could get their hands on him after it was over. Crews has the potential to put on some very good matches. It’s time to give him someone who can help to that.
The Street Profits over Andrade and Angel Garza to retain the Raw tag team championships
Having it rain down red solo cups as Montez Ford raised his own twice during the Street Profits’ entrance was a really fun touch and one WWE should keep. Adding Kevin Owens — plus his red tie and Street Profits shirt — on commentary was also a plus. One thing that was missing was an appearance by Bianca Belair.
These two teams’ chemistry and growth showed in a well laid-out match, though it was void of a memorable moment. Garza accidentally threw Ford into Zelina Vega on the apron. After that Garza went to tag Andrade, who was off checking on Vega. It gave the Street Profits the opening they needed to earn the pin.
Renee Young said on the kickoff show this was her last appearance for WWE.
WWE announced Keith Lee — who lost his NXT championship to Karrion Kross at TakeOver on Saturday — will be on “Monday Night Raw” tonight.
Aleister Black will be the guest on Raw’s “Kevin Owens Show.”
The words “Fire Velveteen Dream” did appear briefly in the virtual crowd during Sasha Banks’ entrance. WWE quickly cut away and removed it.
While a highlight package for Retribution was shown, the group didn’t appear on the show despite all the TV time its been given.
Biggest winner: Drew McIntyre
Biggest loser: Braun Strowman
Best match: Drew McIntrye vs. Randy Orton