The “Biggest Party of the Summer” promised much in 2018, with TEN matches on the main show and three kickoff matches to boot. Courtesy of WWE Home Video, Matthew Roberts checks out whether SummerSlam 2018 offered quality as well as quantity.
The elephant in the room leading into SummerSlam was of course that it was headlined by the match that “nobody” wanted to see; Brock Lesnar Vs Roman Reigns. Some people did want to see it, of course, but the internet can be like a ship at times. The empty vessels make the most noise, after all. In my mind they shold have pulled the plug on it at WrestleMania, not least because it made Reigns look bad AGAIN to lose there. This HAD to be Reigns’ night. I’m not interested in whether you think he should be pushed as the face of the company; if the WWE see him as that they’ve done a shoddy job of the push. But that’s a whole other article for another time. At least the WWE had the sense here to send Braun Strowman to ringside, in an attempt to fool the fans into sticking around in anticipation of his Money In The Bank contract. The speech of course made no sense, and Strowman’s actions here were most unbecoming of the character when you think about it, but at least there was a reason for it. And it worked. Fans stayed, we got the Lesnar/Reigns title change out of the way and by the time fans had realised this wasn’t going to be Braun’s night the WWE had the show ending picture of Reigns celebrating his victory in the middle of the ring. The match was about what you’d expect from a six minute match between the two. It wasn’t great, but as a moment that was long overdue I can live with that.
Luckily there was plenty on the “undercard” that picked up the slack from the main event.
The WWE Championship match between AJ Styles and Samoa Joe was predictably very good. Even the potentially hokey stuff of Joe verbally targeting Styles wife and kids came across as believable and actually added to the drama. The hard-hitting action had the fans on their feet but the DQ finish, whilst handled well, was a reminder that the WWE have your 9.99 in the bag already. Still, a Joe loss here was not on the cards if the feud was to continue. The Women’s World Title matches couldn’t, of course, hold a candle to Styles and Joe but they offered up their own brand of entertainment. The Triple Threat for the Smackdown Women’s Title was a decent effort, even if some will have been disappointed in the quality considering Charlotte and Becky Lynch were in there. Carmella would likely take the blame for that but I would say this was her best performance in the WWE to date. She actually looked like she belonged in the ring with two of the Four Horsewomen and for my money brought more to the table than an unusually muted Charlotte. Perhaps Charlie knew what was coming post-match. If the WWE really believed that the fans would boo Becky for her post-match actions their cliché of “listening to the audience” would indeed be proved to be just lip-service. A solid enough match, elevated by the post-match shenanigans. Whilst the Raw Women’s Title match between Alexa Bliss and Ronda Rousey went a third of the time allotted to their Smackdown counterparts it was arguably a more “successful” match. It was never going to go for an hour, and although I was slightly disappointed at just how little offence Bliss got in, a virtual squash match was the only way to go with the WWE intent on showcasing Rousey. Every heel has to get their comeuppance sometime; unless you are Stephanie McMahon of course. Bliss is about the only female on the roster who could survive that burial and Ronda looked like the star she undoubtedly is. Now if she could just be a little more subtle in calling those moves…
Arguably the most anticipated match on the card was the clash between Daniel Bryan and The Miz. Whilst the storyline had been fractured by the fact that it was set in motion at a time when we/the WWE didn’t know if Bryan would ever wrestle for the company again it had been successfully reheated in 2018 and with memories of their great match at the Liverpool House Show earlier in the year I was fully expecting this one to shine. And shine it did. The trick was that these were two wrestlers who didn’t ignore what had gone on between them in the verbal build up to simply go out and put on a regular match. They followed up Miz’s suggestions that Bryan’s high-risk style cost him as many matches as it won him and the cheap nature of Miz’s victory helped to prove Bryan’s points that Miz needed to take shortcuts to win the big ones. As the opening match of a feud that had been going on verbally for months and months, this was almost perfect.
Plenty of other titles were on the line as well. Seth Rollins against Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Title was an entertaining opener but perhaps never quite hit the heights that many would have hoped for/expected. The United States title match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Jeff Hardy at least lasted more than six seconds this time around but whilst it was passable it again never really hit the heights you might have hoped for. But a disinterested Nakamura and a banged up Hardy was never going to be the dream match this might have seemed a good few years ago. The Smackdown Tag Team titles match between the Bludgeon Brothers and The New Day offered up more excitement and the New Day were allowed to look as competitive as anyone has against the dominant champions. The DQ finish was fine, in of itself too, but perhaps was overkill considering the WWE did it again later on in the AJ/Joe match.
Rounding out the main card were two squashes. Braun Strowman murdered Kevin Owens, whilst Finn Balor quite unnecessarily unleashed The Demon to take care of Baron Corbin in two matches that lasted less time than it’s taken me to write this sentence. Well, almost. As a change of pace on a LONG night of action they were fine. Whether or not Owens or Corbin should be losing so quickly on such a big show is open to personal consideration. Maybe, maybe not. But I doubt it did either of them too much harm.
Whilst never really threatening to become one of the greatest SummerSlam events, the 2018 one did bring us some great matches. AJ vs Joe and Miz Vs Bryan were the pick of the night and perhaps it was fitting that they were both matches from the Blue brand. Ronda Vs Alexa and Brock Vs Roman did what they had to do on the night, whatever you might think about the pushes/storylines and even if the WWE miscalculated the fans response to the Smackdown Women’s Title match that all worked out pretty well in the end. With nothing being too poor or offensive this was a good night of WWE action. Nothing dragged and the show generally had a fast pace that added to the excitement. There was nearly always the feeling that something was happening.
The DVD release adds the three kickoff matches. The mixed tag match between Adrade Almas & Zelina Vega and Rusev & Lana managed to waste the talents of the two men but still be relatively entertaining. The Cruiserweight Title match between Cedric Alexander and Drew Gulak was good but, disappointingly, was not up to the standard of some of the barn-burners we see in 205 Live each week. With that show being perhaps the best kept secret in Wrestling, it would be nice that when the opportunities to showcase it on a bigger stage they were given a better platform to deliver. The Raw Tag Team title match between The B Team and The Revival was typical filler and in no way made me re-think that putting the belts on the B-Team had any merit. Which isn’t saying there isn’t talent there, just that the days of title’s making the men (rather than the other way around) are long gone. There are also a handful of extras from TV with the return of Dean Ambrose, an AJ Styles promo and Ronda Rousey’s post SummerSlam championship celebration.
Format reviewed: DVD
Photos courtesy of Fetch and WWE.
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of SummerSlam 2018 which is out on DVD Monday 8 October. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here