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WWE is often criticized for remaining stagnant, for taking the easy road and never really sticking out their neck for anything wild. The ideas that tend to get a little crazy tend to be injudicious ones, like the Bella vs Stephanie feud. Tonight though, fans finally got to see something a little bit different, a little bit exciting, and a little bit risky. If anything can be said about Summerslam, it can be that it was unexpected, surprising, and definitely worth the $9.99.
Brock Lesnar vs John Cena- ****3/4 (4.75 Stars)
Let it be known that Brock Lesnar used 3, just 3, moves during this match. He punched John Cena, he hit a couple of F-5s, and he gave him an unholy number of german suplexes. That is it for Brock. What makes Brock Lesnar's matches so good is that they appear different than every other match. The pace is different, the moves are different, even the announcing is different for them. It was said that when Brock came back to WWE, it was to add legitimacy to WWE, however it goes far beyond that. Brock's matches actually feel like UFC matches, once that are more physical, more violent, and more real than any other match.
It wasn't just the fact that Cena lost, it was how he lost. I wrote last year when Daniel Bryan defeated Cena that although it is frustrating that Cena wins so frequently, it makes it so much better when he actually loses cleanly. That same reasoning goes into what happened tonight. I honestly thought that Cena had this match tonight locked up, that he was going to win and everyone was going to complain. Well, I ended up with egg on my face, as Cena not only lost, he got murdered. While he lost last year to Daniel Bryan, at least that match was your standard, back and forth contest. Tonight, Brock just destroyed Cena, in a ridiculous fashion.
Brock's victory was so overwhelming that it almost seems silly for Cena to get the title back from him. How could a man that looked so helpless at Summerslam possibly defeat that same man again? It would make so much more sense to have someone else take the title off of Brock.
But this match was barely even about Cena, he is simply just a footnote in history. Tonight was all about Brock, and not in the way most people would think. Yes, Lesnar steamrolled his way through Cena, but what really stuck out, and what sticks out to me every time he wrestles, is his masterful psychology. Brock sometimes gets put into the unfair stereotype of being considered as this colorless, wrestling machine. But Brock's in-ring psychology is nothing short of genius. The recent he is able to have such great matches while only using three moves is because of his psychology. Sitting up and mocking The Undertaker, spamming german suplexes into infinity, taunting Cena, it was all done so well that it completely overtook the idea of a wrestling match. Throughout the contest, it wasn't like we were watching a competitive contest, it was more of a funeral. And that is what we saw tonight, a funeral. But unlike funerals, this match was a ton of fun.
Roman Reigns vs Randy Orton- **** (4 Stars)
Ever since Roman Reigns kind of showed signs of going solo, the big question surrounding him was if he could have a good match, on his own, with no stipulations, that went a good 15-20 minutes. After tonight, I can confidently say that, with the right opponent, Reigns can have a pretty good match meeting those qualifications. Was it a perfect match? No, but I think it was good enough for WWE management to feel confident in the continued push of Roman Reigns.
A big piece of the credit has to go to Randy Orton. For a guy that is rumored to sometimes have attitude problems, he was a total professional tonight, doing a great job of getting the most out of a somewhat limited opponent. Orton carried the match like the skilled veteran that he is, and sold for Reigns every time it was called for. He did a good job getting his offense in (nice RKO Randy) and didn't just get squashed. Because of Randy Orton, tonight was a really good night for Roman Reigns, and not enough can be said about that.
Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins- **** (4 Stars)
I can't remember the last time I saw a Lumberjack Match that was actually any good. Most of the time they appear on Raw and are short, simple matches that typically end in an in-decisive fashion (this despite the fact being that the whole point of the match is to get a decisive conclusion). Because of all that, I didn't have much faith in this match being any good, despite the fact that it contained Ambrose and Seth Rollins.
However, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the match ended up being. WWE often struggles to come up with really creative aspects of their product, but they certainly got very creative when it came to utilizing the Lumberjacks. From the Lumberjacks going into the crowd, to Ambrose hitting the turnbuckle dive onto Rollins in the sea of Lumberjacks, the match was certainly a lot of fun to watch. Bonus points go out to Damien Sandow for subtlety dressing up as a legitimate Lumberjack for the match.
Because it was likely this wasn't going to be the last meeting between Ambrose and Rollins, I figured that Ambrose would pick up the victory to force a rematch. However, Rollins winning with a shot from the briefcase works just as well, and it will only drive Ambrose even closer to the brink of madness. What I love about Ambrose is that right now he isn't really a heel or a face. He just hates Seth Rollins, and that is enough for fans to cheer for him. He is a classic anti-hero, in the model of Bruiser Brodie and Steve Austin. Really great stuff from him tonight.
Chris Jericho vs Bray Wyatt- ***1/2 (3.5 Stars)
From a wrestling standpoint, the match left something to be desired, but from a psychology standpoint, the match was very well done. Wyatt, despite his lack of victories in 2014, is still mystifying as a character. I thought it was fantastic when Wyatt just kind of stopped in the middle of the match and yelled at Jericho "You cannot kill me Chris, for I am already dead." Wyatt, better than any other young guy WWE has, has a better understanding of his character and what it means to be that character.
Something else we saw was Jericho once again doing a textbook job of putting someone over. It isn't enough simply to just lose a match to someone, Jericho allowed Wyatt to go out there on a big stage and beat him, leaving him lying and clearly asserting himself as the better man. The great thing is that Wyatt is good enough to best utilize what the veteran is giving to him.
Dolph Ziggler vs The Miz- ***1/2 (3.5 Stars)
There were a lot of great things to take away from this match. For starters, Dolph got a really big pop when he won the title, and hopefully he is going to get a nice push (how many times have we said that?) Ziggler did a great job selling, Ricky Morton-style, getting the fans really invested in him prevailing and feeding off of his support. For his credit, The Miz was no slouch selling himself, and he also dusted on some Fighting Spirit, bouncing up from the Fame-Asser and connecting with the Skull Crushing Finale. I like that Dolph won, but I'm kind of disappointed in The Miz, because I was really starting to dig his new character. Hopefully he can bounce back and continue this feud, because the fans really do like Ziggler, and they really do hate The Miz.
Rusev vs Jack Swagger- ***1/4 (3.25 Stars)
Kind of a surprise match for me. I wasn't expecting anything too special, but I think Swagger deserves a lot of credit for carrying Rusev to a pretty solid match. Rusev is becoming a very interesting prospect for WWE. On one hand, Rusev is very convincing as a mauler, and his facial expressions and mannerism are spot on for his character. He is obviously immensely strong and has proven himself to be a pretty good athlete. However, he is still very green and it showed during times tonight. For such a strong guy, he doesn't really have a great arsenal of moves. You never see him do typical strongman moves like a powerslam, press slam, powerbomb, spinebuster, etc. It looks like he is probably done feuding with Swagger, and with an impressive record of victories, it will be telling to see who WWE chooses for him to work with next.
Paige vs AJ- **1/2 (2.5 Stars)
Paige has finally found her footing as a character. She is portraying the borderline crazy, obsessive woman really well and re-capturing the title will certainly add steam to their feud. In the ring, the matches are okay, but they still seem short of reaching their potential. AJ and Paige have the potential to have the best feud among WWE women in a very long time, but it will never reach that potential if they keep having mediocre matches. Also, I'm pretty sure King gets a nickel every time he said the word "Frenemies."
Stephanie McMahon vs Brie Bella- ¼* (0.25 Stars)
A match that wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, but since I thought this match was going to be the worst match of the year, that isn't really saying much. For the most part, it was what a lot of people figured it would be. About 5-8 minutes of just the two of them going at it and then the match breaking down with interferences. The majority of the match was just simple offense that both women could perform without embarrassing themselves, but it doesn't lend itself to much entertainment. Nikki turning on Brie was a sad moment, because it means this feud that really has gotten me down on WWE is going to continue, and history indicates that is likely only to get worse. The only surprise that occurred was that Nikki has gotten Lex Luger's steel-plated forearm and laid her sister out cold with one blow.