Last week we covered how Vince McMahon had recently been ousted from his position of authority in WWE after a 40 year reign of (mostly) successful terror. I think it’s no secret that modern WWE hasn’t really been required viewing for me in recent years, with All Elite Wrestling and independent wrestling promotions filling the hole that WWE once filled in my life (ooo err matron). However, seeing as WWE now supposedly had new fingerprints on the product, and because I needed to watch the opener for a series of articles I’m writing for Scott Keith’s Blog of DOOM, I decided I’d give WWE’s recent SummerSlam pay per view a go.
Before I get into any critiques about the show, I’d like to say that I thought many parts of SummerSlam were good. The big stadium in Nashville where the show was taking place looked very nice, the crowd was mostly into the action, and the wrestling itself was mostly good. I even quite enjoyed the booking and storytelling, as everything made sense and it seems like WWE has a storyline direction that I’m actually intrigued by based off some of the results. The non-regular wrestler performances by the likes of Logan Paul and Pat McAfee were solid, Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns managed to have a good match even though that pairing has been beaten into the ground in recent years, and Bianca Belair continued her ascent to being one of the promotions top stars by defeating Becky Lynch and essentially winning their feud.
Not only did Lynch seemingly turn back to being a babyface following that match, but Bayley returned and brought with her some backup in the form of Dakota Kai and Io Shirai, which should inject some life into the women’s division over on Raw and give the audience some fresh matches, which is never a bad thing. Roman Reigns and The Uso’s might have won their matches once again, thus denying the Smackdown fans any respite from the dominance of their brand, but Drew McIntyre is all set to challenge Reigns in Cardiff for his belts this September and there’s a genuine chance he might win, which would be a wonderful occasion and also a cathartic moment for the fan base at large considering how long and dominant Reign’s Title run has been. I won’t be at that particular show as it’s the same day as the Merseyside Derby, so I’ll likely be stuck watching Everton get shellacked whilst Drew brings home the bacon, but I hope everyone who goes to the show has a good time on my behalf.
The only real issue I had with the booking on the show was the portrayal of Austin Theory, as I thought they made him look like a bit of a chump. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if he was a lower card guy who existed expressly to be a chump, but Theory is actually the holder of the Money in the Bank briefcase right now, so he really should be one of the last people that is made to look foolish. For those uninitiated in the ways of WWE, the Money in the Bank holder can challenge for the major Titles in WWE whenever they want at any time for up to a year. Theory indeed did try and cash in his case during the Main Event between Lesnar and Reigns, only to be foiled and thoroughly humiliated. For some reason this is something WWE does a lot with the MITB case holder, which permanently baffles me.
The internal WWE logic appears to be that they can humiliate and bury the case holder all they want, because when they eventually cash in the case and win the belts it will instantly rehab them. However, what instead happens is that the case holder ends up looking like an undeserving weak Champion when they cash in because they’ve been booked so limply for months. I think it would be a far better use of Theory if they gave him the case and then gave him a long winning streak where he was made to look effective and competent. Thus, when he did finally cash in the fans would see him as a legitimate Champion as opposed to some dweeb who got lucky. Regardless of whether you think Theory is the right guy for this role (I’m mostly indifferent to him, but it is nice to see someone new getting a chance) I think we can all agree that he could be booked better, along with many of the other previous MITB holders.
Aside from the bewildering booking of Theory, I didn’t really have any real criticisms of SummerSlam save for one, none of which had anything to do with the actual wrestling or booking. No my main gripe came with the way the show was produced and presented. First off, Kevin Dunn’s annoying camera cuts were present as always, and they were as irksome as I remembered them being. I must say that WWE fans who act like this isn’t a valid critique do agitate my onions sometimes. How a show/event is shot is important. You could have the best actors and the best script, but if you film everything like an overeager 9 year old that found his parents’ camcorder then the overall quality of the production will lower drastically. I can comfortably say that the current production and presentation of WWE is the biggest obstacle in getting me to watch again. It’s a valid criticism WWE fans, sorry but it just is.
There was also a frankly ridiculous amount of dead air on the show, with long video packages between matches causing the show to run for 3 hours and 40 minutes when they could have easily had it all done within 3 hours if they’d chopped them out and picked up the pace a bit. I’m not someone who thinks a show has to be all in-ring wrestling, as video packages and non-wrestling segments certainly have their place and can often enhance the enjoyment of the show if done well. A good example would be a wonderfully cheesy segment earlier in the show where models Mace and Mansoor advertised water in a humorous vignette. Sadly this well-executed and enjoyable skit was sandwiched between two long video packages, one for Lesnar and one for Reigns, so by the time the actual wrestling started again it had got buried under other things. If they’d just shown the skit and then gone straight to the next match it would have stayed in the memory longer and had more of an impact.
I’ve been told one of the reasons the shows are chopped up and extended like this now is because WWE airs on Peacock over in the States, meaning that those who don’t pony up the full amount for the package have to sit through adverts, hence why those of us who watch on WWE Network in the UK have to be drowned in video packages. Can I just say that this is not a legitimate excuse for derailing the show? No one forced WWE to sign the deal with Peacock so this is a problem entirely of their own doing and once again a valid critique. Big events like SummerSlam do not need 40 minutes or so of fluff. It took what would have potentially been a great show and made it into only a good one. It’s a shame as SummerSlam did a lot of things right and I think WWE has some interesting avenues it can explore with its storytelling in the coming months, but as long as the shows are produced and presented the way they are then there will be a constant obstacle in the way of “lapsed fans” reengaging with the product.