WWE have long billed SummerSlam as the biggest party of the summer. With this year’s event emanating from Nashville, that particular moniker felt likely to be on the money. But with recent events in the company setting social media and the industry in general ablaze, all eyes were fixed on Music City.
What would a post-Vince McMahon event look like? Did the world need another Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns match? Is this really the start of a new era for WWE?
Our wrestling editor, Andy Spoors, looks to answer all the questions after travelling to a sticky Tennessee and taking in all the action live from Nissan Stadium…
It’s all about The Game
In the wake of Vince McMahon stepping away from the modern day mammoth he had created from the more traditional company he had purchased from his father back in 1982, fans instantly wondered, what next?
Confirmed through nothing more than a couple of company press releases, a new leadership team was confirmed with Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan appointed joint CEOs, with the former serving as chairwoman of the board.
More interestingly for fans, Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque assumed “all responsibilities related to WWE’s creative, in addition to his regular duties”. Those regular duties include work as EVP of Talent Relations.
Corporate spiel aside, Triple H – who has proved popular during his tenure as leader of NXT during its ‘Black & Gold’ era – overnight became one of the most influential figures in the company.
Spreadsheets and profits may have been in good health for some time, but the product itself had left fans feeling underwhelmed. Favourite Superstars had been given their P45s, run down contracts to join rival promotions or simply found themselves floundering on the main roster.
The change in programming has somehow been subtle yet markedly different at the same time. It is early days for the Triple H era, but with a number of shock returns, tweaks to characters, logical storylines and fresh matches, the little things soon add up.
Let the Games begin indeed…
Brock has a flippin’ good time
By the time SummerSlam closed, those in attendance were left picking their jaws up off the floor of Nissan Stadium. The wreckage of a wrestling ring tipped on to its side, a perfect encapsulation that this was out with the old and in with the new.
SummerSlam on paper looked fairly underwhelming.
The potential for some great matches was evident, but fans had bemoaned the amount of rematches on the card. The ire was aimed in particular at the night’s main event, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns. It had been assumed that their match at WrestleMania earlier in the year had closed the book on a historic rivalry.
But as injuries hit, a new chapter was proposed. One last match. A Last Man Standing Match. Even the added stipulation failed to get the hearts of the WWE Universe in Nashville racing before the show started.
This chapter, however, felt ripped from the pages of a completely different book. After reportedly walking out of the company following the news Vince McMahon had retired, Brock Lesnar looked like a beast unleashed. A man with no pressure on his shoulders and a smile on his face throughout. This was in many ways peak Brock.
A brutal back and forward with some spots unseen to even the most jaded fan, both men emerged with credit, laying on what can only be described as a Last Man Standing match for the ages.
The finish saw Lesnar use the tractor he had ridden to the ring to flip the entire wrestling ring, sending Roman Reigns tumbling.
It wasn’t to be enough, as Reigns with help from his cousins The Usos, played the numbers game. Repeatedly getting to his feet just before the count of 10, Lesnar tried to upset the odds, but one final blow proved too many and Roman stood on top of the Beast (as well as a small mountain of ring debris just to make sure).
Will we see Brock Lesnar back in a WWE ring? It wouldn’t be a shock, but don’t bet on it happening any time soon. This was a man with nothing to prove to anyone, but also a man having fun. It is that last point that may bring him home, sometime down the road.
Becky bows out as Bayley is back
Opening the show, Bianca Belair defended her Raw Women’s Championship in a match with Becky Lynch. In some long-term storytelling, Becky had made her return from maternity leave at the same event one year prior.
If her return in 2021 wasn’t shocking enough in itself, she also claimed the Championship from Belair in around 30 seconds that very same night. Like a scar that wouldn’t quite heal, Belair had spent a year looking for redemption for that fateful night in Las Vegas.
The match in Nashville was fantastic and easily the best the two have shared so far. After only a few minutes, Becky began to paw at her shoulder, wincing and holding it still as much as possible between moves.
It would come to light that ‘The Man’ had suffered a dislocated shoulder, but astonishingly carried on with the match for another 10 minutes. This wasn’t someone going through the motions either, this was a Superstar in every sense of the word.
With grit, tenacity and a determination to give the fans a match to remember, both Lynch and Belair deserve credit for setting the bar so high in the toughest of circumstances.
In a shocking twist, the long-awaited return of Bayley came to fruition at the conclusion of the match. Just as the shock seemed to simmer, the return of Dakota Kai and the main roster appearance of IYO SKY (fka Io Shirai) by her side signalled a changing of the guard both creatively and within the women’s division.
Into the unknown
Fans have long wondered what WWE would look like without the influence and leadership of Vince McMahon. YouTubers and social media have fantasy booked the exact scenario that played out in July.
While it seems unlikely that everything that had been planned creatively will be completely ripped up, it does appear a new creative outlook has begun to breathe fresh air into the company.
Superstars previously released have begun to speak out or already appear on WWE programming. Rumours are rampant that imminent returns for both Johnny Gargano and Bray Wyatt could be in the pipeline, along with a reconciliation with both Sasha Banks and Naomi.
Viewing figures have increased, shows sold out and even social media appears to be responsive to the changes already implemented. WrestleMania tickets went on sale this week, two months before their usual date sparking theories of why the decision had been made.
Will WWE look to bring in Superstars of yesteryear like The Rock? Is a sale of the company still likely? They are questions that we will simply have to wait and see moving forward, but with the UK’s first stadium show in over 30 years right around the corner, the entire WWE Universe are excited for the future for what feels like the first time in forever.
You can relive all the action from SummerSlam and catch next month’s UK Premium Live Event emanating from Cardiff, Clash At The Castle, on the WWE Network. Stay tuned to Rushonrock in the next few weeks as we countdown to what promises to be a huge night for the Uk’s contingent of the WWE Universe.
Photos used courtesy of WWE.