John Dos Passos2's SummerSlam Review

Decided to take a break from working on Part 2 of my rebooking of the Invasion Angle (be sure to check out Rick_City's Part 1 and 2 if you haven't done so already) to jot down my thoughts on SummerSlam. In general, I thought the show was oddly organized and too long, but I'm not willing to completely dismiss the show outright. I'm not going to offer an overall grade because A) that's overdone and B) I don't start teaching for another week, so I don't want to think about grades until then.

So, here we go: 

The Pre-Show: To be honest, I only saw a few minutes of the pre-show. My friend and I were deciding on what sort of pizza to order during this time. This was time well-spent. We ended up ordering wings and pizza from a national chain - both of which were serviceable - and I polished off a few Pabst "Old Tankard" Ales (my beer review: a decent, bitter, IPA-style brew that's nicely priced). 

Enzo & Big Cass versus JeriKO: Let me be very honest: I don't get Enzo and Big Cass at all and I find them really annoying; in particular, I can't wrap my head around why WWE audiences seem so enamored with them. Is it the NXT factor? In a lot of ways, they seem like a bad composite of better pro wrestling gimmicks. Like Poochie. I can actually see Vince saying "kids love surfers, let's make him a surfer." When Enzo was pontificating about Frank Sinatra, I actually had my friend mute the television. Frankly, I'm happy Jericho and Kevin Owens won the match. 

Charlotte vs Sasha Banks: One thing that really bothers about WWE television coverage is the tendency of the company's production team to replay moments in the ring that are clearly A) dangerous or B) unintentional. And if you saw the event tonight, you know exactly the moment I'm referring to. I'm not exactly sure what move the two of them were attempting to do tonight, but the replays of Sasha landing awkwardly on her neck and back were difficult to watch. 

That said, the finish to the match was easily the best of the night and the two benefited from having perhaps the best-constructed narrative prior to their match (and yes, I'm counting Styles and Cena in that group). 

The Miz vs Apollo Crews: I seriously don't remember anything about this match expect what Marse was wearing.

The New Day and Jon Stewart: I really love Jon Stewart. I love professional wrestling. And I really appreciate the fact that Stewart has demonstrated an interest and love for professional wrestling. Yet, how he's been used in his two SummerSlam appearances makes me partially understand why fans are so resentful of celebrity involvement in pro wrestling (although Brooklyn was cheering "thank you Stewart" last year after his interference in the Rollins / Cena match but booing him tonight). Contrast these two appearances with what he was able to do in his standoff with Seth Rollins in the middle of last year: in that promo, Stewart seems to have been given far more leeway to interact with the other performers. 

I also feel I should voice my continued frustration with wrestling fans bashing the involvement of non-wrestling celebrities in the wrestling realm. Again, I can understand the impulse of fans to decry celebs like Stewart entering the professional wrestling universe, but this ignores the necessity of wrestling to reach out to broader audiences. Indeed, all forms of entertainment need to do this: if you can name me one type of popular, commercial entertainment that does not do this, I'll buy you a bottle of your favorite bourbon. Also, the history of pro wrestling is littered with celebrity involvement, so I feel these negative reactions are coming from fans who cannot see the forest through the trees.

All that said, I think Stewart's routine tonight - especially his hammy reactions and pleading with the Club - would have been better received by a crowd at a smaller venue. 

The Crowd: My friend Ron and I continually discussed our frustrations throughout the night with the Brooklyn crowd. Ron's point was the crowd had little to really cheer for and that the booking - especially the order of the matches - was really off; I really don't think the crowd recovered from Banks's loss or the Styles / Cena match. That said, I feel as though there was something seriously off with the crowd tonight, and performers that normally would have received larger pops were greeted with (what seemed to me) ambivalence. 

Styles vs Cena: This was easily the best executed match of the evening with a number of great spots and good psychology to the match. I oddly kept seeing parallels to the 2011 CM Punk / Cena match at Money in the Bank (probably my favorite match of the last 6 years) with a number of the spots and reactions, but hopefully this means even better things for Styles moving forward.

Ambrose vs Ziggler: I've voiced my ambivalence toward Ziggler as a performer  a number of times on Twitter and I've also grown tired of the booking that Dean Ambrose has been given recently as well. As such, this match didn't do much for me on a number of levels and felt rather underdeveloped.

Rollins vs Balor: One of the things I'll be arguing for in my series about rebooking the Invasion angle is one of the major problems with the company during 2001-02 was far too many championships. Sadly, I see this issue resurfacing with the Universal belt (I don't feel strongly about its color either way). There were a lot of booking issues with this match, especially revealing the Demon King too early, but I thought these two had a very strong match with relatively poor development. And I think the audience reaction to it was based, in part, on having these two men battle over something completely new.

The Six-Woman Tag Event: This was fine, but I really don't understand why this was scheduled for this point in the show. That's all.

Reigns vs Rusev: As you can probably tell, I have little faith in this organization to tell a cogent story in the build-up to any match. That said, I'm going to hope that what we witnessed tonight was a double-turn with Rusev being cemented as a face and Reigns becoming the heel. I'm not confident that's where this story will go, but it seems to be the natural progression of this match. Of course, it's equally as likely that Hornswaggle will start an affair with Lana next week as well, so who knows?

Lesnar vs Orton: I've avoided discussing this match for as long as possible because I haven't fully processed it just yet. This is one of those moments that I cannot fully decide if what I saw was a work or a shoot or if it was planned or organic or? I suppose in many respects that part of the appeal of professional wrestling: as an outgrowth of the carnival circuit, theatre, and the confidence scheme, we as an audience should be skeptical of what "reality" we are presented by wrestlers. And yet, there was still a very real sense of chaos in the ring tonight. And in this particular instance, I'm really not sure I liked it.

So those are my thoughts about SummerSlam 2016. Got beef with this? Tweet me at @johndospassos2

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