Friday, August 11, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2015)

Here's a show I wasn't excited for that turned out to be pretty great....

SummerSlam '15 - Barclays Center - 8/23/15

Sometimes it pays to have low expectations.  Case in point the 2015 SummerSlam extravaganza.  I went into this show with the mindset of "I'll be content as long as I don't feel like my night was wasted," and what I got was a consistently very entertaining wrestling show with a ton of variety where every match felt like it got enough time, and a few actually stood out.

The much-dreaded-by-me Brock Lesnar-Undertaker main event was easily the best match delivered by these two since their No Mercy 2002 Hell in a Cell.  It was streamlined, hard-hitting, full of nice little nuances (the double situp for example), and while the ending left me baffled at first, once the replay explained everything I actually kinda liked it.  Granted we've been conditioned that the timekeeper never rings the bell until the official calls for it, but in all these years you'd think human error would get in the way at least once.  Well, this was that one occurrence.  Taker tapped out and the timekeeper jumped the gun.  It was a realistic screwup and it protected Lesnar as an unstoppable monster while reframing the feud with Taker playing more of a heel.  I liked this match a lot, and the lasting image for me was of the defiant Lesnar flipping Taker off just before passing out to Hell's Gate.

Ok this was pretty boss.

The Match of the Night however was Seth Rollins vs. John Cena.  Both guys were motivated to overshadow every other match despite being placed only 7th of 10 bouts, and aside from a couple miscues, this was a helluva contest.  Rollins essentially worked babyface, pulling out every crazy, crowd-pleasing move he could muster.  My fellow New Japan fans surely noticed Rollins borrowing from Hiroshi Tanahashi's moveset (High Fly Flow, Slingblade), and even Kota Ibushi's (standing shooting star press).  The finish, where Jon Stewart stormed the ring and whacked Cena with a chair to cost him the match, was met with a lot of scorn, but WWE covered it brilliantly the next night by having Stewart say he couldn't bear to see Ric Flair's 16-time record tied.  Simple, logical, and made for a nice little moment where Cena gave Stewart the AA.

This was even more boss.

The third standout was Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro, which was given the unfortunate second-to-last spot (in any other company that slot is a huge compliment, but not in Bizarro WWE World) in front of a crowd clearly waiting for the main event.  But the two ROH alums delivered a fine match that got a good amount of time.  It felt like the first in a series so it didn't quite steal the show.  Plus Owens was almost certainly pretty banged up from his NXT Ladder Match the night before, so the fact that he performed at the level he did is significant.

The rest of the show was full of pretty good stuff.  Sheamus vs. Randy Orton, while not quite as good as their Battleground match, was nonetheless a solid opener with a nice clean, much-needed win for Sheamus.  The 4-Way Tag Title match was loads of fun and got enough time to resonate.  The New Day deservedly regained the straps and Xavier Woods was hilariously awesome at ringside.  Rusev vs. Dolph Ziggler was so much better than I anticipated, making their twelve minutes count. The middle of the show featured the only two throwaways.  Stardust/Wade Barrett vs. Stephen Amell/Neville was short and forgettable but inoffensive.  Ditto for Ryback vs. Show vs. Miz, which should've culminated in a more decisive win for Ryback.  Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns vs. The Wyatts 2.0 was a wild, fast-paced war that didn't resolve the feud but led to Bray adding a new Family member the next night.

Not as boss as The Shield vs. The Wyatts, but not bad.

Finally there was the Divas three-way, which shockingly got a full fifteen minutes.   Unfortunately this probably wasn't the match to allot that much time, as it exposed just how much better the NXT women were than their main roster counterparts.  Once Sasha Banks' team was out, the match hit a long lull period as the Bellas controlled most of the offense.  Despite the improvement shown by Nikki and Brie in 2014-15, in this scenario Team Paige should've dominated the action.  At least the right team won.

All in all, warts aside, SummerSlam 2015 was a very entertaining show with a lot about it to like.  While nothing on the card was MOTY-worthy I'd say seven of the ten matches were three stars or better, with only the Divas match, the Stardust bout, and the I-C triple threat falling short.  I liked how much actual wrestling was on this show and how strong WWE's time management was.  I was in the minority but I would say decisively that SummerSlam was superior to WrestleMania PlayButton.

Best Match: Seth Rollins vs. John Cena
Worst Match: Ryback vs. Big Show vs. The Miz
What I'd Change: I'd have kept the Divas 3-way a bit shorter and faster paced and put Owens vs. Cesaro earlier on the card so the crowd would've been hotter for it.
Most Disappointing Match: Probably the Divas
Most Pleasant Surprise: Lesnar vs. Undertaker
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Better than WrestleMania 31? - That's a yes.


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