Wednesday, August 16, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2020)

2020 was the year wrestling shows were mostly staged in front of no crowds due of course to the COVID 19 pandemic, and that year's SummerSlam felt those effects like every other show.  

The 2020 edition felt in a lot of ways like an old-school SummerSlam card, with only seven matches and a three-hour running time.  In that respect the show was somewhat refreshing.  It also felt like an old SummerSlam show due to the numerous big names missing from the card (AJ, Bryan, Owens, Zayn, Nakamura, Cesaro, etc.).  In that respect the show was somewhat stupid.

Kicking things off was the first of two women's title matches where Asuka was the challenger, and she took on Smackdown Women's Champion Bayley, with then-BFF Sasha Banks in the champ's corner.  Keep that in mind, as it would play into the story of both matches.  These three women nearly carried the show; Asuka and Bayley both worked hard to make this a strong opener, and it turned into a nice little rematch from their NXT rivalry.  There were some innovative moments like when Bayley countered an apron hip attack by catching Asuka's legs and slamming them into the edge of the ring.  Bayley then went after the injured leg, which would become a factor in Asuka's second match as well.  Asuka eventually snared the Asuka lock but Sasha distracted her from the outside and Asuka swung around with a kick to Sasha's head.  Asuka went for another apron hip attack but Sasha pushed Bayley out of the way and took one for the team, while Bayley got an airtight cradle to retain the belt.  Good, compact opening match with a well-executed screwy finish.

Next up was the RAW Tag Team Championship, as Street Profits defended against Andrade and Angel Garza in an action-packed eight-minute sprint.  This was nonstop motion culminating in Zelina Vega being knocked off the apron - as Andrade went to check on her, Garza took a spinebuster and then fell victim to Montez Ford's version of Alexa Bliss's rotating top rope splash to end the match.  Not particularly memorable but a solid little bout.

The second of three women's bouts pitted Mandy Rose against Sonya Deville in a no disqualifiction battle of former best friends, where the loser would have to leave the company.  For what ability they had to work with, these two delivered a decent fight with low-calorie street fight trappings.  They fought on the outside a lot and did some non-dangerous table work.  Late in the match Deville went for Rose's facebuster finisher but Rose escaped, hit a series of knee strikes, hit her finisher, and threw a final Nakamura-esque knee to win the match.  For a match I didn't care about featuring two of the company's lesser women wrestlers this was ok.

Oddly they followed this with a second no DQ match, as Seth Rollins faced the debuting Dominik Mysterio.  Considering the kid had never wrestled before, he did quite well.  These two had a very good fifteen-minute match.  Unfortunately it went 22 minutes.  They did a lot of good street fight stuff, whacked the shit out of each other with a kendo stick, Dominik hit a Russian legsweep off the second rope through a table and then did some of Rey's big moves like the 619 and an attempted top rope splash (which Seth countered with knees), Rey sold fatherly concern as Seth taunted him.  This stuff was all fine, there was just too much of it, particularly the latter.  Every time Seth had the match under his control he'd taunt Rey on the outside.  Finally Seth went after Rey's wife Angie and Rey got physically involved, but Seth handcuffed him to the bottom rope and forced him to watch as he brutalized Dom, winning the match with the Curb Stomp.  Like I said, this was good but 50% too long.

For my money the Asuka-Sasha Banks match took Match of the Night honors.  Like the opener this only went 11:30 or so but they packed a lot in.  Sasha dominated the early minutes as Asuka sold the leg from earlier.  Sasha hit an absolutely gasp-inducing sunset flip powerbomb to the floor that looked like a trip to Concussion City.  Asuka came back and hit a top rope DDT.  The two ended up trading and countering finishers for a long time, reminiscent of a Kurt Angle match.  They repeated the spot from earlier, where this time Sasha was in the ropes and Asuka went for the hip attack, but instead of taking the move for her friend, Bayley simply shoved Sasha out of the way.  Sasha went for another Bank Statement but Asuka countered again into the Asuka Lock for the submission win.  Post-match they teased dissension between the two BFFs and eventually this would lead to Bayley turning on Sasha to begin the feud the company had teased for two years.  This match was really good.

Another strong title match was next as Drew McIntyre defended against Randy Orton.  This went twenty minutes but unlike the Seth match it didn't feel too long.  Both men bled hardway by the middle of the bout, and the action was hard-hitting.  Both guys got their big moves in.  Orton hit a pair of table suplexes and a floor suplex, Drew used a figure four, Orton escaped with an eye rake, Drew countered a Tree of Woe with a throw off the top rope and hit the Future Shock DDT, Orton hit his draping DDT and went for a punt, but Drew countered with a powerbomb and went for the Claymore Kick.  Orton dodged it but Drew pinned him with a backslide to keep the feud going for two more PPVs.  Solid work by both guys.

The main event was one of the worst in SummerSlam history, as Universal Champion Braun Strowman defended against the irreparably damaged Fiend in a Falls Count Anywhere match.  On the bright side, the red spotlight was gone.  On the less bright side, this match was boring as shit.  They brawled around ringside, Braun shoulderblocked Wyatt through the ring barricade (this spot gets less and less impressive the more they do it), they fought to the gorilla position and the announcers oversold them throwing each other into the walls.  Back in the ring Strowman escaped the Mandible Claw and hit a powerslam, then used a boxcutter to slice up the mat and expose the wood planks.  But Wyatt hit a uranage and two Sister Abigails sort of on the wood to win the title he lost to Goldberg all those months prior.  Roman Reigns then made a surprise return and beat the crap out of both guys.  A week later at the Payback PPV he'd win back the Universal Title.  So Fiend winning here was pointless.  This sucked.  

This show was on a six-match streak of inoffensive-at-worst bouts and then the main event ground everything to a halt.  Not unlike a Hogan-era PPV in that regard.  Given the circumstances though SummerSlam 2020 was an okay show.  Nothing close to a Match of the Year candidate in sight, but a pair of very good women's title bouts and a strong WWE Title showing, all of which fell in the ***1/2 to ***3/4 range.  

Best Match: Sasha Banks vs. Asuka
Worst Match: Strowman vs. The Fiend
What I'd Change: I know Roman's return was the big ending but Drew vs. Orton really should've gone last.  Seth vs. Dom should've been shorter and both of Asuka's matches could've been longer.
Most Disappointing Match: Nothing really fell short of expectations for me.
Most Pleasant Surprise: That Sasha and Asuka were able to steal the show with less than 12 minutes to work with.
Overall Rating: 6.5/10
Better Than WrestleMania 36?: I guess probably overall?  There wasn't anything as good as Ripley vs. Charlotte or Seth vs. Owens, but 'Mania 36's main events were both awful too.

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