Another year, and another SummerSlam has come and gone, but this one left a weird taste in everyone’s mouth. It’s not a bad taste, but maybe an acquired one. The event itself was fantastic with some matches that were as excellent as they were sloppy. There were a slew of suspected injuries and botches which may have made some already great matches seem a bit more real. To the jaded wrestling fan, this event was an uncomfortable reminder that there is still such a thing as suspension of disbelief.
The Unbreakable Sasha Banks
The earliest example of this was the fact that Sasha Banks competed in an astounding match against Charlotte while suffering from some undiagnosed back issues. A botched attempt at some kind of top rope backbreaker by Charlotte left Sasha free falling and getting twisted up, awkwardly in the ropes. It didn’t look pretty (not to shame or objectify the maneuvers), but it certainly was dramatic. Sasha is tough as nails to have been competing in her reportedly injured condition. In hindsight, this may have been why the match ended in somewhat anticlimactic fashion, with Charlotte reversing the Bank Statement into a simple pin. Although the “show must go on” mentality may be ill-advised in today’s Wellness police state, surely the wrestling gods were smiling at Sasha’s old school gumption. There’s something to be respected in finishing the match, even if it isn’t an ideal situation. So, Banks is forced to drop the belt to Charlotte after a brief reign.
The Unbelievable AJ Styles
AJ Styles and John Cena put on an incredible performance as well. In what was meant to be their definitive meeting, the two superstars complimented each other’s abilities to perfection. It was certainly their best match to date with an appropriately dramatic finish. I’m not a total Cena hater. As an in-ring performer, he makes up for his clunky technique with his masterful psychology and storytelling. I respect the way he can make a moment feel important, even if he does move like a cold war era kitchen appliance.
Cena gazed across the ring with a look of disbelief and marveled at the relentless skills of AJ Styles before being soundly defeated by the Phenomenal One. Following the match, John Cena sits calmly, alone in the center of the ring, removing a signature armband which reads, “Never Give Up.”
A farewell to the WWE Universe, perhaps? Or at the very least, a passing of the torch. Whatever this gesture signified, either Cena finally giving up or a nod to Styles’ mutual ability to never give up, Cena put AJ over. Styles is a made man, in a perfect end to a perfect story.
The Unconquerable Brock Lesnar
Meanwhile, a controversy surrounds the finish to the Lesnar/Orton match. While on the surface this appeared to be just another Brock Lesnar beatdown match, where The Beast heavily dominates and decisively defeats a major superstar, there may be more to this story. Between a couple RKOs and somewhat awkward table spots, this match was all Brock. In the end, Lesnar wins by TKO and stands over a bloody pulp of the third generation Orton. Did I say bloody? Yes, bloody. Quite bloody. I am not British, and I did mean the very literal definition of “Bloody.”
At first glance, Orton seemed to be covering up as Lesnar rained down punches and elbows in an MMA ground and pound manner. A prime opportunity for Orton to discretely blade and bleed. Once again, the wrestling gods smile at the return of showing some color in WWE. And it feels refreshing. In this very careful climate of injury prevention, the occasional use of real blood for added drama is more than welcome. The last time we saw deliberate blood usage was in the buildup to Triple H vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania, which turned out to be a fake blood packet. Using fake blood is a major pro wrestling infraction against tradition, so hopefully blading can be a helpful tool once again if used sparingly and when necessary.
However, we find ourselves today on social media looking at a busted open gash in Orton’s head. This, my dear readers, was no blade. So now the question is whether or not this was intentional. Watching the match back, you can pinpoint an especially severe elbow from Lesnar which led to the puddle of blood beneath Orton’s head. This could be yet another old school wrestling approach: The hard way, Terry Funk style. I don’t think there’s anything more brutal than someone purposefully allowing another wrestler to cut them open with well placed fists and elbows to add blood for dramatic effect.
So, was this some good old fashioned hard way blood, or was there a receipt afoot? There is some speculation of this being an issue of Lesnar actually losing patience with an uncooperative Orton and handing him a receipt in the form of some shoot elbow shots.
As we hope to find out more, the most notable aspect of this SummerSlam is the fact that long time smarks are left in the dark. This SummerSlam was pro wrestling, boiled down. Fans aren’t left disappointed, but maybe just a little confused and ignorant as to what really happened. The way wrestling should be. Today, we are all marks, lost in a void, blissfully suspended in disbelief.