In the Kickoff Match, Rob Van Dam defeats Cesaro at 8:05. This is much like just about any RVD match over the past decade, and it’s painfully obvious how much more interesting Cesaro is as a performer. RVD does his usual, Cesaro hits a bunch of European Uppercuts, but he can’t put the former WWE and ECW Champion away. The crowd stays hot throughout, and it helps propel RVD to victory after the Five-Star Frog Splash. Good Kickoff match but a puzzling result. What does RVD gain from that?
Dolph Ziggler defeats Intercontinental Champion The Miz to win the title at 7:52. Miz has been the Champion since 7.20.14, and this is his first defense. These two know each other well so they are able to set a fast pace in this opening contest and execute plenty of counters and reversals. Miz spends most of the match trying to avoid getting hit in the face, since he’s a big movie star and all. He uses the Figure-Four Leglock but Ziggler won’t give up. Even when Miz hits a Skull Crushing Finale Ziggler is able to kick out. Miz goes for a big boot but Ziggler ducks it and hits the Zig-Zag to get the pin and win the title. That was a fine TV-style match, but nothing to get too attached to.
Paige defeats Divas Champion AJ Lee to win the title at 4:57. AJ has been the Champion since 6.30.14, and this is her second defense. The Champion takes the early advantage but the challenger is able to withstand her attacks and take control. Paige works AJ over, but then it’s AJ’s turn to make the comeback with a dive from the top rope to the floor. Back in the ring AJ tries the Black Widow but Paige is able to counter into the Ram-Paige that kills AJ dead and gives Paige her second title. This was short but they packed a lot of action in and made the title feel like something worth fighting over.
Rusev (w/ Lana) defeats Jack Swagger (w/ Zeb Colter) in a Flag Match at 8:56. This is a regular match in which the winner will get to have his flag hung over the ring when it’s over. Swagger gets an elaborate entrance here, and would you like at that – when WWE treats Swagger like a big deal he gets a bigger reaction. How about that? The brawling starts before the referee can even ring the bell and Swagger cinches in an early Patriot Lock that should surely give him the advantage as the match goes on. Rusev counts by going after the ribs, so both men have a pronounced weakness. Swagger shows awesome fire here and makes me more certain that WWE is dropping the ball with him. After a valiant struggle, Rusev is able to cinch in The Accolade and Swagger passes out. That was a hell of a battle, with a hot crowd certainly doing their part to energize the wrestlers. The storytelling may be simplistic here (American Hero v Foreign Menace), but both men and their managers play the parts so well that it works.
Seth Rollins defeats Dean Ambrose in a Lumberjack Match at 10:53. These two former brothers tear into each other and fight with reckless abandon. Lumberjack matches can be boring, but with the gimmick that both Ambrose and Rollins pissed everybody off when they were in the Shield adds a nice little wrinkle here. The fight spills to the floor and even the lumberjacks can’t control Dean Ambrose, who is flying around all over the place. They battle through the crowd and it takes several minutes for the lumberjacks to herd the match back into the ring. The crowd is going banana. Ambrose uses Rollins’ own Curb Stomp against him, but when he covers Kane comes in and pulls him off. That triggers a brawl amongst all of the lumberjacks. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan keep Ambrose distracted, allowing Rollins to nail Ambrose in the face with the Money in the Bank briefcase and pick up the pin. I thought a lumberjack match sounded like a lame stipulation at first, but I should have known better that Rollins and Ambrose would make it a super fun time.
Bray Wyatt defeats Chris Jericho at 12:58. This is the usual back and forth stuff that these guys do in every match regardless of who they’re facing. Look, I think Jericho was great and has an awesome body of work in his career, but for him to come back randomly and have a 50/50 feud with someone like Bray Wyatt doesn’t do much for me anymore so it’s hard for me to get invested in this. Anyway, the fight eventually spills to the floor and Wyatt hits Sister Abigail into the barricade. Back in the ring Wyatt hits one more Sister Abigail to get the pin. This was technically a fine match and stuff, but the feud was so bad and pointless so there’s nothing to even remember about this.
Stephanie McMahon defeats Brie Bella at 11:06. This is Stephanie’s first real match since losing to her own father at No Mercy 2003. Brie shows off her wrestling acumen here, but Stephanie has the size and power advantage, which she isn’t shy about showing off. They both use their respective skills to their advantage, and they put together a shockingly entertaining match that the crowd is really responding to. When Brie looks to be too much in control, Stephanie’s husband Triple H makes his way out, and Nikki Bella is close behind. Brie gets Stephanie in the Yes Lock and HHH pulls the referee out to the floor. An incensed Brie hits HHH with a baseball slide dropkick right to the face and then she stands over him and leads the crowd in a Yes chant! Nikki gets in the ring and helps her sister corner Stephanie, but she changes gears and decks her sister instead! The crowd goes nuts for this. Stephanie then hits the Pedigree to get the pin. You know, this could have been a time to finally give Stephanie some comeuppance, but instead they had to go with a nonsensical heel turn that was meaningless within weeks and never helped anyone. Still, this match gets tons of points for being well worked and smartly booked, plus they engaged the crowd more than Jericho and Wyatt could do. So there’s that.
Roman Reigns defeats Randy Orton at 16:16. Reigns is the aggressor early on, as he has a lot to prove in this, his first high profile one-on-one match on a WWE special event. Orton tries to slow the match down every chance he gets, and he uses his veteran wiles to help him accomplish that goal. The crowd hasn’t completely turned on Reigns yet so they actually help give this the big-match feel they’re going for. Both men work their finishers in down the stretch, with counters and kickouts as per WWE Main Event Style of course. Orton tries to bring back The Punt but Reigns avoids it and drills Orton with the Spear to get the pin. I remember that match getting crapped on at the time, but it’s actually quite good and plenty of fun. It’s not an all-time classic or anything, but in building Reigns up this was a good step to take. One has to wonder how things would be different if he didn’t get injured right after this.
Brock Lesnar (w/ Paul Heyman) defeats WWE World Heavyweight Champion John Cena to win the title at 16:06. Cena has been the Champion since 6.29.14, and this is his second defense. Brock gets a huge pop for his entrance, and he wastes little time in attacking the Champion, hitting an F-5 about a minute into the match. It only gets two, but Brock knows he’s in complete control. Brock starts throwing Cena around with German Suplexes and crushing him with strikes. Cena tries to fight up and even hits the Attitude Adjustment at one point, but Brock is just too strong for him and is soon up and mocking Cena while physically dissecting him. Near the end Cena gets one last gasp and locks in the STF but Brock is able to break free pretty easily. Brock then hits another F-5 and pins Cena to win the title for the fourth time while the announce team puts over what a squash it was. Brock Lesnar is so awesome – he can make a legit squash match entertaining and exciting for over 15 minutes just by sheer force of will. I don’t think there’s ever been a WWE Title match like that and it’s one that people will remember for a long time.
Monday Night RAW, 7.21.14: Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes, Cameron & Eva Marie defeat Nikki Bella in a Four on One Handicap Match at 0:33. This isn’t much of a match to speak of, as Nikki gets beat down by all four of her opponents. Fox then hits Watch Yo’ Face to get the pin. All angle here.
The main event is unlike any main event in recent memory, if not ever, so that alone makes this show worth checking out. Along with Orton v Reigns, Stephanie v Brie, Ambrose v Rollins, and Rusev v Swagger, there’s more than enough to keep one entertained. It may not be an all-time great SummerSlam, but it’s rock solid from top to bottom.