Barclays Center – New York City, NY – Sunday, August 21, 2016
Byron Saxton and Mauro Ranallo are on commentary for the Kickoff.
~KICKOFF MATCH #1~
American Alpha (Chad Gable & Jason Jordan), The Hype Bros (Zack Ryder & Mojo Rawley) & The Usos (Jey Uso & Jimmy Uso) defeat Breezango (Fandango & Tyler Breeze), The Ascension (Konnor & Viktor) & The Vaudevillains (Simon Gotch & Aiden English) at 14:32 in a 12-man tag team match. With 12 different guys out there the action is fast and furious in the early going. After a few minutes of chaos, the heels take control and they isolate Zack Ryder in their corner. Ryder survives and ends up making a hot tag and all hell breaks loose again, with tags going out the window. After a parade of big moves, Gotch finds himself all alone in the ring. Alpha hit him with Grand Amplitude, and one of the Usos follows with the Superfly Splash to get the pin. Fun match to start the show and a good showcase for SmackDown’s tag team division on their way to introducing the SmackDown Tag Team Titles.
~KICKOFF MATCH #2~
Neville & Sami Zayn defeat The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray Dudley & D-Von Dudley) at 7:55. This is an interesting combination of guys. Too bad nothing ever really happened with Neville and Zayn as a team, but I think Neville is way better off as the King of the Cruiserweights. This match follows the generic tag team formula, with the babyfaces starting off hot with their high-flying moves and the Dudleys taking control heading into the commercial break. Neville withstands the punishment and makes the hot tag to Zayn. The match breaks down and some heel miscommunication turns the tide in favor of the babyfaces. Zayn hits Bubba with the Helluva Kick and Neville follows with the Red Arrow to get the pin. Fun little match there.
~KICKOFF MATCH #3~
Sheamus defeats Cesaro in the first match of a Best of Seven Series at 14:10. These two bruisers have a similar style and they take it to each other with aggression right from the bell. Cesaro controls the early going, but Sheamus fights back and starts wearing Cesaro down as they go to a commercial. We come back with Cesaro firing off a slew of European Uppercuts. The back and forth continues, with both men busting out their big moves and hard strikes. In the end Sheamus is able to connect with a vicious Brogue Kick to go up 1-0 in the series. These two have always had good chemistry together and it looked like they wanted to prove they were worth more than the Kickoff show here. Good stuff to lead into SummerSlam.
Michael Cole, Corey Graves & David Otunga are on commentary for RAW, while Mauro Ranallo, Byron Saxton & JBL are handling the duties for SmackDown.
Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens defeat Big Cass & Enzo Amore at 12:08. Enzo and Cass get an enormous pop for their entrance. The good guys control the early going, with Enzo showing off his awkward looking offensive attacks. Owens and Jericho withstand the assault and are able to isolate Enzo in their half of the ring. Eventually the hot tag is made and Cass comes in a house afire. Cass gets Jericho in position for the Bada Boom Shakalaka but Owens breaks it up. Owens avoids a charge outside the ring and Cass hits nothing but ring post. Then Owens hits a Cannonball to take Cass out. Back in the ring Enzo hits Jericho with the DDG but Owens breaks up the pin. Moments later, Owens hurls Enzo right into a Codebreaker and Jericho gets the pin. Good tag team formula stuff here and a nice clean win for the heels.
Charlotte defeats WWE Women’s Champion Sasha Banks at 13:51 to regain the title. Banks has been the Champion since 7.25.16, and this is her first defense. These two are not at all strangers to each other and that familiarity plays a factor early on as both women try to set the tone for the match. They go back and forth, Charlotte using her power advantage to work on Banks’ back, while Banks tries to counter with her speed and agility. The crowd is heavily in favor of the Champion here, and they react to every reversal and near-fall. Banks tries the Bank Statement several times, while Charlotte attacks the knee to hopefully set up the Figure-Eight. When Charlotte gets too confident, Banks locks on the Bank Statement, but Charlotte counters into a cradle to get the pin and regain the title! That finish seemed to come out of nowhere, but the way the match went back and forth it actually works. Terrific match here, with little to no resting and a hot crowd.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz (w/ Maryse) defeats Apollo Crews at 5:45 to retain the title. Miz has been the Champion since 4.4.16, and this is his seventh defense. This feud was based on Miz calling Apollo Crews “Apollo Creed,” and Crews responding by spelling his name for him. Thrilling stuff here folks. Crews starts off hot but Miz quickly cools him down. They go back and forth, with Miz trying to keep Crews grounded, and Crews showing off his insane power and agility. In the end, Miz avoids a Stinger Splash and lands a Skull Crushing Finale to get the pin. Total TV match there, as no one really bought into Crews as a possible Champion.
AJ Styles defeats John Cena at 23:10. The Barclays Center is strongly in favor of AJ Styles, and the “John Cena Sucks” chants are especially loud tonight. Styles gets a little too cocky in the early going and Cena makes him pay for it. Momentum swings back and forth as both men are wrestling with something to prove. Cena goes for an early Attitude Adjustment but Styles slips out and delivers a Pele and the Styles Clash but Cena kicks out! Moments later Cena connects on the AA and this time Styles kicks out at two! The match continues with both wrestlers busting out all their big moves, sometimes connecting and sometimes getting countered. Everything is just hitting perfectly here. The crowd bites hard on a Phenomenal Forearm as a finish but Cena kicks out. They also bite hard on an Avalanche Attitude Adjustment but it only gets two! Cena looks incredulous. He tries another AA but Styles counters and hits the Styles Clash! One Phenomenal Forearm later and Styles gets the clean pin! Welcome to the show, AJ. That match was just perfectly constructed and executed. Both men went all-out with almost no resting, crazy near-falls, and awesome crowd heat. The finish was just perfect. Simply phenomenal.
The Club (Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson) defeat WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) (w/ Jon Stewart) by DQ at 9:09. New Day have been the Champs since 8.23.15, and this is their fourteenth defense. Well they’re going to have quite a time topping that last match. The champs control the early going and the challengers have to use some shady tactics to take over on Kingston. That doesn’t last too long before Woods gets a tag and he runs rampant on the Club. When Gallows and Anderson resume control, Stewart hops in the ring to distract them. Big E comes running out to make the save, drawing the disqualification. He destroys the Club and the crowd is happy to see him. Total TV match with a terrible finish.
WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose defeats Dolph Ziggler to retain the title at 15:18. Ambrose has been the Champion since 6.19.16, and this is his fourth defense. These two men do everything with aggression, as their rivalry became very personal over the last few weeks. It’s a battle of Ohio, as a matter of fact, as Ziggler is from Cleveland and Ambrose is from Cincinnati. Both wrestlers work hard, but the crowd is just not having it, as they don’t really react to much. Ambrose is ostensibly playing the heel here, but they didn’t really do a great job defining the roles heading into the match, and I think that’s hurting it too. Eventually, Ambrose hits Dirty Deeds from out of nowhere to get the pin. No faulting the effort here but there were a number of factors working against them and it just didn’t click.
Natalya, Alexa Bliss & Nikki Bella defeat Becky Lynch, Naomi & Carmella at 11:04 in a Six Woman Tag Team Match. Eva Marie was originally scheduled for this match but she was unable to compete, so Nikki took her place. All six women get a chance to show off what they can do, as the SmackDown Live Women’s Championship will soon be a thing for them to fight over. Lynch is easily the standout here, out-performing the other wrestlers by a wide margin. Of course, the referee loses control late in the match and it’s a free-for-all. Nikki and Carmella end up alone together, and Nikki destroys her with a forearm blast and the Rack Attack 2.0 to get the win. This didn’t really do much for anyone except to tell everyone that Nikki Bella was back. They just couldn’t get anything going here. Not a good sign for the SmackDown women’s division.
Finn Balor defeats Seth Rollins at 19:24 to become the first-ever WWE Universal Champion. Rollins was gifted this title shot as a result of being RAW’s #1 draft pick, while Balor had to first beat Cesaro, Kevin Owens, and Rusev in a four-way match and then Roman Reigns in a one-on-one match. Balor’s entrance is awesome, obviously. The Demon King starts off hot, immediately targeting Rollins’ legs. They fight both in and out of the ring, and that’s where disaster strikes, as Rollins launches Balor into the barricade with a powerbomb. That resulted in a torn labrum, but Balor fights through it like a boss. Rollins controls for several minutes, keeping Balor grounded. Balor won’t stay down, though he spends much of the match fighting from underneath. Rollins busts out the God’s Last Gift, which he’s rarely used in WWE, but Balor kicks out. He also tries the Pedigree but Balor kicks out of that too! Moment later Balor gets Rollins in position to hit the Coup de Grace and becomes the first-ever Universal Champion. Fantastic match here, especially given the injury that Balor fought through. They kept up a torrid pace and Rollins’ desperation shone though by using moves like God’s Last Gift. The finishing sequence was so well executed, and Balor going over was a great call.
Brock Lesnar (w/ Paul Heyman) defeats Randy Orton via ref stoppage at 11:45. Lesnar dominates Orton from the start, using vicious strikes and German Suplexes. The fight spills outside the ring and Lesnar dominates there too. Lesnar sets up a table to drive Orton through, but The Viper has enough wherewithal to hit a devastating RKO! Back in the ring Orton hits the Vintage Orton and another RKO but Lesnar kicks out at two! Lesnar comes back and hits an F-5, but Orton kicks out! An enraged Lesnar unloads on Orton with elbows to the head, busting Orton’s head open severely. Lesnar won’t stop the assault and the referee calls for the bell, saving Orton’s career. This was okay enough, and the finish was at least something different. There really wasn’t really much to care about in the buildup or the result though, so it’s all just a little flat.
The main event is a somewhat entertaining freak show, but the undercard has an excellent Women’s Title match, a four-star Universal Title match, and an amazing John Cena v AJ Styles match that is more than worth going out of your way to see. The issue is that between two hours of Kickoff and four hours of main show it’s just a LOT of show. There’s enough worth seeing here but there’s no way to digest it all in one sitting.