Welcome… to… the… TECHNODROME!
Wait, that’s not right.
But no, the WWE used its brand new Thunderdome set up for its 2020 SummerSlam event, giving fans the ability to stream their way into attendance.
Maybe I’ll come around on it, but I’m not convinced it will better than just having the developmental talent around the ring in support. I will say I was worried I would find it distracting, and it turned out not to be at all. Honestly, I pretty much ignored it all night.
(What I’m relatively sure the Thunderdome IS better than, at least, is the god-awful pumped in crowd noise WWE used for the Randy Orton vs Edge Greatest Wrestling Match In The History Of Ever).
I’m sure WWE had no idea, just like the rest of us, that in August 2020, we’d still be in the throes of Covid-19 with no end in sight. So with that in mind, I do respect their desire to change things up. So if that means I have to mentally block out blown up faces of fans, then… so be it.
Who knows what WWE shows will look like come, say, Survivor Series. How will a fanless Royal Rumble turn out? It’s nuts to consider! But for now… let’s take a look at SummerSlam from the TECHNO… THUNDERDOME!
PRE-SHOW MATCH: Apollo Crews vs MVP
Before the match, Apollo Crews did a picture-in-picture interview talking about how he was going to win. It was a perfectly fine interview, and Apollo had some ferocity… and then after he said his last words, he plastered a big ol’ cheesy grin on his face, and I am reminded of all Finn Balor’s main roster problems. Come on, Vince, don’t make your good guys look like geeks.
Even as far as a pre-show match goes, the United States title match here was adequate and forgettable. There was nothing to really care about, but it wasn’t miserable, either. This run certainly isn’t building Crews, but… who is the last guy the United States title really built up? “Just existing” is all we can really hope for from US Title matches.
Rating: ** 1/4
MATCH ONE: Asuka vs Bayley
The SummerSlam opener didn’t go exactly the direction I prognosticated. I fully anticipated a very short match–if any–that ended in a double beatdown DQ to soften Asuka up for Sasha.
But nope, Asuka and Bayley had a really good, quickly-paced back-and-forth match. I was expecting more heat from Bayley on Asuka, but neither woman had control all that long, and both looked good in stretches.
If anything, the match was a bit short, but the intensity was high and Sash’a presence, up to and including saving Bayley from a hip attack that ended up directly resulting in Bayley’s win, added to make it all a good brew. It told a great story going into the second Women’s Title match of the night.
Rating: *** 1/2
MATCH TWO: The Street Profits vs Andrade & Angel Garza
The Raw Tag Team Title match gave us our second fun little sprint match of the night, with both teams getting their shots in over a short amount of time before another sensible ending. This one saw Zelina Vega’s team crumble when she was hurt, allowing for the continuation of the “Zelina is not managing her team well” arc.
The Raw Tag Team Titles are very much the single most forgettable belts in the company, but at least they weren’t just pinballed onto a new team here, allowing the Street Profits to continue to develop credibility. Let these guys dominate a weak division for a while.
Rating: ** 3/4
MATCH THREE: Mandy Rose vs Sonya Deville
Mandy Rose’s talent level is what it is, but she looked rougher here than I’ve seen her in a while. She seemed hesitant and had almost a herky-jerky look to her movements. I don’t know if it was nerves or what, but physically, she looked to be quite a step off.
That said, both she and Sonya brought the emotional intensity, and their reactions to everything that happened sold the story. They felt like two people who have been through what they’ve been through to get to this point… it’s just a shame the actual physical competition couldn’t catch up to their emotions.
The match felt a bit short, too. Maybe that’s just me. As a blow-off to a storyline that has been building dating back to 2019, this just ended up feeling like a relatively basic climax.
I wonder what Sonya does now. Can she move to NXT? Or will some evil authority figure undercut this stipulation pretty much right away? She’s been far too good lately to fall off TV for more than a week or two.
Rating: ** 1/4
MATCH FOUR: Seth Rollins vs Dominik Mysterio
The weekend of Pat McAfee and Dominik Mysterio has concluded!
Dom looked pretty darn good in his WWE debut match against Rollins. He sells like a god damn pro, and I mean that both physically and emotionally. Even if his fluidity and move impacts aren’t QUITE there.
Rollins continues to be one of the best in the world. He is so entertaining and engaging and really moved everything along here and kept everything coordinated and focused on Dom and Rey while being such a perfect asshole. He will be someday, but he should never be a babyface again. He’s been aces every time he’s been a heel.
There was great drama here and some real senses of peril. Good stuff.
MATCH FIVE: Sasha Banks vs Asuka
Sasha Bank and Asuka, perhaps the two most talented women wrestlers on the planet, just went out and put on the best match of the night in my opinion. Ho-hum.
This told the story it needed to where Bayley kept her belt because Sasha was willing to help her out, but Sasha lost hers because Bayley was less useful. So that storyline continues building in the direction it needs to, while Asuka gets another well-deserved accolade.
Some of the spots in this match were brutal and breath-taking. The sunset flip bomb to the floor. The DDT off the middle ropes. There was one or two more I forgot to write down, but I said “Wow!” a couple times during this one. I really enjoyed this match a lot, and I was hooked on everything they did.
Rating: **** 1/2
MATCH SIX: Randy Orton vs Drew McIntyre
Nothing here was bad. The match was hard-hitting. The psychology between veteran, cunning Randy and powerful, determined Drew worked perfectly.
I just… couldn’t quite give the match my full attention. Everything worked, but it never felt gripping, if that makes sense.
I don’t know if that’s still my brain’s default reaction to seeing Randy Orton in a wrestling match–“Oh, here’s this again, let’s play a game on my phone”–or maybe I had a bit of excitement exhaustion after Seth/Dominik and Asuka/Sasha. But I had one eye on this match.
It was good! I’m not saying it was poorly done. And I liked the ending–funnily enough, when Drew first went for the backslide, I thought “he should win with this because I never buy backslides anymore”–because it protects both guys. I just need to get my brain to accept that 2020 Randy Orton isn’t, you know, 2005-2019 Randy Orton. I can watch him; it won’t hurt.
Rating: *** 1/4
MATCH SEVEN: The Fiend vs Braun Strowman
How to rate this match?
For the first several minutes of the contest, I was very engaged. Both men were looking like absolute monstrosities and taking it to each other. It was the very best kind of unstoppable hoss battle. It was 1992 Vader vs 1998 Goldberg. There was so much fun to be had.
The two of them went to the back and battled in gorilla position for a bit. By the time they emerged and headed back towards the ring, I was thinking “This is the best Fiend match ever, that’s for sure”.
And then it just fell apart in a terribly anti-climactic ending.
With Braun having The Fiend down back in the ring, he went and got a box cutter, which admittedly had me thinking “Haha oh shit, what is about to happen?”. But all he did was cut away the mat part of the ring, whereupon he was immediately Sister Abigail’ed (twice, sure) and pinned.
That was it? It was very much a moment of “………. oh”. It did nothing for me. What a wet fart of an ending to a decent match.
Not factoring into my match rating is the aftermath which saw a man who looks like he ground five Roman Reignses into protein powder and drank them in a milkshake come out and destroy The Fiend AND Braun.
That’s the best Roman has looked–both in the physical sense, because SERIOUSLY he took his time off to hit every weight on the planet, and in the presentation sense–in forever.
Rating: ** 1/4
Nothing was abhorrent, and the two worst matches (Sonya/Mandy and Fiend/Braun) each had plenty of positives. Asuka/Sasha was outstanding, and Seth/Dominik delivered more than I had hoped. It was a typically up-and-down card, but the highs were MUCH higher than the lows were low. Plus: Keith Lee is going to Raw and Roman Reigns is interesting again!