With WWE’s biggest weekend of the summer now in the books, it’s time to take a look how various Superstars came out of NXT and SummerSlam, who looks promising and who does not…
It’s a sad indictment that very few acts came out the weekend feeling like they had all the momentum in the world and a ton of possibilities open to them. Without question, the hottest match on SummerSlam saw AJ Styles put over huge. After a rocky few weeks that threatened to quell his momentum, AJ rebounded in striking fashion with not only one of the best WWE matches of the year, but by far his biggest win to date. Smackdown Live has fallen short of expectations early, mostly because Styles hasn’t been put in a position to carry the show. With the huge W over Cena, it’s time to made the blue brand Phenomenal…No doubt the other commodity that increased his value at SummerSlam was Brock Lesnar. The previous few months of Brock had been poor, as it seemed the company ran out of ideas for him after the Undertaker feud ended. But with the brutal destruction of Orton, he’s once again the guy they wanted since WrestleMania 30 – the ultimate mountain to climb. Now they just need to find the right person to climb it…Between the fantastic entrance, NXT Championship victory and damn good match to boot, Shinsuke Nakamura continued to establish the fact that he has no business being on the Network brand, while the weekly cable shows struggle to maintain interest. That he’s one of only three men in this category speaks volumes to WWE’s struggle with the audience, and the King of Strong Style’s ability to get over.
After a loss at TakeOver and subsequent call-up, Bayley looked like one of the company’s biggest stars over the past few days, if you judge by the Brooklyn reactions alone. The key will be if Raw, notoriously rigid in its format, can showcase the personality in the kind-hearted, go-getting big sister without seeming inauthentic…One of the biggest surprises of the last six weeks has been Johnny Gargano, who after a cracking match with Tomasso Ciampa in the Cruiserweight Classic, stole the show against the Revival at NXT TakeOver. If WWE is smart and looks to strip those cupboards a bit more bare, Gargano will be a focal point of the new Cruiserweight Division come September…How outstanding has Rusev been lately? Not only has he been stellar on Raw, but he found a way to make the smart-ass Brooklyn fans cheer Roman Reigns. Rusev’s stock has risen in this feud, and in many ways has been the better performer throughout…Charlotte has become the ultimate beneficiary of Sasha Banks’ bad luck. It was telling at TakeOver from the fans’ boos that she can effectively pull off the (rare in this day and age) position of being a talented heel. Getting the belt back should keep her hot at a time she was expected to be phased down, and with Bayley on the opposite side, the matches are intriguing…Though his match wasn’t blowaway, it can’t be denied that the presentation of Bobby Roode far exceeds the most optimistic expectation at this point. He may benefit from toning down his seeming appreciation of the fans embracing his “Glorious” moniker, however…Though I don’t expect WWE will capitalise to the fullest, Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho are a tremendous double act. Ultimately, they should be holding the tag titles, if Jericho sticks around long enough…The Miz has quietly been a very good midcard heel since WrestleMania, and his pairing with wife Maryse. But Smackdown has a tendency to treat him like a peon rather than a credible champion. While his SummerSlam match was treated like filler (and I’d earmarked him for the Cooling Down section originally), his performance on Talking Smack opposite Daniel Bryan, whatever that will come out as being, could be a launching pad to be taken seriously for the first time in years.
Sadly, you can group an awful lot of people in this one. Sadder yet, one of them happens to be the WWE World Champion, as Dean Ambrose has come away from August worse than he was going in. From surprise new top babyface to an awkward feud with Dolph Ziggler, the fans don’t know how they’re supposed to react to Dean at the moment. Hopefully his next direction makes things a bit more clear…Seth Rollins has found himself hovering at this level after losing a good match to Balor and rebounding. Chances are, he’s Universal Champion this time next week…The New Day, after doing far better than they have any right to for a good while, may have finally hit the wall. The feud with the Club has surprisingly not clicked too well, and it’s starting to feel like they need to lose the titles and chase for a while…Enzo and Cass losing the opener in Brooklyn was a huge surprise. After being so prominently featured at Battleground alongside Cena, you have to think the outcome at SummerSlam is akin to missing a penalty. What’s next is very important for these two…Sasha Banks was scorchingly hot as an act on the first Raw of the split, but had her jets cooled week by week. Losing the title isn’t the end of the world, and injuries are never good, but it can’t be ignored how little the crowd was into much of Sasha’s match at SummerSlam. A strong return should put her back on track…The tough to gauge Roman Reigns stayed on his current course – reactions depending on how well they can book a scenario for him on a given evening, then regressing to the norm soon after. As nice a departure as the Rusev feud is, it won’t make a difference if they bump him back to the top without changing something with the act.
It may seem premature, but Finn Balor’s injury is a potential disaster for him. He wasn’t knocking them dead on Raw after his first night was concluded, and the lack of heat for a lot of his SummerSlam match screams of an audience not truly connected. Momentum is a deceptive beast if you misread it, but the Balor act doesn’t have a lot of teeth to it (ironically), and now the fans have seen shock booking, he’ll need more to last at the top when he returns…How much have The Club fallen this month? They seem to have a negative chemisty with the New Day, and their relegation to “just a tag team”, rather than part of AJ’s troupe, seems to have taken the sizzle out of the steak. The match at SummerSlam was disappointing, even before the finish…Speaking of hot teams, American Alpha went from a duo that got a great reaction upon their announcement at the Draft to a pair of guys swimming in midcard death, sharing screen time with bums like the Ascension and Vaudevillains. Setting up a tag division is fine, but Alpha should be mixing it up in top flight matches to establish them as a cut above, not part of the menagerie…After an absolute belter with Owens at Battleground, Sami Zayn has been stuck in purgatory ever since. With Balor leapfrogging him on the totum pole, Zayn became far more expendable, and is being used as such. It’s a shame to see him languishing without an issue.
Boy, that Dolph Ziggler is up shit creek, isn’t he? They give him big wins on TV, he cuts good promos, he hangs with the champion, and the crowd couldn’t care less. And even when they got into him on Smackdown, he lost again. Babyface Dolph has reached the end of the line, and the WWE’s booking has burned a bridge with the audience’s patience. Time to go heel, else he’s back to the jobbing board…Apollo Crews felt so out of place at SummerSlam. Since his arrival he’s failed to gain any real traction, and there’s nothing like the babyface losing clean to convince the casual fans not to care about him. His eternal smiling and mistakable name isn’t going to cut the mustard here, and he doesn’t appear to be enough of a priority to be given anything more than the same bland opportunity everybody gets to “get over”…It sure did look smart having Baron Corbin destroy Ziggler all those months at SummerSlam, didn’t it? Ziggler couldn’t get a lick of reaction, and Boring Corbin didn’t even make the pre-show. Gut feeling says he’ll get another chance soon enough to be a prominent player, and amaze the world with his belly-mouth, but this one just isn’t going to take.