Last night’s NXT TakeOver Brooklyn was one of the great shows in wrestling history. A revolutionary broadcast that delivered what it was supposed to in every single match. It was perfect in many ways. How in the hell can this line-up possibly hope to even come close?
Promo Time: Jon Stewart
We start out with host Jon Stewart, who looks like he hasn't slept in weeks. He reckons tonight will feature ten of the best matches we will ever see. Not likely. Stewart runs through the guys on the show, reminiscent of Vince McMahon’s post-WCW purchase where he threw names out to gage whether he should hire them or not. Stewart says he wants to interview Brock Lesnar, but he is scared of doing so himself so he wheels out Mick Foley to help him. Mick gets a nice response, then tells a story about how he was expecting to be here interviewing The Rock. He didn't hear the “B” because of his missing ear. It’s a good excuse. Foley admits to being scared of Brock, so Stewart puts him over, reminding him of his Hell in a Cell match with Undertaker at King of the Ring ’98. “That was seventeen years ago!” screams Foley, who decides to leave Stewart to tackle Lesnar by himself. Stewart doesn't fancy that, so they both leave. Why bother having four hours of pay-per-view time instead of three if they are just going to waste it with pointless shite?
Randy Orton vs. Sheamus
Okay, last night was great, WWE are in my good books at the moment, so let’s try and stay positive... Erm. At least they are getting the most boring match out of the way early, let’s go with that. I am trying to work out if the amount of times I have seen this match-up in double or triple figures. Randy goes for the RKO first move, which would have been fantastic. Sheamus avoids it, then decides to argue with the crowd. “I don’t look stupid, you look stupid.” Oh, snap. “Sheamus might not think he looks stupid, but Randy Orton thinks he looks stupid.” - Cole. In other news, Brock Lesnar thinks Undertaker is a poo-poo head, and Seth Rollins believes John Cena to be a doofus. As if my interest in this match could drop any lower than it already is, the camera work is at its all-time worst. I cannot even work out what is going on because they use the shot from outside of the ring for an age, switch between cameras mid-move, and play silly arses with the zoom function when it is simply not needed. It turns out nothing is happening anyway. The crowd, who don't have to suffer the camera, hate it too. They turn on the show in the first match, chanting “How you doin’?” and “Olé”. I love it when crowds turn on Sheamus matches. The thing is, it always happens to him because he is so unspeakably dull, and his character is hokey. Obviously, that is the person WWE decided to put the briefcase on. The day he wins the title is the day I stop watching. Randy somehow ends up bleeding from... a slam. Wait, what? It’s hardway, but there is not much blood. Randy tries to excite by catching Sheamus with an RKO off a slingshot, but Sheamus rolls out to avoid it costing him. Back in, Sheamus does some stuff and finishes with the Brogue Kick. I don't care. I don't care one fucking bit. As usual, there was nothing wrong with what they did, but I have seen them both do it in the same order with the same robotic execution for what seems like decades. Even worse, it is now likely that they will work with each other again in a rubber match. One match in, and already I want to turn it off and go to bed.
Final Rating: ½*
* Note: Add a star or two if you have never seen a Randy Orton vs. Sheamus match before.
WWE Tag Team Championship
The Prime Time Players (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Lucha Dragons vs. Los Matadores
Before we get going, New Day win me over with a tremendous rendition of ‘Empire State of Mind’, changing the lyric “New York” to “New Day”. The trio are so obnoxious that they get over as faces. Their amazing white and gold gear is a big plus too. Big E and Kofi try and make a mockery of the rules by pinning each other, but the other teams soon break that up. Sin Cara manages to botch a spot within second, because, well that’s his thing, isn’t it? Kalisto looks absolutely outstanding during his sequences, like a video game character. I have never seen anyone move at the speed he does. The action is good, though there is so much going on that it feels somewhat lacking in structure. Darren Young becomes the second hardway victim of the evening, bleeding from the mouth. Brock Lesnar is guaranteed to bleed because he takes moves on his face, so it is going to be a bloody show. Young takes some heat from New Day before making the hot tag to Titus, who looks amazing again in running through everyone. It all falls apart when Sin Cara re-enters the match, making a mess of another spot and then doing a dive which is “blocked” by a Matadores kick. In theory. The kick missed by about two feet. Big E makes up for it with a spear through the ropes to the outside, which is a badass spot. Everything breaks down, which Cole says is fine because it is first fall wins and thus essentially a free for all. Why the fuck were they all stood on the apron waiting for tags then!? A tower of doom from Titus connects, then Kofi kicks him in the face and pins Fernando for the win and the belts. Big E’s post match celebration is a thing of beauty. He doesn't glitch, skip frames, or anything! Cole harps on after the bout about confusion over who was the legal man, which only serves to remind me that it sure wasn't Kofi. Whatever, this was fun, even if it made no sense for 95% of the time, and the other 5% was Sin Cara botches.
Final Rating: **1/4
Backstage, Jon Stewart tries to catch a word with Neville and Steven Amell, then the lights go black and everyone looks concerned. It turns out to be The Undertaker bringing the magic, walking past without saying a word clad in his regalia, with a plume of smoke flowing behind him. Then the lights come back on and they return to what they were doing. Best worst segment ever. Why is Taker already wearing his coat though? He has three hours to wait yet. He will get awful hot.
Rusev vs. Dolph Ziggler
The build up for this has been... interesting. Any feud that incorporates a headless fish and a confused sexuality denim jacket cannot be described as anything but. Rusev uses a bearhug early on, which is never a good sign. Ziggler brings some fire, but Rusev smashes him back down and connects with a brutal looking flip senton. Dolph survives and goes to a sleeper, which Rusev survives. They do a double down and Dolph loudly yells instructions for the next spot, then Rusev connects with a superkick and locks on the Accolade. Lana yells at him, so Summer tries to intervene by slapping her, but Lana blocks it and gives her one back. That is enough of a distraction for Rusev to break the hold. Rusev comes outside and threatens to smash Dolph’s face right in front of her, so she screams. Summer takes her out, hurting herself in the process because she is inept. Superkick on the outside from Ziggler, and they do a double count out. The crowd hate that. So do I. Rubbish.
Final Rating: ¾*
Post match, Rusev and Dolph brawl again, so Summer gets involved and pounds on Ziggler. Lana makes the save, if you want to call it that, before the fellas split them up. Whatever, this was a waste of time.
So far, SummerSlam is living right down to the low expectations I had for it. They could have cut this entire first hour and kept the card at three hours, and we would have missed nothing.
Neville & Steven Amell vs. Stardust & King Barrett
Why isn't Barrett the Cosmic King? Boo. The hype video for this, including comic book pics for all four, is a work of art. Then Michael Cole goes and ruins it by reading out a cryptic Stardust tweet, making me want to die. Everyone has swank new gear tonight, and they all look great. Neville has gone for Daniel Bryan maroon, King is in blue, Stardust in his best Goldust tribute with short sleeves, and Amell has an Arrow-inspired entrance jacket. After King and Neville run a brief sequence, Stardust tags in and wants Amell. The actor obliges by vaulting onto the top rope and into the ring, survives being shoved over, and connects with a boot. Amell then flips out of a backdrop and hits a hiptoss, and he looks fantastic for a non-wrestler. Like a modern-day Lawrence Taylor. Barrett wants a piece of Amell and hooks him for a slam, only for Amell to escape and leapfrog over him. Great athleticism from the guy, and credit to him for putting in the work beforehand. His luck runs out right after that, and he takes a beating from the cosmic duo. He sell well, I am really impressed with the dude. After hitting an enzuigiri on Stardust he makes the hot tag to Neville, who goes to town on Barrett with kicks and forearms. He hits a move from the middle rope that Cole can only manage the word “incredible” for, and I don't blame him. I don't even know what it is, but there was flipping and twisting and lots of it. Amell does a dive from the top onto both guys, then Neville finishes with the Red Arrow on Barrett. Inexplicably, the camera switches mid-move. This was fine. Obviously the celebrity was going over, but he deserved to on this occasion. Good on Amell for taking his participation seriously and training hard for it.
Final Rating: **1/4
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Ryback (c) vs. The Miz vs. The Big Show
Big Show is getting into the spirit of things and has changed his attire slightly. I would still rather have my testicles slowly ingested by a python than watch him work. God, I’ve been looking forward to watching this for two months now... After hitting a double suplex, Show climb the ropes. He looks like an elephant trying to tightrope walk. Then he hits a goddamn flip senton, or something approaching one. That’s a response to the “please retire” chants if ever there was one. Not to be outdone, Ryback hits a splash off the top onto Miz. Show chokeslams him onto Miz in response. JBL decides it is appropriate to bring up the 5* Bret Hart-British Bulldog match from SummerSlam ’92 as this juncture, which only reminds me how great the IC title used to be, and what a frigging state it is in now when these three shitbags are involved. Ryback hits Shellshock on Show, which is impressive, but Miz prevents the count with Skull Crushing Finale for a two count. He covers Show with the same results, then keeps covering both to no avail. The crowd are actually into it! Show knocks out Ryback with his WMD, and I pull out the remaining hair I have at the prospect of Show being IC champ. Thank the Wrestling Gods for The Miz, who breaks the count. Show knocks him out too, Ryback clotheslines him out of the ring, eventually, then covers Miz for the win. This far surpassed my expectations. I was expecting a DUD but got a couple of snowflakes.
Final Rating: **
Backstage, Jon Stewart bravely knocks on Brock Lesnar’s door, and gets Paul Heyman. He asks for Lesnar, but Heyman says now is not a good time. Stewart shouts at Heyman on behalf of all wrestling fans for rubbing salt in the wounds regarding Brock snapping The Streak. Heyman sings “Glory Glory Brock Lesnar” in his face to respond, with WWE clearly trying to get that over so the whole arena sings it. “I guess we couldn't get Letterman to host the show,” snipes Heyman, before slamming the door in Stewart’s face. WWE should bring Jon Stewart in every week, he gets things over very well. His opening segment was still a waste of time though.
Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper vs. Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose
It seems a week in New York has meant a shopping spree for the roster, because Bray has a new jacket with horns on it, and Harper wears a... hoodie. Like a chav. Here we go with yet another match that I have no interest in seeing because it has already been played out on Raw for weeks on end. My spirit has been killed by this card and we are not even halfway through. So far, the show that is “bigger than WrestleMania” feels like an episode of Raw. As was the case in the opener, it is full of perfectly acceptable action, but there is no heart to it. What do I care if either team wins? What difference does it make to anything? Ambrose is over, though Brooklyn despises Reigns with a passion. Ambrose and Reigns win thanks to a Doomsday Device, double powerbomb, Dirty Deeds and then a Roman spear on Wyatt. A complete waste of time for the most part. Way to go Vince for rejecting the idea of using Sting in this bout.
Final Rating: **
WWE United States Championship
Seth Rollins (c) vs. John Cena (c)
Seventh match on the card, halfway into the show? What a curious place to put the WWE Championship match. I smell a non-finish. Cena of course got a jump on the new gear craze, having debut his new orange and green shirt on Monday. Seth Rollins has got in on the act too, debuting frankly ridiculous all-white with gold trim ensemble. He looks like Randy Savage circa SummerSlam ’91. It is certainly striking, I will give him that. Because we are in New York, Seth is over like the second coming, while Cena is heavily booed. I thought he might have been given some respect for the whole broken nose thing, not to mention his weekly classic matches on Raw over the past few months. I guess not. They even chant “Cena sucks” to the tune of “New Day sucks”. That clap and chant is the new “What?” Rollins hits a dive early on, then Cena comes back with his usual mid-match offence. The wacky Stunner is particularly squiffy tonight. Seth basically ignores it, then hits a running SSP out of nowhere. Cole doesn't know what it is called, so dubs it, “moves like these”. He follows with another Indy favourite, a double footstomp from the top a’la Low Ki. “Cena knew it was coming, but he could do nothing about it.” - Cole. Yeah, except, y’know, move. Cena comes back with an AA out of nowhere, and that move is dead at this point. Everybody kicks out of it nowadays. We are already into the big finishers/big selling portion of the match, which is basically how all of Cena’s matches go these days. He hits his top rope legdrop for a near fall, and Lawler is stunned that it didn't score him the win. I don't know what he is on about; it never works. After making a mess of a spot in the corner, Seth hits his powerbomb into the buckles and follows with a frogsplash into a pin, which Cena powers out of looking for the AA. Seth escapes, Cena hits a crossbody, but Seth rolls through and powers Cena up into an AA of his own. Very impressive. “Shades of John Cena tonight” - Cole. Shades! SHADES!? He is one of the guys in the fucking ring! What an asshole. What a complete and utter dumb fucking asshole. Put this imbecile out to pasture, immediately! Actually, get rid of all three of these idiots, and replace them with the NXT trio. Cena locks in the STF, but Seth escapes, and they go into a nice sequence switching each other’s attempted holds. Cena locks on a figure four, looking to tie Ric Flair’s (WWE approved) record title run by using his own move, which gets him heat. I like it. Seth manages to turn over and reverse the pressure. Cena goes up top, only for Seth to cut him off and hit a superplex straight into a Falcon Arrow for another close fall, but he misses with a big move off the top, allowing Cena to hit the AA. But, disaster: the referee got bumped by Seth’s legs mid-swing. Cue shenanigans, surely. Seth smashes Cena in the nose, which brings out Jon Stewart armed with a chair. He makes like he is going to hit old rival Rollins, then makes the SHOCK TURN OF THE CENTURY by smashing Cena in the gut with the chair. What is going on? I wanted unpredictability, but that is absurd! Rollins hits the Pedigree onto the chair, and covers for the win and the US Title. Can we look forward to a Cena-Stewart program now? I cannot wait to hear the justification for why he turned. Good match, as most Cena bouts tend to be these days, with Seth reminding me that for all his promos suck, his ring work remains very good when he is properly motivated. This show desperately needed that.
Final Rating: ****
Team PCB vs. Team BAD vs. Team Bella
Three moves in, and I am already sick of Brie Bella’s pathetic attempts at bumping. Team BAD cut off the ring and work over Becky Lynch, which would be fine in a straight tag, but in a three team match like this, not so much. The crowd chant for Sasha and they get her, but she is limited in what she can do with so many strawbs in there with her. The difference in crowd reaction for this match compared to last night’s epic Sasha Banks-Bayley match is remarkable. It is so ridiculous, because WWE want a women’s revolution, and they have one under their own roof, yet they persist with this useless, pointless dross. And why? To end a petty record that nobody except them cares about. Everyone does a dive, and they get progressively worse, ending with Paige basically falling off the post. Back inside, Brie hits a crappy X-Factor on Tamina to eliminate Team BAD. Welcome to reality, Sasha. Nikki nearly ends it with the fake tit Shock Treatment on Becky, but the rest of PCB make the save. Nikki ends up on the outside and blocks a Paige baseball slide with a PUNCH TO THE LEG, then hits an Alabama Slam on the outside. Brutal. Brie comes in and starts using her husband’s moves, but New York refuse to accept it. They are silent now. Paige gets worked over in the corner to utter apathy, then Alicia Foxx locks on a half-assed stretch. She pulls a face like she is struggling with some complex algebra. The heat on Paige lasts for approximately a week, and it is rotten. Just mind-numbing. They are flirting with negative stars at this point. Paige finally tags out to Charlotte, who hasn't done anything in the match so far. She unloads on all three of Team Bella, hitting a spear on Alicia followed by the Figure Eight, which Nikki breaks up. Paige sends her out of the ring, then Charlotte and Alicia collide with double big boots. Becky ends up in with Brie, the latter of whom misses a legdrop, and Becky finishes with some form of slam. I don’t even care enough to remember what it is. I think it was a pumphandle slam. My brain had already melted by then. Okay great, so what does that win mean? Nothing. A horrific comedown and a step backwards for the division after last night. What a mess.
Final Rating: DUD
Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro
Cesaro has new grey trunks and a customised grey towel. Did everyone get paid this week or something? Recent burial or not, Kevin Owens is still over big in Brooklyn. He deserves to be after putting his body through hell against Finn Balor last night. We get highlights of that, yet they couldn't show anything from the even better Bayley-Sasha match? Whatever, WWE, carry on. Cesaro and Owens both hit big dives right from the off, making that around ten so far tonight. Owens takes over by sidestepping a running uppercut on the outside and sending Cesaro into the barricade, then slows things with a chinlock. Cesaro uses his strength to come back, hitting a big suplex then his strongman gutwrench, from the top no less, though the crowd is fairly muted. I guess this overly-long chore of a show has killed their spirit. Cesaro tries a few times for the Neutraliser, but Owens backdrops out. Tornado DDT from Owens for two, but he misses with his springboard moonsault. He makes no mistake with a superkick though, decking Cesaro right on the chin for another two count. Cesaro simply has too many tricks in his arsenal to stay down for long, firing back with a twisting slingshot uppercut, then following up with the running uppercut on the outside that he tried earlier. Giant swing time, which as usual the director tries to ruin with excessive zooming. Sharpshooter applied centre ring, which Owens escapes via means using the ropes. “This whole match is a train wreck. I like watching train wrecks,” says JBL, oddly. If he likes train wrecks, and who doesn't huh, then he must have loved the last match. This is certainly not a train wreck. They battle up top, where Cesaro begins to lose his balance, so Owens quickly covers by dropping down and crotching him on the ropes, then climbs back up to hit his fisherman’s urinage. He follows with the pop-up powerbomb, and that gets him the win. Hmm. I get why they would put Owens over, because he has suffered a lot of high profile losses recently, it is just a shame that Cesaro ends up his victim rather than someone like Sheamus, Orton or a whole host of useless guys on this roster. Decent match, though underwhelming compared to what I was hoping for.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker
Here we go then, with the match WWE have dubbed, “too big for WrestleMania”. It’s a baffling tag line when you think about it. My prediction going in: Undertaker wins with an assist from his baby brother Kane, revenge for Lesnar having broke his ankle a few months back. I think that is the wrong option mind you. Because if they really are doing this match at WrestleMania 32 in Texas, then Taker needs to go in having lost to Lesnar twice, and indeed having never beaten him. Cole makes a dumb claim as Taker makes his entrance, saying that JBL has wrestled Taker more than anyone else in WWE history. Bullshit. Utter nonsense. He has the credibility of a weekend tabloid.
Lesnar jumps Taker before the bell, not even giving him chance to remove his coat. It backfires when Taker rallies with a big boot and sends him to the outside with a clothesline. It’s clear from that sequence alone that Lesnar is now the heel and Taker is the babyface, despite how they have been positioned on TV of late. Once the bell rings they slug it out, and Taker gets more joy in the first few minutes than anyone else has against Lesnar in his last half a dozen matches. Taker goes Old School, but gets pulled into an F-5 attempt, but Taker escapes and locks on a goozle. Brock avoids the chokeslam and delivers the first move on the road to Suplex City, a belly-to-belly. He follows with a German suplex which turns Taker inside out, yelling “suplex city bitch” to a big pop. He goes for another, but Taker is not feeling anymore bumps this early and sends Lesnar into the buckles. Snake Eyes and big boo from Taker, and Lesnar is busted. I told you! I told you he would bleed! Taker rams Lesnar back-first into the barricade and the apron a couple of times, followed by his legdrop on the apron. Nobody has enjoyed this much control against Lesnar for years. Taker throws a few air punches which are uncharacteristically poor, but all they do is wake Brock up. He hits a German, then another, then another. I really didn't expect Taker to take quite so many suplexes. I figured he didn't have the bumps in him.
The action spills to the outside, where Lesnar rearranges the announce desk with bad intentions. Taker recovers and goes for a Last Ride through the furniture, but Lesnar escapes and hits an F-5 through the table. Somehow, inexplicably, Lesnar’s cut has gone from nearly dried up to dripping with blood. Curious. Taker only just beats the count, prompting Lesnar to yell, “I’ll kill you, you son of a bitch, come on.” PG folks. PG. Lesnar mouthing off gives Taker time to recover and hit a desperation chokeslam, and a beauty too. He follows with a Tombstone, and that is... only enough for two. Well, there is still half-an-hour left of this show yet. Both men are out selling the fatigue, but Lesnar sits up first, laughing. Taker sits up and does a big mock laugh, which is brilliant, then they just start slugging away at each other on the floor. Brilliant.
Lesnar goes to the Kimura on the ropes, which the referee just allows. He should have broke it. Taker escapes with the Last Ride, getting a close two count. Both men struggle to their feet, and now it is Undertaker’s turn to kick out of a finish, getting a shoulder up after a Brock F-5. Brock, dripping with blood, sweat, and snot, goes for another and connects. That’ three including the one on the outside, which was enough at WrestleMania a few years back, but not tonight. I cannot remember a time when Undertaker too this many bumps. Taker coughs and splutters, suckering Brock into Hell’s Gate. Surely Lesnar won’t tap? Nope, he switches it into the Kimura instead, locking it in fully. Taker sits in it for an age, almost as if it is a body scissors or something.
And then, shenanigans. The bell rings after Charles Robinson counts one, and Brock thinks he has won on a tap out. Robinson yells at the timekeeper, and while he is doing so Taker hits Lesnar with a low blow. He hooks Lesnar in the Hell’s Gate, Brock gives him the finger, but passes out and loses. Goodbye two and a half years of build. What a fucking horrible finish. The announcers cannot even decide properly what the finish controversy was. JBL thinks it was because of the one count, Cole desperately tries to explain that Taker tapped and the timekeeper saw it but the referee didn't. Even though the timekeeper was on the opposite side of the ring. Whatever, it’s a flat finish that everybody can see through, and nobody really gets over from. There’s nothing like a half-assed, controversial, bungled finish to end an epic, “biggest match in history”. Post match, Heyman rings the bell a bunch of times and announces Brock as the winner via tap out, but that is not fooling anyone. Lesnar lost, aura shattered, the end.
Final Rating: ****
Summary: The show wasn’t helped by having to follow NXT’s groundbreaking explosion into the mainstream consciousness last night, and a lot of the matches felt very, very flat. As usual it was down to the same quintet of super-workers to save the event from the mundane, soulless undercard that preceded them, with John Cena, Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Kevin Owens and Brock Lesnar doing the business, and The Undertaker rolling back the years with his best performance since his match with CM Punk. Even then, the big matches had problem, mainly down the horrible screwy finishes and questionable booking decisions. Or in other words, the same old story for WWE. If SummerSlam had remained at three hours and trimmed the fat, we would have been looking at a much stronger card, scoring in the mid-seventies. As it was, the show was far too long and it really dragged in places. It ended up being middle of the road. Good in places, but a long way from great.