Last night's PPV felt like the unofficial beginning of WWE's Summer in many ways. While the road to SummerSlam is still very far away, enough happened last night for us to look into the distance and see just a little bit of what WWE might have in store for us.
Seeds were planted for a possible heel turn for either Bryan or Orton (or both), as well as a possible face turn for the returning CM Punk. Meanwhile a straight switch occurred when Del Rio took on Dolph Ziggler in the World Heavyweight championship bout. Returns were announced, champions were crowned, and for the first time in a long while WWE seem to have some kind of grasp as to what they want to do this Summer, and not just for a select few people.
We weren't given too much in regards to upcoming matches, but were at least shown the groundwork for where some wrestlers might be heading into SummerSlam.
Wade Barrett vs. Curtis Axel vs. The Miz
A bittersweet ending for Curtis Axel as he was crowned Intercontinental champion on Father's Day, but that wasn't the only good thing about this opening match.
All three men put in a good effort here and put on an exciting Triple Threat match which saw fast paced action, some near falls and a very smart ending as well. It was in no way perfect, and to be honest I'm still not convinced by Miz and Barrett, but there was a lot of surprisingly good stuff in this match.
The Intercontinental title may not garner any more prestige now that it's on the third generation superstar, but I still feel it was a smart decision putting it one someone who is at least relevant on the roster. 3/5
Kaityln vs. AJ Lee
While the night hosted a lot of surprises concerning turns and match-quality, I think this match was the most surprising of all. Like pretty much every Divas match I've watched, I had no expectations going into this match, but it ended up being one of the best Divas bouts I've seen in years.
What made this a cut above the rest was the story involved in it. Seeing AJ get in the head of former best friend Kaitlyn was actually very good to watch, and actually served up a solid ending as well.
The time given to both women also helped them a lot, as it enabled them to slow the match down a bit and execute some decent moves throughout. I wouldn't be surprised if this match became a hidden gem in years to come. 3/5
United States Championship
Dean Ambrose vs. Kane
You know a match isn't very good when, bar the very end, you can't remember anything that happened. This was the case for this match because 10 minutes nothing really happened.
It was match where it seemed to end before it got started. The first real thing to happen in this match was when Ambrose slapped Kane across the face outside the, luring him in so he could eventually get counted out. That was pretty much it though. Before that I honestly can't remember what happened. 1.5/5
World Heavyweight Championship
Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio
Double turns can be extremely hard to do in wrestling. Giving the crowd a reason to suddenly boo one guy and then cheer the other by doing nothing but wrestling is something that some have been able to do, and some unable. Bret Hart and Stone Cold were able to do it at WrestleMania 13 perfectly, while the Briscoe Brother's and Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team failed miserably at Ring of Honor's Final Battle 2011.
Last night Ziggler and Del Rio were successfully able to do that. Del Rio relentlessly focusing on the head of Ziggler showed ruthlessness, aggression and desperation. Ziggler selling the injury and being unable to fully get into the match showed concern and sympathy. It was a match entirely focused on the state of Ziggler and his head, and I felt they handled it perfectly.
It's something that more than likely wouldn't have happened if Ziggler hadn't actually suffered a concussion weeks prior, but it was something that happened, and WWE found last night a good opportunity to mix things up.
The ending was certainly a surprise, and I know a lot of people weren't happy with it, but I think it opens an avenue for Ziggler to come back as the fighting babyface that everyone will get behind and eventually reclaim his World title at the biggest show of the Summer. 3.5/5
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
While this match didn't serve up and surprises or turns, we were at least treated to a very good wrestling match, and that's more than good enough for me.
Just like their previous encounters this year, both men's chemistry shone through. The pace of the match was very good, the reversals and sequences came off smoothly, and there were some good near falls near the end as well.
The crowd were also a good indicator of where Punk's character might go from here. It's been rumoured for a good while now, so wouldn't have come as a surprise to see Punk embrace the cheers he was receiving, but last night showed the babyface side of Punk very well, and I'm sure that's what WWE wanted.
The match itself did have some weak points, and Punk seemed a big more gassed than he probably should have been, but this was still a really good effort from both men. Match of the night for me. 3.5/5
Tag Team Championship
Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan & Randy Orton
A really fun match here which really didn't let the crowd to take a breather after the previous bout.
All four men played the hot-tag situation very well, and the final few minutes of the match served up some really good action as all four men delivered some cool spots. The inexperience of Bryan and Orton as a team was always going to show here, and in the end we saw both men serve distractions for each other.
In the end it was a good case of the tension between Bryan and Orton continuing to show, while The Shield still looking strong in victory. Good stuff all round. 3/5
John Cena vs. Ryback
My stream actually crashed last night before the main event so I had to leave this match until the morning after, but even being able to watch this match more recharged wasn't able to get me any more excited for this mess.
The first fall was tame enough, as you'd expect. Both men took turns throwing each other out of the ring, before delivering the big spot of the fall which saw Cena jump off the top rope and onto the Lumberjacks. Having around 30 people fall over because of one guy dropping on them is bad enough, but when you hear Michael Cole call it “incredible” you can't help but feel annoyed that they consider that to be a good moment.
The second fall was even worse, as Ryback tried lifting Cena up to put him through a table, only to have Cena do the exact same thing every time and roll off. The third attempt left Ryback being put through a table instead, making it 1 fall each.
Not only was the ending to that fall bad, but things got even worse when Ryback got straight back up after being AA'd through a table, and proceeded to slam Cena through an announce table... even though he was incapable of doing that a few minutes earlier.
Ryback continued to take control of the match as both men made their way to the ambulance, which I might add, was probably the weakest ambulance ever assembled. The tore of pieces of the vehicle , slammed each other through various parts, before Cena AA'd Ryback through the roof of the ambulance. The ending itself wasn't too bad, it was just everything beforehand that made the entire fall look laughably bad.
In my head I had this match at a 2/5, but after going through it bit by bit I realise that there's just so match I didn't like about this match. They've had better bouts, and both guys are capable of more, but it was the direction of this stipulation (among other things) which proved to be the major weakness in this match. 1.5/5