SummerSlam has been labeled as the WWE's No. 2 pay-per-view behind WrestleMania for quite some time, and although I'm not sure it lived up to that lofty billing on Sunday night, there is absolutely no question that there were some high-level matches that were well worth the price.
A battle between Brock Lesnar and Triple H, as well as the WWE Championship triple threat match involving CM Punk, John Cena and Big Show headlined the card, and both of those contests were highly entertaining. Some of the other bouts left something to be desired, but at least SummerSlam ended with a bang.
It certainly wasn't anywhere near the best SummerSlam in its 25-year history, but there were some moments that reminded us why it is one of the WWE's marquee events. There are some things that could have been done to make it much better, but at least half the matches were of high quality, so it's tough to complain about that.
Here are my full grades for each of the matches on Sunday's SummerSlam card.
SummerSlam started off with a bang on Sunday night, as Antonio Cesaro defeated Santino Marella to become the new United States Champion in the pre-show match. It followed the basic formula of every Santino match, as The Cobra was heavily involved and the Milan Miracle used his comedy to get the crowd into it early.
The match itself was certainly nothing to write home about. Santino lost his handle on The Cobra early and spent much of the match trying to reclaim it. Cesaro destroyed it, but Santino pulled a spare Cobra out of his singlet in a humorous moment and seemed ready to take out Cesaro to retain the strap.
Aksana climbed on the apron to distract Santino, however, and that allowed Cesaro to gain the upper hand and win the contest. The match wasn't a technical marvel by any means, but it did seem to excite the crowd to some degree and it got the belt off of Santino after more than 160 days of stagnancy.
I'm not sure Cesaro was the right guy to give the title to, as he hasn't exactly been built up well over the past couple months, but hopefully it leads to him getting some more exposure and some interesting storylines.
This match wouldn't have been great on the main card, but it worked well on the pre-show, as it gave people a reason to watch online moving forward since it set the precedent of possible title changes. Nobody will remember this match when the night is over, but it did what it was supposed to do.
I entered Sunday night with the expectation that the match between Dolph Ziggler and Chris Jericho would be the best on the card from an in-ring perspective, and although it certainly could have been better, both men did a fantastic job and put on an entertaining show.
Ziggler entered SummerSlam having gotten the better of Jericho on several occasions, so while it may have made more sense to give him the win, I wasn't surprised that Y2J came out on top. It was a fairly back-and-forth affair, with Jericho kicking out of a Zig Zag and Ziggler avoiding disaster after a Code Breaker before Jericho ended it with a vintage Walls of Jericho.
Since Jericho is set to begin touring with his band and Ziggler holds the Money in the Bank contract, some fans may view this as an idiotic booking decision. At the same time, though, Jericho has lost countless times since his return and it had to be nice for his fans to finally see him win a big match after months of putting guys over.
Ziggler didn't win "the big one," but he didn't look weak either since he controlled much of the match. What the loss tells me, however, is that Ziggler cashing in his contract on Sheamus later in the night is almost a foregone conclusion. I predicted this at the beginning of the week and it seems obvious in order to help Ziggler save face.
I really enjoyed the match, and even though it certainly could have been longer and the result initially didn't make a ton of sense, everything will even out if Dolph cashes in as expected.
I didn't have very high expectations for the Daniel Bryan vs. Kane match at SummerSlam, as I felt like it was thrown in without any rhyme or reason, and not much happened to prove me wrong. Bryan won the bout, which was clearly the right decision, but I'm not really sure where he or Kane goes from here.
Aside from a couple brief flurries of offense, Kane was very much in control throughout the match and was made to look like the stronger competitor, as is always the case, so Bryan didn't gain a lot from the victory. I would have much rather seen him beat Kane with a kick to the head or even the Yes Lock instead of a small package.
The best thing that came of this match was probably Kane's outburst following the match. He was shown backstage in pursuit of Bryan before Josh Matthews made the brilliant decision to interview an angry Kane. The Big Red Monster grabbed Matthews and tossed him aside in a fit of rage.
That begs the question of whether Kane is now a heel, a tweener or a face. He seemed to become a definite face after the entire AJ saga, but now he may be on the path to becoming a heel once again. Kane is a guy who can be used in almost any role, but because of that, it seems like the creative team takes liberties with him.
I'm glad Bryan won and I do like that Kane showed some edge after the match, but it was very forgettable and I don't anticipate it having much of an impact moving forward.
I wasn't overly thrilled that The Miz was slated to face Rey Mysterio at SummerSlam rather than Randy Orton, but Miz and Mysterio always seem to have great matches together, and Sunday was no exception. There was plenty of back-and-forth action, and just when it looked like Rey might win the Intercontinental Championship, Miz persevered and came out on top.
There was definitely some worry on my part with regard to Mysterio possibly being booked to win the match, but the writers did the right thing in allowing Miz to go over. Miz hasn't looked particularly strong since beating Christian for the IC title, as he lost non-title matches to Mysterio and Kane, but Miz looked like a million bucks on Sunday night.
Despite the fact that Miz has improved by leaps and bounds in the ring since his debut several years ago, the sentiment that he is a poor wrestler remains intact. Hopefully, this match coupled with his performance in the triple threat against Dolph Ziggler and Chris Jericho last Monday will sway the opinions of some.
Miz has come back from filming The Marine 3 with a new look and attitude, and I'm hopeful that it will eventually lead to him getting back into the main-event scene soon enough. For now, though, Miz must continue to go over established, respectable wrestlers like Mysterio in order to rebuild the reputation that was ruined during his terrible losing streak several months ago.
A great match with a logical ending seems to be the exception rather than the rule in wrestling these days, but Miz vs. Mysterio certainly delivered in both of those areas.
In what was the biggest disappointment of the night thus far, Sheamus retained his World Heavyweight Championship over Alberto Del Rio on Sunday. I certainly wasn't upset about the fact that Sheamus won since Del Rio isn't a credible champion at this point, but the ending made very little sense and may extend an extremely stale feud.
Del Rio controlled much of the match, but when he tried to cheat late in the contest by having Ricardo Rodriguez throw him his shoe, Sheamus intercepted it and executed an Irish Curse Backbreaker. Sheamus then pinned Del Rio, but Del Rio got his foot on the ropes. Referee Mike Chioda didn't notice, however, and the decision was upheld.
I was waiting for Booker T to come out and order that the match be restarted, but that never happened. I would have even settled for Wade Barrett returning and beating down Sheamus to allow Dolph Ziggler to come to the ring and cash in his Money in the Bank contract. What we got instead, though, was a murky finish that is likely to result in another match between Sheamus and Del Rio.
As much as I want Ziggler to hang onto the briefcase for an extended period of time in order to build himself up, the World Heavyweight Championship scene is beyond boring and it could have used an infusion of excitement by having Ziggler win the strap and getting Barrett involved as well.
The match was decent, as is the case with every bout between these two competitors, but the finish was absolutely stupid and Ziggler losing earlier in the night now looks like a terrible decision as well.
I had hopes that the Tag Team Championship match between the team of Kofi Kingston and R-Truth and the Prime Time Players would be more than time filler, but that wasn't the case. Kofi and Truth retained in a fairly uneventful contest and their meaningless run with the brass belts appears as though it will continue for the foreseeable future.
I'm not a big fan of Darren Young and Titus O'Neil, either, and the loss of A.W. has definitely hurt them, but anyone would be better than Kingston and Truth at this point. Kofi and Truth were just thrown together out of nowhere and given the titles for no real reason, so I would have liked to have seen an actual team win the straps.
At the very least, the Prime Time Players could have transitioned the Tag Team Championships to an entertaining team like Primo and Epico, or perhaps a team that I hope gets created in the form of Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio. There don't seem to be any viable heel teams right now, though, so I can't envision Kofi and Truth losing any time soon.
The WWE's tag division has been a mess for the past couple years at least, and while I should know better than to expect any progress on that front, I thought that SummerSlam might actually mark the beginning of some forward movement. With Kofi and Truth winning, though, things are as dire as they ever were.
The only hope at this point is that a strong heel team is either created or brought up from NXT Wrestling in short order or else we'll all be subjected to Kofi and Truth for a long time to come.
I had a lot of theories about how the WWE Championship triple threat match between CM Punk, John Cena and Big Show might play out, and all of them ended with Punk retaining the title. Punk and Big Show didn't forge an alliance as I initially predicted, but I definitely liked the way that things played out in the end.
Big Show absolutely dominated the early parts of the match, as he tossed Punk and Cena around like a couple of rag dolls. Show wasn't really built up much ahead of the match since nobody believed that he could win the match, so I liked seeing him in charge since it was quite realistic.
Having Punk and Cena lock in the Koji Clutch and STF on Big Show simultaneously was a nice touch that set up the ending well. I had hoped that AJ might restart the match as a singles encounter between Punk and Cena since Big Show tapped out, but based on the way the match ultimately ended, I was fine with her just restarting the triple threat.
Cena hit Big Show with an Attitude Adjustment and just when it looked like he might pick up the victory, Punk tossed him out, pinned Big Show and retained the gold. It was good for several reasons, as Punk used a heel tactic to win, but he still has yet to make a full heel turn. Also, the double-submission spot and the manner in which Punk won leaves the door open for a normal singles match between Punk and Cena at Night of Champions.
Although I had high hopes for a massive storyline taking shape in the form of an official Punk heel turn, I can live with it being put off even longer. Perhaps this match didn't live up to the hype as far as a major angle goes, but since Punk retained and should go on to have a one-on-one feud with Cena, I would consider it a success.
In what was the most intense and physical match of the night, Brock Lesnar defeated Triple H by way of the Kimura Lock on Sunday night. It was a knock-down, drag-out affair, to say the least, and it ended in somewhat surprising fashion with Lesnar forcing Triple H to tap out rather than pinning him.
The match was very similar to the one that Lesnar had with John Cena in terms of the stiff style that was displayed, and I would say that it was easily the best overall bout of the night. Many were worried about what might become of Lesnar after his loss to Cena, but this win redeems him in a big way and should make him look strong moving forward.
The most interesting part about this match was the ending, as Triple H was reluctant to leave the ring and continually said he was sorry for the loss. It almost seemed as though Triple H wanted it to look like it was his last match, and that was played up by Michael Cole and Jerry "The King" Lawler as they questioned whether it might be the end of The Game.
I suspect that Triple H might announce his retirement on Monday, but as WrestleMania draws nearer, I feel like Shawn Michaels will make his return and goad Triple H into one last match at WrestleMania. That would be a much more fitting ending than Triple H tapping out at SummerSlam.
Even though the match itself was entertaining, the absence of something big like Michaels or someone else interfering took away from it to some degree. It will be great for Lesnar moving forward, as he can look like a threat against someone like The Undertaker or The Rock, but the lack of a big-time ending did take away from the match slightly.