The 25th SummerSlam has come and gone, and several WWE Superstars had memorable nights in the "City of Angels," Los Angeles.
Chris Jericho finally won the "big one" and dispatched Dolph Ziggler in an entertaining opener. Daniel Bryan finally pinned Kane. CM Punk successfully retained the WWE Championship, world champion Sheamus held off the challenge of Alberto Del Rio (albeit in controversial fashion), and Brock Lesnar notched his first win since returning to WWE last April.
Join me as I grade the individual performances from the 2012 edition of SummerSlam, a show that will likely have a long-reaching effect on the sport of professional wrestling for the months and maybe years to come.
Dolph Ziggler got SummerSlam off to a hot start, turning in one of the best performances of the evening and nearly stealing the show, as he has become notorious for doing.
His match with Chris Jericho, who we will get to in a moment, was among the contenders for the best match on the show and further proved that the self-proclaimed "Show Off" is more than ready to ascend the ladder and be the World Heavyweight champion.
Come year's end, the opening match of WWE pay-per-views will be a thing of Ziggler's past.
Vickie Guerrero also deserves credit for adding just enough to the match without overshadowing it. Her temper tantrums when things do not go as planned for Ziggler (and subsequently, her celebrations when they do) are among the most underrated aspects of WWE television.
Chris Jericho's performance Sunday night at SummerSlam was his single best performance since returning to the WWE on January 2.
That is a bold statement, considering the two WWE title matches were with CM Punk and a number of very good matches were with Sheamus.
And despite the fact that the match with Ziggler did not equal the quality of the Punk series, everything fell into place for Jericho at SummerSlam. He was as solid as he has been in the ring since returning and every single maneuver, the timing of every spot, and the sequencing of the match was perfect.
A lot of the credit for that belongs to Jericho. When you add to that the fact that Jericho made Ziggler look like a star, even in a loss, there is no other way to describe Jericho's night as other than a success.
Is it too late to pencil in at least one more match between Jericho and Ziggler before the Fozzy tour?
Even when Bryan is average, he is still pretty damn good. And at SummerSlam, the WWE universe was treated to "pretty damn good" rather than "great." And that is okay.
Bryan turned in another solid pay-per-view performance, this time in a one-on-one contest with Kane. After a number of consecutive matches against the "Big Red Monster," there is only so much that can be done between two performers that fans have not already seen.
That is not to say that the match was not a good one. It definitely was. Bryan utilized the tried-and-true "big man versus little man" formula and, as usual, it proved effective. But by the end of SummerSlam, it is difficult to argue that anyone outside of the most diehard of Daniel Bryan fans will remember the match by tomorrow.
Working with the likes of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan in recent months has awakened the "Big Red Monster" and has motivated him to work harder. Like a man possessed, he has been on a mission to prove that he can not only keep up with the younger stars in the company but can also perform at a high level with them.
At SummerSlam, he and Bryan had a very solid match, even if it did just meet expectations. Kane had a very good showing and used his key signature power moves to pop the crowd and counter the technical and submission skills of his opponent.
Another month of Kane versus Bryan appears likely and if the "Big Red Machine" can continue to perform at the level he has as of late, that most certainly will not be a bad thing.
The biased Batman fan in me wants to give Rey an "A" just for his SummerSlam outfit. The unbiased Bleacher Report writer in me will be a little more objective.
There was nothing wrong with Rey Mysterio's performance Sunday night. But when someone like Mysterio, who has an archive of tremendous pay-per-view matches, appears on a WWE event, people have certain expectations.
The Intercontinental Championship match was very good. In fact, it was better than it had any right to be, considering the lack of hype for it. With that said, there was nothing measurably special about Rey's performance.
I suspect most of that had to do with ring rust that Rey still has yet to completely rid himself of. But one must wonder if any of it has to do with a long line of injuries and Mysterio's age.
We will find out over the course of the next few weeks and months if the Rey Mysterio of old will ever truly return.
2012 has been anything but AWESOME for The Miz. As a matter of fact, it has been rather lackluster and forgettable.
But the current Intercontinental champion can rest easily knowing that his best performance came at the second most important show of the WWE calendar.
The Miz was phenomenal on Sunday at SummerSlam and turned in his best in-ring performance since last December's TLC pay-per-view. He worked as hard in this one match as he has all year.
Before leaving to star in "The Marine: Homefront," Miz had gained a reputation for being sloppy, if not lazy. His character had grown stale and fans had lost any reason to care about him as a performer the minute the exclamatory "AWESOME" sounded at the beginning of his theme music.
The Miz has rediscovered his fire to perform since returning from the movie set, and in Los Angeles, Hollywood if you will, he proved that he has rededicated himself to his in-ring work.
For a young star who still has a bright future ahead of him, Miz must string together a number of impressive performances in order to get back in the good graces of both fans and WWE management.
Along the way, maybe he can even bring prestige back to the Intercontinental Championship.
That is the only word to describe Alberto Del Rio, both at SummerSlam and in the weeks and months preceding the event.
And until WWE stops rewarding his pedestrian work and inability to evolve his character with World Championship matches and main event pushes, that will be the only word capable of describing the talented second-generation wrestler.
It is a shame that Sheamus has been drugged down in recent months by the mediocre heat-killing Alberto Del Rio because it is hard to find another superstar that continues to work as hard to better himself than the current World Heavyweight champion.
Sheamus has been the work horse of the Smackdown brand since winning the World title at Wrestlemania. With that championship comes a great deal of responsibility, a responsibility that the Irishman has embraced.
And Sheamus' hard work was on display Sunday night at SummerSlam. Unfortunately, in most cases, a superstar is only as good as the opponent he is in the ring with. Del Rio is not up to the challenge of performing in a high-pressure, main event situation, and until Sheamus is allowed to move on from him, his hard work and evolution as a performer will suffer.
It was a good performance from Sheamus when he really has the potential to deliver a great one.
There was nothing wrong with Titus O'Neill or Darren Young's performances at SummerSlam, but there was nothing spectacular about them, either.
Then again, it is difficult for a match like the WWE Tag Team Championship to hit its stride in the seven minutes and 15 seconds allowed for it on pay-per-view.
Perhaps saving this title bout for Monday's Raw would have been a better idea and would have netted a better result.
I feel bad handing out the second-worst grade of the SummerSlam pay-per-view to Kofi Kingston and R-Truth because I consider myself a big fan of the former.
But, as the veterans in a match for the WWE Tag Team Championship who are defending against a still-inexperienced young team, it is up to Kofi and Truth to do whatever they can to make an interesting and compelling match.
For whatever reason, the champions were unable to deliver a memorable tag match that anyone with cable and a remote control could not watch for free on Raw or Smackdown.
Perhaps I should change that grade to "INCOMPLETE" because it was not that Cena's performance was bad or below average. No, Cena's grade reflects the fact that his participation in the triple threat, WWE Championship match was limited.
When one would have expected Cena and CM Punk to do most of the heavy lifting while Big Show appeared every once and a while to deliver a signature move or two, it was actually Punk and Show that provided most of the action while Cena snuck in during the down portions of the bout and delivered his trademark spots.
He would become involved toward the end of the match and appears set to challenge CM Punk for the WWE title in the very near future, but for now, Cena's impact at SummerSlam can best be classified as "nearly nonexistent."
Did any WWE superstar surprise more than The Big Show did Sunday night?
When the triple threat match for the WWE title was announced, many groaned at the inclusion of the giant, myself included. At SummerSlam, he made all of his critics shut up, if only for one night.
Big Show not only exceeded expectations—he was also also able to keep up with CM Punk and John Cena and never once appeared out of place. Show turned in his best performance since the over-achieving Mark Henry series and was the central figure in the story being told throughout the contest.
If Big Show could be more consistent in his performances, the intolerance and harsh criticism against his inclusion in these types of matches would not exist.
Workrate is a term that gets thrown around the internet a little too freely when talking about professional wrestling, but it more than applies to WWE champion CM Punk in terms of his SummerSlam performance.
Punk was the driving force behind the triple threat match and was almost always involved in the action in the ring. While John Cena and Big Show spent time outside the ring while selling the effects of injuries or beatings suffered between the ropes, Punk was always in the ring, fueling the match.
For the ninth consecutive month Punk proved, through his performance on the pay-per-view, that he takes great pride in being WWE champion and hopes to bring legitimacy and prestige back to World Wrestling Entertainment's top prize.
There is a special place in the musical abyss for Kevin Rudolf.
The Divas looked good, though.
If only because she is a very attractive woman and a celebrity, wearing a Bob Backlund t-shirt will always receive a passing grade from me.
And from, I'm sure, most warm-blooded male wrestling fans.
Brock Lesnar was not good Sunday night.
Brock Lesnar was really good Sunday night.
Unlike his match with John Cena at Extreme Rules, Brock Lesnar was in shape and prepared to perform in a highly-hyped main event match.
Sure, Brock's offense remains limited, but it has a very realistic feel to it. He does not opt for flashy maneuvers, rather focusing on moves that he knows work and moves that set up his dangerous kimura arm bar. And it works.
Lesnar also sold Triple H's attack to the mid-section far better than he sold any of John Cena's offense in April. Rather than appearing to be an indestructible beast, he added to the match by selling Triple H's offense as something devastating.
As the months pass and Brock Lesnar has another match or two and regains his form between the ropes, his work will undoubtedly improve.
For a superstar wrestling in only his second match in North America since leaving WWE eight years ago, Brock's performance at SummerSlam creates a sense of hope that he can return to form in time for Wrestlemania 29.
Triple H's performance will, in the future, be appreciated more than it will be in the coming days.
What felt like a disappointing main event was, in reality, tremendous story-telling led by "the Game." While lacking an array of flashy moves, Triple H laid out a match that played to Brock's strengths. His left arm was the target for Lesnar during most of the bout and led to the submission finish. Meanwhile, Triple H himself set his sights on the stomach and mid-section of Lesnar, the source of Brock's well-publicized illness a few years back.
With that said, I could not help but sit back and wait for Triple H to kick the match into the next gear and to pick up the pace and create the fan reaction that would lead to a much hotter conclusion. That never came.
For whatever reason, he and Lesnar opted for a slower, more methodical match that did not click with the live audience inside the Staples Center quite the way that they had perhaps hoped.
Could Brock have adapted if Triple H changed the match on the fly? That is the question. Perhaps the "Cerebral Assassin" stuck to the match laid out beforehand in order to keep Brock on track. Whatever the case may be, I do not think the main event of SummerSlam quite achieved the heat that the company and the performers involved had hoped for.
And a large amount of the blame should fall at the feet of the experienced veteran Triple H.