Extremely high expectations were bestowed upon Sunday's SummerSlam pay-per-view, and thanks to a couple match-of-the-year candidates as well as a strong undercard, the biggest event of the summer delivered.
Several Superstars exited Staples Center in Los Angeles with a great deal of momentum, but there is no question that a few shined brighter than the rest.
Although SummerSlam may not quite be at the same level as WrestleMania in terms of importance, the WWE certainly bills it as the No. 2 show on the pay-per-view calendar. Careers have been altered significantly in the past based on SummerSlam performances, and there is little doubt that some more wrestlers were added to that exclusive list on Sunday.
Here are three Superstars who made major impacts at SummerSlam and will use their strong showings as launching pads toward even greater success.
There has been no shortage of complaints regarding what happened to Daniel Bryan on Sunday night, as he defeated John Cena to win the WWE Championship only for Randy Orton to successfully cash in his Money in the Bank contract, following a Triple H Pedigree on Bryan.
It is no secret that Bryan has gained a great deal of fan support over the past several weeks and months, so there was hope among many that he would enjoy a long and fruitful title reign.
Bryan's run with the strap lasted just a couple minutes at most, though, as The Viper took advantage of the situation.
Which Superstar exited SummerSlam as the biggest winner?
What some fans don't seem to understand, however, is that Bryan dropping the title so quickly will be a huge positive in his favor when it comes to developing into one of the company's top faces. Bryan was already viewed as a somewhat sympathetic figure heading into the event, and that was only furthered based on the screw job orchestrated by Triple H.
Bryan will now have to chase the WWE Championship, and he'll have to deal with Orton, the McMahon family and whatever the WWE decides to throw at him.
A little Superstar known as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin had to go through similar things during his time with the company, and he turned out just fine.
Even if one struggles to get over the fact that Bryan lost the title, the fact of the matter is that he beat Cena cleanly in the middle of the ring. Aside from The Rock at WrestleMania 28, it's a struggle to come up with the last guy who was able to do that.
Bryan going over Cena shows that the company has a great deal of confidence in him, and it means that he will once again be WWE champion in the very near future.
Bryan took a big step in his development, despite leaving SummerSlam without the WWE Championship, but Orton needed the title in order to reverse his fortunes.
That is precisely what happened, as Orton interrupted Bryan's celebration and scored the pinfall victory following Triple H's Pedigree. Orton's win obviously wasn't anywhere near as impressive as Bryan's over Cena, but it accomplished what it had to, as Orton once again ascended to the top of the company, becoming the WWE's No. 1 heel in the process.
Fans have been waiting for an Orton heel turn for what feels like a couple years, and it finally came to fruition on Sunday. The Viper had been teasing a possible heel turn as he took aim at both Bryan and Cena leading up to SummerSlam, but it didn't become official until it was revealed that he and Triple H were working together to conspire against Bryan.
Orton's character was so stale for so long that he had become an afterthought in the eyes of many fans, but the events of Sunday ensured that is no longer the case.
Orton was outside the title picture for a significant period of time, and some were questioning whether or not he would ever be inserted back into it.
When he won Money in the Bank, it became clear that there were big plans for The Viper, and his performance on Sunday confirmed that. Now that Orton appears to be the "corporate champion," the possibilities are endless.
Orton is now the most hated heel in the company, and that should do wonders for his credibility.
After months of operating in Damien Sandow's shadow, Cody Rhodes finally stepped into the spotlight on Sunday, as he defeated the World Heavyweight Championship-contract Money in the Bank holder.
Rhodes hasn't been utilized well in quite some time, but his victory over Sandow seems to suggest that things are turning around for him.
Although he was pushed off the ladder by Sandow at Money in the Bank, Rhodes took a big step forward at that pay-per-view, as the fans got behind him and he dominated the match. Since then, he has garnered even more fan support.
The stache-less Rhodes was able to get revenge on his former best friend at SummerSlam, as he beat him in a fairly quick match.
Although the bout itself was nothing to write home about, it was huge for Rhodes' development as a face. The fans seemed to respond to his victory, and the fact that he won against Mr. Money in the Bank proves that the creative team sees something in him.
Rhodes followed that up with another win over Sandow on Raw, so he is being built up as a World Heavyweight Championship contender, and he could enter the mix in the near future.
It's doubtful that Rhodes' feud with Sandow is over, as the writers may be building toward a match between them at Night of Champions with the Money in the Bank briefcase on the line. It's unlikely that Rhodes will win that match if it comes to fruition, but simply being involved in such a high-profile feud is a big deal for him.
Rhodes is heading in the right direction, and now it's up to him to connect with the fans and force the WWE's hand.
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