Quick Takes on Roman Reigns vs. John Cena, Brock Lesnar, CM Punk in AEW and More
Between CM Punk's highly anticipated arrival on Friday's AEW Rampage and WWE's extremely newsworthy SummerSlam show on Saturday, it's been one of the most exciting weekends in wrestling all year. And it isn't over yet, with NXT TakeOver 36 still to come.
WWE's August extravaganza in Las Vegas was headlined by Roman Reigns vs. John Cena in an epic encounter for the ages. The blockbuster bout surely lived up to the lofty expectations with the outcome being exactly what it needed to be.
Of course, that was immediately followed by the shocking return of Brock Lesnar, who we haven't seen on WWE TV since WrestleMania 36 in April 2020. His quick confrontation with Roman Reigns set the stage for what is bound to be a colossal clash of titans at some point in the not-too-distant future.
As memorable of a moment as Lesnar's WWE comeback was, nothing was going to top what went down at the beginning of Friday's Rampage when Punk resurfaced in wrestling for the first time in seven years. Everything about his debut was exceptionally executed and felt like a true turning point for All Elite Wrestling.
This installment of Quick Takes will tackle all of the biggest talking points coming out of SummerSlam, what WWE got right and what it got wrong, Punk's AEW run looking promising, and more.
John Cena Elevates Yet Another Star Like Only He Can
John Cena's latest stint with WWE was never meant to be lengthy as he returned for one reason and one reason only: to help further cement Roman Reigns as a megastar. The ending of Saturday's SummerSlam saw him do just that.
The 16-time world champion earned a reputation at some point during his ascent to the top of WWE for not putting over younger, up-and-coming talent. There were a few instances of that early on in his career—most of which weren't his fault—but he's done nothing but look up at the lights for the better part of the past decade.
At SummerSlam alone, Cena has lost to the likes of Reigns, AJ Styles, Batista, Randy Orton, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins. He's scored all of two wins at the event since 2008, which goes to show just how exceptional of a job he's done of helping elevate others.
Reigns was no exception at this year's installment. Cena, despite not having wrestled a formal singles match on television in over three years, put on a spectacular performance with Reigns and made him look outstanding by allowing him to kick out of three Attitude Adjustments, including one off the top rope.
It's unknown when Cena will be back or if this was his last major match in WWE, but either way, he should be commended for living up to his "Big Match John" nickname and doing everything in his power to ensure the future of WWE is in good hands.
WWE Takes One Step Forward and Two Steps Back with Becky Lynch's Return
It's par for the course for WWE to treat its fans to a feel-good, memorable moment only to ruin it with a bad booking decision immediately afterward.
That was again the case at SummerSlam when Becky Lynch was revealed to be Sasha Banks' replacement as Bianca Belair's challenger for the SmackDown Women's Championship.
The Man was rumored to be ready to return, but SummerSlam was the perfect place for her to come back with it being WWE's biggest crowd of the year.
The atmosphere was electric for Belair vs. Lynch before the bell even rang—and then The Man squashed The EST of WWE to become champion in a matter of seconds.
Lynch winning the title wasn't the issue. Belair could have lost to Lynch in a competitive contest and the reaction online wouldn't have been nearly as negative, but the Kofi Kingston-esque way in which she lost was inexcusable after everything that has been done to make her a star in 2021.
The exciting return of The Man was instantly overshadowed by confusion among fans regarding the way the bout was handled. If WWE didn't want to give away the full contest without any hype, then it shouldn't have been booked at all.
It also sent the message that WWE is hesitant to build around anyone in the women's division outside of the Four Horsewomen, with Charlotte Flair also becoming Raw women's champion as well later in the night.
Belair can obviously rebound and regain the gold at some point, but there was no logical reason for her to be beaten in such a fashion at one of WWE's most important pay-per-views.
CM Punk's Reignited Love for Wrestling Will Make His AEW Run Great
A motivated CM Punk is the best CM Punk.
It was far from certain if he'd ever return to wrestling. Some were convinced it would never happen given how much he had distanced himself from the business. Even after appearing as an analyst on WWE Backstage, he still showed no signs of wanting to wrestle again.
Then, after seven years away, he finally stepped inside of a wrestling ring again on Friday's edition of AEW Rampage to one of the loudest reactions of all time in his hometown of Chicago.
AEW's execution of the moment was practically perfect from how he started the show to the way the company let the moment sink in to his heartfelt promo. Most importantly, he genuinely looked happy and healthy—the complete opposite of when he left WWE in 2014.
If he does indeed have a reignited love for wrestling, then that could only mean major things for his upcoming run in AEW.
His first match back with Darby Allin at All Out has the potential to be a barn burner if he's taking his training seriously and striving to get back to what he was in the prime of his career. His promos could also be magical now that he has a new lease on life and no restrictions with what he can say.
The immense amount of attention Punk's debut has drawn and the monster numbers it's done on social media are indicators that this run for him in AEW could be a game-changer if it can sustain the momentum.
Bobby Lashley vs. Goldberg Part 2 Is Completely Unnecessary
There wasn't a ton of anticipation among fans for Goldberg challenging Bobby Lashley at SummerSlam in the first place because of how random it was on paper.
Goldberg constantly being featured in the title picture whenever he's around hasn't helped, and SummerSlam proved he shouldn't be anywhere near a world title for the remainder of his career.
To their credit, the two men did a decent job hyping up their WWE Championship clash in the weeks preceding the pay-per-view. Unfortunately, it was all downhill once the bell rang in Allegiant Stadium.
Lashley attempted to carry Goldberg to a competent contest yet to no avail. It was longer than it needed to be and only got worse as it progressed.
Despite having more time to train, the WWE Hall of Famer didn't look like he belonged in there at all. The referee-stoppage finish was poorly executed, and because it was seemingly done to protect Goldberg in defeat, now it appears a rematch for the title is on the horizon.
WWE's next Saudi Arabia event in October is the most likely landing spot for that, and there's a very real possibility of Goldberg getting his win back. It would be comical for the feud to continue after that atrocity of a match at SummerSlam, especially if there's nothing to gain from running it back.
Brock Lesnar Was the Perfect Way for WWE to Combat CM Punk's AEW Debut
One of the biggest questions coming out of CM Punk's thrilling AEW debut on Friday night was how WWE planned to react. A tweet from WWE insider Twitter account WrestleVotes earlier in the week indicated that the company had nothing planned to combat it despite knowing it was almost surely happening on Rampage.
Obviously, plans changed.
Becky Lynch returning was huge, but because it was somewhat expected and rumored in advance, WWE needed another ace up its sleeve. Brock Lesnar shockingly showing up moments removed from the main event fulfilled that in spades.
Not only that, but a Lesnar vs. Reigns rematch is clearly in the works for sometime soon. The Paul Heyman connection makes the story incredibly intriguing, and because The Beast Incarnate was gone for so long, he automatically feels fresh again.
Punk will be around on AEW TV way more frequently than Lesnar will be on WWE TV going forward, but as a moment, it was the perfect cliffhanger to the show. WWE needed a big surprise to get people talking about SummerSlam as much as they were Rampage and The Beast was one of only a few people who fit the bill.
Competition drives everyone to be better, and the fans are the biggest beneficiaries of it.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.