WWE SummerSlam 2021 Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights
The Biggest Party of the Summer rolled into Las Vegas on Saturday night as WWE presented SummerSlam, one of its premier pay-per-view extravaganzas, headlined appropriately by the epic encounter between Universal champion Roman Reigns and John Cena.
The show promised the latest chapter in top feuds, the conclusion of others and blockbuster developments that would propel the company into its fall months.
Did The Head of the Table retain his title or did Cena etch his name in the history books with world title No. 17?
What else went down in Sin City in front of a capacity stadium crowd for the first time in well over a year?
Find out with this recap of the pay-per-view spectacular.
Kickoff Show: Big E vs. Baron Corbin
A beaten, broken, pathetic Baron Corbin stole the Money in the Bank briefcase from Big E in hopes of reversing his fortunes to set this one up.
An infuriated Big E dominated early but Corbin sent him into the ring post, seizing control of the bout and closing in on a win that would give him some much-needed momentum. The 2021 Money in the Bank winner fought back and applied a stretch muffler but Corbin escaped and downed him with Deep Six, cutting off any attempt at that comeback.
Corbin attempted to run off with the briefcase but a recovered Big E bowled him over at ringside. He added a spear through the ropes and followed with the Big Ending for the pinfall victory. Big E retrieved his briefcase following the match as Logan Paul looked on, the mere camera shot of him drawing boos from the Las Vegas fans.
Big E defeated Corbin.
There was nothing inherently wrong with this match and if nothing else, it got both Big E and the wildly entertaining Corbin on the card and in front of the largest audience WWE has performed in front of since prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Big E regaining his briefcase was the right call and sets up more than one scenario on this night in which he could potentially cash it in for his first world title. It is a tease and a smart one that will keep fans invested even as they think they know exactly what will happen.
The finish also continues Corbin’s downward spiral, an element of WWE programming that has been consistently great to this point.
Raw Tag Team Championship Match: RK-Bro vs. AJ Styles and Omos
The reunited RK-Bro kicked off the main card portion of Saturday’s show as Randy Orton and Riddle challenged AJ Styles and Omos for the Raw Tag Team Championship.
Riddle led an early onslaught, frustrating Styles. The former world champion, though, downed The Original Bro and worked him over in their corner of the ring. Riddle momentarily created separation and made the hot tag to Orton, who unloaded clotheslines and a big back body drop.
He set up for the RKO but an alert Omos pulled Styles to safety. Riddle wiped the big man out on the floor and The Phenomenal One returned the favor. Back inside the ring, a brief back and forth gave way to the RKO by Orton and the first title switch of the night.
RK-Bro defeated Styles and Omos.
Sometimes, you have to pull the trigger on something when it is hot and this was absolutely the right time to put the titles on Orton and Riddle. Their reunion Monday generated a massive response from fans, proving to be one of the few acts on the red brand that is clicking.
Putting the titles on them not only enhances their unlikely partnership but elevates the gold to a level Styles and Omos just weren’t going to take them, no matter how over and decorated the former is.
Riddle is a star of the future, a legitimate future world champion. Orton is among the biggest stars of his generation. Letting them work together opens up a wealth of storyline possibilities, including the eventual breakup that will propel Riddle to the top of the card.
A fun, energetic start to the show, this was an above-average match that captured the attention of fans and kept them hot from the opening bell.
Alexa Bliss vs. Eva Marie
Eva Marie returned to WWE pay-per-view for a one-on-one showdown with Alexa Bliss, and her lackey Doudrop was at her side. The match, as much about Bliss' doll Lilly as anything, wrote the latest chapter in one of Raw's more bizarre programs.
The pink-haired heel made the mistake of slapping Lilly, then using the doll to smack Bliss, drawing an impassioned and furious response from the former Raw women's champion. Bliss shook off a near-fall by Marie and scored the win off a spike DDT.
Doudrop, amused by Eva's loss, grabbed a mic and announced her associate as the loser of the match.
Bliss defeated Eva Marie.
There is no nice way to describe how ugly, disjointed and bad this match was.
Bliss has been here before, worked with the top wrestlers in the company and worn gold. She is a veteran of big match situations and was clearly game for more than what this was. Eva, though, worked slower and less confidently. The result was a choppy match that fans were never into.
The stuff with Lilly really needs to go. While it might sell merchandise, the idea of a doll winking and terrifying grown men and women is so far out of the realm of believable that it has become comically bad. Bliss is trying to make the story work and is clearly devoted to her character. It's just not clicking quite as well as WWE likely hoped.
Eva Marie is not ready, prepared or skilled enough for a singles match on pay-per-view and that was exposed here. A tag team match with Doudrop would have been better suited for her at this point. With that partnership apparently over following this match, who knows where Eva goes from here.
United States Championship Match: Damian Priest vs. Sheamus
Two big, physical, hard-hitting competitors battled for the United States Championship in the night’s next match as Damian Priest challenged Sheamus. A scary dive to the floor adversely affected the challenger, who appeared to be nursing his hip immediately after. Sheamus sending him back-first into the steel post did not help matters, allowing The Celtic Warrior to wrest control of the match from The Archer of Infamy.
Priest fought back, taking flight with a perfectly executed heel kick from the top rope. Sheamus answered with an Alabama Slam that drove the air out of his opponent for a two-count. Sheamus added a Brogue Kick, catching Priest mid-flight, but the resilient challenger again kicked out at two.
Priest survived a heel hook, ripping the facemask from Sheamus to force the break. He delivered a big kick that rocked the champion and finished with The Reckoning for the win and title.
Priest defeated Sheamus.
By far the best match of the show to this point, Sheamus vs. Priest delivered exactly what you expected: a hard-hitting, physical hoss fight that built on their previous encounters. What made this better is it took that protective face mask that has factored so heavily into Sheamus’ recent matches and paid it off in the form of Priest using it against the champion.
Hopefully, tonight’s match spells the end of its presence in Sheamus’ matches.
Priest was the right guy to run with here. He was asked to make the jump to the main roster, work with Bad Bunny at WrestleMania and participate in the zombie nonsense that followed three weeks later at WrestleMania Backlash. He excelled, earning the spotlight and a title opportunity.
Now, he is the champion. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here, outside of the inevitable rematches destined to take place in the coming weeks. Who is really over enough in the midcard to challenge for his title?
As for Sheamus, has anyone been as consistently great as he has over the last year and talked about as little as The Celtic Warrior? He has been one of the MVPs of WWE over the last 18 months, a shining light regardless of the setting and one of the few stars the company can count on to deliver in every outing.
The idea of Sheamus as world champion may not be overwhelmingly appealing but if there is a guy who has earned one more great run with the title, it’s him.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: The Mysterios vs. The Usos
Rey and Dominik Mysterio sought to regain the SmackDown Tag Team Championship from Jimmy and Jey Uso in the card's fourth match but to do so, they would have to overcome mounting frustration between father and son.
The challengers started hot, taking the fight to the champions and frustrating them early. The Usos slowed the pace, though, and isolated Dominik from his dad as they established dominance. A hot tag to Rey sparked the babyface comeback as the greatest underdog in WWE unloaded on the opposition.
A superkick from Jimmy stunned the former world champion and another in mid-flight, this one by Jey, led to the top-rope splash for a dramatic near-fall. On the apron, Jey delivered a front suplex on the ring apron, eliminating Dominik from the proceedings. A double superkick to Rey and a top-rope splash by Jey preserved their title reign.
The Usos defeated The Mysterios
The Usos and Mysterios have wrestled each other so frequently in recent weeks that it would have been almost understandable if this one failed to meet the quality of their previous encounters, but it did not. The champions and challengers delivered another high-energy performance that captivated the crowd and had them itching for the father and son to regain the titles.
They did not and while there was no tease tonight of dissension amongst the challengers, the loss will likely add to the mounting frustration that exists between Rey and Dominik. They are destined to split, to have the rare father vs. son showdown. Losses like this will fuel that feud.
As good as this match was, here is hoping both teams move on from each other because the alternative of them wrestling yet again might be tempting diminishing returns.
SmackDown Women's Championship Match: Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch
SmackDown women's champion Bianca Belair hit the ring for her advertised match with Sasha Banks, only to find out that The Boss would not be competing on this night. Instead, Carmella was introduced as the new challenger. Before the match could start, Becky Lynch made her long-awaited return to a thunderous ovation, joining The EST and her opponent in the squared circle.
Lynch dispatched Carmella and then issued a challenge to Belair for a championship match. The EST accepted. Seconds later, she fell prey to a manhandle slam and Lynch captured the title after a single move.
Lynch defeated Belair.
Was Lynch's return to WWE long overdue? Absolutely. Was it great seeing her back, feeding on the energy of the fans? No doubt. With that said, what the company did to Bianca Belair and her championship reign was straight disrespectful.
After five months of building her, establishing this young star as the future of women's wrestling in WWE, it cast her aside like garbage. She wasn't presented as an equal or someone on the same level as Lynch. Belair, the same woman who survived grueling matches with Bayley and Banks, overcame numbers disadvantages against Carmella and Zelina Vega, was beaten in 26 seconds by Lynch.
It made no sense, completely unraveled months of creative strategy and by proxy, put a damper on Lynch's return.
Some will attack the comment section, suggesting we "let it play out" or "shut up and enjoy the return," but at some point, WWE has to think beyond the moment. Yeah, the crowd popped and the company will produce a documentary on Lynch's comeback, but the damage done to Belair's credibility negates all of it.
It gets to be exhausting coming up with "yeah, but" follow-ups to stupid, self-defeating WWE creative.
Drew McIntyre vs. Jinder Mahal
The rivalry between Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal wrote its final chapter in short and decisive fashion Saturday night.
The Modern Day Maharaja downed McIntyre, working him over in the center of the ring. He cut his down to size, preventing the use of his legs to power a comeback. The former WWE champion did fight back, though, and ultimately put Mahal away with a Claymore before Shanky and Veer collected their vanquished leader.
McIntyre defeated Mahal.
This could have been saved and promoted for Raw. There was absolutely nothing about it that rendered it worthy of pay-per-view inclusion.
Was it perfectly acceptable professional wrestling? Sure, but fans demand more out of a card of this magnitude. It is disappointing that this is where McIntyre was slotted on the show because he carried the company through the pandemic and now, in just the second major stadium show back in front of fans, he is in a meaningless and forgettable match that did nothing for either man involved.
It was merely there, a spot (and match) no wrestler wants to find themselves in.
Triple Threat Match for the Raw Women's Championship
Nikki A.S.H.'s Cinderella story met its match Saturday as she defended the Raw women's title against former champions Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley in a Triple Threat Match.
All three competitors took to the sky at different points in the contest. Ripley rocked Flair with a missile dropkick. Nikki pulled off a crossbody that wiped out her challengers at ringside. Flair, though, executed a picture-perfect torneo from the top rope, crashing into her opponents on the floor.
Ripley, nursing a bum knee, narrowly escaped defeat as the champion broke up Flair's Figure Eight submission. Late, the champion tried for the crossbody that won her the title in the first place but crashed and burned. Flair seized the opening, applied the Figure Eight and earned title No. 12.
Flair defeated A.S.H. and Ripley.
Charlotte Flair is the best. We get it. Her matches speak for themselves. When she continuously beats everyone and wins championship after championship, it indirectly kills the credibility and effectiveness of the division over which she reigns.
At some point, it becomes “Flair and everyone else” rather than this strong, powerful woman and her challengers. It is a monarchy, where only she of the royal family ever has a realistic shot at the throne. Even when she is stripped of her crown, it is but momentary because she will regain it, ensuring no one is ever more consistently atop the division than her.
The booking is self-defeating, the theme of tonight's show, apparently.
A.S.H. will never get over enough to be champion again, at least not with this current gimmick, and Ripley has lost to Flair so often at this point that it is almost impossible to imagine a scenario where she can be considered a credible challenger to The Queen.
At least for the foreseeable future.
So where does that leave us?
With Flair as champion and no one fresh to step up to her, the women's division on Monday nights is about to enter a period of stagnancy that is the perfect representation of Raw as a whole.
But hey, at least the match was good.
Edge vs. Seth Rollins
Edge rose from a pit of fire in homage to his days as one-third of The Brood, the hit the ring like a ball of energy for his showdown with Seth Rollins. The Architect, though, wasted little time targeting the neck of his Hall of Fame opponent, working over it meticulously for a good portion of the contest.
Edge attempted a comeback but Rollins leaped to the top rope, delivered a superplex and segued right into a Falcon Arrow for a dramatic near-fall. Rollins sought the stomp but Edge dodged it. The heel tried for the Pedigree but Edge countered into the Glam Slam, ala wife Beth Phoenix, for his own two-count.
The Rated R Superstar added a spear through the ropes and drove Rollins face-first into the edge of the ring, breaking the LED board. Back inside, Edge tried for the spear but Rollins caught him in mid-move with the Pedigree in a cool spot.
Rollins tried for the Phoenix Splash but Edge rolled out of the way and delivered a spear for two as disbelief and frustration set in. Rollins tried for the stomp again but Edge stopped him and applied the Edge-ucator. He applied a crossface, smashing Rollins' face into the mat before forcing the tapout for the win.
Edge defeated Rollins.
The psychology and storytelling within this one were phenomenal and led to the best match of the show, by far.
Rollins relentlessly targeting Edge's neck and looking for the stomp after forecasting it in the weeks leading into the show was a nice touch, as was the Hall of Famer scouting it and being ready to counter every time. What started as a slower-paced match hit its stride with Edge's comeback and went full-throttle through the finish.
The biggest takeaway is that the match reflected the story. Edge told us Friday night that Rollins had enraged him to the point that he had to reach deep down within himself to find a dark side. He represented that side with the Brood-inspired entrance, then built upon it with the brutal face-smashing that gave way to the match-ending submission.
This feels very much like a feud that is not finished. Rollins will come back, probably more driven and disturbed than ever before, looking to avenge the loss that took him further out of universal title contention. If it means another match between these two, bring it on.
WWE Championship Match: Goldberg vs. Bobby Lashley
Xavier Woods thankfully cleared the ring of John Morrison and The Miz, bringing an end to a painfully dry comedic segment before the commentators threw to a video package hyping Goldberg challenging Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship.
Goldberg attacked early and often, getting the best of Lashley with a spear on the arena floor. As he set up for another in the ring, MVP whacked his knee with his cane. Lashley followed with a chop block, taking the Hall of Famer's lower limbs out from underneath him. He sent Goldberg into the ring post on the floor as fans in Vegas expressed their support of The All Mighty.
Unable to stand because of the knee injury, Goldberg collapsed to the mat and the referee called for the bell.
Lashley grabbed a chair and attacked the damaged leg of his opponent, unloading with repeated shots as the referee attempted to stop him. Goldberg's son, Gage, jumped in the ring and paid for it in the form of The Hurt Lock.
Lashley defeated Goldberg by referee stoppage.
This was bad and totally exposed Goldberg's weaknesses. It was too long, asked him to sell too much and featured a terrible finish designed almost exclusively to set up a rematch no one is asking for in Saudi Arabia.
That the crowd was entirely against Goldberg, treating Lashley like a babyface even as he rag-dolled his teenage son, did not help matters.
The idea of these two wrestling again, regardless of the setting, is anything but appealing and should be reconsidered before WWE manages to strip whatever mystique is left in the Goldberg character away for good.
Universal Championship Match: John Cena vs. Roman Reigns
The Head of the Table and the franchise star battled in the main event of Saturday's pay-per-view, the marquee match of this year's SummerSlam, as Roman Reigns defended his Universal Championship against John Cena.
Reigns dominated early, having an answer to everything his opponent threw at him. He repeatedly countered rollup attempts and answered an Attitude Adjustment attempt with a DDT. He talked trash, going as far as to address Hollywood executives before applying a sleeper that sapped the fight out of Cena.
Cena rallied but Reigns trapped him in a guillotine. The challenger attempted a pinfall but Reigns kicked out and rocked him with a Superman Punch. Cena recovered and delivered the Attitude Adjustment for a heart-pounding two-count. Cena applied the STF but Reigns inched to the ropes and forced the break.
The challenger caught Reigns at ringside moments later and drove him through the announce table with another Attitude Adjustment. Back inside, he still couldn't keep The Tribal Chief down for the count.
The near-falls came fast and furiously down the stretch, frustration setting in both competitors. Cena dodged a spear and Reigns crashed into the ring post. From the second rope, Cena delivered a third Attitude Adjustment and, again, could not keep The Head of the Table down.
One last flurry by Cena proved unsuccessful as Reigns stunned him with consecutive Superman punches and a spear for the pinfall victory.
After the match, Brock Lesnar made a stunning return, popping the crowd and leaving Reigns and Paul Heyman retreating to the locker room.
Reigns defeated Cena.
This was a dramatic main event executed to perfection by two masters of their craft. Reigns and Cena's timing of the near-falls was flawless. They took the fans in Vegas on a rollercoaster ride that left them genuinely convinced either man could leave with the gold, despite WWE shoehorning in a stipulation late Friday.
Reigns winning was absolutely the right call, if only because his run as heel champion is unprecedented in its excellence and there's still plenty of mileage left on it.
Then, just when you're left wondering what's next for The Head of the Table, Lesnar returns from his favorite tree stand, ready to kick ass and win gold. That Heyman was his advocate but now pledges his allegiance to Reigns enhances what would already be a dramatic storyline given the failures The Head of the Table has experienced against Lesnar.
On a night that proved to be up and down, WWE delivered an exclamation point that it very much needed and, as a result, has fans buzzing as Raw and SmackDown approach.