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Welcome to a special edition column by Mr. Tito as we cover WWE SummerSlam 2018 that just aired before I posted this column exclusively here at LordsofPain.net. Thank you to everyone for their ongoing support of my column and LordsofPain.net, as we’re trying our very best to provide content to you. On my end, it is free of charge… I’m a 100% voluntary participant here which means that I’m dedicating my free time just to provide content to you, my loyal readers and many others tuning in tonight. I work hard to give you a unique perspective on the wrestling business as well as putting in extra effort for the presentation of my opinions. THANK YOU for reading my column whether you like it or not.
In case you missed it, I reviewed NXT Takeover: Brooklyn 2018 last night and gave that show an “A+” grade as it as top-to-bottom quality wrestling. The characters and in-ring product mixed perfectly to probably give us the BEST Pay Per View of the year through 8/18/18. That immediately prompted comments of “oh no, WWE can’t top that”.
To me, WWE SummerSlam 2018 doesn’t have to top its NXT counterpart. Why? Well, because NXT is completely owned by the WWE Corporation. If NXT does well, that is easy money for the WWE and if it keeps you around as a wrestling fan if you resent the WWE. That has certainly worked for Mr. Tito since August 2015! All SummerSlam has to do is put on a GOOD SHOW. Just give us 2-3 good-to-great matches and we’ll go home happy, though a tad bit exhausted watching a 5-7 hour presentation.
What continues to drag the WWE product down is (a) non-stop MEGA PUSH of Roman Reigns and (b) continued disregarding of the Smackdown brand. As I argued in my recent “AJ Styles Deserves Better as WWE Champion” column, AJ Styles has the legitimate WWE Title around his waist yet he’s never allowed to wrestle in Main Events of big shows EVEN WHEN WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar is absent. Smackdown is treated as the “second rate” brand, as Vince McMahon cares more about the Monday night product. Because of that, under 2.2 million in viewership is the existing trend for that show. That, and I’d argue that AJ Styles just doesn’t have good caliber opponents to wrestle for his WWE Title. If I were booking, I would have an extensive fight between AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan over that Title.
Roman Reigns continues to be the biggest drag on the WWE’s numbers, however. While NXT has the Velveteen Dream, the WWE has the Vince McMahon Dream in repeatedly trying to make Roman Reigns the #1 babyface to replace John Cena. Since the MEGA PUSH began when Roman defeated CM Punk on RAW and placed runner-up at the 2014 Royal Rumble match, it is a FACT that RAW’s viewership has declined by OVER 1 million viewers and it is a FACT that the WWE’s live attendance here in the United States has lost thousands per show. But we’ll keep trying over and over and over and over again… Vince McMahon just won’t stop. 4 straight Wrestlemania main events, still not over. Defeating CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Undertaker, John Cena, and Triple H 100% cleanly (as well as the rest of the roster), STILL NOT OVER. Wrestled Brock Lesnar twice already during 2018 and the fans were absolutely bored.
But I’ll get “what about those TV deals” and “what about that Stock price” from yes-man WWE fans. Yeah, what about those TV deals? Fact is that WWE would get a bigger TV deal if they did 4 million viewers like they did during early 2015 than doing about 2.8 million viewers that we’re seeing lately. Secondly, the WWE getting paid $400 million per year for 260 total hours is nothing compared to what NFL, NASCAR, MLB, or the UFC receives for their coverage. But again, if the WWE retained their 4 million per show viewership BEFORE the Roman Reigns mega push began, they would receive a BIGGER contract.
And let’s get into that Stock discussion. Didn’t the WWE perform some significant expense reduction for the past few years? Last I checked, Profit = Revenue – EXPENSES. WWE has been in cost reduction mood because attendance and merchandise has been down since 2014. Tada! When was the last time you saw fireworks on RAW? Why did that entrance way for RAW and Smackdown shrink drastically? And what was the real reason for going to the WWE Network? Those Pay Per View paydays suddenly started shrinking and that WWE Network money isn’t dividing out to other wrestlers as the PPV money once did. Yes, the WWE benefits from Comcast (ready to spend over $40 billion on Time Warner Cable, over $70 Billion on 21st Century FOX) and FOX (just received over $80 billion from Disney for 21st Century FOX) being flush with cash that they’ll pay “peanuts” in the form of $200 Million per year to the WWE. With Cable/Satellite subscribers declining by over 10 million in the last 5 years, Comcast/FOX are willing to pay up for LIVE sporting event like content that you cannot find on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon, etc. International money is flowing in as well… When struggling entities hand you money for your live sporting event content, that stock should go up. But why isn’t it up even higher? Dow Jones is at 25,000 right now which is up over the peak of 2008 of around 14,000. Everybody’s stock price has shot up in this inflated market with goosed interest rates. What about being consistently under $20 for much of time through early 2018?
Let us just ignore facts and turn a blind eye as the WWE continues to push WRONG GUYS to the top like Roman Reigns, Jinder Mahal, Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, and Randy Orton since the late 2000s while many talented wrestlers have to endure “50/50 Booking” where they win some, lose some and are never allowed to have any momentum to make it big in the wrestling business.
The FACT is that WWE should be an even larger company and should have bigger TV deals. But they have lost real viewership and attendance since 2014-2015. This 4 year+ experiement to push Roman Reigns has repeatedly failed and WWE is lucky to have extremely loyal fans who are just waiting for that next special WWE moment. When the WWE is hitting on all cylinders, there is NOTHING more entertaining. Oddly, many of us are enduring Roman in hopes that someone will break out… But you can’t break-out when the WWE Creative Team is entirely favorable to Roman and destructive to the rest of the roster.
That’s where I head into WWE SummerSlam 2018, hoping that the WWE “sees the light” and innovates on their Creative process to enlighten and entertain fans. Always hoping…
But I’m running out of hope. In the mighty words of Danny Glover from the Lethal Weapon films, “I’m getting too old for this sh*t!”
Onto the review.
Mr. Tito’s PHAT WWE SummerSlam 2018 Review
CONFESSION – I did not start watching this show until 7:25pm. Reason being is that I went to PNC Park to watch my Pittsburgh Pirates DEFEAT the Chicago Cubs in a 11 inning thriller that saw the Pirates win with a walk-off Homerun. Obviously with that game running over and then the parking lot & roadway system hell in Pittsburgh, PA, it took me a while to get home.
Thus, what I first saw was the tail end of Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler and I enjoyed the ending for what I saw. So far, Dean Ambrose is playing nice as he did NOT turn on Rollins and in fact helped him neutralize the Drew McIntyre threat on the outside. Good win for Seth Rollins.
From this point, I watched every match live as it happens. If I find time this week, I could come back to watch and review what I missed. If not, I said “hell with it”, this show is long enough even when you start viewing at 7:25pm. Remember my Danny Glover quote.
Bella Twins are backstage, as I wonder why… Remember, they were runners-up on the Royal Rumble match this past year. They don’t appear randomly like that unless they are going to be featured somewhere.
Bludgeon Brothers vs. New Day is up next. I would LOVE to see WWE Marketing reports that CLEARLY show how much the New Day have drawn for the WWE versus the Bludgeons. This team is awful and they way they have multiple extended squash matches with the New Day is shameful and actually destructive to the WWE’s bottom line. Here is my review on this match: IT SUCKED. [ 1/2 * ] Bludgeons retained via Disqualification because idiotic Creative logic says so. They already made the New Day their bitches during the match and the matches before this, why have the DQ ending? Stupid…
FINGER OF SHAME to the Smackdown Creative Team for the Bludgeon Brothers. Worst team that the WWE has heavily pushed in years and the issue is HOW THEY ARE USED and not the wrestlers themselves. Harper could be the singles wrestler that they need right now and he proved it last year with that awesome match with Randy Orton.
And then the show only got WORSE by having Braun Strowman DESTROY Kevin Owens. Look, I am 100% behind Braun Strowman winning this match. Nothing wrong with the result… But what kind of equity is left in Owens after this destruction? Not just that, but Owens has been made a fool in the past few months with wrecked cars and tipped over Port-a-Johns. That and he is a former WWE Universal Champion. Yes, I know that he was poorly booked as that champion, but the lineage of the title that Braun seeks has Owen as a former champion. I am certainly critical of Kevin Owens and his YMCA basketball pick-up game costume and as the Summer months go by, that farmer’s tan is getting worse and worse on his arms. [ NO STARS ] and another FINGER OF SHAME to the WWE Creative Team.
Boy, this show sucks already… Can we get some GOOD wrestling, please, on your #2 show of the year?
Carmella vs. Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch triple threat was up next. Honestly, it just felt like a regular Smackdown match with not much chemistry between the 3 ladies together. Carmella tried to tell a story about putting Charlotte and Becky at odds but it kept subtracting away from what could have been a good match involving 3 good female athletes. Charlotte won the match to be Women’s Champion again, her 7th reign since 2015 as Edge, Cena, and Orton are like “damn girl, you win the title too much”. [ *3/4 ] Thankfully, the payoff was AFTERWARD as Becky Lynch turned heel on Charlotte and attacked her. New York fans were cheering for this with babyface pops and even cheered “you deserve it” as Becky walks away from the carnage. Becky could have been a great Women’s Champion but if turning heel grants her more opportunities, why not? WWE has wasted Becky for the last 1.5 years before this recent push. Why not?
Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles was up next and it’s not even near the Main Event of the show. But don’t worry, we’ll keep blaming AJ Styles for that under 2.2 million viewership mark that Smackdown has been seeing lately. Match was OK and the fans were heavily into it, but the focus was 100% on AJ Styles’s family at ringside. Not on the WRESTLING IN THE MATCH but on a separate angle. Can we save the storytelling for Smackdown and let actual wrestling happen at the Pay Per Views? Match was good in parts but it loses points with me when they have to do more storyline stuff within the match instead of before the match. The match itself had heat already without trying to start a new fire. [ *** 1/2 ] Awful DQ finish as Styles snaps at the family taunts and attacks Joe with a chair. Hopefully, their rematch will be better but I’m not holding my breath. I thought that the Nakamura matches would be better upon rematches, too, but not by much. Maybe father time has caught Mr. Styles?
The big non-wrestling moment for Elias was… A gag with a broken guitar. See, even when Elias’s segment can’t work on a show, you know that we’re in for a long evening.
Up next was Daniel Bryan vs. Miz. I appreciate the “Daniel Bryan / Let’s Go Miz” dueling chants, as that says more about Miz evolving since 2016 than anything. Solid match overall. I figured that the ending would be something with Maryse throwing in a fake baby to distract Daniel Bryan but instead, she handed Miz a foreign object to assist with Miz winning the actual match. Match wasn’t overwhelming with emotion, however, as it could have been because Daniel Bryan’s return heat is mostly gone in the WWE. Dealing with the eventually released Big Cass and jobbing to everybody will do that. This match should have been the FIRST THING that Bryan did upon his return and not months after he was floundering on the roster. [ ***1/4 ] Solid, but it was lacking in the heat that it should have.
Baron Corbin vs. Finn Balor is up next… I actually like how this “Constable” gimmick is helping Corbin cut promos, but could someone help agent his matches? That’s where having a lack of former wrestlers backstage begins to hurt. He has a badass finisher but getting to that finisher is the problem. Hey, Corbin is wrestling Jeff Hardy tonight? Oh wait, that is Finn Balor with his “Demon” alter ego. Coach says “I’m trying to figure out why he doesn’t do this more often?”. My Jeff Hardy joking aside, Balor does seem more confident and charismatic with the facepaint on than without it. Match was an extended squash and not much else. THAT SAID, I don’t mind it as much because the psychology is that Corbin didn’t expect the warpaint and a different look and was thus “off his game”. [ 1/2 * ], as I hate squash matches on Pay Per Views. Period.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan is venting to his wife Brie Bella about losing to the Miz. Brie offers more words of encouragement and Bryan advises her to “go enjoy the show”.
United States title is up next between Jeff Hardy (the real one!) versus Shinsuke Nakamura. Gotta admit, both are quite the unique characters colliding here. Fans in New York were sort of quiet for this match… Maybe they are getting in one last piss break before the last 2 big matches involving the big UFC former stars? I don’t know but there is no crowd energy here and I believe that it is baffling both wrestlers here. But if you ask me, it is Nakamura’s offensive moveset. Just nothing there and I think for the fact that the WWE rushed Nakamura to a WWE Title shot with that Rumble win and now he’s the US Champion has something to do with it. Jeff Hardy takes a crazy risk on Nakamura with the Swanton on the side of the ring apron that missed. Ouch! That causes Nakamura to hit his finishing kick for the win. [ ** ] Aside from Jeff Hardy’s crazy Swanton miss on the outside, this was an uneventful match and it makes me wonder what Nakamura’s future is in the WWE when his 3 year deal expires during early 2019.
Afterward, Randy Orton down to the ring with full entrance but then he walks back, deciding not to attack Jeff Hardy. Alrighty then. I probably wouldn’t have had Orton out in front of that New York crowd for a long time either.
And now, what we’ve all been waiting for…
Oh, the WWE made note of the Bella Twins ringside… Nice moment to have Natalya come out and the fans cheered her on.
Alexa Bliss vs. Ronda Rousey was up next as the runner-up to the Main Event spot. What? First Becky Lynch with the crazy eyeshadow and now Ronda Rousey? What the hell? Ronda looks like she applied make-up on to help darken her eyes underneath a Halloween mask. Alexa Bliss is running scared and Ronda taunts her by sitting in the middle of the ring and waiting for Alexa to attack. Nothing is hurting Ronda and she’s tossing around the smaller Alexa like she’s nothing. ANOTHER SQUASH MATCH, although this one is a little more logical than the others, as Rousey slaps on the submission hold armbar and twists poor Alexa’s arm off. [ * ] While Rousey is a former UFC fighter, I saw Stephanie McMahon get more offense on her than the multiple-time Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss.
Afterward, Natalya and the Bellas saluted her in the ring and that was it. Nothing else. Why were the Bellas there and celebrating with Ronda? What am I missing?
The MAIN EVENT is Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Title. Up to this match, I’m just relieved that this match is finally here. For one, I want this show to be over and two, I just want to know where WWE’s Creative Team is going with Roman. JUST AS I TYPE THAT, Braun Strowman‘s GWAR-inspired theme hits BEFORE the match is about to start. Braun says “everybody knows the history of the briefcase and I REFUSE to cash this in when my opponent’s back is turned”. Braun states, up front, that he is going to immediately challenge whomever wins this match TONIGHT. Now that is a unique way to do the MITB cash-in. Lesnar is distracted by that and Roman goes on the attack with multiple Superman punches and then Spears. However, the last spear was locked into a submission hold by Reigns. Reigns, to his credit, muscles up Brock and hits a spinebuster. Reigns does the same thing to him again as fans chant “Let’s Go Roman / Roman Sucks” chants hit. Lesnar then rips the MMA gloves off… German Suplexes 1 and 2 are hit. This match is ALREADY BETTER than their previous two with that start. Roman goes for a spear but misses and dives through the ropes to hit Braun Strowman. Then, Lesnar comes to the outside and hits a F5 on Braun Strowman. How about that? Lesnar goes further by tossing the Money in the Bank briefcase and then plows Braun Strowman with a chair. That’s awesome! As Lesnar re-enters the ring, he is hit immediately with a Spear to allow Roman Reigns to win the WWE Universal Title. [ *** ]. Match was good until that abrupt ending.
Braun appears to be “too injured” to cash in… What the hell? Maybe my buddy George Garden’s prediction of Braun cashing in on RAW will still happen?
LAST WORD: What an awful show until the ending with the BEST of the 3 Lesnar vs. Reigns matches that involved pure chaos with Braun Strowman. However, this is a 5+ hour show and we have to count the other stuff too. How can this be the #2 show of the year for the WWE and yet have such a substandard effort? Squash matches on a Pay Per View? What is with that? Tag Team Titles poorly represented, as was the Women’s Division. For as much as we hammer Roman Reigns, the midcard needs to pick it up and the Creative Team needs to give a damn about them too. All wrestling promotions thrive when they have a balanced card. Right now, the WWE has put all of their eggs into the Roman Reigns story and not enough time to develop anything else into something decent. WWE would make a whole lot more money and have a MUCH HIGHER stock price if they had a decent Creative Team and better management backstage. Period, end of story. [ D ]
October 26th, take me away…
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