Last fall, the family went down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (I didn’t have much of a choice so spare me the “why there” questions) for a vacation. It wasn’t my thing, but at one point I did head out and find a bookstore to pass some time. The store was adjacent to a local mall where I thought they might sell playing cards (one of my other passions, with a current collection of 923 decks (27 wrestling) and counting).
Inside the mall I found….very little, as the place was mostly dead. One thing I did find though was an old school arcade inside a comic book store, with a ton of arcade cabinets and a row of pinball machines, including the old WWF Royal Rumble game. Each play was a quarter each so I ran through at least five bucks and had one of the best days of the entire trip there on my own.
So what does this have to do with wrestling? Heck if I know, but what does pinball have to do with Summerslam?
That’s something that has been bothering me about the build to this year’s Summerslam: the theme of the advertisements is a pinball machine. I like playing pinball (my first name alone has gotten a bunch of Pinball Wizard jokes over the years (younger people: ask your parents)) but I’m not sure I would tie it together with a professional wrestling show being held inside of a football stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.
This got me to thinking: what exactly is Summerslam supposed to be? For a long time, the tagline seemed to be “The Biggest Party Of The Summer” and that was about all you needed. It’s a big show, which happens to be in the summer (sidenote: I’ve gotten more than a few people asking me if it’s a big deal that the show is being held in July this year. Is two days before August that much of a stretch? Yeah it’s different but I never saw it mattering that much. Not a bad thing mind you, but just a different way of looking at things.), and is one of the bigger cards of the year from WWE.
I’ve talked about it before, but Summerslam is that weird show that doesn’t have an identity. Over the years, there have been thirty four Summerslam (this year’s will be #35) and the show has been headlined by all kinds of things. As far as main events (as in the match that went on last), there have been two tag matches, a handicap match, a cage match, two triple threats, an Elimination Chamber match, a Hell In A Cell match, a TLC match, a fourteen man elimination tag, a No DQ match, two Money In The Bank cash-ins, a fatal four way match and a Falls Count Anywhere match.
Out of those thirty four shows, only nineteen of them had a regular, one on one singles match (and one of those had a special guest referee to give it a gimmick of its own). Heck if you count the special guest referee match (1997) and Summerslam 1992 isn’t switched from a ladder match to Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog when the show moves to England, half of Summerslam’s main events don’t have some kind of shenanigans attached. Other than the Royal Rumble or some other show built around a specific gimmick match, could any other regular event make that claim?
On top of that, Summerslam doesn’t really have a tendency to be the big endgame for feuds. There have certainly been major feuds and storylines that ended there, but look back at some of the bigger matches. How many of them used Summerslam as a stepping stone to whatever they were doing next? For some reason, Summerslam just isn’t the show where things wrap up, though that will be the case this year.
The main event of this year’s Summerslam is going to be a Last Man Standing match between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. It is being billed as the final match between the two (I’m sure) and it feels like something that has been done before, and that is because it has been. This is the third time that Reigns and Lesnar have met in the Summerslam main event (remember that 2017 had them both in a four way), because two guys need to be in the main event of Summerslam and Wrestlemania seven times total.
If the match feels thrown together, that’s because it pretty much is, as Lesnar is filling in for an injured Randy Orton. It isn’t like there is a long list of people who can take the spot against Reigns at the moment (there’s a column for another week) so it was time to break the Lesnar glass again. This time though, it’s going to be a Last Man Standing match, because Reigns and Lesnar need something else. I don’t believe it’s going to be their last match for a second (as that isn’t how wrestling tends to work), but I do like the gimmick being thrown in.
Sure the match feels like something that is just there as an extension of the seemingly eternal Reigns vs. Lesnar feud with one more gimmick tacked on, but that kind of ties in together with the history of Summerslam. Was anyone interested in seeing Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude in a cage? Given how many times I’ve seen that compared to Hulk Hogan vs. Earthquake, it wouldn’t seem so, but it wasn’t like there was anyone else to challenge Warrior (or Reigns in this case).
Other than that, what else is there? Uh, a Tag Team Title rematch from Money In The Bank, Liv Morgan defending the SmackDown Women’s Title against Ronda Rousey, Pat McAfee against Happy Corbin and another Money In The Bank rematch with Theory challenging Bobby Lashley for the US Title. The fact that Dolph Ziggler has already started getting involved with Theory should tell you how much of a long term story Theory vs. Lashley is going to be.
So yeah, at least for now, this is going to be a one match show and nothing more, because Lesnar vs. Reigns is the only thing on the show that feels like it is going to matter whatsoever. I don’t know how well the match is going to go, but it is the kind of thing that should at least be a hard hitting fight that makes for a good main event. Granted I said the same thing before their pretty lame WrestleMania main event so they don’t have the greatest track record.
That’s where we are with Summerslam this year: a one match show, which is going to be something that we have seen multiple times before, including in the Summerslam main event slot. That’s not quite as bad as WWE did with WrestleMania earlier this year, but, and I emphasize the word AGAIN, it is building everything up on Reigns vs. Lesnar, because it isn’t like they have anything else going on. Why they would do something like this is beyond me, but that’s about all you can expect from WWE these days.
All in all, Summerslam is looking like something similar to what it has been for a chunk of its history: a bunch of thrown together matches with maybe two being worthwhile. The main event is going to be another gimmick added to the long list of different kinds of matches that have headlined this show over the years. I’m not sure how well it is going to go, but it is going to be all over the place. In other words, it’s going to be a bunch of insanity with bells and whistles and a lot of luck to make it work. Just like pinball.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 60,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 6,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.
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