Barclays Center – New York City, NY – Sunday, August 20, 2017
Michael Cole, Booker T, and Corey Graves are on commentary for RAW, while Tom Phillips, JBL, and Byron Saxton handle duties for SmackDown.
~KICKOFF MATCH #1~
The Miz & The Miztourage (Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel) (w/ Maryse) defeat The Hardy Boyz (Matt Hardy & Jeff Hardy) & Jason Jordan at 11:20 in a six-man tag team match. Miz is currently the Intercontinental Champion, and this is the best they could do with the title on one of the biggest shows of the year. The doors just opened not too long before this match, so they’re performing for a lot of empty seats right now. Momentum swings back and forth in the early going, with Jordan showing surprising continuity with the brothers Hardy. Team Miz is able to isolate Jeff, and they keep him away from his partners. Matt eventually gets a hot tag and he cleans house. The referee loses control a bit and chaos ensues. Somewhere in the scrum, Miz makes a hot tag and surprises Jordan with a Skull Crushing Finale to get the pin. Solid action here with a good finish. Jordan looked good but got outsmarted by the wily veteran. Classic stuff.
~KICKOFF MATCH #2~
Neville defeats WWE Cruiserweight Champion Akira Tozawa (w/ Titus O’Neil) to regain the title at 11:45. Tozawa has been the Champion since 8.14.17, and this is his first defense. Graves and Vic Joseph are on commentary. Tozawa takes the early advantage, but Neville takes control out on the floor heading into the commercial break. When we come back, Neville has the advantage and he works hard to keep the speedy Tozawa on the ground. The Champion can’t be contained though, and he breaks free with some emphatic offense, including a suicide dive and a Shining Wizard. Neville won’t stay down though. They fight up on the top rope and Tozawa sends Neville crashing back to the canvas. Tozawa goes for the Senton Bomb but Neville gets his knees up! That always looks brutal. Neville goes up and hits the Red Arrow to the back to get the pin and regain his title. Good, fast-paced match here, with both guys working like deserved to be on the main show. It wasn’t as good as their DGUSA stuff, but still good.
~KICKOFF MATCH #3~
The Usos (Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso) defeat SmackDown Tag Team Champions The New Day (Big E & Xavier Woods) (w/ Kofi Kingston) at 19:20 to regain the titles. New Day have been the Champs since 7.23.17, and this is their first defense. Woods and E aren’t the most common New Day formation, so it’s nice to see them mixing it up a bit. Woods controls the early going, but when they take a break and come back, the Usos have taken control. Jimmy and Jey keep Woods in their half of the ring. They use classic heel tactics to keep Big E from getting a hot tag. Of course, they can’t contain the Power of Positivity for too long, and Big E is soon in the ring throwing everybody around. In an awesome spot, Woods puts Big E up on his shoulders and then drops him down with a big splash on one of the Usos. I’d buy that as a finish, but it’s not here. JBL’s constant reminder that “these are two of the best tag teams of the last decade” is annoying. He can’t take too much away from the match though, as both teams use creative offense to try and put the other away. Big E gets caught in the ring alone with both Usos and gets superkicked into oblivion. The Usos then hit a double Superfly Splash to get the pin and win their fourth Tag Team Titles. Best Kickoff show match ever. Both teams fought like they were in the main event of the real show, not the Kickoff. They built up to the chaos of the stretch nicely and it never felt like they were forcing anything. The second half of the match got bonkers and the crow was along for the ride. I love it all.
John Cena defeats Baron Corbin at 10:15. I’m so sick of Cena burying everyone the Internet likes by jerking the curtain at SummerSlam against Baron Corbin. Cena plays mind games with Corbin, who is still fuming about the way Cena cost him his Money in the Bank championship opportunity. Every time Corbin goes on offense, a little piece of my soul dies. Nothing to care about happens, and Cena hits the Attitude Adjustment to get the pin. Competent but dull opener here. It is interesting to see Cena in an opening match at this stage of his career.
Natalya defeats SmackDown Women’s Champion Naomi to win the title at 11:10. Naomi has been the Champion since 4.2.07, and this is her sixth defense. Both women are aggressive from the start, showing that this is about more than just the title to them. They follow the formula, with Naomi controlling early on, and then Natalya cutting her off and taking control. Naomi makes the big comeback and executes a plethora of athletic maneuvers, but Natalya won’t give in. The crafty Natalya traps Naomi in the Sharpshooter and the Champion just barely escapes. Naomi hits nothing but knees with a split-legged moonsault and Natalya puts the Sharpshooter on again to get the win. The crowd really got with them down the stretch, which really helped the match. They worked a basic formula match, and both came out looking good.
Big Cass defeats The Big Show at 10:30. The boisterous Enzo Amore will be locked above the ring in a shark cage. Show dominates to start while Enzo talks trash from up above. He does have a cast on his hand, so as soon as Cass has the opportunity he goes right after it. Show fights back and hits a left-handed Chokeslam, but it only gets two. Cass goes back on offense as Enzo strips down and oils himself up to slip through the bars. Cass immediately drills Enzo with a big boot to take him out, and then hits one on Show but it only gets a two-count. Another big boot followed by an Empire Elbow is enough for Cass to get the pin. Man, this was slow and bad. Cass just had nothing going on.
Randy Orton. defeats Rusev at 0:10. Rusev attacks Orton before the bell and destroys him outside the ring. He tosses Orton into the ring and the referee checks on Orton before ringing the bell. Orton makes it back to his feet and the bell rings. Rusev charges but Orton moves out of the way and hits an RKO to get the pin! I do like Rusev and it’s a bummer to see him look silly, but I also like that they every so often do a win like this with a move like the RKO to really put over how dangerous it is.
Sasha Banks defeats RAW Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss at 13:10 to regain the title. Bliss has been the Champion since 4.30.17, and this is her fourth defense. These two have wrestled on several occasions, so their familiarity with each other makes for multiple momentum shifts throughout the first half of the match. Bliss takes the first sustained advantage, and fights through Banks’s comeback attempts on multiple occasions. The Champ looks poised to retain when she hits Twisted Bliss, but it only gets two. The tenacious challenger Banks cinches in the Bank Statement to get the tap-out win and capture her fifth Women’s Title (including NXT). This was okay, but all of Bliss’s shoulder work didn’t really go anywhere when Banks just fought through the pain and used her finisher anyway.
Finn Balor defeats Bray Wyatt at 10:50. Balor does the full Demon gimmick tonight, which is a cool entrance but then he just wrestles the same match he always wrestlers. Not that Balor isn’t a good wrestler, because he obviously is. It also doesn’t help that the Bray Wyatt act is so old and stale that none of his stuff gets a reaction, so Balor doing anything with him doesn’t garner much of anything from the crowd. Wyatt being on offense is just flaming death at this point. Balor basically shrugs off Wyatt’s “mind games” and hits him with the Coup de Grace to get the win. Nothing against Balor but I don’t think anyone can get anything interesting out of Wyatt anymore.
Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose defeat RAW Tag Team Champions The Bar (Cesaro & Sheamus) to win the titles at 18:35. Sheamus and Cesaro have been the Champions since 6.4.17, and this is their third defense. Both teams are aggressive early on, but it’s Rollins and Ambrose that first clear the ring. The Champs take over with their superior teamwork and strength. Sheamus takes Ambrose out with a Brogue Kick, and that allows the Bar to isolate Rollins for a bit. Some idiots in the crowd are playing with a beach ball, and Cesaro literally runs out into the crow to take it and tear it up. Cesaro is the best. Eventually, Ambrose recovers and gets a hot tag, and he’s all over the place. The referee quickly loses control and all four men have thrown the rulebook out the window. Cesaro and Sheamus seem poised to get a win, with Ambrose all on his own. Rollins makes his way back to the ring and takes Cesaro out, and then delivers a big superkick to Sheamus. Ambrose follows with Dirty Deeds to get the pin and we’ve got new RAW Tag Team Champions! Hot tag team match here with great escalating action and an awesome finishing stretch. Great work all around.
United States Champion AJ Styles defeats Kevin Owens at 17:20 to retain the title. SmackDown Commission Shane McMahon is the Special Referee. Styles has been the Champion since 7.25.17, and this is his second defense. Styles attacks right away, Owens responds in kind, and it’s a big brawl as soon as the bell rings. Owens takes the first lengthy advantage, wearing styles down with a variety of holds and strikes. Shane of course gets pulled into the action and it starts to affect the match for both wrestlers. Finally, things between Owens and Shane boil over and Shane shoves Owens out of his face. After a roll-up for two, a Pele Kick, the Phenomenal Forearm, and the Styles Clash, Styles gets the pin and ends this feud for good. I felt like this feud went on forever, but they went out with a pretty good match. It was very Shane heavy, but knowing where they ended up going at least it led to something.
WWE Champion Jinder Mahal (w/ Samir Singh & Sunil Singh) defeats Shinsuke Nakamura to retain the title at 11:25. Mahal has been the Champion since 5.21.17, and this is his fourth defense. Nakamura dominates the early going as the crowd hinges on his every movement. Mahal sucks the life out of the match at every possible opportunity. This just goes on forever until the Singh Brothers interfere and then Mahal hits the Khallas for the win. Slow, boring match with an uninspired finish. Mostly garbage.
Universal Champion Brock Lesnar (w/ Paul Heyman) defeats Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns, and Samoa Joe in a Fatal Four-Way Match at 20:45 to retain the title. Lesnar has been the Champion since 4.2.17, and this is his second defense. Strowman pairs off with Reigns and Joe brings the fight to Lesnar in a Great Balls of Fire rematch. The crowd is MOLTEN for Strowman here. It’s hard to follow all the action here, but the first big spot happens when Reigns hits a Spear on Lesnar through the barricade at ringside. Joe and Strowman continue to fight with Reigns at ringside. Lesnar stumbles his way to his feet and Stroman puts him through one of the announce tables with a running powerslam! Strowman picks Lesnar up and slams him through a second announce table! He then PICKS UP the third announce table and flips it over onto the Universal Champion! That was awesome. Heyman is losing his mind out there. Lesnar is carted out of the arena but the match will continue. The steel steps and a steel chair figure prominently in the match as the three challengers do everything they can to destroy each other. Lesnar makes his way back out despite the pleas of WWE officials and Heyman. He goes right after Strowman and takes him out, then takes Joe and Reigns to Suplex City. The finisher parade begins, and the crow is eating it up. Reigns hits Lesnar with multiple Superman Punches, but when he goes for the final Spear, Lesnar catches him and hits an F-5 to get the pin. I LOVED all of this. Four preternaturally gifted athletes all fighting for the biggest title in the company. Everybody looked good here except for Reigns, who got to look like a goof again. Joe had some great spots, and Lesnar was ready to work. The match didn’t suffer at all when Lesnar was gone, and it got amazing once he got back. Strowman appears to be the biggest star in the company at this point.
This is a very, very long show, especially if you include the kickoff matches. Of the 13 total matches, three of them reach four stars or higher and that’s not nothing. Three more matches are three stars or higher, so the quality is there. Unfortunately, because there is SO MUCH show, the other half of the matches are forgettable or terrible, so there’s a lot of dead wood that could’ve been cut to make this a dynamic regular-length PPV.