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WWE Summerslam 2023 Review (06/08/2023)


By Mick Robson


Patreons got this review first, as well as all the content The Arena puts out. For early access and to support the work we put in here, check out patreon.com/thearenamedia


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It's the Biggest Party of the Summer! We're mostly about Aussie wrestling here on The Arena Media, but any pro wrestling platform worth its salt covers major WWE events like Summerslam!


One of WWE's "Big Four" PPVs- oh, sorry, PLEs- Summerslam 2023 comes to Detroit. WWE Superstars walk down that 8 Mile Rd to Detroit's Ford Field- the first time WWE has been at that venue since WrestleMania 23. Massively underrated Mania, by the way. We've got a major chapter in the Bloodline saga, as Roman Reigns and Jey Uso engage in Tribal Combat. Cody Rhodes has a rubber match with "The Beast" Brock Lesnar. World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins faces Finn Balor in a rematch from 2016. And WWE Women's Champion Asuka defends against both Charlotte Flair & Bianca Belair. WWE's saying this show has "four main events". Alrighty then...


Let's do this!


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No matches on the pre-show. Some surprising omissions on this show, particularly on the women's side, and most of the men's midcard have been shoved into the Slim Jim Battle Royal.


Really a shame that Women's World Champion Rhea Ripley didn't get a spot, and especially Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus. Fans have fired back on Twitter saying, "it was never officially announced for Summerslam". But social media posts from Becky & Trish over the weekend both indicated A LOT of unhappiness, and to add a little fuel to the fire, the Australian broadcaster for WWE, Binge, put out a match card graphic that included their match.


Main Card


Match 1: Logan Paul vs Ricochet


Thoughts: This was an amazing athletic showcase, but also had the requiste story beats, with Logan relishing in his shitbag heel role, taunting the crowd at various points and also mocking Ricochet. A fun little callback to Money In The Bank as they did a Spanish Fly to the outside but landed on their feet. Big crash and burn finish as Ricochet misses a rare 630 Senton attempt. Logan is slipped a pair of brass knux for the tainted win.


Winner: Logan Paul (at 18:00)


Star Rating: ****1/4. We'll do them today, just to watch the world burn. Logan Paul gets a big singles win to improve his WWE record on paper, but Ricochet loses nothing in the loss. At this point, think whatever you want about Logan Paul as a person, but he's building a strong case for himself being the best celebrity wrestler WWE has had. No one's had his athletic ability, delivering at such a high level bell to bell again and again, but this match saw him add layers as far as his character work and heel presence as well.


Match 2: Brock Lesnar vs. Cody Rhodes


Thoughts: During Brock's entrance, Michael Cole says, "this is Brock's 10th time main eventing Summerslam". It's the 2nd match on the card. Famously, the "insulting spot" that contributed to Chris Jericho leaving WWE, going to New Japan and ultimately AEW. Hey, maybe if Jericho vs. Owens was for the Universal title, AEW doesn't happen?


Anyway, tangent. Brock and Cody set a very high, physical pace early, and Brock did suplex the hell out of the American Nightmare, but it became apparent that this wasn't going to be your usual Suplex City sprint. Cody had Brock reeling after hitting a couple of Disaster Kicks, and Brock decided to turn up the aggression by splattering Cody on the outside, including hitting a F5 on the floor, then another one through the announce table. Cody makes it back into the ring and they trade kimuras, calling back to the previous encounters. After 3 Cross Rhodes, Cody Rhodes slays The Beast!


Winner: Cody Rhodes (at 17:35)


Star Rating: ****. One of Brock's best straight-up singles matches in years- leaving out the Last Man Standing carnage. I've seen complaints about Brock trying to win by count-out, but he was essentially trying to batter Cody so bad that he didn't want to return to the fight, but Cody kept showing the heart to get back in there. I really enjoyed the spectacle they made out of this. It still wasn't a main event though.


Post-match, Brock and Cody have a little moment, then Brock shows Cody respect, and raises his hands to a slightly shocked reaction from Rhodes. According to Triple H on the post-show press conference, that moment was unplanned. What a guy Lesnar is. Felt like a true passing of the torch moment.


Match 3: The Slim Jim Battle Royal


Thoughts: They had a not-so-little surprise entrant in the battle royal... the 7'3" Omos! Gotta say, I didn't miss his "slightly more agile than Khali" ass. Thankfully, the others in the battle royal show a little sense and team together to throw out the giant. We get some other fun spots, such as Chad Gable getting to look like a beast for a minute, Grayson Waller and Miz almost recreating the Spiderman meme, and a nice little mini-match in the final two where LA Knight & Sheamus make good on their superplex botch from Smackdown. But there could be only one winner. With everybody saying...!


Winner: LA Knight


Star Rating: ***. YEAH! On the high end of what you could expect a battle royal to be. Smartly booked, with several acts getting chances to shine. US Champion Austin Theory was just another body in there though. If I gave a single shit about him, I might feel bad for him.


Match 4: MMA Rules Match- Ronda Rousey vs. Shayna Baszler


Thoughts: I enjoy both pro wrestling and MMA, but it was clear that most of the Summerslam crowd don't. They kinda sat on their hands while Ronda and Shayna gave us a bit of a MMA/grappling exhibition. I thought the work was solid, and it was a smart idea to predominately stick to grappling, as incorporating too much striking would have exposed the rest of the show. Shayna does hit a high kick to knock Ronda out of the ring- missed opportunity to reference Holly Holm on commentary. Baszler locks in the Kirafuda Clutch and Ronda goes to sleep.


Winner: Shayna Baszler (at 7:30)


Star Rating: **1/2. I enjoyed the presentation of this more than most, but I wouldn't call it a classic by any means. This puts a bow on Ronda Rousey's WWE run, at least for now- her second run never really caught fire like the first did, almost seemed like two different performers.


Match 5: WWE Intercontinental Championship- Gunther (c) vs. Drew McIntyre


Thoughts: This was definitely hard-hitting, with chops aplenty. Both men's chests welted up and both hit big moves. Unfortunately, it didn't reach the intensity of the WrestleMania triple threat classic. We had Claymores, Future Shocks, powerbombs and top rope splashes, all with kickouts, and utlimately Gunther had to chain a bunch of his finishers together- Gunther being a rare case of someone with several moves established as match enders. Top rope splash, lariat, powerbomb, all together, night, night Drew.


Winner: Gunther (at 13:40)


Star Rating: ***1/2. Great win for Gunther, but not the MOTY candidate I was expecting- and many others, for that matter. Not bad at all, but failed to meet high expectations based on past performances.


Match 6: World Heavyweight Championship- Seth Rollins (c) vs. Finn Balor


Thoughts: Lots of callbacks here to Summerslam 2016. Finn enters with "SEVEN" painted on his shoulder, referencing 7 years since the first Universal title match. Rollins wore his old vest from the 2016 event, and during the match, Balor powerbombed Rollins into the barricade- the move that separated Finn's shoulder. We get Judgement Day shenanigans with Mami, Dirty Dom and Senor Money In The Bank getting involved. Priest hits Seth with a cheap shot, enabling Balor to hit a Pedigree and almost steal the title. Priest offers his MITB briefcase to Finn as a weapon, but instead Seth stomps his head through it for the win!


Winner: Seth Rollins (at 18:30)


Star Rating: ***3/4. High quality outing between two pros, with a clear story. The Judgement Day dissension continues, but they're so good together, I actually don't want to see the split. I'd rather see Balor and Priest positioned as top level heels, winning championships even, still within the stable.


Match 7: WWE Women's Championship- Asuka (c) vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Bianca Belair


Thoughts: The usually smooth Charlotte had some ROUGH moments in this match, totally whiffing on a moonsault to the outside and bumping a bit late on an Asuka top rope DDT, both spots looking pretty bad. Besides that though, they kept the action flowing under triple threat rules. Bianca appeared to hurt his leg at one stage, but it was a work, as she returned to the match with a 450 splash while Asuka was in the Figure 8. In the end, it was the EST with a sneaky quick roll up of Asuka while she was locked in Charlotte's Figure 8! Inventive finish, and new.

Winner: Bianca Belair (at 20:45)


But wait... Ms. Money In The Bank Iyo Sky is here, with Bayley by her side. They attack the injured new champ's knee with a chair... and Iyo's cashing in!


Match 8: WWE Women's Championship- Iyo Sky vs. Bianca Belair (c)


Iyo hits the moonsault for the 3 count!


Winner: Iyo Sky (at 0:08)


Star Rating: ***1/2. Rating it together as an overall package. Despite the clunky moments early from Charlotte, I thought the overall match, with the action and athleticism, ended up on a good note. Then the moment of the cash-in put it over the top as a big thumbs up on this show.


Post-match, the injured Dakota Kai joins her Damage CTRL buddies in the ring. Really a full circle moment as they debuted as a trio at last year's Summerslam. Really great to see.


Main Event: Tribal Combat- WWE Undisputed Universal Championship- Roman Reigns (c) (w/ Paul Heyman) vs. Jey Uso


Thoughts: Kinda jumped the shark, hey. Tribal Combat meant anything goes, and it was intimated- even by WWE's own online posts- that it meant the score would be settled between Roman & Jey, with no interference by the Bloodline. But that point was never hammered home on screen, so of course Solo Sikoa got involved. And while Jey definitely had some moments- Samoan Drop to the outside through a table, superkicks, Spears and splashes in the ring. Ultimately, it was another screwy finish that let Roman's reign continue, as Jimmy Uso returned and turned on his brother, costing Jey the championship.


Winner: Roman Reigns (at 36:05)


Star Rating: ***1/4. Technically, it was fine. They had plunder, they had big moves, but it was hard to buy into Jey winning in the first place. And it being yet another time where Roman retained by interference, that story's gotten beyond old. They had an opportunity here, with Jey Uso not established as a major singles star, to have Roman absolutely violently decimate him to uncomfortable levels, let Roman be a dominant physical threat, as well as a dirty cheater because he's lazy and the Tribal Chief on top of that. Instead, we have this character that was previously dominant as The Big Dog, but is all of a sudden incapable of beating anyone on his own now that he's a bad guy. Weak.


Overall Thoughts


A very strong start to Summerslam with the first two matches, then a long march of stuff that was okay to good. And with Summerslam being a marquee show, "good" isn't generally good enough. A lot of it was matches falling below expectations- I expected Gunther/Drew, Rollins/Balor and Roman/Jey to all be considerably better, but they all lacked drama or that extra gear of action/violence you typically want from a major show. In that sense, the damn sponsored battle royal was one of the biggest successes of the show, over-delivering compared to expectations. Nothing terrible, but a considerably middle of the road show.


Overall Score: 7/10


Until next time, keep killing it as always!

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Who's Behind The Blog
Image of Mick Robson, founder of The Arena Media

Mick Robson is a freelance writer from Australia. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling and MMA, he endeavours to bring that passion through his coverage in news, reviews and opinion pieces.

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