On a night where John Cena could've made history by becoming a 17-time world champion, Roman Reigns took Cena down with a spear and stood over him in celebration, Universal championship held high. That lasted for all of a matter of seconds, when the familiar beats of Brock Lesnar's entrance music hit the P.A. system at Allegiant Stadium.
Lesnar, bearded with a ponytail, confronted Reigns face to face and forced Reigns to retreat. It was the second straight pay-per-view to end with Reigns getting his thunder stolen following a big win, after his Money in the Bank title match victory over Edge was interrupted by Cena.
They made no contact, but the message was clear. Despite their shared ties to Paul Heyman, Lesnar is back, and a renewal of tensions dating all the way back to 2015 have been renewed.
It was a wildly energetic and exciting conclusion to a show that had a handful of high points, including the return of Becky Lynch, but largely dragged and was occasionally hard to watch.
Four titles changed hands on Saturday night in Las Vegas, including Lynch's 26-second SmackDown women's championship victory and Charlotte Flair's 12th women's championship victory for the Raw women's belt. But Cena, with the most legendary number in professional wrestling hanging over his head, didn't become the fifth.
The main event was a matter of clashing egos, and both Cena and Reigns played their parts to perfection. With every roll up attempt, Cena seemed to get deeper and deeper under Reigns' skin. As Reigns exerted control, he started to mock Cena more and more, going so far as to stand on the ring steps and prematurely hoist his championship belt over his head.
The action in the match started slow and steady, but picked up at just the right pace. Cena slowly fought his way back into the match with one desperate clothesline, and set up for his signature offense with a couple of shoulder tackles. But Reigns would not let Cena remain in control for long, briefly locking in a guillotine.
Once Cena fought his way out, a Five-Knuckle Shuffle and an Attitude Adjustment seemingly put Reigns out for the count -- until the moment Reigns kicked out at the very last fraction of a second, to the delight of the crowd.
Action spilled to the outside, where Reigns briefly gained control with a drive-by kick, but Cena took it back with an Attitude Adjustment through the commentary table. That, too, only garnered a two-count.
Reigns caught a flying Cena and powerbombed him, and then connected on a Superman punch. But flying wildly on a spear attempt, Reigns crashed into the corner and set himself up for a top-rope Attitude Adjustment. Cena landed it clean, but once more, Reigns found the power to kick out.
Cena mocked Reigns' pre-Superman punch "Hoo-ahh," they exchanged blows and then Reigns turned it up. Two Superman punches and one spear later, Reigns' run of dominance continued, and there was a brief moment of triumph. Until Lesnar showed up to spoil the party.
What's next: The only question that lingers is whether or not Lesnar wants to battle Reigns right away. Just as Goldberg seems destined to face Lashley in Saudi Arabia, that may be where we see Lesnar challenge Reigns. Or, a month out from the Extreme Rules pay-per-view, we won't have to wait that long.
SmackDown women's championship: Becky Lynch def. Bianca Belair (c)
It took 26 seconds of wrestling for Becky Lynch to defeat Bianca Belair and become the SmackDown women's champion at SummerSlam.
The swing in emotions inside of Allegiant Stadium was off the charts. After advertising Belair vs. Sasha Banks for weeks, despite cancelling live event versions of the match and Banks not appearing on SmackDown in the leadup to SummerSlam, a video package previewing the match ran before Belair made her entrance.
Then, ring announcer Greg Hamilton casually announced that Banks would be unable compete, and Carmella would be the replacement opponent. That did not sit well with the crowd in Las Vegas.
Just before the bell rang, Lynch's music hit and the crowd erupted, as it suddenly became clear this was a weekend for more than one highly anticipated return.
Lynch took out Carmella, challenged Belair to a match and, after a moment's pause, Belair accepted. Immediately after the bell rang, Lynch turned a handshake into a punch, followed by a Uranage labeled the "Manhandle Slam" and locked down a three-count, ending the contest in well under a minute -- once again leaving the audience conflicted.
After building up a lot of good will with increasingly impressive performances since winning the title from Banks in a WrestleMania main event, Belair's title reign was over in a flash.
🚨🔥 @BeckyLynchWWE IS BACK!!! 🔥🚨#SummerSlam pic.twitter.com/0AP6Vi1v5r— WWE (@WWE) August 22, 2021
What's next: Ideally, some answers. Like why Banks was missing. Or some context as to why such a quick match was necessary. Belair and Lynch are likely to have a real match sometime soon, ideally. And Banks doesn't seem likely to be going away from the title picture, assuming she's not seriously injured.
WWE championship: Bobby Lashley (c) def. Goldberg
Before the WWE championship match between Bobby Lashley and Goldberg began, Corey Graves laid out clear expectations for the match from the commentary table.
"Don't expect a technical masterpiece."
That statement couldn't have been more on point. Lashley and Goldberg shuffled with a slow, clunky, occasionally brutal match that wasn't received as the WWE intended, and ended in the most unsatisfying of ways.
Lashley, clearly set up as the villain, received cheers throughout the match whenever he had the advantage. Goldberg was booed throughout. Outside of a spear on the outside, neither man hit their signature offense successfully. And with an MVP cane shot to Goldberg's knee, and further damage done during the match, Goldberg lost the match by a puzzling referee stoppage when he failed to stand up.
As if that weren't already a clear, heavy-handed setup for a rematch, Lashley used a steel chair to further damage Goldberg's knee, until Goldberg's son Gage jumped the barrier and onto Lashley's back. Gage got shaken off, and then Lashley put the hurt lock full nelson submission on the 15-year-old, quickly incapacitating him.
Lashley and MVP scrambled away as Goldberg covered his son and stared daggers at the champion retreating up the ramp.
What's next: Conveniently, WWE announced their return to Saudi Arabia for Crown Jewel in October. If this doesn't feel like a match that could be held in that circumstance, nothing does.
Edge def. Seth Rollins
Coming into the night, Edge vs. Seth Rollins had every expectation of being the best pure wrestling match on the SummerSlam card.
They lived up to that billing, and then some, as Edge and Rollins battered each other in a match that was physical throughout and felt personal from beginning to end.
After dropping a blood-like substance on Rollins on SmackDown, Edge continued to channel his days in The Brood and rose through a ring of fire to his music from that era, to the delight of the audience.
Rollins was frustrated early on, but from the moment he drove Edge's head into the ringpost and then the stairs a half-dozen times, followed by a neckbreaker, Rollins locked into the zone.
He laughed at his opponent, mockingly asking, "How's that neck?"
The match really started to pick up when Rollins got incredible air on a frog splash and the first serious two-count of the match. As the fight spilled up to the top rope, Edge countered that momentum with a swinging neckbreaker from the top.
Edge dropped Rollins neck-first into the top rope, connected with a big boot and planted Rollins with an Edgecution DDT, garnering his own two-count. Edge continued to break out the classics with an Edge-O-Matic sitout slam, but got stuck on the top rope long enough for Rollins to bounce up for his superplex into Falcon Arrow combination.
An attempted Pedigree went sideways for Rollins, as Edge dedicated a tribute to his wife -- WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix -- in the form of a Glam Slam, her finishing move.
But Rollins wasn't done. Edge got bounced face-first over the top rope, followed by a neckbreaker over the middle rope. Rollins went for a stomp on the apron, but Edge called back to his WrestleMania victory over Mick Foley as he speared Rollins through the middle rope and to the outside.
Rollins countered a spear attempt into a modified Pedigree, and then went for a Phoenix Splash. But he missed and Edge hit a spear then instantly went for the cover -- but he only got a two-count for his signature finishing move.
Rollins kicked Edge in the head, setting up the perfect position for a stomp, but Edge twisted out of the way, flipped Rollins away and dug deep into his bag of tricks as he locked in an Edgecater inverted Sharpshooter.
After rolling around, Edge slapped on a Crossface near the ropes, rolled through to a Crossface in the middle of the ring and had Rollins in trouble. Rollins briefly fought his way out of the predicament, only to get his head slammed into the mat repeatedly, into a trapped arm Bully Choke -- and that forced Rollins to tap out.
THIS. MATCH! #SummerSlam— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) August 22, 2021
(via @WWE) pic.twitter.com/p6Gu8cKF9i
What's next: A win of this magnitude instantly puts Edge back into the Universal title picture, but whether or not he'll get that match remains to be seen. Rollins seems to need a reset after some high-profile losses, and a move to Raw might be what would suit him best.
Raw women's championship: Charlotte Flair def. Nikki A.S.H (c) and Rhea Ripley
Charlotte Flair is a 12-time WWE women's champion after recapturing the Raw women's title in an entertaining, action packed triple threat match.
Flair, Rhea Ripley and Nikki A.S.H. battled in a chaotic swirl of action that rarely slowed down and often incorporated all three participants, rather than focusing on one-on-one conflict during the early stages of the match.
Nikki A.S.H. was finally taken out of the mix as Ripley and Flair renewed their direct tensions of the last year. Ripley earned a two-count of her own with a smooth Northern Lights Suplex. Flair connected with a big boot, sending Ripley flying. Ripley showed off her strength with a German suplex to Flair, who was holding Nikki A.S.H. perpendicularly and launched her into a fall-away slam to Nikki A.S.H. in the same action. A Missile Dropkick from the top rope for Ripley got her a two-count on Flair.
A double team vertical suplex by Ripley and Nikki A.S.H. turned into a double DDT by Flair in a hurry and, with Ripley and Nikki A.S.H. on the outside, Flair set up for a corkscrew moonsault. It connected more violently than ever before and looked particularly brutal for Nikki A.S.H., whose head was kicked directly into the ring barrier.
As action spilled back into the ring, Ripley locked a Prism Trap submission on Nikki, and when Flair swung wildly and missed a big boot, Ripley had a Prism Trap for Flair as well. Flair quickly turned it over into a Figure 8, but Nikki flew from the top rope with a splash to break it up. A swinging neckbreaker on Flair seemed to set Nikki up for the win, but Ripley broke up the pin attempt.
Ripley's Riptide was reversed into a DDT by Nikki, but Ripley spilled out of the ring before Nikki could attempt a pin. Left with Flair as her only target, Nikki missed a flying crossbody and then got herself locked up in a Figure 8 in the center of the ring. Nikki slid towards the ropes, but ultimately succumbed to the submission and tapped out.
What's next: Burning through the Money in the Bank briefcase in a matter of weeks doesn't seem like an ideal use of a valuable storytelling device in the WWE, despite a feel-good moment for Nikki A.S.H. Flair is on her way to steamrolling her way to more world titles than her dad in a matter of a few years. Nikki feels like she'll be lined up for a one-on-one rematch, but beyond that, the direction of the Raw women's division feels very unclear.
U.S. championship: Damian Priest def. Sheamus (c)
Damian Priest largely languished for months following the departure of Bad Bunny, a moment to start his career on the main roster in which he overachieved and opened a lot of eyes.
With a victory over Sheamus at SummerSlam to become the United States champion, perhaps Priest can utilize a high-profile win and a big reaction from the Las Vegas crowd to serve as a launching pad towards bigger things to come.
Sheamus dominated the action early on and went so far as to pose with Priest over his knee following a backbreaker. Priest briefly stopped that momentum when he turned a powerbomb into a Headscissor, but Sheamus flipped it back in short order and slammed Priest to the mat.
Priest fought his way back with a series of punches to the face and a clothesline, followed by a Bell Clap, a high kick and a particularly impressive spinning heel kick off the top rope.
Priest grabbed Sheamus' throat as he stood on the top rope, but his chokeslam attempt was thwarted as Sheamus brought Priest neck-first into the top rope, followed by an Alabama Slam. A headbutt set Sheamus up for a Brogue Kick, but Priest countered with a kick of his own, followed by a sit-out chokeslam.
The chaotic energy swung back and forth as Priest flew off the ropes and Sheamus connected with a knee, but only got a two-count. Sheamus went for a Cloverleaf, but Priest rolled him up to break the hold. They remained intertwined, allowing Sheamus to lock on a heel hook, and then Priest ripped Sheamus' nose-protecting mask off.
Priest battered Sheamus as he tried to cover up his face, dropped Sheamus face-first into the ringpost with Snake Eyes and then landed flush with a spinning heel kick. The reckoning soon followed, and Priest secured the three-count for the victory.
What's next: Priest has yet to be defeated in singles action since leaving NXT, and it seems likely he'll carry the United States championship into some big matches moving forward. Sheamus' path forward is less clear, and outside of a title rematch, he might benefit from a move to SmackDown for some fresh opportunities.
Raw tag team championship: Randy Orton and Riddle def. AJ Styles and Omos (c)
Riddle and Randy Orton opened the main card of SummerSlam by dethroning Omos and AJ Styles to become the new Raw tag team champions.
The dynamic between Riddle and Orton has constantly been shifting since Riddle first broached the possibility of a team, and the solidification of their bond as a tag team-- RKBro -- crystallized at just the right moment. The chemistry was clear from the early moments of the match, albeit awkwardly, from the moment Riddle improvised using Orton as a platform for a flipping senton on Styles.
But Styles quickly tagged Omos into the match, and he had his way with Riddle in the middle of the ring. And the moment Riddle tried to get control with a sleeper, Styles showed his own creativity by tagging in and hitting a tandem spinning DDT using Omos upon tagging his way back into the match.
Riddle fought his way into a hot tag to Orton, and upon finally getting into the match, he kept both Styles and Omos on their toes. Omos pulled Styles out of harm's way as Orton lined up an RKO, though, and then Omos chokeslammed Riddle onto the apron.
Riddle then popped up quickly and countered a slam on the outside by sending Omos crashing into the ringpost. Styles pulled out a signature move from his past with a twist -- a moonsault off the apron to Riddle as he stood on the outside flowed seamlessly into a reverse DDT.
But as Styles took his time, and a victory lap, he made his final mistake. He missed a Phenomenal Forearm, yet managed to block a RKO and turn it into a roll-up with a handful of tights. But Orton popped back up, connected on an RKO and won the match for his team.
.@RandyOrton is on 🔥 as #RKBro looks for tag team gold at #SummerSlam! 🐍🛴@SuperKingofBros pic.twitter.com/YiTBj6Dep2— WWE (@WWE) August 22, 2021
What's next: Shenanigans, as the bond between Orton and Riddle strengthens as the weeks go by. A rematch against Omos and Styles seems likely, perhaps as soon as Monday. And hopefully, sooner rather than later, a chance for Styles to return to singles action and title contention.
SmackDown tag team championship: The Usos (c) def. Rey and Dominik Mysterio
The Usos and the Mysterios have been going after each other for months, but SummerSlam may well have slammed the door on the rivalry.
The Usos walked away with a decisive victory in their definitive SmackDown tag team title defense on Saturday, controlling most of the match along the way.
It started off well enough for Rey and Dominik, as Dominik landed three straight vertical suplexes for the 3 Amigos. But on the third suplex, Jey Uso got the blind tag to his brother Jimmy, sent Dominik flaying off the top rope and into the ringside barricade (followed by the ringpost) and the Mysterios rarely found themselves in control from there on out.
Dominik was isolated and couldn't get past the middle of the ring as Jimmy and Jey made frequent tags and maintained control. Jey tried to mock the Mysterios by hitting his own version of 3 Amigos on Dominik, but a neckbreaker finally allowed Dominik to tag Rey to tag into the match.
Rey immediately connected on a high impact DDT on Jimmy, only for Jimmy to flip things instantly with a superkick. Jey popped Rey into the air, which allowed him to Hurricanrana Jimmy out of the ring, but Jey regained control by hitting a springboarding Rey with a superkick, followed by a top rope splash. But the combination that has won a lot of matches for both Jey and The Usos combined only garnered a two count.
Dominik battled Jey on the apron and went face-first into the apron for his troubles. Rey utilized the chaos to set Jimmy up for the 619, and connected, then took Jey out with a running kick to the outside. But a frog splash to Jimmy went horribly awry as he got his knees up.
A double superkick to Rey, followed by a splash by Jey, and that was all she wrote.
What's next: Dominik Mysterio resorting to cheating to try to help his dad win on SmackDown in recent weeks is a topic that needs to be explored more deeply, and perhaps mentorship over tag team matches is the way to go. The Usos will likely see their fate connected to Roman Reigns' moving forward.
Alexa Bliss def. Eva Marie
Any match that has a hiatus featuring a wrestler slapping an inanimate doll is not going to follow the script of a standard wrestling match. That goes double for when that same doll is utilized to slap an opponent, as was the case with Eva Marie when she attacked Alexa Bliss with Lilly, setting Bliss off into a flurry of aggression.
Bliss launched into Twisted Bliss from the top rope, but missed Eva Marie, who twice got a two-count in the aftermath. That fed directly into the ending of the match, as Eva Marie argued with the referee and Bliss used that confusion to connect on a DDT for the victory.
Doudrop, Eva Marie's increasingly frustrated support system, smiled at the result, and then requested a microphone. "And the loser of this match is Eva Marie!" shouted Doudrop, before donning Eva Marie's entrance robe and sashaying away.
.@natalieevamarie just SLAPPED Lilly. 😮👀#SummerSlam @AlexaBliss_WWE pic.twitter.com/7Y67zKL1iU— WWE (@WWE) August 22, 2021
What's next: Bliss will do spooky things, opposite a different foil. Perhaps Doudrop can finally pull herself away from Eva Marie, and maybe even shake that silly name.
Drew McIntyre def. Jinder Mahal
Drew McIntyre defeating Jinder Mahal appeared to be the most obvious outcome of the night heading into SummerSlam, and the outcome did not disappoint in that regard.
An early flurry seemed to set McIntyre up for a Claymore and a quick win, but Mahal slid out of the ring. An overhead belly to belly on the outside was still a better fate than a Claymore. Upon the action returning to the ring, Mahal dropped to his knees and begged McIntyre for mercy, crying out, "You used to be my brother. You don't have to do this."
The delay allowed Mahal enough time to counter a Future Shock DDT into a high kick, and for a brief moment, Mahal gained control and grounded McIntyre down for a little while. But the moment McIntyre fought out, he nailed a future shock DDT, followed immediately by a Claymore, and that was all for Mahal.
Mahal's lackeys, banned from ringside for the match, entered the ring to help their leader and act menacingly towards McIntyre. That lasted mere seconds before McIntyre retrieved his sword and seemingly threatened to mortally wound his enemies with it, sending them scrambling.
What's next: McIntyre needs something meaty to dig his teeth into, but nothing really seems to be on the table on the Raw side of things. Perhaps a shift to SmackDown in the near future would be the right way forward -- especially if he can renew tensions with Roman Reigns.
Big E def. Baron Corbin
Outside of John Cena's recent return, and Roman Reigns' domination during his Universal championship reign, Baron Corbin's work over the last few months as a broke, spiraling mess has been one of the best ongoing stories in WWE.
That desperation took another turn on SmackDown in recent weeks as he stole Big E's Money in the Bank briefcase off of a merchandise table backstage, right in front of Big E's face. Naturally, that was the setup for Saturday's SummerSlam kickoff show match between the two.
Corbin controlled a surprisingly long stretch of the match, considering his recent woes, before Big E took over late and wrapped up the victory over Corbin with a Big Ending.
What's next: With Corbin subdued, Big E naturally reclaimed his briefcase. He has the ability to cash in at any time, and it couldn't get much bigger than closing out SummerSlam with a post-match cash-in. And while that's always on the table at a major event, it's likelier that WWE will play the long game. Provided both Reigns and Bobby Lashley leave Las Vegas with their titles intact, Big E seems just as likely to chase Lashley as he is Reigns.
As for Corbin, we'll see how low his spiral can continue to go.