WWE SummerSlam, in theory, is one of the most prestigious wrestling shows of the year; it’s often viewed as a notch or two below WrestleMania. John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan, Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog and the Rock vs. Brock Lesnar are just a few examples of the show’s classic main events. But this year, as WWE deals with declining revenue and slumping ratings that arguably reflect the quality of the on-screen product, WWE SummerSlam 2019 isn’t nearly as exciting as it should be.
A number of factors explain why the event like the latest in a long line of ordinary WWE PPVs. Some of these explanations should sound familiar. Thanks to Vince McMahon’s re-writes, the blue brand has been trapped in a chaotic state, plus Brock Lesnar versus Seth Rollins headlining the card marks a feud that was already fairly stale months ago at WrestleMania 35. Finally, WWE has thrown a number of the other matches onto the show with minimal build. When you combine these elements, you get a SummerSlam show that feels destined to disappoint.
SummerSlam is supposed to feel like a culmination of several significant stories but that’s not necessarily the case this year. The card’s top matches have received a decent amount of screen time. On the red brand, the rivalry between WWE RAW Women’s Champion Becky Lynch and Natalya has progressed effectively the past several Monday nights. The story between United States Champion AJ Styles and Ricochet is arguably the best example of an organically built feud on WWE television right now throughout the summer. Otherwise, most of the matches have been shoved onto the card and they don’t seem particularly special.
Look at the match between Charlotte Flair and Trish Stratus. Before July 30, the only on-screen hint of the match came in an interview with Flair, when she subtly fired a shot by calling herself the “queen of all eras.” Then, Stratus returned on that week’s SmackDown, where she accepted Flair’s challenge on “King’s Court.” The two women met again on the next episodes of RAW and SmackDown. But, overall, WWE is relying on Stratus’ star power to build this match. The same sentiment holds true for the contest between Goldberg and Dolph Ziggler.
Ziggler has been subtly calling out Goldberg for weeks by insulting the legend’s in-ring skills. Otherwise, the Showoff has been feuding with Shawn Michaels and The Miz. Most fans want to see Ziggler face Michaels because he’s frequently compared to the Heartbreak Kid. On this week’s RAW, when Michaels confirmed that he won’t be fighting Ziggler at SummerSlam, many fans were disappointed. Goldberg marched to the ring, told Dolph he’s next and that’s the extent of the build for this match. Goldberg and Stratus are two fan-favorites but their popularity doesn’t excuse the inadequate build-up for most of the matches at the Biggest Party of the Summer.
The SmackDown Women’s Championship match doesn’t feature a legendary superstar but it feels just as, if not more, thrown together than Goldberg’s match. Bayley chose to defend her title against Ember Moon, a fresh challenger. That’s admirable. But the two women have barely interacted heading into their match. Moon hit the champion with an Eclipse and, the next week, Bayley hit Moon with a Bayley-to-Belly. The match has barely been built beyond these interactions and the two didn’t get screen time on the go-home episode of SmackDown. That’s not a winning recipe for promoting matches, which is why Bayley’s championship defense feels the weakest part of the card.
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