If Wrestlemania is the season finale of WWE, Summerslam is a sweeps week. Existing storylines get reexamined, new ones get introduced, and ones that aren’t working (hopefully) get scrapped. Things are big and exciting, setting the stage for the rest of the year of WWE storylines. This year’s Summerslam and accompanying NXT Takeover were both a fun time, leading into a week of TV that was also quite fun. There’s actually a lot of things in this WWE landscape to be excited about, and I figured out (using advanced math, science and calculus) what the seven best ones are.
1. The return of the King of the Ring Tournament
As I probably mentioned talking about New Japan’s G1 Climax on Monday’s Late Lunch, I love a tournament. This week’s Raw saw the announcement that the King of the Ring Tournament will make its triumphant return, beginning Monday, August 19. The single elimination tournament will go several weeks and feature some cool match-ups, with really promising looking ones in just the first round. I mean, Cedric Alexander vs Sami Zayn? Cesaro vs Samoa Joe? Andrade vs Apollo Crews? I want to see all of these. Plus, the winner gets a big goofy plastic crown, which is one of the best things a person can receive. What match-ups are you hoping to see?
Editor’s note: Ricochet vs. Samoa Joe. I want to see that very much. Thanks. -JW
2. Charlotte Flair in her element
After a year of first being plagued by the vile babyface Charlotte Flair, then seeing her take an understandable backseat to the Becky Lynch/Ronda Rousey feud, we are finally back to seeing the Queen doing her own thing. That thing happens to be being a fucking beast.
It’s not like Charlotte was ever bad per se, but she is on another level right now. Her last two matches, against Trish Stratus at Summerslam and against Ember Moon on Smackdown, saw her getting mean and scary in a way that is exactly what I want to see from a 5’10” amazon who works out by getting her hot boyfriend to stand on her thighs at the gym. Flair just looks tougher, meaner, and like she’s having more fun. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.
There’s a bloodthirsty, wild quality to her that I don’t know if I’ve really seen before. Flair both moves more confidently and looks like she’s put on a little bit of weight, and that combination makes her look so much more powerful. She is magnificent in a way I haven’t seen regularly since her 2016 feud with Sasha Banks.
3. Babyface Kevin Owens
(Yes I could have used one of the pictures of him on the mic or kicking Shane McMahon in the balls this week, but I didn’t. Because why would I use any photograph other than this tender moment of Kevin Owens and his long time protégé and friend Adam Cole? Look at them. This is beautiful.)
Kevin Owens has been a heel for most of his wrestling career, but often not the kind of heel you boo. Some things, like the many times he’s turned on his friends, are legitimately harrowing. But a lot of it has been so charming and funny that okay, you may have booed him, but it was with a smile on your face and only because you were supposed to.
Kevin Owens as a babyface mouthpiece for fans frustrated with the continued prominence of Shane McMahon, feuding with Shane McMahon and therefore maintaining Shane McMahon’s prominence is… Well… It’s something that would only work with a performer as smart, savvy, charming and warm as Kevin Owens. But he’s all of those things, and with him at the helm, even something this stupid and unoriginal ends up grounding whatever show it’s on. Watching him talk is entertaining. Watching him wrestle is entertaining. Watching him lie down out of sheer annoyance is entertaining. He seems to have found a new stride, and it really suits him.
4. The Wife Guy Championship
The 24/7 Championship is about two things: Carmella and R-Truth’s beautiful friendship and wife guys getting humiliated. Elias grabbed the 24/7 Championship from R-Truth on Raw, and he, Drake Maverick and Renee Michelle have been posting about Elias hitting on Renee ever since. According to Maverick, their marriage still is not consummated, heavily implying that Renee Michelle will never get down with her small orange husband, and will instead leap into the muscular arms of WWE’s favorite crooner.
5. More Drew Gulak and Oney Lorcan
I expressed disappointment that we didn’t get more of these two Angry East Coast Lads on the Summerslam Kick-Off Show, but I was rewarded on Tuesday night when they had a beautiful rematch on 205 Live. This felt much more like an actual match, with all the aggression I had hoped for but much better tension and pacing. Even better is that they will wrestle again this coming week, this time each with a team of guys behind him. So far each of them has picke
6. Io Shirai, still, continued
This week’s NXT had a whole video package that was just highlights from Io Shirai and Candice LeRae’s fantastic match at Takeover, the Poppy “Scary Mask” music video, and Shirai doing angry poses. It’s obvious that they’re really going all in on Io Shirai, but this whole “ooooh she’s so scary and bad now, with music by her new best friend Poppy” thing is so pro wrestling and so hilarious. Io Shirai is so obviously a star and I’m beyond pumped that they’re really treating her like one. What’s going to happen next!? Will Shirai and LeRae continue their feud (please!)? Will Shirai appear in the next Poppy music video? I am very excited to know what’s next.
7. The Boss is back
I saved the best for last here. On Monday’s Raw, Sasha Banks entered the arena while an injured Natalya tearfully talked about her late father. Banks hugged her before knocking her down. She then pulled her own purple wig off, revealing hair a new shade of purple, and then continued to beat up Natalya. (If you haven’t watched it, just watch it okay. It’s so good.) We haven’t seen heel Sasha Banks in a long, long time. While I get that lots of kids look up to her and buy her merch and that’s great, Sasha Banks absolutely glows as a bad guy. She beat up Becky Lynch! Then she posted a sponcon thing on Instagram about the hair dye she’d used! I mean, that’s POWERFUL shit.
The Sasha Banks we saw this week wailing on Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch with a steel chair is the same Banks who in 2015 and 2016 set the standard for what the post-Divas era WWE women’s division would look like. This is the Sasha Banks who talks trash and main events, the Sasha Banks who makes children cry. After her extended time away, which included activities like training with Meiko Satomura and Dick Togo in Japan, I can’t wait to see her completely wreck shop.
Bonus recommended viewing: Cameron Grimes vs Jordan Myles in the NXT Breakout Tournament Finals, Mia Yim attacking Malcolm Bivens with her car, all of Takeover Toronto II except the main event (especially the first two matches), Charlotte Flair vs Trish Stratus at Summerslam, Seth Rollins vs Brock Lesnar at Summerslam, Cedric Alexander vs Drew McIntyre on Raw, pretty much all of Smackdown this week but especially Roman Reigns vs Buddy Murphy.