2018 WWE SummerSlam results, recap, grades: Four major title changes and a big-time finish
The 2018 edition of WWE SummerSlam concluded with a bit of a thud Sunday night despite two major title changes to end the 2018 edition of the company’s “biggest party of the summer.” The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, once again did its job hosting a spectacular show, especially the crowd that somehow stayed engaged for the full six hours.
In the end, the biggest takeaway from SummerSlam is that WWE got “creative” with their booking the entire evening. There were multiple shmoz finishes with weapons used at the end of three separate matches. There were also two squash matches on the card, and the final two bouts — contested for the Raw women’s championship and universal championship — were both five-minute matches. In all, there were four title changes among WWE’s five biggest titles on the show.
Rather than spoil the results for you, keep on scrolling to see what went down Sunday night in Brooklyn. CBS Sports was with you the entire way updating this story with the latest results, analysis, grades and highlights from the show.
2018 WWE SummerSlam results, grades
Andrade “Cien” Almas & Zelina Vega def. Rusev & Lana via pinfall (Kickoff Show): With a half-empty crowd still finding its way into the Barclays Center, this mixed tag team match felt like nothing more than house show filler variety. That’s unfortunate considering the personalities in play and the fact that Rusev has gone from a WWE championship match to the curtain-jerker of the kickoff show in the span of a single pay-per-view. (Or that Almas may have co-authored the best match in NXT history in January against Johnny Gargano.) The match wasn’t much to speak of with the finish coming after Almas distracted Lana and was slapped in the face for doing so. Vega instantly rolled her up from behind to steal the pin while her legs were draped on the ropes. Grade: C-
Cruiserweight Championship — Cedric Alexander (c) def. Drew Gulak via pinfall to retain the title (Kickoff Show): It took a while for this slow, physical start to evolve into a traditional 205 Live-style match. Once it did, Alexander shined bright including a perfect tope con hilo to the floor. The finish came following a wild sequence that began with Gulak intercepting an Alexander springboard backflip by catching him into an ankle lock. Alexander then reversed it into a rollup pin attempt for two. Alexander then hit a standing Spanish fly out of nowhere for another two count. Gulak then rolled him up for a two count of his own until Alexander countered with one final rollup for the 1-2-3. Grade: C+
Raw Tag Team Championship — The B-Team (c) def. The Revival via pinfall to retain the titles (Kickoff Show): The right place, right time booking continued for the unlikely tag champions as Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel scored another victory from the jaws of defeat. The Revival were dominant throughout and used a distraction in the opening seconds to hit a Shatter Machine as the referee had his back turned. The referee was distracted once again late in the match as Scott Dawson rolled up Axel. Dash Wilder then inadvertently pushed Dallas into the pin attempt, rolling Axel on top for the 1-2-3. Grade: C
Intercontinental Championship — Seth Rollins def. Dolph Ziggler (c) via pinfall to win the title: The only shame in this match was that it took so long to heat up. But once the lengthy rest holds and gratuitous teases of Drew McIntyre interfering were finally over, Rollins and Ziggler were given the space to have the kind of spectacular match fans expected when the feud was first announced (and the exact opposite of what was given in their overbooked Extreme Rules match). Not only were the final minutes of this match absolutely electric and the perfect opener to a loaded show, the fans received the early reason to pop that they were hoping for with Rollins’ victory.
Rollins delivered an incredible sequence midway through the match that brought the crowd to its feet when he followed Ziggler to the top rope and hit an insane reverse superplex before rolling through for a sidewalk slam but could somehow only get a two count. McIntyre took out Drew Ambrose outside the ring, which caused enough of a distraction for Ziggler to hit Rollins with a ZigZag but only earn a two. With Rollins bleeding from his forehead, the finish came after Ambrose rallied to hit a Dirty Deeds on McIntyre outside, giving Rollins the chance to land a superkick and The Stomp to pin Ziggler. Grade: B+
The Bella Twins show up: Backstage between matches, Nikki & Brie Bella were asked whether they would be participating at Evolution in October. Rather than answer, they put over all their other businesses and said they were excited to see Ronda Rousey to beat Alexa Bliss tonight. Not only that, they will be sitting ringside for it.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship — New Day def. Bludgeon Brothers (c) via disqualification: There’s nothing like a schmoz finish to take the air out of what had been a really good match. Late in the match, Xavier Woods and Big E on the verge of regaining the tag team titles as they set up Harper for their Up-Up-Down-Down finisher; Rowan knocked Woods off the top rope with a mallet and then took out Big E to force the DQ. Harper then appeared to be angry at Rowan for doing so until he grabbed the mallet and hit Big E one more time.
The crowd lustily booed the result, which brought an end to a high-energy match filled with a series of physical high spots. Woods hit a textbook tope con hilo outside onto Rowan before Big E followed by spearing Harper through the ropes and onto the floor. Rowan later lifted Woods up in a wheelbarrow position as Harper hit him with headbutts before adding a power bomb for a two count. But it was Woods who delivered the biggest spot of the match when Harper rolled out of the ring and Woods hit an elbow off the top rope and onto the floor. Grade: B-
Money in the Bank briefcase — Braun Strowman (h) def. Kevin Owens via pinfall to retain: Donning a “KO in the Bank” T-shirt that will likely now become a collector’s item, Owens’ hope of stealing Strowman’s MITB contract ended violently in a short and explosive squash match. Strowman opened with a pair of running splashes and a huge shoulder tackle into the barrier after Owens attempted to escape. Strowman then hit a chokeslam on the ramp and his running powerslam in the center of the ring to finish him. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns may have a “Monster in the Bank” to deal with in tonight’s main event after all. Grade: C
SmackDown Women’s Championship — Charlotte Flair def. Becky Lynch (via pinfall) and Carmella (c) to win the title: Best friends no more. For as good as Flair’s exciting victory was in the match, adding yet another title reign to her growing legacy, this will long be remembered for the impressive heel turn from the perennial babyface Lynch. After the former BFFs hugged at length in the center of the ring after the match, Lynch knocked her down with a right hand and followed with ground and pound. She then tossed Flair out of the ring, into the barrier wall and over the announce table as the crowd showered her with chants of “Yes,” “Becky” and “you deserve it.”
The match that preceded the big turn late was nearly as dramatic with Carmella diving into the ring countless times to keep her title reign alive and break up pin attempts. Flair hit the biggest move of the match when she followed Carmella’s suicide dive onto Lynch by hitting a twisting moonsault onto both outside. Lynch twice came close to forcing Carmella to tap out with her Dis-Arm-Her in the closing moments of the match until Flair got a running start and hit Lynch with Natural Selection for the pin. Grade: B+
WWE Championship — Samoa Joe def. AJ Styles (c) via disqualification: Somehow, this went on sixth-to-last on the show. Before the match even began, Joe grabbed the mic and pointed out Styles’ wife and daughter in the audience, promising their dad would actually come home tonight; Styles responded that he was going to kick Joe’s ask. The match started slow and plodding with Joe overpowering Styles and attempting to tire him out with rest holds. After Styles got in a little offense, Joe impressed by flying off the top rope and hitting a standing Styles with a thunderous leg drop. Styles sold an injured left knee shortly thereafter when lifting and planting the larger Joe stressed out the joint.
Styles dropped Joe with an exceedingly impressive Styles Clash and nearly got his three count, spare a split second, but Joe kicking out clearly bothered the champion. Next was a Pele kick that wounded Joe, but not enough for him to be unable to catch Styles mid-air and slam him to the canvas with one arm. Joe reversed a Calf Crusher by slamming Styles’ head into the canvas and immediately sunk in the Coquina Clutch. When Styles was able to break free, Joe called for the Muscle Buster, but first kicked Styles off the top rope and then drove him head first into the steel steps, which cracked Styles’ head open.
Joe then climbed atop the announce table and grabbed a microphone. “I made you a promise daddy was coming home. It looks like he’s not, but I’ll be your new daddy,” he said. Styles, now bloodied and in a rage, responded by spearing Joe off the table and through the ringside barrier. He then picked up a steel chair and hit Joe over the back, forcing a DQ, before continuing to punish him with the weapon. Styles’ wife and daughter watched on telling him to “stop, but Styles could not be contained until Fit Finaly ran down to ringside and grabbed the chair out of his hand. Styles walked over to his family and picked up his daughter, who said, “Daddy, you’re bleeding.” He apologized to her, grabbed his bloodied head and took his family off through the crowd to the backstage area. Though another schmoz finish is a tad infuriating, at least this one made sense and advanced a storyline between two of the top guys in the company. Grade: B+
Elias takes center stage: After cutting his typical promo, Elias attempted to play his guitar only to see the neck to snap off in his hands when he began to strum it. He responded by furiously kicking over his chair and chucking his guitar into the darkness.
The Miz reunites with The Miztourage: As The Miz walked backstage, he stumbled into The B-Team holding their Raw tag team titles. He put over taking down Daniel Bryan later in the show and suggested that the Dallas and Axel consider getting his bags and joining the after party for old time’s sake. They declined, made a couple jokes and departed doing their new chant.
The Miz def. Daniel Bryan via pinfall: WWE built nice intensity for this match with a five-minute promo recapping the eight-year feud between these two. Early in the bout, Miz was in the middle of using Bryan’s moves when Bryan caught him by the throat and hit him with a bevy of Yes! kicks. Miz mocked Bryan with some Yes! chants as he locked in the surfboard, but Bryan quickly escaped and showed Miz how it is done by repeating the move. Miz was eventually able to hang Bryan on the top rope and clothesline him off it to retake control and continue his trash talking. Running dropkicks by Bryan followed, and he took Miz out further by jumping from the apron to clothesline him on the outside and then hitting a belly-to-back suplex from the top rope. Bryan and Miz exchanged flurries of Yes! kicks, but Bryan no-sold Miz’s attempts and prepared to take him out for good. They then traded attempted submission moves until Miz threw Bryan into the ring post via slingshot and hit the Skull-Crushing Finale but could only manage a two count.
With Maryse looking on from ringside, Miz mocked Bryan with Yes! chants. As Bryan hit more Yes! kicks on Miz outside the ring into the ring post, Miz dodged one and Bryan kicked the post directly. Miz capitalized by jumping back into the ring and locking the Figure-Four Leg Lock on Bryan, who eventually reversed it. Bryan beat Miz some more and locked in the Yes! Lock, but Miz eventually reached for the bottom rope. A flying knee from Bryan sent him into the ringside barrier, where he draped his arms over the ledge only to be handed brass knuckles by Maryse. As Bryan continued to attack, Miz caught him on an attempted dive with the brass knuckles, knocking Bryan out and covering him for the 1-2-3. There was no way this feud was going to end clean at SummerSlam, so the finish is acceptable considering Miz getting a clean win over Bryan would not have made much sense. Grade: B
Finn Balor def. Baron Corbin via pinfall: Balor shocked the crowd by appearing in his Demon paint with a Rolling Stones-like tongue on his chest. WWE added to the production values with an arena full of smoke and a swirling graphic of red and white smoke above the ring for the TV audience. The announcers also put over Balor huge. Balor dominated from the start with running dropkicks and slingblades both in and out of the ring. He hit a double stomp to the back of Corbin’s head as the crowd chanted, “This is awesome!” and dropped him with the Coup de Grace for the super-fast 1-2-3 and squash win. While you can make the argument that the Demon was “unnecessary” for a non-title match against a Constable, there is no doubting how dominant Balor looked and how well booked the match was despite its short run time. So this grade is for the effort and the booking, not the match itself. Grade: B
Daniel Bryan sulks backstage: While putting ice on his head, Bryan was upset in the trainer’s area. Brie Bella visited to console him, but Bryan was inconsolable, angry the way he lost to Miz and fuming that his entire comeback has been worthless because he lost the match. After tossing his ice and turning red, Bryan listened to Brie build him back up, saying that since was able to fight for his comeback so he can just as easily get over on Miz in the near future.
United States Championship — Shinsuke Nakamura (c) def. Jeff Hardy via pinfall to retain the title: Nakamura’s title defense received the glorified popcorn treatment before a pair of high-profile main event matches. Hardy popped the crowd early by mocking Nakamura’s hand gestures and motioning him to “come on!” The match’s brief storyline surrounded Hardy’s daredevil ways coming back to haunt him as he missed a Swanton Bomb attempt off the top rope late and landed hard on his back — on the ring apron. After rolling inside the ring, Nakamura landed his Kinsasha for the 1-2-3. Randy Orton’s music then hit, but “The Viper” did noting more than walk to the ring and stare before returning backstage. Considering Matt Hardy’s recent injuries and Jeff’s perennial injury issues, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both brothers take an extended break. Grade: C+
Raw Women’s Championship — Ronda Rousey def. Alexa Bliss (c) via submission to win the title: The type of dominant squash match most expected Rousey would have upon her transformation from former UFC champion to WWE superstar finally came at SummerSlam in an emotional title win. Friend and training partner Natalya, who received a big pop from the crowd in the aftermath of her father Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart’s death, accompanied Rousey to ringside even though Bliss’ sidekicks of Alicia Fox or Mickie James were curiously absent.
The match was brief and punishing for Bliss, who wasn’t able to get in anything more offensively than a single right hand and stalled outside the ring so often that Rousey eventually sat down with her back turned to protest. Bliss’ choke attempt from behind turned into a spinning judo suplex as Rousey talked trash incessantly. After dragging Bliss around by her arm, Rousey bent it all the way backwards at an almost-gruesome angle before applying the armbar to receive an instant tap out. Roused looked emotionally moved as she dropped to her knees to hold the title before Natalya and then the Bella Twins, who were watching from ringside, entered the ring to hug and congratulate her. Rousey also took a beat and ran to her husband, former UFC fighter Travis Browne, who was sitting ringside, and gave him a big kiss. As Rousey exited the arena on the stage, she yelled, “This is for Jim Neidhart! This is for ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper! This is for all of you!” Grade: B
Universal Championship — Roman Reigns def. Brock Lesnar (c) via pinfall to win the title: Three years later, the never-ending story that is Reigns conquering Lesnar finally happened, bringing to an end the puzzling 504-day universal title reign of “The Beast.” But considering all of the options on the board in terms of creative booking swerves, which included Braun Strowman coming to the ring and cutting an epic promo to declare his intention of cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase after the match, WWE sent its fans home shaking their heads at the result.
For as physical and exciting as the match turned out to be, the finish of Reigns winning cleanly following a single spear (after Lesnar had entertainingly destroyed Strowman outside the ring leaving Strowman unable to move) took all the remaining air out of the balloon. The crowd reaction to the finish wasn’t as negative as one might imagine but that changed once the show went off the air and it became clear that Strowman wasn’t going to be getting up to cash in.
Strowman’s arrival before the match started created huge cheers as he referenced the history of the MITB contract and his reasoning behind not wanting to cash in behind someone’s back. He popped the Brooklyn faithful by referring to Lesnar as a “Beastie Boy” and watched the match from ringside. Lesnar absorbed three Superman punches and a trio of spears to start but avoided being pinned by locking Reigns in a guillotine choke. The action eventually spilled outside when Lesnar sidestepped a spear and sent Reigns flying outside into Strowman’s arms.
The crowd serenaded Reigns and Lesnar with chants of “you both suck” in hopes that Strowman would cash in. But Lesnar did his best to prevent that by hitting Strowman with an F5 on the floor before beating him with the briefcase and throwing it onto the stage and off the video screen. As Lesnar reentered the ring, Reigns hit him with a spear for the pin, adding only more fuel to the fire of those who have booed this storyline and criticized WWE throughout this entire feud. The use of Strowman without cashing in might extend the storyline, but it ends a major show like SummerSlam with an unforgivable tease. Grade: C
2018 WWE SummerSlam analysis, highlights
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