Roman Reigns disappeared from WWE TV just days before WrestleMania 36, as the coronavirus pandemic and the risk attached to it led Reigns, who twice battled leukemia and had newborn twins at home, to withdraw from his scheduled Universal championship match against Goldberg.
Four months later at SummerSlam, Reigns reentered the picture in a major way.
After "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt leveled reigning Universal champion Braun Strowman with a Uranage and a pair of Sister Abigails on exposed wood planks to win the title, Reigns came charging from off screen and leveled Wyatt with a spear. Then he did the same to Strowman outside of the ring. He added another to Wyatt for good measure.
Reigns held the Universal title aloft as the broadcast went off the air, and it's safe to say that a major shift is underway.
The Reigns reveal was the culmination of a strong SummerSlam outing altogether for WWE, with each match seemingly hitting its sweet spot and a pay-per-view broadcast that lasted almost exactly three hours and never seemed to drag.
Asuka reclaimed her Raw women's title, and troubles are now in motion for the Golden Role Models. Drew McIntyre pulled a fast one on Randy Orton and laid the groundwork for more conflict to come. Dominik Mysterio exceeded all expectations in his debut match against Seth Rollins.
And in the end, Strowman and Wyatt battered each other inside the ring, outside the ring and backstage. There were toolboxes involved, and a box cutter. The issues attached to a seemingly invincible Wyatt (except against Goldberg), who absorbed the best Strowman had to offer and kept pushing forward, still linger, although Reigns has been positioned as a potential kryptonite.
So whether this means a triple threat match, or Strowman retreating into further anger and paranoia while Reigns challenges Wyatt, there is definitive intrigue attached to what happens next on SmackDown.
Sportsbooks often offer long-shot bets with big odds that are virtually impossible to hit, and it's safe to say that if you could've found somewhere to bet that no Claymores and no RKOs would connect during the WWE championship match between Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton, you'd be collecting a tidy sum after their SummerSlam clash.
The match was as physical as promised, though, and nearly every other signature move found its target along the way. But each time a Claymore or an RKO was attempted, Orton or McIntyre did just enough to slip out of the way.
Orton picked apart McIntyre piece by piece, tossing him around ringside and stomping McIntyre into submission once between the ropes. McIntyre landed high-impact suplexes, tosses and powerbombs with reckless abandon. Both men bled.
The two battered each other with strikes, and it was difficult to determine who had the edge and who would emerge victorious. McIntyre hit a Future Shock DDT, good for a two-count, but another Claymore effort missed and Orton connected with his signature powerslam.
Headbutts, clotheslines and a hangman's DDT set McIntyre up in a prone position for Orton's RKO, but as McIntyre struggled mightily to push himself up, Orton changed course and lined up a punt kick.
McIntyre caught Orton flying at him and hit a powerbomb instead. McIntyre went into his own histrionics as he lined up a Claymore, and this time went so far as to fly directly over Orton's head with his miss. Orton seemed to line up the RKO perfectly, but McIntyre maneuvered Orton into a backslide pin attempt and did just enough to pull out the victory with finesse.
What's next: With no finishing moves hitting in either direction, it's safe to say there's a lot more to come between Orton and McIntyre. It could happen as soon as Payback, but don't be surprised if it stretches out much farther than that.
Sasha Banks and Bayley helped each other out consistently on the way to claiming the Raw and SmackDown women's championships, as well as the women's tag team titles. But it always seemed as though Banks went a little bit further out of her way to help Bayley out than when Bayley returned the favor.
That played out at SummerSlam, when Banks and Bayley both faced the same late-match scenario and reacted differently. While Banks absorbed a flying hip attack from Asuka earlier in the night to allow Bayley the opportunity to pin Asuka, Bayley dodged out of the way (and still ate a forearm for her troubles) and couldn't stop Banks from falling into the Asuka lock and losing the Raw women's championship.
The match between Banks and Asuka was stellar from front to back. Both women threw caution to the wind from the outset, throwing their own bodies and their opponent's around with little regard for the consequences. Banks hit a sunset flip powerbomb from the apron to the floor. Asuka countered with a DDT while on the middle rope, facing out, which looked devastating.
With each and every counter the intensity ratcheted up until both women struggled back and forth to lock in their devastating finishing submissions. Banks seemingly had it locked up on two occasions, only for Asuka to pull a transition from out of nowhere. Even when Bayley climbed up to the apron and refused to absorb the hip attack, the distraction seemed to feed into a clean Banks Statement attempt, only for Asuka to flip it over and force Banks to tap out.
What's next: Banks has won the Raw women's title five times and successfully defended it zero times. I have to imagine that's going to come up. Banks and Bayley will defend their women's tag team titles at Payback, against a team yet to be determined or announced, and it's quite likely that the road from here on out will be bumpier. Asuka seems destined for a clash with Shayna Baszler or Nia Jax after regaining the Raw women's championship.
Street fight: Seth Rollins def. Dominik Mysterio
In terms of WWE debuts, you couldn't ask for better than what Dominik Mysterio delivered against Seth Rollins at SummerSlam.
He ultimately lost the match, but Dominik's performance in the ring and the story that his match with Rollins told from beginning to end overdelivered on all fronts.
Emotions were running high from the moment Dominik's music hit. His entrance theme was a variation on Rey's, as was his entrance gear. Rollins adopted a mocking tone and approach from the beginning, even going so far as to mock Rey with his own entrance gear, which was inspired by Rey's Halloween Havoc 1997 attire.
Rollins mocked Dominik and didn't show him an ounce of respect until Dominik hit deep arm drags from several different angles. Then Rollins moved into a phase of pure anger, taking it out on Dominik for having the gall to try.
But Dominik fought back at every turn. He tripped Rollins into a chair as he dodged a stomp, reversed a buckle bomb attempt into a head scissors and even hit a picture-perfect spinning DDT. He took as good as he gave it as well, making Rollins' superplex/falcon arrow combination look as crisp as ever.
Dominik had strong offense of his own, countering some top rope acrobatics by hitting a side Russian leg sweep using a kendo stick from the middle rope through a table, followed by a frog splash (a tribute to Eddie Guerrero). Both he and Rollins got in more than their fair share of kendo stick shots along the way as well.
Rey refused to get involved throughout the match, even as Murphy slid more and more devastating weapons in for Rollins to use, but broke once Murphy tried to blind Dominik using the steel ring steps.
Rollins once again wrested control of the match away, though, and eventually handcuffed Rey to the bottom rope to prevent any intrusions. When Rey's wife and Dominik's mother, Angie, walked to the top of the ramp, Dominik had enough left to take out both Rollins and Murphy. A modified 619 through the bottom rope and a traditional version set Dominik up for another frog splash.
Rollins got his knees up, though, and dragged Dominik just out of reach of Rey to mock him. With a stomp, Rollins finally finished the match off.
What's next: With a pay-per-view fittingly called "Payback" next Sunday, a tag match seems like a fitting way to follow this match.
Longtime friends Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose have been battling since WrestleMania season as their friendship turned to rivalry.
And with a victory at SummerSlam, Rose officially sent Deville away in their "loser leaves WWE" match on Sunday.
What was initially supposed to be a hair vs. hair match changed on Friday to this no-DQ format with even higher stakes. And while it would have been a fitting, definitive payoff to their story, it's almost certainly no coincidence that the stipulation was changed after the scary incident Deville (and Rose, her house guest), went through at Deville's home during the week. To be able to pull off a match of any kind given the circumstances was admirable, but it felt appropriately vicious and fit with the theme of where the rivalry had been. Chairs and tables appeared briefly, but it boiled down to pure, unyielding violence from both sides. Rose hit three running knees, the Bed of Roses double-underhook facebuster, and a fourth knee to pin Deville.
.... goodbye— Daddy Deville (@SonyaDevilleWWE) August 24, 2020
What's next: Hopefully, if Deville wants to continue her WWE career down the line, she can. As for Rose, she was greeted postmatch by Otis, and the pair celebrated. While them being tied together isn't a problem, hopefully Rose isn't reduced to mere sidekick to whatever Otis does going forward as Mr. Money in the Bank.
The Street Profits have been entangled with Zelina Vega and her contingent for most of 2020, but the victory for Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins at SummerSlam might just be the clean break the Raw tag team champions need to finally move forward.
It could also be the accelerant that leads the spiral of Andrade and Angel Garza to pass the point of no return.
Ford and Dawkins were in a far better mood both before and after the match, starting with two explosions of red solo cups (big and small) during their entrance, as well as a supportive Kevin Owens on commentary, complete with a Street Profits shirt and red clip-on tie.
For Ford, despite some impressive acrobatics, the early celebration was short-lived. After a flipping dive over the top rope was caught by Garza and Andrade on the outside and turned into a powerbomb, Ford spent most of the match taking damage.
When Dawkins finally tagged in he ran everyone down until Andrade nailed a back elbow. Dawkins managed to land a big spear to Andrade, leaving both men down. Vega ultimately involved herself in the match by stepping onto the apron, and when Garza superkicked Ford, Ford bumped Vega off the apron. Andrade went to attend to Vega, and when Garza lost hold of a wing clipper attempt, he was a sitting duck for a spinebuster and a rotating frog splash, costing the team the match.
What's next: The Street Profits against any team on Raw that's not Garza & Andrade or the Viking Raiders, please. And while I'd love to see Andrade and Garza patch it up, it seems like they're on a path to destruction and a return to singles action.
As she has for many of the 317 days (and counting) Bayley has spent as SmackDown women's champion, Sasha Banks was there when Bayley needed her most at SummerSlam.
In the opening match of the main show, Banks spared Bayley the brunt of Asuka's flying hip attack and caused enough disruption to allow Bayley to roll Asuka up for a pinfall victory.
Bayley had some big offense on offer throughout the match, including a creative flying cutter to Asuka as Asuka was draped over the middle rope, and a Bayley-to-Belly that netted only a two count. Asuka gave it back with hip attacks, face busters and a particularly violent release German suplex. Both women countered the other's top rope attacks with submission attempts.
But as expected, Banks played an outsize role in the finish. After Asuka kicked Banks through the bottom rope while breaking a submission attempt on Bayley, Banks got more and more brazen with her attempts to interrupt the match. She attempted to sweep Asuka's legs out from underneath her, and then prevented Bayley from taking critical damage -- causing enough of an interruption to cost Asuka the match.
What's next: With a postmatch double-cradle powerbomb, Banks and Bayley dealt a little extra damage to Asuka ahead of her Raw women's title match against Banks later in the night. After Banks once again offered a helping hand to Bayley, will Bayley return the favor?
United States championship: Apollo Crews (c) def. MVP
The story between Apollo Crews and MVP has stretched on for months, for a variety of reasons, and every match and clash along the way has been competitive, at least to some degree.
But with Bobby Lashley and Shelton Benjamin forced to stay away from ringside, Crews made a decisive statement with a clear, indisputable victory over MVP to retain the United States championship.
MVP entered the WWE Thunderdome to a new mix of his song, but that was about the only notable moment for him at SummerSlam. Once Crews took control of the match by unleashing a lengthy flurry of attacks in the corner, a spinebuster and a standing moonsault primed him for the finish. With a toss powerbomb, Crews secured the victory.
What's next: With Lashley and Benjamin crashing the ring and missing out on retaliation against Crews, expect The Hurt Business to increase their numbers -- quite possibly from the quartet of Crews, Ricochet, Mustafa Ali and Cedric Alexander, with whom they've been battling on Raw.