They say the third time's the charm. In this case, it took four times, but finally Roman Reigns dethroned “The Beast” Brock Lesnar and is the new WWE Universal Champion.
Unsurprisingly, Reigns stood tall in the main event of SummerSlam on Sunday night. What was somewhat surprising was the way the crowd reacted. What we saw in Brooklyn, N.Y., was nothing short of a master class of how to get a crowd to react the way you want.
At the beginning of the match, as Reigns and Lesnar were starting to stare each other down, Braun Strowman, who kept his “Money in the Bank” briefcase by beating Kevin Owens earlier in the night, came down to the ring. He said once the match was over he would cash in, departing the ring and standing ringside.
This of course led to a buzz from the crowd. While the fans weren't completely into the two competitors in the ring — and they let that be known with “You both suck” chants — it was less dramatic than past encounters. The crowd had something to look forward to in a Braun cash-in. Then, the match spilled out to ringside, as Reigns launched into Strowman. Lesnar decided to take the briefcase out of the equation, attacking Strowman while he was still recovering from the spill. Lesnar F5'd Strowman on the floor and followed that up with briefcase shots and chair shots, completely incapacitating him. After he was done, he returned to the ring, but Reigns was waiting with a spear and finally got the pin over Lesnar.
The match was short, action-packed and full of intrigue, exactly what you'd want to see out of these competitors. The crowd reacted, even giving a mild pop when Reigns won the title. The WWE made sure that the celebration stayed short, and the show went off the air before the crowd might have turned on the thought that they wouldn't get their expected cash-in. All in all, it was the best situation the WWE could have hoped for. Reigns is the champion, the crowd didn't revolt, and fans wanting to see Strowman cash in probably don't have to wait long. Compare Sunday’s reaction with the way fans have treated past matches, and it's hard to chalk this up as anything but a win for the company.
How long will Reigns stay champion? We'll have to see about that. Strowman is still lurking, and it will be hard to keep the title from him. But for now, The Big Dog is in control, and somehow it came with a crowd reaction the WWE can use.
The Rest of SummerSlam
» Ronda Rousey won the Raw women's title for the first time as she ragdolled Alexa Bliss around the ring before forcing her to tap out quickly. Rousey was extremely emotional after the victory and was joined by Natalya, who was wearing the jacket used by her father, the late Jim Neidhart. She was also joined by the Bella Twins, who were watching from the front row. This comes after rumors of a Rousey/Nikki Bella match at Evolution, so we'll see what happens.
» The Miz beat Daniel Bryan in a long-awaited matchup. The match was an excellent back-and-forth encounter, with both men telling the story of how well they knew each other. Finally, Miz spilled to the outside and ended up in front of his wife, Maryse, who slipped him brass knuckles. While Bryan successfully dove out once, Miz was waiting with the knucks the second time and decked Bryan. He gave them back to Maryse before sliding into the ring for a pin. Later in the night, Bryan was shown backstage bemoaning the loss, and even seemingly doubting himself and his return.
» AJ Styles and Samoa Joe had a brutal encounter that started and ended with the mind games of Samoa Joe. Joe pointed out that Styles' wife and daughter were sitting ringside for the match, and, like on Smackdown, promised to send AJ home to his family. However, late in the match, he once again grabbed the microphone after viciously sending Styles into the steel steps. This time, he said Styles wouldn't be coming home and that he'd be Styles' daughter's new daddy. In an image that will stick in video packages for years, Styles stood, complete with a cut on his face. He launched himself at Joe, attacking him with anything he could, which included a steel cage, drawing the disqualification. After Joe retreated, Styles reunited with his family, ending with Styles’ daughter saying, “Daddy, you're bleeding.”
» Shinsuke Nakamura beat Jeff Hardy to retain the United States title. The big moment in this match happened when Jeff Hardy went for a Swanton Bomb on the apron, but missed. At the end of the match, Randy Orton came out and Nakamura fled the ring. While it looked as if Orton would once again attack Hardy, he seemed to indicate it wasn't worth it and returned backstage.
» Charlotte Flair is the new Smackdown women's champion. Becky Lynch had the armbar on Carmella, but Charlotte was able to take advantage, hitting Natural Selection on Becky for the pin. While that was big, it might not have been the biggest news from the match. After the match, which featured several tense moments between Charlotte and Becky, the two embraced. However, that moment would be short-lived. Becky slapped Charlotte before attacking her around the ring and at ringside. The crowd popped for it, supporting Becky over Charlotte despite the apparent betrayal.
» Seth Rollins beat Dolph Ziggler to regain the Intercontinental title. Despite it seeming as if Dean Ambrose would be a major part of the match, he stayed out of it for the most part. Towards the end of the match, Drew McIntyre attacked Ambrose, causing Rollins to be distracted. However, he would kick out of the pin. McIntyre got on the apron shortly after, but Ambrose recovered to take him off the apron. He'd hit Dirty Deeds, and Rollins would be able to superkick and curb stomp Ziggler for the win.
» The New Day beat the Bludgeon Brothers, but it was by DQ. As The New Day got advantage, Rowan hit Xavier Woods with a hammer.
» Finn Balor beat Baron Corbin. While this wouldn't otherwise be notable, he did come back out as The Demon.
» The B-Team retained their titles. Curtis Axel looked as if he would be caught in a rollup. However, Bo Dallas stumbled into the two, turning the pin over and allowing Axel to get the pin.
» Cedric Alexander successfully retained the cruiserweight title against Drew Gulak after catching him with a surprise pin.
» Andrade Almas and Zelina Vega beat Rusev and Lan. Vega ended up having her feet on the ropes, but there was a surprising lack of antics in the preshow match.