In 1632, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the Taj Mahal as a monument to his favourite, recently deceased wife. At last night's SummerSlam, the mausoleum's modern-day namesake stood tall as a similar testament to the death of the career of the indie's dearest darling, Shinsuke Nakamura.
Perhaps 'career death' is pushing it, but losing to Jinder Mahal of all people won't have done the 'King of Strong Style' any favours. At this point, Nakamura is as tepid as a forgotten cup of tea, absolutely stone cold - and that's the only similarity it seems he'll ever share with Steve Austin. Losing to Jinder was not an option.
The WWE Title match should have been one of celebration, as for the first time ever two competitors of Asian origin fought for the company's top prize. Instead, it was a galling encounter containing all the excitement of a meeting with a loans adjuster, one which has deservedly drew the OED's highest recorded use of the word 'lamentable' since emo LiveJournal blogs were all the rage in 2005.
Most of all, it was the conclusion which had people holding hands to mouths. WWE might lay claim to the entire universe, but nowhere within it is there a single soul who'd agree a pinfall defeat for the Japanese star was the right outcome. But given some of the other happenings over SummerSlam's previous 15 hours, it was entirely predictable.
The show started inauspiciously, with the pre-show emptiness the perfect metaphor for its usually pointless existence. Except this time, at least two of the matches stood out, cruelly forced into the matinee slot to play before a misinformed crowd gradually trickling into the arena. Things took a spectacular nosedive for the surreal, as Shawn Michaels' music hit, only to see the Showstopper step out in full Colonel Sanders costume. Perhaps this of all weeks was not the best to have a Hall of Famer dress up as a Southern gentlemen, based on a known lobbyist of Alabama's segregationist movement, just to sell some chicken. After being spotted on a plane headed for the Big Apple, one half expected to see The Undertaker follow him out in a disused Gobbledy Gooker outfit. Mercifully, 'The Deadman's post-retirement bucket list doesn't include buckets of wings.
A dead crowd was understandable when the arena was empty, but once the show began WWE only had their dodgy decisions to blame. Having John Cena and Baron Corbin collide at the top of the hour was both a blessing and a curse. It'd be out of the way nice and early, but it also meant it couldn't be avoided by accidentally dropping off. If anyone had any doubts that Corbin was in it deeper than a spelunker's expedition down the sewers, John Cena's attitude said it all. Big John couldn't even be bothered with a haircut for SummerSlam, and spent the majority of the match evidently taking the proverbial out of the beleaguered Baron. The 'Lone Wolf's defeat left him entirely out of credit, and the road ahead for him looks like a long and lonely one.
There was nothing inherently wrong with Natalya winning Naomi's title, and the pair contested a very competent match, but when the champions' eyeliner is the biggest highlight of the division, something is probably up. Where do the company go from here with Natalya holding the belt? Do they know? Do they care?
Things took a decisive and definitive plunge soon after as Big Test... sorry, Big Cass... met Big Show in a lumbering-jack match. The primary narrative here was that Show had a nasty boo-boo on his wrist, so like most injured people, he persistently used the damaged limb as part of his offensive arsenal. Oak trees have been known to learn quicker, and they aren't sentient. They also move a damn sight quicker.
The secondary story involved Enzo Amore suspended about a foot above the canvas in a shark cage, supposedly a 'rib' (read: bullying), playing on his fear of heights. It's difficult to have sympathy for Amore however, even when the set-up dictated he grease his way between the bars before dropping down into the ring. It was dangerous, farcical, and ultimately, absolutely meaningless as he satisfyingly took a boot to the face. Big Cass claimed the win, but everybody emerged from this aberration on the losing side.
After being served the MasterChef equivalent of a sh*t sandwich, there really was no appetite for dessert. But then Randy Orton's music hit. As humiliating and utterly wasteful as it was to have Rusev smashed in ten seconds flat, it's just about the perfect length for an Orton match in 2017. If they stick rigidly to this allotment, I reckon I could cope with another three or four. Heck, make it a full minute.
The night's second women's title match was similarly solid, but the obviously hastily rewritten finish asked a bevy of questions - especially given Alexa Bliss' prominent role in No Mercy's hype video. Unlike a blackout at a fencing competition, guessing at a rematch is not exactly a wild stab in the dark, but at least give us some reason to engage in the storylines without telegraphing them two weeks in advance.
Bray Wyatt, despite being a self-proclaimed God and the 'New Face of Fear', was left "panicked" by a man in funfair face-paint standing up in slightly eccentric fashion. What exactly is an 'Eater of Worlds' anyway? They sound like seasonal confectionery, or otherwise off-brand facsimile chocolate bars designed to vaguely resemble a popular product, at least in name if not taste. This was neither sweet nor satisfying.
Continuing the theme of title match parallelism, the Raw tag championship tussle equated its SmackDown counterpart in much the same way the female straps did to one another. The bout was zipping along at a tremendous pace, before attention was diverted thanks to a clutch of self-aggrandising smarky tw*ts fannying about with an inflatable in the crowd. Cesaro, like a champion racehorse who's just spotted a barrel of apples, hurtled over the barrier to pop the offending item - popping the attentive portion of the audience in the process. A beach ball hasn't received such an ovation since one wrote its name onto Sunderland's record goal-scorers list in 2009.
Though a pair of well-attuned tag-team wrestlers should always beat a thrown-together tandem - especially one which has been at loggerheads for nearly three years - Ambrose and Rollins' upset victory was presented in just the right manner to protect the beaten champs. Like all great victories, the duo enjoyed a celebratory fisting, suggesting The Shield may be at 100% in the very near future. Who knows, maybe fans will cheer Roman Reigns when it happens?
The show looked to extend its hot streak of one match to two with AJ Styles and Kevin Owens' 900th tangle, and though it couldn't match the tag turmoil - not least because of the intrusive involvement of the special guest ref - it did stand out as the pair's best outing to date. Despite the undeniable talents of the two, there's been less chemistry between them than the timetable of a skiving sixth-former. In Brooklyn, the dots seemed to finally connect, and perhaps it could have stolen the show's spotlight had Shane not done so in this match. Given the boss' son worked as a referee way back before he was an on-screen stuntman, it was a remarkably spotty performance from the man in stripes. Don't stick to the day job, I guess.
After the acrid vinegary aftertaste left by the rotten WWE title bout, the palate was soon cleansed by the opening of the main event, which blossomed into a spectacular vintage to be quaffed heartily. Brock Lesnar may draw criticisms for his venality, but his ferocious farrago of verisimilitudinous violence and stellar selling was on full display here. Brock's bounty was well-earned for a change, but all four men contributed to a stunning finale that defined 'main event'. Forget your spry chaps and their technical mastery; four massive bastards causing chaos trumps them every time. Both Samoan Joes put in a shift, the latter acting as the perfect foil with his One Move of Doom and seemingly irrepressible comebacks, whilst Braun Strowman redefined himself as perhaps the greatest wrestler on the planet, hyperbole notwithstanding. Most Christmas parties don't see office chairs flung quite so wildy or dangerously, and his disrespect for furniture was a joy to behold.
So often, such sterling work is undone quicker than an escapist with a double knot by ball-achingly terrible booking. But not on this night. Roman Reigns threatened, threatened, and threatened some more - only to be finally downed by Brock Lesnar's refresh key. There was no kicking out from the F5, and somehow, despite jobbing Shinsuke Nakamura to Jinder Mahal, WWE sent fans home happy. Much like the Taj Mahal, that is truly a wonder.