The last WWE Raw of July also served as the go-home show for SummerSlam. As such, WWE spent most of the three-hour broadcast pitching fans on why the second-biggest show of the year is worth their time. Even with that busy agenda, the company found time to showcase one of its best in-ring talents: Chad Gable.
The Alpha Academy member started the show by watching Maxxine Durpi win her first singles match. Shortly after, Gable, Dupri, and Otis celebrated the momentous win, but GUNTHER and Imperium cut the jubilation short.
Unsurprisingly, the Intercontinental Champion chided the trio for being a midcard comedy act before mentioning that he could beat Gable in less than five minutes. Gable took GUNTHER up on that offer, provided that Imperium and the Alpha Academy remained backstage.
Chad Gable and GUNTHER then produced an exciting few minutes of television.
The five-minute challenge played out as you’d expect it to given GUNTHER and Gable’s respective placement in the WWE pecking order; Gable got a few hope spots in early before GUNTHER took control. However, Gable executed enough key counters to force “The Ring General” to kick up his urgency in order to beat the clock.
With time winding down, GUNTHER tried to put Gable away with a sleeper hold, a simple-but-excellent spot that accentuated the champion’s situational awareness. However, he couldn’t get Gable to pass out quickly enough, so tried to finish him with a powerbomb. Gable was ready for it, though, as he turned the attempt into a headscissors that took both men out of the ring as the timer expired.
The way the crowd reacted to the finish, you’d have thought that Gable beat GUNTHER for the IC Title. GUNTHER certainly reacted as though that happened, as he grabbed Samantha Irvin’s microphone and demanded that the match be restarted.
His request was granted, and Gable immediately rewarded him with a dropkick. From there, the workhorses churned out some more great workrate for a few more minutes, but this time, it ended with GUNTHER hitting Gable with a powerbomb and pinning him clean.
Aside from the quality performances from Gable and GUNTHER, this was shrewd booking by WWE. If it had announced a standard match between the two, the fans probably would’ve still enjoyed it (which is a testament to how great Gable and GUNTHER are), but the inevitability of the result would’ve tempered their excitement for it.
With the time limit and the understanding that Gable merely needed to withstand GUNTHER for five minutes, it made getting behind Gable feel like less of a futile exercise. This way, the heel gets humiliated for a brief moment before building him back up in preparation for his big match against Drew McIntyre.
For Gable, this was the 367,405th reason why WWE needs to push him. Fans have long recognized how skilled and charismatic he is, and WWE likely sees the same talents, but the company continues to use him as a super-utility piece that puts over the bigger (figuratively and literally) stars.
Hopefully, WWE will use this as a launching point to propel Gable up the card. If not, he will continue to excel at what he’s been doing, as we saw against GUNTHER.