Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer Slam: Breaking New Ground

Summer Slam turned 25 last night with a solid showing by the WWE roster. Every year I look forward to this pay per view as it officially kicks off the WWE “season”. If you look at the WWE like a sport then the time between Summer Slam and WrestleMania is the official season of pro wrestling. I would say from now to Survivor Series is the first half, the second half ending at Royal Rumble, and finally after that until WrestleMania is the playoffs. It’s wrestling season once again.
I was a big fan of what happened last night at Summer Slam. There are some internet writers who bashed the show because they never had high hopes for it in the first place. I found it a very entertaining watch from beginning to end. It might not have had the big shocker moment or a true swerve of the audience, but the wrestling was top notch & the finishes played into a grander plan for the future of the company.
The future for Antonio Cesaro is bright. The former Ring of Honor stand out has been laying low on Smackdown. Last night he jumped into the fray when he captured the United States championship from Santino. This is a good thing for all involved.
Cesaro is a gifted wrestler with size and speed, who can do more in the ring than be just a one trick pony like Santino. Not to mention he loves Starbucks coffee and is very European. Santino is very good at comedy and he has a knack for getting over with the WWE audience. He doesn’t need the title to help him, and there isn’t much he could do to help the title. Getting it off his waist and onto Cesaro makes sense to help expand the roster as Santino can do his shtick and Cesaro can begin rebuilding the US title as a legit championship. Also the rumor that he will turn the title into the European title is great. It should garner lots of heat when he bashes the US championship. Also Aksana isn’t a bad thing to have on TV either.
Ziggler and Jericho did an amazing job kicking off the PPV. They are both gifted wrestlers. Their back and forth through the match had the ending in doubt the whole time. Vickie gets great reactions from the crowd, but I think she is being wasted with Ziggler. He, unlike Brock Lesnar, can do all his talking and all his walking without a mouth piece.
If this was Jericho’s last match of the year, as he goes on tour with Fozzy, then he went out on a high note. As Kofi Kingston said on Twitter, these two tore the house down. I don’t know if I agree with Jericho winning as Ziggler could do more with the win, but maybe this means a rematch. In that case, we’re all winners.
No better person to follow that match than Daniel Bryan. He took the energy of the crowd and kicked it into high gear. With just one word he gets the whole place whipped up into a frenzy. He again made Kane look better than he is. Something I could probably write for every Bryan match. His win came out of nowhere as I, like many, thought he would continue to get buried. Giving him the win does a lot for his character and I expect him to start moving up the card building new baby faces to feed to CM Punk. I just don’t know who those people could or will be.
The aftermath with Kane was good to build a bridge to RAW. Kane continues to be in a revolving cycle with his character as this angry monster that shows signs of good, only to become angry again. Will he begin to feud with AJ? Will he and Bryan end up teaming together against her? Will Kane learn Zen? (Ok maybe that’s a stretch). These are good questions to have unanswered because they create interest in a character that hasn’t been fresh for almost a decade. Thumbs up to Kane for this aftermath, and for tossing Josh Mathews like a rag doll.
Miz and Mysterio had a good back and forth match. It was mostly to get the easy pop of Mysterio in LA and to get Miz some credit as he builds his IC title run. They told a nice story with a couple of good new moves from Miz. Mysterio is still good in all his classic spots. They both worked a good match and it did all it was supposed to do. Nothing special, but nothing idiotic, which is all you can ask from a middle card match. It just kept the flow of the show on a good roll.
Sheamus and Albert Del Rio was fun until the finish. I am a big fan of Del Rio’s ring work and character. He comes off as a big timer. Sheamus is good as the bruiser. I still am not sold on him being a big time talent as I see him as more of a talent who is reliant on his opponent to have a good match like a John Cena. I wouldn’t call his World title run memorable.
The end with the shoe and the foot on the rope where Sheamus does the heel move while ADR complains that he got legit screwed doesn’t sit well with me. Del Rio is the new ultra heel, yet he is the one coming off as the man getting screwed. Sheamus is the good guy who cheats and steals to get over. It worked for Eddie Guerrero, but not for King Kong Ginger. I really hope that was a hiccup in his character and not something the creative team relies on in the future.
The tag title match was ok. Neither team has done much to stand out. The Prime Time Players don’t deserve to be champions with their recent record against other teams. Kofi and Truth are a nice tag team that can help keep the division afloat while other teams become established. All four men played their roles well, but the lack of pop from the crowd during the hot tag to Truth tells you all you need to know about how far this division has fallen. This was the bathroom break, grab a new beer, and get seconds on pizza match.
I loved the CM Punk, John Cena, and Big Show match. Unless you’re blind, this whole angle has been about Cena and Punk. Yet it was Big Show who really got the rub in this match, as he should since he took a tap out and a pin cover. The early parts with Show just mauling both men made the audience know why he was in this match. He’s the biggest bad ass on the roster. Also the tip of the cap by CM Punk to Bret Hart was nice.
All the early Big Show mauling set up the middle of the match where Punk and Cena trade moves to try and take down the big man. The double suplex by Show is always a cool spot. I also enjoyed the multiple knees by Punk then the failed Bulldog into the big flying leg drop by Cena. Even the end sat well with me because it really played into the story that Punk and Cena have been telling for the past few weeks.
When both Punk and Cena slapped on submission holds on the Big Show at the same time it was a great way to change things up a bit. AJ was going to get involved in this match, and this gave the WWE the chance without having to stretch for it. Now some will argue it should have been just Punk and Cena, but AJ is a new GM, the easiest thing to do is restart the match, and it takes less explaining to the audience because all you need to say is “restart the match”.
Then as Punk tosses Cena out of the ring as John laid out Show with his finisher, it all came together in a great way to have Punk keep the title. Also Cena keeps his momentum from not truly losing. Finally it had the two keep their heat between them because one out did the other. Cena calls Punk lucky, and Punk can talk about Cena needing to respect him. Now they will move on to Boston and the next PPV, where even money says Cena walks out champ in his home town. Let’s hope that isn’t the future.
If Cena got beat by Punk in his hometown, it could do a lot for both of their characters. Punk would be made an instant heel by the crowd for downing their hometown kid. Cena would have hit rock bottom, thus starting the build to winning the Royal Rumble and regaining his honor at WrestleMania. Also Punk is the cover boy for WWE ’13 and has a big DVD coming out in October. Him being champ helps push both of those. That and Punk vs. Rock at Royal Rumble can do a lot to help get Rock over and save Cena/Rock 2 for WrestleMania as the cap off to Cena’s return to glory storyline. None of that can happen if Cena is champ before Mania.
The main event was what I thought it would be. They played it up to be more of a fight than a wrestling match. It was brutal and methodical. Brock Lesnar is just a massive human being and moves like Rey Mysterio. He beat the living crap out of HHH. I really enjoyed the flipping the announce table and using it to jump off spot. Also using Brock’s known gut injury issues was a good touch to bring the beast down.
The start was a little slow but it almost had to be after following the WWE title match. When Lesnar got “injured” things began to pick up. Near the end I thought Lesnar was going to do his second straight job. Having him pop up after taking that second Pedigree and slap on the Kimura made him look really strong. Nobody kicks out of the Pedigree, yet Lesnar takes two and still can snap HHH’s arm.
I think the end had to be done the way it was. HHH had to have his arm broke, and Lesnar needed to reestablish his mean streak. I just wonder where he goes from here after beating HHH. Is a match with HBK in the future? Is HHH coming back in a few months for revenge? Is Brock coming after Punk to face Rock at Rumble? Again these are all unanswered questions that have me tuning into RAW to find out.
When Summer Slam was over I felt that I got a very enjoyable show. It didn’t drag on and there wasn’t a truly bad match on the card. The two main events delivered. Sure I could have bitched about the movie preview and the music performance, but that’s what comes with “entertainment” instead of “wrestling”. In the end the WWE set the table for the rest of the pro wrestling season and new ground has been broken that plants the seeds going into the Rumble and WrestleMania, which is the trademark of a good Summer Slam.

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