Summer Slam 2014 Thoughts

So I first wanted to do a write up about last night’s Summer Slam Pay Per View. First off, if you haven’t seen this show…go out and order the WWE Network already! This really was a phenomenal show! From top to bottom, I was thoroughly happy with everything they gave us.

I thought back this morning back to when I lived in my apartment and my friends and I would each pick up one of the big 4 PPVs of the year (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, Summer Slam & Survivor Series), buy the PPV and have everyone over for it. My show traditionally was Summer Slam and man, did we sit through some really bad ones! I mean we’re talking shows headlined by: Hulk Hogan beating Shawn Michaels, John Cena vs. Randy Orton for the 5 billionth time, Team WWE vs. The Nexus….there was some really bad stuff in these shows! But last night’s show was probably the best Summer Slam I believe I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t WWE’s brand of variety show that they have always tried to give us with the typical bad comedy segments with Santino, Great Khali, Hornswoggle & others — usually including some sort of Hollywood personality to the hapless divas in the ring blowing spot after spot. This was just plain good wrestling. And man, am I a fan of those shows! Give me two guys & a reason they want to tear each other apart and put them in a ring together and let them go. It’s one of the most simple reasons to have these guys choreograph a fight and yet WWE always likes to gunk up the operations with nonsensical crap year after year. But this one had very little of that stuff at all!

Let’s get into the show…

On the pre-show, we had Rob Van Dam taking on Cesaro. Two former Paul Heyman guys that just had a flat out good wrestling match (pay attention, because this phrase will be used quite a bit here). Sure, Cesaro lost –which I’m not real happy about considering RVD‘s supposed to be leaving again for awhile real soon and Cesaro is sticking around on this endless losing streak. I mean I really am failing to understand why a guy who hasn’t won a match in forever really needs a win on his way out the door for 3 months. What does that get him? Anyway before the finish came, they really did have a very good match that saw Cesaro counter RVD‘s 5-star frog splash with his European uppercut on multiple occasions. Very cool stuff and everything was sold very well that by the time the finish did come, you believed these two just went through a war to get there. Good stuff!

So the actual show opens with The Miz defending his Intercontinental Championship against Dolph Ziggler. And let me tell you this…these two are probably two of the finest workers WWE has right now in their midcard. I’ve been a fan of the Miz for quite some time now. I won’t lie and say I never understood why they turned the guy face when they did, because it somewhat made sense with how great he is at going out to these late night or morning shows and putting over WWE and all that they do as a company, but when it comes to his character in the ring, he really is much better at playing the heel. It just comes so much more natural to him. And that’s why I’m glad that since he has come back from shooting his latest movie, that he’s been on the heel side of things again. Right where he should be. And Dolph Ziggler has been showing for a few years now that he really can put on a better show than most of the rest of the guys on the WWE roster. One thing he’s been doing very well lately is selling a major injury throughout the entire match. Case in point: last night he was selling that his leg was injured, Miz had taken advantage of this by slapping on the figure-4 leg lock a couple of times with Miz barely able to reach the ropes to break the submission hold. So as the match goes on, at one point he goes for the Fameasser, misses it, once again acts like his leg is killing him, which opens him up for the Miz hitting the Skull Crushing Finale. Dolph still kicked out at 2 & like 7/8, which freaked Miz out because it’s very rare that anyone kicks out after that finisher, but Ziggler got up and while still selling the leg hurting, hit his Zig Zag for the pin and the title. Really great booking with some great work in a flat out good wrestling match! (yup, there’s that phrase again!)

Next up was AJ Lee defending her Divas Championship against Paige. These two weren’t given nearly as much time as they could use, but what we got was a nice little match where they each got in some good work and when AJ got her Black Widow submission hold on…this time, instead of Paige countering it into the Paige Turner, she got out of it again and hit her RamPaige cradle DDT and pinned AJ. Once again, a solid match with two women who really are showing that they can be the next coming of the Trish Stratus/Lita duel over who is the best Divas Champion. If they would just do away with this “frenemy” crap and just have a flat out “I hate your guts” feud, it could be so much better. Short, but great match with another title change…two matches, two title changes.

So we’re already off to showing that the landscape is changing in WWE since before this show. And I definitely like that. I can’t stand it when we have a PPV and if you only watched the Raw before and the Raw after and nothing has changed, then what was the point in buying the PPV in the first place. And even though WWE doesn’t book their shows like this anymore, with the Network being such a vital cog to their company financials now, I’d really like to see them go back to putting a lot more emphasis on the PPVs and stop booking the PPVs to go to the next night’s Raw instead of booking a month’s worth of Raws to wrap up at the PPV. It really would drive more people to buy the Network if they knew that shows like this one were what was in store for them to watch each month. But what do I know? I’m only a paying customer.

Anyway, the next match up was Jack Swagger (with Zeb Colter) vs. Alexander Rusev (with Lana) in a Flag Match. I was really expecting the old school style of flag match where you had two flags on poles in the opposing corners and you just had to climb up to retrieve your flag while your opponent was down (ala Bret Hart vs. The Patriot), but that’s not how this one went at all. Basically it was a typical match, but afterwards the winner would have their flag hang down from the ceiling of the arena and would have their national anthem played. Swagger was MAD over here. He’s really lucked out since Rusev showed up to get the kind of crowd reactions he has been getting. The “We The People” chant is pretty big now and people are legitimately pulling for Jack Swagger to win these matches with Rusev. Rusev attacks Swagger before the bell rings to get the upper hand, but is fought off and has apparently injured his ankle in the process. This plays into the rest of the match as Rusev sells said ankle injury for most of the match and at one point isn’t even able to apply the Accolade because he is unable to stand on the ankle. Really good back and forth match with a number of hope spots for Swagger as he has the Patriot Lock on Rusev. The finish comes when Rusev muscles through the pain and is able to apply the Accolade, but instead of Swagger submitting, he passes out from the pain. Really good finish that still leaves it open for another go around. I haven’t really been a big fan of Rusev, but these matches with Jack Swagger are really opening my eyes to him and also Jack Swagger. These two really have some good chemistry together and should not be broken apart too soon. This feud still has mileage to go. Also, when Zeb came into the ring to check on Swagger post-match, Rusev kicked him in the head and took him out as well, then followed it up with the presentation of the Russian flag while the Russian National Anthem was played. Another really good match!

As if that match didn’t have the crowd on it’s feet, our next match up was Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose in a Lumberjack Match. The funny thing here was the since both Ambrose & Rollins were prior Shield members who had beaten the crap out of all the lumberjacks at ringside, it really didn’t play out like a typical lumberjack match. Pretty much anyone who left the ring was attacked by the lumberjacks regardless of whether they were heel or face. And this really made for quite an entertaining match. As always, Rollins & Ambrose brought it. And when they were forced out of the ring by each other, they basically fought off the lumberjacks to get back into the ring. At one point, they fought on the outside, took out a number of lumberjacks and then began fighting up through the crowd and had made it up into the 100s section of seating among the fans. This brought Kane out to tell the lumberjacks at ringside to go up & bring them back down to the ring. So their fight up in the crowd was broken up, and Ambrose was dragged down back into the ring while Rollins tried to run out the back and leave the match only to be headed off at the pass by lumberjacks waiting for him to exit the crowd off to the side of the ramp to the stage. As they’re carrying him back, almost making him crowd surf, Ambrose is back in the ring and goes off the top rope and takes out the whole group. Eventually the match makes it back into the ring and when Ambrose is about to win it, the pin is broken up by Kane. Goldust gets in the ring to get into Kane‘s face about breaking up the pin, then the rest of the lumberjacks get in to fight amongst themselves. The funny thing here is that it almost looked like a management vs. workers type of thing when Kane knocked Goldust down and that sparked everyone jumping in the ring, but Kane went untouched in the whole brawl. So by the time everyone is finally out of the ring, Ambrose turns around to face Rollins who promptly hits him in the face with the Money In The Bank briefcase and pins him for the win. A really innovative way to put a different spin on an old style match that has become quite cliche over the years. Bravo to all involved in yet another really good wrestling match! (told ya this phrase would keep popping up!)

Following that match, we’re on to the next chapter in the Chris Jericho / Bray Wyatt feud. Last month’s match was a bit of a let down since Jericho hasn’t won a match in God knows how long and since Bray was coming off another loss to John Cena, he desperately needed something to turn it back around and a loss to Jericho definitely wasn’t it. I really wasn’t into this match as much as I should have been since they’ve pushed Bray Wyatt back down the card and Jericho, while I’ve always been a big fan of his work, is just really stale nowadays. It’s really been the law of diminishing returns for him the last few years. While I’m glad he keeps coming back to put young guys over, a win over him really doesn’t mean the same as it might have a number of years ago. But these two had a good match where they each got some pretty cool spots off like the Sister Abigail into the ringside barricade. I’d have to say though…I wouldn’t have minded if maybe say Bray Wyatt had tucked his shirt in for this match as I really didn’t need to see his gut while in the Walls of Jericho. But aside from that, the two had a decent match, I just think the crowd may have been worn out from the prior match, so maybe this wasn’t the place for this match on the card.

Next up was Brie Bella vs. Stephanie McMahon. I’ve gotta say, these two worked real hard and Stephanie looked amazing! If you told me that the last time she wrestled a match was about 10 years ago, I don’t know I’d believe that statement if I didn’t know any better. She really has blossomed into a great heel and has really learned what it takes to be one of the most hated people on WWE tv from week to week. Her heel persona is perfect and she really held up her end of the match. The finish came when Triple H made his way down to ringside to ostensibly help his wife to win, so to counter that, Nikki Bella followed to seemingly even things up. Brie even took out Triple H with a dropkick through the ropes which he sold like a million bucks! The finish comes when Nikki turns on Brie and knocks her out for Stephanie to hit the Pedigree & take the pin. The ending was very predictable, but it certainly didn’t take away from the match that proceeded it. A lot of great work from everyone involved!

The next match was Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton. Man, what a freaking amazing match this was! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I love a motivated Randy Orton! These two tore the house down! If you didn’t see this match, go back and seek this one out! In my opinion, this was definitely the match of the night on a night of some really terrific wrestling. From near falls to quick action to high spots from the top rope to a heel Orton posing, taunting the crowd, the psychology in this match was dead on! Orton did everything he could to try to take out Reigns and in the end, Reigns was just too much for The Viper. Much like Swagger & Rusev, if I’m Vince, I’m not breaking these two up for awhile yet either. There’s still plenty left for these two to show us! Terrifically booked wrestling match!

Finally comes my favorite part of the evening: John Cena defends the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman). The build up for this match was great. Even though neither of them were actually there for much of it as Cena had a couple of movies to film and Brock has this contract where he only has to show up a limited number of times per year or else WWE owes him more $$, this one was largely built up over the last few weeks with Paul Heyman doing the speaking (as always) for Brock while Cena and Brock had some very well done pre-taped promos. The story here was that Triple H & Stephanie wanted the belt off of Cena and nobody within their group of minions could get the job done, so they turned to Paul Heyman to bring his client to complete the job that no one else could do. And so we had it…the fight of the summer. Or so we were told. This match was hardly that. Brock just decimated Cena for about 15 minutes, within in the first 30 seconds of the match, Brock had backed Cena into his own corner, then picked him up & F-5‘d him. That was just the beginning though. Brock would proceed to toss Cena around like a rag doll with German suplexes somewhere near to 20 times thoughout the match. Cena sold them like a champ though, there were times that Cena looked to be in another world, unaware of his surroundings and while he got a couple hope spots, hitting an Attitude Adjustment and getting Brock into his STF, Cena really had no chance from the start of this match. For all of us fans who were tired of Super Cena running roughshod over everyone in WWE, last night was what we all yearned for for so long. Brock tore Cena apart in a completely one-sided match. I honestly can’t EVER remember WWE having ANY World Title match booked this way. I mean Cena might as well had come out to “Hava Nagila” with a jacket with a hand print on his shoulder, he was the 2014 version of Barry Horowitz last night.

What an amazing night of wrestling though! What the main event didn’t provide, all of the other matches stepped up and gave you in excess! Great night for WWE! I can’t wait to see Raw tonight!

wpid-20140817_225243.jpgI will be doing another blog on the TNA TV tapings Rich, Tony & I attended last month along with thoughts on stuff currently going down in TNA later on, so stay tuned for that.

That’s it for me today!

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