With SummerSlam this Sunday, this will be a WWE-heavy edition of Heel Turns. I’d offer my apologies to fans of other wrestling organizations, but the Greek god of wrestling refuses to apologize for writing an entertaining and informative column.
The main event of SummerSlam is the grudge match between Triple H and Brock Lesnar. The build for this match started in the spring when Lesnar broke Triple H’s arm. The situation escalated when Paul Heyman, who is an outstanding antagonist, brought Triple H’s kids into the conversation, which resulted in a warning from Triple H and a physical attack by Stephanie McMahon (Triple H’s wife, for those who don’t know.).
Lesnar further raised the stakes by breaking Shawn Michaels’ arm Monday on RAW. Michaels, of course, is a good friend of Triple H and was supposed to accompany him to the ring at SummerSlam.
This match, which takes place 10 years after Lesnar became, at that time, the youngest WWE champion by defeating The Rock at SummerSlam, will be a brawl. Or, as the late, great Gordon Solie used to say, a Pier 6 brawl. The intensity should be very high, and I envision Michaels getting involved in the finish. Whether that means Michaels will help Triple H defeat Lesnar or his presence will be a distraction that allows Lesnar to get the victory remains to be seen.
The WWE Championship match also has the potential to be very good. C.M. Punk defends his title in a triple threat match against John Cena and Big Show. Punk, whose title reign has lasted nearly nine months, has been straddling the heel-babyface fence as he complains about a lack of respect. With the WWE Championship match taking a backseat to the Lesnar-Triple H battle, Punk has more ammunition for his complaint.
Punk has been a terrific champion. Keeping the belt on Punk and having his title reign approach a full year – or even last until a Royal Rumble match against The Rock – would be the right move for WWE.
The World Heavyweight Championship match is up in the air. Smackdown general manager Booker T canceled the announced match between Sheamus and challenger Alberto Del Rio. That situation is resolved this Friday on Smackdown, but you know that Achilles Heel detests spoilers, so I won’t tell you what happens. Without revealing the Summer Slam match for the World Championship, I’ll predict there will be some sort of angle at the end of this match, possibly involving Dolph Ziggler cashing in his Money in the Bank title contract – or someone else making an impact.
Ziggler will face Chris Jericho in what I expect to be an excellent match. This feud has been brewing since the night after July’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view, although I wish WWE had announced the SummerSlam match earlier instead of waiting until a week before the show.
The rest of SummerSlam also seems thrown together, a problem that could have been avoided if the matches had been announced earlier. Kane and Daniel Bryan had issues earlier this summer when they both were pursuing Punk’s WWE Championship, but there has been a gap between those issues and their SummerSlam match.
Similarly, Antonio Cesaro twice defeated United States champion Santino Marella in non-title bouts. Then he lost to Christian last week on Smackdown. And then he receives a title shot against Marella on the SummerSlam “pre-show?” That doesn’t make sense.
The Prime Time Players, Darren Young and Titus O’Neil, have been chasing tag team gold all summer. They get their chance at SummerSlam against champions Kofi Kingston and R-Truth, although they’ll be without manager AW (more on this later). Young and O’Neil are not over enough with the fans to win the titles, especially without AW.
The final announced match for SummerSlam features The Miz defending his Intercontinental Championship against Rey Mysterio, who defeated him in a non-title match last week. This is the only match on the undercard which couldn’t have been announced ahead of time and benefited from better promotion.
Putting aside my complaints about the matches receiving better promotion if they had been announced earlier, SummerSlam has the potential to be anywhere from a mediocre to a very good show. Lesnar-Triple H, the WWE Championship match and Ziggler-Jericho almost certainly will deliver. If the other matches keep the crowd’s interest despite uneven promotion, SummerSlam could be very good.
MISSING IN ACTION: There are some big names not involved in Summer Slam, most notably Randy Orton. Perhaps this is part of his penance for his recent 60-day suspension for violating WWE drug policy. Or, perhaps they just didn’t have a match for him that made sense. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Orton at SummerSlam in some capacity.
Christian and Cody Rhodes are two other wrestlers I enjoy watching who don’t have a match at SummerSlam.
JUSTICE IS SERVED: WWE’s SummerSlam could be similar to TNA’s Hardcore Justice in the sense that the success of the show will depend heavily on the top two matches.
The undercard for Hardcore Justice was a bit underwhelming, but the top two matches paid off. AJ Styles won a thrilling Bound for Glory Series ladder match against Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels. What else would you expect from four excellent workers? In the main event, Austin Aries retained the TNA World Championship against former champion Bobby Roode in another terrific match.
As I warned might be the case in last week’s Heel Turns, Hardcore Justice did not live up to the standard set by TNA’s last two pay-per-views, but the top two matches still earned it a thumbs-up.
CHIKARA HEADS (MID)WEST: After a charity show in Reading on Sunday, CHIKARA heads to the Midwest this weekend for events in Milwaukee and Indianapolis. The Milwaukee card on Friday features Mike Quackenbush vs. Colt Cabana, as well as the semifinals of the Young Lions Cup (ACH vs. Jakob Hammermeier, Antony Stone vs. “Mr. Touchdown” Mark Angelosetti). There will also be a four-corner tag-team elimination bout and Fire Ant, Green Ant and assailANT will warm up for King of Trios (Sept. 14-16) by taking on The Batiri.
The finals of the Young Lions Cup will take place Saturday in Indianapolis, where Grand Champion Eddie Kingston, who lost to Ring of Honor champion Kevin Steen on Saturday’s Ring of Honor Internet pay-per-view event from Providence, R.I., will face Harlem Bravado in a non-title match. Quackenbush and Jigsaw will battle The Shard and “17.”
HART AND SOUL: WWE.com has an interesting list of the top 25 matches at SummerSlam, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The list is subjective, so, of course, there is room for debate about the rankings and which matches were left off. But, for me, the list was a reminder of the excellence of Bret “The Hitman” Hart (above).
Matches involving Hart occupy three of the top four spots on the list. Bret vs. Owen Hart in a steel cage (1994) is No. 4 on the list. Bret’s victory over Curt Hennig to win the Intercontinental Championship (1991), his first major singles title, is No. 2. The top match on the list is Hart’s loss to the British Bulldog in an emotional Intercontinental Championship match (1992) that took place in an electric atmosphere before Bulldog’s hometown fans in London’s Wembley Stadium.
One of the greatest testaments to Hart’s excellence is his ability to have outstanding matches against wrestlers with vastly different styles. In addition to matches with Bulldog, Hennig and Owen Hart, Bret makes this list with matches against The Undertaker (1997, No. 12) and, with Hart Foundation partner Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, in tag team matches against Demolition (1990, No. 15) and Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard (1989, No. 25). By the way, the Hart Foundation’s tag team championship win against Demolition took place at the Spectrum.
WEAK CHAMPION: The Miz made an auspicious return to WWE by entering a Money in the Bank ladder match and defeating Christian to win the Intercontinental Championship. Since beating Christian in a return match, however, The Miz lost non-title matches to Kane and Rey Mysterio.
Having champions repeatedly lose non-title matches makes them look weak. When the Intercontinental and U.S. champions frequently lose, as has been the case with Miz and Santino Marella recently, it devalues the titles they hold.
COMING …: It’s encouraging to see vignettes promoting the return of Wade Barrett. The big Englishman, coming off a strong feud with Randy Orton, seemed on the verge of breaking through into the upper echelon of WWE when he suffered a bad elbow injury earlier this year. I have a feeling his return may be sooner rather than later.
GOING: AW, the former Abraham Washington and president of “All World Promotions,” was fired by WWE for making a tasteless reference during RAW to Kobe Bryant’s alleged rape of a woman in a Colorado hotel room. There was a time when AW may have gotten off with a stern warning for this type of comment.
With former WWE CEO Linda McMahon running to fill the retiring Joe Lieberman’s seat in the Senate – congratulations to Linda, who won her primary this week – the WWE is very sensitive about comments and events on its television shows. Remember, the last time Linda ran for public office in Connecticut, Daniel Bryan was fired for graphically choking ring announcer Justin Roberts with his own tie during the Nexus invasion.