Feeling lukewarm about SummerSlam
We’re just five days away from what’s supposed to be one of the biggest wrestling shows of the year. But it sure doesn’t feel that way,
In my opinion, the card for this Sunday’s SummerSlam is among the weakest in the event’s 23 year history. Far from the second most important event of the year, as has traditionally been the case, this year’s SummerSlam seems thrown together at the last minute without much planning. Perhaps that’s a testament to the lack of long-term direction in WWE booking these days.
Some SummerSlams have been much bigger than others (Hogan vs. Michaels comes to mind,) but, with few exceptions, all of the shows have had a “hook” that have made them stand out from the typical, monthly WWE pay per view. Last year it was the seven-on-seven battle between the WWE and the Nexus. The year before, it was the return of DX. The year before that, it was the first ever “dream match” between John Cena and Batista, and an intense Hell in a Cell bout featuring The Undertaker and Edge.
So what do we have this year? The two top bouts are rematches of recent pay per view bouts, only with less intrigue.
WWE could hype John Cena vs. C.M. Punk as the most important WWE Championship match in history, and throw in Triple-H as referee to make it feel more special. But, in the end, the reality is that it is nearly impossible for this bout to live up to the five-star classic that Punk and Cena put together last month at Money in the Bank. That match had all the ingredients for an epic bout: a hot, hometown crowd for Punk, legitimate intrigue over Punk’s future in WWE, the buzz over Punk’sand amazing workrate.
Ostensibly, the uncertainty over the WWE championship should make this Sunday’s sequel even bigger than the original. But, in truth, the shine is off the apple, and the Punk-Cena angle has become just that—another wrestling angle. For WWE to want to sell the fate of the WWE Championship as something special, it had to have protected the title more than it has over the years. The fact that the company threw together a tournament to crown a new champion just a night after Punk left the company speaks to the flippancy with which the company regarded its most prestigious championship. Now we’re supposed to care about the fact that there are two simultaneous champs?
Beneath the Raw world title match is Randy Orton vs. Christian for the World Heavyweight Championship. These two men have had very good chemistry with each other in recent months, but the fact remains that this will be the fourth consecutive match between Orton and Christian on pay per view. The no DQ stipulation may add some intrigue, but not enough to justify its position as the co-main event of one of the biggest wrestling events of the year. Had the WWE not painted itself in a corner by requiring all Hell in a Cell matches to take place at the Hell in a Cell pay per view in October, then this would have been the ideal opportunity to break out the stipulation, which was once reserved for only the hottest of feuds.
The rest of the SummerSlam card would fit right at home on the typical edition of Raw or Smackdown. Kofi Kingston vs. Alberto Del Rio, John Morrison vs. R-Truth, Daniel Bryan vs. Wade Barrett, Sheamus vs. Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler vs. Alex Riley, Ezekiel Jackson vs. Cody Rhodes, and Beth Phoenix vs. Kelly Kelly. Not a single one of those bouts feels like anything special.
There used to be a time when WWE would make decisions about the matches it wanted to feature at its big events months—if not a year—ahead of time, and book backwards from there. We’ve come a long way since then.
In the WWE’s defense, there had been reports months ago that WWE did have plans for SummerSlam that could have included a John Cena vs. Del Rio world title match, and perhaps an Undertaker-triple-H WrestleMania rematch. And, for certain, circumstances sometimes arise that require bookers to change their plans along the way.
But this year’s SummerSlam just reeks of a company that’s making it up as it goes along. And I’d bet the buy rate reflects that.