Monday, August 19, 2013

He Made It: WWE SummerSlam 2013 Review

BRYAN WINS! (even if it was fleeting, it was AWESOME)
Photo Credit: WWE.com
In the TH style... strongly recommend you get this replay on your local pay-per-view provider.

Highlights:
  • Rob van Dam ate a spear from Roman Reigns, getting the disqualification victory but leaving without the United States Championship over Dean Ambrose.
  • Thanks to a flame retardant blanket, the Wyatt Family was able to interfere, allowing Bray Wyatt to defeat Kane with the Shell Shock (not Ryback's finisher, Alex Shelley's).
  • Cody Rhodes slipped into a nice Cross Rhodes setup to get some revenge on Damien Sandow.
  • Alberto del Rio defeated Christian with the cross armbreaker despite the referee not noticing that Christian might have had a three count trying to escape from said move.
  • Natalya Neidhart got the submission victory over Brie Bella with the Sharpshooter.
  • Thanks to so much interference and schmozzery that Vince Russo stood up and took notice, Brock Lesnar defeated CM Punk with the F5.
  • Dolph Ziggler slipped out of a Big Ending to give Big E. Langston the Zig Zag en route to securing a win for him and Kaitlyn over his former heavy and AJ Lee.
  • In a hard-fought, back-and-forth contest, Daniel Bryan pinned John Cena, clean as a whistle, with the Busaiku Knee.
  • After a protracted celebration, Triple H Pedigreed Bryan, allowing Randy Orton to gain the pin and to leave the Staples Center with the WWE Championship.

General Observation:
  • On the panel tonight, Josh Mathews, Booker T, a hobo who won a fan contest, and Vickie Guerrero. Oh wait, wasn't Shawn Michaels supposed to be... OH HOLY SHIT, THAT BEARD.
  • Paul Heyman came on in what usually would have been a throwaway video to announce that Brock Lesnar/CM Punk would now be no disqualification, raising the question of whether Lesnar has ever been in a match where a DQ was in play since returning.
  • Tony Dawson was interviewing dudes from Northern Ireland outside on the preshow, and one of them had a Manchester United kit on. I may be new to footy, but NOPE NO MUFC ON MY WATCH BUDDY.
  • Talking about the Natalya Neidhart/Brie Bella match, Booker T remarked that Neidhart could "take down some of the men." Hmmm....
  • I saw you, woman in the Maple Leafs sweater with the "Marry me, Arda Ocal" sign. I'd say something snarky, but man, if alternative wrestling media dudes can get marriage proposals like that, there's hope for me getting a sign on RAW yet!
  • I didn't hate it, but the Mexican Standoff between the rest of the Shield and Team HOSS outside the ring after Rob van Dam's first attempt at a Five Star Frogsplash was easier to call than the Cubs melting down in the 2003 NLCS after Steve Bartman... too soon?
  • A FUCKING COMMERCIAL? IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MATCH? And we didn't come back to find that Teddy Long inexplicably found some power backstage to make it a tag match? I know it was the preshow, but oh, fuck you in the ear canal on that call.
  • The Miz breaking out the tuxedo for SummerSlam? I guess WWE wanted us to believe this really was WrestleMania of the Summer.
  • A wild Fandango appears, what will you do?
  • I really dug the grindhouse spin they put on the show intro this year.
  • As the Wyatt Family came down to the ring, I could have sworn I heard Michael Cole call them "Heartburn and Rowan."
  • I will never not be agog at how high those flames jump in the air on back bumps in Inferno/Ring of Fire matches. Never.
  • I almost talked myself into believing that one of the firefighters outside the ring was a new Wyatt Family recruit waiting to interfere. Almost.
  • Legit laugh-out-loud moment when Rowan tried to spray the fire extinguisher on the flame bars.
  • I didn't get the psychology of Kane dropping Wyatt with three chokeslams, unless he was ticked that Harper and Rowan didn't get the flameproof mat down right away. Then again, maybe the story was Bray Wyatt was so unbelievably good at getting under people's skins that in his first match he had his opponent forgoing the win for punishment.
  • After the match, the Wyatt acolytes "decapitated" Kane with the ring steps in front of Wyatt rocking on his chair. Actually lighting up an oil lantern was a great touch given the type of match afterwards as they dragged Kane to the back.
  • Did anyone else notice the irony of Michaels saying he was creeped out by the Wyatt Family when he looked like he could have been inducted into said cult with no questions asked?
  • Cody Rhodes, where'd your moustache go?
  • Out of the Cubito Aequet, Damien Sandow locked Rhodes in some elevated Sharpshooter-looking hold that looked pretty slick. I hope that sticks around in his offense.
  • MUSCLE BUSTER! Cody Rhodes not fucking around with the offense tonight.
  • I completely and utterly did not see that Cross Rhodes coming from anywhere. Announcers can say that the RKO or Brogue Kick come out of nowhere all they want, but if you can show it to me seamlessly like Rhodes, then you can sell me on its unpredictability of application.
  • Alberto del Rio came out and oh shit, two shiners and a cut above his right eye? I joked that a la Shawn Michaels and the British Bulldog in 1995, he and Wade Barrett got into a little bit of extracurricular activity in Syracuse. As it turned out, I wasn't all that far off.
  • Man, del Rio loves to find ways to work over the arm, doesn't he? He keylocked Christian's arm in the ropes, double-stomped it, kicked it, rammed the shoulder into the corner... if he were a Pokemon, his ability would be "Limb Target."
  • del Rio's bump where he misses a dropkick in the ropes to go right outside has become just about as common as his step up enzugiri as a spot, hasn't it?
  • Christian headed up to the corner for his normal leaping sunset flip until del Rio just murked him with a lungblower, so crisply and smoothly too. Let these two wrestle on every pay-per-view from now on, please.
  • Selling on defense is great and all, but Christian showed why he's still one of the best in the ring by selling his own spear on offense, segueing right into del Rio's finishing cross armbreaker. Magic stuff.
  • WWE is so notorious anymore for trolling the audience by letting moments linger. After del Rio's win, he got on the stick, and I think everyone was either waiting for a Sandow cash-in or for Rey Mysterio to come back because of the ethnic-baiting nature of del Rio's promo. Nothing happened. Maybe it was foreshadowing or setting up for the end of the night.
  • Miz interviewed Maria Menounos backstage, when all of a sudden, another wild Fandango appearance! Only this time, Miz and Menounos upstaged them by dancing in front of them. Maybe the WWE's best troll of them all was having Miz host SummerSlam just to set up a program between him and Fandango.
  • I dunno if I was in the majority or amongst the contrarians, but I totally dug the heel women's retro chic. Eva Marie especially looked like she was plucked right out of the '40s, and given the whole grindhouse theme of the night, I thought it funny that they were the only ones who remotely tried to go with it.
  • I tried to give the crowd a pass most of the night, but Neidhart and Bella were actually busting their asses tonight and had a decent to good match. Chanting self-indulgent bullshit during women's matches are why women's matches don't get time, asshats.
  • And y'know what? Nikki Bella and Eva Marie pulling the ring skirt from under Neidhart's feet was a goddamn brilliant and savvy move. Sara del Rey is teaching these women right.
  • YOSHI TATSU MADE PAY-PER-VIEW! I REPEAT, YOSHI TATSU MADE PAY-PER-VIEW! (So what if he was just getting craft services?)
  • I have to admit, I was a bit bummed that after Ryback poured the gazpacho all over the caterer that he didn't go Full Kirby on the rest of the buffet line. I THOUGHT YOU WERE BIG HUNGRY, RYBACK!
  • Jerry Lawler mentioned that Ryback was not being a star, and I think that's the point where we reached critical mass of self-awareness, folks.
  • Brock Lesnar wore his (obviously Jimmy John's sponsored) skull cap to the ring in Los Angeles? If I were a dirt sheet writer, I would totally make up a story that he was paying tribute to Compton rap legend Eazy-E.
  • CM Punk is not a small man, no matter how little he looks next to John Cena let alone Lesnar. So yeah, Lesnar going all Brock Rage and rag-dolling him around the ring? Super fucking impressive.
  • Punk picked up the steps, and then Brock just punched them away. Is there any way we can do a Kickstarter to make Lesnar sign a new contract where he tours regularly? Please?
  • Punk's desire to maim Heyman was perhaps my favorite strain of the match because it allowed for so much deus to get all machina'd up in this joint. Him attacking Heyman the first time also led to Lesnar not only tossing him clear across the Spanish announce table, but the English one too. Luv u, Bork.
  • Lesnar then took the broken top of the English table, put it across Punk's back, and Goomba stomped it, before smiling up at the crowd and taunting. I gotta rein it in, because I don't want this column to become the Best and Best of Bork Laser, Magic Hayseed Leviathan Here for TH's Amusement.
  • And of course, Lesnar reminded us all that he was indeed the bad guy by beckoning Punk to get up with "C'mon, baby girl." I needed to be knocked down that peg lest I fall too much in mark-love with the man.
  • Brock Lesnar headlock? No problem, Punk just bit the dude's ear to release the hold, taking a page from a WWE Hall of Famer's book!
  • The finishing five-to-ten minutes featured an insane sequence where both guys made hay with the chair, Paul Heyman made two separate saves, they each kicked out of each other's finishers, locked each other in various mixed martial arts-influenced submissions, and Punk finding every which way but pulling a fucking Jimmy John's sub out of Lesnar's ear to get out of the F5 before falling to the old WWE video game standard of "beat the shit out of your opponent before giving him your finisher" ending. If that match didn't do what every Attitude Era main event match set out to do, only better, then there's no redemption in that clusterfuck-laden style.
  • A fan actually volunteered to get splashed by Mark Henry to sit in the ringside area, and he got the cooldown match between Match of the Year A and Match of the Year B? LOLOLOL and so on.
  • Then again, when Dolph Ziggler, Kaitlyn, Big E Langston, and AJ Lee are anchoring your cooldown match, maybe your card is loaded.
  • Kaitlyn jumped on top of Langston to make the save, and the two had an intergender hoss staredown. Sure, the gaze-off was meant to relay fear in Kaitlyn's eyes, but I saw it as a continuation of Booker's ruminating on Neidhart's ability to toss men around. Hmm...
  • Fandango interrupted Miz one more time, and Miz answered with a physical assault. Yup, they're gonna feud.
  • Triple H got the self-indulgent big event theme song? *PUKE*
  • Looking at Cena standing in his corner before the main event made me stand in awe of how big their TitanTron actually was for the event. They went all out, didn't they?
  • "You can't wrestle" chants early in the match. I'd say "fuck this crowd," but that sentiment was a huge part of Daniel Bryan's talking agenda during the build.
  • Cena's quad strength to HOSS out of that surfboard attempt just had to have been off the charts.
  • Cena suplexing Bryan off the ring steps to the floor? Way to approach Full Ziggler that close to the beginning of the match, guys.
  • LIGAAAAAH BOMBU!!!! (Alternate entry, Dave Batista just punched through his hat... his Guardians of the Galaxy character wears a hat, right?)
  • Bryan locked in the STF, and I was pretty sure that was the best-applied STF anyone had done in WWE in what, 12 years? Okay, okay, no more cracks about Cena's "different" execution on moves, because I do enjoy him in the ring.
  • As he proved on the first German suplex of his attempted trio, Daniel Bryan watches joshi.
  • Bryan hit a superplex and then hung on for the spider? I could almost see these two with their respective Bella next to them watching Punk/Lesnar and going "Challenge accepted."
  • Not only did Cena get mad air on his top rope Rocker Dropper, but Bryan wasn't even close to doubled over, and he still hit the move clean. I know I kid about Cena's poor "work rate" (furious wanking motions), but man, even at 36, the man has some athletic cred and moves to pull out of his jorts.
  • INOKI SLAPS! YES! YES! YES!
  • Just when I didn't think I could love this match any more than I did, Daniel Fucking Bryan busted out the Busaiku Knee and pinned John Cena clean. You know who else has pinned John Cena clean since WrestleMania XXVII? The Rock. That's who. Not even CM Punk. Don't give me Money in the Bank 2011. That pin came directly off John Laurinaitis distracting Cena with his weaksauce attempt at interference. Daniel Bryan and the Rock are in the same fraternity, and no one else. No one else. Dwell on that for a second, please. It'll make reading the next bullet point sting a lot less.
  • So, I guess Triple H Pedigreeing Bryan for Randy Orton to pick the bones was why they lingered on del Rio for so long after his match, right? Ah fuck it, I can't hate on the end to this pay-per-view. Bryan not only pinned Cena clean, he got new monsters to play with.

Match of the Night: John Cena (c) vs. Daniel Bryan, WWE Championship Match - I've long maintained that John Cena and Daniel Bryan could very well have the best possible WWE pay-per-view main event of the current roster as situated. The build to this match was very much Cena in so many roundabout words that he wasn't an entertainer, while Bryan directly attacked Cena's bona fides as a wrestler. However, in my heart of hearts, I know and have always known that Cena is an entertainer who is one of the best wrestlers, and Bryan is a grappler's grappler who is pretty snazzy as a personality himself. If any two guys could carry the "event" match mantel better than Cena and CM Punk could, these two would be the combination.

Each wrestler slipped into the mold that was not attributed to them at various points in the match. Usually, Cena deviates from his "Five Moves of Doom" formula later in the match when he's exhausted options, but he busted out a powerbomb early on as a slick counter. And yeah, while he didn't actually drop Bryan on his head in that corner descension counter that looked curiously like a Ganso Bomb, the maneuvering in the corner was very puroresu in dialect. Cena had to be direct with addressing his accusations because they were directly laid at his doorstep.

Bryan, however, was able to be more subtle in addressing his concerns, because Cena didn't directly lay them at his feet in the promo build. But Bryan proved he could be every bit the franchise for WWE as Cena is now. He hit all the beats, assumed some of the Super Cena oeuvre, something that might have gone unnoticed because Bryan didn't totally no-sell everything thrown at him. But Bryan doesn't want to be Cena. He wants to be the first Daniel Bryan, so he just countered everything Cena threw at him. He showed why he's the best wrestler.

I heard rumblings on social media at the time that all the beats were setting up Cena to come back, but the beauty in this match was that it was always set up for Bryan to win. He lured Cena into his spider's lair, and they traded false finishes and counters like they were rolling around the canvas at the Hammerstein Ballroom at Final Battle. Daniel Bryan's match was wrestled in the main event of SummerSlam, so of course, it was going to be won with him pulling a heretofore unused move out of his bag of tricks, in this case, the second finisher to be borrowed from KENTA and the only one worth adopting for an American audience. If this match didn't prove that Bryan had at least a share of WWE's heart, nothing even could. A perfect cap for a stellar event.

Overall Thoughts: I do not want to invalidate anyone's experience watching this show. I know so many people who saw the ending coming were still furious with it because they didn't let Daniel Bryan's big moment breathe. Everyone has different ways to watch and absorb professional wrestling. Far be it from me to tell anyone that only one monolithic way to enjoy the pro graps exists, ever.

However, I am over the moon with how SummerSlam ended. Thoroughly satisfied even. Yes, I would have loved it better if Triple H had skedaddled and if Bryan was able to spend one night as WWE Champion before the shit hit the fan. However, look at where he was right before he ate the Pedigree. Only one other wrestler in the last two years has ever been able to say he pinned John Cena cleanly - The Rock. When the calendar reads 2013, and you stand in rarefied air with the motherfucking Rock, you know they think the world of you.

That ending wasn't about doing Bryan dirty; it was about giving Trips and especially Randy Orton clean slates. They know that Orton needs to be a bad guy to be effective in his natural state. Unless they gave him major character tweaks, he wasn't working as a babyface. The RKO is over, not Orton. NXT, Episode 1 until now was about harnessing the power of Daniel Bryan, cult hero, and turning it into something special. Now that Bryan is megastar supreme, the next eight months are going to be about casting his mold to stand beside Cena, Rock, Steve Austin, and the rest of WWE's motley band of star performers and cults of personality.

I think Daniel Bryan's coronation and establishment as enemy of the state defining a pay-per-view that saw Brock Lesnar and CM Punk have the best Attitude Era match over a decade after it ended, that had more than a few moments teasing that the gender barrier was in real danger, that saw the Wyatt Family take their first baby steps towards world domination, that had Alberto del Rio leave himself dangling for Rey Mysterio to have one last run, and that put another coat of shellac on their next super good guy project in Cody Rhodes says more about the company than anything else right now. WWE is in a really good place creatively, and for as much buzz as they've had around them in the past, I'm not sure things ever came together for them at once than they are now since maybe 1996.

And hey, if Daniel Bryan is the new "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, everyone wins, right? The guy we used to watch in the armories is now the next goddamn Steve Austin. He made it. Again, that fact might be very hard to see since the one standing tall at pay-per-view's end was Randy Orton. I know you guys may be angry, and I don't think everyone should watch the same as me. However, for the first time in at least five years, WWE is not the sole domain of John Cena, and that's a reason to think this show was tremendous in its quality and importance.

5 comments:

  1. I can't say I loved the ending angle but it's clear that judgement needs to be truly reserved until we see what's next and that's not what happens tonight on Raw, but what happens over the course of the rest of the year.
    The challenge that WWE has right now is how do they keep Daniel Bryan's momentum going when logically he shouldn't truly get that chance to be this close to the title again until Wrestlemania. Right now the path is so clear for Bryan to win the Royal Rumble, go into Mania against Orton (who has demolished opponents left and right since Summerslam) and beat him right in the middle of the ring in the main event of the 30th edition of the company's flagship PPV.
    But there's a lot of space to fill until January when that storyline can really move into place. How do you keep it going? How do you keep fans interested in Daniel Bryan without giving that epic moment of triumph until the biggest show of the year?
    Do you give Bryan, Triple H as an opponent? Maybe, but that would need a few months to build. Survivor Series maybe. But at the same time a storyline of Trips as a power mad asshole corporate douche (bringing him into contact with Vince in a storyline I still can't even begin to wrap my brain around yet) almost demand he go over Bryan.
    It's all speculation at this point but to me this is the central question. How do we get from this point to the ultimate victory at Wrestlemania? That's the best story you can tell but I'll be damned if I know how to fill these next months up.
    That being said, given the way creative has been going lately (as strange as it is to say it) I actually have an odd confidence that they can somehow pull it off.

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  2. Looking back on it, Trips using King of Kings was a neat bit of foreshadowing. They turned a forgotten secondary theme into the new No Chance.

    I'm tried of nearly every plot movement in WWE being a SHOCKING TWIST, and I am not looking forward to the McMahons steamrolling everything for the next 6 months, but I really do feel what they did tonight was well done. The building feel-good wholesome moments for Bryan's win (especially when he thanked his parents) made waiting for Orton that much more tense and the crash when he won that much worse. Again, not really looking forward to the results of tonight, but the process was great.

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  3. I think that the WWE has learned from their mistakes with CM Punk in 2011. No doubt that Punk was the hottest thing going that summer however his epic title run was just not as interesting as him chasing the champion.


    Here, the WWE has set up an interesting chase mainly because Orton & HHH are such natural dickhead heels and Bryan is their best babyface. It practically writes itself and I'm hoping that this becomes their greatest storyline in the last 5 years.

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  4. Let me be another voice echoing praise: The finish for the night was even better, for me, than if Bryan had been allowed to just be WWE champion. The story of a chase is always better than the story of sustained success, and Bryan now has the best opponents possible; Evil Vince McMahon as the mastermind of it all, Evil HHH as his in-ring stand-in when the situation calls for it, Evil Randy Orton as the final challenge. This is the perfect feud for fans who are sick of HHH, and even those who are sick of Orton; there is no one in the world we would rather see Bryan get his hands on, especially with this latest act of betrayal. HHH has become 1998 Vince, only with actual Vince over his shoulder to ratchet up the vileness and, honestly, the fun.

    Maybe Bryan's moment didn't get to "breathe" enough for some, but I felt it was perfect in its way. He knocked Cena the hell out, and beat him. He got to celebrate with the championship and thank his parents. He got confetti and pyro. And then he had it all torn away from him. We had our moment of triumph, and we have our hook for the next ride. I haven't seen a better PPV finish in ages.

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  5. In the end history will judge what happened at the end of the match based on what story is told over the next eight months.

    The reason we all have such a bad taste in our mouths for the end of Punk/Cena Summerslam 2011 was that we got a "so past his prime you can't even see his prime anymore" Kevin Nash, an extremely convoluted "you sent the text to yourself" story that went nowhere and ending what made Punk get over (no longer being voice of the voiceless but rather just being an obnoxious dick toward the McMahons) and that whole "no confidence" angle in Trips.

    This has the potential to be a 1,000 times better because Orton is still very much in his prime, he and Bryan fighting feels fresh and Triple H as a heel hasn't been done in seven or so years, giving his character an intriguing reboot.

    It's all going to depend on what kind of story they're telling. If history repeats itself like 2011 we have a problem (even though we did get an extremely good wrestlemania the next year) but if they play this right as one commenter said above it could absolutely be the best storyline in years.

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