Many have said that wrestling is a cyclical business. I disagree, because when you say something is cyclical, the implication is that the exact same things are being repeated—you know, cycled through—over and over and over again.
Things change, of course. There are about a billion examples of this, the most obvious one probably being WWE's (relatively) recent shift to PG programming. Still, it seems inaccurate to say that wrestling (and the WWE specifically) runs in well-defined cycles.
Or, at least, it seemed inaccurate. But here we are, a few days away from SummerSlam, and CM Punk is in a WWE Championship match; specifically, a triple-threat match, a stipulation that stems from Punk feeling disrespected as champion and interfering in the Number 1 Contender's Match between John Cena and Big Show.
At last year's SummerSlam, Punk faced Cena in a "unification" match for the WWE Championship, that was a direct result of Punk feeling disrespected and walking out of the company after Money in the Bank.
The point of all this? Good question. I'd like to say there's some significance to Punk being in an extremely similar situation to the one he was in at this time last year, but without further samples, it's hard to chalk it up to anything other than coincidence, as opposed to the purported cyclical nature of the business.
Still, it's kind of interesting how closely the two situations parallel each other, isn't it? Hopefully it is, or else I just wasted a lot of words boring everyone. Regardless, here's what to look forward to and what not to look forward to at SummerSlam 2012.
What Not To Look Forward To
Kane vs. Daniel Bryan
Come on, there are definitely better uses for Daniel Bryan than this, right?
I'm hesitant to list this as something not to look forward to, because the match probably won't be bad. It very well may be good. And while the two haven't had all that much sustained interaction in the past few weeks (at least before last Friday's Smackdown), they have enough recent history that you could justify throwing the two of them in a match together, even if that might seem a little lazy.
The thing is, this match was seemingly booked by esteemed Raw General Manager AJ Lee as a form of punishment for Bryan. As a face, shouldn't she be past seeking revenge by now? Leaving him at the altar in front of millions of people and causing him to completely freak out in the ring seems like it should be enough. Although honestly, Bryan shares some blame for how that all went down. He should have sensed something was amiss when AJ wore her wrestling boots to the wedding. I don't think that's indicative of someone who is taking the ceremony seriously.
Anyway, you could argue that because AJ (might) be crazy, it makes sense that she would push her vengeance to extreme levels, except that she hasn't done anything crazy lately; if anything, she's just reacted extremely negatively to being called crazy.
I mean, if she was actually mentally unstable, wouldn't she have reacted more negatively to Punk chewing her out at the end of Raw a couple of weeks ago? Maybe hit him with the microphone, tear his shirt off, and then knit some sort of doll out of the scraps of fabric?
Point being, AJ should be done with her Daniel Bryan vendetta by this point, and therefore this match shouldn't actually be happening. And if it's going to happen, it would have been nice if there were a little more of a story behind it. Alas.
WWE Tag Team Champions R-Truth and Kofi Kingston vs. The Prime Time Players
Quick question: When was the last time Darren and Titus got a clean win on Raw or Smackdown, either individually or as a team? Anyone know? Because I definitely don't remember that happening recently.
Of course, that could just be because I have a bad memory. Or it could also be because neither of them ever get to win cleanly or look good. I'm inclined to believe the latter, which brings us to my main issue with this match: the PT Players (I refuse to rip off Dick Vitale and call them the PTPers) haven't been portrayed as formidable challengers, or even deserving challengers, to the tag titles. Makes it a little hard for me to buy into them winning the match, you know?
Still, Darren and Titus have been getting a lot of TV time recently, and that's a promising sign for the future of the tag team division. Even if the challengers aren't being built up particularly well, there's still time being allotted to build them up, and that's at least something.
Also, regardless of your opinion on the firing of Abraham Washington, the PT Players are going to miss him. In addition to playing some kind of role in basically all of their recent wins through his interference, his ringside antics gave them personality and credibility beyond "guys who rhythmically sway together and occasionally bark like dogs." Although now that I think about it, that description actually makes them sound pretty fantastic, so maybe they'll be fine without AW. We shall see.
What To Look Forward To
United States Champion Santino Marella vs. Antonio Cesaro (pre-show)
Hey, a pre-show match that wasn't randomly thrown together at the last second! How can you not love it?
Another reason to be psyched for this match: the potential for Cesaro to win the title and restore some legitimacy to it. Nothing against Santino—some of my best friends also like to attack people with glorified sock puppets—but the U.S. Championship has been portrayed as particularly important during his reign.
Cesaro, on the other hand, has been portrayed as a serious wrestler who you'd have to imagine would take a lot of pride winning in a title, and would probably remind us all about how important it is every time he's on TV. And beyond that, he'd probably even remind us in five languages! I swear, between Cesaro and Damien Sandow, Smackdown is becoming more educational than PBS as of late, and personally, I love it.
Anyway, I'm all for any course of action that causes the U.S. Championship to be taken more seriously, and Cesaro winning would almost certainly accomplish that. Not that he's a lock to beat Santino, but the very possibility that he will is enough to get me excited for their match.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz vs. Rey Mysterio
This match seems to have one glaring strike against it; there's not much of a story to it. Mysterio beat Miz on Smackdown last Friday, and that apparently earned him a shot at the title at SummerSlam, which I'm not sure is the best precedent. By that logic, doesn't Alex Riley deserve a match versus Dolph Ziggler for the Money in the Bank briefcase?
But besides that, it's hard to find problems with this match. It's an (allegedly) healthy Rey Mysterio versus the most credible version of the Miz ever. Given enough time, it should be pretty good. I'm not sure there's that much more to say about this match, considering that, once again, there's no real story behind the match. But hey, good wrestling is good wrestling, so it's hard to complain that much about this.
Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler
This, right here, is good stuff. No further description needed. But what the hey, I'll elaborate anyway.
The storyline leading up to this match has been well-executed, at least in my opinion. It makes sense that Dolph Ziggler, deservedly cocky coming off of his Money in the Bank ladder match victory, would question whether Chris Jericho could hang anymore. It makes sense that this would piss Jericho off and he'd go after Dolph as a result. A pretty simple story, but very effective to this point.
Another thing I like about this feud is there's no clearly defined heel or face. Granted, Ziggler's been kind of a jerk to Chris Jericho, who is (arguably) a legend at this point and shouldn't have to take crap from a guy who hasn't accomplished as much as he has.
But Jericho, it should be remembered, interrupted Ziggler's victory speech after Money in the Bank for reasons that I don't think have been explained yet, and since then has gone out of his way to make life miserable for him. Also worth noting: Ziggler kind of has a point, because seriously, when is the last time Chris Jericho won a truly significant match?
Overall, this contributes to the appeal of the match because unlike most WWE feuds, it's not "good guy" versus "bad guy." It's two guys who both have valid points and legitimate beef with each other, and that's a really good thing.
As for the match quality, it's hard to imagine it being anything worse than good, and that's probably being pessimistic. I'm kind of hoping that Ziggler sells a Codebreaker by flying over the top rope and out of the ring, but that's probably just a pipe dream. For me, at least. I can't imagine too many other people are concerned about whether that happens or not.
WWE Champion CM Punk vs. John Cena vs. Big Show
So a lot of the background on Punk's situation we've already covered. I will say that it's easy to sympathize with Punk on this issue, because he's right: he has had to take a backseat to Cena, Rock, and others throughout his title reign, and that's unfair to him.
His desire for respect also helps to explain much of Punk's behavior over the past year, and gives him a valid reason to start being a "bad" guy again, although to be fair, Punk's acted in basically the same way he's always acted since becoming champion; the only difference is that he's just been a sarcastic jerk to heels instead of faces.
Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how the Cena/Punk interaction in this match plays out, considering the recent issues the two have had. And it'll be even more interesting to see how Punk will react if he doesn't retain, considering his self-worth seems to hinge on being the champion and Best In The World (not the Best In The World At What He Does. There's a difference). He's the most compelling character in WWE right now, and that's enough to get me excited about any match that he's in.
I realize that Big Show and John Cena are in this match as well. If either of them win the title, they'll probably say that winning it means a lot to them, and they probably won't be lying. But I still won't believe them nearly as much as I believe CM Punk when he says that being champion means everything to him; I can't explain why he comes off as more sincere, but he does. Maybe it's because he really is. Who knows?
I think that, more than anything, is what makes this match worth looking forward to; someone whose championship (and the respect he gains as champion) means everything to him having to put it on the line under very difficult circumstances. Take nothing away from Show and Cena, but I think I'd be almost as excited for this match if Punk was putting the title on the line against Tyler Reks and Curt Hawkins, provided those two were portrayed as semi-credible threats.
Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar
I honestly cannot think of anything to say about this match beyond the fact that it's fun to watch Brock Lesnar wrestle.
Not that most professional wrestlers aren't legitimate tough guys—I have to imagine that pretty much all of them are—but no one has the credentials Lesnar does (as a product of his time in UFC, if there was any doubt). Watching him in the ring, it's impossible to forget that he can legitimately hurt his opponent, because hey, he's done it before. Not that other wrestlers don't have that ability, but again, they don't have Lesnar's credentials.
By the way, if you've read this far, remember the whole discussion about whether wrestling is cyclical or not at the beginning of this? Well, after winning his first WWE Championship in the main event of SummerSlam in 2002, after a long hiatus, Brock Lesnar is back in the main event at SummerSlam 2012. Granted, he was in the main event of a bunch of other shows in between those two, but still, that lends some credence to the whole "cyclical" argument, right?
Well, maybe. I'm still not buying it. But I will say that it's nice to see Punk in a similar situation to the one he was in last SummerSlam, because that was interesting to watch. It's nice to see Brock Lesnar back wrestling, because he's an incredibly gifted athlete with a long list of accomplishments. Between the contributions of those two and what looks to be a pretty stacked card, SummerSlam is shaping up to be quite the compelling event.