"Can we just watch Breaking Bad now? I mean honestly, how much longer are Lesnar and this outdated fraud going to roll around with each other? I got to be up at 5am tomorrow, and to tell you the truth I'm much more invested in the on-goings of the fake meth business than watching a pseudo UFC match between a "has been fighter" and a "has been wrestler"."
~My friend, Sean
While I don't agree with the above statement, other than the fact that Breaking Bad is the best show on television, I have a feeling that my friend speaks the sentiments of a lot of you out there.
For all the buildup to a match that was supposed to be an epic, over the top, knock-down, drag-em-out street fight laced with a potent mix of pure (fake) hatred, an unpredictable environment thanks to Paul Heyman and the pure, unadulterated arousal of seeing two of the WWE's most well-known legends in the ring at the same time...
I can see how it ranged from a semi to tremendous "letdown" for a lot of you. The match came off as a pretty basic affair for the most part. What each lacked in technical athleticism they made up for in sheer, sometimes sloppy brutality and strength.
When the match seemed to be rising in excitement there was always something that brought the momentum and energy to a screeching halt. And just when you thought the match would take the form of a story and involve all the outside factors that helped build it up, Triple H tapped out and everything the WWE worked so hard to build, promote and slow play was all over in the blink of an eye.
True, the match was hardly anywhere close to a classic. True, SummerSlam, as a whole, bordered the line between exciting and underwhelming for the majority of the night, never fully crossing into one extreme. True, the WWE championship match featured more Big Show when it should have featured more Punk and Cena. True, the musical act was a hypnotic blend of pure crap, unintentional comedy and moments where I thought I accidentally hit the SAP button...
But the one thing that is absolutely, 100 percent false is saying that SummerSlam was a lackluster, terrible event.
What are we really watching and looking for when we watch wrestling pay-per-views anyway?
Are we looking to be entertained? Excited about seeing matches we've seen built up? The pure art form that is professional wrestling played out (on its highest stage) right in front of our eyes? Watching athletes who we all respect, admire, applaud and boo accordingly dazzle us with perfectly timed choreography, skill and passion?
Do we watch (as older adults) to remember those feelings that swept through us at a younger age when we'd wake up Sunday morning and eagerly anticipate the night's big event? To remember what it was like to sit by friends, family and loved ones and collectively watch in awe as these "larger than life" superheroes disengaged our senses and made us believe what we know to be fake?
When those young kids, like myself, who couldn't afford the events used to sit idly by a dizzying array of colorful swirls and sounds as they listened to there favorite superstars do battle. Listening with their eyes closed, their imagination filling in the picture and dreaming of someday having the privilege and financial means of watching these epic events each month...
Did you Enjoy Summerslam?
Do we watch to remember these meaningful memories?
Or are we looking to critique, judge, dissect and analyze everything that could've, would've, should've been, but will never meet our sometimes impossible, delusional and flamboyant expectations?
While it's only natural to grow more cynical, critical, judgmental and opinionated as we all grow older, it's also true that we gain a very valuable life skill that allows us to place current events in the context of history...perspective.
We can all agree that the "Attitude Era," TV-14, blood, swears, middle fingers and beer cans extravaganza most of us grew up with offered the best platform for professional wrestling. It felt more real (perhaps because we were all younger), provided gritty wrestling and allowed the product to follow only one rule instead of abide by the "far too many" it does in its current state.
That one rule? That there weren't any rules, and that's what made wrestling explode with creativity, passion, high energy and allowed an unpredictable environment that is all but gone from today's version of the WWE.
Is it fair to judge last nights event against some of the epic SummerSlams and pay-per-views we've had the privilege of enjoying almost 15 years ago? How about ones during the even more over-the-top "Ruthless Aggression Era"? Or is it more logical and appropriate to compare it to the events we've seen in the past two years when the WWE changed its marketing agenda, target demographic, its television rating and the overall product?
Favorite Match of the Night
I learned a very important lesson while watching SummerSlam with some friends of mine last night. I learned that watching wrestling is far more entertaining and enjoyable watching with others who are interested rather than watching alone.
That collective unity of emotions. The ebbs and flows of different people responding to, rooting for and against different things and people. The sound of a collective gasp when something surprising happens and the random hilarious comments that fly out of the lips of those around you. The match commentary that far outweighs the actual color commentary provided by the WWE, and the feeling of being on a journey while those around you participate, watch and enjoy the same thing you're focused on.
This is what makes wrestling pay-per-views enjoyable. Memorable. Exciting.
The in-ring action may not live up to the expectations that surround this tiny bubble of hypocrisy and condemning thoughts known as the online wrestling community, but wrestling is to be digested as given (no matter the state) and taken for what it is... scripted, athletic fighting.
So if you're watching in a dark room by yourself, after mommy and daddy paid for the event, then shut your mouth and enjoy your privilege...
But if you paid the horrendously out-of touch fee of $60 that the WWE finds fit to charge, and you felt genuinely ripped off, then by all means voice your right to free speech...
...Just have some perspective, or invite five friends over (assuming you have five friends), have them each chip in $10 and watch your enjoyment level soar through the roof.
Grading the Event
Chris Jericho Vs. Dolph Ziggler
Good call by the WWE to have this match kick off the night. It was a great, high energy match that really allowed the fans to get appropriately warmed up for the night.
I know I'll be in the minority when I say it wasn't my favorite match of the night, but when your friend (who hasn't watched wrestling in ages) keeps repeating "Ziggler looks like a clone of Billy Gunn...Where's his lover, what's his name?" and continues to rattle off every wrestler in the past 15 years until he hilariously and randomly stumbles upon Chuck Palumbo (to the uproar of laughter and applause from those around) and then proceeds to spike his PBR in victory, you tend to be a bit distracted.
Some will argue that Ziggler losing is a one-way ticket to the cemetery for all the momentum he's gained. I would argue that as long as he holds that shiny blue briefcase he's a major player, and losing to a legend like Chris Jericho isn't the worst thing...
And since when have wins and losses meant anything in the WWE? It's not like he lost to Alex Riley or...oh, wait...
Side Note: So when Jericho returns to the WWE, presumably when Ziggler is world champion, he should get an automatic title shot, right? If Jericho wins it would be the perfect way to transition the title from Sheamus to Jericho without having Jericho beat Sheamus. Setting up a match for them later down the road at a prestigious time...
Sometimes you have to follow the bouncing ball for things to make sense.
Daniel Bryan Vs. Kane
I thoroughly enjoyed this match. I'm not sure if it was the actual in-ring wrestling, or the fact that Daniel Bryan now possesses the power to make me giggle like a 13-year-old girl.
I don't know if it's the beard, the faces he makes, the yelling matches with fans or a weird, but powerful, combination of all of the above, but I hope Daniel Bryan becomes a huge superstar one day.
How someone can go from as boring as a cardboard box to absolutely one of the most enjoyable characters in the WWE is beyond me. All I know is that I've been officially transformed into a huge fan.
The only part of the match that I even remotely remember is the ending. A quick, surprising small package pin is the only logical way (at this point in his career) that Bryan was beating Kane.
I also remember feeling bad for the stage production team after Kane went psycho in the backstage area after the loss.
My Friend: If I saw Kane knocking down all that equipment I'd be (expletive deleted)! Not only do I have to set up SummerSlam, but I gotta turnaround and set up Raw in less than 24 hours...have some respect! Oh P.S. I appreciate the journalistic integrity of Josh Matthews, but there's a difference between being professional and dumb.
Rey Mysterio Vs. The Miz (Intercontinental Title)
Besides the fact that I'm automatically downgrading this match an entire letter grade because of Rey Mysterio's ridiculous Batman get-up, I thought this match was one of the least enjoyable matches of the night.
I'm not saying the match was bad, it was pretty good, but my lack of interest in Rey Mysterio and the whole intercontinental title scene in general prevented this match from being epic. The match pace, reversals, counters and ending were good enough for me. Especially when you had to know they were saving room for the WWE championship match and the impending Lesnar/Triple H War.
The Miz winning is a good thing for the WWE... It's also a good thing for the WWE if they take Rey's SummerSlam costume and burn it while firing whoever designed it. If Mysterio was the one who designed it, then adios Rey!
Sheamus Vs. Alberto Del Rio (World Heavyweight Title)
For the 100th time in the past month, we've had the privilege of watching this match over and over and over and over and over again...
Sure it's been teased differently, presented to us differently, but that doesn't mean it's not the same thing in the end. Sheamus winning was an absolute no-brainer, so if you take out the driving force of any great match, unpredictability, and base this match off of the wrestling alone...
You get a B...
But if you add the fact that Sheamus not only hit Del Rio with a shoe (honestly, who throws a shoe?) and then won even though Del Rio's foot was clearly on the rope, you get a significantly better storyline going forward...
That is, of course, if you still have interest in this feud...no? OK, moving on then...
Air Whatever Vs. The Prime Time "Firing A.W. is an Unfunny Joke" Players
I don't really have much to say about this match in general other than a long, incoherent rant about how firing A.W. is one of the most hypocritical, lame things the WWE has done in awhile, but no one wants to hear my random thoughts on that topic so we'll quickly move on to the juice of this year's SummerSlam.
CM Punk Vs. John Cena Vs. The Big Show (WWE Championship)
This was personally my favorite match because anytime you get Punk and Cena competing against each other in the same ring I tend to get a giant Big Show in my pants.
The match definitely had its massive flaws though. Here are a couple off the top of my head:
1. If you tap out, at anytime during a match, you should be at least eliminated from the remainder of a match, correct? Not according to AJ...
2. A little less Big Show and a lot more Punk and Cena would have gone a long way to getting the crowd to frenzy level. This match was more or less a prologue to Night of Champions, I guess.
We did do Punk/Cena is Punk's hometown of Chicago last year, so I guess it only makes sense to do Punk/Cena this year in Cena's hometown of Boston. I was on the fence about going to this show, but if things work out the way I foresee, I'll be buying a $25 ticket at the box office shortly. I'll never forgive myself for missing Punk Vs. Cena when it happens 30 miles down the road from me.
3. Just like in baseball, if the tie goes to the runner, the tie should go to the champion...just saying.
4. I thought this match was going to be an epic undertaking! Instead I got 13 minutes of Big Show dominating while Punk and Cena flew in and out of the ring randomly until one took advantage and pinned said giant.
Even with all that, I still enjoyed this match the most of the night. It was a flawed, but fun and fast match.
Brock Lesnar Vs. Triple H
We already talked about this match at the beginning of this article so no need to dwell too much on it again. Whether you'd like to admit it or not, the match told a wonderful, but slow, story that featured Triple H's "injured arm," Lesnar's bout with diverticulitis and the ongoing struggle that we've seen Triple H encounter against superior opponents in the Undertaker and Lesnar.
The animosity between the two never seemed to boil over into "sledgehammer" territory, but the overall match was good, however, ultimately forgettable.
That didn't stop me and my friends from marking out hardcore at the sight of an F-5, a pedigree, talking about Lesnar's illness and yelling, cheering, booing and debating Lesnar's future throughout the entire thing.
I swear to god, if you don't already, watch wrestling with a group of friends...It makes the difference. Keep on drinking the haterade in the meantime! Stay thirsty my friends...
Overall SummerSlam Grade: C+
My Overall Entertainment of SummerSlam: A "freaking" Plus!