A typical World Wrestling Entertainment pay-per-view is judged by overall quality of the card. From top to bottom, the quality of each match is important in deciding the success of the event.
This year’s SummerSlam is a bit different. Yes, it will be fondly remembered if every match from the bottom to the top delivers satisfying finishes and is of good-to-great quality. But this year’s summertime spectacular is about two very different matches. Whether or not they deliver will determine if all of the build and hype for the show was worth it.
WWE Champion John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan
The WWE Championship bout featuring John Cena defending against Daniel Bryan is a classic example of the machine’s champion against the people’s champion. Cena is the face of World Wrestling Entertainment and is its long-tenured star. Bryan is the amazingly gifted professional wrestler who has won over the audience and is, suddenly, a major threat to golden boy and his title.
It is a match that needs no long, contrived or convoluted storyline because the fans who will file into the Staples Center in Los Angeles already know who they will cheer for and who they will boo. Those fans either associate with the top babyface in pro wrestling or the underdog champion who never would have had a chance at the most coveted prize in the sport in years past.
They either associate with the entertainer or the wrestler.
The storyline between Cena and Bryan has been the show-closer on every episode of Raw since the night after Money in the Bank and is clearly being positioned as the main event of SummerSlam. Fans are awaiting the match with great anticipation. Failure to deliver would be catastrophic for a match many are hyping as a “Match of the Year” candidate.
But Bryan versus Cena is not the only match on the card that has been hyped, nor is it the only match on the card that will determine the success of SummerSlam.
CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar
Also taking place at the biggest event of the summer will be a clash labeled as “The Best vs. The Beast”, a singles match between CM Punk and Brock Lesnar.
In recent weeks, Punk and Lesnar have shown a level of intensity that has gone unmatched by any other rivalry this year. They have been physical and violent with one another and fans have responded accordingly.
The brawls between the Superstars have been crowd-pleasing affairs that have not diminished with time, nor have they necessarily adhered to the PG rating given to WWE programming. There has been blood, most of which has been by accident, and fans have completely bought into the feud.
The fact that Punk-Lesnar is the product of old school wrestling booking helps. There is no layered back story or drama-filled soap opera tale that originated in a creative meeting. Instead, Punk-Lesnar is about revenge. It is about Punk avenging his betrayal at the hands of Paul Heyman and, in order to get his hands on his former best friend, he must go through the former ECW owner’s clients.
It is a wrestling story as old as time and it has, and will continue to, lead up to what will be nothing less than a fight between two of the biggest stars in the industry on August 18.
SummerSlam will feature a number of well-built matches. WWE’s creative team, for all of its failures in the past, has done an excellent job over the last few months in executing stories that are intriguing. The upcoming pay-per-view extravaganza will be the culmination of many of those stories.
While there will be many who cannot wait to see whether Cody Rhodes or Damien Sandow leaves the “City of Angels” with the Money in the Bank contract or how the situation involving Dolph Ziggler, Big E. Langston and AJ Lee plays out, there are only two matches that will determine whether or not SummerSlam was worth the $50 price tag. Just these two bouts can elevate the show past the likes of Payback or Extreme Rules, both excellent shows not on the level of an event like SummerSlam.
If John Cena versus Daniel Bryan for the WWE title and CM Punk versus Brock Lesnar live up to the hype and the heightened expectations of the WWE fans, then everything else that is of high quality on the show will simply be icing on the cake.
An all-time great cake that will be talked about for years to come.