Voice Of Reason 8.26.02: I Loved Summerslam


12 hours after Summerslam ended, and I’m still thinking about how much I enjoyed it. Nearly 20 years after seeing my first wrestling match, I wondered lately if my recent jaded attitude towards wrestling was due to burnout or, as many internet writers believe, the product just wasn’t up to snuff. After last night’s Summerslam, it is definitely the latter theory, and my fandom in wrestling was reaffirmed.

Summerslam was exactly what I was looking for from a WWE PPV in 2002. It had fresh matchups between good in-ring wrestlers. It had a main event with the top star in the business and a hot up and comer. It emphasized strong in-ring work and internal match psychology. It actually had an undercard that WWE booked more than 2 days before. It had it all.

The Internet Wrestling Community has a bad reputation for being overly critical when the WWE product is subpar. While that might be fair in some instances, the IWC should also get credit for recognizing when the product is strong. A quick glance around the major websites will show that there is nearly universal praise for Summerslam last night. We are easy to please, yet so rarely gratified.

A quick look through all the matches last night shows that all were compelling matches, with a great backstory and endings that showed some future thinking and created interest for Raw and Smackdown this week.

It was a bit shocking to me to see Kurt Angle wrestle in an opening match, especially after being in the WWE Title match at Summerslam last year. However, on an eight match card for which any match could have headlined a house show in 2002, I don’t think being a “curtain jerker” is as much of an insult as it could have been. And judging by the exciting match he had with Rey Mysterio (“where’d the Jr. go” – my dad), Angle is the man. I am a little saddened that Rey jobbed in his first PPV match, thereby burying the cruiserweight division a bit, but the match still ruled, and I expect the cruiserweight push to continue on Smackdown with Heyman at the helm.

I don’t know if anyone expected Chris Jericho to tap clean to the figure four last night, but it was also a nice surprise. I cant remember the last time I saw Flair win with the figure four, and the one victory last night did a lot to restore credibility both to Flair, who has jobbed a ton since losing ownership of Raw, and to the figure four move itself. Obviously WWE sees value in keeping Flair around for a few more months, and the victory last night will give him some juice to help make more stars.

Eddie Guerrero and Edge had a nice little match as well, focusing in on the psychology of Edge’s shoulder injury. In particular, the frog splash to the shoulder by Guerrero was very well done, and the entire match built well to the finish. I liked Edge going over, because he has done such a great job in rising to the top of the heap on Smackdown, and a win here continues his momentum without really killing Guerrero.

The tag team title match had more juice and prestige last night than any WWE team title match since Edge and Christian broke up. By having two experienced and over tag teams wrestle a traditional yet still exciting tag team match, WWE did a lot to restore credibility to the tag titles. And boy was Booker T over with the live crowd.

The Chris Benoit vs. Rob Van Dam IC Title match wasn’t as flashy as I expected, but I still enjoyed the psychology of the match immensely. RVD has a bad rap for not being able to have a credible match between his highspots, but in the ring with a technician like Benoit, it seems as if RVD can hold his own. The end was a little unexpected and out of no where, but I didn’t have a big problem with it.

In seeing how Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero are being booked, it almost seems as if WWE sees them as upper-mid card guys who won’t be main eventing, so they will be used to help other guys get better and get to the next level. Not to say I don’t want those guys main eventing or think they can, but it seems as if they are being positioned to help make guys like Edge and RVD into stars by honing their ring work, rather than rising to the very top themselves. We’ll see about that though.

Undertaker vs. Test was what everyone expected. Although he did take out all three Un-Americans in the end, the Undertaker was selling for Test throughout the match and was in peril for at least half. Hey, it’s a positive column, that’s where I’ll leave it.

I don’t know what I expected from Shawn Michaels last night, but I do know that he well exceeded my expectations. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire half hour match, from the lengthy beatdown in the first half of the match, building to the huge highspots and then the unexpected win. Shawn Michaels lowered expectations when he promised to “fight” HHH, but once again bumped like a madman and pulled out some incredible highspots to seal his legacy as an all time great. I just hope we see him again sometime soon. Kudos also to Triple H for his effort, and his doing the right thing in jobbing in the match. For once I had absolutely no problem with his getting his heat back after the match either. The booking was perfect.

The main event was a bit boring in the ring for the first half, but the crowd reactions to Rock and Brock as the match progressed made the whole thing into an event. Much like Survivor Series ’96, in which my fellow MSG fans turned Sid face in a match against Shawn Michaels, the Nassau crowd turned Brock Lesnar face, at least for one night. I’m not sure what Vince will do on Raw with Brock, although much like other faux face-turns, I could see him reaffirming Brock’s heel status at MSG tonight with a dastardly deed.

Summerslam, from top to bottom, was a compelling card of wrestling matches, with tons of clean finishes, no wacky screwjobs, great in-ring storytelling, no ridiculous swerves that made no sense and a sense that there was really a new season of change in WWE.

It’s easy to write a negative column bashing WWE every week for the countless mistakes and creative missteps the company has made over the past 2 years. But I’m proud that the Internet has come together, at least for one day, to praise WWE when sometime great happens.

And Summerslam 2002 was great.

Jonathan Widro is the owner and founder of Inside Pulse. Over a decade ago he burst onto the scene with a pro-WCW reporting style that earned him the nickname WCWidro. Check him out on Twitter for mostly inane non sequiturs