WWE’s SummerSlam 2005 is now in the books. Who won the matches? More importantly, did the winners get anything more than the “W”? Did the victory make them look stronger than they did going into the event? Did anybody get elevated?
TODAY’S ISSUE: SummerSlam Victories
The status quo has been a big problem in pro wrestling lately. The aging, proven veterans are so desperate to hang onto their top spots, or the creative team has so little faith in the younger talent, that new stars are rarely created. Make no mistake about it, there is only one way to make a new main-eventer: an established star must agree to loose a match or a feud to a wrestler who is “beneath” them on the card.
There’s something more to it, however. The veteran who loses must do so in a convincing manner, in order to “put over” the younger man. The winner doesn’t gain anything from a victory if the veteran appears dominant throughout the contest and then loses on a fluke, or via outside interference. That way, the veteran follows the letter of the booker’s instructions by losing, but not the spirit of those instructions. We all know perception is reality: from the fans’ perspective, the veteran is still the better man, and the younger man just got lucky. That outcome merely ensures the status quo.
Considering the opportunity to elevate wrestlers, let’s look at the results of SummerSlam and see if anybody benefited.
Chris Benoit defeated Orlando Jordan for the United States Championship in a very short squash: This match simply served to set things right, in the sense that Benoit should have NEVER lost to Jordan in any type of match, ever. There was no intention to elevate Jordan here, as this seemed to send him back down the card. I’m not sure Benoit needs to wear a second-tier belt, but he’s a far better choice than Jordan at this point. It’s absurd to imagine that Orlando Jordan was, in theory, the number two singles competitor on SmackDown. Now balance has been brought back to the force. DID NOT ELEVATE ANYONE.
Edge scored a TKO on Matt Hardy via excessive blood loss: This angle was once special and different, but has since deteriorated into another upper-midcard feud. Obviously Matt didn’t get his revenge in this match, but I’ll reserve judgment until we see how this feud plays out. This was most likely the first bout in a series between Edge and Hardy. PENDING MORE STORYLINE DEVELOPMENT.
Rey Mysterio beat Eddie Guererro (yet again!) in a ladder match for custody of Dominick: Eddie is a former world champion, and although Rey has dominated the series for months, it doesn’t seem to be doing anything for Rey’s position on the card. Somehow Rey’s consistent victories over a former heavyweight champ don’t seem as meaningful as they could be. It’s as if Eddie and Rey are just feuding with each other for lack of anything better to do. DID NOT ELEVATE ANYONE.
Kurt Angle murdered Eugene to reclaim his Olympic gold medal: Much like the Benoit/Jordan match, this was all about restoring order to events that should never have gone so wrong in the first place. Now that the medal is back around his neck, Angle can make John Cena look good in a series of matches, regardless of the outcome of that series. Angle is the type of selfless worker who always brings out the very best in his opponents. Hopefully Nick Dinsmore has endured the Eugene angle long enough to have earned a repackaging. DID NOT ELEVATE ANYONE.
Randy Orton slipped by The Undertaker due to interference from Cowboy Bob Orton: Way too little, too late. The only purpose for hyping Undertaker’s WrestleMania undefeated streak in the build up Orton/’Taker I was to make it seem important when Orton beat Undertaker in his 13th WrestleMania match. However, after a highly competitive match, ‘Taker secured the victory and kept his WM streak intact. What good did that do? None. In fact, it was quite counterproductive for the future since ‘Taker is clearly the past of the business, while Orton’s young career could have been built upon being the man to end Undertaker’s streak. I was at least hoping that WWE would set things right at SummerSlam, but Undertaker clearly demonstrated his superiority over Orton throughout the match. The only reason Orton was able to sneak in the back door and escape with a victory was that his hall-of-fame father Cowboy Bob Orton distracted ‘Taker long enough for Randy to hit the RKO for a fluke win. To hell with Mark Calloway for this result, or if it wasn’t his doing, to hell with Vince for burying a young stud in this way just to appease a man who is clearly in the twilight of his career. DID NOT ELEVATE ANYONE – DAMAGED ORTON.
Even the all-powerful, all-knowing Scott Keith agreed with me on Orton/Undertaker II. Here’s a quote from his SummerSlam Smark Rant: “Longer than their Wrestlemania match, but not better by any means. Taker had no interest in making Orton look like anything but a lucky punk and there was just too much laying around and nothingness here. **1/4 Compared to what Taker did for Brock Lesnar in 2002, and even what he did for Orton at Wrestlemania, this was really lacking.”
WrestleMania was the right time and place to put Randy Orton over huge, and they mapped out the correct match in which to do it. The two-match series against Undertaker was the second missed opportunity to turn Orton into a true main-eventer. He beat Benoit for the World Championship at SummerSlam 2004, but was made to look foolish and lucky by HHH immediately thereafter.
John Cena defeated Chris Jericho to successfully defend his bling-bling belt: Jericho was clearly a placeholder for Cena until the feud with Angle could begin, so this program was never really going anywhere. The outcome was a foregone conclusion from the get-go, with Jericho’s vacation being no secret leading up to the ppv. I’m a big Y2J fan, but I’m convinced WWE is never going to book him to the very top of the promotion again. Seems he’s just a plug-in contender whenever they need one. I just hope his vacation doesn’t turn into a permanent situation. As for Cena, I mentioned above that his upcoming program with Angle can really mean something significant for the Doctor of Thuganomics. We’ll see how that plays out. DID NOT ELEVATE ANYONE.
Batista beat JBL to successfully defend his World Heavyweight Championship: As a no-holds barred match, this was the old “wild brawl covers for lacking wrestling skills” format that JBL has loved during his extended push. JBL has been around the title for way too long, and Big Dave seems to be losing heat exponentially. Hopefully this was the end of the Batista/JBL program. This match didn’t do much for either man, since they’re both at the top of the card. DID NOT ELEVATE ANYONE.
Hulk Hogan defied all logic by defeating Shawn Michaels, a man much younger, hungrier, in far better shape, and 10-times as physically gifted and athletically capable. Surprise, surprise: Believe it or not, I felt there was a chance to elevate HBK here, although both men are giants in the business. Michaels could have been the first man to truly one-up Hogan and leave him lying. Creative control in Hogan’s contract prevented such an outcome, and he even wanted to go over Michaels again in a rematch! Where does he get the nerve! Michaels obviously had to drag Hogan through the match, and it would have been more entertaining had HBK squared off against Katie Vick! DID NOT ELEVATE ANYONE.
Now I have no love for Hogan or Michaels, but if there was any sense of realism in a match between these two, it’s clear that Michaels, the superior athlete, would have won. As the younger, better-conditioned, lighter, leaner, quicker man, HBK would outlast, wear out, and run circles around a man like Hogan. The Hulkster throws weak-looking offense, and his knees are made entirely of pudding these days. There’s no way can I buy him surviving everything Shawn hit him with, just to do the same parody of a finish that was tired 15 years ago. Say it with me: three rights to the face, a big boot to the head, and a leg-drop.
Here’s my favorite example of a classic match that had the same flaw: Remember WrestleMania V? Defending WWF Champion “Macho Man” Randy Savage did everything right in his title match against Hogan, from the cat-and-mouse game he played, to his physical dissection of the Hulkster. Every time I watch that match, there’s one moment that ruins the storytelling. Even as Jesse “The Body” Ventura is declaring Hulkamania dead on commentary, Hogan rises from the ashes. The moment that Hulk starts to “Hulk-Up” and no-sell Savage’s awesome offense, the charade all melts away. Hulkamania pumps through his veins, or whatever, and the 10-minute beating he endured becomes meaningless. It is at that very moment that I stop enjoying the match, every time. Of course, this has been the format for 99.8% of all Hogan’s matches since 1986, including the same exact ending I described above, so I shouldn’t be surprised.
It did seem with all the “shoot” comments HBK made during the build to this match, perhaps they were finally going to use Hogan’s mega-stardom to push Michaels that much higher into the stratosphere. A Hogan victory does nothing for anyone, and I was quite pleased with HBK’s comments on Raw the following night.
At this point in the column, I would normally sum up my observations into a conclusion. However, it’s painfully obvious from everything above that at the second biggest show of the year, WWE failed to elevate anyone. Nothing happened that was reminiscent of a special passing-of-the-torch moment like at recent SummerSlam shows. The Rock MADE Brock Lesnar at the 2002 installment, and as I said, Randy Orton won the World Heavyweight Championship at last year’s edition of the mid-August classic.
I find it so hard to believe that “building for the future” is not a high priority for a company like WWE, which operates on such a huge scale. The more time goes by, the more WWE resembles WCW in its dying days. TNA, take me away!
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.
p.s. – Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are weak?