The Anderson Breakdown: Summerslam 2006

Summerslam 2006 –
The Anderson Breakdown

– I can honestly say that going into last night’s show, I have never been more apathetic towards Summerslam in my life. The wrestling world has been running on a treadmill for years now, and week in and week out, it just feels like more of the same. I’m not a negative guy, and I always go into these shows hoping above hope for something to get excited about, but unfortunately, we’ve largely got the exact same guys doing the exact same thing they’ve been doing for nearly a decade.

In the rare case that an angle hasn’t been bludgeoned to death in the previous decade, chances are the WWE has either a) found a way to bludgeon it to death in a manner of months (Cena/Edge) b) put no real thought into it (Batista/Booker), or c) wrap it around an angle so tastless that you feel bad about yourself for being a wrestling fan (Rey/Chavo).

Anway, this review — or Breakdown if you will — will be a bit of a departure from the last few that I’ve done. I watched Summerslam at my local Sports Bar last night, and I haven’t yet gotten a chance to obtain a physical copy of the show. Thus, barring some bizarre focus of memory, I won’t be able to provide much in the way of play-by-play. I’ll still provide brief analysis and the ever-popular star ratings, but you can pretty much bet that any match summary is being cleverly paraphrased from The Torch.

A quick note on star ratings. I’ve noticed this growing trend over the years where intranet reviewers don’t like to use the stars. I don’t know if they’re trying to be unique, or trying to avoid coming off as a Scott Keith ripoff (Keith was far from the first person to use the system), but lets face it: star ratings are the accepted way to rate matches. A lengthy match recap without a star rating honestly tells the reader nothing. Same holds true for reviewers who use their own specialized individual system. It’s just self-defeating and confusing to the reader. Nobody walks around saying, “Did you see Joe vs. Kobashi? It was a definite 94th percentile match.” Or, “Man, I just rewatched the Wrestlemania X ladder match, and I must say, TO THIS DAY, it still stands up as a solid A-.”

There’s no need to deviate from a system that’s been established for nearly 20 years now. You don’t see teachers giving students **3/4 on their spelling test, and it’s odd to see all these bizarre rating systems that are popping up for wrestling matches.

I say this only because I’m not referencing anyone who writes for us here at Inside Pulse, but rather some of the other reviewers popping up in wrestling land.

I will say though that Joel Geraghty, who just started doing TNA reviews recently for Inside Pulse (Chrononaut Chronicles – TNA Hardcore War 2006) is a great reviewer, but I’d love to see the guy give star ratings. Do it Joel! You know you want to! It’s what all the cool reviewers are doing. Talk about an oxymoron, right? Cool reviewers?

I can’t believe I just used a line as tired as “talk about an oxymoron?” It’s one of those lines that I overhear people saying at the airport, and I immediately want to turn them in to airport security. The worst though is when you go to Hawaii and inevitably have to hear approximately six billions tools be given a flowery necklace and chime in as loudly as possible, “Huh huh, I just got laiiiiiiiidddddddd.” Like it’s the most unique, novel, revolutionary pun to have ever been made.

Can you tell I don’t feel like reviewing Summerslam?

ON WITH THE SHOW!


I missed the opening video package and introductions, but I managed to find a seat on the patio before the first match started. The place was packed, and I can usually make a fairly accurate guess on the buyrate based on the attendance at my local establishment. I’m thinking Summerslam is going to end up doing about 390,000 buys this year, with a disastrous number of those being domestic (under 200,000).


Rey Mysterio vs. Chavo Guerrero

Way to start the evening off on a downer, right? JBL opened up the match by saying that Rey’s exploitation of Eddie’s name was a total disgrace. Coming from one of Eddie’s best friends, the comment definitely sounded like it was from the heart. Then again, JBL is the same guy who used Eddie’s mannerisms/moves to get cheap heel heat at Wrestlemania.

For whatever reason, Northeast crowds (plus Chicago) tend to be entirely more intelligent than crowds elsewhere in the country. I don’t know why that is, and it certainly doesn’t hold true for just wrestling (see: Red Sox, White Sox, Eagles fans), but it’s certainly obvious. These crowds always add a lot to shows, and I think the fact that Summerslam was in Boston was one of the few things that sounded interesting to me.

Fortunately, the Boston crowd was kind enough to completely bury this entire fiasco. They booed Chavo Guerrero. They booed Rey Mysterio. And when Vickie Guerrero came running down to ringside, they were direct enough to nearly boo her out of the building as well. Rey Mysterio spent half the match fighting with his mask (which kept slipping off), but when he tried desperately to get the crowd into the match with the Three Amigos, the building was literally shaking with boos.

If you would have told me a couple of years ago that, come 2006, Eddie Guerrero would be the central focus of Smackdown, I wouldn’t have been terribly surprised. But had you told me that Eddie would still be the central focus of Smackdown a year after he had passed away, I would have been shocked. I don’t why I would be surprised, given the WWE’s impeccable track record of a lack of sensitivity, but what can you do.

The match went about 10:00, and given the horrible circumstance (a beloved dead man’s widow, brother, and best friend fighting in his name), it never had much of a chance to succeed.

In the end, Rey climbed to the top rope, Vicki accidentally knocked him down when attempting to talk him out of it, and Chavo got the pin with a brainbuster and frogsplash.

Vickie Guerrero dramatically screamed for a cease fire between the two, the cameras cut away, and thankfully, this mess was put to an end for the evening. Unfortunately, the crowd hated it so much that Vince is probably going to push the angle for another six months.

*1/2


Next, we got a fun backstage segment with King Booker, Sharmell, Edge, and Lita. The highlight of the segment was Edge casually saying that the “Yankees are bitch slapping the Red Sox out of the playoff race.” Normally, sports-related cheap heat isn’t my favorite thing (as the millions of non-local fans watching on TV have no reason to be upset), but in this case, it was great. Edge told Booker that after he retains his title tonight, and after Booker loses his to Batista, he’s welcome to come to RAW to be his “royal servant.”


Sabu vs. The Big Show

Even though I fully realize that this isn’t the old ECW, I still think it’s rather self-defeating to have an ECW World Title match on Summerslam. It just doesn’t fit the eXtReMe vibe that the WWE has been aiming for with the new brand. Certainly doesn’t help that the ECW Title Match is practically jerking the curtain here tonight either. Then again, I guess the goofball in the Hulkamania t-shirt loudly chanting “ECW!” on camera does a good enough job on his own destroying whatever cred ECW has with the casual fans.

The match is exactly what you’d expect from these two on a normal ECW on Sci-Fi show. The Show tossed Sabu around like a ragdoll. Some tables were broken. Some spots were just butchered beyond comprehension. And though Summerslam is traditionally the second biggest PPV of the year for the WWE, there certainly weren’t any PPV-caliber spots in this match. In the end, the Big Show won clean after chokeslamming Sabu through a table.

Though the crowd only popped for the table spots, they were still six milions times more into this match than they were for the opener.

**


Next, we had a quick backstage segment with new Diva Search winner Layla. I was ordering food at the time and wasn’t paying that much attention, but from what I gather, it appears as if the other Divas welcomed Layla to the WWE by gang-raping her in the shower. I apologize to any readers who have been legitimately gang-raped by the WWE Divas while trying to bathe, but I just don’t have any other way of accurately describing this strange scene.


Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Orton

If you remember correctly, it was one year ago today that I was sitting in this very same chair bitching up a storm over Hogan’s clean victory over Shawn Michaels at last year’s Summerslam. Not only has that match not held up at all, despite some giving it as much as ****1/2, but twelve months later, I’m still convinced that Hogan was in the wrong for not putting Michaels over.

In the case of Orton vs. Hogan, my feelings are much different. In fact, my feelings are pretty much non-existent. I just don’t care. The angle leading up this has been a total mess. The match has nearly been canceled twice. Hogan got a horrifyingly tepid reaction on RAW last week. And I know that the second Hogan pins Orton, he’s gone until Wrestlemania.

Hooray.

I can die happy though knowing that, for once, Hulk Hogan was placed below Ric Flair on a WWE card.

Though I conceded earlier that Northeast crowds are extremely intelligent, I just cannot understand how no WWE crowd yet has been willing to boo Hulk Hogan. He got a thunderous pop in Boston last night, and the crowd was alive for the entire match, but I just don’t understand it. Nostalgia is all fine and well, but this isn’t exactly the mid-to-late 80’s Hulk Hogan that set America on fire. Hell, the guy can barely move anymore. And you’ve got to think that, especially after the success of Hogan Knows Best, people are starting to catch on to the fact that Hogan is largely unwilling to give back to the industry that has provided him with the life he now enjoys.

At 10:00 in, Randy Orton hit the RKO, Hogan hulked up, and the rest is history. Hogan went over as clean as can be, and in all likelihood, won’t be returning the favor anytime soon.

I don’t think the match added much of anything in terms of buyrate, but the live crowd ate it up, it was placed well on the card, and it didn’t go too long, so I guess I can’t be that upset.

1/2*


Mick Foley vs. Ric Flair

I know there’s a lot of Mick Foley fans out there, and I find his mic-work as entertaining as the next guy, but let’s face it: Foley has dropped the ball big-time leading up this match. Yeah, it’s fun to see him out there dancing with Melina, cutting one-liners, and giving the double thumbs up “Yeaaaah,” but he’s done nothing, literally nothing, on the mic to sell himself as the heel he’s supposed to be in this match.

Conversely, Ric Flair has been cutting some of the absolute greatest promos of his WWE career in the last few weeks. Though he hasn’t always been on top of the card, and though he doesn’t get nearly the push of others, an argument could be made that Ric Flair has been the MVP of RAW in the last year or so. His matches with Triple H were incredible (the cage match in particular might have been my favorite match of the last year), his speciality matches have blown other workers out of the water (the ladder match with Edge plus his ECW appearance), and on the mic, nobody comes close to Flair.

Going into this match, I was fully expecting Flair to find a way to carry an overweight, undermotivated Mick Foley to a near-classic. Well, as it turns out, my prediction was fairly accurate overall. Though Mick Foley did have his fair share of good spots, Ric Flair definitely held this thing together and turned it up an extra notch or two.

Even though I don’t particularly enjoy seeing Ric Flair taking barbed wire bats to the head and crashing into a pool of thumb tacks, the man was just crazy here tonight. Out of his mind awesome. Flair-flopping and rolling in thumbtacks just to psych out Mick Foley awesome.

Flair’s barbed wire chops were especially awesome, and by the time this match was over, both guys were just total bloody messes. The match was stopped and restarted several times, which was also fun. First, the referee called for the bell after the trainer decided Mick Foley couldn’t continue. Flair bitched out the referee and told him that only Foley could quit.

Then Melina tried to throw in the towel for Foley, and Flair was having NONE of that either.

In classic Flair fashion, Flair was just screaming at Melina, all “I’ll kill you too, you f*cking bitch!”

Finally, Flair grabbed a barbed wire baseball bat and threatened to hit Melina. Foley immediately grabbed the microphone and quit before any harm could be down to her.

The match was 13:00, but absolutely flew by. I would have been perfectly happy to see this guy 25:00, but I don’t know if these guys would have been able to sustain this kind of physical abuse for that much longer.

Furthermore, in the last six months, Flair has without question proven a point: Though Mick Foley has had some great moments and great matches, he’ll never compare to Flair. Flair has proven that anybody, even a 60 year old man, can do the things that Mick Foley is most famous for. In the past several months, Ric Flair has fallen off ladders. He’s taken bumps into thumb tacks. He’s traded blows with barbed wire baseball bats. He’s gone through tables. And he’s been involved with the very best “hardcore” matches of 2006. And you better believe that if these two eventually settle their feud in a Hell in a Cell match, Ric Flair is crazy enough to throw himself off the top of the f*cking cage just to prove a point.

When it came time for Mick Foley to step up to the plate though and challenge Ric Flair in his type of match, 2/3 falls, Foley just couldn’t hang. He might have been able to 10 years ago — might — but for a guy as sure of his legendary status as Foley is, he certainly hasn’t stepped up to the plate yet.

Great match, but given the time constraints, I don’t know if I’d quite declare a “classic.” It was damn good though.

***3/4


Booker T vs. BATISTA

I missed the reference myself, but apparantly JBL opened up the match by talking about Global Wrestling and mentioning Booker T’s start in the Ebony Experience. Awesome historical reference by JBL, and it should be noted that since JBL took over on color, Smackdown is the first show that I’ve ever gone out of my way to record just for the commentary alone. He seriously is that great.

Sadly, this match was the polar opposite of JBL’s commentary.

I think its clear that — for reasons unknown — Batista has somehow lost almost all of his heat since returning from injury. I don’t watch enough Smackdown to know whether’s he’s been poorly booked, or he’s lost some of his charisma, or he just doesn’t have anyone worthwhile to feud with, but it’s obvious that something is missing.

This match was your typical 10:00 Smackdown match, coupled with a crowd-deflating finish that saw Sharmell play the WM8 Harvey Wippleman role, interfering in the match and causing a massively anticlimatic DQ finish. Unfortunately, there was no Papa Shango stumbling down to the ring a full two minutes after missing his cue.

If you didn’t see this match, I can confidently state that you missed absolutely nothing. There used to be a time when a World Title match, or an in-ring appearance by someone like Batista, was special enough on its own to bring up the value of a big show, but with the WWE giving away free title matches on a weekly basis, and worse yet having their top stars wrestle for free every week, there’s just very little differentiating the free product from the PPV product anymore — and that’s a big problem.

Remember even a few years back when guys like Steve Austin, the Rock, and The Undertaker would only actually wrestle on RAW once or twice a month? I know some changes had to be made during the Monday Night Wars in order to draw ratings, but those days are over. Dead. Gone. It’s 2006, and it just doesn’t make an ounce of freakin’ sense to have John Cena, Batista, DX, Rey Mysterio, and all the other top names wrestlling long matches on free TV every single week. It’s insane. Not only does it give viewers no incentive to order PPV’s, but it also effectively destroys the freshness of seeing these guys wrestle.

Anyway, a nothing match, in every sense of the word.

**1/2


Next, we join Triple H and Shawn Michaels backstage. Apparantly, Vince McMahon hired out the services of Umaga tonight because he is the toughest monster in wrestling. Well, DX was backstage telling another wrestler (who we couldn’t see) what Vince McMahon said. This wrestler was very angry, as he believes himself to be the toughest monster in wrestling.


DX vs. Shane & Vince McMahon

I know you probably think that this review has been hijcked by Negative Nancy herself, but I feel as if I would be cheating you, the fine reader, out of my true thoughts if I sugar-coated how lifeless this entire DX-McMahon thing has been. It’s now been dragging on, in one form or another, for almost a year. A year. And still, absolutely nobody has any interest in who actually wins or loses.

DX has lost a lot of steam in the last few weeks, but during the first month or two of their reunion, they were the hottest thing going in wrestling. The DX vehicle could have unquestionably been used to elevate several young wrestlers, either by having them join DX, or feud with them. The Spirit Squad doesn’t count because it was always about DX/Vince, and never about the squad themselves.

Instead of using DX to build new talent though, Vince has insisted in going down the “evil owner” route — a road that has been burnt out and dead for 7 years now.

Thus, with DX already well past the peak of their utility, nobody has benefited from any of this. Honestly, I think it’s even hurt DX themselves. HHH has lost his heelish edge, and Michaels has just come off as a total nerd.

Everybody loses.

Again I say — Hooray!

Anyway, DX got a reaction from the Boston crowd that could generously be referred to as “lukewarm.” Triple H just looked floored. In an awkward moment, it took Triple H three attempts on the mic to get the crowd to cheer. Even then, it only worked because he had to embarrassingly say “Boston” to actually reel in the cheap pop.

When it was time for the McMahons to be introduced, they were too terrified of DX to actually wrestle them. Instead, they dispatched the entire Spirit Squad to do their dirty work for them. When DX quickly took out the entire Squad on their own though, Vince was kind enough to send out a gaggle of Inferior Brand SuPerStaRs! to have a shot at it.

Ken Kennedy (…), William Regal (…), Fit Finlay (…), and the Big Show (… …. … KENNEDY!!!!!!!), all beat on Triple H, leaving him a broken mess by the ringside steps.

With Triple H knocked out at ringside, Vince & Shane finally came in and went to work on Michaels in the ring. In an admittedly great little sequence, Vince & Shane hit Shawn Michaels with Demolition’s finisher (Ross: “They think it’s the 80’s! They think they’re Demolition!”), followed by the Hart Foundation’s finisher, FOLLOWED by the Road Warrior’s Doomsday Device finisher. It totally brought a smile to my face.

Triple H came back to life though, and DX eventually regained the advantage. Right as Triple H was getting ready to pedigree Vince though, UuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuMAGAAAA came out and hit him with the Samoan Spike.

As Umaga was going to work on DX, Kane’s pyro came out of nowhere and he stormed towards the ring. As it turns out, Kane was the “monster” that DX was riling up earlier in the evening.

Though it wasn’t anything amazingly climatic, that is a great example of simple, logical booking. Vince McMahon hired a monster to help him fight DX, so DX riled up a monster of their own. It makes perfect sense, it results in a payoff for the fans, and it adds an extra layer of depth to the match. Nice work.

Finally, at the 15:00 point, Shane went for a Van-Terminator on HHH, but Michaels caught him in mid-air with the superkick. Not quite Shelton Benjamin level there, but a pretty cool visual nonetheless. Michaels tagged Vince for good measure, HHH hit the pedigree, and DX gets the pin.

Much like every match involving DX, The McMahons, and the Spirit Squad, it was entertaining enough and there were some interesting spots, but underneath it all is a stale angle that has just run its course.

***1/4


John Cena vs. Edge

I think I’m probably a different type of wrestling fan than many on the internet. For me to really get into a wrestling match, the backstory has to — at least somehwat — excite me. You could sit me down with some King of J Indies Super Cup DVD and show me a bunch of 30 minute matches with guys beating the crap out of each other in front of 200 people and locking on hundreds of wacky submissions, and even though I’ll appreciate it for what it is, I just won’t feel much in regards to the match.

That emotional connection between what’s going on in the ring and what’s going on in my mind and heart is what turned me on to wrestling almost 20 years ago today.

I still remember it like it was yesterday. A little five year old kid sitting on the living room floor with my brother watching Hulk Hogan, and Ricky Steamboat, and Ric Flair, and Randy Savage, and Lex Luger. I lived and died by these epic struggles of good vs. evil, and though I later learned the true nature of the sport, I was still able to suspend my disbelief and truly get drawn into what was happening in the ring.

It’s been argued that, in wrestling, the basic paradigm of good vs. evil, black vs. white, is antiquated. That it no longer holds the value that it once did. That society has just become too complicated to boil down to a simple notion of good vs. evil.

I could not disagree more. Look no further than TNA’s X-Division, or the WWE as a whole right now, for proof of this. For wrestling to truly build a connection with its audience, you can’t just throw two main event guys out there with little-to-no story and expect to build a company that way. You need backstory, built over time, that will actually resonate with the audience. Furthermore, you need to give the audience a storyline reason to care. You need someone they want to see win, and even more importantly, you truly need to build wrestlers that fans want to see lose.

Though the internet doesn’t look fondly on the time period featuring Austin vs. The Undertaker’s Ministry, overall, it was the highest rated segment in RAW history. People connected with it because it was pure good vs. pure evil. I don’t think there was a single wrestling fan who didn’t get a chill when Steve Austin saved Stephanie McMahon from the Undertaker.

All the great angles of the last 10 years have fit a similar mold. Triple H vs. Mick Foley. Sting vs. Hulk Hogan. The Rock vs. HHH. The Hart Foundation vs. America.

I look at past Summerslam main events, and I feel like this is where the WWE has truly lost their way. In return for all the overexposure, quickie angles, loosely-defined heels and babyfaces, sloppy storylines with no continuity, and massive expansions, the WWE has somehow lost its heart. It seems like the one-liners, extremism, eye candy, and sight gags have become the focus of the show, as opposed to the actual emotional connection between the audience and the product.

I got up and left during the main event of Summerslam last night. I just grabbed my keys and left. I was confident that the match itself would probably be well-worked and somewhat entertaining, but I honestly did not care who won. I just didn’t. Aside from Flair/Foley, I didn’t care who won any of the matches.

I’ve since watched the match on YouTube for the benefit of this review — and it was a good match — but a month from now, I guarantee that I won’t remember a single thing about it.

The WWE’s two main problems right now are over exposure and piss-poor creative. Both are sucking the life — if not the ratings — right out of the company, yet both are fixable with a reasonable amount of effort.

The old phrase goes, “If everything is special, nothing is special.” For the most part, this perfectly sums up my feelings on Cena vs. Edge. Without exaggeration, we’ve seen the main event of last night’s Summerslam at least 20 times in the last year. We’ve seen it on RAW. We’ve seen it on Saturday Night’s Main Event. We’ve seen it on PPV. No deep thought given to storyline, just “here’s your main event.” Furthermore, Edge’s injury aside, we’ve undoubtedly seen both men wrestle on free TV for over 50 straight weeks.

You can’t have an electric, exciting main event with that level of overexposure. It’s nearly impossible.

It’s almost depressing how little the WWE seems to look at their own history. If they would simply study the past of their very own business, they’d realize what needs to be done.

When did Steve Austin reach his peak popularity? When he was injured and barely ever wrestled.

When did Hulk Hogan make the company the most money? When he was kept out of the ring on TV except for Saturday Night’s Main Event and PPV’s.

How many times a month did Shawn Michaels wrestle on free television when he was at his most hated, and drawing the most money? One, maybe two tops.

Foley, the Undertaker, Triple H, even Kurt Angle.

If you give them away every week in the ring on free television, there’s absolutely nothing special about seeing them wrestle big matches. It’s so obvious, but there is something gravely wrong if I don’t even want to watch Shawn Michaels or Kurt Angle wrestle anymore. I’m sick of both of them, and they’re among the best in the business.

Furthermore, the WWE need only look at their recent history to know just how profitable and important it could be to invest a little more time into creative.

Austin vs. Rock was perfectly built for nearly four months leading up to Wrestlemania, and culminated in the most profitable show in company history.

The WWE couldn’t have done a better job building Batista vs. HHH. They listened to the fans, built the angle slowly, and in the end, they made massive amounts of money on what was a tremendous buyrate.
Mick Foley vs. HHH was perfectly done, and although they dropped the ball on the payoff, Kurt Angle vs. HHH was handled perfectly storyline wise as well.

Hell, a throwaway feud between Mickie James and Trish Stratus captivated the WWE audience, including the hard to please internet fans, for months, simply because it was logically booked and built slowly.

There seems to be this idiot philosphy though in the WWE these days in which angles are shoddily built from January-April to set up Wrestlemania, and the rest of the year is based around self-masturbation, nostalgia, endless repeats, and desperately attempting to gain publicity by offending anyone possible.

I love wrestling, and more than anything else in the world, I just desperately wants 1) storylines to exist and make sense, and 2) big matches to feel special.

Provide me with those two things, and I’ll be a happy camper. I don’t need five-star technical showcases or dangerous stunts, but rather just a simple reason to care.

Oh yeah, Edge won after hitting Cena with brass knuckles.

***1/2


Closing Thoughts:

A show that, aside from Flair/Foley, was in every way possible just there. I spoke my peace above, but if you’re the type of person who just wants to sit in front of the couch for three hours and turn your brain off, you might enjoy this year’s Summerslam. If you’re like me though, and desperately wants some kind of emotional resonance, you’re looking in the wrong place.

In fact, it’s a cliche thing to say, but UFC is more in line with traditional, well-booked pro wrestling than the WWE is these days. Entirely more so. Perhaps that’s why the WWE is losing so many domestic buys to UFC. UFC is everything I’d love the WWE to be right now. Great build. Compelling personalities. And that incredible big-match electricity that the WWE has become incapable of producing outside of Wrestlemania.

I remember how excited I used to be on the weekend of a WWE PPV, even as recently as 2004. I’d make predictions with friends, we’d get hyped up beyond belief, and none of us could wait for the show to begin.

That’s how we feel about UFC now.

Sunday Night PPV parties have become Saturday Night PPV parties.

And if I were Vince McMahon, I’d be very, very worried about that.

Ken Anderson
KenAnderson242@aol.com

P.S. The Wrestling Blog is still down, but hopefully my good buddy Daniels is on the case, and hopefully he can get things back in order.

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