A Modest Response on the Way too Long Review of Summerslam

On 9/25 Charlie Reneke broke out one of his patented, Scott Keith style Way too Long reviews, this one for Summerslam 2009. While I’m usually a big fan of these (and far more kindly disposed to many of Charlie’s opinions than many of his other readers seem to be), I felt that he was way off with some of his arguments and assumptions in this review. If you know me, you know I love nothing more than a good debate about wrestling, so here we go. Charlie’s points will be in italics and I’ll reply right after. I’m going to pick at the Star Ratings a bit too, though that’s more because of the assumptions within the commentary than the ratings themselves.

On a letter about instant replay:

Send it to Jim Ross too. Flood his blog with it. Not that I expect him to do anything about it. He’ll just respond with his usual snotty sarcasm and then go back to hocking his barbeque sauce. But if anyone is ripe for a good old fashioned e-mail flooding, it’s him. The big fat jerk. I don’t know why he doesn’t just retire already. He sounds bored out there every night and shows thinly-concealed contempt for many of his fans on his blog. He doesn’t strike me as a happy guy. Maybe he should look into Zoloft or something.
You’re not Grut. His column is built on this stuff. Yours is a review. Just stop. Ross has been working really hard to get the atrocious Todd Grisham up to snuff and Todd continually drags his work, which he, by all accounts takes amazing pride in. He’s one of the top guys to take the time to answer fans questions on a regular basis and many of them are repetitive and ignorant. You and I are sarcastic to our comparatively minor audiences and pet peeves with what we see as ignorance on message boards. Ross has a far bigger audience, knows far more than us, and sees far more issues. Sarcasm doesn’t mean he’s unhappy or has contempt for his audience; it’s just the natural reaction to silly, ignorant, or repetitive questions.

On Ziggler vs. Rey:

****1/4 Dolph Ziggler has arrived. Right off the bat these guys top anything that Night of Champions had to offer. I actually immediately re-watched this match to make sure that I wasn’t off my rocker with this score. After getting thrown into a rage by the overuse of instant replays only minutes into the match, I figured I made a mistake. I didn’t. These guys cut a really good pace and set themselves out to make a contender out of Ziggler. Mission accomplished.

Just because a match accomplished its mission doesn’t mean it’s automatically excellent. This was, in fact, a very good match, but the story was light and everything in the match wasn’t in service of it. Ziggler got a bit lost twice (if memory serves, I don’t want to say several and make it seem worse than it was), but was covered for by Ray, who was astoundingly good at structuring and pacing the match. You’re not totally off your rocker with the score; I have it at *** ½ and about a half star either way is fine. Since I don’t do quarter stars, that means we’re within hailing distance, but I wanted to explain a bit where the discrepancy between you and other raters is. Ziggler is in the process of arriving, but I’m very curious to see what he and Morrison, both relatively inexperienced, can do without a more weathered hand leading them.

On MVP vs. Jack Swagger:

* It seems like this was a case of two guys panicking when the fans didn’t react to them, so they rushed into the opening of the match with high spots. That rarely works. I feel bad for both guys that they were put on this card because neither was over enough to justify a match on the show in front of the notoriously fickle LA crowd. It was a lost cause right out of the starting gate. And I’m seeing Jack Swagger’s future looking less bright every time he wrestles. Of course, at this point in his career he should be getting matched up with guys who can help him improve in the ring, and MVP is not that guy.

Judging Swagger against MVP is a ridiculous waste of time. MVP drags everyone down to his level and that is bland, indy-style wrestling without any logic behind the moves. With one guy doing whatever, whenever he wants, the other guy can never have a really good match or stand out. MVP began elevating things so Swagger had no choice but to follow suit or the match would have been a squash (there are other ways around this, notably one big move then a heat segment, but the timing in that has to be great to wake a crowd that’s already lost). MVP needed to do things to get over the lifestyle difference that was the focus of the match, so he should have been brawling while Swagger was attempting to mat wrestle. Swagger did his part; MVP did not. Swagger, meanwhile, has looked great against Evan Bourne, meaning if he has a guy willing to sell for him to make him look good, then he will. No heel is going to look good if a face won’t feed their heat segments with good selling and well-timed comebacks.

On JeriShow vs. Cryme Tyme:

**1/4 Not totally bad, but not good either. They couldn’t get a good beat going, likely due in part to the horrible LA crowd.

Think about the card and the placement. This was straight, acceptable tag formula so as to not take away from the “star-building” moment for Ted Dibiase and Cody Rhodes.

On Khali:

And the WWE has finally wised up and started using him as a babyface who doesn’t have to carry his end of things. He’s the closest thing they’ve had to Andre the Giant since… well since Andre the Giant. But they need to use him like it. Have him just be the guy who shows up to tag with the plucky babyface. Don’t treat him like a serious threat to anyone. Make him a special attraction. And for god’s sake, someone teach him how to throw a punch.

Hell yes, couldn’t agree more. Just wanted to highlight this one.

On Legacy vs. DX:

***1/4 This was the match that everyone was hyping endlessly? For real? Don’t get me wrong, good match and everything. But all the problems Rhodes & DiBiase had before were still here. These guys have no creativity as a team and don’t wrestle like heels. And they STILL rely too heavily on punching and kicking. If not for all that, this could have been a really good match. The structure of having the young guys countering every attempt at a finish by DX was the perfect hook for the story. Sadly, Rhodes and especially DiBiase failed to use that structure in an exciting way.

I’ll break the Legacy stuff into two sections since it’s where my main issues lie. You’re letting your expectations take you out of the match. I only have it at *** ½, but regardless, it’s better than you’re making it sound. They didn’t wrestle like heels for two reasons. First, they won’t be heels long, so the idea is to get them over as heels for who they wrestle more than what they do. It doesn’t work great, but it’s the bookers’ fault, not theirs. Next, Triple H doesn’t know how to make heels stars. In the ring, all he ever does is eat up heels. When he’s wrestling faces, however, he lets them get more in and look good. It’s annoying, but from Jeff Hardy to Mick Foley to Steve Austin to Shawn Michaels, he only has good to great matches with faces. Against heels, even extremely talented one like Chris Jericho, his matches are a huge step down, which is explains why when Jericho is face, his H matches are so good and when he’s a heel, they’re so bad. Triple H and Shawn Michaels very rarely give anyone the rub of nearly beating them. They’re two of the guys in history least prone to jobbing. All of that buzz you heard about this match was because of that- no one believed D-X would lose going in and they effectively sold it as a possibility. The finish worked entirely because everyone expected D-X to go over strong and instead they barely got away based on a lucky Superkick. Does that make the match necessarily better? No, but it surely makes the Legacy look better.

Next is a problem I have with a ton of Keith’s stuff that seems to have fallen into your writing. The complaint is about too much punching and kicking in wrestling making for lesser workers and it’s flat out absurd. Some of the best wrestlers ever relied primarily on punching and kicking. What fancy moves was Ted Dibiase (hell, most of the revered Mid-South workers) using? How about Terry Funk in his epic 1989 series with Ric Flair? Steve Austin during his great 2000-2001 run? The Undertaker in his Edge feud? All of these phenomenal, all time great workers, relied primarily on punching and kicking with a few signature spots built around it. It’s the storytelling and psychology around the punching that makes the match. For a whole ton on building a match, try this. Cody Rhodes has learned to tell a story around his punches; Dibiase is still working on it. We’ll get to why in a moment.

“It’s been over a year since Legacy was teamed together and I actually stunned that the WWE doesn’t recognize that as a team, they don’t work. They have no chemistry together and have failed every time they have a chance to look good when the spotlight is on them. What’s really incredible is that the rumors surrounding the plans for Ted DiBiase have so much steam behind them. He’s expected to receive a pretty decent sized push in the near future as a singles threat. I’m hoping that the dirt sheets are dead wrong on this one, and I have (possibly misguided) faith that the WWE is smart enough to know that DiBiase is nowhere near ready for the kind of push he’s rumored to get. People believe that because he’s in the upcoming made-for-DVD Marine 2 movie that the WWE will want him in the lime-light. Give them more credit then that. Cody Rhodes actually seems like he’s shaken most of the green off. DiBiase still looks confused and out of place in the ring night in and night out. He’s young and has a lot of potential, but so far his run in the WWE has been a disaster. He’s got no move-set and stumbles through matches. It’s clear that he’s not in a position to carry a match by himself. Just look at his singles matches on Raw. They’re tough to watch. He’s bad at promos, worse in the ring, not creative, not flashy, and really not ready to even be in the big leagues yet. I’m not saying he should be released, only that they should consider sending him back to Florida for a while, maybe a year, and get someone to work with him on having a bit of style in the ring. Right now, he’s perhaps the most generic wrestler on the roster, and being generic in wrestling is a death sentence for your career.”

Okay, Dibiase will likely be better off as a face than a heel. First, he’d likely be feuding with Randy Orton. Orton has shown he’s terrible with established faces, but makes the underdog look good (an almost Jeff Jarrett like quality), even with underdogs as weak as Primo Colon. Let Dibiase be a face, work on his timing for the comeback and a few spots to pop the crowd. So long as he isn’t given the title, there’s nothing wrong with that. A lot of Dibiase looking lost now is that he’s being asked to be a heel without being heelish in preparation for his face run. That’s a recipe for failure, absolutely, and explains why he looks so lost. Of course, and I know this is an outlier, not the expected outcome, for a guy with this level of raw talent, being bland now isn’t a death sentence- just look at the Rock.

On Christian vs. Regal:

On a more happy note, the fans are clearly buying Christian less and less. Thank god. The crowd tonight is dogshit, but I’ve been watching ECW and have noticed that Christian is progressively less over. I’m sure his marks will blame the booking, but the fact is he’s a terrible professional wrestler and most people are catching on to it. He’s a one-trick pony.

Wow does that ever need more explanation. He’s an excellent professional wrestler, but he isn’t a draw as the top guy. He’s the guy who works with the guy who makes money. Now he’s being asked to be the money man and it isn’t working out, as expected. What he does do better than pretty much anyone, is make his opponents look like solid gold. Zach Ryder looked amazing in a match Christian put together. He got Dreamer’s best work in over a decade, maybe ever, and the very best out of Henry. If he’s going to be a top guy, at least he’s making the rest of the roster look better by the way he’s working with them. So, how is he terrible?

On Cena vs. Orton:

DUD Summerslam has had some epic stinkers over the years. Giant Gonzalez vs. Undertaker in 1993. Undertaker vs. Underfaker in 1994. Mable vs. Diesel in 1995. Those matches are now all safely off the hook, because we have a new worst Summerslam match ever. In fact, this match is now the clear front-runner for worst match of the year in 2009. I’m sure the ignorant ’smart fans’ will vote for Cedric the Entertainer vs. Chavo Guerrero from Raw because that’s the type of thing they do. But this match was actually meant to be a big deal and it was one of the very worst matches ever put on by the WWE on a pay per view. Atrocious and slow, with Cena overselling Orton’s punches and kicks, and Orton wrestling like he was wadding in a pool of molasses. Even before the horrible ending, this was the worst match of the year. The finish only served to launch this into worst match ever territory. Both wrestlers totally phoned in the wrestling side of things and whoever came up with the finish should have been fired on the spot and blacklisted from the industry. Don’t be a idiot and vote for a celebrity match… in 2009 it has not gotten any lower then this.

You have to understand something about this here (and it will come up again later) this was the WWE going, “we can still be wild and unpredictable” to try and keep the audience from leaving with Jeff Hardy. Cena needed something compelling and while this wasn’t the way to go, it at least got the kids talking. You knew they wouldn’t stop watching the WWE while Cena had this going on, then putting the belt on him soon after kept the kids here. The booking wasn’t for us and, as far as it goes, it made sense. After a solid, totally unspectacular, but not horrible, build. Orton was supposed to be getting his comeuppance for all the cheating and shortcuts he had taken to keep the title, only to find one last shortcut to get away with the belt. It wasn’t any good, but the story made sense and was, if poorly executed (mostly by Lillian Garcia), reasonably clever, thus keeping this from being the worst match ever.

On Punk vs. Jeff Hardy- TLC:

** I’m sure that score will open up a can of worms. Big let-down, as they didn’t really do very much out there aside from two or three high spots. And am I the only one who noticed they didn’t really do any drama spots with the ladder? There was no sense that any moment could be the finish, and the actual finish was pretty weak. Sure, the match delivered on it’s promise of Jeff crashing and burning through a table, plus he took some other pretty sick moves as well, but as a match it felt more like they were just checking stuff off a list. It clearly didn’t feel like a spontaneous match. And truth be told, I think CM Punk was fairly weak out there on this night, like he wasn’t holding up his end of the deal. I’m a very big fan of his, but something was not right about his performance tonight.

Please re-watch this with the following in mind. First, this was more of a Shawn vs. Razor Ladder Match than a Hardyz nuts ladder match. The ladder was used to amp up the psychology, not as a stunt machine. The story was absolutely amazing. Jeff and Punk are both similar wrestlers who will take risks to get ahead and win the match. Jeff, the daredevil face, will always go an extra step and one up Punk- he’s an adrenaline junky and, in match storyline terms, the better athlete. Since Jeff is so wild, he never wrestles with a plan. He wins due to his ability to withstand more pain than his opponent, even when his ways of hurting his opponent hurt him nearly as badly. Punk countered this with a plan. He would weaken Jeff’s head with every assault throughout the match, so that when Jeff hit his big, insane spot, as we all knew he would, (remember, he’s an “adrenaline junky”), Punk would be the fresher of the two due to Jeff’s previously injured head evening the score. That allowed Punk’s final kick to be enough and him to get the win in what was around a **** ½ match. JR messed up the story a bit by saying Punk was working Jeff’s ribs, but watching the match simply doesn’t bear that out.

Meanwhile, Jeff Hardy is dead and CM Punk stands prone over him. The lights flicker a bit and Punk is momentarily spooked, but he still stands proud. Then the gong hits and when it’s back on Jeff Hardy is now replaced with the Undertaker, who chokeslams Punk. Weird choice to finish as these guys had NO history against each-other and this type of stuff should be reserved for people who are already feuding. That said, watching this I got a whacky idea for the Undertaker.

Good idea. The point of the finish in story is this- ‘Taker has been watching at home, hates the self-righteous Punk, so appoints himself to teach Punk a lesson. Outside of the ring, the logic is that Jeff’s young fans are rabid and absolutely despise Punk. Some even stopped watching Smackdown because Punk was on top- the reactions he drew were that strong. Taker showing up was a promise to fans that Punk would get his if they just kept watching.

I’m not touching the closing rant, so we’re done. Hope you all enjoyed the return of the full A Modest Response.

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