The Wrestling Backfire: The Major Problems With Summerslam (John Cena, CM Punk, Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan)

On March 31st, 1985, the WWF took their biggest gamble ever: Wrestlemania 1. If it failed, chances are the company would have gone out of business. Despite what WWE wants their fans to presume, there was a “Grand Daddy Of Them All” before Wrestlemania called Starrcade. It was a Jim Crockett Promotions’ pay-per-view to blow off the biggest feuds in the company. In contrast to Starrcade, the WWF didn’t want their show to be simply about wrestling.  They wanted it to be this mixture of celebrity appearances, entertainment,  and wrestling, or what McMahon would refer to it as “Sports Entertainment”. Many critics and promoters believed  it would fail, but it ended up being a gigantic hit and put the WWF on its golden platform.

Two years later, the WWF took another gamble by launching Survivor Series. It was different from Wrestlemania; there weren’t any celebrities and it was based on 5 on 5 elimination matches, but this also was a major success. Then, in 1989, they took another gamble with a pay-per-view that was main evented by a 30-man battle royal with a slight twist. New wrestlers entered every 2 minutes, and this eliminated the clusterfrick that used to detriment battle royals. And, of course, this show was a success too. Lastly, Summerslam debuted to complete WWF’s “top 4”. It debuted on August 28th, 1988, with its purpose being to blow off big feuds that happened after Wrestlemania. So yes, it was Wrestlemania in the summer. However, the show lost its identity somewhere down the line, and now is practically a transitional show. Let’s look at the complete Summerslam 2006 card for an example.

The first match was Chavo Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio. This match was just the beginning  of the feud as Vickie Guerrero turned on Rey Mysterio. The second match was Big Show vs. Sabu. This match was I suppose the end of the feud….and what a feud it was :roll eyes:. The third match was Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Orton. Questionable booking aside, they actually blew this feud off. I guess it took a Hulk Hogan for them to remember to blow a feud off. Who am I kidding? It was just because Hogan wanted a paycheck and didn’t want to put Randy Orton over. The fourth match was Mick Foley vs. Ric Flair. Wow, they actually blew this feud off here.

The fifth match was Booker T vs. Batista for the WHW title. It ended in a DQ and the feud wasn’t blown off until Survivor Series. The sixth match was DX vs. The McMahons. Yet again, this feud wasn’t blown off here. It was blown off the next month at Unforgiven. The main event was John Cena vs. Edge for the WWE title. Yep. You guessed it. This feud wasn’t blown off here. It was blown off at Unforgiven.

This was was not a fluke. In fact, this trend has been going steady. In 2007, John Cena and Randy Orton’s WWE title match didn’t conclude. In 2008, most of the feuds actually did conclude,  but in 2009 DX vs. Legacy was a stepping stone for matches down the road, Randy Orton vs. John Cena for the WWE title was an overbooked mess that extended the feud throughout most of the year, and they blew off Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk for the WHW on SMACKDOWN. In 2010, Randy Orton vs. Sheamus for the WHW title ended in a DQ and Nexus vs. Cena’s team was a stepping stone that was blown off at….well, to be honest, I don’t really know when that feuded ended. And in the 2011, John Cena and CM Punk for the WWE title resulted in a controversial ending.

The same things happened this year, too: Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler’s feud was blown off on Raw, Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio had a controversial ending to extend their feud, the WWE Triple Threat used Big Show just to set up a Cena vs. Punk singles match, and Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar’s ending foreshadowed another match.

Don’t be mistaken: I am not saying that every match on Summerslam needs to be blown off. In fact, I am not even saying that every title match must. However, there are a small amount of title matches have been blown off recently. There’s something erroneous when the supposedly biggest show of the summer’s matches concludes in an inconclusive or a unsatisfying manner.Therefore, I cannot condemn anyone who doesn’t order this show based off that alone.

Back in the territorial days, there was a term commonly used by promoters called hot-shotting.  It occurred when a promoter did  something to get a short-term boost, but it usually resulted in a long drought afterwards. A modern day example of hot-shotting would be WWE using gimmick themed pay-per-views to make a quick buck,  even if it renders the purpose of  a gimmick match.

A Hell in a Cell match is supposed to conclude an extremely heated and bloody rivalry between two or more wrestlers, but WWE just puts the top matches in a Hell in a Cell with hardly any reasoning. Prior to this pay-per-view launched, fans were lucky if they saw three Hell in a Cell matches in three years, but now fans can see two or three on a single pay-per-view. It’s overkill to say in the least, and as a result  it has lost a lot of its merit and rarity – and it is not the only gimmick match that has because of this.

Moreover, the gimmick pay-per-views have overshadowed the non-gimmick ones because a casual fan rather watch a something that showcases Extreme Rules, Hell in the Cell, or Elimination Chamber matches instead of one filled with mostly single matches. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with a gimmick PPV once in a while, but they’ve gone overboard.

A gimmick’s purpose is to fit the context of a feud. It’s not supposed to be done for the sake of doing it. It loses its significance done that way. And eventually, fans are going to become sick of seeing the same gimmick PPVS again and again. What does the WWE do then?

And let’s not get started with the whole PG Era. Okay, we will. When I think of Extreme Rules, I do not think of chair shots unrealistically shoved into someone’s gut and then smacked over the fattest part of their back. Believably is still part of wrestling even if its exposed. I know if I had that chair, I would whack someone over the head, not shove it into their gut. And it’s hard to believe if wrestling was real, 99 percent of these gimmick type matches wouldn’t have blood in them.

No, I’m not complaining about WWE trying to risk injuries and trying to cut down on blood. Even if they’re going a little too far, the best way to overcome the Attitude Era’s (another example of hot-shooting) long-lasting effects is to tone down the product, because no one could ever top how far it went. However, Paul Heyman used to show off a wrestler’s strength and hide their weakness, but the WWE is showing off their weaknesses and hiding their strengths.  They don’t want to have these barbaric matches with oodles of blood, yet they’re basing a lot of their gimmick pay-per-views on matches that have a history of being unadulterated. It’s just mind-boggling.

The WWE should try to put some effort into building up shows and creating intriguing angles instead of relying on the gimmick-themed pay-per-views to help their buy-rates from sinking. That is  something that is evergreen. Nobody can get sick of episodic T.V done correctly. If everyone did, televison shows would have been out of business long ago. All in all, these gimmick matches may help for a short time, but going to hurt them in the long run.

But the question is can they?

Honestly, I pity these WWE writers. Most of them have been writing for too long about wrestling and thus must have an extreme amount of writer’s block. For your information, the best bookers back then only wrote for 6 months out of the year. Some people in WWE have been writing for 10 years. Plus, they’re writing to please an elderly man who still believes he knows everything about pop-culture when he has been out-of-touch for possibly more than a decade

I mean without question, Undertaker and Triple H’s feud was well-booked, but we all know who wrote that…or at least had a lot of input. There have been a few others with veterans who had a lot of input in the direction of the feud as well, but there hasn’t been that many that have come from the writing team in the past years. So, I believe it’s time to shake up this writing team. But that’s an entire column itself.

Plainly put, the build for Summerslam was something a 5-year-old with crayons could have done better. There was supposed to be this  “rock-your-socks off” angle, but the only thing the Raws building towards Summerslam did for me was rock me to sleep.

To conclude, the WWE has hazarded their big summer pay-per-view by booking matches with cheap finishes just to extend feuds, overshadowing it with gimmicky shows, and by seemingly only caring about the main event. Actually, one could argue that Summerslam  has become the biggest gimmick show of them all. It’s nothing more than an intermediate, one match show that McMahon tries to camouflage with its longevity and historical accolades.

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