Throwback Thursday: WWE SummerSlam Then and Now (HHH vs. Steve Austin, Chyna, The Rock, Billy Gunn, Summerslam 2015)

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Throw Back Thursday logo

With SummerSlam 2015 this Sunday it’s time to look back at SummerSlam’s past. We all know that, aside from Wrestlemania and the Royal Rumble SummerSlam is perhaps the most important pay-per-view of the year, the results usually having an effect on the remainder of the year for all those involved. Now it’s time to look back on SummerSlam’s of the past and see what has changed over the years (aside from talent) and what we have to look forward to come Sunday.

What has changed:

  1. Timing
    If you look back at past WWE SummerSlam’s (or any pay-per-view for that matter) you’ll notice a few major changes have taken place. The timing, to me, is a major change and, honestly, I don’t think it’s for the better.  When we used to see a vignette or interview for the upcoming match quickly followed by the start of the match now there is more talk of the big matches of the night with quick overviews of the current matches. The pace is slower now too. Go back to any WWE pay-per-view in the 90’s & 2000’s. See how fast they used to switch matches. See how fast they would go from promo/interview to the match to the next promo/interview. You didn’t really have time, or want to, take a bathroom break.
  2. Sponsors/ Promos
    We used to have quick mentions of sponsored products and companies “Brought to you by…” was a sentence you heard often from J.R.’s mouth but, aside from that, time spent on promoting sponsors was limited. Now we get at least fifteen camera shots of the all the announce teams with Mountain Dew bottles. Also, like last year’s SummerSlam we are now forced to sit through lengthy moments of promos for WWE products itself. Hulk Hogan came out to open SummerSlam 2014 to talk about how great an opportunity SummerSlam can be “It can turn mortals into immortals” but then he jumped on the company bandwagon and reminded everyone that you could watch SummerSlam for just, oh what is the price? Right, $9.99.

    Hulk Hogan at SummerSlam 2014 promoting the WWE Network for $9.99

  3. Match build-up
    In looking back on SummerSlam 1999 I noticed a HUGE difference in how all the matches were booked and billed. There was a solid storyline. A reason to care. If you look at SummerSlam 1999 you’ll see what I’m talking about. Even if it was a new rivalry each match was given time and respect and at least some build-up. A reason for the men and/or women to fight. This is most noticeable however in the main event of the night when we saw Mankind v. Triple H v. Stone Cold in a Triple Threat for the WWF Championship.We see a vignette of all events leading up to the match, including Chyna’s involvement. This was at a time when Chyna was dating Triple H and was put in an awkward spot of being named to a triple threat match for the #1 contender spot. Chyna v. Undertaker v. Triple H. Awkward, right? Chyna would win that match, then after a hissy fit by Triple H she would beat him to stay #1 contender. However, when Mankind came out and stated he wanted a “Piece of SummerSlam” Mankind was able to pick up the win over Chyna (after Triple H caused a distraction).
    This would go on to have Triple H and Mankind wrestling for the spot of “undisputed” #1 contender which would have it’s own controversy as HBK and Shane McMahon were the two referees for that match. After  beating the crap out of each other the two hit a double clothesline on each other, their arms draped over the other’s chest. Each referee counted the pinfall and raised a different man’s hand in victory. That lead to Linda McMahon announcing that Austin’s title would be on the line in a Triple Threat.All of the information came from a single, pre-match vignette. A single video clip showing everyone why we should care and a history of what had happened so we could know, going into the match, everything we needed to. Aside from great storylines in the weeks/months leading up to SummerSlam the vignette before the match was just a little push to remind people “This is why you care.”
  4. Gimmick heavy matches

    WWE Extreme Rules 2014 Pre-Show Match. El Torito v. Hornswoggle

    Personally I have never been a huge fan of out-there gimmicks in general. Some things were just too silly for me to care about. While we still see gimmick heavy matches today what type of gimmick used has changed. Let’s all think back to the Hornswoggle v. El Torito matches we witnessed this past year. Bored yet? Yeah, me too. No disrespect to these two men but honestly the gimmick was a bit much and a desperate attempt on WWE Creative’s part to make us laugh when, really, it was just painful to watch.
    In the past gimmick heavy matches were usually something of the more vulgar state or were at least pulled off in a more vulgar fashion than the current PG Era would ever allow.
    Remember when, in 1999, the Rock and Billy Gunn had a “Kiss My Ass” match? And the loser would have to kiss the ass of an overweight woman? Well, we’ve had kiss my ass (kiss my arse) matches since then but let’s face it, we’ll never see something like this photo again. I am thankful for that but still the change in attitude is drastic.

    The Rock forcing Billy Gunn’s face into the backside of a large woman at SummerSlam 1999.

  5. Action v. Talking
    As mentioned above under “Timing” we see that the pace is slower now between matches. The reason? Everyone talks too much! Whether it’s a long Bray Wyatt promo trying to appear creepy, Seth Rollins or the Authority running their mouths, etc someone seems to always be talking!
    Look at SummerSlam 1998. It was a great match card overall but every match was entertaining. And if fans weren’t into it, the matches weren’t dragged out. Championship matches were given a good amount of time. The European Championship match between D’Lo Brown and Val Venis was given just over fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes for a “mid-card” title match. Now we’re lucky if we see fifteen minutes out of any match besides the two most talked about matches of the night. The quickest match of the night was The New Age Outlaws v. Mankind in a handicapped match (7 minutes, 30 seconds.) Triple H (with Chyna) v. The Rock (with Mark Henry) was given just over twenty-four minutes. The main event in 1998 was given a solid twenty minutes. Only three matches on the main card for SummerSlam’s 1998 card were given less than ten minutes.SummerSlam 2014 was very different timing wise. Only five matches were given over ten minutes last year, the shortest match being under five minutes (for the the Diva’s title match between Paige and AJ Lee). The longest match of the night was Roman Reigns v. Randy Orton (16 minutes, 30 seconds) and the main event was second to that in length (16 minutes, 14 seconds). When the longest matches of the night have a difference of approximately eight minutes you can see how much the action has been cut back and the talking has increased.
  6. Overall Quality
    Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be watching WWE for the rest of my life (unless something seriously goes wrong and pisses me off to the point I’m disgusted.) However, in looking back every match was a great match on the past shows, especially the pay-per-views. Now we have matches that all fans unanimously decide are bathroom breaks.
    Yes, I understand that WWE is sports entertainment, that things change with the times but let’s face it, despite knowing the outcome how many times do we all consider watching an old pay-per-view instead of the one airing on any given night?

What we have to look forward to:

Like I said, I’m a fan for life. So let’s see what we have to look forward to at this year’s SummerSlam.

  1. Team Bella (The Bellas & Alicia Fox) v. Team B.A.D. (Naomi, Sasha Banks & Tamina) v. PCB (Paige, Charlotte & Becky Lunch) in a Three- Team elimination match

    The Diva’s Revolution is underway. I’m not sure who will win this but let’s face it, with a Three-Team Elimination stipulation this match may get some decent on-air time and it may also allow the Diva’s to show their skills a bit more than we’ve seen recently (although the opportunities have definitely increased for the Diva’s lately.
  2. Kevin Owens v. Cesaro

    Strength and power v. well…strength and power. Let’s face it, this is going to be a brawl.
  3. Stephen Amell & Neville v. Stardust and King Barrett

    I’m a wrestling fan and a comic book fan. The Superhero v. Villain idea of this match works wonderfully for me. Seeing Stephen Amell in a WWE ring just makes it more fun.
  4. The Prime Time Players (champions) v. Los Matadores v. The Lucha Dragons v. The New Day for the WWE Tag Team Championship

    The Tag Team division is on an upswing as well, giving all of these teams a chance to shine in this unique match set-up is a great way to give them all a chance and to bring some excitement back to the tag team matches. I wonder if the Usos will make an appearance since, before Jey’s injury, they were the odds on favorite. Even if the Usos aren’t involved it is SummerSlam after all and anything can happen.
  5. Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper v. Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns

    A “Family v. Family” match allows these four men to stay in the spotlight while letting Reigns rebuild his fan base, Ambrose stay relevant and Wyatt and Harper to bring back some of their more menacing features (aka constant, creepy back-up.)
  6. Rusev (with Summer Rae) v. Dolph Ziggler (with Lana)

  7. A weird love triangle/square in which we see a returning Dolph Ziggler in a match with Rusev. With Lana and Summer Rae on the sidelines anything can happen but I think we all saw Rusev’s true colors when he used Summer Rae as a shield against Ziggler’s super kick on Monday Nigh Raw. Seeing Lana deliver a kick of her own was pretty awesome too.
  8. Ryback (Intercontinental Champion) v. Big Show v. The Miz in a Triple Threat Match

    Ryback has been out for a while now and it’ll be interesting to see how he does on his first pay-per-view back. Will his time away give him an edge of being well-rested or will the ring rust cost him the title? The Miz may pull out a surprise here since he is opportunistic and sneaky but the Big Show is definitely ready for some notoriety before his inevitable retirement in the next few years.
  9. Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) v. The Undertaker

    Okay, I’m not sure how I feel about this match. An Undertake fan through and through seeing him come back time and time again when he’s clearly getting closer to retirement like the Big Show feels like a huge marketing ploy. One that I don’t agree with. If Undertaker wins I’ll be happy but at the same time mad that his streak was ended. However, if Lesnar wins, given Undertaker’s recent state, it’s more believable in terms of physicality.
  10. Seth Rollins (WWE World Heavyweight Champion) v. John Cena (WWE United States Champion) in a winner-take-all match
    U.S. Champion John Cena vs. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins

    This is another match I’m not sure how I feel about. A clear ploy to reinsert Cena into the WWE Title picture (DUH) and to sneakily pull Reigns, Ambrose and others out of it I’m just not sure how this match could go. While I’m intrigued (it’s been a while since we’ve seen a title v. title match) I don’t know if this match, or rather this rivalry, is important enough to me. I’d rather see some great rivalries around the title than a stale old title chase.

The question now is, will you be watching SummerSlam? Are you excited about any one match or none of them? Let me know!

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