I really like the "if you would've told me..." game. It usually goes like this: "If you would've told me two years ago that Bret Hart would return to WWE, wrestle Vince McMahon at WrestleMania, then compete in a 7-on-7 tag main event at SummerSlam against a bunch of guys you've never heard of, I would've laughed in your face."
Well, if you would've told me a year ago that this year's SummerSlam would open with the guitarist from Tool, feature Christian getting a lecture from a retired Edge about honor and integrity when defending the World Title and then end with Kevin Nash attacking CM Punk after the latter defeated John Cena two PPVs in a row, I would've laughed in your face.
Seriously, what the hell was Adam Jones doing there? When Justin Roberts started saying "here to perform the Star Spangled Banner..." I thought 'Oh cool, Lilian Garcia is here' and then they bring out the guy from Tool? What the what? Don't get me wrong, I'll take Tool over any of the WWE Cock Rock™ we're accustomed to, but that was incredibly random. I just sat there and found it incredibly cool and very Attitude Era of them, in a good way, and that would not be the last time I had that thought during the show.
Alberto Del Rio, R-Truth & The Miz vs. Rey Mysterio, John Morrison & Kofi Kingston in an unadvertised six-man tag to kick things off? Okay! Was this something we could've seen on Raw at anytime? Yes. Was it ultimately anything of consequence? No, but who says it has to be? There's absolutely nothing wrong with an awesome PPV match that amounts to little more than "just cuz." It's an old school idea and as long as the crowd is into it, which they were, then it's all good. It was a terrific way to get the crowd hyped up and the match more than delivered in terms of quality. Good guys picked up the win, as they should've with Rey Rey effectively being the #1 contender and that's just what you do in openers like this. Off to a good start!
If you would've told me a year ago that Sheamus vs. Mark Henry would wind up being one of the best feuds of the year and put on one of the most fun matches on the entire SummerSlam card, I would've at least raised an eyebrow. If you need anymore evidence that WWE's ring work is overall the best its ever been, watch this match. If this were the 90s, it would've been written off "two big hosses in a match that'll get bowling shoe ugly," but this was just a damn good match. And it's not just these two, even Khali has had two good matches in a row! Is it possible that the "big guys" can just be "the guys" now and have fun, enjoyable matches with just about anyone? Henry's the best he's ever been, Sheamus was born to play a tough good guy and this match needs no "good for big guys" qualifiers, it was just plain awesome. Ending was brutal and while I would normally scoff at a count-out finish and the obvious attempt to keep everyone strong, I think it really worked here. Count-out or not, Henry looked like a bad motherfucker after throwing Sheamus through the barricade. That security guard going flying down the aisle was a damn good visual too. Mark Henry should be World Champion by the end of the year.
Predictions: 0 for 1
Okay, I really like Cee Lo Green, I even enjoyed The Voice (and I hate shows like that), but random musical performances just don't work on wrestling PPVs. It would work if he was performing someone's entrance theme - and judging by his bedazzled graduation gown, I was waiting for The Genius to return - but it just didn't work in the middle of the show. Every time they panned to the crowd, you could just see the "oh this is nice... but where's my wrasslin?" look on their faces. Also, stop using the Divas as goddamn Fly Girls.
Oh and it's time to officially retire "throw your hands in the air and wave them like you just don't care." It was time several years ago, like right after the first time someone said it, but it really needs to go.
Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix was a rock solid Divas match and speaking of things that need to be retired, this idea that Kelly Kelly can't wrestle. Yes, she's a human stick figure and totally not believable in a fight against someone like Beth Phoenix, but Rey Mysterio's not believable against 90% of the roster and no one says anything about that. Granted, Kelly's not presented like Rey and I'm grading on a curve due to the overall shape of women's wrestling in WWE, but Kelly has come a long way and did a damn good job last night. Don't get me wrong, I'm Glam 4 Life and Beth deserved the win at least for her slick new ring attire (but where's her crown?!), but Kelly won me over as a performer here. Kelly may stole a win, but she hasn't heard the last from the Divas of Doom. Someone get them some spiked shoulder pads.
Predictions: 0 for 2
Wade Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan could perhaps go down as WWE's best pure wrestling match of 2011. Granted, that's only part of what goes into an engaging WWE bout and the crowd definitely hurt this one by not being as into it as perhaps they should've been. Still, awesome match and I know people are bummed that D. Bryan didn't pick up the win but Barrett surely needed this more, didn't he? Bryan is going to WrestleMania to challenge for the World Championship, Barrett has completely fallen completely by the wayside since this time last year. Granted, I don't know if a win over Bryan is going to be the turning point he needs, but matches like this are damn sure a start.
Predictions: 0 for 3
Really, Edge is going to lecture someone about sleazily winning a World Championship? Really? Really?! Oh I know he tried to say he did it with "style," but long before Christian was hiding behind lawyers, Edge was hiding behind Vickie Guerrero. Although that's still not as bad as Orton bitching about lawyers when he threatened to shut down WrestleMania.
Christian vs. Randy Orton though, wow. What a match. These guys have had what, half a dozen matches against each other? While this one might not be the technical masterpiece that their Over the Limit encounter was, it was a classic Attitude Era main event brawl. Brutal, nasty and yes, even a little bloody. The wrong man won, as is usually the case with Randy Orton matches, and I was pissed that the bit with Edge didn't turn out to be a ruse, but it's hard to be upset when the match was this good. Still wanted Edge to come back to the ring and help Christian with that con-chair-to though.
Will this result in another Smackdown Blackout? Nah. The first time was so upsetting because it felt like they were pulling the plug on Christian before he even got a chance, which was obviously reactionary (still a recovering smark), but these last few months have solidified Christian as a top guy on Friday nights. He might take a backseat in the title picture for a bit in favor of the World's Strongest Man, but does anyone really need to see another Christian vs. Orton match? The only reason I could see them having one more match is if they do it in Hell in a Cell and get even more brutal than they did here. And even that would be a stretch.
Predictions: 0 for 4 (ouch)
CM Punk vs. John Cena is my pick for Match of the Night. A bit cliché, I'm sure, but hot damn, these two define chemistry. And say what you will about the ending, I don't think anyone expected Triple H to essentially be a non-factor... or at least that's what they want you think! (C-O-N-SPIRACY!)
Again, this is one of those matches that I could give you the play-by-play for, but it doesn't really do the situation justice. If you saw the match, you know it was great and if you didn't, you need to see it. The ending was a little wonky and I knew the night wouldn't be over at that point; I expected The G?M to chime in since the podium was out there, but my guess is that was a red herring for the arrival of Kevin fucking Nash who hit CM Punk with a nasty clothesline and a Jackknife Powerbomb to set up Alberto Del Rio's poetic cash-in. You could escape once Punk, but not twice.
So was Nash part of Del Rio's plan to insure Punk couldn't escape like he did at Money in the Bank? Was it Triple H's way getting back at Punk for holding up the company? Are Triple H and Del Rio in cahoots? Or is Nash another red herring to put the blame on Triple H since they're boys? Is Punk the Bret Hart to a new Kliq? And what the hell was Stephanie McMahon up to? Please, no more episodes of "As the McMahons Turn."
Predictions: 1 for 5 (redemption!)
It's hard to give thoughts about something like this because it's definitely a "wait and see" scenario. Sometimes I think that's a bit of a cop-out, if John Cena would've won the title clean and the PPV ended with him holding the belt high, "just wait and see" would've been a lame response because we've been down that road for six years. But with this, something literally no one could've predicted, it's impossible to predict where it's going to go. But it's got us talking and it was certainly shocking, but it all hinges on where it goes from here.
I would've liked to see Punk hold onto the belt for awhile, but that's the nature of the beast sometimes. I am confident, however, that he's officially a made man in the upper echelon of WWE. I know some people are going all Chicken Little on us, as they usually do whenever a guy they like loses, and it does only take one bad story to hurt a character, but I just don't see it happening with Punk. He may not be Cena or Orton yet, but I think this summer has been the start of him getting in "the club," as my Fair to Flair cohort, Jason Mann, called it.
Damn good SummerSlam. Great wrestling, big show atmosphere, unpredictable (clearly from my disastrous picks) and no one could've said they saw that ending coming. "Oh yeah, there they go again with another Kevin Nash run-in. Geez WWE, you're so predictable!" This was not the defining show I thought it would be though, I was expecting a strong statement from WWE of "we're going in a new direction or sticking with the status quo," but that remains to be seen. Doesn't mean we're not getting to one of those two outcomes, but it looks like we've only just begun.