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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ain't No Cure For The SummerSlam Blues

Heading into this Sunday’s SummerSlam, here are a few things that are floating around my mind:

• It’s both astounding and maddening that WWE still does not understand the concept of an anniversary. Contrary to WWE’s hype, this is not the 25th anniversary of SummerSlam. It’s the 25th edition of SummerSlam. There’s a huge difference (365 days to be exact.) WWE’s been making this same mistake since it promoted 2009’s WrestleMania as the 25th Anniversary of the event, when it was not. I’m sure by now WWE has heard several people correct them, and have just decided to dismiss them as nitpickers. But this is no technicality. It’s basic mathematics, and WWE looks downright idiotic when it can’t get such a simple concept right. I was married on November 1, 2003. And so, the first anniversary of my wedding was November 1, 2004—one year later. It wasn’t on the same day that I was married. SummerSlam, having been created in 1988, doesn’t turn 25 years old until next year, in its 26th installment. I get that the number 25 carries some gravitas. And so why not just call this SummerSlam 25? Or the 25th Edition of SummerSlam? They’d get double the bang for their buck that way, because they’d still be able to pull out the big 25 number next year when it actually would be the show’s silver anniversary.

• I have mixed feelings about WWE making Los Angeles’ Staples Center the official home of SummerSlam each year. On one hand, I think it’s a cool hook, and ensures the event will be held in a major market each year. On the other hand, it means I may never see another SummerSlam in person again, seeing as how I live on the other side of the U.S. I’ve attended six SummerSlams: 1991 in Madison Square Garden, 1997 at the Meadowlands, 1998 in MSG again, 2002 in Nassau Coliseum, 2005 in Washington, D.C., and 2007 in the IZOD Center. The 1991 edition was the first WWE pay-per-view I attended in person. I had the most fun in 2002, which featured Shawn Michaels’ inspirational comeback match against Triple-H after a four-year hiatus and Brock Lesnar defeating The Rock for the WWE championship. I drove from Long Island to D.C. and back in the same day to watch Hulk Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels in 2005. I got home around 4 a.m. and called in sick to work the next day.

• SummerSlam 2002 may have been the most loaded, top-to-bottom, in the show’s history. But my personal favorite is still SummerSlam 1990. The event was well-built over a number of months and featured the culmination of several grudges, ranging from Power & Glory vs. The Rockers to Bad News Brown vs. Jake Roberts to Dusty Rhodes vs. Randy Savage, to the blockbuster double main event. Nearly every match on the show had a solid storyline behind it. There were two title changes, including the Hart Foundation beating Demolition in a red-hot two-out-of-three falls match. Hulk Hogan made his big return after being sidelined for months by Earthquake. And The Ultimate Warrior, riding a wave of popularity, had his only successful pay-per-view World title defense, against Rick Rude in a steel cage match that was a lot better than you’d expect.

• It used to be that SummerSlam felt nearly as important as WrestleMania, but that sure isn’t the case anymore. Through 1994, SummerSlam was one of only four or five pay-per-views a year, and as such was built up for months and months. After WWE expanded to monthly PPVs in 1995, it felt less special. When the off-month In Your House shows expanded from two hours to three, it felt even less special. When WWE did away with brand-specific PPVs and combined the rosters for each monthly show in 2007, it felt even less special. And now, with the brand-split all but gone, and with Raw being three hours each week, it’s harder than ever for SummerSlam to stand out from the pack.

• Of course, the other reason SummerSlam has traditionally been a more important pay-per-view than most is because it features some of the biggest matches of the year. Triple-H vs. Brock Lesnar would certainly seem to fit the bill, but the rest of the card might as well take place at No Way Out. We’ve seen just about every variation of a match involving John Cena, CM Punk, and The Big Show. Alberto Del Rio vs. Sheamus (if it’s still happening) is a fine Smackdown main event, but nothing more. And the rest of the card seems thrown together with spare parts. Aside from Triple-H vs. Lesnar, it’s as uninspired a SummerSlam card as I can remember.

• As far as predictions, I have to pick Brock Lesnar to beat Triple-H, although it’s far from a given. Fans rightfully expected for Lesnar to be portrayed as unstoppable following his return to WWE in April. But he’s been anything but—losing to John Cena in his first match back and being beaten up and sent running back to the lockerroom by Triple-H a few weeks back on
Raw. It’s imperative that Lesnar get a win here so he can look strong headed toward what many expect is a showdown with The Undertaker at WrestleMania 29. I expect CM Punk to retain his title in the three-way match. I also expect him to make some big news along the way. Regardless of who Sheamus ends up defending his World title against, I could see Dolph Ziggler cashing in his briefcase and winning the title before the night is through. For the rest of the show I pick: Bryan, Miz, Primetime Players, Cesaro.

• Since WWE isn’t doing a whole lot to make SummerSlam feel special, I’ve taken matters into my own hands. My friends and I will be watching SummerSlam in my front yard, drive-in movie style, as projected onto a giant bed sheet. If nothing else, it’ll help make the night memorable.

Al Castle
PWI Senior Writer


Tony Laplume said...

As far as the anniversary debate goes (and when exactly the new millennium began, for that matter), I think you're being a tad more dogmatic than is necessary. For most anniversaries, such as wedding anniversaries, it makes perfect sense to count the actual number of years that have passed, because that's the personal experience. You don't think of the event so much as how much time has passed since then.

When you talk about the number of times a wrestling event has taken place, it's easier to ignore that sort of thing, especially when you have a running count of how many there are. It's not like a birthday. There have been 28 WrestleManias. This is different than saying the number of years, or birthdays, one has celebrated.

With the year 2000, it's the same thing. It's an arbitrary designation that only acknowledges a cultural passage of time. What matters is that we are able to say a milestone has been reached. The millennium begins with a new set of numbers.

The 25th SummerSlam is, then, exactly the 25th anniversary. The 26th SummerSlam begins a new set of numbers. Why would you would to complicate things by saying that new set somehow must represent the old one?

Anonymous said...

Um, because that's the way it is in the real world. You may not count wrestling as being in the real world (wonder how Miz feels about that), but the millenium certainly is.