Repost - SummerSlam 2008 Preview

Thursday, July 16, 2009

This blog, where I'm largely doing sports, or doing lists, or doing sports lists of some other such variant that I really have absolutely no time to do but will continue to do anyway is about a month old. was its predecessor. It only existed a couple of months in its form, as I moved The Blog of Revelation over here in order to try to generate some ad revenue (I've made 50 bucks, so, you know, there's that).

My blog at is the predecessor to that. Those are essays, hyperrealized accounts of my life largely written for comedic purposes. And to meet girls (which i did, so, you know, there's that). I like them. I'm now doing this instead.

That blog was birthed from the blog at (you'll have to poke around) that blog was designed to promote the professional production of a play I co-authored, Spoon Millionaires. If you are in a position to mount a theatrical comedy that I guarantee an audience (sophisticated and good looking, with disposible income and a maximum number of chromosomes) would enjoy, I could make you a helluva deal.

But before all of that - there was - What if Steamboat Beat Hogan? That's a Counterfactual history of the World Wrestling Federation since 1985 if it was Ricky Steamboat who was given the role of promotion standardbearer as opposed to Hulk Hogan. For about 600 pages and 20,000 words, I've totally re-written the past two plus decades of North American professional wrestling.


Yeah, I don't know. I'm sort of quixotic by nature, I guess; I'm always looking to put right what once went wrong. It's for the most narrow of reader; someone with both an obsessive interest in professional wrestling and a vague animosity toward the McMahon version thereof. It will be the very last thing in my life I give up doing. If there isn't an update for a few months, you should assume I have died.

Anyway, this is not that. This is something from prior even to that - this started in 1996.

In the piece I wrote explaining why I hate Brett Favre (oh - before the NFL season I'll put up my picks; here's a preview - the Packers are going to the playoffs, the Jets aren't) I reference Kirk Hiner, my writing partner in undergrad and the co-author of Spoon Millionaires (so funny, theatrical producers, so funny. Kirk and I were similarly situated as wrestling fans, specifically WWF fans, in the 1980s - as years have passed, he's drifted away as, you know, adults do, and I've become encyclopedically rabid in my devotion to all matters graps. Since '96, I've kept him in contact with the goings on in what is now called WWE with previews before the 4 largest annual PPVs.

This is that.

Why am I putting it here?

'Cause what's the point of saying anything if it isn't in a blog, you know? It's my version of having a camera crew film the birth of my baby for a reality show.

So - with that - the 21st edition of Summer Slam is this Sunday from Indianapolis.


-Edge is the top heel in the company now, and sizably so - really, all of the other top acts, with the possible exception of Jericho (who has turned heel, but I don't think you'd say he was on Edge's level at this point) are babyfaces. It's striking actually, the imbalance; I'd be surprised if they didn't have a high profile turn sooner than later. Oh yeah, Orton's a heel, but he's hurt.

This seems like the main event; I assume it will be last with their using the Cell gimmick.

Edge and the 'Taker have been feuding for over a year; Edge took the Smackdown title from 'Taker last May; after having to forfeit because of injury, he retook from Batista in a 3 way with the Undertaker at Armageddon in December; dropped to the Dead Man at XXIV - and then, with the belt again vacant, beat the Undertaker in a TLC match in June, a match that forced the Undertaker out of the WWF.

'Taker's taken the summer off; Edge and Eddy's widow Vickie have been in a program on Smackdown; Vickie's the heel general manager, she and Edge were in a romance - which led to all manner of skullduggery, including running the Undertaker out of town.

Edge and Vickie got married, but Edge was caught on videotape cheating with the wedding planner; and that's pitted the two against each other - Vickie reinstated the Undertaker and is sticking Edge in a Cell with him at SSlam.

They've held off bring the 'Taker back, so Edge has been carrying the whole program; it's been good sports entertainment; Edge is at the top of his curve right now as a character; he and Foley (Foley had been the Smackdown color announcer until recently; his deal is up and he looks to be leaving the company again) had a helluva confrontation a couple of weeks ago.

As a match this will be an okay-good-solid enough brawl. I like the Edge/Taker matches more than the Batista/Taker matches from last year that others preferred, but the WWF style is really tough to watch in the past couple of years. I only have one WWF match above 3 1/2 stars since the top of '07 (Money in the Bank at XXIV, 3 3/4) so the expected top limit to this match isn't as high as one would hope. The gimmick helps; Edge's work level has slipped and the Undertaker, while not bad, is still the Undertaker - the more they can gimmick this up the better it is likely to be.

I don't know who wins - I would guess Edge; perhaps with he and Vickie reuniting. Vickie's been good, by the way, both on her own and more importantly, in furthering the Edge gimmick, which subtextually, is "the guy who will fuck your girl" -- he stole Lita from Matt and fucked Eddy's widow. It's good heel stuff; Edge is a good character. If there was a possibility this would be a better match, I'd be interested based on Edge's promo work.

2. Smackdown Title: HHH v. KHALI

-Hunter's on Smackdown now; this is the lineal WWF Title; Hunter and Orton had traded it from end of last year to this spring (Hunter's now won this title 7 times) HHH got drafted to Smackdown this summer, bringing the title with him; Edge lost what was the Smackdown title to CM Punk on RAW, effectively switching the belts.

There's not much program here; Khali won a battle royal to get the shot - there's not much chance the belt's gonna switch hands and absolutely no possibility this will be anything but an awful match. HHH can't do much and Khali does much less than that. I would guess they'll build to Edge/HHH for XXV, which would be another reason to keep Edge hot. Or - they'll turn HHH and build to HHH/Taker. I don't think they could do anything that would get me interested in HHH; he's beyond Hogan at his most obnoxious for me and his work, at this point, isn't much better. Further, to whatever extent the current WWF style is a reflection of HHH's limitations as a worker, I'll pin that amount of dissatisfaction on him too. I have nothing good to say about this match.


-I did not think this would happen. Punk appears to be the breakout from the new wave of 21st century indie workers who I've been talking about for 8-9 years. He's the guy I've structured the Counterfactual around for the past year and a half. The thing is - he's never really beaten anyone in the WWF, they haven't given him a long match, they haven't shown any interest in him from a work standpoint (and, while Punk's a good worker, it doesn't entirely translate to the WWF style - and, while Punk's a good worker, he's not a superpremium elite worker in the way that some of the other indie guys I've been talking about for years are) the other thing is, he's far better as a heel than a babyface - and he's been a face in his entire WWF run, really not able to do the shtick that would really get him over (I would have thought). Instead, Punk's become sort of Cena-lite; his fanbase seems to be girls and kids. Considering I'm the very opposite of girls and kids, that what I like in a wrestler is the opposite of what they like - that we are together in our rooting for Punk is a peculiar twist.

Punk's a fluke; he was ECW champion - but only because Johnny Nitro (now called John Morrison, but that's a lesser name) picked up a drug suspension and had to drop. He only won Money in the Bank at XXIV because the booked winner was Jeff - and Jeff got suspended too. And that was sort of turned into the storyline - he cashed in his title shot after Batista had laid Edge out, and since then he's been booked as weak as a champion could be, he gets beaten up, he needs interference to win - it's like a heel title run. The storyline is that Bradshaw carries himself as a legit star, unlike the indie wrestler Punk - and therefore deserves the belt more.

Which is a good program; Bradshaw's a good character very well played - and the level he particularly works is the "shoot-like" stuff like he did before the first ECW reunion PPV, where he's basically saying "no one cares about your workrate and your star ratings; if WWF says I'm the best wrestler or Cena is the best wrestler or Hunter or Hogan or whomever -- that means we're the best wrestlers - no one else matters, and if you think they matter, then you don't matter."

You know, which is what they believe, and certainly what Vince has always believed.

Which makes Bradshaw a real good heel for a guy like me, and a real good heel for a guy like Punk - if they'd let Punk talk about how the WWF style sucks, how he's really wrestling for all the guys out there right now who are better wrestlers than Cena or HHH or Batista - and who are doing matches all across the world a billion times better than most WWF fans will ever get to see.

That would be a better program. I'd pay for that program.

But you get what you get. And what you get here is a lesser match, 'cause while Bradshaw has never been a good worker, at his very, very best he was a passable brawler - and he's pretty degraded now.

I've gone back and forth - but I think Punk's gonna escape one more time.

4. ECW Title: MARK HENRY(w/Tony Atlas) v. MATT HARDY

-Yes, that's the Tony Atlas with the Mark Henry. Yes. He's ECW Champion. He won a 3 way to take from Kane. He's a heel...but really seems to be more of a tweener. I guess. He's Mark Henry.

Matt lost his US Title to Shelton (who, for purposes of my Counterfactual, hopefully will work dark) then got drafted to ECW. He won a 4 way to become number one contender and there we go.

Matt's still Matt, Matt's good, works hard, people like him. No chance this is a good match and I assume Henry keeps, maybe in a screwjob that allows this program to continue - or it could be that Henry's gonna turn face and get programmed against Nitro while Matt gets programmed against Miz. Regardless, I assume Henry keeps.


-These are big stars; Cena's still the top guy in the company; Batista's probably...4th now, I'd guess. They aren't any good. They aren't Khali - but there is a body of opinion that, particularly Cena, has become a really good worker, that body of opinion is incorrect. This is a standard babyface program, hotshotted when the new RAW GM (Mike Adamle, longtime sports announcer) made the match for Summer Slam. It's a "who's the man" match - which plays off the idea that no one really thinks Punk's on top on RAW. The angle is they've never met in a singles match before and they've been top guys for years - so here we go.

Lots of people are disappointed they aren't doing this match at XXV, I assume they still will, but I don't care - the thing is at best this will be an okay enough match since neither of these guys can work. It's not that they don't try; they aren't slugs; they just do a lot of restholds and posing and looking at the crowd. It's WWF style. This is the opposite of what I want to see.

I'd guess Cena wins - actually, what I guess is Batista turns, or moves toward a turn - it makes sense that Batista turns, takes from Punk, and then Cena chases. But we'll see. I don't care. They're part of the big lie that WWF wrestling is good, the US is the greatest country on earth and there is a god.

God/Country/Cena - lot of sacred cows to hit in one paragraph.


-If they give it any time, it would be the best match of the show. More likely, it's 10 minutes with 6 of them good and it's only the second best match of the show.

MVP is one of the...maybe half dozen, maybe top ten, yeah, more likely top ten, workers in the company. He's cocky heel - Jeff is Jeff. MVP was US Champ for like a year before losing it to Matt, this is his first real program since. Jeff was on RAW in the title mix until his suspension; he's getting relaunched on Smackdown. It looks like they're gonna do Jeff/Benjamin for the US title in a program, so I'd assume Jeff goes over here or Benjamin screws him. I'm cool with Jeff/Benjamin as a program -- maybe they'll do the Benjamin screwjob, give MVP the win, and then do MVP/HHH. That's a good idea; MVP can drag some good matches out of HHH maybe. I'd like to see them take that direction for a few months.


-Kingston's all babyface, doing a Jamaican gimmick; he's green, but good enough, has an interesting enough style. He got hotshotted into the IC, taking from Jericho when Michaels, who is in a program with Jericho, interfered. They've not really done much with him since and I think they're pulling the plug.

Coincidentally, the last time they gave the IC to an underdog no name babyface type it was Santino who beat Umaga on a fluke in Italy. They pulled that plug too, turned Santino - and he's become a heel comedy act; he's doing a jokey version of Andy Kauffman wrestling women - or appeared to be, until he started a romance with one of the more mannish women on the roster, Phoenix. They're doing a comedy act together now. It's not bad comedy (grading on a wrestling curve) and people like it lots more than I do. What it is though is bad wrestling. I have no patience for comedy acts, I just want the wrestling.

The premise to this match is whomever wins gets the belts - pretty clearly, it's a switch, also pretty clearly, it's Phoenix who will get the fall - which would win herself the Womens title (this is the RAW womens title - they've added a second women's title for Smackdown. Seriously) and win the IC for Santino. This just smells of some writer who wants to write comedy - and the matches are serving as backdrops for the jokes.

Which is more stuff that I hate, of course. For me, all booking just serves the matches; whenever the matches are backdrops for the story they want to tell - particularly when it's comedy - I can't tune out fast enough.

Also on the show - Michaels, selling an eye injury from Jericho, will announce his future plans.

That's a good program, although not as good as people think it is -- it could be that this eye injury has some degree of legitimacy, Michaels work has fallen off the table and he's taken a lot of time off. Clock's ticking on how much more Shawn we're gonna get.

So - that's the show. No chance at a great match; Undertaker/Edge will probably be a good garbage match that people will say is better than it was. MVP/Jeff will be good but short. If anything else makes 3 stars, that would probably be all you could expect from those matches. In other words, it's 2008, it's the WWF, you get what you get.

1. WWF Championship Steel Cage Match: Bret Hart d. Owen Hart (1994, 4 3/4 stars, 32 min.)

-This is the best cage match I've ever seen; Bret and Owen followed their 5 star match from X with this just a few months later. Other good matches at SSlam '94: Razor Ramon d. Diesel (3 stars). Main Event: Undertaker d. Undertaker. Notable: Tatanka's heel turn.

2. IC Championship: Davey Boy Smith d. Bret Hart (1992, 4 3/4 stars, 25 min.)

-There are those who like this match less than do I; they are wrong. In Bret's new book, he says Davey got lost just moments into the match and had to be led through all of it. I don't have the ability to discern that from the match, but Bret's got more credibility in my eyes than other wrestlers at his level might. Regardless, these top two were incredibly well worked matches for this era. Other good matches from SSlam '92: Ultimate Warrior d. Randy Savage (3 1/2), Shawn Michaels draw Rick Martel (3 stars). Main Event: DBS v. Bret. Notable: Return of Roddy Piper.

3. TLC Match: WWF Tag Titles: Edge/Christian d. Hardys d. Dudleys (2000, 4 1/2 stars, 15 min.)

-I really like a good spotfest; the wheel has turned against collision matches like this, for multiple reasons, but anytime you hear criticism about a match that is along this line "it was just a bunch of meaningless moves strung together" that's probably a match I liked. If it's Super Dragon, circa 2004, I'm probably watching it right now. This match is short for 4 1/2 stars; it may be a quarter star lower. This was a helluva series, the best work by any of the participants. Other good matches from SSlam '00: Chris Benoit d. Chris Jericho (4 stars, 6th on this list) The Rock d. Kurt Angle/HHH (3 1/4). Main Event: Rock d. Angle/HHH. Notable: Chyna won the IC title.

4. IC Title Ladder Match: Shawn Michaels d. Razor Ramon (1995, 4 1/4 stars, 25 min.).

-Play the game. If you take the entire Clique, Shawn/Razor/Diesel/Waltman/Hunter, out of the wrestling business entirely, so none of them ever existed - is that a net loss or a net gain? I think that's a tougher question than it appears at first blush. Other good matches from SSlam '95: Hakushi d. 123 Kid (3 1/4 stars) Bret d. Isaac Yankem (3 stars). Main Event: Diesel d. Mabel. Notable: Yankem's (Kane) in ring debut for WWF. 13 years later, he apparently killed Rey Mysterio.

5. IC Title: Bret Hart d. Mr. Perfect (1991, 4 1/4 stars, 18 min.)

-This was the first WWF PPV match that I can recall that was explicitly sold chiefly on it being a great workrate match. There were matches before it that were great matches, obviously, but in terms of the essential selling point being "you need to buy this show to see high quality work" I don't know if I recall a WWF match before this that was sold in that way. I know that's why I bought this show; it's why the only PPV's I actually buy and watch on their first airing right now is ROH. I don't buy for the storylines - I only buy for the work. Next time you read someone say no one does that, you know that is false. Other good matches from SSlam '91: none. Main Event: Hulk Hogan/Ultimate Warrior d. Sgt. Slaughter/Gen. Adnan/Col. Mustafa. Notable: The NWA Title made an appearance.

6. 2 of 3 Falls: Chris Benoit d. Chris Jericho (2000, 4 stars, 13:30 min)

-Again, too short; this might be a quarter star high given the length. See #3.

7. WWF Championship: Shawn Michaels d. Vader (1996, 4 stars, 17:30 min)

-This match had a DQ/restart that maybe should knock it down a quarter star. Other good matches from SSlam '96: Mankind d. Undertaker (3 1/2) Owen Hart d. Savio Vega (3 1/4) Goldust d. Marc Mero (3 stars). Main Event: Michaels d. Vader. Notable: Lawler pours booze down Jake Roberts's throat. Shameful.

8. WWF Tag Champs: Brainbusters d. Hart Foundation (1989, 4 stars, 16:30 min)

-Bret's 4th match of the top 10. Other good matches from SSlam '89: Rougeaus/Rick Martel d. Rockers/Tito Santana (3 3/4) Ultimate Warrior d. Rick Rude (3). Main Event: Hulk Hogan/Brutus Beefcake d. Randy Savage/Zeus. Notable: Mean Gene says "fuck" on the TV.

9. Shawn Michaels d. HHH (2002, 4 stars, 27:30)

-I waffle on this in a hard way; in separate viewings I've rated it 3 3/4 and 4 stars; it pretty much depends on the day of the week. That makes 3 Michaels matches on the list. Other good matches from SSlam '02: RVD d. Chris Benoit (3 1/2) Edge d. Eddy Guerrero (3 1/4) Kurt Angle d. Rey Mysterio (3). Main Event: Brock Lesnar d. Rock. Notable: Lesnar wins the WWF Title.

10. WWF Title: Kurt Angle d. Steve Austin (DQ) (2001, 3 3/4 stars, 22:30 min)

-There were all manner of ref bumps and a heel referee stoppage; that mess does drop it the quarter star and keeps it at the bottom of the top 10. Ideally, the top 10 matches for all 4 of the major annual WWF PPVs would all be 4 stars and up, so I'd like to see this match off the list, please. Other good matches from SSlam '01: RVD d. Jeff Hardy (3 1/2) XPac d. Tajiri (3 1/4) The Rock d. Booker T (Main Event, 3 stars) Edge d. Lance Storm (3 stars). Notable: WCW World Title, Tag Title, Cruiser Title - all held by WWF wrestlers.

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