Backlog WWE Reviews: Summerslam 2014

 

For the last decade, Summerslam has been considered the starting point for a long stretch of events and story lines that all lead to Wrestlemania. The best examples that come to mind is last year with Daniel Brian’s World Title win –and subsequent loss– at the 2013 iteration of the WWE summer classic. The problem with this long haul is keeping the audience engaged in the main event. Expecting fans to stay hot in a singular way for up to eight months might be asking too much, given WWE Creative’s predilections for changing their mind on whether a guy is “their guy” on a whim.

Can WWE keep the momentum coming out of Summerslam? Only hindsight will tell. For now, here is what went down on the 17th of August in Los Angeles.

Kickoff Show
Rob_Van_Dam_vs_Cesaro_Cropped_zpse6c51361

It appears that WWE cannot figure out what to do with Cesaro. Beginning the year with a push that most guys dream about receiving, he has meandered around the roster since being dumped by Heyman a few months ago. Yet, Cesaro is still around. The Swiss Superman is still given regular camera time on RAW and Smackdown, and was even part of the WWE 2k15 Summerslam Panel, along with Roman Reigns, Shemus, and John Cena. If this week’s Smackdown is any indication, Cesaro will be paired with Shemus in a program for the United States title. This would be swell if the US title had any kind of prestige.

Alas, the title means practically nothing in terms of story line, as does Cesaro. Why else would Creative continue to put RVD over him? Does RVD have a picture of Vince lighting up?

Real talk: RVD doesn’t belong in a WWE ring. Broken and bruised from years of the “Jeff Hardy Effect,” Rob is a shell of the guy that was reigniting interest in ECW almost a decade ago. His match against Cesaro was yet another reminder that RVD has lost the speed and velocity that made him a compelling athlete. RVD’s matches as they are now look as if they are being played in slow motion and doesn’t show signs of improving. As usual, the best parts of any RVD/Cesaro bout are the latter’s feats of strength, including a harsh looking european uppercut as a counter to the Five-Star Frog Splash.

Nothing here was offensive, but we’ve seen it all before. Considering this match wasn’t for story-telling purposes and did nothing new, there isn’t much to recommend. Here’s hoping Cesaro is given more to do and RVD decides to take yet another sabbatical from WWE.

The Finish: RVD kicks out of The Neutralizer after a failed Five Star Frog Splash, knocks Cesaro down with a savate kick, and connects with the Five Star Frog Splash for the win.
The Time: 7:58
The Good: Cesaro is a joy to watch, as are his Festivus-like feats of strength.
The Bad: Why does RVD keep winning matches?
The Rating: **1/2 out of *****

Show Start

Hulk Hogan is here, and appears to know the name of the city!

Hulkster comes out to shill the WWE Network being 9.99 (which I am going to assume is also how much WWE paid him) and bails, promptly leading into our first match of the card.

The_Miz_vs_Dolph_Ziggler_Cropped_zps23850618

Can it be true? Do my eyes deceive me? Has Ziggler finally climbed out of the giant “The Dark Knight Rises”-esque pit that WWE Creative had thrown him in around this time last year? It appears that Ziggler has regained the confidence of those backstage, and rightfully so. Not only has Dolph managed to be a consistent mid-card face in a sea of guys that aren’t overcoming odds with hustle and respect, but Ziggler has also been turning in some fantastic ring work.

I’m not shocked to see the title change hands. To be honest, even a repackaged Miz is as uninteresting as he has always been. It’s a bad sign when NXT’s Tyler Breeze is basically doing the exact same gimmick and doing said gimmick far better than Miz could ever hope.

This bout was typical for both performers: Ziggler sells his ass off, making his opponent look like a star…And Miz continues his streak of applying one of the worst looking figure-four leg locks I have ever seen. I’m serious: If Miz if going to insist on the continued use of this move, would someone tell him that he might want to consider ring psychology and actually work the opponent’s leg over before applying it? I don’t think it’s much to ask.

A boring affair, though the IC belt returning to Ziggler is the correct choice all around. Let’s hope this leads to many weeks of a Bad News Barrett/Ziggler feud down the line.

The Finish: After trading finishers, Ziggy counters a big boot attempt and lands the Zig Zag for the win and the Intercontinental title.
The Time: 7:44
The Good: Ziggler’s thrust kick to Miz (and Miz’s sell of said kick) was wonderful to behold.
The Bad: “Work the leg, you prick! Work the leg!”
The Rating: **1/2 out of *****

I saw Lawler take a swig of Diet Mountain Dew. Somewhere, his cardiologist is rubbing his hands together and whispering “Yes, yes: Soon.”

Screaming parakeet? Must be time for Paige!

AJ_Lee_vs_Paige_Cropped_zpsb67ee9dc

I am conflicted when it comes to discussing the women’s division. On one end, WWE has a talented roster of ladies that can hold their own in a technical aspect. On the other hand, we have women defined only by their male counterparts, screaming  horror-movie rejects running from DEMONKANE, and uncomfortable lesbian undertones.

On the plus side, turning Paige heel may have been the best thing Creative could have done. As a face, she was as bland as paper. As a heel, Paige has that sharp edge that made her fun to watch in NXT.

While this match was nothing more than a way to continue the feud, it served it’s purpose well. This feud has been one of the best in the women’s division for awhile, yet something is lacking. I am waiting for the blow-off to this feud where AJ and Paige –both strong in-ring performers–are given that 10 to 15 minute sweet spot to show what they can really do.

LinearRashCobra

Kudos to both performers for selling the feud with some great psychology in the ring. As both attempt to “out crazy” the other in this interesting game of one-upsmanship, I hope that Creative can keep that intrigue going without stepping over the boundary between interesting and inappropriately creepy.

The Finish: AJ attempts the Black Widow, only for Paige to slip her arm under, cradle her opponent’s leg as if performing a fisherman’s suplex, and plants AJ with her cradle package DDT, the Rampaige. Paige takes back the title.
The Time: 4:57
The Good: These two work well together and have a crispness in their moves that other women in the division lack. Paige’s cradle DDT finish is wonderful and painful to behold.
The Bad: Was the lesbian undertones necessary? Let’s avoid  Trish/Mickie territory.
The Rating: *** out of *****

Jack_Swagger_vs_Rusev_Cropped_zpsc7898695

Rusev deserves more credit than I think he gets from fans. When first introduced, I rolled my eyes along with the rest of the internet due to the fact that we assumed this was yet another Vince McMahon “big guy push.” While Rusev began that way, I feel he has etched out something more and really came into being his own performer.

The selling of his ankle being injured due to Swagger’s “Don’t Call It An Angle” Lock has been great and created great psychology in their matches. Swagger has been bringing some of his best in-ring work in a year while being insanely over with the crowd. Meanwhile, Zeb and Lana have played their role of mouthpiece to perfection.

I kinda love both of these guys, so it’s a shame that this appears to be the blow-off match.

I don’t mind the “He’s too tough to tap out so he passed out” finish. It was used to great affect with Steve Austin at the beginning of his first major push and serves a purpose to protect the heat of the guy in question. This finish serves the dual purpose of making Rusev look meaner than ever, which is important at this juncture.

In a perfect world, these two would have finished the feud in a submission match that would go around fifteen minutes. Alas, we don’t live in that world. Rusev is moving on to Mark Henry. Swagger will continue to try to figure out how to put his hand over his heart despite his shirt telling him where it goes.

swagger

The Finish: Swagger’s American spirit won’t allow him to tap out to Rusev’s Accolade camel clutch, passing out. For freedom. Flags everywhere rejoice.
The Time: 8:56
The Good: I love seeing these two suplex each other. Swagger’s use of the Patriot Lock to counter the thrust kick still makes me giddy.
The Bad: I thought flag matches had specific rules. Did Creative decide to throw that out the window?
The Rating: *** out of *****

Dean_Ambrose_vs_Seth_Rollins_Cropped_zpsee5c21fcMore real talk: Dean Ambrose is my new man crush and my current favorite thing in a post-CM Punk WWE world. The master of mammarys continues a post-SHIELD streak of fantastic matches and character moments that remind me of Stone Cold Steve Austin in 1997. This feud has been more than I could have ever expected. The exciting thing is that I don’t think it’s anywhere near being over. Ambrose will be taking a short leave of absence to film the next schlock from WWE Studios, and Creative would be remiss to not pick things up immediately after Dean returns.

I initially thought that a lumberjack match was a poor choice, as the match doesn’t have the greatest of track records. I still have the taste of “King Mabel as WWF champion” era lumberjack matches stuck in my mouth that just won’t leave. Consider the surprise on my part when this match exceeded expectations and thoroughly entertained.

Rollins and Ambrose made the most of the typical lumberjack spots, including the inevitable spot that takes out half the lumberjacks. The brawl at the end causing the distraction needed for Rollins to steal the win was perfect. I could watch these guys feud forever. Here’s hoping we see that happen when Dean returns.

HeartyImpressionableGrison

The Finish: DEMONKANE causes a brawl, giving Seth the time to tattoo Dean with the Money In The Bank briefcase for the win.
The Time: 10:38
The Good: Rollins running away, Ambrose using the Curb Stomp, Goldust pimp-slapping DEMONKANE. All wonderful.
The Bad: These two aren’t getting the main event push that Roman “I have three moves” Reigns is getting.
The Rating: **** out of *****

Chris_Jericho_vs_Bray_Wyatt_Cropped_zps63052031

 

What happened to the Wyatt Family?

Really: I want to know. Does someone in Creative hate Bray and company? Did they anger any number of Triple H’s friends? Come on, guys. Come clean: Who made Randy Orton cry?

Beginning the year as giant killers and the most “over” performers in the company, the Wyatts–much like Cesaro–have been halted to an almost complete stop. Harper and Rowan have jobbed in tag matches for two months straight and Bray has been booked poorly ever since the start of his program with John Cena earlier in the year.

Sadly, all of this leads to the inevitable conclusion that this feud has been boredom, personified. Chris Jericho is just another part-timer here to attempt to make a younger guy look better and then promptly leave. Meanwhile, Bray continues to be stellar on the mic but up and down in terms of his ring work. Bray appears to need someone to take the lead in order to make the most of his matches. A great example is his match with Daniel Bryan back in January at the Royal Rumble, which still remains to be one of my favorite matches of the year.

Jericho’s heart isn’t in it, and Bray is merely recycling speeches and motivations from the Cena feud. So, I guess I’m going to just blame John Cena for my not caring about this feud and move on.

The Finish: The same finish from Bryan/Wyatt at the Rumble: Sister Abigail on the barricade, then another in the middle of the ring to give Wyatt the win.
The Time: 12:46
The Good: Sister Abigail is my favorite finisher and it’s always fun to see Bray do modified versions of the move.
The Bad: Jericho looks asleep. Is it time for him to leave for yet another Fozzy tour?
The Rating: **1/2 out of *****

Brie_Bella_vs_Stephanie_McMahon_Cropped_zps7c20daa6

It appears that Stephanie got her ring attire for Summerslam from the box of stuff that Chyna left over at Triple H’s place but was never returned. Weird.

I’ll say it: Stephanie is the only good thing about this feud. She continues to channel the best of her father’s maniacal, egotistical boss persona while killing it on the mic. Meanwhile, Stock Bella (air freshener not included) has been showing the skills she learned at the Tommy Wiseau School For Not Acting So Good, doing every thing she can to tank all of Stephanie’s hard work.

I understand that this feud is all about providing an angle for Total Divas to work off of. That’s fine. The completely obvious Nikki Bella heel turn is also fine, as it’s at least something interesting. What I cannot stand is how mediocre ole Stock Bella is in every way imaginable. The fact that we now get one to two months of a feud between the Bella Twins hurts my heart.

Good thing we got a shot of Triple H looking like a midget.

HHHHH

The Finish: Bella 2.0 turns heel on Brie. Stephanie hits the Pedigree. Game over.
The Time: 9:11
The Good: Stephanie looked good for someone that hadn’t been in a match in almost a decade.
The Bad: I’ll let you guess.
The Rating: ** out of *****

Roman_Reigns_vs_Randy_Orton_Cropped_zps2ca908df

Considering that I am neither a child nor a teenage girl, I could care less about Roman Reigns. His move set is shallow, he’s awful on the mic, and is easily the weak link of the unit formerly known as the SHIELD. I understand, however, that having “the look” matters far more sometimes in professional wrestling. That, I cannot deny: Roman has the main event “look.” Despite that, he has a lot of work ahead of him before his inevitable push towards Wrestlemania.

I think Orton is a great feud for Reigns, as Orton has been producing some of his best work in years as of late. Randy has been doing a lot of the little things that matter in professional wrestling that the likes of Triple H and Shawn Michaels were so great at.

Despite Orton’s ring work, this match –and the feud– feel like nothing more than putting a pot to simmer on a back burner. The feud didn’t matter. The match didn’t matter. It was what it was.

The Finish: Reigns counters Orton’s attempt at a skull punt, hitting the Spear for the win.
The Time: 16:26
The Good: Reigns may only have three moves, but he does those moves well. The Superman Punch is always fun to watch.
The Bad: Reigns lacks personality in the ring. I worry he is only over because of the goodwill created from being in the SHIELD.
The Rating: *** out of *****

Blood, Urine, and Vomit vs Hustle, Loyalty, and Overcoming Odds. Yum!

John_Cena_vs_Brock_Lesnar_Cropped_zps9fcc633c

This match was booked about as perfectly as Creative could have handled it. I watched this match with a group of friends, including one who was quite vocal about their dislike for the match as a whole. The person remarked about how boring they thought this absolute squash of a match ended up being. I disagree because, frankly, this match couldn’t be booked any other way. Realistically, Cena is not going to beat Brock Lesnar in his current iteration. Heyman’s excellent promos leading up to this contest made that fact perfectly clear.

Right now, Lesnar is the monster heel that the WWE deserves and hasn’t had since The Undertaker’s last championship run as a heel in the early 00’s. This match had to be ugly. And it was. This match was booked in a way that WWE fans aren’t used to seeing. We aren’t used to seeing high profile matches that are so physical or one-sided.

It may have been painful to watch, but the match told an excellent story. A story about the one man that John Cena cannot overcome. Maybe this is a turning point for the former Doctor of Thugonomics. Perhaps this is the springboard to take the character of John Cena in a new direction. Let’s hope.

In the meantime, enjoy the pain!

SUPLEX

 

The Finish: The German Suplex Surplus Sale comes to a close, with Lesnar hitting the F5 on Cena for the second time in the match, taking the World title.
The Time: 15:49
The Good: Everything about this match told a great story. From the expressions on Heyman’s face to Cena’s stoic, serious entrance, this was about a man walking to his own execution. Well done.
The Bad: Much like Lesnar going over The Undertaker at Wrestlemania, I think this match was a turn-off to the casual fan, as it circumvented expectations of a WWE match.
The Rating: **** out of *****

The Wrap-Up: Summerslam was an event about stories and the people that tell them. Even with the event at it’s worst in Brie versus Stephanie, a story was told in a way that wasn’t insulting. If WWE could manage this more often I think it would go a long way towards creating a product that anyone can get into.

There was a lot to like during this event, and what little bad there was isn’t a deal breaker. Besides Wrestlemania, Summerslam is easily the best PPV thus far of 2014.

I now leave you with my favorite imagine of the night. Thanks for reading, and see you next month for Night of Champions.

BROCK MAD

 

Want to reach me on Twitter or email to talk WWE? Reach me @EyePawd or backlogadventures@gmail.com. 

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