Doctor's Orders: The Summerslam Go-Home Raw Review
By The Doc
Aug 13, 2013 - 12:34:51 PM
The Snowman is a genius
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There was a five-minute stretch on Raw this week when I was legitimately agitated with the WWE for the first time since returning from my one month hiatus from May to June. First, Triple H named himself as the completely unnecessary special guest referee for the WWE Championship match on Sunday. That rubbed me the wrong way and I uttered aloud to my wife, "Well, that's stupid. It neither sells PPVs or adds intrigue - none of this McMahon crap has added anything to the show in years." Second, the Divas got a match booked for the Summerslam card based on virtually non-existent WWE television time but a one hour reality show on another network. With the announcement of the Tag Title match and a Divas match, that ups the total to eight bouts on a three hour show when the WWE can barely manage to squeeze that many matches into a four hour show for Wrestlemania. Good for Nattie; likely bad for the overall presentation of Summerslam '13.
That was how I was feeling. I was actually a little bit bummed about Sunday's card until the John Cena and Daniel Bryan verbal encounter took place. There are times when a compelling match or TV segment can figuratively put the rose colored glasses on your mind's eye memory bank. Cena and Bryan on Miz TV was exactly that type of segment. Good Lord that was entertaining. Cena brought his "A" game for the second week in a row, defending what he's done in his career against someone that, comparatively, has not done much of anything in his. Is that not strange? Cena - he who has defeated the Who's Who in wrestling lore and been the face of the franchise since 2005 - has to defend his history, while his opponent's road to Summerslam 2013 - which included years on the independent scene the world around - gets glorified? Regular readers of my column know that I respect the indies from the States to abroad, but that I concur with the notion that they are, next to the WWE, the minor leagues. The WWE is the NFL or NBA or EPL, popular across the globe. No other wrestling organization in the world can schedule a show at a big arena from India to Australia to Japan to Mexico City to Los Angeles to Toronto to Munich and expect that people are going to show up and watch their product. Just doesn't happen. So, I've personally found the context of these recent Bryan-Cena interactions to be fascinating.
Content aside, the most impressive thing about last night's Miz TV was that Bryan more than held his own against Cena. He did not get rattled despite one of Cena's best promos of the year. For weeks prior to the 1992 NBA Finals, Clyde Drexler was being hyped as "on the level" of Michael Jordan (face of the NBA). MJ proceeded to completely and utterly own him for the next two weeks. Drexler was so intimidated. Bryan could have been intimidated last night. Instead, he gave Cena a chance to spew his rhetoric and, then, coolly told us a great story about his time in Japan, accentuating his point that Cena is "not a wrestler." It was one of the best TV segments of the year, by my estimation.
Prediction: Bryan wins the WWE Championship, despite McMahon interference; Orton's cash-in is merely a tease to generate added interest to a feud that the WWE is not sure can draw a "Summerslam-worthy" buyrate.
I'm still not excited about Trips as the ref, guaranteeing that Vince is getting involved and that the match won't just be a classic wrestling match between two guys more than capable of producing one. I'm never excited about McMahons - haven't been since 2006. However, that Bryan-Cena segment made me change my perspective on what had, earlier in the night, made me want to rant. Pre Bryan-Cena interaction, I was peeved. Post Bryan-Cena interaction, I was as hyped for the WWE Championship match as any this year, bringing it to near equal footing with the bout that I predict will steal the show - CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar.
Punk vs. Brock finished up their hype nicely, as well. Heyman and Punk are on another level with their interviews than every other personality in the WWE. It's Punk, Heyman, and everyone else. They so consistently deliver in that department. It's extremely impressive.
Final Prediction: Brock defeats Punk due to Heyman's interference; I think Punk needs to win, but booking 101 suggests that the last guy to one-up his opponent before the PPV loses at the PPV.
Basically, Summerslam is a two match card. If you're expecting a third match to deliver something better than "good," then you're probably setting your expectations too high. Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio is a reflection of the current state of the World Heavyweight Championship. Mid-card champions lose on TV to set up their matches because the creative team are too lazy to organize anything better. Welcome to the mid-card for real, World title. I am looking forward to Christian vs. Del Rio. If there is one match that might hit a triple to compliment two potential home runs (in Brock-Punk and Bryan-Cena), pushing Summerslam '13 to challenge for the year's best PPV and a classic edition of the WWE's second biggest event, then it's Christian-Del Rio. The question will be: Can Christian rally the fans in any way similar to how Ziggler did the last two PPVs? Del Rio's bouts with Ziggler were reputation-enhancing for their respective PPVs. Christian-Del Rio could be the same. It's the swing match for this PPV, based on the assumption that the main-events deliver. It could mean the difference between Summerslam being a "two match show" or being "one of the best Summerslams of all-time."
I'm happy to see Christian back in this role, however "Meh" it may have been presented on the flag ship in recent weeks. He deserves to have another headlining run, even if it doesn't go beyond Summerslam. It aids his legacy to be wrestling in World title matches. No matter the current position of the belt, it's still in a far better place than the other mid-card titles. He's such an underrated all-time performer, as was nicely described in the hype video of his career on Raw. I'm happy for him.
Prediction: Del Rio retains, as I still expect it'll be Ziggler who ends his title reign.
Speaking of Ziggler...
I was watching Smackdown with my wife last weekend and she said, upon Miz making official the mixed tag team match, "Wow. That seems like a big step down for Dolph." "Indeed it is," I responded. "Indeed it is." I had a column written about Ziggler needing to win the World title at Summerslam to get his career back on track after the WWE passed on the opportunity to give him a "Career making" moment with a Wrestlemania cash-in (not to mention the untimely concussion that derailed his World title run). Alas, here we sit and he's back to doing nothing of importance. Feuding with AJ would have been a nice adjunct to his title quest, but - as a side feud - it's really holding him back. There is a fine line being walked by WWE right now as pertains to Ziggler. He's dangerously close to falling off the proverbial cliff, becoming irrelevant, and never recovering from it. He's just as close to breaking out as a very popular babyface with game-changing, short-term "face of the franchise" potential. I'd be curious to know if Ziggler has a bad attitude backstage. I just don't understand his lack of a sustained push.
Prediction: I hope to God that Ziggler pins Big Eunuch. Who's more important to the bottom line, AJ Lee or Dolph Ziggler? Do the ladies have a post 1985 history of drawing money like Ziggler could?
I like my above prediction because I think many of the heel acts are going to win on the under card. The Wyatt Family should dispatch of Kane in the "Ring of Fire" match, one would presume. (Doc's Note - when they announced that was the new name of the "ring surrounded by fire" gimmick, I did not think of Johnny Cash as I'm sure was their intent. I actually thought of the Pixar classic, Finding Nemo. Fatherhood makes you think differently). Bray Wyatt can talk. Can he wrestle? I have no idea. I look forward to finding out in this challenging situation.
It will be good to see The Shield back on PPV after some meaningful TV hype. They disappeared for a bit in comparison to where they were just a few short months ago. I expect Big Show and Mark Henry will emerge as top challengers, but will not win the tag titles on Sunday. I expect that Damien Sandow, who's quietly having a solid feud with Cody Rhodes, to handily defeat his former partner. Cody could stand to take a few months off and repackage. Sandow is one of the best things going today. Bella Bryan beats Nattie, too. Ambrose wins the pre-show match.
Predictions: Bray defeats Kane, all Shield members retain, and Bella Bryan wins.
All in all, I'm very excited for Sunday's PPV. It has the potential to be the best version since 2009. In order to achieve greatness, the two main-events must hit the 4-star mark. I expect that Bryan, Cena, Punk, and Lesnar will have a helluva battle for Match of the Night honors, with both capable of emerging as Match of the Year candidates. Christian vs. Del Rio must deliver another 3-star plus level match. If one of the other mid-card matches can step up, then Summerslam will be a smash hit, critically. Here's hoping for a night of "potential achieved."
QUESTION OF THE DAY: What are your Summerslam predictions, both for card and quality?