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Posted in: The Eternal Optimist
The Eternal Optimist Presents - Ranking the Summerslam Main Events (#13-#12)
By Dave Fenichel
Jul 26, 2017 - 5:12:46 AM

Hi Kids.

I’m back with Part 9 of my newest column series, “Ranking the Summerslam Main Events”. In this edition, I’ll review #13 and #12 on my list. As a reminder, here are the criteria that I used to determine rank.

Did the Buildup Deliver? (Was it main event worthy, were people excited about it);

Did the Match Deliver? (Technical pieces as well as crowd engagement); and

What Was the Historical Impact? (Did the match lead to bigger and better things, both on an individual and storyline level).


Here’s where the countdown currently stands:


#29. Brock Lesnar v Triple H (Summerslam 2012)
#28. The Ultimate Warrior v Rick Rude – Steel Cage Match (Summerslam 1990)
#27. Triple H v Goldberg v HBK v Randy Orton v Chris Jericho v Kevin Nash – Elimination Chamber Match (Summerslam 2003)
#26. Mankind v Steve Austinv Triple H (Summerslam 1999)
#25. Bret Hart v The Undertaker (Summerslam 1998)
#24. Randy Orton v Chris Benoit (Summerslam 2004)
#23. The Undertaker v The Undertaker (Summerslam 1994)
#22. Brock Lesnar v Randy Orton (Summerslam 2016)
#21. Hulk Hogan & The Ultimate Warrior v The Triangle of Terror (Summerslam 1991)
#20. Diesel v King Mabel (Summerslam 1995)
#19. The Mega Powers v The Mega Bucks (Summerslam 1988)
#18. The Rock v Booker T – WCW Title Match (Summerslam 2001)
#17. Steve Austin v The Undertaker (Summerslam 1998)
#16. CM Punk v John Cena (Summerslam 2011)
#15. CM Punk v Jeff Hardy – TLC (Summerslam 2009)
#14. Hulk Hogan & Brutus Beefcake v Randy Savage & Zeus (Summerslam 1989)


Question of the Day #1: Was Brock Lesnar the right person to end The Undertaker’s streak?

Question of the Day #2: Where does Randy Orton rank amongst the all time greats?


13. Brock Lesnar v John Cena (Summerslam 2014)


Did the Buildup Deliver?

It did. This was the summer after Brock Lesnar had ended The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania. He was riding an incredible wave of momentum. He was still a part timer, but he destroyed everyone in his path every time that he showed up on TV. John Cena won his 15th World Title in the Money in the Bank ladder match. The authority didn’t want Cena as their champion. Brock Lesnar was their solution.

The feud started off as being a little forced, but it quickly found its stride. I think this was the best promo work of Brock Lesnar’s entire career. He didn’t talk much during his first WWE run, and Paul Heyman did and continues to do the majority of his talking during his current run. However, the backstage sit down interviews that Lesnar conducted were gold. He did a great job of projecting arrogance. He talked about how it was obvious that he was going to beat The Undertaker, and how it was obvious that he was going to beat John Cena. He accused the masses of turning a blind eye because it was not something that they were ready to admit. These promos added a new layer to his character.

John Cena did his part as well. He played the underdog role perfectly. His promo on Lesnar the week before Summerslam was stellar. The WWE billed this as “The Biggest Fight of the Summer”. It was an appropriate tag line. Although the feud was far from my favorite for a Summerslam main event, it definitely had a big fight feel to it.


Did the Match Deliver?

There is a giant chasm between how this match played the night it happened and how this match is viewed today.

Fans were dying for a title change. John Cena fatigue was high, and Lesnar had an incredible amount of buzz surrounding him after ending The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak. The fans wanted him to crush Cena and that’s exactly what they got. With each of the sixteen German suplexes that Lesnar landed, people stood up and cheered. When Lesnar shrugged off every piece of offense Cena attempted, the audience roared. When Lesnar hit another F5 and beat John Cena in a shockingly easy manner, everyone loved it.

But here’s the thing. It was fun to watch once. It’s unbearably bad in hindsight. It was a one sided beat down. It was a glorified squash match. That’s unacceptable for a Summerslam main event. The action was slow. The match went around 15 minutes, but at least 10 of them consisted of Lesnar standing around smiling as Cena was down on the mat.

This put me in a difficult spot when trying to evaluate this match against other Summerslam matches. It was entertaining the night that it happened, and ultimately that’s what matters the most. However, I can’t ignore the fact that it’s without a doubt one of the worst matches of all the Summerslam main events. When balancing both factors, this match lands squarely in the middle of the road for me.


What was the Historical Impact?

Significant.

Wrestlemania XXX may have been the first step, but this match was the launching point of Brock Lesnar’s reign of terror. His run from Summerslam 2014 through Wrestlemania 31 was one of unmatched dominance. Every single time that he wrestled, he was must-see TV. He steamrolled everyone in his path. I’m not sure that there’s been any WWE champion before or since that has been booked that strongly. This eight month stretch is easily one of my favorites in my entire thirty year tenure as a wrestling fan.

On the other hand, this marked a move down the card for John Cena for the first time since he rose to prominence. He took a major step back and it was a breath of fresh air. He became the United States champion and his weekly “open challenge” storyline was fantastic. I believe that this was the beginning of the fans turning the corner on him and his overall accomplishments. He’s far from the most popular wrestler today amongst our portion of the audience, but the difference between how the IWC felt before and after Summerslam 2014 is night and day.


The Last Word.

Brock Lesnar v John Cena was a weird main event to rank on the countdown. The storyline was a bit thrown together but was ultimately presented in an effective manner. The match came off well on the night of but doesn’t hold up on re-watch. Ultimately, strong historical impact allowed Brock Lesnar v John Cena to rise several spots higher than the rest of the presentation would have warranted.

12. John Cena v Randy Orton (Summerslam 2007)


Did the Buildup Deliver?

This was a weird build. Context is required. The WWE blew up Vince McMahon’s limo with him inside of it early in the summer. The “who did it” storyline was supposed to be the main focus for the entire summer. When the Chris Benoit tragedy happened shortly thereafter, they had to abandon this plan. As a result, storylines were rewritten on the fly.

The WWE was in a tough spot. There wasn’t an obvious title challenger for John Cena as of five weeks prior to Summerslam. Jonathan Coachman, aka “The Coach”, was the Raw General Manager at the time. He announced Randy Orton as #1 contender after Orton RKO’d Cena from behind. From there on out, the storyline was completely one sided. Orton kicked Cena’s butt every week.

The week after Orton was named #1 contender, Carlito had Cena on The Cabana. Carlito proved to be a nice side story to this feud. He beat Cena in the main event that night after a distraction from Orton. Cena interrupted the Cabana the following week. Orton tried to attack but was thwarted. There wasn’t any physical contact, but it was the closest that Cena came to getting the better of Orton. At some point, Coach was demoted to Assistant GM in lieu of William Regal. Orton and Carlito convinced Regal to put Umaga against Cena in the main event of the show that night.

Orton and Carlito beat Cena down during the main event. Umaga turned face and cleaned house. Cena and Umaga then beat Orton and Carlito on Raw the next week. My problem with both matches is that the focus was more on showcasing Umaga as a face rather than the Cena/Orton feud. The best segment of the entire feud took place on Saturday Night’s Main Event. Cena beat Carlito in a glorified squash match, but Orton ended up hitting him with an RKO on a steel chair.

My biggest problem with the feud was on full display on the go-home episode of Raw. Orton was cutting a promo on Cena when Vince showed up. Vince told him that while Orton/Cena was important, he needed to talk about his illegitimate son. There you had it. With the “who blew up Vince” storyline dead in the water, the WWE shifted to a “who is Vince’s illegitimate son” storyline. This was the storyline that Raw was built around, and Cena/Orton suffered as a result. Nonetheless, the go-home episode delivered. Orton once again hit Cena with 2 RKOs during his main event against Snitsky.

All in all, even though this feud wasn’t given the primary focus that it deserved, it wasn’t bad. I’m normally not a fan of such one sided feuds. However, it was necessary here. Cena had been an incredibly dominant champion for almost a year. The WWE needed to have Orton dominate him each and every week in order to show that he was a credible threat to his title. All in all, I enjoyed the build to Cena v Orton. It ranks in the top half of Summerslam main event builds.


Did the Match Deliver?

It was really hard for me to be unbiased when watching this match in hindsight. In 2017, Cena v Orton is an unbelievably tired feud. It’s difficult to keep this in context. While it’s beyond stale now, Cena v Orton was a fresh pairing in 2007.

The match was pretty good and had an old school feel to it that I enjoyed. The start was slow-paced and much like most Randy Orton matches, had too many rest holds for my liking. Despite its slow pace, the match had strong crowd involvement from start to finish.

I felt that Cena and Orton did a good job building at a nice pace towards the finish. The crowd was into every near fall. Literally, they popped for every single one of them. There were two great false finishes in particular. The first took place when Cena reversed Orton’s punt into an STFU. The second occurred when Orton dropped Cena with an RKO. The WWE did such a good job of building the RKO as a dominant finisher that this really felt like a plausible ending to the match.

Unfortunately, the actual ending to the match was terrible. Right after the RKO, Cena hits an Attitude Adjustment out of nowhere for the pin. Seriously, this came out of left field. It felt like they ran out of time and had to rush to the finish without a proper setup. Despite the bad finish, this was a solid match with good crowd involvement. It was nothing spectacular, but it held its own as a Summerslam main event.


What was the Historical Impact?

This was the first ever one on one PPV match between Randy Orton and John Cena. They are the two biggest stars of their generation, so that’s noteworthy in itself.

Other than that, this was very similar to the main event the year before in that it was a sign of bigger things to come. Cena and Orton built on this feud over the course of several PPVs. It was supposed to end with Cena putting Orton over for the title. Unfortunately, Cena tore his pectoral muscle the week before the match was supposed to happen. Orton ended up winning the title through a series of matches with Triple H. Cena made a surprise return at The Royal Rumble, winning it and setting up a Triple Threat match against Orton and Triple H at Wrestlemania 24. This was the first domino in a lengthy chain of events.


The Last Word.

This was a well-rounded main event. It was solid although unspectacular in all three areas of our scoring criteria, good enough to place John Cena v Randy Orton from Summerslam 2007 in the top half of our countdown.

That’s a wrap kids. Thank you for reading. Sound off below!

Facebook: David Fenichel

Twitter: @FFFightLeague

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