Fact or Fiction SummerSlam Edition: Brock, Cena, Ambrose, and the Best SS Ever! (feat. Rob Simmons, YourAyatollah, Randall, and eldandy)
Aug 15, 2014 - 11:47:29 AM
Welcome back to everybody’s favorite panel discussion- Fact or Fiction. Today, we’ve got our SummerSlam edition for you, as we’re just a few short days away from the season’s biggest wrestling spectacular. We’ve got a panel of four in this edition, so before we get to the meat of the column, let me introduce you to our guests.
Randall comes to us from the Columns Forum, as well as his appearances on The Right Side of the Pond on LOP Radio. He’s one of our resident Irishmen, but we don’t hold that against him….much.
YourAyatollah (aka Steve) is an LOP Hall of Famer and host of LOP Radio’s “The Late Shift”. He’s a landmark around these parts, kind of like Old Faithful and The Statue of Liberty. In fact, I think he has the same outfit she wears.
eldandy also comes to us from the Columns Forum……occasionally. He’s been a bit absent as of late, but any time he pops his head out of the ground you take advantage of it. He’s like a prairie dog, there for our enjoyment.
And lastly, there’s me, author of Chair Shots, frequent guest on LOP Radio, and the man that’s rooting for the Baltimore Orioles to go all the way this year.
So there’s your panel. Let’s go ahead and get right to it shall we!
From Randall: Summerslam 2002 is regarded as the greatest version of them all.
eldandy: Personally, I’m more of a fan of 90 and 92, but I can certainly see how this would be a strong contender based solely on the card. While I’m personally not a fan of the Lesnar/Rock main event, I think that the under card support from the Smackdown Six, and of course the return of Shawn Michaels (in what could be argued is the greatest Summerslam match ever) bolster this card to the top.
Unfortunately, what often gets lost in the shuffle of all of this is the fact that Brock Lesnar’s win at Summerslam 2002 resulted in the beginning of the decline in popularity for the WWE. Perhaps out of fear of allowing a new face carry the company with little to no experience, or perhaps simply based on ego, the title was split in two a couple of weeks after Lesnar beat the Rock to become the Undisputed Champion. The Big Gold Belt was given to Triple H (despite having lost at Summerslam to Shawn Michaels), who became the “Raw Champion”, while Lesnar would defend his title solely with the Smackdown brand. This began a period of dominance by the King of Kings that eventually alienated a lot of fans from the product. Having Triple H continually either hold or be in contention for the title for the next three years, holding others down in the process, succeeded in not only driving fans away from a stale product, but also created a situation where new stars had virtually no chance of succeeding because they would continually be held down by the legacy of Triple H. Indeed, aside from Randy Orton and Batista (who were coincidentally in the same faction as Trips), the only other star to emerge in that time was John Cena, who stayed fairly well protected on the Smackdown brand. This is a phenomenon that we are still feeling the effects of today (and only recently seem to be breaking free of) as the preceding decade has seen little to no other top level stars being created by the WWE. If we consider that to be the legacy of Summerslam 2002, I’d be hard pressed to vote this show as the greatest ever. With that being said, most people tend to look back on pay-per-views for anything other than the matches they provide. I will therefor say FACT, but only if we’re looking at it with tunnel vision.
YourAyatollah: I would say that yes, it's a FACT that SummerSlam 2002 is regarded as the best of them all. Whenever you see it mentioned there is always no shortage of folks popping up to say that very thing and hail it as the hands down best of the lot.
Personally, though, I don't think that's true. Sure, there was the excellent opener between Mysterio and Angle, strong midcard matches in Edge vs Eddie and RVD vs Benoit, the excellent return match of Shawn Michaels against Triple H and the now watershed main event of Brock vs Rock. That's a strong group of matches but honestly, the other bouts on the card were pretty lackluster and weak. Undertaker vs Test? Jericho jobbing to Flair? Boo.
I'm personally fond of the 1998 event. D'Lo and Val Venis put on a great opening bout, X Pac showed why he was considered the in ring standard backstage for so long in a very entertaining match against Jeff Jarrett, the New Age Outlaws battled Mankind in a handicap match that, while not technically brilliant, was very, very entertaining, Rock and Triple H added a brilliant chapter to their rivalry with an extremely hard hitting ladder match for the IC strap and the main event saw Steve Austin defend against The Undertaker in one of the most iconic matches of the entire Attitude Era.
Furthermore, the most overall stacked card just may have been last year's. The debut of Bray Wyatt, Cody Rhodes vs Damien Sandow in what was at the time an excellent mid card feud, ADR against the always reliable Christian for the World Heavyweight Championship, and all topped off by two of the best matches in the history of the event in Brock vs Punk, (Punk's last great match potentially ever), and the brilliant match between John Cena and Daniel Bryan. Add in the controversial but surprising Randy Orton Money in the Bank cash in and you've got a pretty legendary show on your hands.
So yeah, 2002 may not be the best in history, though it is certainly in the argument. It is widely regarded as such, though, which may or may not remain true as time lends its 20/20 vision to last year's event and this year's potential classic show.
Randall: Trust me to be the only one who picked a topic that isn’t current affairs…
If you ask people as to what their favourite Summerslam is, I’d wager a good few would say the 2002 edition. Sure, you have some of the older versions being looked upon fondly like 1992 (with Bulldog/Hart for the I.C. Title) or more recent events like last year, but none boast numerous qualities like 2002 does. Technical, high flying wrestling with Rey Mysterio and Kurt Angle, an emotional, yet brutal fairytale comeback story with HBK defeating HHH, ending with a rookie proving to the world that he is The Next Big Thing by taking the WWE Undisputed Title from The Rock. Pepper in some good old U.S. patriotism, a legend showing he still has it and some midcard title matches and you have a well rounded show. Other Summerslam cards over the years have had a great/memorable main event, but outside of that they are nothing to write home about. 2002 is the event you want to show a non wrestling fan or friend to get them hooked. I’ve sold myself on it again, so I’m going to watch it and so should you. I’m going to say FACT, although I may be being biased, but screw it.
Rob Simmons: I would say FACT. While the WWE themselves only rate this as the #2 best SummerSlam of all time, it’s hard to deny both the star power of the 2002 edition, as well as a few matches that not only are some of the best SummerSlam matches, but overall best matches the WWE has put forth. The WWE actually ranks last year’s SummerSlam at #1, which I actually considered as I was debating this statement, but ultimately ruled it out for the 2002 edition.
Angle/Mysterio, Flair/Jericho, Edge/Guerrero, Van Dam/Benoit were all matches that were on the UNDERCARD of this event. Any of those could have been Main Event caliber matches, but were just the icing on the cake to Shawn Michaels and Triple H in an epic Street Fight, and Brock Lesnar defeating The Rock to win the Undisputed WWE Championship. The names on this card were without a doubt some of the best ever assembled.
From eldandy: Brock Lesnar winning the WWE Title and working a part-time schedule will be good for the business as a whole.
Randall: Brock Lesnar is an anomaly, being a former World Champion in WWE and former Heavyweight Champion in the UFC. In case you’ve been living under a rock since April, he broke the Undertaker’s undefeated Streak at Wrestlemania and above all, he is a guaranteed future Hall of Famer. Whenever he appears on screen during his limited schedule, you have to sit up and take notice because you know shit is going to go down.
Recently, Paul Heyman commented on Lesnar’s part time schedule and made an excellent point about the WWE Title; it’s being defended too often, losing the prestige and aura surrounding it. WWE Title matches just don’t have the big fight feel to them anymore, because it’s being defended so often. Yeah, it’s great that it is being defended, unlike the U.S. or I.C. titles half the time, but there have been instances when the title wasn’t involved in a PPV and it turned out okay. Case in point, TLC 2012, although that was due to CM Punk being injured. The Big Four PPVs (replace Survivor Series with Money in the Bank) are necessary in defending the titles, but you could use the then champion as captain of a team at Survivor Series instead of a title match. That would mean the WWE actually would care about Survivor Series, but I digress….
IF Lesnar wins the WWE Title at Summerslam and does go on a hiatus, it can only mean good things. A spike in ratings or buyrates? With Lesnar and the title being away, people will soon be clamouring to see both, paying good money (or subscriptions) for it to be defended in big fights. That and wrestlers won’t be hurt as much by YOLO Lesnar if he were defending as often. Got to go with FACT on this one, but only time (and the numbers) will tell.
Rob Simmons: FICTION! It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Brock Lesnar’s return to the WWE. I’ve not been overly entertained by many of his matches, nor do I feel as though Brock really cares about the wrestling business as a whole. Brock has shown time and time again that Brock Lesnar is all about Brock Lesnar. The WWE handcuffed themselves by throwing an enormous amount of money to an individual that is only around a few dates a year. You can’t have a WWE World Heavyweight Champion who isn’t available to represent the belt. At least when The Rock had it, he did video packages. Because of the number of dates available, Lesnar wouldn’t even be able to do that.
Will it generate some immediate interest should he win? Yes, it probably will, but long term, Lesnar will only be available a few more times in 2014, UNLESS the WWE throws even more money at him. I can’t see anything good about him being champion at this time.
eldandy: There are so many reasons that this is FACT.
For starters, the WWE needs to capitalize on Brock Lesnar’s win over the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. This was the biggest, most shocking ending to a match in the last decade (if not of all time), and fans have been waiting for months to see a proper follow up. Having Brock Lesnar come in to Summerslam, fresh off of breaking the Streak, and lose to John Cena would not only kill Brock as a character, it would also kill the nearly 25 year legacy of the Streak, and everything that it stood for. At this stage of the game, Brock Lesnar needs to be set up as a destroyer of worlds. He needs to not only beat John Cena for the title, but also beat him into the ground. This needs to be a merciless beating. This needs to sideline John Cena for a while. This needs to be a demonstration that Brock cannot be beaten by anybody, and that he cannot be stopped by the best that the WWE has to offer. The reason: The WWE needs to create some sort of opposition for which it can battle against.
The WWE has always thrived on competition. Whether it be real or contrived, the WWE (and professional wrestling in general) needs to make people feel that their heroes are encountering strife. They’re being faced with challenges that would be hard to overcome. The opportunity being presented here is that of an unstoppable monster coming in and dismantling all of the traditions and benchmarks that the company holds dear. Lesnar has done the impossible, and now he will impose his will upon the champion, and hold that title for as long as he wants. This will divide the roster and create a sense of animosity amongst those that will chose Lesnar and Heyman’s side, and those that want to overcome the beast. The healthy competition that it will foster between guys in the locker room will only help to create new stars. Matches will be fought for the RIGHT to face the champion, rather than title shots being given away simply to fill pay-per-view main events.
This has to potential to resurrect the former glory of the WWE title, and usher in a new era of stars that are desperate to shine, but are held back because they aren’t given a real chance to hold the title. A lack of title opens that door wide open.
YourAyatollah: I hate this question. Not because it's not valid or anything, as it obviously is quite valid. I hate it because there's no definitive answer to it. There are certainly very strong arguments against and in favor, but I personally lean ever so slightly towards it being FACT.
Cena is more reliable and will work a more regular schedule. The biggest worry of Brock winning is that he will take the belt and only appear two or three more times before WrestleMania almost 8 months from now. That would suck. Hard.
That said, the whole "Cena Nuff" movement is at an apex. If Cena wins, I genuinely think we'll see a lot of folks lose interest, especially with football and school and a quickly approaching new TV season and stuff coming back to divide interests. Furthermore, Brock is a draw. He brings in outside interest, (though I personally think he kinda sucks), and would bring a bit of hype to the title that it hasn't had in awhile.
As a traditionalist of sorts, I would honestly prefer Cena winning and defending the strap regularly over not having the champ around for months at a time. Everything Cena has said about Brock is true. He isn't dedicated to pro wrestling. He only wants a match every once in awhile and is in it solely for the money. I don't like that.
That aside, Brock and the enigmatic persona he has due to his limited schedule has a mystique to it that could make the title feel "big" again. Heyman is right, the title used to not be defended every month, at least not on TV. A return to that norm could very well be best for business in the long run.
I honestly think we're kinda screwed either way.
From YourAyatollah: Given the wealth of burgeoning young talent seemingly poised to break through the main event ceiling, this is the final SummerSlam event in which we will see John Cena in a WWE Championship main event match.
Rob Simmons: I’d love to say FACT here, but ultimately I’m going to have to side with FICTION. While the WWE does have the likes of Ambrose, Rollins, Reigns, Cesaro, Bryan (?), and more at their disposal, the WWE is generally slow to pull the trigger on the unknown. When Hogan was champion, there was certainly a wealth of talent that could have been the champion at that time as well, but Hulk was a proven commodity and a money-maker, so it remained the status quo. It didn’t help that he often called his own shots too.
But that’s where the WWE is with John Cena. He’s their safety net, and when all else fails, he once again becomes their #1 guy, which includes being the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Combining the belts really does limit the amount of talent that has a chance to get to the top, as does the WWE’s unwillingness to break from their routines. I’d love to be proven wrong on this one, believe me, I just don’t see it happening quite yet.
YourAyatollah: I warily say this one is FACT. The youth movement is rolling along fast and hard and by this time next year we could have almost a half dozen of the first or second year guys on the midcard of this year's event involved in the main event. Rusev, (if his gimmick doesn't get tired by then), all three former Shield members and Bray Wyatt could conceivably be ready for the big spotlight before the calender says 2015. Some would argue that two or three of them are already.
That fact, along with the hopeful return of Daniel Bryan and somewhat likely re-signing of Lesnar for another year or two, has Cena primed to take the more "featured attraction" role that many want him to evolve into sooner rather than later. The time for change is upon us and we're on the verge of Cena definitively becoming the "old guard".
The only reason I said I'm wary is because there's always a chance that they could trot him out as a nostalgia act a few years from now. Hogan and Rock both won WWE Championships YEARS after their time in that sort of role seemed long gone. It's not at all inconceivable that we could see Cena ride a grand return or "one last run" type of program to that one more SummerSlam title main event.
eldandy: You’d think that after all the bullshit I threw into my last answer that I’d be all over this one, wouldn’t you? Well my friends, I’m going with FICTION for this. Why?
Because the WWE is a creature of habit. They don’t tend to look any further than their next fiscal quarter, and until somebody comes along and proves that they have the same earning potential as John Cena, they will continue to ride John Cena until he either stops earning them money, or dies (whichever comes first…)
I don’t even think this has anything to do with the powers that be either. I am sure that Vince, Hunter, Steph and the WWE Creative Minions would LOVE to have somebody else come along and allow them to try something new. As much as they love John, I have a feeling they’re getting a little sick of seeing the same thing happen again and again, week after week on their television shows and pay-per-views. Unfortunately, they can’t seem to find anything that sells as much as he does, and as a publically traded company, the WWE lives and dies by how much money it earns it’s stock owners. Read: non-wrestling fans. They don’t care how boring and formulaic the company’s weekly episodic television show is, so long as it sells merchandise and add revenue. If these things aren’t happening, then they’re selling their stock. That’s bad for publically traded companies…
I have little doubt that some of the stars being groomed right now will be the future of the business, but as long as John Cena is selling merchandise and making money (and alive…) he will always be at or near the top of the WWE, and thus be in the main event picture. It’s a numbers game, and even with 11 other pay-per-views he could be headlining, I’m not willing to bet that he won’t be at the top of this one (defending or challenging for the title) years down the road.
Randall: John Cena will continue to main event until the day he literally dies in the ring. I’m sick to f**king death of his bulls**t and I hope YOLO Lesnar destroys him this weekend. Not nice of me to wish harm upon someone, but whenever they have consistently been the same old boring crap for the past 10+ years, you can’t help but be annoyed. Looks like I will continue to be annoyed and not care about anything involving Cena, because this is FICTION. Sorry Steve, don’t punish me on LOPRadio <3
From Rob: Given that Dean Ambrose had the ability to pick ANY stipulation in his match with Seth Rollins, he should have made the match be for Rollins' MITB briefcase, thus kickstarting Ambrose rise to the top.
YourAyatollah: I'll go FICTION on this one. Ambrose is a character that has a real "common man" vibe, the type that will steadily get over based on how damn hard he works. Making the match against Rollings for the briefcase would be a bit of a shortcut. Also, I kinda get the feeling that they may be saving that for the blowoff of the feud next month or maybe the month after. How amazing would it be if he were to win it and then wind up making the hard heel turn we all KNOW he's going to eventually make when he cashes it in, Punk vs Hardy style? That would be awesome.
I digress. This will not be the end of Ambrose vs Rollins. Hell, it's technically their first match of the feud.
In a storyline sense, picking a lumberjack match made Ambrose look like an idiot. Aside from the obvious gain to be had by making it for the briefcase, he also just guaranteed that he won't get the brawl he wants. He wants to rip Rollins apart, so why not make it a Falls Count Anywhere or street fight? If he wanted to ensure Rollins couldn't run, why not make it a strap or dog collar match? We haven't seen either in awhile and both would fit Ambrose's style beautifully. And if interference was a worry, which it appears to have been, why not just put it in a cage so you can bash Rollins off the steel 20, 30 times?
Lumberjack matches are inherently kind of dumb and Ambrose looks kinda stupid for picking that stipulation. That said, I think he will be better served, in the longrun, by not having made the match for the briefcase. I just wish he had chosen literally any other stipulation besides lumberjack.
eldandy: I feel like I partly answered this with my Lesnar question, but I think this can be filled out a little bit more. For starters: FICTION.
Dean Ambrose, much like nearly every other young star in the WWE, doesn’t need a shot at the WWE Championship to establish himself as a star. Contrary to many people’s beliefs, most stars in professional wrestling become stars long before they ever get their hands on the WWE title. Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, the Rock, Edge; all became huge stars before ever holding the WWE title. The Undertaker held the title for 8 days in his first run, and a total of 238 days (WWE Title only) over the course of his career, and yet he is regarded by some as the greatest star of the last 20 years. Title shots do not make stars. Don’t believe me? Ask the Miz, Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus or Dolph Ziggler.
If Dean Ambrose (and Seth Rollins for that matter) wants to establish himself as one of the top new stars in the WWE, and wants the fans to get on his side, he needs to do one thing:
Wrestle a match that makes them want to see him wrestle again.
Seems simple, doesn’t it? And yet, so often people assume that it’s a Money in the Bank win, or a King of the Ring coronation that gives a wrestler the boost that they need to propel them into the upper echelon of the WWE. The reality is that if people want to see them wrestle again, they won’t care if it’s for a title or not. Matches like Bret Hart/Steve Austin at Wreslemania 13, or Shawn Michaels/Razor Ramon at Wrestlemania X weren’t for the WWE Championship, and yet they firmly established their participants (not so much Hart… he was already there) as huge stars. Hell, Edge (and Christian and the Hardy Boys…) made his name fighting over the managerial services of Terri Runnels… The matches themselves had no titles on the line, but they made people want to pay to see the participants wrestle again.
The key to all of this is that the WWE give these young stars a chance to shine in these opportunities. Don’t simply give them 10 minutes at the start of the show to get the crowd worked up. Give them stakes, and a place on the card that commands the respect they’re trying to earn. Give them stipulations that actually mean something, or have the potential to let them spread their wings and get the attention of the crowd.
Put them in a… Lumberjack match? What the ****? Never mind… not even a having a MITB briefcase on the line is going to help this one…
Randall: FICTION. I don’t think Ambrose really cares about the Money in the Bank briefcase at the moment, just look at the unspeakable things he did to it last week! The only thing Ambrose really cares about currently, is the destruction of his backstabbing brother, Seth Rollins. He will continue to stop Rollins from cashing in and beat him down until he is a broken man. THEN and only then, will Ambrose take what Rollins holds dear and that is the MitB contract. Let the feud run until Hell in a Cell, with a victory apiece, so they can settle it in the structure with the briefcase on the line. That, my friends, is when Ambrose can start his main event run.
Rob Simmons: Picking a Lumberjack Match as the stipulation for their encounter at SummerSlam was stupid. Quite frankly, Lumberjack matches themselves are stupid. A lot of time is spent focusing on what’s going on outside the ring with the other wrestlers, and not enough on an actual match itself. Yes Ambrose wants to keep Seth from running, but there were better choices, so this one is FACT.
Make Rollins put his briefcase on the line where if he loses in any way shape or form, he loses the case. He can’t get DQ’d, or counted out. He’d be forced to wrestle to keep his title shot. That works 100x better than having lumberjacks surround the ring, plus it adds a whole new level of intrigue to the match. I’m not even sure Ambrose would have needed to win the case, but it would surely have resulted in a better match.
So there you have it folks, our SummerSlam edition of Fact or Fiction. We hope you all enjoy the show.
Until we meet again,