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Sunday, 17 August 2008

Summerslam Preview


The hottest night of the summer, the biggest blockbuster of the summer..............or the biggest letdown of the summer?

Tonight is Summerslam, which we are often told is considered to be the Number Two PPV on the WWE calendar.

To this end, they’ve hotshotted John Cena v Batista to feature in this card, with the very strange admission from Cena before the match was made that it should be at Wrestlemania, not Summerslam. As I noted in a previous commentary, I agree with this sentiment, and think they could have built a really decent Mania campaign. However, they haven’t, and I wonder if it may get lost in the sprawl. More on that in a minute.

It’s an odd card all round, really. The two biggest matches are not title contests, and these championship matches have been given a secondary position on the line-up. I can understand both pieces of booking, and would think they are for character development purposes more than anything.

Elsewhere there are a couple of bouts with possibilities to be good, bad or indifferent. It’ll be interesting to see which way they swing and what bearing they will have on the show.

Onto predictions and thoughts..........

Matt Hardy v Mark Henry – ECW Title
I thought I’d get this one out of the way. ECW has become such an afterthought that the only reason I can think of that ECW now exists (apart from the money it may make from syndication) is as a glorified development territory. Give some of the fellas you have nothing for some time in “The Land of the Extreme” and fill the rest of it with emerging talent.

Ricky Ortiz (Atlas DaBone) and Evan Bourne (Matt Sydal) are on the show now, and apparently, according to Teddy Long, there are still more to come. Perhaps Colt Cabana, having debuted last week as Scotty Goldman on Smackdown, may end up in ECW too.

Anyway, this match is simply two Smackdown middle carders dressed up as being World or potential World Champions. I feel sorry for Matt, as I feel that he was doing well for himself on SD, and if anything would have been more suited to a move to Monday nights, where he could have been a good candidate for the IC title.

Anyway, I can see quite a babyface night on this PPV, so for the interests of balance, I’ll go for Henry to win. I can see them giving Hardy a bit of a longer chase, so I’d day he loses through interference courtesy of Tony Atlas, prompting a cage match or similar at Unforgiven.

Prediction: Mark Henry to retain

Kofi Kingston and Mickie James v Santino Marella and Beth Phoenix
Beth and Santino have been a riot thus far, and I think this is set up for them to win and gain some more television exposure. WWE are known to react strongly to positive feedback on certain characters and scenarios, and many people have given the thumps up to duo of Glamarella.

Look for Beth to beat Mickie, probably with Marella distracting Kofi. This allows Kofi to drop the title without looking bad. Beth beating Mickie doesn’t destroy Ms James, since she has is pretty over and has beaten Beth cleanly. It also gives Beth a timely boost, and would give a focus to Beth and Santino’s relationship.

Prediction: Beth and Santino, as described above. Also, I’d suggest that developing this further Santino would keep defending the title and look like losing, but Beth saves him.

MVP v Jeff Hardy
These two met in a surprise match at Judgment Day which felt like a regular TV match (It hadn’t had any build up) but this will likely be better. The build to this match has been pretty good, as MVP is a very good antagonist, and Jeff Hardy just a naturally popular babyface, so the chemistry seems right.

I am slightly put off by the last few drops of preparation for this one, though, since it has caused a couple of decent Jeff v Shelton Benjamin matches to end in non-finishes, and I can see this either going a similar route or at least having some sort of conclusion other than a clean one.

I’d most likely take MVP to win, since his is the character worth building up more, and heels are needed on Smackdown. Apart from the brilliant Edge (Superstar of the year thus far, for me) you are only really looking at The Great Khali, whereas babyfaces at a top level range from the champ Triple H, Jeff himself, The Undertaker and the Big Show.

Umaga is injured, (he would have likely faced Big Show at this PPV) so the landscape is barren for the heels. I can’t see Khali winning nor having another shot at the belt (oops, spoiled my prediction for later) so MVP may well be needed to make the step up and be a top heel, if only temporarily.

Prediction: MVP to win, but not cleanly. Probably a feet-on-the-rope job, or maybe a pulling of the tights. He needs the win more, but they won’t job Jeff out.

Triple H v Great Khali (WWE Title)

They’ve teased on Smackdown that Triple H can’t put the pedigree on Great Khali, so I’d think that this will be the story of the match. Trips all over him to begin with, and trying to apply his signature hold, but Khali fights back. Triple H keeps coming back, to no avail, often trying for the pedigree and failing. Khali hits the brain chop, but The Game kicks out, and suddenly hits the Pedigree.

Or something like that.

Prediction: Triple H. Because Khali is That.........Damn.........Bad

CM Punk v John Bradshaw Layfield (World Title)
The battle of the paradoxes, this one. CM Punk is the world champion but doesn’t really get pushed. He is the champion but not on top of the card. The writers (allegedly) don’t like him, the agents (allegedly) don’t like him, but Vince (maybe) does.

JBL is probably the best hand the company has on the microphone. He has sold this match brilliantly, and sold himself brilliantly, in the mic time he’s had to pump this one up. Unfortunately, as my editor at Fighting Spirit James Denton says in the current issue, his in-ring work “sucks a dick”. (So eloquent, that boy.)

Hopefully this is the clean, high-profile win that Punk needs to raise him up at least half a level. Other than beating Cena in a gimmick match, JBL’s wins of late have been a little scarce. A loss to CM Punk wouldn’t really hurt much, but it would give Punk a fillip he sorely needs. I think he will win, I just hope it isn’t a cheap win, because that if they are going along that route, then it’s just pointless.

Prediction: Punk cleanly, and hoping that my heart isn’t ruling my head.

John Cena v Batista
This is the one I talked about above. The one match that you could forgive the probably poor quality of it if you can exchange it for the spectacle. Think Rock and Hogan at Mania. I’m not saying that either Cena or Batista are at the Rock or Hogan level, but that match back at Wrestlemania X8 is recalled as a classic, and the workrate wasn’t exactly stellar

The name value was, though, and when it comes to Wrestlemania the WWE can pull out all the stops, marketing wise. I keep going back over this in my mind, and I envisage Cena and Batista drawing one and two in the Rumble, with one nearly eliminating the other on more than occasion. After 30 have entered, both men are still there, but neither end up winning, with someone perhaps eliminating them both while they are fighting.

Now, however, this is simply the slinging together of two names in the hope that people will buy the Pay Per View because of it. This happened last year with Cena and Lashley. The two men were the unstoppable, runaway trains of WWE and you really didn’t know who would win. Instead of a heated clash, we got the old ‘respect’ angle, which nearly always fails to draw.

I truly wish this was a mania match, and I am truly fearful this will be very dull. Batista and Cena are the archetypal WWE-style main eventers who the company will be proud of. They are not great wrestlers like Hart, Michaels, Flair, Jericho, (whisper it) Benoit, Hennig, Steamboat or any other you care to mention of this ilk. Therefore, I see no reason to want to watch these two wrestle, especially with no belt on the line. Apart from Batista saying “stay out of my way” and the hackneyed “tag team champions who hate each other” act, there is no real animosity here.

Sorry, but apart from kids who won’t know who to cheer for, I sense a big dud here.

Prediction: Oh yeah, I have to pick a wrestler, don’t I? You know what - I smell bullshit all over this. Either a double count-out or double DQ. Or perhaps one of those deals where Batista gets the visual pin but the ref is down, and then Cena wins over all. I’d say that Cena to win is most likely, with Batista feeling he was screwed over, and showing more signs of a heel turn.

Edge v Undertaker (Hell in a Cell)
This is the money match here, if any. Edge v Taker has been done over and over this year, but Edge’s work the last few weeks has been off the charts – probably the best of his career.

Now I’m not really salivating over this because frankly the Undertaker act is not one of my favourites. That is not a slight on the guy. He is a certifiable legend in the WWE, deservedly so, and I am very much in a minority in finding him a bit stale.

I sometimes worry that the Hell in a Cell format is overused, because matches like Triple H v Kevin Nash and DX v Vince, Shane and Big Show have watered down the format.

Fun facts – this is the 16th Hell in a Cell. The only HiaC to not feature either Undertaker or Triple H was Mankind v Kane, but that was on Raw not a Pay Per View. So the intention is that you will only pay money to see Trips or Take.

Back to this match, and I do think the timing of this one is good, and that the match will likely deliver. I just want to know what route they will go with each competitor post-Summerslam. Edge has been the main man of late, and Taker is basically untouchable.

Typically I would suggest that the Undertaker should lose a match like this, because he will always retain his aura, whereas Edge beating UT would send him to the moon.

However, two things go against that. Firstly, I don’t see Edge v Triple H happening again, so soon after it was done recently, and quickly. Secondly, my booking card wants Triple H and Undertaker fighting at Wrestlemania.

That. Is. Money.

And although it was a previous Wrestlemania encounter, with Taker back as the Deadman (last time they fought he was a biker bad-ass) and Triple H a babyface makes it a completely new concept. If The Undertaker is going to face Triple H for the title at Wrestlemania, then he has to be protected.

I’d have Taker win, for the reason above and for the fact that I still believe in the fact that most long term good versus evil storylines ought to end with redemption for the good guy.

Prediction: Undertaker. Sending Edge even more over the.....ahem.....edge.

Other stuff – Shawn Michaels is due to make an announcement about his future. Perhaps I’m over-thinking this a bit, but I’d suggest that if he was going to simply say “I’m not going to retire” and Jericho then attacks him, that’s a third quarter segment on Raw, not a PPV feature.

This is also not a big enough thing to draw a PPV spike. A TV rating for a quarter-hour, maybe, but not a reason to part with hard earned cash.

Therefore, I’m of the opinion that this goes two ways. Either it’s a strong “I’m not retiring, and I challenge you to a Last Man Standing/Ironman/Two of out Three Fall/invent your own concept match at a future PPV” or it’s “I’m retiring.”

Now I’m not advocating the latter, but I can see it happening. I personally believe that Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho has been the best feud in wrestling in 2008. Maybe Edge the standout single guy, but HBK/Jericho has been just superbly scripted. Better than Angle/Styles, better than anything, anywhere.

They may look to do the following: Michaels says that he will listen to the doctors. He’s finished. Jericho spends more time bragging about how he ended HBK’s career, and wins the title. He is the main man, and he is oh-so-cocky because of what he did to Shawn.

From afar (kayfabe) Michaels sees Jericho with the glory and realises it is bogus. Jericho never beat Shawn Michaels, Jericho sneakily injured him. Shawn says he couldn’t look at himself in the mirror (and I don’t mean because his eyes are fucked) if he allowed Jericho to lord it over the WWE when he (Shawn) knows that he is better than him (Jericho).

This gives Michaels the opportunity to come back and challenge Jericho once more. Maybe it’s for the belt, maybe it’s at Mania, but it could feasibly work.

My worry is that what they will do is have Michaels retire (so that would be Taker and Shawn within six months of Flair’s emotional send-off.) but come back by Survivor Series, panicking that people will have forgotten about the situation. I wouldn’t blame them for this, because HBK is one of their top men, and to not have him for an extended period of time might be bad business. Although maybe Shawn is injured and needs a rest.

Either way, I think he’s going to retire. If they can keep the storyline tight, play up Jericho’s elation about his shelving of Shawn, and emphasise Shawn’s disappointment at being out of commission, it’ll work. And I hope and pray that it does, because this fabulous story does not deserve to end (and the two protagonists don’t deserve it to end) in a flimsy manner.

Also to consider:

Kane and Mysterio
We probably won’t see anything from these two, but just keep it at the back of your mind, should Kane wish to play up the madman angle.

By the way, now we are looking a PG product rather than a more adult-oriented one, so things ought to be considered aimed at kids, anyone else think it could have sounded to kids like Kane had killed Rey Mysterio?

Mick Foley
I know Mick is alleged to be leaving (and even heading to TNA, so we’re reporting, from a credible source, at The Sun) but is there a chance that he could come back, to spite Edge, and take a leap off the cage? Maybe that’s his grand exit from WWE, (nearly) re-enacting his most famous moment.

William Regal
Is there a chance that Regal could appear? They have kept talking about him as a free agent, so I wonder if they’ll use that to switch his brand. I’d especially love to see him go to ECW, just to have him wrestle Finlay every week. Regal can also do comedy, so if you insist on using Hornswoggle, then Regal would be a good foil for skits, and could also have great matches.

For Summerslam, maybe he’ll appear to attack Matt Hardy, or to get involved in MVP and Jeff Hardy. It’s more likely you won’t see him, but it might be a way of getting him involved in something more important than beating up Jamie Noble.

Randy Orton
Tricky subject. Maybe Randy Orton had a motorcycle accident, and maybe he nearly died, and maybe he will be out for several more months. If this is the scenario, then I hope Randy has a speedy recovery and feel genuinely sorry for the guy having such a harrowing occasion.


Over the years we have been trained that comes up with bullshit. There have been no reports from the local press when Randy is supposed to have had his accident. Plus, he is said to have been thrown 300ft. Three Hundred? Are you sure? Think about how far that is, then consider that he broke a collarbone that was already weak. Seems odd.

He may be there tonight. He may not. If he is, then I don’t know where he would appear. I’m just saying it is possible.

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