Friday, August 3, 2018

The History of WWE SummerSlam, part 5 (2000-2002)

This here is a fine trilogy of SummerSlams......

SummerSlam 2000 - Raleigh Entertainment & Sports Arena - 8/27/00

Here's a bloated PPV lineup.  As with that year's WrestleMania, the company decided to put entirely too many matches on the SummerSlam card.  Unlike 'Mania, they only had the standard three hours to squeeze in ten matches.  As a result the show was very diluted, despite about half of it being quite good.  But even some of the good matches weren't really given enough time to breathe.

For the second consecutive year the main event was a Triple Threat for the WWF Title, this time between The Rock, Triple H, and Kurt Angle.  This was a pretty damn good 3-way match, and was probably the first time the Triple Threat became worthy of headlining a PPV.  Where just about every previous incarnation of this gimmick was either slow, sloppy, overly chaotic, or all three, this match had a much clearer flow to it.  It was a blessing in disguise that Kurt Angle was legitimately knocked out of the match for much of the running time due to a botched table spot, as it left Triple H and The Rock to settle the match down for a while.  When Angle returned late in the match it created a nice dynamic shift.

Just before the table pulled an ad lib and smashed Angle's face.....

The show featured a pair of awesome undercard matches.  The first was a 2-out-of-3 Falls match between the two Chrises - Jericho and Benoit.  These two had spent much of 2000 feuding over the I-C Title and had both been elevated to semi-main event players.  This match was the third in an excellent trilogy of PPV bouts.  While not up to the standard of their Backlash match (which IMO was one of the best matches of 2000), this was a pretty great undercard match.  It was only given about 16 minutes, which given the stipulations is pretty skimpy.  Had this been an 8-match card they could've had probably another ten minutes to make this match epic.

The show stealer for the second time was the TLC match between Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boyz, and the Dudleys.  As with 'Mania, these three teams turned the ring area into a warzone.  They were only given about 14 minutes but they made that time count with a fast-paced, streamlined spotfest.  Great stuff here.

Just before the tables acted according to plan and smashed Matt Hardy's back...

The semi-main spot inexplicably went to a hastily-thrown together Plan B match.  Originally the Brothers of Destruction, Undertaker and Kane, were supposed to fight Big Show and Shane McMahon at SummerSlam.  While this idea is hardly awesome, Big Show's attitude and physique got him in trouble with management, and he was sent down to OVW to pay some dues and get in better shape.  That left Taker and Kane without credible opponents, so the WWF decided to split them up for no logical reason.  The resulting match was just as nonsensical.  After about six minutes of nondescript brawling, Taker pulled off Kane's mask, Kane rolled out of the ring covering his face, and the referee called for the bell.  Like there wasn't even a countout, the match was just over.  It made zero sense and was a complete waste of both guys.  At that point why not go ahead with the planned tag match and have Big Show do the clean job on his way out?

There were two other decent little matches on the show. 

Shane got reassigned to a feud with Steve Blackman, and the two fought in a WWF-style Hardcore spotfest which climaxed with one of Shane's crazy stunt falls, this time off the Titantron.  It was in this match that we all realized how deranged Shane really was.  The son of the company's owner doing insano high spots when he could just as easily be watching the show from a luxury box.  Crazy.

The other ok match was a mixed tag for the Intercontinental Title (which is an amazingly stupid idea, having a singles champion defend the title in a tag match).  Val Venis & Trish Stratus vs. Eddie Guerrero & Chyna.  Chyna won the I-C belt here by pinning Trish (The second time that year that a major singles title changed hands at a PPV due to the tag partner of a Champion being pinned.  The Rock won the WWF Title by pinning Vince in a six-man tag.).  The match was forgettable but decent.

The rest of SummerSlam 2000 was pointless drivel.  X-Pac vs. Road Dogg was slapped together at the last minute; Tazz turned heel and feuded with Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, losing to Lawler here; Right to Censor beat Rikishi and Too Cool; and for the second time, Terri Runnels fought The Kat on a major PPV.  Seriously, this match happened TWICE.

Basically this show could've been really great had they limited the card to 7 or 8 matches and given the good stuff ample time.  The main event got plenty, but the TLC and Jericho-Benoit matches got shortchanged.  TLC ended up being just fine, but Jericho-Benoit should've gotten over 20 minutes for three falls.  Too many of the bouts were thrown on the card at the last minute and ended up being totally pointless.  In a calendar year where the WWF was firing on all cylinders and nearly every B-PPV was an instant classic (No Way Out through No Mercy were all awesome shows), it was odd to see them misfire with four of the Big Five PPVs.

Best Match: TLC
Worst Match: Terri vs. The Kat - I'd like to know who in the company thought anyone was buying the PPV for this.
What I'd Change: Cut the women's match and the Tazz-Lawler debacle, keep Taker/Kane vs. Show/Shane as planned, and you're down to seven matches.
Most Disappointing Match: I guess Benoit vs. Jericho.  I was hoping for a 25-minute epic and they only got 16.  As it is it's still the third-best match on the show.  But it could've been so much more.
Most Pleasant Surprise: The main event probably.  I didn't have much interest in Kurt Angle yet, so I thought it was premature to include him in a PPV main event for the belt.  Initially I had hoped for a Triple H-Kurt Angle undercard match and a main event of Rock-Jericho-Benoit.  Fortunately the main we got was quite good.
Overall Rating: 7/10
Better than WrestleMania 2000? - Probably not quite.

SummerSlam '01 - Compaq Center - 8/19/01

This show was awesome.  SummerSlam 2001 took place at the height of the Invasion angle which, while remembered by history as an abysmal failure on a massive scale, did produce a few good PPVs, most significantly this one.

From top to bottom nearly every match on the card was good to great, a few of them were first-time dream matches, and there was a big-time feel to the whole proceeding.

The show opened in style with an I-C Title match between WCW's Lance Storm and the WWF's newest King of the Ring, Edge.  This was short and to the point, but featured fast-paced back-and-forth action.  Great way to kick off the show.

Next up was a fun little six-man tag: The Dudleys and Test vs. The APA and Spike.  Nothing spectacular here, but it was a nice addition and brought some variety to the show.

In the third slot was an excellent Cruiserweight Title Unification match between X-Pac and Tajiri.  This match existed outside the Invasion angle as neither man was part of the Alliance.  Nevertheless it was a blistering small-man contest and marked the end of the WWF Light Heavyweight Title, which was absorbed into the Cruiserweight belt (I mean that literally; the Cruiserweight belt swallowed the other one like an amoeba).

Chris Jericho and Rhyno were up next and had a match nearly worthy of a semi-main slot.  Jericho had some trouble with the overly loose ropes, but managed to hold his own in this very solid undercard bout.

Bout 6 was a rematch to the amazing RVD-Jeff Hardy spotfest from Invasion.  To up the ante, this was made a Hardcore Title Ladder Match.  While it wasn't quite up to the high standard set by the first encounter, this was a fine, brutal Ladder Match and helped cement RVD as the hottest star in the company.

This led to a terribly botched spot that could've been awesome.
But at least no one got hurt.

The only misstep on this PPV occurred next, as both the WWF and WCW Tag Titles were on the line in a cage match between Undertaker/Kane and Diamond Dallas Page & Kanyon.  Both DDP and Kanyon would be horribly wasted in their WWF run, largely due to backstage politics and Taker using his considerable clout to have them more or less blackballed.  This match happened during the severe burial of DDP known as the "stalker" angle, during which DDP was actually pinned in a match by Taker's then-wife Sara.  This tag match was a glorified squash, which unfortunately ran ten full minutes.  Pointless stuff here.

The first of two main events was next, as WWF Champion Steve Austin (now the leader of the Alliance) faced newest WWF hero Kurt Angle, in a brutal, stiff, brilliant contest.  The match started out with a fairly old-school feel, but escalated to a wild brawl featuring outside the ring suplexes, ring step piledrivers, and multiple ref bumps.  This feud was incredible, and Angle did a fantastic job of getting the audience behind him as the nails-tough underdog who stood up to Austin's bully character.  Angle probably should've won the belt here, and the match should've closed the show, but other than the DQ finish, this is one of the best SummerSlam matches of all time.

Weird, usually Austin's the one bleeding like a
slasher film victim while locked in a submission hold.

The main event slot featured the return of The Rock to challenge WCW Champion Booker T.  This was one of the few available dream matches resulting from the WCW buyout, given that most of the big WCW names were left to run out their existing contracts.  While Rock vs. Booker was fun, there was a bit too much brawling into the crowd, and the match felt anticlimactic after the Austin-Angle masterpiece.  Still this was an okay main event to cap off a tremendous PPV.

The Rock Bottom Book End uranage slam.
Say what you will about the overall Invasion angle - it was handled about as badly as possible by a company that up until that point was enjoying the best year-plus run I've ever seen - but SummerSlam 2001 was one of the few bright spots in this clustermess.  Angle-Austin is a full-on classic, RVD-Hardy and X-Pac-Tajiri were both stunning, and only one match on this card stunk.  One of the best SummerSlams of the bunch.

Best Match: Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle
Worst Match: Taker/Kane vs. DDP/Kanyon
What I'd Change: Other than overhauling the entire Invasion you mean?  I'd obviously put Austin-Angle on last and have Angle win the belt here.  I'd have told Taker to suck it up and actually give DDP some offense.  Other than that, not much.
Most Disappointing Match: Probably Rock vs. Booker.  I was hoping for something really special but it was just a two-ish star affair.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Nothing really surprising here.  I had high expectations going in, based on how the card looked on paper.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10
Better than WrestleMania X-Seven? - No, but how could it be?

SummerSlam '02 - Nassau Coliseum - 8/25/02

One of the best wrestling events I've ever seen.  This show ranks up there with 'Mania 17 & 19.  Eight matches, not one of them bad, and a few of them in the four-star range.  Literally the only thing missing from SummerSlam 2002 was a five-star classic.  This show took place during the red-hot RAW vs. Smackdown feud, where GMs Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon were constantly trying to one-up each other each week.  Behind the scenes Paul Heyman was writing Smackdown and just knocking it out of the park every week (this was the beginning of the orgasmically good Smackdown Six era).  SummerSlam '02 is a perfect illustration of how much better the blue brand was at this point.

The show opened in impossibly spectacular fashion with Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio.  This was nine minutes of awesome.  Mysterio was still healthy at this point, and could do absolutely astounding things in the ring.  Paired with a general like Kurt Angle, there was no way this match couldn't be incredible.  My only complaint is that this match wasn't twice as long.

This match was nine minutes of fuckin' great.

Chris Jericho was enjoying one of the worst, most depressing examples of misuse in wrestling history.  He had just been traded to RAW, where there was almost no one really great to work with.  Had he stayed on Smackdown he could've been part of the Smackdown Six (or Seven I guess).  Sadly Jericho went from headlining WrestleMania to floundering in the RAW midcard for the next three yearssince there wasn't an available top heel spot for him there.  He had a brief and unremarkable feud with Ric Flair and bafflingly lost clean to the 53-year-old in this match.  It's a pretty good match, it's just that Jericho deserved so much better.

Smackdown was well-represented by the third match: Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero.  This feud produced a trilogy of absolute classics, the first of which took place here.  Excellent 11-plus-minute bout that showcased both guys as future main eventers.  After you watch this match, go and find their no-holds-barred rematch from Smackdown which took place about a month later.  You will not be disappointed.

Next up was the Tag Title match between Lance Storm & Christian, and Booker T & Goldust.  Booker and Goldust had been paired as an unlikely babyface duo, and managed to get hugely over.  This match is no classic but it's not too shabby either.

The interbrand Intercontinental Title match was fifth, as Chris Benoit defended against Rob Van Dam.  Going into this I was expecting something legendary, and while the match is by no means bad, it was definitely a disappointment.  These two had fought on RAW the previous month in a solid back-and-forth match, and what happened at SummerSlam was a largely one-sided, methodical asskicking by Benoit, leading to RVD pulling out the win in the closing minutes.  This just simply wasn't up to either guy's standards and I can't help wondering if they were instructed not to have a show-stealing match.

The Undertaker had a fairly short but decent match with Test, which I think was sort of designed to help get Test over.  Since Test lost in eight minutes I'm not sure what they were expecting to accomplish, but the match was ok.

The semi-main featured the long-awaited in-ring return of the amazing Shawn Michaels, coming off a four-and-a-half year retirement to face his former best friend Triple H in a Street Fight.  Shawn forwent his usual ring attire, opting for jeans and cowboy boots.  But when the time came, he proved he could still turn it on and tear the place down.  Shawn and Hunter had an epic 25-minute battle that, while featuring the usual no-DQ shortcuts, still managed to be one of the year's best matches.  At the time it was said of Shawn that he picked up right where he left off in 1998, and in the ensuing years he would go on to prove that literally dozens of times, building a second body of work at least as stupendous as his first.

In the main event we got the awesome pure athletic contest of The Rock vs. newcomer Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title.  The buildup to this match was perfect, as they hyped it like a real wrestling contest, showcasing the training regimens of both guys.  I wish more big matches were built up this way.  This match was Lesnar's first great wrestling match and proved that he really was The Next Big Thing.  The Rock very graciously made Lesnar look like a well-rounded monster heel, and the match was simple, direct, fast-paced, and physical.  All in all a flawless way to herald the arrival of Brock Lesnar.  The crowd was completely invested too, exploding in cheers when Lesnar won the Title.  The follow-up to this was less than stellar, but for one night at least, WWE was committed to building a brand new top guy.


SummerSlam 2002, like 'Mania 19, happened at a time where the company was producing a very uneven product, but for one night all the stars aligned to deliver a truly spectacular PPV.  The Smackdown-centered matches mostly stole the show here, but even the RAW content was solid, and Shawn's return to the ring was a great epic fight.  If you haven't seen this show, stop whatever you're doing, log into the WWE Network, and watch it from start to finish.  Do it right now!

Best Match: Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio - I like this just a hair better than the HBK-HHH match.  They were only given nine minutes and no shortcuts, and still managed to steal the show.
Worst Match: Undertaker vs. Test - But even this isn't bad.
What I'd Change: I'd have given the opener another five minutes to nudge it into 4.5-star terrain.  I'd also have given Test a win over Taker to further that feud, and had Jericho beat Flair.
Most Disappointing Match: Chris Benoit vs. Rob Van Dam - Really, this should've been a five-star classic.  Benoit got in way too much offense, which as a technical heel, made for a rather slow, plodding bout.
Most Pleasant Surprise: I wasn't sure Shawn would still be able to deliver on the same level as before, so this was awesome to see.
Overall Rating: 10/10
Better than WrestleMania X8? - Jesus Christ yes.

Part 4                                                                                                                                                Part 6

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