Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The History of WWE SummerSlam, part 7 (2006-2008)

This is what I like to call The Era of the Phoned-In SummerSlam.....

SummerSlam '06 - TD Banknorth Garden - 8/20/06

What a stinker of a card this was.  I was in attendance at this show, sitting in the loge opposite the hard cameras, and when I watched this on DVD a month later I actually spent more time looking for myself in the crowd than watching the matches (I was wearing a bright red football jersey so I was easy to spot).  That's how spectacularly dull SummerSlam 2006 was.

The show opened with a passable but uninspired bout between Rey Mysterio (fresh off his terrible World Title run where he was booked as the weakest champion ever) and Chavo Guerrero.  These two have had excellent matches over the years - just check out No Way Out 2004 - but this wasn't one of them.  It was an okay opener but not at all memorable.

Next up was Big Show defending the ill-conceived new ECW Title against Sabu in a watered-down hardcore match.

Attempting to recreate the buzz of 2005's SummerSlam, WWE brought Hulk Hogan back yet again and had him wrestle Randy Orton in the third match of the night.  Keep in mind how unimpressed I was with Hogan vs. HBK.  That was a masterpiece compared to this.  Hogan won by DQ in under eleven minutes.

One of the two watchable matches was next, as Mick Foley and Ric Flair had a bloody I Quit match which was going pretty well until the abrupt finish.  Flair threatened to beat up Foley's crush Melina, prompting Foley to give up.  Melina of course turned on Foley the next night. 

Look at that blubber fly!

Match five was one of the worst of the bunch, as Batista attempted to regain the World Title from King Booker.  Booker finally got a proper World Title run in WWE by defeating Mysterio, but he also won the King of the Ring tournament and adjusted his gimmick to include a crown & cape, and a comically fake English accent.  This match was shockingly bad.  These two didn't gel at all and the match was full of awkward exchanges, including Batista stealing Goldberg's Jackhammer finisher (and performing it badly).

The semi-main slot went to probably the worst feud of 2006 - the reunited DeGeneration X vs. The McMahons.  This feud all started at the beginning of the year, when Shawn Michaels somehow (don't remember exactly) fell afoul of Vince and Shane.  Shane's interference led to Shawn's elimination from the Rumble, and it all built to WrestleMania, where Shawn beat Vince up for 18 minutes in one of the most overrated matches of all time. 

Post-Mania we got to see Vince & Shane vs. Shawn & "God," or as they call it in the biz, a Handicap Match.  Then after a couple more months Triple H eventually came to Shawn's aid and DX was two middle-aged dudes pretending to still be in their twenties.  Seriously, watching two 40-year-olds (one of whom was now a born-again Christian) trotting out the same old dick and poop jokes nearly a decade later was so excruciatingly unfunny I can't even begin to describe it.

So DX feuded with Vince and Shane, but first they had to get through the Spirit Squad, a stable of five guys (including the future Dolph Ziggler) with a cheerleader gimmick.  The two members of DX repeatedly beat the shit out of all five SS members (really, five guys can't beat TWO??) and thus earned the right to wrestle the McMahons.  What ensued at SummerSlam was a dumb comedy match (the only highlights of which were Vince and Shane using the tandem finishers of several legendary tag teams) that should've mercifully ended this agonizing feud.  Sadly it wasn't even the blowoff match - that would come at Unforgiven as the McMahons added The Big Show to their team and DX still beat them in a Hell in a Cell match (which ended when Vince's face got shoved between Show's bare buttcheeks - how tasteful).

The one truly good match of this suckfest of a card was the main event - Edge vs. John Cena for the WWE Title.  This was Edge's first run as a headliner, and he played the part of the cowardly, odious bad guy to perfection.  This match had a stipulation where if Edge got disqualified he'd lose the belt.  Unlike their previous matches where Edge was basically dominated from start to finish, this match was a good back-and-forth bout with a nice story.  Several times Lita came close to getting Edge DQd and it created a good subplot.  A very entertaining main event to an otherwise terrible SummerSlam. 

John, I'm beggin' ya to tighten up that STF.
Look how much strain he is NOT putting on Edge's neck.

2006 was such an awful year for WWE creatively.  They were still clinging desperately to the tone of the Attitude Era despite the novelty having long worn off.  The ECW relaunch experiment was an abysmal failure right out of the gate but they insisted on riding it out.  John Cena was the new face of the company but only the women and young fans truly liked him.  The mindset of only pushing cookie-cutter bodybuilder types as top stars was still prevalent and the in-ring product suffered tremendously.

This PPV had seven matches, only one of which exceeded fifteen minutes (seriously where does all the time go on these SummerSlam cards??), and several of the best workers were either injured or suspended.  Benoit and Angle were on the disabled list (Angle would leave the company soon after), and Rob Van Dam was still under suspension for his weed bust while WWE Champion.  Shelton Benjamin was once again bafflingly left off the card entirely, and CM Punk was brand new and I guess hadn't "earned" a PPV spot yet.  The result was a wholly forgettable PPV with a pretty good main event.  At the time I considered this possibly the worst SummerSlam ever.

Best Match: Edge vs. John Cena
Worst Match: Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Orton
What I'd Change: Christ, throw Shelton a bone!  Also RVD's presence could've helped this card a great deal.  Give CM Punk something to do - he was already way over.  The DX reunion flat out sucked.  It was based on dated comedy and felt horribly manufactured.
Most Disappointing Match: Mick Foley vs. Ric Flair - This could've been quite good but it was too short and had a stupid ending.
Most Pleasant Surprise: John Cena's blossoming into a proper main event wrestler.
Overall Rating: 2.5/10
Better than WrestleMania 22?: No way.

SummerSlam '07 - Continental Airlines Arena - 8/26/07

I take it back.  Every horrible thing I said about SummerSlam '06?  Forget it all.  That show was a paragon of wrestling awesomeness compared to this phoned-in fiasco.  Holy lord, I can't believe this show made the air.  Legit, looking back on the match lineup and how brutally half-assed everything was, this looks like a WCW PPV circa 2000.  I'm pretty sure WWE was daring people NOT to buy this show.

Kane vs. Finlay?  Crap.

Umaga vs. Carlito vs. Mr. Kennedy?  Three-way Intercontinental crap.

Rey Mysterio vs. Chavo Guerrero?  Saw it the previous year and it wasn't that great then.  Chavo was heatless and basically just jobbing to the stars in 2007.  Two years later he'd be jobbing to Hornswaggle.

Divas Battle Royal?  Nice-looking crap.

John Morrison vs. CM Punk - Okay match but it only went seven minutes and the company had no plans for Punk at all until Morrison got nailed for steroids two weeks later, and they finally put the ECW Title on Punk.  But this match wasn't a tenth as good as that one.

Jeezus, JoMo is pretty.  I mean I'm not gay, but he's BEAUTIFUL.

Triple H vs. King Booker - Watch WrestleMania XIX to see what these two were capable of.  Watch this match to see Triple H bury the shit out of a top-flight semi-main eventer.  Seriously, this is basically an eight-minute squash.

The Great Khali vs. Batista - Get the fuck outta here.  Khali was actually the World Champion at one point??  Khali can barely walk upright.  What dipshit put the company's number-two championship on him?  In case you were wondering, unwatchable crap.

John Cena vs. Randy Orton - Finally, one good match on this putrid card.  John Cena was Mr. SummerSlam three years running, two of them as one half of the only good match.  This was fine, but I had zero emotional stake in it.  In 2007 I was really only watching WWE programming to see CM Punk (who got no push at all), and the occasional Shawn Michaels classic.  At the time the company was frantically trying to convince everyone that Cena and Orton were two of the greatest of all time, so they completely oversold this match.  It's a good main event, but not at all a standout, except on this absolute dud of a PPV.

This one stupid move was better than the entire rest of the card.

2007 was another pretty awful year for WWE, when I was paying much more attention to TNA and especially Ring of Honor to get my wrestling fix (ROH circa 2007 was AMAZEBALLS).  WWE was doing whatever they wanted, regardless if it worked or if it was what the fans wanted to see.  They were attempting to create new stars, but pushing the wrong ones, and they were still stuck on the Attitude template.  By year's end they had finally started to refocus and were at least putting on good solid PPV events.  But SummerSlam '07 is one of the worst shows I've ever seen and is probably the worst SummerSlam in the event's history.

Best Match: John Cena vs. Randy Orton - Cena was in the best match of the night three years running.
Worst Match: Great Khali vs. Batista - Big Dave stunk up the joint two 'Slams in a row.  This one wasn't really his fault though.  Shawn Michaels couldn't make Khali look good.
What I'd Change: Ya know what, if this is your SummerSlam card, cancel the whole show.  Just toss it all out.  Christ!
Most Disappointing Match: John Morrison vs. CM Punk - These two got to show what they were capable of two weeks later on free TV, but on this show they got a scant seven minutes.
Most Pleasant Surprise: That the universe didn't collapse on itself under the gravity of this black hole of anti-entertainment.
Overall Rating: 1.5/10
Better than WrestleMania 23?: Ask me that again.  I double-dog dare ya, motherfucker.  Ask me one more goddamn time!

SummerSlam '08 - Conseco Fieldhouse - 8/17/08

As with the 2008 edition of WrestleMania, I went into this show not excited at all.  The two World Titles had lost so much value from being deemphasized it was absurd.  Just take a look at the lineup for this card.  Seven matches total.  Matches 6 and 7, the co-main events, had no championships on the line.  The two Title matches are 4th and 5th on the card.  What. The hell.  Also despite CM Punk cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase and winning the World Title, he was booked as a fluke Champion, unable to beat anyone decisively in free TV matches and paired on this show with the less-than-relevant JBL.  Then again he got a great gig on this show compared to his counterpart Triple H.  The WWE Champion was booked against the world's largest deadweight, The Great Khali.  I guess no one learned anything from SummerSlam 2007?  Still the 2008 'Slam ended up being a pretty good show, mostly due to a pair of excellent main events.

It should be noted there was also a well-done RAW angle on this PPV, as Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels reignited their amazing blood feud.  I'm not sure why this had to happen on a PPV, especially one where WWE struggled to find worthy challengers for the top two belts, but whatever.

The opening match was forgettable but not bad, as Jeff Hardy took on MVP. Hardy had an up-and-down 2008, finally getting main event-level pushes but also getting caught with controlled substances and getting suspended. 

Second was a match reminiscent of the Val Venis/Trish Stratus vs. Eddie Guerrero/Chyna match from SummerSlam 2000, as Santino Marella/Beth Phoenix took on Kofi Kingston/Mickie James, where the winning team would walk out the Intercontinental and Women's Champions, respectively.  This wasn't good but it was inoffensive.

Third was yet another PPV match that ended in under thirty seconds, as Matt Hardy beat ECW Champion Mark Henry by DQ.  I say again, why waste the airtime for the ring entrances for a 25-second match that no one cares about?

These two beat the piss out of each other and it was glorious.

Finally we got a good match as CM Punk and JBL pulled out a solid effort.  The match carried little importance as JBL clearly wasn't winning the World Title here, but it was Punk's first real match as the World Champ and he finally got a definitive win.

For the second straight year Khali ruined a championship match at SummerSlam as he challenged Triple H for the WWE Title.  Seriously, they couldn't find ANYONE else to fight Hunter?  Was The Brooklyn Brawler busy?

Things picked up huge in the semi-main slot as John Cena and Batista, the two biggest stars of the era, faced off for the first time.  This was totally rushed into production so to speak, and reeked of the company badly needing a marquee matchup for SummerSlam - personally I would've saved this for 'Mania 25 - but this was a damn fine power vs. power match.  Hard-hitting, violent, and full of incredible near-falls.  Cena and Bats pulled out all the stops and helped save this PPV.  This is what Lesnar vs. Goldberg and Rock vs. Cena should've been.  Fast-paced without a ton of selling, long enough to feel significant but short enough to not wear out its welcome.

It was the main event however that really made this show - Edge and The Undertaker had one helluva HIAC match.  Considering the PG era basically began here (translation: no blading allowed), these two managed to have a pretty brutal and dramatic Cell battle by breaking out some TLC-style highspots.  Some blood would've added a good half-star to this, but it was easily in or approaching the four-star territory and on par with their WrestleMania clash (I'd say that match was just slightly better).  Edge's spear through the side of the cage was a great, painful-looking-but-pretty-safe spot in an era where the Mick Foley-type stunts were definitely no longer prudent.  Great work by both guys here, and this match boosted SummerSlam '08 into the realm of Thumbs Slightly Up.

Helluva nice cage-breaking spot.

2008 was a bit of a transitional year for WWE; they were finally moving past the Attitude era and adopting a more family-friendly strategy.  I know people complain about the PG era (and I'd still like to see them use blading here and there), but it was the right business decision and freshened up the overall product a bit.  Trying to be cutting-edge in 2008 just made them seem out of touch and desperate.  SummerSlam could've been a real dud of a show, but the double main event and Punk's World Title defense made this a pretty watchable PPV.

Best Match: Undertaker vs. Edge
Worst Match: Mark Henry vs. Matt Hardy
What I'd Change: Book Jericho and Shawn in actual matches and save their Highlight Reel angle for the next night on RAW.  Punk vs. Shawn would've been an amazing match and Hunter vs. Jericho would've been a thousand times better than Hunter vs. Khali.
Most Disappointing Match: Nothing really disappointing - the crappy matches looked crappy going in.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Cena vs. Batista - just a really great battle of the bulls.
Overall Rating: 7/10
Better than WrestleMania XXIV?: No

Part 6                                                                                                                                                Part 8

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