Friday, August 10, 2018

The History of WWE SummerSlam, part 8 (2009-2011)

We're back with another installment of's SummerSlam history....

SummerSlam '09 - Staples Center - 8/23/09

Finally, FINALLY in late 2009 the WWE was starting to reinvigorate the product with some new faces in prominent spots on the card.  After years of the same five or six guys headlining every show, a few young lions were beginning to break through and the results were pretty exciting.  Also, in contrast with earlier SummerSlams, this show wasn't missing many active stars and nothing felt like it got shortchanged (with one obvious exception).

To open the show we got a blistering speed vs. flash match for the I-C Title between Rey Mysterio and Dolph Ziggler.  Dolph had been around for most of the previous year but it was around this time that his in-ring skills were starting to click.  Working with Rey doesn't hurt of course, but I became a Ziggles fan during the second half of 2009, in no small part due to his work here.  A helluva nice way to kick off the show.


A nondescript Jack Swagger vs. MVP match was next.  Both of these guys showed some solid potential but the company didn't really move on either of them, and this was your garden-variety free TV match.

Tag Team Champions JeriShow defended against Cryme Tyme in a surprisingly good bout.  JeriShow were able to restore a bit of prestige to the long-useless Tag straps, and this was just one of their successful defenses.

In one of two baffling inclusions on this card, we saw a rematch from WrestleMania 23 as Kane once again took on The Great Khali.  This match sucked just as much as the first time, and oddly no one cared about it.

Business picked up in a big way in the fifth slot as the re-reunited DeGeneration X faced The Legacy (Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase).  Unlike DX's 2006 run which was frought with stupid comedy and glorified squash matches, the 2009 incarnation kept their working boots on and had a real, lengthy feud with Cody & Ted that, for a little while, helped cement The Legacy as rising stars.  This match got a good twenty minutes and Randy Orton's sidekicks looked great even in defeat, particularly due to their often being one step ahead of DX.  This was just the beginning of a strong tag feud.

The second pointless match of the night was next as ECW Champ Christian defeated William Regal in eight seconds.  This could've been a great little match, but since it was for the reviled WWECW Title, the company of course opted for the cutesy one-move finish.  For those counting that's two SummerSlams in a row where the ECW Title match was under 30 seconds.

To reignite their 2007 feud, the PG era's top two stars clashed once again for the WWE Title.  John Cena and Randy Orton would face each other on four PPVs in a row in 2009, and this was the first.  Aside from some major overbooking this match wasn't too bad, but the pair's greatest match together would occur at the following month's Breaking Point (seek that one out - it's a masterpiece of understated PG-era violence).

Finally in the main event we got a thrilling Ladder Match between WWE's newest main eventer CM Punk, and the always exciting Jeff Hardy.  Elitist Heel Punk vs. Flawed Hero Hardy was a natural feud.  Punk was able to exploit Jeff's real-life drug issues to draw some major crowd heat, and the result was the best feud of 2009.  Jeff was on his way out of the company and this was a fantastic way to put over the new star.  After 20+ minutes of some excellent and pretty brutal ladder spots, Punk regained the World Title and seemed poised to finally crash through the glass ceiling (sadly that wouldn't happen for two more years).  Seeing Punk headline the second-biggest PPV of the year was incredibly satisfying to me.

This man is obviously a maniac.

Aside from a couple of stupid bouts the 2009 edition of SummerSlam ended up being one of the best shows of the year and featured three really strong co-main events.  Cena, Orton and DX brought the established credibility, while Punk and Hardy stole the show.  Late 2009 marked the first time in about five years that I was genuinely excited about WWE programming, as the long-awaited "youth movement" was starting to take shape.

Best Match: Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk
Worst Match: Kane vs. The Great Khali - yes I'd rather watch 8 seconds of Christian-Regal.
What I'd Change: Dump the giants and give that time to the ECW Title match, and you'd have yourself a full card without a bad match.
Most Disappointing Match: Christian vs. Regal
Most Pleasant Surprise: DX vs. The Legacy - given how they were booked in 2006 I feared Shawn and Hunter would just squash every team they faced, but this was pretty great.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Better than WrestleMania XXV? - Yes, just slightly.

SummerSlam '10 - Staples Center - 8/15/10

This here is what you call a one-match card.  The summer of 2010 belonged to the WWE-Nexus feud, and it culminated in a huge elimination tag match at SummerSlam (this probably should've happened at Survivor Series, but whatever).  The match was so big there was little room left on the card for an undercard.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston opened the show, and these two worked well as always.  Unfortunately the Nexus interfered seven minutes in and the match was thrown out.  So pretty pointless.

Melina vs. Alicia Fox had the obligatory forgettable Divas Title match.  The Divas division was still full of interchangeable model types who swapped the belt back and forth like a tube of sunblock.

CM Punk went from new headliner in 2009 to fodder for The Big Show in 2010.  Show beat Punk's entire Straight Edge Society (a fantastic gimmick that never got the respect it deserved) in a 3-on-1 handicap match.  Always a great idea to have three people lose to one.  Does wonders for the three.

A forgettable WWE Title match was next as Randy Orton challenged Sheamus.  These two had worked together before and they would again.  Only one of their matches really clicked for me and this wasn't it (Hell in a Cell 2010 - check it out).  This was the second Championship match on the card to end with a DQ of some kind, which further made the undercard feel phoned in.

Look how spiky Sheamus's hair was.  Kinda looks like Sonic.

Kane vs. Rey Mysterio was next, in a huge mismatch of styles.  Rey had a nice little match with Taker earlier in the year, but this failed to live up to that one.  Yet another Kane-Taker feud followed this show and made millions drowsy.

The main event managed to save this PPV from being a complete waste, as Team WWE assembled a helluva cast of characters.  John Cena, Edge, Chris Jericho, Bret Hart, John Morrison, R-Truth, and surprise partner Daniel Bryan (fresh off his token firing for choking Justin Roberts with his tie) took on Wade Barrett's Nexus team (or the cast of NXT season 1) in an epic elimination match.  I've always been a sucker for this type of match (as you'll see in November when I roll out The History of Survivor Series), so this main event was a lot of fun.  It was amazing to see a) Daniel Bryan's fan reaction when he came back, and b) that he eliminated two Nexus guys.  The match of course boiled down to Cena vs. two Nexus members, and SuperCena beat them both.  This was absolutely the wrong ending given its place in the ongoing angle.  If Cena was going to overcome the odds to defeat the Nexus, this match should've happened in November.  Booking 101 states that a new heel faction that lays siege to the entire company can't lose in its first outing.  The Nexus was pretty much damaged goods after this, and despite Barrett being pushed as a top WWE contender he was never seen as that big a threat, nor was he quite ready to headline PPVs as a singles star.  The "John Cena must join The Nexus" angle followed this and was quite idiotic.  Even worse was the "John Cena gets fired" angle, where as I recall he was off TV for exactly zero weeks. 

Oh it is ON!

Had Team Nexus won here the feud could've continued as a larger team-based angle and would've been infinitely better than what we got.  But at least Daniel Bryan was back and poised for some pretty good things.

In case I haven't made it clear, SummerSlam 2010 is notable only for its main event.  The undercard is basically RAW-quality and can be skipped entirely. 

2010 seemed to be a year where WWE was stubbornly clinging to its own formula of what makes a new superstar.  On NXT Daniel Bryan was the clear favorite to win but instead they jobbed him out for months and gave the 6'5" Wade Barrett the big push (so ironic to see where the two of them are on the card now).  Sheamus, like Barrett, was more or less forced down everyone's throats with similarly lackluster results.  CM Punk spent most of 2010 on the losing end of several low-profile feuds while Cena and Orton continued to headline, and Kane was inexplicably given a new Title run.  The company needed to start listening to its audience, but they wouldn't realize it until the following year.

Best Match: Team WWE vs. Team Nexus
Worst Match: Melina vs. Alicia Fox
What I'd Change: Obviously The Nexus should've gone over here.  Also why would you ruin a good I-C Title match?  Also, why couldn't Orton vs. Sheamus have had a real finish?
Most Disappointing Match: Ziggler vs. Kingston
Most Pleasant Surprise: The return of Daniel Bryan
Overall Rating: 3/10
Better than WrestleMania XXVI? - Not by a longshot

SummerSlam '11 - Staples Center - 8/14/11

SummerSlam 2011 rocked my nuts off.  In the summer of 2011 (WWE's Summer of Punk), the company managed to throw together two epic, amazing PPVs in a row - something they hadn't done in literally years (2001 was probably the last time).  The one-two punch of Money in the Bank and SummerSlam is one of the best pairs of PPVs I can remember.  Of course they screwed everything up royally after this, and even the immediate Money in the Bank followup was kind of a mess.  But that didn't stop this show from being one of the best SummerSlams of all time*.

*As long as you turn it off before the last minute of the show.

The opening match was a helluva fun six-man tag where Rey Mysterio, John Morrison and Kofi Kingston faced off against The Miz, R-Truth and Alberto Del Rio.  There wasn't anything epic about this match, but it was a good old-fashioned hot opener that was presented as a bonus bout.  I love a good six-man to kick things off.

Next was the re-energized Mark Henry, now packaged as an awesome wrecking machine, against the newest babyface Sheamus.  Prior to this Henry push I never thought I'd be interested in any of his matches, but this was a damn fine slugfest that ended with a broken security barricade and a countout win for Henry.

Speaking of wrestlers whose matches I wasn't supposed to like, Kelly Kelly was next, defending the Divas Title against the always fantastic Beth Phoenix.  Beth should've won the belt here but this match was stunningly good and displayed Kelly's in-ring improvement toward the end of her run.

After having not appeared in a PPV singles match for nine months (about which I was less than pleased), Daniel Bryan was finally given some real ring time next, against Wade Barrett.  Fresh off his MITB briefcase win, Bryan had regained some of the company's attention, and these two had a splendid twelve-minute encounter.  Bryan took another loss here, but this was the beginning of his rise to becoming a mega-popular WWE headliner.

Yeah D-Bryan!

The last two slots on the show belonged to a pair of just-freaking-awesome Title matches.

First, Randy Orton challenged Christian for the World Title in a No Holds Barred match.  These two had already wrestled a handful of times in 2011, each match seemingly improving on the last.  But SummerSlam was undoubtedly the climax of their feud and they absolutely crushed it out there in an easy Match of the Year contender.  Orton and Christian's bouts were notable for building on spots that had occurred in previous matches.  Orton would try a move that had worked before, but this time Christian would be ready for it, and vice versa.  From an in-ring standpoint this feud was one of the best of the year.

Finally in a rematch from the previous month's balls-out spectacular MITB main event, CM Punk and John Cena wrestled to determine the Undisputed WWE Champion.  Punk had beaten Cena at MITB and "left the company" as the WWE Champion, prompting Vince to stage a tournament to crown a replacement.  Mysterio won the tourney and immediately defended and lost his Title to Cena (Which made no sense whatsoever - why would he agree to a match right that second against a fresh opponent?  What is he, Yokozuna?  And why would a babyface challenge another babyface to a match right after he won the Title?  What a chickenshit move.  No wonder Cena gets booed all the time.).  Punk then showed up the following week saying he could do more to change WWE from the inside than by sitting at home.  Frankly this was a terrible follow-through on one of the most promising angles the company ever did, but one can't deny how much chemistry Cena and Punk had between the ropes.  Not one of their matches was bad, and a few of them were legitimate classics.  This match couldn't possibly have been as good as the MITB one, but it was still a damn good PPV main event.  Punk won in slightly controversial fashion only to have Kevin Nash show up out of nowhere and attack him, leading to Alberto Del Rio cashing in his briefcase to win the Title. 


Like I said, if you shut this show off before the last minute or so it's awesome from start to finish.  Sadly the last minute is so embarrassingly full of stupid (and the ensuing angles over that fall were staggeringly convoluted garbage) it ruined a great little main event run for Punk, temporarily at least.  Punk would regain his mojo that fall and enjoy the longest WWE Title reign in 25 years, and in some small way his Summer of Punk did have a lasting impact on how the audience would react to the programming they were being fed.  One could argue that the YES movement couldn't have happened without the Pipe Bomb.  To a certain extent his breakout push that summer forced the company to really start listening to the fans and rethink what constitutes a major star.  Only time will tell if this trend continues, but for now at least Punk can take great satisfaction in knowing that he made a difference.

Best Match: Christian vs. Randy Orton
Worst Match: Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix, but only by default.  Not one match on this show was bad.
What I'd Change: Obviously giving the belt to Del Rio was just plain fuckin' stupid.  The idea was to make Del Rio the Champion before their tour of Mexico, but he dropped the belt back to Cena a month later, regained it, and then lost it back to Punk again.  Utterly pointless.  Punk should've kept the belt all the way through to the 2013 Rumble, giving him an additional 98 days to tack onto his long reign.  Also bringing back Kevin Nash in any on-air capacity was one of the most batshit crazy decisions ever made by a human.  Nash wasn't medically cleared to wrestle, his promo ability had long since evaporated, and at no time was anyone clamoring to see Punk vs. Nash. 
Most Disappointing Match: Amazingly no matches on this show disappointed.  Make a note of this, because it hardly ever happens.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Probably the Divas match.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10 - This is an all-time Top 5 SummerSlam.
Better than WrestleMania XXVII? - You could say SummerSlam 2011 strung up WrestleMania XXVII with piano wire and bashed its stupid brains in with a croquet mallet.

Part 7                                                                                                                                                Part 9

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