|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.
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