Wednesday, July 26, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2001)

In the midst of the worst-botched wrestling angle of all time came an incredible SummerSlam....

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: 9/10
Better than WrestleMania X-Seven? - No, but how could it be?


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