Monday, July 31, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2004)

A step up from 2003 overall, but this edition was still not the on-paper classic it looked like....

SummerSlam '04 - Air Canada Centre - 8/15/04

This SummerSlam was a bit underwhelming for me.  I had extremely high expectations for an overall great card with multiple classics, and other than two predictably great matches there wasn't much else going on.  It seemed like there were some time management issues given how short some of the bouts were, but I can't figure out where all that time went.

The opening six-man between the three Dudleys and Rey Mysterio, Paul London & Billy Kidman was a fine way to kick off the show.  Very quick and exciting, and showcased some nice Cruiserweight action, plus Bubba and Devon.

Second was the payoff to one half of one of the stupidest ongoing angles I can remember: Kane had been stalking Lita, trying to hook up with her.  Lita was dating Matt Hardy at the time, who ran to her rescue.  Kane challenged Matt to a match, where if Kane won, Lita would be forced to marry him.  First, in what universe would any woman agree to marry a guy she hated, if her boyfriend couldn't beat up said creep?  Why wouldn't Lita have just gotten Kane arrested for stalking her and repeatedly assaulting her boyfriend?  Second, in what universe would a marriage under duress be legally binding?

Kane beat the bejeezus out of Matt to win the match, and Lita ended up having to marry him.  Then Kane impregnated her, about which she was horrified, until Gene Snitsky showed up one day and bashed Kane with a chair, causing him to land on top of Lita, causing a miscarriage, about which Lita was devastated.  So she was upset that the demon spawn her evil stalker husband gave her would never be born.  And then Kane became the babyface in a new feud with Snitsky, only to later feud with Edge, for whom Lita dumped Kane, turning heel in the process.  Unbelievable.  Sorry for the tangent.  This Kane-Hardy match stunk.

Next up was John Cena vs. Booker T in a Best-of-Five series for the vacant US Title, and the company inexplicably put Match #1 on the SummerSlam card.  I was looking forward to this, but being the first match in the series it only went 6 minutes and amounted to very little.
Fourth was a 3-way for the I-C belt - Edge vs. Chris Jericho vs. Batista.  This was a pretty good little match but again was way too short given the talent and prize involved.  Keep in mind this was after a handful of long, well-worked PPV I-C Title matches that year.

The show picked up huge with Match 5, as Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero clashed in a rematch from WrestleMania.  This was 14 minutes of awesome, and while not quite as good as the first bout, was still one of the better matches of 2004.

These two couldn't have a sucky match if they tried either.

Triple H fought Eric Bischoff's mentally challenged nephew Eugene next.  This was probably the most tedious angle of the year.  The deal was that Eugene was a huge wrestling fan so Bischoff gave him a spot on the RAW roster.  Eugene's favoritest wrestler was Triple H, but Hunter, being a giant douche, took advantage of Eugene's idolatry and played him against World Champion Chris Benoit.  Eventually Eugene got wise to it all and challenged Hunter to a match.  And that brings us to this instantly forgettable encounter.  It wasn't a bad match per se, but it wasn't good either.  Why the company thought the Eugene character had any legs to speak of is beyond me.

In the semi-main slot was the WWE Title match, as JBL defended against The Undertaker.  This was a pretty dull 17-minute brawl that ended with Taker chokeslamming Layfield through the roof of his limo.  That sounds like a brutal spot until you realize that the limo had an obviously gimmicked roof made out of soft vinyl, neatly perforated to split open on contact.  So it looked reeeeeeally stupid.

Up until this point SummerSlam 2004 was far from a great show, but the main event managed to save it, as World Champion Chris Benoit defended against hot new heel Randy Orton.  They had a fantastic 20-minute match that helped elevate Orton to main event status.  I found the ending a tad weak, as Benoit succumbed after one RKO (a move that's neither a great finisher, nor is it original).  I also thought it was too soon for Orton to take the belt; having Benoit squeak by here and then drop the belt to Orton the following month would've worked much better.  That way Orton's eventual transition to babyface could've been organic and successful instead of the abrupt and disastrous face turn they opted for the night after SummerSlam.  Orton got dumped by Evolution at the end of the show and became a total chump, dropping the Title to Hunter five weeks later.  Regardless, this was a helluva main event and kept SummerSlam '04 from being a middling-at-best PPV.

Oh look, Randy Orton became the youngest-ever
World Champion by beating.....some other guy.

This show was sort of a direction change for WWE, as the next generation of top guys - Orton, Cena and Batista were being primed to take over the main event spots.  Triple H, Benoit, Guerrero and Angle were slowly being positioned to pass the torch, and while I was less than enthusiastic about the OVW Class of 2002, it was the logical next step.  The show itself on paper looked better than it ended up, but it's still a pretty strong PPV.

Best Match: Chris Benoit vs. Randy Orton
Worst Match: Kane vs. Matt Hardy - A glorified squash that could've been good.  Of course Hardy got even worse treatment in 2005....
What I'd Change: Time management.  Several midcard bouts should've been much more substantial but ran well under ten minutes.  I'm not sure where all the time went, other than that ridiculous Diva Search Dodgeball game.  But that was pretty short.
Most Disappointing Match: Probably John Cena vs. Booker T.  That one could've been quite memorable.
Most Pleasant Surprise: I guess the opening six-man tag.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Better than WrestleMania XX? - Nay


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