Friday, August 4, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2008)

Well, the first half of this show was garbage filler, but it picked up huge in the second half....

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


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