Thursday, August 10, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2014)

Considering how upset I was not to see Bryan vs. Brock on this show, it turned out pretty damn good...

SummerSlam '14 - Staples Center - 8/17/14

The 2014 SummerSlam was a rock-solid show with a pretty stacked lineup and no bad matches.  It almost resembled the 2012 edition but was infinitely better-executed and boasted one of the most unusual and memorable main events in a long time, while also spotlighting several strong midcard feuds.

The opening match was yet another I-C Title meeting between The Miz and Dolph Ziggler.  While the feud was never treated with much importance, these two always had decent chemistry in the ring, and this was an enjoyable 8-minute kickoff.  The Title itself was long-dead, thanks in part to becoming such a hot potato, but no complaints about the match.

Next up was the second PPV bout between AJ Lee and Paige.  As with the I-C Title, the Divas Championship had been bouncing back and forth between these two.  Paige won here in just under five minutes, which sadly wasn't enough time to have the barn burner AJ and Paige were capable of.

Rising heel Rusev was third, in a Flag Match with recently-turned "Real American" Jack Swagger.  Swagger provided a somewhat credible midcard challenge for the undefeated Bulgarian, but the nature of Swagger's (and especially manager Zeb Coulter's) in-ring persona kinda prevented him from fully connecting with the audience.  Had this not been a USA vs. Russia feud, there wouldn't have been much heat.  But this match was fine.  Nothing amazing, but a good power vs. power matchup.

Things picked up big in the fourth slot as Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins finally had their much-anticipated first match.  The previous month at Battleground, Ambrose had been thrown out of the building for attacking Rollins backstage, and Rollins won their scheduled match by forfeit.  The extra month of buildup made this feud red-hot, and Ambrose's loose cannon persona coupled with the host of Lumberjacks outside the ring made this a wildly entertaining brawl.

What a great feud this was.

Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt was next, and they got a chance to redeem themselves after an uninspired effort at Battleground.  Both guys brought their A-game and put forth a near-show stealer, with Wyatt finally getting the big win.

The unexpected hit of the night was sixth, as Brie Bella took on Stephanie McMahon.  Steph had by now become one of the best talkers in the company (to my absolute shock), and held up her end of the buildup brilliantly.  Sadly Brie's acting skills are nowhere near that of Steph's, so Mrs. Helmsley had to carry this feud.  But once the bell rang both women delivered a helluva catfight reminiscent of Steph's 2001 match against Trish Stratus.  In the end Nikki turned on her sister, leading to probably the worst feud of 2014.  But this match was stunningly entertaining.

My pick for Match of the Night went to the semi-main event, as the unproven Roman Reigns took on mainstay heel Randy Orton.  These two meshed admirably and strung together some exceedingly well-timed spots, leading to Reigns hitting the match-winning Spear at just under 17 minutes.  This was Reigns' first major singles victory, as well as his first really strong one-on-one performance.

The long-planned main event of Daniel Bryan vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title unfortunately never took place due to Bryan's neck injury (Four years later the match finally happened and blew the roof off the dump), but the company instead subbed in their biggest star to take on the rejuvenated Beast.  In what was almost a do-over from their Extreme Rules 2012 match, Lesnar absolutely DOMINATED John Cena, throwing him around the ring like a bag of wet leaves.  This will likely go down as the most one-sided PPV main event of all-time.  Lesnar played his overpowering bully role to perfection, treating WWE's posterboy like a total jobber and routinely mocking both Cena and The Undertaker (whom he defeated at 'Mania 30).  After 16 minutes and just as many German suplexes, Lesnar steamrolled Cena to win the WWE Title.  My initial reaction to this match was one of boredom, as I found it too monotonous and had hoped for a back-and-forth match.  But upon a second viewing I understood what they were doing.  This wasn't ever supposed to be a match per se, but a realistic beatdown by a heel so far above everyone else on the roster the company's top star didn't even present a real challenge.  The story of this match was Lesnar basically winning the Title by hitting one move over and over.  While it's certainly not a five-star classic, Cena vs. Lesnar holds up as a unique, unforgettable angle.  Unfortunately this would become the template for almost every Brock match going forward and it got beaten into the ground.  But at the time this was an outside-the-box way to book a main event.

This might be my favorite moment of the entire match;
Lesnar mocking Taker's situp

Nothing on this show exceeded the **** range, but SummerSlam 2014 proved to be a highly engaging night of wrestling, with several good matches and no bad ones.  The big story coming out was Brock Lesnar's complete supremacy over the WWE roster.  Unfortunately WWE followed this up horribly, hotshotting a rematch the next month and then keeping Lesnar off TV until January.  Clearly an every-other-month schedule would've been a more appropriate way to play out Lesnar's title run.  Anyway, thumbs up for SummerSlam '14!

Best Match: Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns
Worst Match: Paige vs. AJ, by default
What I'd Change: Aside from putting Cesaro vs. RVD on the actual PPV, just the usual SummerSlam time management issues where it seems like every match somehow gets shortchanged.  Not sure why that happens so often at SummerSlam.
Most Disappointing Match: There wasn't much disappointing.  Nothing on this show was truly great, but nothing was bad either.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Stephanie vs. Brie was much better than it had any right to be.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Better than WrestleMania XXX? - No


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