This year’s Summerslam started out with the match for the Intercontonental Championship between Kofi Kingston and defending champion, Dolph Ziggler. This was a good match between these two in which Dolph Ziggler really looked the part as an up-and-coming champion. In fact, he dominated a big portion of the match. One part I particularly liked was when Vickie dragged Dolph out of the way of Kofi’s suicide dive – notjing really innovative, but good storytelling. We didn’t see anything mindblowing, but the two showed good chemistry, so it’s a shame they probably wont be feuding from this point forward. The reason for that is that Ziggler retained his title in a way that couldn’t really make Kofi angry at him, not through the help of Vickie Guerrero, or from cheating, but from the malevolent interference of the Nexus. I also think that at Night of Champions, Dolph will go on to defend against another hot mid-carder (since it will almost certainly be a face, someone like MVP, Matt Hardy or Christian (unless there are multiple challengers)). I have seen quite a few people upset at the indecisive end to this match, but it was the right thing to do in my opinion, for a couple of reasons. Dolph had to retain really, seen as he’s only just won the belt, but there’s no need to make Kofi – an up-and-comer himself – look weak by losing clean to a cheating heel. This was a way of making both look strong while keeping the belt on Dolph. Plus, it was a nice and unexpected way (seen as Nexus don’t usually appear on Smackdown) of making clear the threat and intention of Nexus. At least Dolph and Kofi got time to put on (most of) a good match and make a decent accounting of themselves.
The Divas Championship match followed, pitting champion Alicia Fox against the returning Melina. These two had a very good match (at least in comparison to the usual divas matches at TV tapings). Indeed, Fox seems to have a good record so far of putting on good PPV matches. This one had a good story behind it, really highlighting Melina’s return from injury. Whenever someone returns from injury, I always feel a little squeemish during their first few matches, worried that they’ll re-injure themselves – and Melina sold that jeopardy really well. In fact, until Alicia slammed Melina in to the ring post (a pretty impressive moment in itself), I thought Melina was, in fact, re-injured. Eventually, Melina turned things her way and earned the victory, and while I would have probably preferred Fox to keep her strong reign going, it’s still nice to see a returning star get a title in their home town. She was visably moved. Hopefully the feud for the return match will be a good one.
I said in the preview for this event that the Big Show-S.E.S. match was the one I was least looking forward to, so to be honest, this match exceeded my expectations somewhat. The story of Show’s hand was a good one. Eventhough the idea of it being healed already is slightly preposterous, the impact of him cutting off the cast was pretty effecting. The way the S.E.S. were trying to hurt his hand, only for him to injure it himself on the ring-steps was pretty inventive too. Unsurprisingly, Big Show took the match in a way that – if I remember correctly – could be scapegoated to Luke Gallows. This would reinforce my idea that he may be leaving the group, or that the group may split up, so in that sense, the match was a success.
The WWE Championship match followed, and was bitter-sweet. The build up had been great, so the match had a good, big-fight atmosphere. It took a little while to get a real rhythm to it, starting out as a sort of grappling brawl. From then on the match became really quite good, as the pace quickened and the jeopardy of loss became more apparant. Indeed, both guys, but mainly Sheamus had good, believeable near-falls. As it turned out, this was part of the larger story of the match, of frustration and deadlock. There were quite a few really good chains in this match, and one ended in a savage Brogue Kick from Sheamus to ‘The Viper,’ which, again, only earned him a near-fall. The understandably frustrated ‘Celtic Warrior’ snapped and brought a chair to the ring, but the referee was having none of it, and after being pushed aside and out of the ring by Sheamus, disqualified the champion. This is what provided the bitter side of this match. After already having a no contest for the Intercontinental Championship match, a disqualification in the WWE Championship seemes unsatisfactory, especially seen as it was at the second or third biggest PPV of the year – you would hope for a decisive championship match. What this does mean is we are now on the look-out for a new #1 contender. This is great seen as previous stipulations seem to exclude Cena or Orton for this role, while HHH is still injured and Batista is apparantly retired. What it means is we’ll have a main event which wont include Cena, Orton, Batista or HHH, and while I have respect for those four, it has been literally years since RAW has given us a main event without on of them. The question abounds then: who will be the new #1 contender. Edge and Jericho are possibilities, but as heels it seems less likely. My pick is Wade Barrett – after all, he does have that guaranteed championship match … So, lots to be happy about with this match, but it was spoiled somewhat by the finish.
Then came the World Heavyweight Championship match. To be honest, the success of this match would be judged by me on how it affected the Undertaker storyline – i’ve made no secret of hoping that Rey Mysterio turns out to be the attacker/ring-leader. Nonetheless, these two put on a good match together, as you would expect with their history. It was a suitable mix of quick-high flying stealth and brute force, and after two previous matches ending in a no-contest, I was relieved to see that they let this one finish clean, with Kane going over, instead of having, say, the Undertaker interrupting. It was good for Kane, too, making him look like a focused and irrisistable terror. After the match came the real business. In what was a very well performed illusion, the Undertaker seemed to appear from nowhere in the casket at ring-side after Kane had opened the empty vessel several times and tried to dump Rey Mysterio in it for an ‘eternity of darkness.’ After interrogating a terrified Mysterio, with the diobolical Kane (whose expression reminded me of an evil pantomime aunt, in a good way) looking on. He then turned and fingered his brother as the culprit. As I have said before, I would be slightly disappointed by Kane being revealed as the attacker, but there’s no doubting how wild the crowd were for the whole thing. It’s difficult to argue with that. What was refreshing was that ‘Taker didn’t just clean house on Kane, with his brother getting the upper hand, ostensibly taking advantage of ‘Taker’s remaining frailties. While it wasn’t my favoured outcome, just because we’ve seen Kane-Taker a few times now and have never seen (to my mind) a heel Mysterio, i’m willing to hear it out on Smackdown before I judge. Whatever happens, the storyline has been/is a good one. Without a clear #1 contender, I think we can all see Smackdown’s main event at Night of Champions.
Then came the main event, the Nexus vs Team RAW, and if the WHC match hung on the progression of the Undertaker storyline, the success of this whole PPV hung on the success of this match. As soon as Cena came out with a new line of merch, I knew he wouldn’t be turning anything other than a profit. No heel Cena for a while it seems – at least the new t-shirt is less garish. Elsewhere, earlier on in the night, Miz cut a recognisably charismatic and confident promo in which he enlisted to team RAW, making sure we all knew how salient he was to their success. Him being the last competitor to come out rang alarm bells that this match would, indeed, carry the huge twist that the PPV needed, and when Miz tried to come out, he was stopped by Cena (eventhough Edge and Jericho had earlier told him how important he was to the team!), who said they couldn’t rely on him when he wouldn’t commit until the night of the fight, but that there was someone they could – ONLY FUCKING DANIEL BRYAN! This came as all the more of a surprise to me simply because his 90-day clause is still in effect, but I suppose WWE have the right to break that! And what a reaction it got! From this point specifically, I see the shortfalls of this PPV being cured. Even better, it was Bryan that lead team RAW in to the ring to clear it of Nexus. Usually, elimination matches are pretty unsophisticated, formulaic affairs, but I have to say, this one was a very good one. Bryan was given the opportunity to look great and really show off the skills he is so renowned for. He was the first to get an elimination, which was follwed by another elimination from Nexus. While I wont go through what I thought a predictable story would be for this match, this wasn’t the start that I would have described as such. I wont go through the whole progression of the match, because it was a pretty long match, but eventually, it got down to 2-on-2 after things in the WWE ranks had broken down between Edge, Jericho and Cena. Nonetheless, even the Nexus guys that got eliminated up to this point, especially Skip Sheffield and Justin Gabriel, were made to look strong, and we were left with a very groggy Cena & Bryan against Wade Barrett & Justin Gabriel. In classic Jericho fashion ()the similarities between these two abound), Miz came down to the ring, angry and embarrassed by being kicked off the team for his former ‘rookie,’ saboutaged him, hitting him with his MITB briefcase for the pin. That left Cena on his own against the two remaining members of Nexus. For a while, I thought the two fresh Nexus members would take the fragile Cena down (so as to not make Cena look too weak and get a lot of heat on Miz for costing them the match), but in the end, Cena ‘hulked up,’ taking both Nexus members out in relatively quick succession. My instinct prefers my scenario, but that would of course mean a completely different result, so if the implications of RAW winning the match are interesting, i’ll gladly let it go. However, eventhough Cena hasn’t quite been ‘SuperCena’ as of late, it was still a little irksome to see him as the sole survivor. In some ways it would have been great to have seen Cena eliminated first, for the shock factor, and have it be Daniel Bryan and, say, Chris Jericho, as the last guys. That’s a bit pernickety though, and as long as the Nexus angle isn’t over yet, i’m a happy man.
Overall, it was a good PPV which mostly delivered where it counts, even if not quite to my personal preference in booking terms. If it wasn’t for the Daniel Bryan return, I may have been a bit more critical, but the timing of it really lifed the whole event. I’m amazed they managed to keep it all a secret! Good job.