Looking at the lineup for last night’s SummerSlam pay-per-view before the show, it appeared as if there were two must-see matches along with a decent if not spectacular undercard.
To say that the show ended up reflecting that preconceived notion would be accurate, but that wouldn’t do it justice.
In regard to the two money matches, The Edge-Undertaker Hell in a Cell lived up to high expectations, and the first-ever meeting between Batista and John Cena turned out to be a great match.
The other highlight of the night was the segment in which Shawn Michaels – with wife Rebecca by his side – announced his retirement. As expected, Chris Jericho showed up, and what happened after that was as well-executed an angle as I have seen in a long time.
As for the five-match undercard, the only one that fell flat was the Mark Henry-Matt Hardy ECW title bout. The match lasted just 34 seconds and had a groan-inducing finish, but, frankly, viewers probably were happy to get this match over with quickly so that they could move on to matches they truly wanted to see.
Most of the finishes were predictable, but because the matches were entertaining, I don’t see that as a negative. I would rather watch a wrestling show that is somewhat predictable but the action is entertaining and the booking is logical, than to have swerves that surprise people but make no sense.
Here is a match-by-match look at last night’s show:
The Undertaker defeated Edge in a Hell in a Cell match: I went into this one giving Edge no chance to win, but still believing that it would be an excellent match. I wasn’t disappointed. These two work very well together, and they engaged in a physical 26-minute match that put an exclamation point on an outstanding program. There were several high spots, but I thought the best one was Edge running across two announce tables and spearing The Undertaker through another. After the match, The Undertaker chokeslammed Edge off a ladder and right through the mat. Flames then shot up from the whole in the ring, symbolic of Edge being sent to hell.
Batista defeated John Cena: This was a match-up of two guys that many hardcore fans view as over-hyped stars who can’t work. They’re stars all right; this match lived up to the hype; and if you think this wasn’t a well-worked match, you obviously can’t get past your biases. The match never dragged and the crowd was hot throughout. The last three minutes were especially good, with a couple of outstanding counters and three exciting near falls before Batista scored the clean pin after his second Batista Bomb.
I think this match had the most drama of any on the show because it really was a toss-up as to who was going to win. The only drawback for me is that it didn’t go another five or six minutes. One thing is almost certain: Whether it’s sooner or later, there will be a rematch. It’s noteworthy that Cena has gone from unbeatable Superman to a guy who in the past five months has put over Randy Orton, Triple H, JBL and now Batista. Will his frustration over these losses result in a heel turn? Dare to dream. Oh, and speaking of Orton, the speculation about him doing a run-in in this match (or any match) proved to be just that.
Shawn Michaels’ announcement: To say that this was an awesome segment is a huge understatement. Everything was first rate, from Michaels announcing his retirement (as wife Rebecca stood next to him with tears in her eyes), to the face-to-face verbal sparring between Michaels and Jericho, to the physical confrontation that resulted in Jericho punching Rebecca in the face, to the facial expressions of Michaels and Jericho afterward. The best part of the verbal exchange was Jericho demanding that Michaels tell his wife and kids that he won’t be able to wrestle anymore because of Jericho, and Michaels responding that Jericho needs to tell his wife and kids that their daddy will never be Shawn Michaels.
Jericho then went to sucker-punch Michaels, but Michaels ducked and Jericho connected with a fist to Rebecca’s face. Watching it in real time, I thought that either it was the best worked punch I had ever seen, or else Jericho had just potatoed Michaels’ wife. Slow-motion replays and her swollen, bloody lip were evidence that it was the latter. Michaels did not go into an over-the-top rage as some wrestlers might have done. Instead, he perfectly conveyed the conflicting emotions of seething anger at Jericho and concern for his wife.
Ultimately, he made the choice to aid his wife rather than go after Jericho, who at first looked concerned. But that look gradually became one conveying no remorse as he slowly made his way to the back, his eyes locked with Michaels’ every step of the way. While all of this was going on, the announcers were silent, which was a nice touch. Michaels and Jericho delivered tremendous performances, and Rebecca also was very good in her role. This is the kind of work that we have come to expect from Michaels, while Jericho has never been better at any point in his accomplished career.
WWE champion Triple H defeated The Great Khali: I think just about everybody knew that Khali’s sole purpose here was to be a big guy that Triple H could get a clean win over before moving on to a stronger challenger. As expected, Khali used his immense size to control the match before Triple H made a comeback and hit The Pedigree for the victory. This was better than expected and not bad at all for what it was.
World heavyweight champion CM Punk defeated JBL: This was a good, hard-hitting match and it provided Punk with the clean win that he needed. You can see that the crowd is starting to accept him as champion. There was one scary spot, as Punk hit a spin kick and the two knocked heads as they fell to the mat. The back of Punk’s head was busted open, and JBL began flexing his fingers as if to regain feeling in his arm. JBL was OK, as he began laying in hard forearm shots to Punk’s back a short while later. After Punk won with the GTS, he rubbed the back of his head and showed the blood on his hand to the crowd. As he did so, he held up the belt with his other hand and said, “I will bleed for this!” That was a great ad-lib.
Matt Hardy defeated ECW champion Mark Henry by disqualification: There isn’t much to say about this one, as Tony Atlas broke up Hardy’s pin attempt about 30 seconds into the match and the referee called for the bell. It’s not like anyone ordered the pay-per-view because of the match, so I doubt that many paying customers felt ripped off. Then again, there are a lot of MFers (Mattitude Followers) out there, so they might have been disappointed. For me, the worst part about the match being so short was that I had been looking forward to Matt Striker’s commentary.
MVP defeated Jeff Hardy: Well, I guess we know for sure that the rumor of Hardy having a broken neck is false. According to wrestlingobserver.com yesterday, Hardy sustained an elbow infection this past week and had it drained, but it didn’t appear to hinder him in this match. The finish was predictable (Shelton Benjamin’s distraction caused Hardy to miss a high-risk move and fall prey to MVP), but this was still a good opener. It also is probably MVP’s biggest win to date.
Santino Marella and Beth Phoenix defeated Kofi Kingston and Mickie James to win the Intercontinental and WWE women’s titles, respectively: As far as comic relief goes, this was pretty funny. Just as I expected, Phoenix pinned James to win the match, and Marella celebrated excessively as if he had never won a match before. Actually, that’s not too far from the truth. Marella jumping into Phoenix’s arms at one point during the match and then being carried off on her shoulders after the match was hilarious. I know that some are going to say that this devalues the Intercontinental title, but it already has been mid-card fodder for quite a while now. I like Kingston, but he can get over without a belt, while Marella only becomes even more entertaining as an undeserving champion with a girlfriend who is twice the man that he is.