– You can catch up on previous years’ Best and Worst of Summerslam reports here.
– Your shares, likes, comments and other Internet Things are appreciated. Encouraged, even!
– Important Real Life Stuff: If you live in the Chicago area, want to see Meet Me There (the movie I made with Goldust) and want an excuse to bump into Bruce Campbell, the film’s screening at this weekend’s Wizard World Chicago event as part of the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival. I’ll be there, so if you come to this and say hi, we’re friends for life.
If you live in Austin and can’t make it to Chicago, you can come say hi and earn my friendship for a very long time by hitting up the next Inspire Pro Wrestling event on August 31.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE SummerSlam 2014.
Worst: A Night Of Great Proportions
The food here is terrible, but the proportions are great.
So here’s the thing about WWE turning the price of its network into a catchphrase and a chant: it’s not cute. It’s thirsty. Coming out of Hulk Hogan’s mouth it makes WWE Network sound like an off-brand George Foreman grill. Is the price point a problem or a sales pitch for anyone who doesn’t currently have WWE Network? This is a serious question. Is price awareness the problem, or the fact that there’s a cap for domestic adults willing to drop x-amount of money a month for access to old Great American Bashes? Real talk, if somebody regularly buys WWE pay-per-views and has been dropping $60 a month on these things since February, let them do it. They are dumb as f*ck. Take their money.
Furthermore, maybe you wouldn’t have to comically beg people to pay for your product if you put on good shows between April and August. Don’t trick yourself into thinking anything between now and Royal Rumble’s gonna have any effort behind it either. Get the money, drag ass for five months, put on one good show when it’s time to renew, repeat.
Worst: IC Title Runs Being Nothing But Non-Title Losses Building To A Title Loss
I want to feel good for Dolph Ziggler here, but I can’t. For one, the guy’s a former World Heavyweight Champion and he’s already been slotted back down into “LOL never again” Rob Van Dam territory. Also, who’s he getting the belt from? ANOTHER former main-eventer champion WWE’s totally lost faith in and forgotten. A couple of months ago, Bad News Barrett was leading a revitalization of the Intercontinental title division and winning a violent, hossy tournament. Now we’re back to “we don’t have anything for you and nobody cares, but we don’t have a reason to fire you.”
Look at The Miz’s run. What was that? The guy comes back with a new gimmick and gets overshadowed and humiliated by Chris Jericho. He then WINS A BATTLE ROYAL FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP, loses a non-title match and spends the rest of the month sitting at the announce table causing roll-up distractions. As soon as he’s asked to defend the belt, he loses clean. I’m not cheerleading The Miz and saying he should be German suplexing John Cena 16 times, but damn, what’s the point of that? It lessens the importance of the IC strap, suggests that people who hold secondary titles are worse than people who don’t, gives no reason to boo OR cheer him and gives us nothing of worth to fall back or follow up on once the cycle’s over.
The match itself was fine, but was absolutely forgettable and the kind of thing they could’ve done to mild applause on a Smackdown. Filler at best. And seriously, let me reiterate: a popular wrestler who is great in the ring getting a clean, pay-per-view championship win against a guy who just got back from shooting a feature film is total filler. That’s not a compliment.
Best: Totally Logical Divas Matches
OF COURSE BRANDON HATES HULK HOGAN AND A HOT OPENER WITH A TITLE CHANGE BUT LOVES THE WOMEN
Here’s why Brandon’s doing that: Divas are showing their capacity to learn. Yes, I observe WWE women’s matches like a scientist observing dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.
On this week’s NXT, Bayley defeated Sasha Banks in a match with a finish that played on the finishes of their previous three matches. It’s a principle known in the comedy world as “if that, then what?” Once we know what’s happened, we want to find variations on that, form a pattern and that heighten. If these are real people in a real pro wrestling situation, they’re going to remember what they’ve gone through and react differently the next time it happens, right? There should at least be an illusion of that.
That’s what I liked about Paige and AJ. The match was less than five minutes long, but they used the time they had to develop a woefully underdeveloped physical story … these women are dangerously similar, as shown by their mirrored title wins at the other’s expense, so they should start adapting and kinda growing on top of one another. Normally a Divas match is a bunch of hair-mares and bitch-calling, and there was some of that. A big chunk of the middle was built around them pulling out the other’s hair extensions and a suggestive cover from Paige. But hey, along with that we got AJ countering Paige’s apron knee strikes, Paige countering AJ’s apron attack by hurling her face-first into the barricade and a Black Widow reversal into the Rampaige, calling back to Paige’s first title win, which was a Black Widow counter into the Paige Turner.
Again, not a barnburner, but in a world where we very recently saw Naomi vs. Cameron and a month of Eva Marie matches on TV AND in developmental, a match built around the women as wrestlers where they wrestle and come to a conclusive finish is worth a Best. And hey, they might as well trade title victories until the next batch of challengers are ready.
Best: Two Title Changes To Start The Show
Issues with how the secondary championships are booked aside, I love that the show started with two straight title changes. I’ll get into it more as the show goes on, but this SummerSlam was one of the most legitimately unpredictable pay-per-views in YEARS. I didn’t see Miz losing the belt to Ziggler OR AJ losing to Paige, and they knocked them out back to back at the beginning. Even stuff like the flag match not having flag match rules and a lumberjack match spilling into the crowd felt haphazard and unique. I didn’t love all of it, but I liked how ALIVE the show felt, and that kept me glued to the screen. Sometimes that’s enough.
And honestly, sometimes you have to hotshot these championships. If something’s not working, switch it up and try something else. If things aren’t clicking like you’d like, give someone else a shot and see if something catches. You never know what could happen. Nobody said “have Steve Austin cut a promo about the Bible” and thought it’d create the biggest draw in company history. Who knew that Daniel Bryan being happy about a title win he didn’t deserve to be happy about would propel a guy into two WrestleMania victories in the same night? Sometimes the random shit works, and you shouldn’t be afraid to do it. Even if people like me complain about how it looks like you don’t know what you’re doing.