The Best And Worst Of WWE Summerslam 2011

By: 08.15.11

Best: Match Of The Night

I think I might’ve known it going in, but Mark Henry vs. Sheamus was the match of the night. Okay, maybe not. But still, the match affectionately dubbed HOSSFIGHT 2K11 did exactly what it needed to do, namely “showcase two big strong guys clubbing the sh*t out of each other” and “make Brandon happy”. The reviews of the match online today have been great. They range from two-star “this was better than I expected” jerks to full-on Bleacher Report slideshows about how Sheamus is better than they thought. I’m not going to continually riff on the Internet’s perception of WWE (other than to say those guys who gave Sheamus/Henry two stars and Orton/Christian six-and-a-quarter can eat a dick), but this one reminded me of why I got into wrestling in the first place: spectacle.

I think it’s an underrated thing to look for in a match, because of how hard it is to accept and difficult to explain. When you’re an eight-year old, you don’t care about workrate. You just don’t. I can name everybody on the ICE Ribbon roster and loved The Great Muta when I was nine, but even my pretentious little ass started out as a little Stinger. I dressed up as Robert Gibson and Hawk from the Road Warriors on nonconsecutive Halloweens. I had the Hulk Hogan workout set and cassette and thought it was crazy voodoo magic when he was all “don’t give up now!” just as I was giving up. I was a little moron, like we all are, and I loved seeing gigantic guys fight each other. I didn’t astutely note how good Brad Armstrong was at putting together a match, I wanted to see Terry Gordy throw a dude. I think that’s the essence of childhood, and a reason other than “gay weirdo” why Vince McMahon and the like keep signing guys like Mason Ryan. We start out with action figures and move on to roleplaying games. That’s the circle of dork life.

Without trying to dissect it anymore, Sheamus and Henry was f**king on-point. Sheamus is like a literate Mike Awesome, moving around the ring like a cat and throwing jumping double-axehandles like a Rachel Summerlyn 1/17th his size. Mark Henry is still nestled in his golden age, moving as well as he ever has despite being BIGGER than ever, and I have absolutely no problem buying this silo-thick motherf**ker annihilating big and “threatening” but ultimately jokey dudes like Kane and Big Show. Mark Henry should do for the heavyweight division what Beth Phoenix and Natalya are claiming to do for Divas — smash flat anybody who says they’re tough but isn’t. Henry should be the measuring stick when The Great Khali is booty-popping somewhere backstage. He should be the one guy an eight-year old looks at, turns to his dad and says “I wouldn’t want to fight him”.

Worst: Understanding The Count-Out Finish

I loved this match’s finish. Loved it. Capital L, even if it wasn’t the first word in the sentence.

A lot of people chalk it up to “wanting to protect” both guys or “not wanting to bury” somebody (whatever that means), but it was perfect. Sheamus entered the match to prove he could “fight” and beat Henry. So when he throws a huge bomb near the end of the match and knocks Henry out of the ring, he does the (increasingly) noble thing by trying to get Henry back in, not wanting to take the “cheap” count-out victory. Mark Henry is able to take advantage of a mistake-by-way-of-sportsmanship, silverbacks him through the security railing and rolls back in without follow-up, happy to take the count-out. Sheamus isn’t out, though, and tries to crawl back toward the ring while a Staples Center full of people who didn’t give a sh*t about him a month ago cheer him on, hoping he can do it. He can’t. Three Six Mafia starts up and Henry bails (again, with absolutely zero follow-up), leaving Sheamus to continue his crawl into the ring, where he keeps crawling up the ropes until he’s on his feet.

That’s BEAUTIFUL storytelling. How do you not see it? It was a functional, non-melodramatic version of Austin and Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13. One guy just wants the W, one guy has something to prove. One guy acts like a coward, the other like a hero. That is basic, perfect pro wrestling. Good versus Evil on a moral level, without having to preface it with a 10 minute “you people” speech to explain who you should boo.

Best: Sheamus Is Going To Work

I loved him when he was killing guys twenty seconds into ECW and wanted him to beat John Cena for the WWE Championship, but even I came to use him as a Swaggeresque example of a guy pushed to the moon (pushed!) before he was ready. But you know what? I think he’s ready. I think he’s going to be an actual, real homegrown star pretty soon. He’s got Miz’s social charisma without Miz’s “thing”, he’s legitimately huge (Conan O’Brien is like 6-foot-four and Sheamus had a good three feet on him), he’s legitimately tough and sure, his skin looks like an envelope, but you know him when you see him. Try picking Eric Escobar out of a line-up. Oh, and he knows how to dress. I’m talking about both the vest ensembles AND the big green cape. He just works, and I’m glad he’s here.

He needs to stop doing that Oskar from Let The Right One In thing where he sticks his tongue out and chews himself every time he licks his lips, but he’s doing well.

Worst: Cee Lo Green Sings Two Songs For Forty Minutes

Wrestling show concerts are what they are. They’re never going to be good. If Derrick Bateman started coming out to “Reckoner” by Radiohead and WWE brought them in to play the track live at Wrestlemania 32 (or whatever) they’d screw it up and make it sound like a Danger Mouse remix of Seether. Or Hinder. Some white trash “er” band. Fer Factory. Anyway, Cee Lo Green, currently-popular musician, wandered out in a goth Macho Man robe and grunted through two of his songs while WWE’s most expendable ethnic Divas botched dancing in the background. It wasn’t very good. Divas always get carted out for these things, and it never works out well. How hard is it to combine beautiful women with popular music? Remember when Maryse tried to kiss Kid Rock on the mouth but he wasn’t paying attention, and by the time he turned around she’d already moved on? That’s the moment that best describes these attempts at Rock N’-things. If Cyndi Lauper isn’t animated and driving Wendi Richter around in a jalopy, I’m not interested.

I think it was sort of hurt by the fact that we heard IT’S ALL RIGHT, IT’S ALL RIGHT, IT’S ALL RIGHT IT’S ALL RIGHT IT’S ALL RIIIIII-HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT before and after every match. It was also hurt by the fact that “F**k You” is now and forever “Forget You”, and by the fact that Cee Lo only had to sing two songs and resorted to pointing the mic at the crowd like that asshole from Say Anything by the middle of the second. Stand still and sing, Cee Lo, I know you can do it, and it looks like it’s hard for you to walk.

Worst: Why Is Alicia Fox A Sailor

Nobody else was wearing a sailor hat. Cee Lo Green isn’t a sailor. What are you doing, Alicia Fox?

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