– Thank you for bearing with the semi-lateness of this week’s reports. I managed to attend SummerSlam live, so the report gets that cool live review feature some of you enjoy. The bad part about that is that SummerSlam is half a country and two time zones away from me, so I spent the entirety of Monday on a variety of airplanes. This report’s pretty long, though, so enjoy that, and I’ll have a thorough Raw report ready for you on Wednesday.
– Your comments, likes, tweets, Touts and whatever are appreciated. This column sorta lives and dies by your participation in it, so anything you can do to pitch in and spread the word is appreciated. Shout out to my Reddit homeboys, who I’d talk to all the time if I wasn’t 200 years old and could figure out Reddit. Somebody Reddit for me.
– If you read the report in its infancy earlier today, all the pages have been uploaded and the full thing is a thing. Enjoy!
So at long last, please enjoy The Best And Worst Of WWE SummerSlam 2012, sponsored by THQ. No, seriously.
Best: SummerSlam Axxess, Featuring Giant Daniel Bryan Banners
I don’t want to open a SummerSlam column with wistful introspection or whatever, but four years ago I was watching American Dragon Bryan Danielson wrestle Kenny King in front of maybe 70 people at the Grays Armory in Cleveland. Fast forward to 2012 and I’m outside of the Staples Center at WWE SummerSlam Axxess, taking a photo of a giant banner with his picture on it. We like to talk a lot of shit on the Internet about WWE hating wrestling and not knowing what to do with talent, but the American Dragon is a former World Heavyweight Champion who gets a showcase graphic at their big summer pay-per-view. We’re doing all right.
Of course, they had these big posters for a lot of people (including Kofi Kingston, a picture of Chris Jericho that was at least four years old and one of Miz doing that weird taunt where it looks like he’s scooping something into his mouth), but it’s still great to see. Also great to see were the “and everybody else” banners they hung on the security railings around Axxess, because the more random WWE fans see Damien Sandow and Antonio Cesaro, the better.
Best: THQ Is The Best Organization With The Nicest People In The Entire World And I’m Not Just Saying That Because They Let Me Go To SummerSlam
The only reason I was able to make it to SummerSlam is because the nice folks at THQ thought enough of me to fly me over/down to cover the WWE ’13 events and watch a little pro graps. In a few years when this has happened to me more than once, I’ll give you a jaded “the game looks phenomenal and thanks to everyone who let me play it” copy-paste job, but I’m still new to the experience of being treated like a Somebody so I’ve spent all afternoon drawing pictures of me kissing their boots in MS Paint. Everything you see or read in this report was made possible by these guys, and if they hadn’t thought enough of me to shoot me an e-mail I would’ve half-watched a crummy stream of the show and farted something out on Monday afternoon. I cannot think of a way to thank them enough.
One of the cool things THQ had set up at Axxess (besides this booth, where you could play the game against strangers who only wanted to be Triple H or Undertaker) was a photo booth where they’d take your picture, put it on the cover of WWE ’13, then print it out and give it to you in an XBox 360 box. I will not reproduce mine here for two reasons:
1. They cropped off my fingers to get my face in the right place, which means you can’t tell I’m doing the Keiji Mutoh taunt (everyone was doing wrestling taunts, it was either that or a bunch of crotch chopping).
2. Everyone made fun of me for wondering if they had a PS3 case I could have my picture in. Apparently having a PS3 is frowned upon in video game circles. Who knew? I like Kratos and watching blu-rays. My homework between now and next year’s SummerSlam is to learn how to care about framerate and lag, or something.
Best: Finally, A Belt I Can Mark Out For
If you read the Best And Worst Of WrestleMania XXVIII Live column, you might remember that I use Axxess events to wander around and meet jobbers and have little-to-no interest in doing a “superstar entrance” video or seeing old wrestling props. It’s cool that you’ve got Ric Flair’s robe on display, but unless Ric Flair is IN it, I’m not going to waste valuable “meeting Johnny Curtis” time snapping pictures of it.
At SummerSlam Axxess they had their usual title belts display, and this is basically how my experience sounded:
Me: “wwe championship, okay, world heavyweight championship, ecw championship, tag belts, okay, whatever, let me take a closer look at this and OH MY GOD THEY HAVE THE LAYCOOL BELT GUYS COME HERE LOOK THEY HAVE THE LAYCOOL BELT OH MY GOD” /frantically fumbles with camera
Of course, nobody but me CARES that they have the LayCool title, but I may love LayCool more than both Lay and Cool so it was a treat for me. They even signed it as BsFF. If anybody from Highspots is listening, sell a replica version of this, I’ll buy it in a heartbeat.
Best: Damien Sandow Crashing The WWE 13 Roster Reveal
Another moment like that for me was Damien Sandow showing up out of nowhere during the WWE ’13 roster reveal. Part of being in town for the weekend was doing work, and my intention going into the roster reveal was to tweet out everybody they announced with a joke about their finisher. I had a bunch of them planned. “Announced: The Miz. Finisher: turning to face the hard cam”, or “Announced: Ken Shamrock. Finisher: Telling you to slap him”. Some where better than others. But then they started announcing who was in the game in these big groups, and gave you like 4 1/2 seconds to react to everyone. I think I got out half a joke for each group. Not my finest moment.
Anyway, the event was hosted by Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler and CM Punk, which as you know is a weird cocktail of people I enjoy hearing speak and Jerry f**king Lawler. And I’ve just formally stepped into a Twilight Zone where fun stuff has become work, and instead of just going AAAAH AAAAAAAH at wrestlers I was thumbing a smartphone, so it’s like I’m at a desk in an office somewhere. Then HAAAAALLELUJAH starts up, and my brain goes from work to play in 0.4 seconds and I rush the ring and start screaming about how much I love Damien Sandow. It was great. It’s not something I can turn off, apparently. I’m a grown man and I still can’t handle someone I love standing in front of me. I’m like f**king Hugh Grant.
The highlight of Sandow’s appearance (besides the greatness of him being announced as DLC for WWE ’13) was Punk trying to get over on him with a “I thought I was dumb wearing a t-shirt and jeans, this guy comes out in a robe!” and having Sandow respond with an amazing, “I’ll have you know, this is Egyptian cotton”. A guy with class speaking for intelligent wrestling fans is the REAL voice of the voiceless, you snarky fry cook.
Best: WWE ’13 Is Actually Really, Really Fun
One of the things on my list of things I couldn’t do was take a picture of the screen while I was playing, so I can’t reproduce that glorious moment when I used Daniel Bryan to tap out Comics Alliance’s Chris Sims’ Mankind with a guillotine choke.
I throw a lot of shade at WWE ’12 (short version: I incessantly unlock everything in the first week, then make a bunch of photo-realistic local create-a-wrestlers I never use and never play the game again until somebody I know who likes wrestling visits my house) and am not at liberty (until Thursday, I think) to talk about a bunch of the particulars of ’13, but this game is fun as f**k. It might be the first WWE wrestling game since Here Comes The Pain I play more than a couple of weeks. Just Sandow and Heath Slater matches all day long. I think I said “THIS IS ACTUALLY REALLY FUN” out-loud a few times during the event, which is probably the shittiest compliment to give THQ guys to their faces, but there you go.
So yeah, get this game when it comes out. The worst thing I’ve seen about it so far is that Daniel Bryan doesn’t have his entrance jacket. That’s it.
Best: This Is Seriously The WWE ’13 Panel
I attended the WWE ’13 panel (at the GRAMMY MUSEUM … like 30 feet from Whitney Houston’s National Anthem jumpsuit and an escalator away from Cinderella’s drum kit), and THQ did a fun thing where they didn’t tell us who was going to be there so it’d be a surprise. In my mind I was like, “okay, Punk will probably be there because he’s on the cover of the game, and maybe I’ll get to meet Alicia Fox or whoever isn’t busy”. I get there, and lo and behold the panel is (if you can’t make them out in the picture) Jim Ross, both world champions, the entire Funkasaurus crew, pantsuit-ish AJ Lee, Dolph Ziggler, Mike freaking Tyson and Stone Cold Steve Austin. I sat there the entire time completely and totally unable to believe anything that was happening was real.
The only people on the panel I didn’t get to meet or pee beside in the Grammy Museum’s one bathroom were Brodus Clay and Mike Tyson. Brodus because he bailed early to sell his leg injury (which was I guess more important to do on Saturday than on Raw Monday), and Tyson because being vegan and the star of one of the best Nintendo games ever doesn’t really make up for being the rapist version of The Iron Sheik.
Here is a quick selection of stories from the press junket after party, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. The show starts on the next page, I swear.
Best: Meeting Sheamus And Getting An Apology
Here is the transcript of the time the Best And Worst Guy met World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus.
Me: “I’m only going to meet you so many times in my life, so I need to tell you this … I am a huge Daniel Bryan fan and went to WrestleMania.”
Sheamus: “You probably hate me then.”
Me: “I DO. I wanted to tell you that I’ve been watching wrestling my whole life, and in less than 30 seconds you made me so sad that I almost got up and left a WrestleMania I’d flown across the country and paid 200 dollars to see.”
At that point, he pats me on the shoulder and says (remembering that I can’t really type his voice), “I’m sorry for ruining your WrestleMania experience. But I think we made it up at Extreme Rules.” We talked briefly about how awesome that match was, shook hands again and as he was walking away, he said the two best parts of WrestleMania were not getting sunburned and being in “the pub” before the show was over. Sheamus The Actual Guy is an absolute delight, and I was able to move on from all that weird pro wres hatred I’d built up since April.
The next day he did some stuff with Alberto Del Rio and f**ked it all up.
Best: Paul Heyman Introducing Himself To Me, Because Oh My God
I was waiting patiently to get a picture with CM Punk when one of the guys near me casually mentioned running into Paul Heyman. My brain goes PAUL HEYMAN WHAT WHERE and tells my body to just start moving in whatever direction it sees fit. Heyman wasn’t announced to be there, and I’m not sure if he just showed up to get a free buffet or what, but sure enough, I looked across the room and Paul E. Dangerously was standing right there.
I went over to him in a group, and he started up a conversation. Suddenly, almost in the middle of a sentence, he turns and locks eyes with me, holds out his hands and says “Paul Heyman”, like I didn’t know who he was. I shake his hand, and my response is “uhhhh heh heh” like the biggest goon on the planet. I had some material prepared (“I really like when you hated Missy Hyatt” was my opening line) but he caught me off guard. Thankfully he smiled ear to ear and said, “well THAT’s a response”. I told him the Dangerous Alliance was my favorite thing in the history of pro wrestling (which he said he didn’t understand, because it was so short) and was nice enough to take a picture with my uncool wearing-a-minor-league-baseball-hat-and-a-Dolph-Ziggler-shirt-to-a-press-junket ass and be right up there with Eddie Guerrero on the short list of the nicest pro wrestling dudes I’ve ever met.
I didn’t even remember to talk to him about Missy Hyatt.
Best: Being Impromptu Interviewed by Stone Cold Steve Austin
My other great interaction was with, uh, Stone Cold Steve Austin. It’s been three days and I still thought I was lying when I typed that.
I was in the THQ group, so when personal Godsend Aubrey Sitterson was done interviewing him I’d made enough “you? me? me? you? you? me?” Night At The Roxbury gestures to get in for a conversation. Austin’s thing is being super aggressive and Stone Coldy to everyone who interviews him, so he turns to me and is all WULL HELL SON or whatever, I can’t really remember. I immediately tell him this is huge for me because I was the biggest Stunning Steve Austin fan ever when I was 12 (which is the truth, I wasn’t trying to be all “hey Paul Thomas Anderson, your best movie is Hard Eight” about it). He turns and announces that he’s found the one and only Stunning Steve fan, then asks me where I’d come in from. Thankfully, Texas was my answer.
That leads into several question from Austin about where in Texas I live (and my Round Rock Express hat), how he was born in Austin and how he wishes he could take the L.A. weather and put it south of San Antonio. Aubrey hands me the microphone, and I stand there like an idiot while Austin asks me questions. I guess eventually I derped into the microphone enough that he let me loose, but I can now formally say that the most successful wrestler in history asked me a bunch of questions about myself on camera.
I staggered away with stars in my eyes, about an hour and a half into a two hour thing where I’m supposed to be playing video games.
Worst: I Am Going To Starve To Death
Oh, and to work a Worst into the first two pages and talk about something you care about even less than how goony I was at a respectable luncheon (dinnereon? Meal grammar is like trying to name Pokémon), the only downside of staying and meeting wrestlers in L.A. Live is the barren wasteland of tourist food. Every restaurant is just BEEF SANDWICH WITH CHICKEN SAUCE, FRIED CHICKEN WITH FISH REMOULADE, GRILLED FISH WITH MOOSE SPREAD and so on.
Thankfully (and surprisingly) my best vegan option was at the ESPN Zone, where they had WWE-themed SummerSlam menu items, including a DANIEL BRYAN YES YES YES GARDEN BURGER. In addition to seeing an American Dragon poster outside of the Staples Center, I ate a meal at an ESPN restaurant with his name on it. Here are some pics I took of the menu, which are pretty great:
Fun fact about the Daniel Bryan burger: It’s not vegan unless you get it without the sauce. I got mine with ketchup and mustard, which knowing the ESPN Zone were probably made out of raccoons anyway. And yes, as some of you mentioned on Twitter, the funniest part of the menu is Zack Ryder being listed under “MAIN EVENT” anything.
Best: I Just Saw Claudio Castagnoli Win The United States Championship
In another weird “I’m eating a Daniel Bryan sandwich” moment, I got to see Antonio Cesaro beat Santino Marella and win the United States Championship. Claudio was in the first match at my first-ever Ring Of Honor show (Joe Vs. Kobashi in New York City), and here he is in my first live SummerSlam match. I think I might enjoy him more as Antonio Cesaro than I ever did as Claudio Castagnoli … not that I was a big Claudio fan, but his role on the independent scene, at least for me, was being the guy who was really talented at throwing around his little opponents, offensively or defensively. It’s smart to put him in programs with guys like Santino, so he can deadlift them up into gutwrench suplexes and stuff and highlight what he’s really fantastic at doing.
Additionally, the stuff with Aksana works really fantastically live. It combines three things WWE audiences hate with a passion:
1. Foreign people
2. Foreign languages
3. People kissing
I was on the floor, where you’d assume at least 70 or 80% of the people there would be well-off enough to either be completely disinterested in wrestling or grown up enough to not get bent out of shape about stuff like this, but everyone around me was screaming GET A ROOM, GET A ROOOOOOOMMMM when they started making out. It was big. Claudio’s awkward TV kissing (sorry, Sara Del Rey) was more locally heated than Lesnar. Well, more or less.
Worst: I Just Saw Santino Pull A Snake Out Of His Asshole
This column’s probably going to be low on actual wrestling analysis, but I am so unbelievably happy to see Santino lose his championship. Comedy guys with light legitimacy have a great place in wrestling, but that place isn’t “hold an important midcard title for most of the year”. It’s to get in great hope spots like Santino almost winning the Royal Rumble, or getting a close two count on a roll-up against a guy like Cesaro. I had a paragraph in mind about Cesaro stealing the cobra and ripping it up being the end of a stupid Raw era, and then a few minutes later Santino literally reached into his own asshole to pull out a second snake.
I felt like Hermes Conrad watching Zoidberg’s shell house burn down underwater. He established that the Cobra is his arm, and the snake skin is just a puppet, so when his puppet was lost, why didn’t he just do the hand gestures? Also, does he keep a secondary snake stored in his ass all the time for situations like this, or is he trying to sneak cobras across the border, or … or does he PRODUCE the snake puppets FROM his ass? Does he have weird spider powers and weave those things with his butt? Why would he want to wear that on his hand
I don’t know. He lost, that’s what we need to focus on. I’m thinking “there’s a snake in my ass” may follow “all my limbs can be snakes” as the logical conclusion to the Cobra story, but I guess I should prepare myself now for that inevitable moment a few months from now where he vomits up a snake in the middle of the ring and uses it to knock somebody out.
Best: So Wow, I’m On The Floor At SummerSlam
I typed this a few times already, but one of the coolest parts of the trip was being on the floor for the show. Previous to this, the closest I’d ever been at a WWE show was during a Raw in the 90s when Austin drove his truck into the arena. I think I was in like the 25th row or something. At WrestleMania I sat in the middle of the bowl and stared at a palm tree. This is probably one of the reasons why I’ve always gravitated toward independent wrestling … I can drop 12 bucks and sit in the front row of everything.
My biggest professional goal (besides “hug Thora Birch for several minutes” and “actually get my movie out of pre-production during my lifetime”) is “be famous enough for something that WWE lets me sit in the front row for shows, and maybe comes over with a camera for a second so I can make Wolfpac signs and hold up a replica title”. I feel like that’s the life goal I’m working toward. I’m almost there.
Best: Sin Cara’s Family Is Sitting Behind Me
I don’t care who y’are, that’s funny right there.
Best: Sign Of The Night
There were a lot of signs in the audience, mostly just slogans from the t-shrirts written on posterboard (seriously, if you bring a sign to a WWE event and it says BROGUE KICK HOOLIGAN, I don’t care if you’re five, you should be thrown out). Occasionally you find a great one, and though it didn’t get on television, I wanted to represent this lady in Best And Worst:
If you can’t make it out, it says SLATERS GONNA SLATE. I’m going forward believing she made the sign, and wasn’t just forced into holding it by the Me-looking motherf**ker in the Daniel Bryan shirt to her left.
Best: Dolph Ziggler Vs. Chris Jericho Was Good, I Think?
Before I start, the coin purse is the worst part of that picture. NO, DON’T LOOK FOR IT.
I came into this match expecting something great, mostly based on me loving The Cheerleader and hearing him talk extensively about how important it was for him to have a great match with Chris Jericho and steal the show during the WWE ’13 panel. What I didn’t take into consideration was:
1. Ziggler and Jericho are individually great wrestlers, but they don’t really match up well on paper. Ziggler’s a guy who bumps for big impact offense and looks kinda stupid bumping for stuff that shouldn’t hurt. This is why he can go with Sheamus, but is boring against Kofi Kingston. Jericho’s a guy who has never had great offense, whose finish is a Shark Boy transitional move. Outside of Ziggler bumping like a freak to that springboard dropkick, I shouldn’t have expected Steamboat/Savage.
2. Ziggler’s right: Jericho just doesn’t have it anymore. I mean, in terms of “it” he’s still perfectly fine, because he’s better than most pro wrestlers, but he’s not Best In The World At What He Does Jericho anymore, and treating him as such is a bad idea. Sometimes you get tricked into thinking the guy you’re about to see is the best version of the guy you’ve seen.
3. Jericho’s been pretty consistently disappointing since his epic return in January, sleepwalking through an angle with Punk that should’ve been hot fire and passing off “spiking up my hair” as his only character development since March.
I liked the match and the crowd was hot, but I can’t really remember anything about it. That’s the sign of a match being “that was a good match” on the Derrick Bateman Match Rating Scale and not “that was a GREAT match”. I remember Jericho’s super rana, and that’s about it. When he locked in the Walls Of Jericho, I just kinda did a hand gesture and said “he hasn’t done that reversal he always does where the guy turns and he Rikishi flips yet”, and he just sat down on it and won. Like SummerSlam itself, it was just kinda over before I expected it to finish.
So yeah, I’m giving it a Best while thinking about how much better it would’ve been if we’d done Jericho/Kane and Bryan/Ziggler instead.
Worst: This Kid
I don’t like to talk a lot of shit about children on the Internet, but okay, this kid:
I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for having their own kind of fun at a wrestling show, but this kid had what, fourth row tickets to SummerSlam? I don’t think he watched the ring once. He held his signs at shoulder level and watched the TitanTron, and every time the camera cut in our direction he’d stand up and hold up the sign. When it switched, he sat back down. It didn’t matter if the camera was only on us for five seconds, he’d hold it up and then go right back down, then back up and back down. After about five minutes of the match he got restless that he wasn’t on TV enough and just started moving it up and down when he THOUGHT it was about to switch.
If I’m allowed to be a crusty old man for a minute, the point of signs was originally to have the wrestlers in the ring see them. That’s why I made signs when I was a kid. The Monday Night Wars turned it into a way to get a message on TV, and eventually into a way to find yourself on TV. It’s that same codger shit I pull at concerts, where the people in the front row are recording the show on their phone and watching the phone screen instead of looking up and seeing a performer they love sitting f**king five feet in front of them playing music. Take a picture, hold up a sign, record a little bit, but be there for the show, you know?
In a related story, this kid got on TV like 40,000 times. I’m the one behind him.
Best: My Favorite Wrestler Versus My Girlfriend’s Favorite Wrestler
One of the Worsts of the trip is that Destiny couldn’t come along with me (she went back to Austin and caught a great ACW show featuring Darin Corbin dressed as The Ultimate Warrior and people getting attacked with a shoot Freddy glove), but I felt her presence as I watched her favorite wrestler (Kane) wrestle mine (Daniel Bryan).
I’ve read a lot of conflicting reports about this match, ranging from “it was really good” to “you’re only saying it was really good because you like Daniel Bryan”. I’m probably in both camps. The only Kane match I’ve ever enjoyed from beginning to end was the title challenge against Chris Benoit, and all horrible horrible inferences aside, Kane vs. Daniel Bryan was a lot of the same. They even did the flying headbutt into a chokeslam thing. Kane’s like a big leagues Claudio Castagnoli, working surprisingly well with these little guys who want to drag him down by his arm and tap him with stuff and not as well with the big lumbering dudes he’s always thrown against.
Two major points of discussion for this match:
Best: I Will Never Not Give A Best To Mr. Small Package
Daniel Bryan winning matches with the small package makes me so happy I can barely explain it. It’s the best memories from his Ring Of Honor title win … being so much better than everyone else that he’d wrestle you for 35 minutes and throw bombs at you, then win by just grabbing you and rolling you over into a pin. It’s such a prick move to beat a guy with a small package, and Bryan has perfected it.
Worst: WWE Has Set It Up So That By Cheering Daniel Bryan, I’m Doing Him A Disservice
The YES chants in Miami sorta happened organically. They were already happening, so it’s not like the Miami crowd made it up or whatever, but it was born out of support for a guy we wanted to see wrestle (and eventually didn’t get a chance to). They caught on enough to keep Bryan locked into the title scene for a few months, and we’ve mostly relaxed on that impending feeling of danger every time he loses where we think “this is it, the dream is over” and Danielson has to go back to wrestling the shit out of guys like Jaykus Plisken for the enjoyment of nobody.
My only problem with the YES chants is that AJ kinda-sorta ruined them, turning them into a YOU SUCK-esque thing where people chanting yes are doing so to make Bryan mad. It’s a complicated thing to explain, because I know wrestling is a show and the point is to make ANY noise for a guy, good or bad, but as a completely kayfabed-out fan I don’t WANT to make Daniel Bryan mad. I want him to be happy and know I love him. So I can’t chant “YES” anymore, as fun as it is, and I also feel like I can’t chant “NO”, because he yells it back in anger. He yelled YES with joy. There’s a difference, and I hope you get what I’m saying.
I tried to start a “BEST IN THE WORLD” chant during the match to work in a happy medium, but two horrible things happened: I realized somewhere in the middle of the chant that the audience around me thought I was dumb, because I was using a CM Punk catchphrase for the wrong guy. This filled me with the worst elitist wrestling emotions ever, and that’s not good for anyone.
Also, it turned me into that guy who writes about chants I tried to start in show reports. I guess I’ve come full circle, then. Please enjoy this list of the biggest pops of the night: