Undertaker vs. Test
Here's where we get to see how serious the creative team is about pushing the UnAmerican angle. If things continue the way they've been going, Test will land a few punches, which the Undertaker will no sell. The Taker will then hit all his signature spots, run to the back, beat up Lance and Christian, drag them to the ring, and pin all three of them separately. Then, Monday, all three will come out and try to look like main eventers anyway. See why this thing is hesitating on the runway?
I think the whole UnAmericans angle can really go places, but it has to start here. They'll never be considered threatening unless they have a serious main eventer in their midst, and it's looking more and more like Jericho is headed in a different direction. Test, surprisingly enough, is suddenly right there, and with a little nudge from the DeadMan, he might yet round the corner. He's finally started to become confident in the ring, and is evoking an air that sounds more like "Hey, I don't mind watching this guy," and less like "Harr.. his name is 'Test'. He used to be in 'T&A'."
Keep it short, keep it brutal, and keep the right man in charge. This could go somewhere. The Undertaker will have more than enough chances to get his heat back, but this could be Test's one shot at advancement. Let's go with the dirty Canadian.
Eddy Guerrero vs. Edge
I'm really looking forward to this one, for many of the same reasons I'm looking forward to that last one. Like Test, both Edge and Eddy are right there, and with a big performance here, they could make their own way. It's not really Eddy I'm worried about, as he's been the most consistantly spectacular worker in the WWE since coming back. Edge, however, isn't nearly as sure of himself in the ring yet. His big rub alongside the Hulkster and his short feud with Y2J really did wonders for him, but the rest he's gonna have to do on his own.
Still, he couldn't have chosen a better dance partner. Like Lil' Davey said, this has the potential to be really good, and may yet steal the show on a very, very strong card. If Guerrero's on, he could drag somebody like the Big Show, kicking and screaming, to a watchable match. With somebody who can actually move about, Edge for example, he can do that much more.
Listen closely Sunday Night, and you might just hear the sound of two new stars being polished. It's a really tough call, because they both need it badly, but I'm gonna say Eddy needs it more. He's coming off a string of high profile PPV jobs, and a loss to Edge, no matter his ascending status, would be a major blow to his credibility.
Winner: Eddy Guerrero
Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio, Jr.
I really haven't been watching SmackDown as much as I should. I miss Kurt, Chris and Eddy, and the lure of spoilers has been too great for me on many an occasion. Thus, I haven't seen much of the apparently-brief build for this one. Regardless, the meeting of styles alone is interesting enough to carry my interest over from that last match. Both these guys are the absolute best of their breed, with Kurt absolutely untouchable in the heavyweights and Rey playing a god?amongst the lightweights.
Matches like this have worked very, very well in the past. Take a look at old RAW and Nitro tapes if you don't remember, specifically Triple H vs. TAKA and Ric Flair vs. the very same Rey Mysterio. In my humble opinion, neither of the aforementioned heavyweights can hold a torch to Kurt right now, since it was late in Flair's career, so this one should be that much better. Psychology is really gonna be key here, with Rey's knees the likely area of concentration. They could take a cute, interesting match and make it classic with just a sprinkle of logical working on an appendage.
Not sure who needs it more here, which seems to be a real emerging trend in this issue of the preview. Rey needs a big 'V' to make his mark early, but Kurt needs it to keep his spot a serious one. I'll go with the gold medalist here, perhaps teasing an unmasking after the match and setting up the real match next month.
Winner: Kurt Angle
Booker T & Goldust vs. Christian & Lance Storm
Tag Team Championship
Every one of the main eventers are currently occupied with legitimate, healthy feuds. Only HHH is facing off against someone who isn't considered a young talent, and he's fighting HBfrigginK, so it's forgiveable. What they're doing with Booker is keeping him fresh in fans' minds, keeping that momentum rolling. His team with Goldust works well enough, so they're pushing it a little further. If the T-stah is still mired in a tag match next month, there's reason for complaint. But right now, I think he's in the best position possible. At least he's on the card, and personally I think he's a major contender for a spot as Brock's first PPV title defense.
Take all the key points I mentioned in Test's match, and apply it to this one as well. The UnAmericans have to come off as really, really strong here. Not that I have as much a question about Lance and Christian's match as I do with Test's. Let's just hope this one is Undertaker-free. Goldust takes the clean pinfall, while Booker is otherwise occupied.
Winners: The UnAmericans
Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Benoit
Benoit doesn't even need this belt, which makes the match that much more fun to watch. It's been great to see the Wolverine back in form, and he's got a great match here, opposite RVD. I don't have nearly as many problems with Mr. Monday Night as you do, Spinner. Sure, he's been spotty in the past. He's been rock solid since the Invasion angle, and has really worked hard to overcome the problems that plagued him in ECW. You say he's directionless without the title, and I can't help but agree. But that's a fault you should lay on the bookers, not the worker. You're complaining about Booker's spot this month, but don't blame the Suckah himself for that. There's a lot going on, and it's easy to get lost in the shuffle.
But back to the match. This one should be just brutal. Benoit can?dish out some of the toughest offense in the fed when he's got a willing participant, and RVD loves to bounce around that ring. Their styles match almost ideally, with Benoit dominating the ground and Van Dam taking it to the air. Both can cross over into the other's specialty with little effort. Damn, this one's gonna be hot. I say Van Dam takes it, while Benoit finds someone a little higher up the card to make his name with.
Winner: Rob Van Dam
Chris Jericho vs. Ric Flair
I've made no secret about my excitement for this one, if you read our weekly RAW recaps. The feud would've benefitted tremendously with just a little more room for mic work, but you take what you can get and what we've got has been above average. Flair really seems motivated again, and seeing something like that gets you excited for almost any kind of match. Meanwhile, Jericho (as Dave noted) has been completely spot-on in his portrayal of the Y2J character. He's able to change emotions and evolve sensibly, while giving a lot of obvious thought to his character's mentality and motivations. It's an attention to detail that isn't really seen anywhere else, and it's a big part of why this match will have the crowd whipped into a frenzy by the time the final bell tolls.
Flair's much better suited as a heel, but that's a role that he's been having more an more difficulty assuming over the last couple years. People are just so genuinely happy to see him that they refuse to boo him. Jericho's familiar with the problem; he ran into it upon his debut in the WWE, resulting in a face turn that lasted way, way too long.
Should be interesting to watch on the mat, since Flair's still struggling to regain his old form and Jericho's been hot and cold, but if they're both on and manage to tell a long story, this could be one for the ages. Give me odds like that and I'll line up to buy each and every time. This is a feud that I don't think can be wrapped after one short month, so I'm thinking we'll have at least one rematch over the course of the next few PPVs. Logic would then tell me Jericho's going over, but my little mind thinks differently. Why not reverse the 'chase' scenario, where the face traditionally chases the heel, looking for gold? It might be cool to see Jericho chasing Flair, looking for the big win he's been starving for. The Nature Boy needs the immediate win, but could stand to lose the war... and Jericho could stand to drop this one, but would benefit tremendously with a long term victory. Ric's my pick.
Winner: Ric Flair
Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels
What, like you didn't know, the minute Kevin Nash introduced him, that it would come to this. Shawn Michaels is back in the ring, "for the last time." Again. For, like, the third time. But that doesn't matter, really, because they built this one extremely well when Monday night did its fade to black. Shawn actually took a bump like a wrestler again, and followed it up by superkicking Brock Lesnar and nearly botching a plancha over the top rope. It was still great to see one of the all time best, doing what he used to do in a new set of circumstances. Unfortunately, at the same time it was a little scary, and I mentioned why on last week's RAW recap.
Just after taking that clothesline bump flat onto his back, Michaels cringed and held his back. Even after hitting the superkick and brawling up the entryway, his continued holding his back. There's a good chance he was just doing some good storytelling, working an injury to the part of his body that we all know is most vulnerable, but there's also that chance that he wasn't "just acting." I guess we'll have to wait until Sunday Night to see for sure, but if HBK has any sort of continuing problems with his back... maybe the whole thing wasn't such a good idea. Not only could it impede the match, but it could shape the rest of his life. You wouldn't want to see Mick Foley sailing off the top of the HIAC cage, four years after his last match, would you? Maybe that's a poor question...
Nagging conscience or no, I'm really looking forward to this match. If he isn't having any physical problems, I have no question Shawn will give his heart and soul to go out with a big, big bang here. Truthfully, this is the match that's been building since the night after Wrestlemania 14, when Trips told us all that Shawn had "dropped the ball," and it's become almost larger than life in the four and a half years since.
Truth be told, this match can only serve to do one thing, and that's put over HHH. What good would a victory by Shawn Michaels do? It might send fans home smiling for one night, but it would also act detrimentally toward The Game's future. If he can't get it together enough to beat a man, albeit one of the best, four years out of the business.. what hope does he have against guys who are hitting their prime right now? On the other hand, if he coldbloodedly destroys the former legend, he'll have written his own way into the history books. This will be ugly, this will be bloody, and this will more than likely go all over the arena. Triple H has my vote.
Winner: Triple H
Brock Lesnar vs. The Rock
WWE Undisputed Championship
What more can be said about this one? You've got arguably the biggest present name in the WWE, in The Rock, facing off against the man the McMahon hype machine has everyone convinced is the future. If you're looking for the right way to build interest in a main event, you need not look further than these last couple of weeks. Lesnar and Heyman have been used to perfection, with Rocky nailing his role as well as we've come to expect by now. The electricity is there when these two face off in the ring, like you know something huge is about to happen. It's almost reminiscent of huge matches of the WWE's past; Hogan / Andre, Austin / Michaels, Hogan / Warrior... almost.
As far as the match goes, I think this one will actually surprise you. I'd imagine Brock will pull out a few of the moves he hasn't used since hitting it big, though that big shooting star press is probably too much to ask for. Rock's slowly, steadily, somehow become one of the best all around performers in WWE history, and if Brock needs any help he'll be more than happy to pick up the slack. While I don't agree with Dave's opinion that Lesnar can't do much of anything on his own, I do agree that he's still very, very early into his professional career, and in a matchup of this importance he'll be under a lot of pressure. Chances are good he'll stumble once or twice, the key will be how well they recover from it.
One thing that really has to either come to a big conclusion or be kept to a bare minimum is Paul Heyman's interference. I'm a big, big fan of his presence at ringside, as I really think the manager / agent role has been largely underused over the last five years, but during a match of this importance, he can't be breaking up every single pinfall attempt.
When the dust settles, I fear this result is too predictable. Everyone and their brother expects Brock to appear Monday with the title, and I count myself amongst those masses. But let's not overlook the possibility that Rocky will pull it out in the end, just to screw with everybody. Regardless, I do think Lesnar will be holding the gold before long, and the scales seem entirely weighted in his favor Sunday night. Should be a good match, possibly the kind that creates new stars, and in the end the youth movement will have its captain.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
It wasn't until I started doing the match by match, but there's an overriding theme to this year's Summerslam, one that's directly connected to connected to the quality of the card. Almost every match on the card involves one or more new face in a big position to make their own place in the future of the industry. It'll be really interesting to see how things have shifted this time next year; who made a big impact and reaped the benefits, who screwed the pooch and isn't even appearing on Heat. As the first PPV to really shine a bright light right at these guys, it could be said that it all starts here and I, for one, am excited.
until next time, i remain