Saturday, August 23, 2003

The World's Greatest WWE Summerslam 2003 Preview

I can't believe I'm writing a Summerslam preview already. Yikes, 2004 if a mere four months away. The big '03 is two-thirds over. I'm still writing 2002 on some of my checks by mistake. Paying your utility bills sucks. But yeah, that big dub to the dub to the eee has arrived at the second largest pay per view of the year, and I'd be lying if I said I was really that excited about the card. Looking at it solely on paper, this actually doesn't look that bad. The US Title match should be really great, recent house show reports say Kane and RVD have been putting on a good show, Angle and Lesnar are finally both healthy enough to give us a sequel to their beauty at WrestleMania and at least half the guys in the Elimination Chamber are worth your while. Unfortunately, the storylines leading up to the show have almost killed the mood for me. Brock took a card from Steve Austin's deck, nonsensically turning heel and aligning himself with Vince McMahon for no valid reason. Kane's character has successfully stalled once more, only a month after setting the wrestling world ablaze (no pun intended) with a tremendous new direction. The Dudley Boyz and La Resistance have been going through the same motions for months on end now, and the Elimination Chamber looks like a really weak way to take the title off of Triple H without actually jobbing him out to any one man in particular.

If you'll remember, last year's Summerslam was a show full of promise. The resounding theme of a youth movement had filled the air going into that show, as Brock was getting his first shot at the World Title, Chris Jericho was looking to start his own legacy as a "legend killer" by knocking off Ric Flair, Test found himself in search of a breakthrough against the Undertaker, and Guerrero vs. Edge, RVD vs. Benoit and Angle vs. Mysterio all showcased the next generation of talent in high profile spots. It felt like a changing of the guard, and the show was one of WWE's most successful all year. Now, one full year later, it's tough to say anything has changed. That's not really something that makes me a happy man.

La Resistance (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz
World Tag Team Titles

I'm still waiting for a reason why I should boo La Resistance, when Bubba and D-Von are giving me more and more motivation to dislike them as the weeks go on. Here are two guys who have needlessly taken the mantle of American patriotism upon their own shoulders, and given every citizen a black eye with their blind, unthinking statements and solutions to imaginary problems. Grenier and Dupree enter the ring to sing their national anthem and the Dudleys tell America it should be sick, despite the fact that the American national anthem is played at the opening of every WWE program. They attack without provocation or discernable reason, often from behind and / or with the aid of a foreign object. They make generalizations and hate based entirely on the colors of their opponents' flag, rather than their actions and messages. In short, they're hate-mongers. Yet they wave old glory, so we're supposed to stand, remove our hats, salute and cheer for them. I don't buy it.

And the suffering just doesn't stop there. In addition to the unfathomably silly booking, these two teams really do NOT match up well together in the ring. They've shown us several times, both in tag team and singles action, that they don't click. Their styles do not mesh. No combination of these four has provide any sort action that's above average.

So yeah, what we've got is this; the real faces are the heels, and vice versa. The storyline is cheap, simple and boring. There's no motivation going into this match, and the four guys involved have consistantly provided poor matches with one another. Great attributes for a World Tag Team Title match. It's a tough choice to pick a winner, but I'm going with the Frenchmen. Even Vince McMahon himself can't be this delusional.
Winners: La Resistance

The Undertaker vs. A-Train

Oh, god. Why? If somebody could let me know the address of the guy the A-Train's been blowing for the last five years to maintain his status on the card, I'd appreciate it. Not that I'd seek this guy out, hoping to deliver some oral lovin' of my own. I'm just... curious, because I've exhausted every other possibility as to why he's still employed. The guy's gone from "mad piercing specialist" to "half of T&A" to "overly hairy, locomotive-themed retard," and has been just as reliable a time waster in one role as he is in the next. He has no character, his wrestling stinks and he isn't pleasant to look at. In other words, he's a larger, hairier version of Billy Gunn. I don't care who wins this match. Wait, scratch that. Looking a little closer, you're damn right I care about this match; if the Undertaker lays down cleanly for Albert, after refusing to do so for John Cena last month, something's seriously wrong with the world. Honest to god.
Winner: The Undertaker

Shane McMahon vs. Eric Bischoff

Not really the match I was hoping to see. After more than a year away from regular competition, Shane McMahon made his much-anticipated return this month, immediately making an impact by assaulting his own father and, eventually, Kane. It all seemed to make sense, and to lead naturally into the Shane vs. Kane match I discuss in my writeup of Sunday's match between RVD and the Big Red Machine. Instead, for whatever reason, somebody threw on the brakes. Instead of that climactic, marquee matchup, we were given a feud between McMahon and Bischoff. With all the momentum of his return wasted on an empty attack against Kane, the writers hit the panic button and attempted to invent a storyline going into Summerslam, finally delivering one at the last possible moment. And boy, does that story REEK of hurried, unplanned, last-second writing.

Instead of focusing on their natural hatred for one another, stemming all the way back to the height of the Monday Night wars and culminating with Shane's misguided destruction of WCW as a whole, they sicced Bischoff on Shane's mother, Linda. Six months' worth of smooth talking, thinly-veiled flirtations and power struggles all amounted to one awkward moment on RAW, as Eric forcibly kissed the elder McMahon and, presumably, continued their encounter all the way to the bedroom. I don't have any further motivation to see Shane beat Eric into a bloody pulp after that segment. If anything, I have far less interest in seeing either one of them ever again. Let's hope they put Shane over and move on, because the only direction this feud can go from here is downhill.
Winner: Shane McMahon

Eddy Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit vs. Rhyno vs. Tajiri
WWE United States Title

I like the mix of talent in this one, though I also wish all four guys were in a higher position on the card. The main events on Smackdown have been really limited lately, with Angle, Lesnar and the Big Show taking turns with the title since late 2002. Benoit, admittedly, had a quick spot in the sun near the beginning of this year, but it disappeared just as quickly as it showed up. Eddy's been deserving a main event position, almost since his return at the very beginning of the brand extension. And, despite my complaints, he's at least remained extremely active in the various title hunts. Tajiri and Rhyno, both guys I'm a fan of, have never really had a direction since coming to the federation after the death of ECW.

At any rate, even if it won't mean much in the near future, this match should be hella good. I'm extremely happy that they reintroduced the US Title, though I wish they wouldn't have eliminated it in the first place since it's now missing a lot of the history that made it so valuable in the first place. I'm also extremely happy in the names they've chosen to fill the ranks of contention, as they're all guys who have definite potential at the top of the card in the next few years. That gives the belt itself a kind of respectability, which is key to any title's success. What good is a title if everyone who's ever held it is a loser? And you know what else goes hand in hand with lending merit to a new title? Clean, frequent defenses. Guerrero retains.
Winner: Eddy Guerrero

Kane vs. Rob Van Dam

Like I alluded to in the introduction, house reports have been calling this a very good matching of styles. The two guys are very familiar with one another, and actually have quite a bit of history together in terms of storylines, dating all the way back to RVD's debut. All the signs were pointing at this being a really impactful, emotional feud that actually made sense to the nitpickers such as myself. Then the booking all but destroyed Van Dam's credibility over the course of the last two or three weeks. Every time these two have run into one another, RVD's wound up on the losing end of the deal. He's been thrown into an exploding entryway, bursting his forehead open. He's mistimed a frog splash, landing full-force on a steel chair in Kane's stead. He's dove headfirst into a brutal steel chair shot on the floor. And, unceremoniously, Kane attempted to set him on fire this past Monday.

Now, using John's patented "win on TV, lose on PPV" formula, that would mean Rob's in for a decisive victory this Sunday night. However, I don't think jobbing Kane out this soon after redefining his character as a violent, unstoppable monster is anything the bookers should even be contemplating. Honestly, Shane McMahon deserved this spot on the PPV. He has a much better reason for fighting the red monstrosity, (the vicious beating his mother took at Kane's hands) it won't be nearly as devastating a blow for Shane to take the pinfall, and... come ON... Shane-O's spent his entire career bouncing around the ring, selling his opponents' offense like bombs over Baghdad. He would've been the perfect guy to further deliver Kane into the big time, and that money feud with RVD could've been saved for a later date, when both men could have a more legitimate shot at things. As is, this looks just about hopeless for RAW's top face.
Winner: Kane

Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar
WWE Championship

I don't think there's any debate about how good these guys are, especially when paired off with one another. It's only been four months since their first honest match, and already that late-April collision feels like it took place on a historic night long ago. They're both future hall of famers, and they each deserve to have the title hugging their hips. They're both outstanding amateur wrestlers, both guys who made the transition to the professional style with ease. And they've both been mishandled at different points in their career, turned heel without motivation, aside from perhaps the momentary shock it would deliver to the audience.

There was no reason to turn Brock heel two weeks ago, except to further drive home WWE's subscription to a dated, black and white, face meets heel set of ideals. Brock and Kurt would have given us just as good a match if they were both face, yet someone backstage felt insecure about their ability to draw with such a match. So, rather than taking a slight risk, they panicked. Brock was turned heel, given a few words to say, and aligned with Vince McMahon in an ugly rehashing of the Austin turn at WrestleMania X-7. "Brock has sold his soul to the devil himself!" shouted Michael Cole, almost repeating verbatim Jim Ross's screams in Houston two and a half years ago. Vince himself, once one of the most well-developed heels on television, means next to nothing nowadays. His alliances and rivalries fluctuate so frequently, you'd need a scorecard to keep track of it all. His promos are the very definition of constant repetition. And his touch has begun to mean slow death to anyone on the roster.

What it all boils down to, really, is this. This should still be a very good match. With Vince's involvement, we're almost guaranteed outside interference and possibly a dirty finish. But in the end, this is still Brock Lesnar versus Kurt Angle. They'll still give it their all, which is more than enough to overcome all but the very worst of overbookings, storyline interferences and McMahon appearances. Let's hope so, anyway. Kurt takes the victory here, tying the series at 1-1 with the winner, hopefully, emerging at WrestleMania XX.
Winner: Kurt Angle

Triple H (c) vs. Kevin Nash vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton vs. Chris Jericho vs. Goldberg
World Heavyweight Title (Raw) in an Elimination Chamber Match

drq: Ah, the return to the Elimination Chamber. Actually, I have no problem with their utilization of this gimmick, as I think the sense that this is "where careers go to die" is a very unique, not to mention real, contribution to the show. This should be a brutal war between three faces and three heels, very few of which seem to get along with one another. On the other hand, what I DO have a bit of a problem with is the way they straight-up killed three ongoing feuds to cover for a weakness in one match. Triple H has an injured groin, this has been noted. So if he works a singles match, it won't be able to go very long. He was scheduled to face off with Bill Goldberg, a guy who's been gaining momentum over the last few months with an obvious target being the World Title. Big Bill, however, has a shortcoming; when his matches go long, they tend to also go sour. See what I'm getting at here? Why the decision was made to not only cover for a situation that's as close to ideal as they're ever going to get? Moreso, why overcompensate for one weakness and simultaneously create six new weaknesses in its stead?

Instead of watching Triple H drop the title in a short match against Bill Goldberg, both covering for Trips's injury and Bill's problem with match quality, we get this. We get Goldberg in a match that's ASSURED to go long, pretty much maintaining that problem. We get Chris Jericho, Kevin Nash, Randy Orton and Shawn Michaels involved in a match that they aren't nearly as likely to win, so that rather than picking up a victory on PPV they're jobbed in the main event. We get Triple H, in just as likely a position to lose his title as before... still working a long match, despite his injury... perhaps losing his title in a fashion that nearly negates the value he'd been building up as champion over the last year and a half. And we get it all thrown together into one match for the RAW brand, rather than three. It doesn't make good business sense, neither for Bischoff and Austin's RAW nor for the WWE conglomerate, and it either makes your new champion look like a fluke or, in the case of a Triple H retention, your five challengers look completely useless. It's a no win situation, which is one HELL of a long cry from the win-win they found themselves in before covering for their champion's injury in the first place.

That said, I'm interested in seeing where this match goes, as they've got some interesting dynamics thrown in there. Nash has had televised problems with Jericho, Triple H and Goldberg. Jericho has been warring with Nash, Michaels and Goldberg, in addition to his historical problems with Triple H. Michaels has an alliance with Goldberg and Nash, but issues with Orton, Jericho and Triple H. Goldberg hates everybody, aside from perhaps Shawn Michaels and himself. Randy Orton has a quest to build a name for himself as a new star, and potential leadership issues with the champ. And Triple H wants to retain his title by any means necessary. There are a hundred different possibilities here, but the one I like best has Chris Jericho stunning the world with an upset victory.
Winner: Chris Jericho
until next time, i remain

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