Saturday, June 26, 2004

The World's Greatest WWE Great American Bash 2004 Preview

It's feeling like late 90s WCW again, in more ways than one, and I know John can sympathize with that. You see, way back in the day... when Hulk Hogan and Sting were still main eventers, when the term WWF wasn't so legally associated with the image of a Panda Bear, ol' JC Money and I were sitting around doing the very same thing we're doing here today. We were writing upwards of three pay per view previews a month between the major federations, and not all of them were sunshine and roses. For the most part we were writing these things weekly, and if that regular commitment weren't enough, the cards we were previewing were often filled with some really nasty, runny shits. As the years went by, the federations consolidated into a single fed, which meant that a lot of the crap was cut out. Instead of three mediocre or bad PPVs a month with a handful of really interesting matches between them, they were offering one decent or good PPV a month with most of the interesting matches contained therein. I won't lie and say they've all been quality since the death of real big league competition, but I will admit that the bar has risen. WWE's pay per views have been consistently better than those of WCW, ECW and even the WWF in the late 90s... and now that they're toying with the idea of spreading their rosters a little thinner and promoting two big events within one month, I'm starting to notice the return of that trend. Instead of one big card with a half dozen interesting matches and deserving athletes brawling the night away, we're seeing two events that split the exciting feuds and workers. It's not a time and place I'm anxious to see return.

This month's PPV from Smackdown is just a touch more promising than the card they presented at the now-infamous Judgment Day a month and a half back. The main event is the same, but the US and Cruiserweight titles are the objects of a little more heated competition. The undercard is still some of the most forgettable crap I've seen in years. There's no excuse for a card with such a lack of depth, especially considering the level of talent floating around in the pool right now (both on and off the Smackdown roster). Despite a couple good-looking matches, this show isn't worth the price of a full PPV. If they're going to limit themselves to half a roster-per-show, they should cut the price of the events accordingly.

Kenzo Suzuki vs. Billy Gunn

I've no idea what they're thinking with Kenzo Suzuki. I have yet to see anything redeemable from the man thus far, but then again I guess he hasn't exactly been given the time or excuse to do much more than grunt, stare at the crowd and perform his weak, dated offense. I guess, if I had to say one nice thing about him, it's that his finisher isn't totally awful. I was scared to death he was going to start employing the dreaded "claw" when he grabbed Scotty 2 Hotty's face near the end of his Smackdown debut match, but fortunately enough he turned it into a kind of modified leg sweep. Controlling the head as it's thrust into the ground? Hey, it's more credible than the F-5, which puts most of the force of its impact on the opponent's torso. You're not gonna knock a guy out by spinning him around and then putting him down.

I'm getting off track, aren't I? Anyway, this match doesn't look like it's giving Suzuki any more of a reason to impress than his first pair of fights has. Billy Gunn has accomplished everything he's ever going to by this point, and something inside of me says Kenzo has as well. Suzuki's newer, though, and they seem intent on pushing him as a serious heel so he gets the nod. Cover your eyes and your ears during this match. You'll thank me later.
Winner: Kenzo Suzuki

Torrie Wilson vs. Sable

Wow. What insightful, dramatic, attention-grabbing booking. Torrie and Sable have a match this Sunday, and instead of just throwing them in there to dance around in their thongs (which is really the only value they have to the roster right now... and is debatable in Sable's case) they actually waste the time to book them a short feud (over an Uncle Sam outfit, no less) and put them in a match. I wasn't a fan of Sable in the height of her popularity, and I'm even less of one today. I used to enjoy seeing Torrie around during her WCW days, admittedly, but she's been involved with so much dull, insultingly bad stuff since coming to Vince country that I'm having trouble remembering why. The only way this match will be successful in my eyes is if it's granted a last second "loser retires" stipulation. In which case... go Torrie!
Winner: Torrie Wilson

Rey Mysterio (c) vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr.
WWE Cruiserweight Title

The first of two fresh, exciting midcard championship matches. I enjoyed seeing Chavo Sr. as much as anyone, but I've got to admit that putting the Cruiserweight title on him was a big mistake and his departure is nothing more than a blessing in disguise for his son. With any luck, the bookers will take the hint that the division's supposed to be about stuff like this match and not womanizing old men, worthless former challengers for the women's title and rushed, multiple-participant elimination matches. Chavo and Rey have been indirectly feuding for almost six months now, constantly reminding us that they've got a bug up their ass about one another since long before WrestleMania but never really getting a chance to do anything about it without outside interference or other challengers getting in the way.

I'd love to see Chavo take his belt back here, as his work has been a brilliant light in the midst of an extremely dark, depressing 2004 Cruiserweight division (don't get me wrong, either, that's through no fault of the workers who are left sitting on the sidelines) but I think Chavo Sr's exit only served to hurry the eventual conclusion of the three way they were originally building toward in this slot. Rey would lose a lot of credibility if he dropped the title so quickly after winning it, which is why I'm taking him here.
Winner: Rey Mysterio

John Cena (c) vs. Rene Dupree vs. Booker T. vs. Rob Van Dam
Fatal Four Way Elimination Match for the United States Title

Truthfully, I've been pleasantly surprised by the build to this one. This is basically the entire midcard of Smackdown that's worth a shit (cruiserweight non-inclusive) and they're each going after the second biggest belt on the show. There's no question in my mind that either Booker or RVD should be in the main event right now, challenging Eddie in Bradshaw's place, but this, I suppose, is the next best thing. Angle's disdain for Cena has been portrayed interestingly, as he favors just about anyone who's challenging for the title regardless of heel / face status. I loved the gauntlet matches Cena went through on Smackdown a couple weeks ago, even though he blew up midway through the second one, and the elimination format this Sunday should give him a bit of a break in that department.

I love elimination style matches. Make no mistake about it. I love them even more when I have no idea how the order of elimination is going to go down, as is the case with this one. Any one of these guys could walk out carrying the US Title without throwing everyone for a loop. The storyline seems to lean toward Cena or Dupree, though, and I don't think Dupree's ready yet. The grandmaster retains.
Winner: John Cena

Undertaker vs. Dudley Boyz
Concrete Crypt Match

I really don't care about this match, or the angle around which it's been hurriedly built. Paul Heyman was finally starting to do something interesting with the Dudley Boys, motivating them violently even when they seemed to have come out victorious and making them legitimate threats as heels when they more than likely would've just fallen back on their stale old heel act after their stale old face act had come to a close. Now that he's nonsensically gone after the Undertaker (and all his mystical powers) the whole story just seems contrived and stupid. The Undertaker gimmick as a whole just doesn't belong in today's WWE, where the emphasis is more on personality and ability, and a guy like Paul Heyman looks really out of place holding an urn and magically controlling a walking zombie. If The Undertaker were really going to do "the right thing," he'd hang up his boots before this match.
Winners: The Dudley Boys

Eddie Guerrero (c) vs. John Bradshaw Layfield
WWE Title: Texas Bullrope Match

It's really sad to see Eddie poisoned by such a crappy main event storyline. Even Chris Jericho's World Title run wasn't as poorly orchestrated as Eddie's has become in the months after WrestleMania, since Jericho at the very least had a good match to look forward to at the end of the road. Bradshaw looked better than I'd assumed he would in last month's main event, but he still didn't look good and the fact of the matter is Eddie needed to lose a gallon and a half of blood for anybody to even remember the match the next week. This story's been cruising around in circles, almost since it started, with Bradshaw coming out and saying something derogatory, Eddie taking exception and doing something stupid and then eventually paying the price before they do the whole damned thing again. This doesn't feel like a World Title-caliber match. This doesn't even feel like a US Title-caliber match, considering the build for that championship has been based on athletic ability.

Like I said last month, I don't think anybody really believes JBL has a chance here, and that's leading to a lot of viewer apathy toward the match. Well, that and the fact that it's Bradshaw. And he's wrestling. For a title. Guerrero has his work cut out for him here if he wants to put on a good show without slicing a river into his forehead again.
Winner: Eddie Guerrero

In Closing...

Like I said in the intro. Potential for two good-to-great matches and absolutely nothing else. Something needs to happen soon to shake things up, because this show is on life support. It needs talent, not gimmicks, and it needs a really exciting main event. Whoever's in charge seems to be heading in precisely the wrong direction.
until next time, i remain

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