Saturday, August 14, 2004

The World's Greatest WWE Summerslam 2004 Preview

I don't have a lot of time to put this one together, so my apologies if this year's Summerslam writeup isn't as in-depth and memorable as my previous contributions. Blame the big storm that had me thinking I'd break my ongoing streak of unmissed PPV Preview.

Anyway, I'm really happy with this PPV as we head into Sunday evening. The matches should be almost universally quality, the names in action are generally the names I'd like to see and the theme of the show itself is both intriguing and historically accurate. They've built Summerslam as a big proving ground for the rookies over the last few years, from the proving grounds of Brock Lesnar and John Cena a few years ago to the first big chance for Randy Orton and the first PPV appearance of Paul London on this year's card. It works as a nice contrast to the established, big show atmosphere evoked by WrestleMania. These are the two biggest shows of the year, at least in my perception, and it's good that they aren't overloading both with such a crazy, epic feel. It maintains the prestige of 'Mania while lending a fresh feel to Summerslam, one of the fed's longest-running PPV events.

Diva Dodgeball

Hahaha, I can't believe I'm previewing this. Twenty bucks says neither John nor Dave bothered to even mention this match, and here I am previewing it like a big chunky turd. The angle behind this is rooted in reality, which is a good thing, and I'm interested in seeing the little feud between the regular divas and the search contestants play out... but a worked dodgeball match on a PPV of this calibur? Strange decision. Unless they send the girls out there to legitimately compete (and don't think the image of Jazz just spanking the search gals with ruthless dodgeball shots to the head hasn't entered my mind) this will be really limp. If it's legit, the regular divas can't be stopped. If it's worked, the search gals will come out ahead through some sort of silly tomfoolery.
Winners: The Diva Search Contestants

Rey Mysterio, Billy Kidman & Paul London vs. Bubba Ray, D-Von & Spike Dudley

I've really enjoyed this current heel run by the Dudley Boys, can't lie about it. Since aligning with Paul Heyman (and then just sort of forgetting about him) they've shaken the rusty, boring, stale act that had ruined their face run and emerged as an interesting little dysfunctional family / group of solid heel competitors. They've been instrumental in London and Kidman's portrayal as more than just fluke champions, and have even tied together the tag division and cruiserweight division by recruiting Spike back into their ranks. That, in particular, is a good thing in my mind since both divisions weren't getting the kind of attention they needed on their own, and by working together they're keeping both belts in the spotlight.

This should be a pretty good match, as the Dudleys have done a decent job of keeping up with the lighter opponents and Spike's improved noticeably since coming to the cruiserweight division full-time, and it could really go either way without hurting the loser's momentum. I like the faces here, though the Dudleys could probably use the win a touch more.
Winners: London, Kidman and Mysterio

Kane vs. Matt Hardy
Till Death Do Us Part Match (Winner Marries Lita)

There's no question in my mind Kane's winning this, Michaels interference or no. Matt took the win in their previous encounter (which I called, for the record... not to toot my own horn...) and it's time for Kane to quit toying around with him and end the feud with emphasis. Besides there's more potential in a Kane / Lita storyline than there is in continuing the drawn out, running-on-empty Lita / Matt relationship.
Winner: Kane

Booker T (c) vs. John Cena
United States Championship (1st match in best of 5 series)

Probably the catalyst for Smackdown's gradual improvement was the return to competition in the US Championship division. Lately I've been enjoying not just the competition in this division but the diversity of legitimate competitors. Truth be told, Smackdown's midcard scene isn't in bad shape at all with Booker, RVD, Cena and a regularly improving Dupree factoring heavily into each title defense. They've managed to simultaneously build everyone involved in these title matches intelligently without undermining the loser's credibility. Booker T won the elimination match Teddy Long booked a couple weeks ago by using his head and minimizing his ring time, catching both Van Dam and Cena off-guard in the process. It put over Van Dam's finisher as a devastating maneuver, Booker's ability to think on his feet (which is kind of at odds with his past portrayals, but you know what they say about the effects of making an omelette on a few eggs) and Cena's conditioning, working the majority of the match and absorbing most of his opponents' offense, yet still surviving until the very finish.

I don't think this feud is quite over just yet, which leads me to believe Booker will be coming out on top. They've been doing a good job of keeping his character in motion, and a loss here would end all that without really aiding Cena all that much. The conclusion of the story is obviously Cena retrieving his belt, but to do that here would be rushing it.
Winner: Booker T

Edge (c) vs. Chris Jericho vs. Batista
Intercontinental Championship

Another midcard division that's becoming more and more competitive as the days go on. Though there aren't quite as many names thrown into this mix as there are in Smackdown's US Title hunt, RAW's Intercontinental Title has been very nicely built, defended in very good to great matches and booked intelligently. They haven't rushed in turning Edge heel, instead fading him back into a tweener role that's twice as interesting as any cliched "oh, you eliminated me in the battle royal so now I'm going to completely forget all my morals" turn could've been. The big story here is the relationship between Edge and Chris Jericho, which leads me to believe that Batista is their choice as the new IC champ. Edge and Y2J will be concentrating so heavily on demeaning and obliterating one another that all it'll take is a well-timed spinebuster or powerbomb for Batista to put this one away. Like Orton in the main event, this is a big chance for Batista to prove he can do something in the ring as a single and doesn't need the crutch of Flair or Orton in his corner and a chance to rest on the apron to have a good match. If he steps up and supports his own weight here, he could have big things in his future... and alongside Edge and Jericho, he's got a good chance of delivering.
Winner: Batista

Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle

They've done a good job of keeping this one on the burner during Angle's time off the active roster. While Angle temporarily distracted himself with a mini-story opposite John Cena, Eddy Guerrero wound up dropping his title to Bradshaw, (I've developed large hairless patches on my scalp from the repeated head-scratching that decision invoked) they maintained a relationship on-air to keep the crowd interested. Now that Angle's back in the saddle, it's time to pick up where they left off. I honestly couldn't ask for a match with more potential, both in and out of the ring, and I can't wait for this to play out. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little concerned about Angle's conditioning, but considering his track record that's a passing worry at best. I'm not sure who to go with here, since I'm almost certain the feud will continue after the PPV. Initially I went with Guerrero, but in retrospect I'm gonna pick Angle. Should be a great one, and I think Kurt's got too much to prove here.
Winner: Kurt Angle

Triple H vs. Eugene

As a stark contrast to the Cena / Booker match, this is a feud that's ready to blow off. They're just about at the climax of the relationship between Eugene and Hunter, and to continue it beyond this point would be overkill. Hunter's really done great work in this storyline, utilizing his promos to establish himself as a manipulative sonnuvabitch, rather than meandering along on the mic with no real end in sight. If they play their cards right, they could move right on to a super-hot feud between Hunter and William Regal right after this, though I'm not honestly sure if that's what they've got planned. I'm losing confidence in Dinsmore's capabilities in the ring, and if there were ever a time for him to knock one out of the park it's right here. If the match itself is along the same lines as their initial confrontation on RAW a couple months back, it's bad news. Regardless, Hunter's my pick here. He'd be crippled if he dropped this match.
Winner: Triple H

John Bradshaw Layfield (c) vs. The Undertaker
WWE Championship

Oh man, I think I'd rather be writing another paragraph about the dodgeball face-off. Seriously. The Undertaker's done a great job of justifying my fears, no-selling his way through his matches (of which there have been... what... four since WrestleMania?) and relying on his gimmick to grab some cheers both before and after the bell. I can't be happy with either of these guys wearing the belt after Summerslam, but at least the Taker's over. JBL's just floundering...and really, who could've predicted that?
Winner: The Undertaker

Chris Benoit (c) vs. Randy Orton
World Heavyweight Championship

To the masses who seem convinced Orton is walking out of this one with the title, I say this; you've bought the hype. That's not to completely rule out his chances, but I think it's far from the sure thing I've been reading about everywhere on the web in the month leading up to this match. They've pushed Orton as a solid competitor who often gets the lucky shot in at the right moment, squeaking out a win just as his tank hits empty... but they've also pushed Benoit as a guy who's tough to sneak anything past in the ring. He's countered every move imaginable into the crossface, including the RKO. He's finally emerged as a believable face alternative to Triple H, succeeding in the situations failed by Goldberg, and I think his title run has more legs than this. I think Orton may just be the guy to finally take the belt off of him, but I don't think the time is now.

Should be a great match, though, and it'll be a great chance for Orton to learn from the best. It's no secret he's had some problems with pacing his matches, and with the Crippler in control that shouldn't be a problem here. I'm eager to see how both guys perform under that enormous spotlight, and I'm crossing my fingers hoping for success.
Winner: Chris Benoit

In Closing...

I can't look back on this card and say nothing's terrible, but there's definitely some potential for the bad to be heavily outweighed by good. My one complaint is that this doesn't really feel like a major card... JBL / Undertaker and Benoit / Orton don't feel like the weighty kind of matches you'd expect from a show of this magnitude, but if they succeed (well.. if half of them succeed) it could be a hint of things to come. I'll be interested to see the end result, at any rate.
until next time, i remain

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