Thursday 21 June 2012

Summer Games

Last Sunday’s No Way Out saw Triple H discuss his storyline legal battles with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. That’s the sort of segment that is usually reserved for Monday nights on RAW but because this one had implications for SummerSlam it was decided that it warranted a spot on a pay-per-view card.

I’ve suggested WWE make this move before. February’s Elimination Chamber is a good example, it struck me at the time as a wasted opportunity. An unadvertised match between Jack Swagger and Justin Gabriel clogged up the card and the next evening on RAW The Rock made an appearance. To my mind it should have been the other way round: fans should have been paying to hear ‘The Great One’s’ latest thoughts on his WrestleMania opponent John Cena and Swagger and Gabriel should have been facing one another in a filler spot on RAW.

I’m pleased to see that WWE have finally decided to at least experiment with taking promos that advance big matches onto their pay-per-view events. Even if it’s just part-timers like Triple H, The Rock and The Undertaker it’s a step in the right direction.

Triple H’s promo was designed to begin the build-up to his long-rumoured clash with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. While that continued on Monday’s RAW the fact that it was begun on a PPV event is what’s important. WWE places a lot of importance on promos such as this and while the majority should be on RAW (or at a push SmackDown) the big ones that start or considerably advance feuds are a natural fit on bigger shows. If the hype is being handled correctly audiences should be eager to see what happens next.

So where next for this particular story?

We’ve already seen Paul Heyman tell ‘The King of Kings’ that his client (is that still the term they’re using?) is not interested in either returning to WWE or wrestling at SummerSlam. Triple H’s response was to floor Heyman with a punch, his thinking being that if Lesnar still didn’t respond after that it would make it look as though ‘The Pain’ is scared of getting floored by HHH in a similar fashion.

This story is likely to get at least a mention every week between now and SummerSlam. Future appearances by Heyman are assured and it’s very likely he will return with yet another lawsuit filed against ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ and possibly a security team comprised of indy wrestlers too.

At some point Lesnar will appear on television to confront Triple H face-to-face and officially agree to face him at SummerSlam. He’s advertised for the August 13th RAW (the final episode before SummerSlam) so that’s a good bet and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him used on the 1,000th episode on July 23rd. WWE will need him to appear to create interest in the match and get some footage for a video package to be aired at the event.

Lesnar’s limited dates contract with the organisation means that he is unlikely to appear more than twice because WWE wants to save a set number of dates for the build-up to next year’s WrestleMania. That means whatever appearances he does make are likely to be eventful.

When Lesnar does put in an appearance WWE should continue to get all the money they can from having him under contract and the way to do that is simple: advertise his “official in-ring response to Triple H’s SummerSlam challenge” for Money in the Bank. Make people pay to see that face-off between the SummerSlam opponents.

Brock Lesnar's light schedule means he has plenty of time to relax before SummerSlam

The match itself should be interesting. Triple H is one of several big names from Lesnar’s original WWE run that he didn’t face on television. It’s a big match that should encourage a big fight atmosphere and a significant number of pay-per-views buys (the early announcement should help with that too). This is a promising approach: WWE may finally be attempting to turn SummerSlam into a blockbuster event in the fashion of WrestleMania.

I’m keen to see how the match is booked. Triple H used the word “fight” when issuing the challenge which makes me think it will be at least partly booked as an ego trip for him so he can say he went toe-to-toe with a former UFC champion. That won’t hurt his image as a tough guy wrestler at all. Striking a certain point on someone’s face to make them bleed, a trick we saw employed in Lesnar’s clash with John Cena at Extreme Rules and Triple H’s ‘Mania bout with The Undertaker (designed to get around WWE’s self-imposed no blading policy), will almost certainly be utilised as well.

If I had to make an early prediction as to who will win I’d go with Lesnar. This will be only his second match since returning to the organisation. He lost his first match to John Cena and if WWE want to use him as a drawing card for WrestleMania next year he’s going to need to be seen as a threat to whoever he faces. That’s going to be much harder to achieve as the number of losses he suffers increases.

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