Wednesday 15 August 2012

SummerSlam preview

Sunday will see the first ever televised match between Brock Lesnar and Triple H. Everyone involved seems set on making it a historic event. Learning from the mistakes they made when building ‘The Pain’s’ feud with John Cena earlier in the year (it was too quick, Cena was too comedic, Brock wasn’t sufficiently protected) WWE have gone out of their way to make Lesnar look like a beast.

Lesnar has been responsible for two storyline broken arms, one for his SummerSlam opponent and one for Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels. That makes him look like a legitimate threat to ‘The Game’s’ safety. Paul Heyman, a man many members of WWE’s management team genuinely dislike, was brought back to work as a mouthpiece for the former UFC champion and keep the storyline alive while Lesnar was off television, necessitated by WWE not wanting to burn through the limited number of dates Lesnar has signed on for too quickly.

Both were good decisions. They have helped to safeguard Lesnar.

After having his arm broken on RAW by Lesnar’s kimura hold I’m sure WWE have announced that Michaels will not be in attendance when SummerSlam rolls around. That’s a good move too. Not only does it make Lesnar appear to be a genuine threat to ‘The Game’s’ safety but it also means the crowd should be roaring their approval when ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ appears mid-way through the bout (which I assume he will because this is WWE and that’s the way the usually book these things).

One man I hope is at ringside from start to finish is Paul Heyman. His performances have been world class since he returned to WWE, helping to cover up Lesnar’s distinct lack of promo ability. He can not only draw heat at ringside but can also help his charge through the match alongside ‘The Cerebral Assassin’. He would add a great deal to proceedings.

Can this man overcome Triple H? I think he can

I’m expecting Brock to win this one. If WWE want to use him to attract a large audience at next year’s WrestleMania XXIX (and they do, it’s one of the key reasons he was brought back) then Brock has to be kept looking strong.

Brock could afford one loss. He can’t afford another. Losing to Cena at Extreme Rules wasn’t catastrophic because of the way it was done.  In order to retain his box office appeal WWE must put Lesnar over Triple H decisively in the final match of the evening. Hopefully Triple H’s ego will accept this and understand his loss is the “right thing for business.”

The undercard of the show is something of a mixed bag. The WWE championship triple threat match features some of the company’s biggest names but it still manages to be one of the least appealing bouts announced for the event.

Even CM Punk, regarded as one of the company’s top wrestlers, is going to have his work cut out for him if he’s to drag a bearable outing from John Cena and the Big Show. Edge just about managed it at WrestleMania 25 in 2009. Can ‘The Straight Edge Superstar’ do it at SummerSlam in 2012? Don’t get your hopes up.

There has been talk of Cena winning the title and holding it until the Royal Rumble to setup a rematch between him and The Rock from WrestleMania XXVIII, with ‘The Great One’ going on to face CM Punk at ‘Mania XXIX. It’s not impossible that that will happen, but I think it’s too early for WWE to have things finalised yet. The writing team always seems to be working things out at the last minute and Vince McMahon is famously changeable.

Another reason I think Punk will keep the gold is that Michael Cole has recently taken to wittering on about how long his reign has lasted and where it ranks alongside other lengthy title runs. Besides that what are the options in this match? Big Show is over a decade past his best and Cena doesn’t need the belt to be over. If either of them won who would they feud with? Punk is the best choice of the three to leave as WWE champion.

The company’s other world title will be defended by champion Sheamus against Alberto Del Rio. This match was originally cancelled after the events of the August 10th SmackDown, which saw ADR use some hired indy wrestlers disguised as policemen to help him duff up ‘Great White’. At the following taping (held on Tuesday 14th to be aired on Friday 17th) the match was reinstated by General Manager Booker T.

Why did WWE go to the trouble of removing the match from the card only to add it back again less than a week later? It’s impossible to say. Perhaps they think it adds drama to the storyline. If that’s the case then they’re wrong. Another possibility is that they were considering adding Randy Orton to the bout but didn’t because too many people had guessed it was coming. The company has done similar things before.

I’ve pointed out several times that these two have been feuding since early April. That’s a long feud by modern standards. They have clashed numerous times on pay-per-view and television and have never delivered a truly excellent match. I hope this bout is the final outing the two have against one another for a while. Both men are in desperate need of fresh opponents.

I’m going to pick ‘The Celtic Warrior’ to retain. I think it’s possible he’ll soon be heading into a title feud with Randy Orton which will see ‘The Viper’ slowly turn bad.

Speaking of Orton he could have been pitted against Bryan in a singles match and Kane could have been shuffled off the show altogether. That would have been given the card something new and provided a far more enjoyable match than we’re likely to see with ‘The Big Red Monster’ involved.

Kane and Bryan have clashed many times over the last few months, most notably in a triple threat outing alongside CM Punk at No Way Out. Their countless clashes on TV make it clear that they will produce something passable at SummerSlam but it still feels like a waste of a massively popular performer.

In addition to being a skilled grappler Bryan has managed to get monosyllabic chants over with wrestling crowds around the world. Nobody’s managed that since ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin popularised “What?” Bryan’s in impressive company.

I’d like to think that WWE will do the right thing and have Bryan win to keep him popular. He’s of more use to the company both now and in the future than Kane, and as such he deserves the win.

Should anyone still be wondering, it looks as though Charlie Sheen’s involvement has been dropped. If he does happen to appear it will likely be saved as a big surprise (though not necessarily a good one).

The Miz and Rey Mysterio will do battle for ‘The Awesome One’s’ Intercontinental title. I doubt they’ll get long but the fact that the west coast is considered Mysterio territory should ensure that they get a healthy response from the crowd. The match would be an ideal, fast-paced opener.

I think we could see a new champion crowned. Mysterio winning the belt would get a great reaction, which is pretty much all the belt’s used for these days anyway. There don’t appear to be any plans for Miz’s reign so why not have Mysterio dethrone him and maybe advance the rivalry between the two?

Speaking of title matches WWE has announced a United States championship match between champion Santino and challenger Antonio Cesaro. ‘The Swiss Superman’ has toppled Santino twice in non-title contests in the last month, a move likely designed to foreshadow his title victory.

The belt is wasted on comedy act Santino. While it’s a fairly meaningful title putting it on Cesaro would at least give someone else the chance of doing something with it and giving them a turn in the spotlight. Cesaro is a great wrestler and needs something to set him apart soon or fans are going to start thinking of him as “just another guy.”

On the subject of acts that WWE needs to establish there’s a rumour that Damien Sandow and Brodus Clay will have a grudge match. ‘The Intellectual Saviour of the Masses’ has attacked ‘The Funkasaurus’ twice over the last month and a clash between the two is expected to happen soon. I think both men warrant a spot at SummerSlam. Sandow to win if this match takes place.

R-Truth and Kofi Kingston will face the Prime Time Players. Again. These two teams have been feuding for months. Epico and Primo have had a rivalry (which has simmered down recently due to their face turn) with the champions since around WrestleMania. This show would have been the natural time to book a three-way tag team match for the gold and blow off the angle, but because the WWE title is being defend in a triple threat match that’s not happening.

I think Kingston and Truth will retain the gold and the three team match will happen at September’s Night of Champions pay-per-view. I’m expecting the PTPs to be the next tag team champions but SummerSlam’s not their night.

The fact that these are the only three teams of note in the entire company illustrates just how badly more doubles acts are needed. If WWE wants us to dislike the Prime Time Players they need to put them in a division filled with teams that we can care about.

Finally we come to Dolph Ziggler v Chris Jericho. I have very much enjoyed the way this feud has been booked over the last month. I actually think it’s had a better build up than Lesnar v Triple H or the WWE title match. The dispute between the two men was introduced naturally and is easy to understand.

For those who haven’t been paying attention ‘Y2J’ has gradually turned babyface via his interactions with Ziggler and his manager Vickie Guerrero. ‘The Show Off’ has accused Jericho of not being able to win big matches anymore (based on Jericho’s PPV losing streak since returning to the company in January. As of this writing Ziggler’s Money in the Bank briefcase is not being defend in the match, though it’s possible that will be a last minute stipulation.

Shoddy Tout footage aside the Ziggler v Jericho rivalry has been great

If Jericho can avoid having a sloppy night this could be the best wrestling match of the night and the highlight of the undercard. Both men need this match to be spectacular: Ziggler because he is on the cusp of breaking into WWE’s headline picture and Jericho because he has had very few first class matches in 2012.

I’m torn on who to pick in this match. I think the right decision would be to have ‘The Heel’ walk out victorious as he means more to the company’s future and, as I said above, he is ready to progress to the top of the card. The niggling trouble I have is that Ziggler gained the pinfall victory over Jericho on RAW (in a triple threat match also involving The Miz) which makes me think WWE may have ‘The King of the World’ go over at SummerSlam.

I’ll pick Ziggler to win and hope WWE does the right things for one of their hottest acts.

On paper SummerSlam looks a little feeble. While I’m sure the Lesnar v triple H bout will be memorable there’s nothing else on the card that stands out as special. Meanwhile Daniel Bryan and CM Punk, two of the company’s hottest prospects, are booked in matches that don’t allow them to utilise their strengths. I expect it will turn out to be a satisfactory show, but is satisfactory what WWE should be aiming for, especially on one of their flagship events?

As for that “Perfect Storm” tagline… I don’t have a clue.

Predictions summary:
Brock Lesnar to defeat Triple H
CM Punk to retain the WWE championship against John Cena and Big Show
Sheamus to retain the World Heavyweight championship against Alberto Del Rio
Dolph Ziggler to defeat Chris Jericho
Daniel Bryan to defeat Kane
Rey Mysterio to defeat The Miz for the Intercontinental championship
Kofi Kingston and R-Truth to retain the WWE tag team championship against the Prime Time Players
Antonio Cesaro to defeat Santino for the Intercontinental championship

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