Wednesday, 14 August 2013

SummerSlam 2013 preview

I’d like to kick this preview off by talking about SummerSlam as an annual event. Years ago it was WWE’s clear number two event. It worked well in the slot, the WrestleMania of the summer, but lost it because of a number of factors. The chief one is the growth of the WrestleMania “brand name”. Making ‘Mania bigger has elevated the Royal Rumble by association because that’s where things begin to fall into place for the larger show. That’s knocked SummerSlam back into third place.

The residency at the Staples Center hasn’t helped either. This year’s will be the fifth SummerSlam in a row to be held at the arena. I understand WWE likes using LA because it’s thought of as a hot location and it works nicely with the US time zones during summer months but it’s getting stale. It feels odd that WWE have been returning there for one annual show when they don’t do that for any of their other events. The LA crowd aren’t particularly wonderful either.

I’d like to see the company change it up and go somewhere else for next year’s SS. I’d also like them to develop the tie-ins surrounding the show. Their Fan Axxess event looks good but it’s clear it’s not on the scale of ‘Mania’s. Maybe SummerSlam can’t unseat the Rumble as the company’s number two event, but that’s no reason not to try. Why be complacent? Why not try for three mega events each year instead of two? WWE has nothing to lose and plenty to gain.
Dolph and AJ sitting together? Awks...
This year’s SummerSlam line-up is clearly built around two matches. The rest of the card is a mixture of star building exercises and unappealing pairings.

Epitomising the latter is Natalya v Brie Bella. This match was added on Monday’s RAW and clearly exists as a way of promoting the Total Divas show WWE have made with the E! channel. I’ve only watched bits of it but it seems about what I’d expected it to be. Basically it’s the ideal vehicle for the Bellas. Less so Natalya. So far three weeks’ worth of episodes have aired and the ratings have risen for each, so they’ve obviously done something right.

Basically this match has been added to SummerSlam to allow Michael Cole to plug Total Divas for five uninterrupted minutes. It’ll act as filler and as a way of encouraging viewers who haven’t watched TD to check it out. Either lady could win. I’ll go with Brie because the Bellas seem to be one of WWE’s fave acts.

Also on that unappealing pairings list is Rob Van Dam v Dean Ambrose. I think all three Shield members are going to have success after the group inevitably disbands. But I think it will be Ambrose who’ll have the most. He may not have the physique of Roman Reigns or the flashy style of Seth Rollins but he’s the best of the three on psychology and promos. Those are things that will take him to the top.

Sadly they aren’t things that are likely to get a good match out of RVD. Ten years ago I loved Van Dam. Over the years his act has become stale. He cycles through the same spots he’s been doing since his ECW prime fifteen years ago. He’s not changed his look or improved significantly on promos. The wrestling business has moved on and Van Dam is something of a relic, surprising when you consider that his key spots are still impressive and the sort of things current popular wrestlers do.

In ECW and in his early WWF-and-E years RVD could string his spots together far more than he’s ever given credit for. It’s only in the years since that the transition skills have started to dessert him. I can see this match being satisfactory but nothing more. As for a title change, it’s not impossible but it’s not something I’d expect. I think Ambrose will lose the championship as part of a feud, not on a random pre-show to someone who doesn’t need it to be over.

Speaking of The Shield it’s been rumoured for a while that Mark Henry and Big Show would be taking the group on at SummerSlam. Rollins and Reigns issued an open challenge on RAW and Big Show returned to run the group away from ringside, but the two things have yet to become connected. At time of writing the challenge has gone unanswered.

I think there’s a good chance of the bout happening. If it does I think we’ll get new tag team champions. Rollins and Reigns have had a good run but it feels like time for things to be changed up. A title switch could kick off the first proper tag title feud we’ve had in months.

SummerSlam’s final uninspiring pairing is Alberto Del Rio v Christian. I don’t think the match will be bad but I do think WWE has failed at giving us a reason to care about it. ‘Captain Charisma’ earned the title match by winning a hastily thrown together triple threat match and has gone on to interact with ADR only a few times. Their segments have been uniformly forgettable.

At this point the most interesting thing that can happen is for Christian to have Ricardo Rodriguez as his announcer for the evening. That would play off the beating Del Rio dished out to RR on the August 5th RAW and set up an employee v employer feud, which is clearly going to be Del Rio’s next programme.

I don’t expect Christian to win this match. But he could. Ricardo could cost him the gold or he could just win it clean so that ADR isn’t feuding with his former friend and employee as a world champion.

Over on the star building side of the card we have Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow in a battle of former best friends. Last month’s Money in the Bank match was laid out perfectly for Cody. He looked like a star and was treated as such by fans. He’s obviously cooled off a bit since then, but that match showed that if booked correctly fans will rally behind him. Selecting him for a face turn was a good move.

I like both Rhodes and Sandow. I thought they were a great team that never got the push they deserved and I think they’re great as individuals. Both men are ready for bigger and better things so it’s tricky to pick a winner for this match. Sandow could win by cheating to show that he really is dastardly. Or Rhodes could win so that he has justification for wanting a WHC match after Sandow cashes in (which would only really work if Sandow cashes in soon, which I don’t think he will).

I think this feud’s going to continue for a while so it doesn’t really matter who wins here. There’ll be a rematch next month. I’ll go with Sandow because he lost on RAW and will lose again on Friday’s SmackDown. It’s not a secret that guys who lose on TV have a better chance of winning pay-per-view matches than those who win on TV. Strange but true.

Also part of the star building stratagem is Bray Wyatt’s match with Kane. I, like a lot of other people, am a fan of the Wyatt character. I think it’s different to what WWE’s been doing for the past several years. They’ve needed to try out someone like Wyatt for a while and I’m pleased it’s worked out, both for them and for him.

But as introductory feuds go getting paired up with ‘The Big Red Machine’ is a little disappointing. Wyatt’s given some great promos and Kane’s done a commendable job of selling for the newbie but we’ve seen so many people beat Kane over the years that it’s no longer particularly impressive. It just doesn’t feel special.

The Ring of Fire rules are a peculiar choice too. It helps to set Wyatt’s debut apart I suppose, so that’s a good thing. But it might limit what the two men can do during their match. I’ll reserve full judgement on the match until I’ve seen it (obvs) but I’m not expecting anything amazing. I’m picking Wyatt to win. Having him go under in his first televised match would risk damaging his popularity. I don’t want to believe WWE would chance that.

The final match that falls into star building territory is the mixed tag team match, Dolph Ziggler and Kaitlyn against Big E Langston and AJ Lee. I’m going to be upset if reference isn’t made to the NXT season three storyline that teased Ziggler and Kaitlyn getting together. Matt Striker would have been guaranteed to make mention of that, God bless ‘im. Something tells me I’ll be upset by the current commentary trio.

This is a promising match. Kaitlyn’s passable while the other three are all great at their given roles. I think we can expect some great exchanges between Ziggler and his former bodyguard. ‘The Show Off’s’ OTT selling could make Big E look like a monstrous juggernaut.

The way I’d book the match is to have Ziggler isolated and selling before eventually making the hot tag to Kaitlyn, allowing her to wipe out AJ with a spear. That would protect Big E from jobbing, place Ziggler on a winning team for once, and give Kaitlyn an argument for another Divas championship match. AJ can afford to take a loss. She’s WWE’s most over woman.

Whether that actually happens we’ll have to wait and see. But it’s the result I think would make the most sense.

The two matches the show’s been built around are CM Punk’s clash with Brock Lesnar and John Cena’s title defence against Daniel Bryan. The Punk v Lesnar feud hasn’t really grabbed me. It’s felt quite repetitive, mainly because the weekly segments it’s been awarded have either seen Punk and Heyman cutting promos on one another or Punk and Lesnar brawling. The match itself will likely be very good, a blend of strikes, submission holds and wrestling, it’s just not had the best build.

I don’t know who to pick as a winner. They’ll almost certainly have second and third matches at some point so who wins this match is almost irrelevant. I’m leaning more towards ‘The Beast’, as that sets Punk up to make the valiant comeback in match two. I wouldn’t be surprised if Punk won though. There’s no clear winner, and that’s a good thing.

I want Bryan v Cena to go on last. I’d understand if the honour went to Punk, Lesnar and Heyman but I think Bryan deserves the slot more. He’s the hotter star and I don’t think anybody, including CM Punk, will be able to follow his match with Cena. Bryan’s become so big that he’s going to steal the show wherever he appears on it, so it makes sense to hold him off until last.

I’m expecting this to be the best match of the night. Bryan won’t be anything less than excellent and Cena will get one of his famed mixed reactions. That’s when he does his best work. I think we can expect a title change, it’s just a question of whether it will be Bryan or Orton that defeats Cena. There are various scenarios that could play out amongst the three men, and that adds to the match’s appeal.

Triple H being the guest referee seems to hint at McMahon family shenanigans coming into play during this match. It could be as simple as Vince interfering and Triple H having to give him a Pedigree (because that’s the only way to stop someone interfering, natch) or it could be McMahon coming out after the match has finished to introduce his hand-picked champion: Randy Orton. Wherever this match comes on the card and whoever wins I think we’re guaranteed a Vince appearance.

I think Bryan’s going to win, earning Cena’s respect, only to lose to a cashing in Randy Orton. Bryan winning the title and then successfully defending it against ‘The Viper’ would be amazing (especially if the match went for several minutes and Bryan won after reversing an RKO into a small package) but it’s a long shot. It would turn Bryan into a megastar in one night. Will that happen? I don’t know. Do I want it to happen? Yes (!).The build-up to this match has been a success in part because it’s impossible to know what will happen. That’s what I yearn for (yep, yearn for) from big wrestling cards.

I think SummerSlam will be a good show. As long as the majority of the undercard matches aren’t atrocious and the two big matches are memorable (which I think they will be) it should be one of WWE’s better pay-per-view offerings of the year. And they’re not having a bad year on pay-per-view. It’s somewhat surprising that Mark Henry, Ryback and Randy Orton don’t have matches announced but that just goes to show what a good job WWE are doing creating new name talent right now.

I’m looking forward to this card a great deal.

Predictions summary:
Daniel Bryan to defeat John Cena for the WWE championship
Randy Orton to cash in his Money in the Bank contract
Brock Lesnar to defeat CM Punk
Damien Sandow to defeat Cody Rhodes
Dolph Ziggler and Kaitlyn to defeat Big E Langston and AJ Lee
Bray Wyatt to defeat Kane
Alberto Del Rio to defeat Christian
Brie Bella to defeat Natalya
Dean Ambrose to defeat Rob Van Dam
Mark Henry and Big Show to defeat The Shield for the WWE tag team championship… if the match happens

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