When I first watched WWF wrestling as a six year old, we got four major shows a year and SummerSlam was ranked second in importance only to Wrestlemania. And if Wrestlemania was the show that was stacked with celebrities and spectacle, SummerSlam tended to be the show that actually delivered the best matches of the year. This was the event that gave us Bret Hart vs Mr Perfect, The Ultimate Warrior vs Ravishing Rick Rude and The Mega Powers vs The Million Dollar Man and Andre The Giant.
Nowadays, in the era of monthly PPVs and five (!) weekly tv shows, the importance of the SummerSlam pay per view on the wrestling calendar is hugely diminished, but that said, the line up for the 2013 installment has come together very nicely and on paper, this looks to be one of the best shows in years. Let’s see if the WWE can deliver.
Here’s my rundown of the card.
John Cena vs Daniel Bryan
w/ guest referee Triple H
The biggest drawcard for this show and ultimately the match that will determine the success of the event is John Cena versus Daniel Bryan. The longevity of John Cena at the top of the WWE title scene is probably something that few people expected. He first muscled his way to the top at Wrestlemania in 2005 and has more or less been the top dog for eight consecutive years. This is a longer run than Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin or The Rock. It’s actually probably about the same length of time as those last three names put together which is absolutely insane.
Last year the company struck gold with CM Punk getting over huge with WWE audiences. They had a perfect storyline served to them on a platter where Punk could play the role of a misfit champion (ala Stone Cold Steve Austin) and they proceeded to fuck it up in the worst way imaginable by stalling his title run so he could feud with a fifty year old Kevin Nash (?!) who wasn’t even medically cleared so Punk couldn’t even fight the guy at the culmination of the feud. Punk eventually got a record breaking 400 day title reign a few months after SummerSlam 2012 but by then the momentum had been lost. And most of the time, Punk defended his title on the undercard while John Cena continued to work the main event. In effect, the torch wasn’t passed.
Since losing a title match at last year’s Wrestlemania in 18 seconds, Daniel Bryan has become wrestling’s hottest commodity and most over performer by a long margin. He has a unique look, an insanely popular catch phrase (‘YES!’) and can work a great match with absolutely anybody. It’s been a long journey to this point. The first time I saw Bryan wrestle was on a Ring Of Honor DVD I bought in Melbourne in 2004 when he was wrestling on the American independent wrestling circuit in a high school gymnasium in front of a couple of hundred people. He’s now one win away from cementing his stardom against the WWE’s current golden boy.
We’ll learn a lot about the future direction of the WWE based on this match. There have been plenty of new feuds and opponents teased for Daniel Bryan already (Randy Orton, Vince McMahon…) but nothing less than a decisive victory over John Cena will do to make him the focal point for the company. Last year the company got cold feet with CM Punk. What will happen this time? Surely they couldn’t miss a big star-making opportunity two years in a row at the same event?
Predicted Winner: Daniel Bryan, via pinfall.
CM Punk vs Brock Lesnar
TheBeast versus The Best! I don’t really care who wins this match. I’m just happy we’re getting it. Lesnar has been a fantastic presence since he returned to wrestling last year but despite an entertaining match against John Cena to mark his return, he’s since been bogged down in a pretty turgid feud with Triple H. Well now thats finally over, we’re seeing Lesnar in a match with someone that should bring the best out of him. Just give them twenty minutes, book a clean finish and let the sparks fly!
Predicted Winner: Bork Lazer
Alberto Del Rio vs Christian
World Heavyweight Championship
An unexpected yet pleasant surprise has been the shunting of Christian into a World Title program. Christian is very much in the twilight of his career here and this seems to be the set up for a Gold Watch retirement present. A “thanks for all the work” title reign. Or at least that’s what I hope this is.
Predicted Winner: Christian
Kane vs Bray Wyatt
Ring of Fire Match
Bray Wyatt is one of the coolest new things to happen to wrestling. Wyatt’s character is that of a Jim Jones style cult leader from the Deep South. He’s articulate, psychotic and has one of the best entrances a wrestler can hope for. He can practically get over on the entrance music and lamplight alone. I have no idea if Wyatt can wrestle but this is a match about pure spectacle. Barring any Shockmaster type of blooper occurring, this match should be a great launching pad for Wyatt’s career.
Predicted Winner: Bray Wyatt
Cody Rhodes vs Damien Sandow
Back at SummerSlam ’92, there was a match between Shawn Michaels and Rick Martel as a battle of two narcissists. Although Cody Rhodes only recently turned face, this is pretty much a modern day version of that same encounter. I’m a big mark for heels that are intellectual snobs (Chris Harvard, The Genius, William Regal) so I’ll be rooting for Sandow here. That said, I doubt he’ll win.
Predicted Winner: Cody Rhodes
Dolph Ziggler and Kaitlyn vs Big E Langston and AJ Lee
Andin another bout of nostalgia, this intergender tag match reminds me of the feuds in the early Nineties between Macho Man Randy Savage and Sensational Sherri v Dusty Rhodes and Sweet Sapphire. This match should be a bit of fun and all four wrestlers are capable of putting on a good show. I’d like to see Big E and AJ get the win but really, I’m easy either way.
Predicted Winner: Big E Langston and AJ Lee.
Natalya vs Brie Bella
The WWE recently discovered that women watch television (!) when their E! Entertainment show Total Divas picked up over 3 million viewers in its first three episodes and got extended for a second season straight away. So the upshot is we’ll get a lot more women on the PPV card. Took them long enough to realize.
Predicted Winner: Brie Bella
Dean Ambrose vs Rob Van Dam
United States Championship
It’s like RVD hasn’t aged in fifteen years. This should be an awesome match which inexplicably is being left off the main card and is being aired for free in the pre-show. Oh well. I’m happy RVD is back but I’ll be backing Ambrose for the win.
Predicted Winner: Dean Ambrose