The Greatest SummerSlam In History
The hype is almost over, and it is time for The Biggest Party of the Summer. That isn't up for debate by the way, this literally will be the largest party available in the hotter months of the year. SummerSlam has evolved into the WWE's second largest pay per view, and as such gets the build and hoopla such an event demands. This year will see Daniel Bryan finally smash through the glass ceiling, although are we all getting over excited? There's almost an assumption that he's going to win, that he's going to make Cena tap in the middle of the ring, but can anyone genuinely see this happening? I cross my fingers, but my inner Welsh pessimism won't let it happen.
We'll also see Christian getting one more match, The Best (debatable) and The Beast (not up for debate) colliding and Kane finally returning to his comfort zone, a blazing zone that will keep the sons of the Wyatt family at a safe distance so maybe Bray will get his comeuppance. Summer Fest is shaping up to be a top quality event, keeping the consistent run of the last few years going.
My favourite WWE pay per view of all time was a SummerSlam. WrestleMania X-Seven receives all the plaudits for being the finest, but there were still some duds on that card. Does anyone remember or care for the four minute six man tag epic that was Taz and the APA squishing the J.O.B Squad? Chyna demolishing Ivory? I thought not. The show was excellent, but the card wasn't totally acceptable. One WWE PPV a year later had a card that I can't fault. I'm talking of course, about SummerSlam 2002.
The Smackdown six were about to come to the fore at this time. Kurt Angle and Rey Mysterio kicked off the show with what I will argue is the finest curtain raiser in the history of World Wrestling Entertainment. Rey was making his pay per view bow, and from the moment he surprised Angle with a springboard headscissors from behind it was on. Rey Rey was fresh, exciting, different, and he was in the ring with the best in the world at that time. Angle was at his peak, and it shows. Smooth doesn't cover this, with an early attempted Rey float over countered seamlessly into a brutal German. Mysterio frequently headed towards the well, only for Kurt to find new and fascinating ways to stop him in his tracks.
The tide was turned with a classic moment. I never understood why the referee would stop a guy from launching himself over the top, but hey, if it leads to Rey propelling himself up and over Jimmy Korderas with a huge senton then I'm all for it. The West Coast Pop followed, and it seemed like a big W for the masked man, only for Angle to produce a beautiful near fall. No one kicks out at the last minute like that man. An attempted huracanrana was countered into the ankle lock, and there would be no escape. A clean tap out victory for Kurt Angle, but a new hero made in Rey Mysterio.
How do you top a showcase like that? That is WRESTLING at its finest, pro grap perfection. Surely nothing can follow it? Well, put two of the best storytellers in wrestling at beautifully synchronised points of their career, and you might just have a shot. Ric Flair might be a shell of his former self now, but he was 52 in 2002 and could still function as a professional wrestler without sullying his legacy as the best of all time. Chris Jericho had just come off a run as the first undisputed champion in history, and was as cocky as a heel can possibly be. His goatee deserves a mention also, containing as it did a life of its own.
If I had to sum up this match in one word, that word would be chop. Chop, chop, chop. It never ceases to amaze me how much a crowd will react to a Ric Flair chop. They were big into babyface Flair here, and that only assisted in riling up the frustrated young Y2J. The Dirtiest Player in the Game had the tables turned against him as Jericho cheated at every opportunity, leading to Flair finding himself locked in his own patented figure four leg lock. This wasn't enough to put the old man away though, and the wrongs were righted as Y2J tapped out to the aforementioned patented figure four moments after a patented low blow. Two matches, two submission victories. Nice.
The strains of Latino Heat filled the Nassau Coliseum to bring on the next bout, a still kind of white meat babyface Edge taking on a recently returned heel Eddie Guerrero. When Eddie Guerrero was terrorizing Rey Mysterio's family, we still kind of loved him. Here he was a bitter, angry man who wrestled like a machine with a mullet, completely dislikeable. Edge injured his spearing shoulder early on, and Guerrero attacked it like a shark that hasn't just smelt blood, but it positively swimming in it. A technician at work, Eddie Guerrero is an absolute joy to behold in this match. Everything I love about the science of pro wrestling is on show here. A frog splash to the injured shoulder was the icing on this particularly delicious cake, but Edge could not be put away. One spear later and it was done. I was never convinced by Edge's spear, but this went a long way to getting it over as a one hit kill.
As Edge was embarking on what would become a Hall of Fame singles career, his former tag team partner and brother (are we allowed to remember that?) Christian was tag champion once again, this time as part of the dastardly Un Americans with another ring technician, Lance Storm. They would defend the titles here against the odd couple of Booker T and Goldust, in a wonderfully old school tag team match. It had all the classic hallmarks of tag wrestling. Goldust took the brunt of the beating, and managed to tag in Booker but of course it was unseen by the referee, so it didn't count. There was even a double clothesline! Booker would eventually get in, and would axe kick the skulls of both Christian and Storm, before his own skull was destroyed by the boot of an interfering Test, causing the Canucks to retain and leave Good ol' JR apoplectic with rage. Minor annoyance caused here by the replay showing referee Nick Patrick getting a clear view of Test, but there we go.
After showcasing the importance of the tag team titles, another long forgotten belt was made out to be of utmost importance, as Chris Benoit defended the Intercontinental championship against Rob Van Dam. The brand split also still existed in real terms here, and Benoit had defected to Smackdown with the red brands secondary title. As Stephanie McMahon and Eric Bischoff sat watching in the back, Benoit and RVD put on a fast paced intense showcase. Say what you like about RVD and his lack of evolution as a character, but sometimes his selling his fantastic. Benoit was at his intense best here, and the different styles meshed well. RVD would come out on top with a typical mid air twist on the five star frog splash, and the IC title was restored to Raw. Parity.
The North American battle resumed next, as Test re-emerged to face the American Bad Ass, The Undertaker. This card was so good that not even Test could suck it up, and as big man matches go this wasn't bad at all. Definitely the weakest match, but still more than enjoyable. Christian and Storm would attempt to interfere, but a double chokeslam would become them, and a tombstone piledriver was enough for Test to say goodnight. Taker would go on to celebrate mid ring with the American flag, because USA! USA! USA!
As wonderful as the undercard was, this event will always be remembered for its two main events, two matches that would set the tone for the next few years in the company. The first of these would see Shawn Michaels wrestle on pay per view for the first time in over four years. Well, I say wrestle, but it was an unsanctioned street fight against his old buddy, Triple H. This time off was spent well, as HBK exploded out the blocks with a pretty sweet plancha. This wouldn't last though, as the back problems would resurface and the Cerebral Assassin would take advantage by targeting it. As far as street fights go, this was pretty heavy on wrestling, and Michaels would regain momentum leading to a flying elbow off a ladder. Michaels elbow was always a wonderful visual. The ending was beautiful, a Sweet Chin Music countered into a Pedigree countered into a roll up. A street fight ending in a roll up? All day long, yes please. Our hero returns victorious, but Hunter would have the last laugh, two sledgehammer blows leaving HBK stretcher bound.
Main event time, and a landmark moment in WWE history. The Rock was still on top as champion, but there was a particularly large shadow looming large over the WWE, an intimidating beast. He was referred to as 'The Next Big Thing', but there could be no denying that the 'Next' part of that moniker was obsolete. Brock Lesnar could not be stopped, and he laid waste to the Great One with trademark intensity. The People's Champion was no slouch though, and he fought back with aplomb. Paul Heyman (is there anyone who can lay a stronger claim to being the best in the world?) would get involved to his own physical detriment, as the Spanish Announce Table would smash to bits under his weight and a Rock Bottom. It was one on one, and after 16 minutes and one F5 The Rock became 'The People's Former Champion'. Brock Lesnars place in history was assured as the youngest WWE Champion in history (he was twenty five). The Rock wouldn't be seen in WWE for six months, but The Next Big Thing had arrived.
There are a lot of World Wrestling Entertainment pay per views throughout history that I have referred to as my favourite. Money in the Bank 2011, WrestleMania X-Seven, whatever else. The 2002 edition of SummerSlam is the one event that I can watch oh so frequently and still adore. The wrestling from beginning to end is everything I want and more. You have stories, you have suspense, you have action, you have fujiwara armbars. If this years edition is half as good as this event, we're in for a treat.
That'll do for now. What do you think? What is your favourite SummerSlam? Do you have the same love for the 2002 event? Drop a comment in the lonely comment box below, and we'll go from there. Failing that, the internet is ripe for communication, so twitter me (@pingvinorkestra) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Have a wonderful weekend, I've got day 2 of pivoblivion ahead of me.