WWE: On Summer Angles and Hindenburgs


(Photo by Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images)

For the better part of the last decade, Vince McMahon and company have tried to address the dwindling mid-year ratings by having a big angle kick off the summer.

Unfortunately, while these angles have all started hot, they each ended in relative disappointment.

Ironically, the blame doesn't always fall on the shoulders of Vince and his penchant for last minute rewrites. In many cases, a well thought out story seemed to be in the making when something unforeseen would cause the whole event to crash like the Hindenburg.

Let's take a brief look through history and see what worked, what didn't, and what might've been with these big summer angles.

Let's begin in 2001, with an honorable mention.

When the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) bought its biggest rival, World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the dreams of Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Goldberg, Sting vs. Undertaker, and The Rock vs. Glacier danced like visions of sugarplums in the minds of fans. McMahon made his intentions known that he wanted WCW to remain a separate entity, with its own roster, show, and pay-per-views (PPV). It sounded promising. Ambitious, but promising.

And then Buff Bagwell challenged Booker T. And while it was inexplicably the Book's favorite Raw moment, it was, for everyone else in the galaxy, the worst spectacle ever witnessed.

Plans for WCW were quickly scrapped and the InVasion soon began. Before you knew it, Stone Cold wasn't facing Goldberg. Goldberg wasn't even around, actually. Stone Cold actually ended up teaming up with WCW as its leader. Undertaker wasn't taking on Sting, but Diamond Dallas Page (DDP). And while DDP received one monster pop when he debuted with WWF, he was quickly buried by 'Taker and left to wallow in the lower mid-card until injury forced him into retirement. The Rock vs. Glacier never happened either.


Instead Rock was paired against the WCW champion, who he beat for the title at SummerSlam in their first encounter. By November, WCW was dead and buried for good. From its ashes came the brand split, which this time next year could likely also be officially killed off.


Booker T's run-in at King of the Ring. No one knew just what was happening, but it sure looked like the mother of all invasion angles. And it was ... without all the name talent.


Team "Alliance" consisting of Austin, Kurt Angle, Shane McMahon, Rob Van Dam, and Booker T. Exactly one individual who was considered a "WCW" guy.


Maybe if DDP and Booker T main event that Raw, instead of Buff, the crowd would have been hotter? Who knows. The InVasion is the most fantasy-booked idea in all of wrestling fandom. Everyone has their idea on how it should have/could have gone down.

Personally, I would have just given the WCW guys Smackdown, and brought over the Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) talent and a few key WWF guys. Then build to WrestleMania 18 and a big unification PPV. After than, do a draft and mix the talent up among the two shows. But that's hindsight.


In 2002, there was no hot summertime angle. Brock Lesnar was wreaking havoc and on his way to the title.

In 2003, the brand split was in full effect. Smackdown had the WWE title, great wrestling, complex storylines, and general must-see TV. Raw had the World Heavyweight title, old veterans who hold back talent, monopolize the main event, and Goldberg. Do your own joke.

In the summer of 2004, Chris Benoit and JBL were carrying the titles. Benoit was wrestling Kane in the mid-card and JBL was Robert Roode-ing his way to victory after victory. Again, no hot angles. The ratings and PPV's were good enough that there was no reason to think they needed something to shake things up.

While there's wasn't a hot angle in 2005, per say, the move of John Cena to Raw and the feud with Chris Jericho was certainly good TV.



2006 was the year the hot angles began, with the rebirth of ECW. RVD won the title in a must-see match at One Night Stand in June, but instead of doing the acceptable thing (throwing the spinner belt in the trash and hoisting the ECW title), he decided to keep both the WWE and the reborn ECW title ... until he got high and lost them both.

Still, the idea of a one hour show with Heyman as head writer (coming off a magical run as Smackdown's top writer), and RVD and Kurt Angle as featured acts, it seemed like a dream come true.

Naturally, it Hindenburged.


One Night Stand 2006.


December to Dismember 2006. And later, "bald bathturd"


If RVD doesn't get busted for pot who knows what could have happened? Wait, I do. He would have eventually gotten busted for pot, and Vince still would have forced his sticky fingers into the ECW creative pie. This summer angle was doomed from the start.


The hot angle in 2007 featured the death of Mr. McMahon. read the details by clicking here.

Back with us?


Everyone who ever wanted Vince McMahon dead got their wish, albeit in kayfabe.


I mean, obviously. The greatest active wrestler of his day died in a murder/suicide. There's not much to be said that hasn't already. The real life tragedy killed what had potential to be a very fun angle.


Word has gotten out over the years that the plan was for McMahon himself to be behind it all. He's like Cena with his teases! Vince faking it is probably the only scenario that works long term, but it's also a pretty blah conclusion. Unfortunately, this story crashed and burned in the worst of ways due to the Benoit tragedy cutting its legs off at the beginning.

But man, what I wouldn't give to have had Bret Hart be announced as the killer. I know this was a few years before he finally made peace. But I can dream. I think the fans would have loved it too.


The second attempt to kill McMahon came in 2008 for its hot angle. This time it came at the end of a storyline. The summer angle here was the Million Dollar Giveaway. No doubt the creative planning meeting went like this:

"What have we gotta do to get people watching again!?"

"Complex stories?"

"Satisfying conclusions?"

"Champions people want to see?"

"Crap. All of it crap!"

"Well Vince, people need a reason to watch the product. It's not like we can just pay them."


So Vince began to literally give money away. Just because. And that was the entirety of the hot summer angle. Until the final night of the giveaway...

here is an actual computer rendering of the event.

Note the image of the person at the bottom middle of the screen.

That's Bret Hart holding a rifle. Just in case the stage doesn't do its job.


I guess good for Vinny Mac for just giving people money.


Why couldn't he have given away John Cena? Seriously, nothing came of his second attempted murder. He stayed off TV until the new year and then got involved in the Randy Orton vs. Triple H storyline.


He might've taken his stupid idea and found more talent with all that extra money, so that Triple H isn't wrestling Great Khali for the WWE title at SummerSlam. Or he might not have been on TV so much, so that we could have more time devoted to the Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels feud. Or, seriously, they could have used the attempted murder as a a redo of the 2007 story. Instead it was pretty much dropped.


The return of Donald Trump came in 2009, this time with his buying RAW. And, once again, the legitimate media who love to talk about how "fake" pro wrestling is reported this story as though it actually happened.


The purpose of this was to transition RAW to having guest hosts. No, you weren't dreaming it. This actually happened. Cedric The Entertainer did actually appear on RAW and have some measure of authority.



Okay then...LOWLIGHTS:

Every guest host not named Bob Barker and Shaq.


Of all things to use a "new owner" storyline for, you could write down a thousand -- literally one THOUSAND -- ideas and "celebrity guest hosts" would still not make the list. Go ahead and make your list. That's what might've been. It was a chance to undo anything in continuity you regret. Any story, title, PPV concept, etc. You have a blank slate with a "new owner." But instead they give us Freddie Prince Jr. and Dennis Miller.


The Nexus Invasion came in 2010. And I'm starting to think Vince doesn't really understand the concept of an invasion. Because if your invading forces are actually pansies and not in the same league as your top star, then it's not an invasion. It's just a bother.


The Nexus sneak attacks. It began with an all out assault on everything WWE. The sets, crew, wrestlers, etc. They subsequently jumped Hart, Ricky Steamboat, Undertaker, McMahon. They looked like the most dominate stable in a generation. Until ...


... Cena. There must be some clause in that man's contract. Oh, and the firing of Daniel Bryan.


This was a story with so much potential. Especially since it was, unlike the past several years, a wrestling story (on a wrestling show, go figure). Cena being fired and replaced by Juan Cena. Great. Or at least it could have been. Cena could have turned heel and aligned himself with Nexus. There's really a lot of places to take the story that don't end in Cena single-handledly broomsticking them in the middle of the ring.

Some of those Nexus guys have a lot of potential. Justin Gabriel could be a superstar folks. But only now are a handful of them coming into their own. and it's in spite of their being in Nexus, when it could have been because of it.


In 2011, the most criminally underused talent on the roster had a contract coming up. He had literally lost every PPV match for a calender year and he was ready to take a break. Sometime between June and July, I believe he reached an agreement to return, with the promise that he would win the title and break out into the main event. I don't think, nor have I ever thought, that Vince would let a person leaving the company (even for a short "break") win his title, but that's neither here nor there.

The story was the Punk's contract was up at midnight following the Money in the Bank PPV. The event was to be held in his hometown Chicago, and he intended to win the title from Cena and take the title home with him.

The angle started with a subtle bit of foreshadowing. Punk intentionally got himself disqualified in an early match on Raw. As he walked to the back he mouthed "What are they gonna do? Fire me?" Later that evening he ran in on Cena and cut one of the greatest promos of all time. Just YouTube "CM Punk promo" and it'll be entry number one.

He spelled out everything that was wrong with the WWE. Chief among his complaints:

> Too much Cena

> Too much "asskissing" in the back

> Too much stale storytelling

> Too much doofus son-in-law

The handful of RAW's leading up to Money in the Bank were almost surreal. Everything seemed fresher and more must-see. By the time the PPV rolled around, every fan was at a fever pitch. The show couldn't have gone better. Not a single match was bad, and several of them were classics. Then comes the main event. The most electric crowd since One Night Stand 2006 -- only much much bigger.

Cena and Punk wrestle what felt like a classic WWF heavyweight contest. Finally the ending: A bit of a smoz, but not so much as to hurt Punk's credibility in winning (take notes, TNA). By the end of the night, Super Cena had lost, CM Punk was blowing Vince a kiss goodbye and scores of wrestling fans joygasm'd all over their TV sets.

And then did it again when this pic hit the interwebs


Seriously, how cool was this man in the summer of 2011?

Unfortunately, things started to go downhill from there. You know the story: Vince was relieved by Triple H, Cena won a replacement title and Punk returned far too early for this writer's liking. But he still returned with a good deal of steam. Then Triple H got involved, then Nash, then Del Rio, and by the end of the year, Punk was a 2 time champion but felt like far less of a big deal.


The worked shoot promo! Also everything else Punk said from the promo until after SummerSlam.


A lot to pick from, but I choose Triple H beating Punk 1-2-3 in the middle of the ring at Night of Champions.


Nash has gone on to describe the details of the story had he not pulled a Nash and been medically unable to work, the gist of which being another power struggle type storyline. He sold it well when speaking of it, so it sticks as something that could have been great.


Remember Punk's four beefs with the WWE at the time of his apparent departure?

> Too much Cena

> Too much "asskissing" in the back

> Too much stale storytelling

> Too much doofus son-in-law

Here we are almost a year later, and what do we have? Despite Punk being the champion for most of the year since the Summer of Punk, there's still:

> Too much Cena. He main events the shows and the PPVs, while Punk holds the title for him.

> Too much "asskissing" in the back. Specifically, from Punk to Cena, and from Cena to Punk.

> Too much stale storytelling. Punk's character specifically has gotten stale, and while that's true of most traditional WWF/E babyfaces, Punk wasn't supposed to be a traditional babyface. That he's embraced that role is probably good for his career, but it's bad for his character, and might've cost him that match with Stone Cold that he's been lobbying for.

> Too much doofus son-in-law.



I think this busted angle will end up being the number two most fantasy-booked story (2nd of course to the WCW invasion).

Bear with me for this "what might've been"...

What if Punk beats Cena and then Cena and Rey Mysterio main event SummerSlam. Mysterio wins and Del Rio cashes in. Then Cena and Del Rio feud over the title with Del Rio squeaking out a victory in September, but dropping it to Cena in October. Cena and Rock do their thing at Survivor Series, and then next night Punk returns, and that sets up a title vs. title ladder match at TLC.

Punk, while away from Aug. to Nov., works some Japan, some Ring of Honor (ROH), and keeps his presence known on the Internet. Maybe even crashing a house show here and there, until his big return. Just forget all about Nash and Triple H being involved. He feuds with Ziggler at the RR, and then Jericho for a couple months, and here were are today.

As for 2012 ...


Maybe the new WWE title belt is revealed?

Have no doubt that the kickoff to the big hot summer angle will be intriguing.

It may be eyebrow raising.

It may be, dare I say, entertaining.

But don't hold your breath that it will ultimately come to a satisfying end.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Cageside Seats

You must be a member of Cageside Seats to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Cageside Seats. You should read them.

Join Cageside Seats

You must be a member of Cageside Seats to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Cageside Seats. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.