It's that time of year again!
WWE is bringing back its end of summer celebration this Sunday night (Aug. 18) with SummerSlam 2013, which emanates from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Double-S has long been considered one of the "big four," alongside WrestleMania, Royal Rumble and Survivor Series.
Simply put, fans expect a little bit more for their money on a pay-per-view (PPV) show like this.
Will they get it?
That's hard to know going into the event, as it largely depends on how well the talent performs. All Creative can do, under the watchful eye of the front office, is assemble the best possible line up and let the chips fall where they may. But is that the case?
Below is the current SummerSlam bout listing. Instead of predicting outcomes (we'll do that for you this weekend), I'll be examining how well each match was booked, including how much investment fans have put (or should have put) into this Sunday's brouhaha.
WWE Champion John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan:
I wasn't too thrilled with the way this went down in the beginning, because I wanted Daniel Bryan to win the Money in the Bank (MITB) ladder match earlier this year and get the title shot because he earned it, and not because Lord Cena deemed him worthy.
The briefcase always makes it a little extra special.
In spite of that small, albeit personal, criticism of this program, they have done an outstanding job of writing a very specific narrative for this WWE Championship match. And the promos have been sensational. I like when a story goes beyond just wins and losses and the "respect" angle -- while not unfamiliar -- is always a money maker if it's done the right way.
Triple H notwithstanding, this is one of those times.
Final verdict: A summer slam!
CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar:
In fairness to Brock Lesnar, there's only so much juice you can squeeze out of the big fruit, due largely in part to his part-time schedule. Add to that his limited vocabulary and the onus rests on his opponent, who is usually a big-time, main event player.
Like CM Punk.
The fact that I'm looking at this program as "good" and not "great" may be an indication of how spoiled we've become by Punk's work. When you have one of the best performers of this generation paired off against Paul Heyman, who has a spot on the Mt. Rushmore of promos, you immediately expect something epic every time out.
Are we there yet?
No, but I also don't think they're painting by numbers, either. The limitations of this program became evident in the closing segment on Monday Night' RAW and from a pure wrestling perspective, Sunday night's conclusion should be a physical barnburner.
But one I may soon forget as each performer moves on to his next endeavor.
Final verdict: Here comes the plain.
World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian:
How often does a WWE title bout serve as a cool down match? They should consider bumping this one in between Punk vs. Lesnar and Cena vs. Bryan, so the crowd has a chance to catch its breath, take a piss or go get some more stale popcorn.
How many actual fucks are being given about this contest?
I actually like both performers, but their feud up until this point has been the epitome of boring. If any match needed a wonky stipulation, it was this one, but I guess Creative is going down with the ship. Then again, if Randy Orton storms out of the back and cashes in, there may be reason to pay attention.
Final verdict: Dos Caras translated to English is "Don't Care About Us."
Kane vs. Bray Wyatt (Ring of Fire Match):
It's hard not to like what WWE has done with this match, particular in regards to timing. Bray Wyatt and his "family" have been seen enough -- but not too much -- to generate both curiosity and excitement for this weekend's debut. Since we don't know what we're getting in terms of actually wrestling, the "Ring of Fire" stipulation was a nice touch.
Sure, it's a bit gimmicky, but Kane isn't the most technical fellow.
Fans are also thinking beyond this bout, as there has been some online chatter about whether or not "The Big Red Machine" will actually follow the buzzards following the event. I for one, can get just as invested in the start of a program as I can for a conclusion, if it's been built up properly.
They say expectation leads to disappointment, but I'm willing to bet this match proves that theory wrong.
Final verdict: Get ready to cheer for the craziest backwoods hicks since Merle and Darryl Dixon.
Dolph Ziggler & Kaitlyn vs. Big E Langston & Divas Champion AJ Lee:
I had such high hopes for this program, not least of which because it gives Big E. Langston the chance to spread his wings and fly. But the televised bickering disguised as storytelling leading up to SummerSlam has been haphazard, at best, and fans can't shake the memory of AJ Lee tapping out to Natalya earlier this week.
Not once, but twice.
It also doesn't help that Kaitlyn has been shoehorned into this feud as a sidekick for Dolph Ziggler. I get the whole "enemy of my enemy is my friend" thing, but this is Creative's way of killing two birds with one stone. I wouldn't have been opposed to Ziggy vs. Big E. with AJ ringside, only for her to get taken out by a Kaitlyn run-in, but this four-way dance has me feeling a bit pessimistic.
Watching Ziggler bump for Langston should be the icing, not the cake.
Final verdict: This match can only be saved by a Big Ending.
Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow:
This has turned out to be a nice little program, considering that prior to the MITB PPV, both wrestlers were doing shtick as a mid-card tag team comedy act. I think most of us knew that Damien Sandow was ready to be called up to the big show, but I'm happy that it didn't come at the expense of Cody Rhodes.
They are just as entertaining as foes as they were as friends.
I particularly enjoyed the briefcase fiasco and Sunday night should be a fun contest, but it's the stipulation that makes this a PPV match and not the settling of their score. Perhaps a simple "Sandow vs. Rhodes" match would cut the mustard on something like Battleground, but not SummerSlam, which is why I'm intrigued to see if they have the balls to finish what they started.
Final verdict: If these two are on their A-game, they won't have to beg for anything, including our indulgence.
Natalya vs. Brie Bella:
Oh look, a way to promote that dopey reality show.
Every card needs a cool down match and I'm not opposed to Divas getting their time to shine, but this is worthless filler that means nothing in the grand scheme of things. I'd much rather have the Divas champion putting her belt up for grabs than this dreck, but she's mired in a zig-zag with her ex-boyfriend and some swollen meatwagon who wants to give her ending something big.
I'm punching out like F. Gump, because that's all I got to say about that.
Final verdict: Brie Bella should change her name to Brie Cheese, because inside the ring, she stinks.
United States Champion Dean Ambrose vs. Rob Van Dam (Kickoff Match):
Putting this on the pre-show is actually a great idea.
It was booked at the last minute and isn't meant to do anything other than electrify the fans who may be iffy about plunking down $50 for SummerSlam. Rob Van Dam will fly through the air, Ambrose will sell like a god and marks will throw their money at the screen.
Just don't expect a title change.
While WWE can never be trusted, these guys are fluffers and not embroiled in a meaningful program, so unless The Shield has nuclear heat backstage, it would make no sense to have Ambrose drop the strap to kick off the show, though I must admit it would be a good way to fire up the audience and convert those last few buyers.
The fact that it's even a consideration is a good indication how well this bout has been received.
Final verdict: Believe in the pre-show.
That's a wrap, folks, and after looking at the card as a whole, I think we have a good show with the potential to be great. Five of the eight matches could easily be blockbusters and the other three may pleasantly surprise us. So, how about it then, did WWE do a good job of booking this show?