WWE Championship Match
John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan with Triple H as the special guest referee
This is a clash of two differing philosophies. The spectacle of sports entertainment vs. the art of technical wrestling. Flash vs. substance. Sizzle vs. steak. Will the status quo reign supreme once again or will a paradigm shift be instigated?
But a dark cloud hangs overhead the bout that could erupt into a thunder storm before the night is over that will shake WWE to it's very core.
Vince McMahon is adamant that he doesn't want a troll representing his company. Triple H is there to keep order and call it down the middle, but can he be trusted? Stephanie McMahon will likely stick her oar in too. So will the McMahon family finally implode or will the events of the match bring them together again?
The victor won't only have to overcome the meddling of the McMahon, but will also have to be wary of Randy Orton taking advantage of the situation and cashing in his Money In The Bank briefcase immediately after what is sure to be an epic war of a contest.
The Road to SummerSlam
Heading towards the biggest pay-per-view of the summer, Daniel Bryan broke from the shadow of his overbearing tag team partner Kane and gathered increasing momentum as a singles performer of note.
Big things looked to be headed Bryan's way when he managed to set aside his differences with Kane and Randy Orton to submit The Shield's Seth Rollins with the No Lock in the main event trios match on the June 14th edition of SmackDown. With this being the first time The Shield had ever been cleanly defeated, it was quite the feather in Bryan's cap to be the guy to bag that victory when bigger stars like John Cena had failed to do so.
Though he couldn't submit Randy Orton on his first or second attempt, being thwarted by a doctor stoppage against his own will when he suffered a stinger and a referee who refused to restart the match after he had won by count-out, respectively, Bryan finally got his biggest tap-out victory of his career so far when he made The Viper give up with a kendo stick assisted No Lock in the main event of the June 24th Monday Night Raw.
Thus, Bryan came into the "All Stars" Money In The Bank ladder match as one of the favorites to nab the briefcase, but it was his rival Orton that left Philadelphia with the guaranteed title shot that he could cash in at any time.
However, it was ironically incompetent GM Brad Maddox and WWE champion John Cena that came to Bryan's rescue. Foolishly Maddox allowed Cena to choose his own SummerSlam opponent on the July 15th Raw without getting Vince McMahon's input on the idea and The Champ chose the person that was certain to piss off the WWE chairman the most.
The Bryan vs. Cena contract signing to open the July 22nd Raw saw the tension between the two start to rise. Maddox planted the seed in Bryan's mind that Cena only picked him because he saw him as a weak challenger that he was guaranteed to beat, before stacking the deck against Bryan by booking him in a series of matches later that night.
Despite Bryan's insistence that he could handle the situation on his own, Cena still wanted to be there to make sure he got to SummerSlam in one piece, which led to Bryan drawing a line in the sand. He proclaimed that if John came out during one of his matches, then it would just prove that all his compliments were nothing but a load of crap.
Bryan proved himself correct when he submitted Jack Swagger with the Yes Lock, pinned Antonio Cesaro with a small package and defeated Ryback by disqualification in a gutsy effort when he was power bombed through a table. Cena arguably broke his word though by making the save for Bryan after the last match was over and Ryback looked to continue his assault.
The July 29th Raw followed a similar pattern, with the show opening by Brad Maddox apologizing to Vince McMahon for his boneheaded decision of letting John Cena choose his own opponent at SummerSlam. Vince also told Bryan that Cena only chose him for an easy night, which he started to believe as the WWE owner had always been honest with him. However, it was clear that even though Vince had no love for Cena, he hated Bryan more due to his belief that a half-pint troll would be an even bigger embarrassment to management as WWE champion than someone who had become too big for his britches.
Bryan then confronted Cena over what Vince had told him, which John took offense too, as Bryan seemed more willing to believe Vince's word than his own.
In between both men overcoming their challenges for the evening with Bryan pinning Kane with a small package and Cena beating Ryback in a tables match, the McMahon family squabbled over how Vince was pulling Maddox's strings and his treatment of the King of Beards. Stephanie just thought Bryan needed a corporate makeover which she scheduled for the August 5th Raw.
Of course, that all ended in tears when Bryan headbutted his barber for the night, Wade Barrett, when he went to shave his beard, proclaimed that he wouldn't change for the McMahons and unveiled his new "The Beard is Here" T-shirt.
On the other hand, Cena spent the night combating Bryan's criticisms that if Cena got fired by WWE tomorrow, he would go home to his mansion and his 20 cars and his multimillion dollar lifestyle and will never wrestle again, that he was only in it for the fame and fortune, that he was an entertainer not a real wrestler. John's defense was that he would never tarnish his WWE legacy by wrestling for some rinky dink second rate league, bragged about coming back 24 hours after breaking his neck and showed off his mangled left elbow as evidence he loved the business to keep working through that injury.
Randy Orton then threw his hat into the SummerSlam WWE Championship race by teasing that he would cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase at the event.
Meanwhile, Triple H had to console his wife Stephanie over her corporate makeover idea backfiring due to Vince's vindictive nature and vowed that whatever his father-in-law was planning to do at SummerSlam he would stop it.
The main event proved that Orton was a snake not to be trusted, as although he played nice with Bryan and Cena against The Shield as the match went on, once the heels were disqualified, he planted both of them with RKOs when they least expected it and left them to be further beat down by The Shield.
On the final Raw before SummerSlam, Brad Maddox auditioned for the guest referee spot in the pay-per-view main event by causing Daniel Bryan to lose to Wade Barrett by doing a fast count. But when Vince McMahon was just about set to give Maddox the appointment, Triple H interrupted and made himself the referee of the match, claiming that he had the guts to do the right thing and not be intimidated, before laying poor Brad out with the Pedigree.
After this shocking announcement, Bryan and Cena were guests together on MizTV and had their best verbal confrontation to date. The Miz stirred the pot by reiterating that Cena didn't respect him and only picked him for the easy win, which led to Bryan threatening to knock Miz's blocks off. Bryan explained that his new T-shirt design was a parody of one of Cena's because he thought Cena was a parody of a wrestler and that he wanted the WWE Championship to prove that when he steps foot in the ring that no-one does it better. Cena thought Bryan had some gall given the way Mr. Crazy Goatface looks and acts, adding that he doesn't bust his ass for the geeks that make fun of his skills, but for all the Make A Wish kids that look up to him, and that Bryan has to earn his respect by winning the title off him. Similarly, Bryan claimed that Cena didn't deserve the Japanese ritual of a slap to the face used to fire up wrestlers before their big matches. Cena stuck out his chin and then slapped Bryan, but still Bryan wouldn't slap him, as he considered him unworthy. The segment ended with both Triple H and Randy Orton coming out to remind viewers of their involvement in the World title picture.
More teases of what we had in store at SummerSlam were given in the Smackdown main event between Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett. Vince McMahon came out and yanked the referee out of the ring at the exact same moment Barrett had begun tapping out to the Yes Lock. Barrett then hit the Bull Hammer as Vince called for another referee. The call was answered by Brad Maddox, but Bryan kicked out before he could slap the mat a third time. Vince gave Barrett a kendo stick, but he accidentally hit Maddox with it and gets smashed through a table by Bryan. Vince then pulled the shirt off referee Mike Chioda's back and was going to put it on when Triple H came out in ref's gear too. Hunter counted the three count when Bryan pinned Barrett after a top rope flying headbutt. After the match, Vince acted pissed off, Hunter celebrated with Bryan and Randy Orton gave Bryan the evil eye from the ramp way.
What's at stake?
Obviously the WWE Championship is the most important prize in the whole damn wrestling business, but there's a lot more up for grabs than just that.
John Cena is the banged up warrior that's desperate to hang onto the title for the sick kids that live vicariously through his in ring exploits. He's not ready to hang up his boots yet and step aside for an aloof skeptic of his wrestling ability and passion without a fight, despite having a mangled elbow that we Cagesiders know needs surgery ASAP.
Daniel Bryan is striving for respect, from his well meaning but unconvinced opponent and his boss that thinks he's too small and ugly to carry the corporate torch. A win here could also springboard him into finally becoming one of the few made men in WWE who are always guaranteed a position at the top of the card.
The result of this match will also go some way in determining which McMahon ends up with an advantage in their ongoing power struggle. Triple H will be looking at neutralizing any interference from Vince McMahon and his gullible henchman Brad Maddox. Hunter's decision making ability may be compromised, however, if his wife Stephanie McMahon decides to stick her nose in.
Then, there's the joker in the pack, Randy Orton and his ever present Money In The Bank briefcase. Is he secretly in collusion with one of the McMahons? Or will he just attempt to capitalize on all the confusion that the McMahon family will surely cause with all their meddling? Or is he just playing mind games and thus opt to pounce on the champion another day?
Find out here tonight at CagesideSeats.com with our live SummerSlam coverage. We hope to see you then, Cagesiders!