Ranking SummerSlam #13: 2001 - The Rock vs. Booker T
Or...the one right in the middle of a horrible angle

Something I noticed writing this countdown: There are at least five entries where the semi-main event is better than the main event, and another four or so where you can make a good case that the semi-main is better. This one is no exception.

(For the record…1994, 1995, 2001, 2002 and 2003 [technically not the semi-main, as Kurt Angle – Brock Lesnar for the Smackdown title was third from the top, but it was billed as the #2 match on the card] are in my opinion as good if not better than their respective main events, and one can make an argument for semi-mains from 1997, 1998, 2013 and even 1996 being as good as their respective main events, but to me at least that's a little less definitive.)

That being said, the fact that this match is still fine on its own but – surprise surprise! – suffers a bit from overbooking.

Let’s get to it.

The main storyline was the infamous Invasion. I don’t feel like writing a few thousand words on the Invasion debacle and I’m not arrogant enough to think that you want to read a few thousand words on the Invasion debacle. So let’s condense it to bullet points for the sake of all parties. Before we begin, the Invasion was a six-month long program where WCW and ECW wrestlers "invaded" WWF and fought for control of the company. It could have been one of the best programs ever, and turned out to be a huge disappointment.

A few reasons the Invasion failed

- Instead of being a true free-for-all between WCW, WWF and ECW, it quickly morphed into yet another McMahon family feud with Vince on the side of WWF and Shane and Stephanie on the side of the Alliance. Mind you, we’d had at this point about three full years of McMahon family drama.

- There was a lack of star power on the WCW side of the ledger. Many top-flight WCW stars weren’t acquired by WWF. Guys like Ric Flair, Sting, Bill
Goldberg, Scott Steiner and all three original members of the nWo (Scott Hall, Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash) weren’t brought on board. The given reason was because of expensive buyouts, but it should be said that every single guy on the previous list except for Sting was in WWF/WWE by 2003 at the very latest. As a result, many of the most anticipated (and probably most profitable) matches WCW – WWF matches didn’t happen at all, or if they happened it was years later (when fewer people cared).

- The biggest issue was the Vince McMahon and the powers that be didn’t want their WWF wrestlers to look inferior to the WCW/ECW wrestlers. Steve Austin and Kurt Angle quickly turned heel to give the WCW/ECW stable – later called "The Alliance" – some frontmen, and the only Alliance members to look halfway decent against the WWF mainstays were those who had been in WWF before the storyline began (guys like the Dudley Boyz and Rhyno). In other words, the feud for the most part was obviously WWF vs. WWF. This culminated in the blowoff match at Survivor Series in 2001 where Team WWF (The Rock, Chris Jericho, Undertaker, Kane and Big Show) defeated The Alliance (Steve Austin, Rob Van Dam, Kurt Angle, Booker T and Shane McMahon). You’ll notice how only two of the five Alliance members were actually from WCW and ECW. By the way, the last two men standing from The Alliance team at Survivor Series were Angle and Austin.

This was the 10,000 foot view of the program, let’s zoom in a little bit on this match specifically:

Rock was gone from after WrestleMania X-7 to late July on a break to film The Scorpion King. He returned and when asked if he’d stay with WWF or join the Alliance, "The Great One" responded with a Rock Bottom to Alliance leader Shane McMahon. Booker T responded with a challenge to the Rock at SummerSlam.

Instead of feuding for Booker T’s WCW Championship, the two should have feuded for the right to use a modified uranage as their finisher. Anyway, a few beatdowns and Rock Bottom/Book Ends later (including a nifty one by Booker T through a table) and we were all set.

Main Event Time!

This match had the less-than-enviable task of following a stellar Steve Austin-Kurt Angle bout without the usual filler match in between. That being said, the crowd was still hot and Booker T and the Rock started things with a bang. At one point the Rock whipped out a textbook La Magistral Cradle that I marked out for far more than I should. (Video here). I love when wrestlers branch out and do new and different moves. I wish more guys did stuff like that instead of the generic Five Moves of Doom over and over and over. Big matches feel more special when guys do different moves

The back-and-forth action spilled into the crowd for what felt like a year, Booker takes the upper hand. Rock makes his comeback but the Shane McMahon – that devious cur! – distracts him, allowing Booker T to flatten Rock with a stiff-looking superkick. Rock powers though – remember, WWF guys were always portrayed as better wrestlers than Alliance guys and this was no exception – until Shane distracts him again with a belt shot. Then, out of nowhere, the APA comes out. For those of you who may not remember, the APA was Faarooq and Bradshaw, formerly minions of the Undertaker who eventually became beer drinking tweener mercenaries. Faarooq chased Shane around the ring right into a nasty clothesline from Bradshaw (bad video here). Bradshaw was known as a stiff worker and Shane was known as someone who didn’t mind being stiffed, so this was the prefect storm of stiffness.

There was no real explanation as to why the APA was out there, but whatever, Shane was a putz and that clothesline looked awesome, so we just sort of rolled with it. Simpler times back in the day and all that. Plus, again, Shane was a total tool, and people tend to ignore storyline inconsistencies when a total tool gets knocked out of their shoes.

(Editor's note: Per Detroit Larry in the comments section the APA interfered cause Shane cost them a match earlier in the card. Makes sense to me now.)

Rock and Booker T keep brawling until Booker hits a Book End, but the Rock kicks out! BAW GAWD! Rock hits a People’s Elbow but Shane comes back from the grave and breaks up the count. Right about now was when young Curtain Jerker was sick of Shane McMahon, and it wasn't standard "I hate you!" heel heat, where you pay to see someone get beat. No, this was full-blown X-Pac "Get the hell off my TV!" heat. Mercifully this was the end of Shane's involvement in this match

Booker took advantage of Rock getting back into the ring after dealing with Shane and finally hit the axe kick. After teasing it the entire match Booker finally did a spinarooni, much to the delight – and flash bulbs – of the fans, who turned him face for all of ten seconds. Rock kipped up to a big pop of his own, hit the Rock Bottom for the clean win and the WCW Championship. Because when I think WCW, I think of The Rock.

Considering there was almost no chance the Rock was going to lose in his return to the company, the three guys involved did a bang-up job suspending disbelief. The match itself suffers a little from the extended action in the crowd and from Shane's aggravating antics, but it’s a solid entry in the countdown.

Curtain Jerker's Star Rating – Let's give it a 3¾ overall. I wanted to pull the trigger on four stars but too much Shane and the APA for me to make that move

Up Next – Tomorrow's entry was a rematch from the prior Pay-Per-View that wasn't anywhere near as good, although to be fair it had an awful lot to live up to.

Also in this series:

#14 - Michaels vs. Vader

#15 - Elimination Chamber

#16 - Cena vs. Edge

#17 - Michaels vs. Hogan

#18 - Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar

#19 - Hogan/Savage vs. Andre/DiBiase

#20 - Team WWE vs. Team Nexus

#21 - Rude vs. Warrior

#22 - Hogan/Beefcake vs. Savage/Zeus

#23 - Luger vs. Yokozuna

#24 - Hogan/Warrior vs. Slaughter/Mustafa/Adnan

#25 - Diesel vs. Mabel

#26 - Undertaker vs. Undertaker

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