HOUSTON, August 18, 2014 —Last night Brock Lesnar defeated 15 time world champion John Cena, to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, in what one could only describe as a squash-match. Just like Wrestlemania 30, the booking of SummerSlam spoke volumes to where the WWE is heading.
Twenty-seven years ago, SummerSlam ’88 debuted on PPV live from Madison Square Garden in New York City, and the main event pinned Randy Macho Man Savage and Hulk Hogan against Ted Dibiase and Andre the Giant. This year the Staples Center in Los Angeles hosted the event for the sixth consecutive year, and Hulk Hogan kicked the PPV and reminded everyone to order the WWE Network.
Although some still are ordering WWE PPV’s, most are now watching the events via the WWE Network for only $9.99 a month. In order to break even on the WWE Network, the company must reach one million subscribers by January 1, 2015. It was reported that they initially reached 700k, and then lost 128k, but most recently just launched the Network globally (as it was only available in the U.S.) and starting this month is now available in 170 countries. Among those countries are England, Australia, and Mexico; all of which are traditionally big markets for professional wrestling.
Last May, WWE CEO Vince McMahon lost a third of his fortune in a sum of $350 million when the WWE stock dropped $8.86; this was due to a few things but many contributed it to a lack of confidence in the Network. When the Network launched on February 24, 2014, it was with a six month commitment. Although the commitment wasn’t strictly enforced, most subscribers have paid each month. So with August being the sixth month, subscribers being less than the company hoped for, and SummerSlam being part of the “big four” PPV’s of the year; the success of this event last night was critical.
When booking an event it’s not only important who is booked, the finishes, but also making sure there is time for the wrestlers to perform. This was a jam packed card so allotting the right amount of time for each match is as crucial as the booking itself.
So let’s take a look at how SummerSlam did as an event and what that means for the WWE for the rest of this year, and next year as well.
Rob Van Dam vs. Cesaro
This match gave the crowd more than the average pre-show match normally would thanks to the talents of both men. In the end it would be the Five-Star Frog Splash that would secure a victory for RVD.
Intercontinental Championship Match
Dolph Ziggler vs. Miz (Champion)
These two tend to throw some sloppy punches, but their execution of technical wrestling moves, especially from Ziggler, are great. Many fans have been waiting a long time for a Dolph Ziggler push, and this columnist believes his time is now. Yes he has been the IC before, but not under these circumstances. With the WWE World Heavyweight Championship now being on a part-time wrestler, this will put the focus on the other titles especially a title that holds so much history like the Intercontinental Championship.
WWE Divas Championship
Paige vs. AJ Lee (Champion)
Taking us back to the days of Lita squaring off against Trish Stratus, these two women put on a clinic last night and aside from the time frame, the match was booked perfectly. In the end it was Paige that would hit AJ with the Rampage to pick up the victory and the Divas Championship for the second time.
Jack Swagger vs. Alexander Rusev w/Lana
Rocky fought hard against Drago, I mean Swagger against Rusev, but Rusev would win in the end when Swagger passed out in the Accolade (rather than tapping out). The Russian flag was then hung high for all to see. This match wasn’t put together very well at all; it went on too long and could have given more time to the Paige/Lee match or to any other counterpart really. This match should have swapped places with the Cesaro/RVD contest.
Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins
Normally I can’t stand lumberjack matches, but this match was amazing! In the end Rollins won after clobbering Ambrose in the head with the Money in the Bank briefcase to get the pinfall. The crowd was fully engaged with tons of energy and make no mistake about it, this match stole the show.
Bray Wyatt vs. Chris Jericho
With Jericho already a victory ahead on Wyatt, it was a must-win for Wyatt last night. In addition, Jericho isn’t the Y2J of the days of yore, in contrast he’s not bad either, but if he’s going to do another run it needs to be to put the next generation of workers over; which he did last night. Wyatt beat Y2J with his finisher, Sister Abigail, clean in the middle of the ring for the victory. Follow the buzzards.
Stephanie McMahon vs. Brie Bella
This was the first time in over ten years that Stephanie McMahon had been in the ring competing and the crowd paid full respect to McMahon last night as they chanted, you still got it, and yes she does. Both participants did a phenomenal job of telling a story in the ring, something many competitors have issues doing today. In the end Brie’s twin sister, Nikki, came down and betrayed her sister costing her the match after McMahon delivered a Pedigree to Brie to secure the pin.
Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton
Oddly enough this match should have been before the McMahon/Bella match, as the crowd put so much emotion into that match, and the crowd already used so much energy during the Rollins/Ambrose match, and not even Reigns could have outdone Stephanie this night. Placing the women right before Cena/Lesnar would have been perfect as the main event carried enough excitement on its own and it was probably the only match that could have followed them. Because of this the match was good, but not great. Reigns was victorious over the third generation superstar via pinfall after hitting him with a spear.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena
Last April Brock Lesnar defeated the Undertaker breaking the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania (21-1), a feat many insiders and fans alike thought impossible. The only way to capitalize on such a triumph, while paying respect to what it means to be the “one” in twenty-one and one, is to not only become the champion but to do so in dominating fashion.
This is exactly what Brock Lesnar did.
This 16 minute match consisted of 16 suplexes, a few knees and punches, two F-5’s, and a new champion. Lesnar squashed Cena similarly how the big names in professional wrestling used to squash jobbers on Saturday morning television before the cartoons would come on. This wasn’t just a changing of the guard, this was a statement. Although the match was limited on moves, and an offense from Cena, the story it told couldn’t be louder. Just like Wrestlemania, one chapter has closed in wrestling history, and another one is beginning.
Never count Vince McMahon out. Like any business there are ups and downs. He is the one that revolutionized this industry with Wrestlemania and completely changed the business by taking it from territories to an international business. He’s always been an innovator and the WWE Network is no different. There may be some bumps in the road along the way but the Network should be a success if the booking stays like it has between Mania and SummerSlam; as this booking will breathe new life in wrestling fans and help create new ones.
Looking to the future it seems wrestling is about to get more entertaining, or at least has that capability, than it has in years. The mid-card has struggled for years in the industry where the main storyline has focused only on the main events. With Brock Lesnar now being Champion and only wrestling a few times a year, this will be good for the business. It wasn’t until the 90’s that the Heavyweight Champion was seen so often on TV defending the title or giving interviews and this was primarily thanks to Bret “Hitman” Hart and the WWE trying to replace and fill time for Hulk Hogan leaving the company. Before then the champ would only show up once a month, or every other month, to wrestle or do a spot; the champion was special. This will not only bring back that feeling again, and Brock Lesnar is one special athlete, this will put the focus on the other championships and workers, and also allow opportunities for other storylines and wrestlers to grow.
Lesnar should remain a dominating heel champion at least until Wrestlemania 31. If he drops it then, and his contract runs out shortly after that, and assuming he will; it should be against a rising star like Reigns or Cesaro, it should definitely not be to John Cena or any other seasoned veteran.
With the possibility of more matches out of Rollins and Ambrose, a cliffhanger of an ending with the betrayal of sisterhood in the McMahon match, Ziggler gaining the IC title, Bray Wyatt continuing to grow, and a new dominating World Heavyweight Champion; SummerSlam was a success and the future looks bright for the WWE, and finally fans have multiple reasons to tune in and subscribe.
Carter Lee is a Sports-Entertainer/professional wrestler, author, child sex abuse survivor and spokesman, columnist, producer, and professional speaker. You can learn about all of his work and appearances by visiting his official website www.TheCarterLee.com.