Thursday, 21 August 2008

WWE Summerslam on Sky Box Office - TV Review

It’s the biggest wrestling event of the summer, and it’s hard to believe it’s in it’s twentieth year. Yep, it’s WWE Summerslam, headlined by four massive matches, and shown live on Sky Box Office here in Britain.

The show begins with a match that could be a possible show-stealer, with Jeff Hardy facing MVP. MVP’s recent feud with the older Hardy had been one of the WWE highlights of recent times, so this was one match I was really looking forward to. I wasn’t disappointed. Carrying on from where he’d left off with Jeff’s big brother, MVP proceeded to work over Jeff with a series of good looking submission moves, working over Hardy’s neck and back, grounding the high-flying star. Hardy, for his part, put up a good fight as well, but the appearance of Shelton Benjamin changed the outcome. With MVP laying prone in the corner, Hardy went up to the top rope for the swanton. Benjamin suddenly appeared at ringside, so instead of leaping onto MVP, he leapt onto Benjamin. Once he’d taken care of Benjamin, he scaled the ropes again and went for the swanton, only for MVP to move out of the way, and to end the match with the drive-by kicking, which knocked Hardy senseless, giving him the winning pin seconds later. Great way to start the show.

The first title match of the evening follows, with both the titles on the line as Women’s Champion Mickie James and Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston take on Santino Marella and Beth Phoenix, with both of the titles on the line in this winner-takes-all match. I wasn’t really looking forward to this one, but I have to admit that it was actually quite entertaining. Kingston was again impressive, while Marella’s pairing with Beth is starting to give us some great comedic moments, especially when Marella leapt into her harms at ringside when Kingston threatened them with a suicide dive. So after some great action from all four participants, Beth got the pin on Mickie with what I can only describe as a face-first power bomb, after Beth had taken Marella out with her trademark DDT. Very entertaining stuff here.

After a heated segment in which Shawn Michaels announced his retirement and Chris Jericho attacked Michaels’ wife Rebecca, it’s back to the action with Matt Hardy challenging Mark Henry for the ECW title. Henry is accompanied by his new buddy Tony Atlas for this one. This one doesn’t last long. Hardy avoided a corner attack, took Henry down with a twist of fate, and was about to get the pin when Atlas interfered, with the referee calling for an immediate disqualification. Then all hell broke loose, with Atlas attacking Hardy, and Jeff coming down the ring to help his big brother. Not sure what to make of this one, but at least we didn’t have to put up with another boring, over-extended Mark Henry match.

Next, John Bradshaw Layfield challenging C.M. Punk for the World Heavyweight title. I’m a big fan of both of these guys, so this was another one of those matches I was looking forward to. A distinct clash of styles here, with JBL’s slow, brawling, methodical approach against Punk’s speed and technical know-how. JBL spent a great deal of time working over Punk’s ribs and back, synching in bear hugs and abdominal stretches after he’d taken him down with a fall away slam from the second rope. Punk later sustained a cut to the back of his head after an accidental clash of heads, when JBL fell awkwardly after Punk scored with a high leg kick. The end came when Punk ducked a short-arm clothesline attempt and took JBL out with the GTS. Not the most spectacular of matches, and there were a couple of sloppy moments, but the action was good and solid.

Then it’s time for Triple H to defend the WWE title against the Great Khali, one of the matches I wasn’t looking forward to. From the start of this one the big Indian simply overpowered the Game, applying his vice hold on Triple H’s head, and later using his massive hands with a claw-like nerve hold on the shoulders. The champion had his moments, attacking Khali’s legs whenever he could, but he just couldn’t break the giant down. But after being dominated for the majority of the match, Triple H avoided Khali’s corner charge, then managed to take him down with the pedigree, getting the title retaining pin seconds later. This was probably the best Khali match I’ve ever seen, and that is probably due to who his opponent was. But one thing confused me about this match though - Khali was dominant, but why would a barge into the corner hurt him enough for Triple H to take him down? Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

It’s the battle of the titans next, with John Cena taking on Batista. This is probably one of the most hyped matches in recent WWE history, and although I was expecting your basic run of the mill match from these two, it kind of surprised me with what they came up with. And what they came up with was pretty damn good, especially when the Animal began to use the tactics made famous by his mentor Ric Flair. I never thought I’d see a guy as big as Batista lock in a figure four leg lock. Two outstanding performances from two of the biggest stars of today made for a tremendous match-up, which looked like it could go either way until Batista put Cena away with a second Batista bomb. You know, if handled correctly, Cena v Batista could become the 21st century equivalent to Hogan v Warrior in the 90’s. By all means put these two against each other in a singles match again, but leave it to Wrestlemania.

Finally, it’s the return of the dead man himself, as the Undertaker faces his perennial nemesis Edge in one of the most dangerous matches in WWE history - Hell in a Cell. One word can describe this one - brutal. A second word would be great. The old foes really tore into each other, using the cell itself to good effect, as well as a few other items as Edge turned it into an enclosed TLC match. It even took in the ringside area, with one of the panels collapsing after Edge speared the Undertaker through it, and spearing him again, this time through one of the announce tables. The carnage continued when they eventually got back into the ring, and Edge even tried to use the Undertaker’s old school move, which only led to him being choke slammed from the top rope through two tables at ringside. He then followed this up by using some of Edge’s own moves against him, before finally taking him down with the trusty old tombstone piledriver to get the winning pin. But that wasn’t the end of things, as the dead man returned to the ring and choke slammed Edge from the top of a ladder right through the ring. Seconds later flames began to erupt from the hole that had been created, an amazing way to end an outstanding match.

In conclusion - although this year’s edition of Summerslam had it’s dodgy moments, it will probably go down as one of the best WWE shows of the year. Good matches throughout the card, spoiled only by a few bad moments, topped off with two exceptional performances from Edge and the Undertaker. Summerslam definitely gets my thumbs up here.