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SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, August 25, 2000

SummerSlam seems oddly familiar

Eric Benner
By ERIC BENNER
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
SLAM! Wrestling
Editorial Column

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This weekend, what most folks consider to be the number two pay-per-view in the World Wrestling Federation -- or, at worst, number three -- will go down, with every major title on the line in a series of heavily-gimmicked matches. This should be no surprise to WWF fans, since the federation has always beefed up SummerSlam with gimmick matches.

Ladder matches, best two of three falls, triple threat matches, triangle matches, hardcore matches, hardcore triple threat two out of three triangles on a ladder matches, you get the drift. Putting a title on the line just isn't enough for the big WWF pay-per-views anymore. What's worse, though, is that they're starting to run out of ideas. Every single match on the card this year is reminiscent of another, already-done gimmick match. Take a look.

I don't mean just copying a match type, either. Obviously ladder matches have been done. Bookers shouldn't have to incorporate a new piece of furniture at each pay-per-view. No, it's on an even deeper level that the WWF's has lifted all of these ideas -- primarily from themselves. Here, from bottom to top, is the card for this weekend's show:

Opening the show: Kat vs. Terri in a 'stinkface' match. Granted, this particular match has never been done, what with Rikishi's signature move being a relatively recent innovation, combined with the fact that the match is a dumb idea anyway. Still, what this match offers (not much, by the way) is nothing more than a combination of those will-Rikishi-stinkface-Trish matches with the standard T&A fare we're used to. Very little to feud about here, and not much to see. Not my strongest argument, but hardly the most important match on the card.

X-Pac vs. Road Dogg. This angle has been played out already, identically, and it even involved one of these two participants. Road Dogg and X-Pac were a 'successful' tag team, wrestling high on the card, and winning more matches than they deserved to. Then, they split up amicably and have a contest over who the better wrestler truly is. Road Dogg has already done this whole angle, only with former partner Billy Gunn, and it was just as bad then. Look at the bright side, though: They didn't have to win (and waste) the Hardcore and Intercontinental titles to further this feud.

Right to Censor vs. Too Cool and Rikishi. Actually one of the only matches on the entire card I'm looking forward to because of its originality, where the Right to Censor have actually got an issue with Too Cool and Rikishi, and Too Cool and Rikishi actually have a bone to pick with Right to Censor. Plus, there's the sort of ominous proposition some insiders are making that Too Cool may actually join the heels, making them a serious threat in the World Wrestling Federation. I'm actually curious, and that's the first time I can really say that for Too Cool or Rikishi match.

Steve Blackman vs. Shane McMahon for the Hardcore title. Gee, this is familiar. Set your clocks back about nine or ten months. That was about the time that Test and Stephanie McMahon were originally scheduled to have their wedding. That never happened and Test has since been buried for some reason, but it was planned, at least in character. But someone was very much in the way of that planned union, and that someone was Shane McMahon. So he and Test worked out an arrangement wherein they'd wrestle for Stephanie -- Test wins, he gets married without interference from Shane, and if Shane wins, no marriage at all. Shane wrestled the heck out of Test, bumping for him more than anyone ever had before or has since. Meanwhile, the Mean Street Posse was around to make things less utterly predictable. This was the match that got Test over, before his heat was killed when the WWF forgot he existed. This could be the match that gets Steve Blackman over, and judging by how often he's returned to a push, we know the WWF won't forget about him. All the parallels are there, from Shane McMahon wrestling to boost a lackluster SummerSlam card to the outside interference expected from Shane's stable, this time Edge and Christian, Chris Benoit, or Kurt Angle.

Val Venis and Trish Stratus vs. Chyna and Eddie Guerrero. Mixed tag matches are nothing new, and thanks to ECW, tag matches with a singles title on the line are nothing new, either. What's really unoriginal of this match, though, is the resemblance it bears to the fairly recent WWF mixed tag series pitting Goldust and Marlena (now Terri) against Sable and Mark Mero. This kind of match is almost screaming for a turn by somebody, as it yielded back then, and we'll see if that's the case here.

Tazz vs. Jerry Lawler. Jerry Lawler returns to the ring to get surprisingly unresponsive crowd into a wrestler in whom the WWF had huge expectations. Lawler has done it with before, specifically with Bret Hart, and it worked, doing wonders for Bret's career at the time. I hope he repeats that success here, but it's certainly not the first time his services have been required in this manner.

Undertaker vs. Kane. This one's old on so many levels, not the least of which is that they've feuded and turned on each other and made up and turned on each other dozens of times. Maybe not dozens, but lots. We've seen this before. Not only that, we've seen the exact circumstances leading up to this -- Kane turns on Undertaker, no explanation offered -- before, too. Undertaker is going to become the next Sting (who's the king of gullibility with respect to his off-and-on buddy Lex Luger in WCW) at this rate.

Hardy Boyz vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Edge and Christian in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs (TLC) match. My favourite match from this year's Wrestlemania was the three-way ladder match between these same teams for the title. That was just a ladder match, but they actually did use tables and chairs. This match looks to be a carbon copy of that one (my prediction: Jeff Hardy will do a swanton bomb off a ladder to some insane depth below, possibly onto a table), which isn't necessarily bad. However, there's almost no further angle development here. Edge and Christian are bad guys, and they have the titles now, but nothing else is different, and the other two teams don't seem to like them just because. If anyone, it's The Acolytes who should still have a beef with the champs, who duped them out of the titles cheaply.

Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit in a best two-of-three falls match. Not so many pay-per-views ago, the WWF was afraid that the crowd would fall asleep during Benoit and Jericho's superb submission match. This month, they're afraid they'll fall asleep during the irrelevant first two falls of a match where the third fall will obviously mean everything. Truth is, the WWF is still wrong -- Jericho and Benoit will again wow the fans into following the whole thing on the edge of their seats.

The Rock vs. Kurt Angle vs. Triple H for the heavyweight title. About two years ago, the WWF had a problem. They didn't have enough main eventers, not by a long-shot. Steve Austin had lost his title to and Kane and then won it back, then defended it against Undertaker, then teamed with Undertaker against Kane and Mankind, then defended it against Undertaker again, and uh oh, we're getting repetitive. So Austin then had to fight both Kane and Undertaker, which was about as good as it sounds, and they pinned him at once, forcing him to referee their match against each other for the title the following month. Well, I don't think it'll really happen here, but the same kind of match is being built. Teased but not incredibly deep tension has been built between Kurt Angle and Triple H, but ultimately they're best buds compared to their feelings for The Rock, who will essentially be fighting a two-on-one battle for most of the night.

If Angle and Helmsley double-choke-slam The Rock for the win, then I'll really be right.

All in all, SummerSlam doesn't look like a bad card. Neither did most of its matches, divided amongst WWF pay-per-views over the past two years, either.

Here's the mail.

Michael Chow, from michow@infomatch.com, writes:
"Don't know if anyone's mentioned this yet, but does the new Kane (with the darker costume) look a lot like the Big Show? The potbelly, the lazy walk, and the mannerisms are all there. 'Kane's' mask doesn't even fit properly like it used to. And why hasn't he said anything lately? I don't know how this will work out, or if it's even true. Just an observation from a casual viewer."

That's exactly why I object so much when Kane is pitted against The Big Show! It's like having two clones of the same slow, prodding 'athlete' in the ring at the same time, and it's a surefire recipe for boredom and sleep.

Tony Brice, from bricetony@hotmail.com, writes:
"Eric: I am a long-time wrestling fan and I was wondering if you could tell me what in today's wrestling makes a wrestler a 'face' and what makes a wrestler a 'heel'. It used to be that you know the reason wrestlers like Ricky Steamboat, the Von Erichs, and Dusty Rhodes were fan favourites because they followed the rules, and wrestlers like the Four Horsemen, the Free Birds, Devastation Inc., and my all-time favorite The Sheik were heels because they broke the rules. But today everyone breaks the rules and for me the lines are blurred as to who's who. Can you help clear this up for me? Also I am not as big of a wrestling fan as I used to be but with the changes in WCW (which is my favourite) I am starting to get excited about wrestling again. Some of my favorite wrestlers are: Lance Storm, Shane "The Franchise" Douglas, and Jeff 'The Chosen One' Jarrett in WCW, Chris Benoit, Tazz, and Triple H in the WWF, I think The Rock is obnoxious and that the only finishing move that is more lame than the 'People's Elbow' is 'The Worm', I also like ECW a lot. I know this long and I thank you for time."

I think that The Rock, twenty years ago, would have been unquestionably a heel. I also think that represents most of the changes that have taken place between then and now. It's okay to be obnoxious, now, as long as you do it to the heels. To be a heel today, all you have to do is insult the crowd or attack a more popular face. That's pretty much the only way. Beating up women, brutally and violently attacking your foe, cheating, and being obnoxious are as much face traits as they are heel tendancies nowadays.

Personally, I just root for whomever I enjoy watching more -- heel or face. In the WCW, that means Lance Storm, Jeff Jarrett (who will always be 'Double J' to me), and Booker T, and in the WWF, it's Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, and Edge and Christian. I don't care who they insult. They make me laugh, and that's all it takes.

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, thanks for the great -- as usual -- feedback and comments, and everything else. Have yourself a great week!

Send email to ebenner@hotmail.com.


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