Solid but unspectacular is how Summerslam 2012 is likely to be remembered; from a wrestling standpoint, every match was decent to very good (although nothing touching a classic) but overall it lacked a certain something to make it a truly rewarding event. Things got off to a promising start, with Jericho v Ziggler opening the proceedings. Although it took the crowd a few minutes to warm up, once Y2J and Ziggler starting exchanging reversals and big moves, and getting in some convincing near-falls, they soon got into it. The bout was evenly paced, with the advantage swinging between them, and almost all the sequences impeccably timed, with only one spot being noticeably botched. Jericho eventually managed to get one step ahead of Dolph, dodging his charge and sending him into the turnbuckle, before applying The Walls for the victory. All in all, it was probably the most entertaining and heated match on the card. But with Dolph seemingly on the ascent again and in need of the stature enhancing win, it seemed odd the Y2J was booked to go over completely cleanly (Ziggler taped pretty quick too), especially considering he is rumoured to on tour with Fozzy again soon. To be fair, the audience was soundly behind Jericho and popped for his win, but where does this leave Ziggler going forward? At this rate, by the time Dolph cashes in MITB, he is going to look like an undeserving opportunist who the fans won’t want to back; WWE made this mistake with Punk in 2009, and soon after jobbed him out and bumped him back down the card for several more months.
Match number two, in which Daniel Bryan scored his first singles win over Kane, was also very watchable. Bryans interactions with the crowd, where he has now realised ‘Yes’ chant is to take the piss and instead chants ‘No’ back at them, is very funny but is holding him back in my opinion. If they want to use Bryan in the title picture again, he needs to be presented more seriously. That said it did make sure the fans were always engaged with match, which was one of Kane’s best ever non-gimmicked singles bouts. The Big Red Machine even threw in some rarely seen moves by him, including a seated dropkick which Bryan took like a pro, and seemed to be revelling in working with someone as talented as Bryan. Given 5 more minutes, I think they could have stole the show, as they never quite got into 5th gear, but instead we got a cheap ending where Bryan scored a surprise role up on Kane, which was presumably done to pro-long rivalry. Some sort of gimmick match, such as a Cage or Last Man Standing, at NOTC would be good way to draw a line under this.
Next up, The Miz successfully defended his IC Championship against Rey Misterio, which seemed to have been thrown together to fill space. Indeed, there didn’t seem to be any reason behind the match-up whatsoever. Because of this, the crowd didn’t really give a toss, and were silent between only the closest of near falls. Nevertheless, both did work hard to try and get them on side, and pulled off some nifty looking counters and reversals. The Miz even managed to kick out of the 619, which made a few people look up. Eventually Miz scored the clean win with the Skull Crushing Finale. It must be said, The Miz’s heel mannerisms were very good, and he seemed more serious and focused than previously. Maybe WWE should stick to the push this time, because The Miz has what it takes to be a credible upper mid-card heel threat.
Sheamus Vs Alberto Del Rio had some of the weirdest booking going in that I’ve ever seen. It began logically enough, with the upper class Del Rio finding the roughish Sheamus a disagreeable fit for World Champion; then, for some reason, the match was called off (ostensibly due to Del Rio attacking Sheamus, but I’m not sure…) before being reinstated again on the Smackdown before the PPV, which only aired two days ahead of Summerslam. All of which meant that the fans weren’t sure virtually until the weekend SS was scheduled whether the battle would even take place. This made the audience fairly indifferent when the match-up did get underway. They were solidly behind Sheamus no doubt, but for whatever reason, Del Rio doesn’t generate the heat he should. He has the look, the in-ring ability and heel charisma but the fans don’t seem to care. There is something fundamentally lacking in ADR and WWE needs to figure out what it is soon. The match itself was decent enough but given that a screwy finish was scripted (Del Rio had his foot on the rope as the fall was counted), I can assume WWE intends to keep this rivalry going. Maybe the can reheat things with ADR gaining a more vicious streak, and things culminating in some sort of gimmick match at NOTC.
To give us a breather before the two main events, WWE threw in a Tag Team Championship between Kofi Kingston & R-Truth and The Primetime Players. As ever, the Tag titles were a total afterthought, and they were only given a few minutes to work with. The crowd was a bit flat again, possibly because Primetime have less heat without AW, and also because neither team has been featured prominently in the build up to Summerslam. Kingston and R-Truth surprisingly retained, in spite of the predictions of all of us here at the blog. After that, C M Punk had the unenviable job of trying to carry John Cena and The Big Show to a watchable match; to the amazement of everyone he by-and-large succeeded. It wasn’t excellent, but the best you could hope for given the participants. Big Show logically dominated most of match, before Punk and Cena managed to wear him down and both lock on a submission at the same time. Show tapped, but it wasn’t clear who won, so AJ came out and restarted the match. Whilst this normally would have hindered things, the diversion actually helped increase the heat, and led to a good near fall when Show recovered with a double chokeslam. It wasn’t enough to either down though, and Cena recovered enough to hit the Attitude Adjustment on Show; the ever canny Punk though quickly threw Cena out of the ring, and picked up the pin on Show instead. Where this leaves Punk feud-wise, I’ve no idea; hopefully they’ll move on to a new opponent for him altogether. I’ve no wish to see him wrestle either Show or Cena one-on-one any time soon. Orton would be the logical choice for me, if WWE can help define a face character for him that fans really connect with.
Last up was the most anticipated match for me personally; HHH and Lesnar never feuded during Lesnar’s original WWE run, and they seemed like good opponents to me. You wouldn’t have guessed during most of the build up to their bout mind you, with Lesnar virtually absent throughout and the main issues revolving around a contract dispute, which wasn’t stirring the interest in many fans. Things got better on RAW 1000 and angle with HBK, but by that point it seemed too little to late for most. This showed in the reactions from the live audience; they barely reacted to Brock at all, and there was a mix of cheers and boos for The Game. The action itself was stiff and hard hitting, and they told a psychologically sound story, with Lesnar going after the arm and HHH retaliating with blows to the stomach (Lesnar almost died from the intestinal disorder Diverticulitis in 2009). They brawled around ringside and Lesnar hit a few impressive suplexes but they crowd stayed quiet. Things picked up late in when Lesnar kicked out of a Pedigree; HHH scored the move again but Lesnar reversed Hunters pinning attempt into a Kimura for the tap out win. The mostly muted crowd meant they couldn’t capture the ‘big match’ atmosphere they were aiming for; I cant help thinking one of HHH’s awarding-winning blade jobs would have generated the heat needed, or maybe an appearance from HBK. As it was, the main event left me wanting, and probably left most younger or newer WWE fans wondering what all the fuss about Lesnar is. For me personally it is getting harder to explain too; all I can say is you had to experience the first time round really, when he seemed like a breath of fresh air.
Overall Summerslam 2012, whilst mostly boasting high quality wrestling action, lacked in far too many other areas to make it a stand-out PPV. There did not seem to be one truly engaging storyline going in, and this had a knock on effect on the crowd, who mostly barely reacted to the goings on; WWE didn’t start any new ones on the show either, and gave no indication what they have planned going through Autumn towards Survivor Series. The booking during the build up was often baffling (especially Sheamus/ADR feud) and a few of the results on the night were questionable (really can’t work out why Jericho defeated Ziggler). But possibly most bizarrely of all, why was nothing made of Summerslam’s 25th anniversary? WWE used nostalgia to tremendous results with RAW 1000 and it could have worked a treat here. Consider it another case of ‘opportunity missed’ by WWE.