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SummerSlam, and Other Weekend News...
August 23, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


The biggest item of business today is to run down the SummerSlam pay-per-view card... but towards the end of the page, I'll also throw in a few brief NewsBites for you.  Enjoy!

SummerSlam PPV Preview

On Sunday, WWE presents the 15th edition of SummerSlam, the show that rapidly became the Fed's #2 annual event after its debut in 1988.  Survivor Series may have come earlier, and Royal Rumble may feature a special once-a-year match that's always a big draw... but it's SummerSlam that has that aura of being almost an off-season "WrestleMania"; or maybe it's just because SummerSlam was (or for a lot of you, "is") the last big party before you had to get back to school?

Whatever the reason, this is a PPV that always generates a bit more interest than usual.  And this year, it's interest that is well earned.  Sunday's show has the potential to be nothing short of outstanding.  Seven out of the eight announced matches would have the chance to stand out as "match of the night" on a lesser card.  Alright, maybe that's a slight exagerration... but I am stoked for this show!

Let's go match-by-match and take a look at the as-announced card for Sunday's SummerSlam PPV:

THE ROCK vs. BROCK LESNAR (Undisputed Title)

It's nearly here:  the end of Project Lesnar, Phase 1.  It happens to coincide with the end of the Rock's run as a regular, every-week WWE performer.

When Lesnar debuted just about five months ago, he was immediately booked as an unstoppable monster.  At any time, though, the Fed could have decided "this isn't working" and pulled the plug.  Instead, Project Lesnar went full-speed ahead, and Brock was crowned King of the Ring in June.  By winning that tourney, he also earned a shot at the undisputed champion at SummerSlam.  While marking time for the two months since earning the shot, Lesnar's been very active:  he's begun speaking on TV, and more importantly, he's been letting his actions (like leaving Hulk Hogan in a pool of his own blood) do his talking for him.  SummerSlam will mark the culmination of about five months worth of promotional work:  either Lesnar will lose and the project is over, or he'll win, and we'll enter Phase Two.

From the Rock's side of things, he's looking at entering a new phase of his career after SummerSlam, too.  He begins filming a new movie in mid-September, and has other projects in the pipeline.  He's said in interviews that Hollywood is where he intends to do the majority of his work from now on, though he should remain a sporadic special event performer for WWE.  A month and a half ago, the Rock returned from a mini-hiatus, and promptly managed to defeat the Undertaker for the Undisputed Title.  Now he finds himself face-to-face with Brock Lesnar as his number of dates for WWE dwindle.

Of course, WWE is more inclined to focus on the Lesnar side of the story, since it's the more compelling one.  Plus, admitting that you're soon to be losing a top star is never a good idea...  but it's worth noting that the Rock isn't necessarily gone when SummerSlam wraps up tonight.  He's got a window of another week or two in which he can still be active on WWE TV.

If the Fed, for whatever reason, decides to play it safe, they could keep the title on Rock on Sunday... and let somebody else -- somebody more proven -- do the honors of deflowering the Rock.  But in my mind, to do so would be foolish.  Is Brock Lesnar the best in-ring performer in the company?  No.  Is he the most compelling character?  No.  But they've put five months of effort into this guy, and if he does not win Sunday, it's five months effort wasted.  I may not be Brock Lesnar's biggest fan, but I am a huge supporter of making the smart promotional move.  So I say, keep Lesnar rolling, at least for another month or two so he can have the big pay-off match against Hulk Hogan... and if it's obviously not working at that point, THEN you can pull the plug.

You've got all this stuff playing out, drama-wise, and with the Rock, you'd probably be guaranteed a hot crowd, anyway... but from an in-ring action perspective, I think we'll be OK, too.  Brock still hasn't shown us half of what he'll eventually have in the arsenal (think "Shooting Star Press"!), but his moveset is crisp and convincing.  Rocky can do the main event brawling style, but can also throw in some suplexes and wrestling holds.  Paul Heyman should be a useful prop at ringside, too.  I don't anticipate any lulls in the action, nor an abundance of missed spots.

My Prediction:  the smart play is to put the title on Brock, and it's the play I think the Fed will make.  Maybe not a totally clean win, so they can squeeze a free TV rematch out of Brock and Rock before Rocky goes to Hollywood, but a decisive one.

SHAWN MICHAELS vs. TRIPLE H (Unsanctioned)

There's probably a couple different ways to try to tell this story.  One would involve going all the way back to 1995, when "the Clique" was practically running the then-WWF.  The other extreme would be to stick to the most recent return of Shawn Michaels and his betrayal at the hands of Triple H.

I like historical context, so I think I'll at least tell SOME of the ancient history:  Michaels and HHH were part of the backstage "clique" that had massive political clout back in the mid-90s.  When Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Sean "Syxx" Waltman left for WCW, that left only HBK and HHH in the WWF.  Though the departures diluted their power, Michaels and HHH remained pals and remained political allies.  Eventually, from a storyline perspective, this led to them teaming up on-screen as Degeneration X.  Michaels, HHH, and Chyna were DX for about six months, until WrestleMania 14.  That event marked Michaels' last match ever in the WWF; he dropped the WWF Title to Steve Austin, and disappeared, the victim of a chronically bad back.

HHH picked up the pieces, however, and DX came back stronger than ever.  The additions of the New Age Outlaws and the returning Sean "X-Pac" Waltman soon proved to effective that the group had to turn babyface.  They chugged along for about a year, until HHH turned heel and set his sights on becoming World Champion in 1999.  Of course, we all know that that mission turned out alright for Hunter...

Through it all, Michaels would make periodic returns... a guest ref here, an assist to HHH there, a brief run as commissioner thrown in for good measure.  But he never stuck around long enough to make himself into a key part of any storyline.  Until a few months ago.

When Michaels came back to join the nWo, it was a different sort of vibe than his previous comebacks.  This time, an in-ring return was being openly discussed as a real possibility (in fact, just such a return had been aborted about a year ago, after Michaels had already signed a new contract with WWE).  If I'd had to wager a guess, I'd say that HBK vs. HHH was the plan from the get-go, though I'm sure that the collapse of the nWo may have resulted in a shake-up of the particulars.  [And it's worth noting that Michaels maintains he had no intentions of stepping back into the ring until very recently, when he pitched an idea about wrestling Vince McMahon, only to have Vince turn it around into the HHH/HBK match.]

The particulars, in this case, now had Shawn and HHH thrown together by Eric Bischoff as manager and wrestler, an arrangement that HHH didn't much care for, I guess.  When Shawn tried to smooth things over by setting up a return of DX, Hunter responded by Pedigreeing him.  When Shawn wanted to confront Hunter about that cheapshot, he got beaten and bloodied by HHH in a parking lot attack.  Finally, it was too much for Michaels, who -- after four and a half years on the shelf -- issued a challenge to HHH.  HHH accepted, and the end result is what is being billed not as a wrestling match, but as an "unsanctioned fight."  

The anything-goes stipulation should mean that whatever deficiencies Michaels has after his lengthy lay-off should be easily masked by any number of foreign objects or all-over-the-arena brawling.  Clearly, this will not be an old-style HBK match in which he bumps all over the ring like a super ball... but I also suspect there's more in Michaels' tank than we've seen so far.  Some took Monday's sloppy plancha as a bad sign... but I say that's an insufficient sample size to base any assumptions on.  

If, after Sunday's match, Michaels has missed more spots that badly, then we'll talk.  But for now, I think I'll give the benefit of the doubt.  The moveset may be pared down, but I think once Michaels is settled in, he won't miss much on Sunday.  And what we do get should be compellingly presented, with solid pyschology and 110% effort.  The cliquesters always did do their best work against each other, afterall...

My Prediction:  every ounce of logic would seem to dictate that HHH should win on Sunday.  Combined with the fact that he's clearly a political powerhouse backstage, and the guy CAN'T LOSE, right?  Michaels will fight the good fight, but I think he's gotta go down... unless he's already committed to being a semi-regular in-ring performer (a la Ric Flair's current schedule), in which case I'm working from a faulty assumption. 

CHRIS BENOIT vs. ROB VAN DAM (InterContinental Title)

If the top two matches hinge on intrigue and storylines for their sizzle, then this is the part of the card where we just put two guys in the ring and tell 'em to go for 20 minutes.  Benoit's flat-out tremendous in all in-ring aspects, and RVD's got the spectacular repertoire and fan support to make this something special.

Benoit got a shot at Van Dam's IC Title a month ago, and won the match via shady means.  Three days later, he defected to the SmackDown! roster, probably in hopes of avoiding a rematch against Van Dam.  But not so fast, Benoit!  There was a guaranteed return match in the contract, even if it means having a RAW vs. SmackDown! match at the PPV.

There's been very little since the title change a month ago to happen between these two, storyline-wise.  But like I said, the real selling point of this match is, well, the match itself.  Although these two have not worked extensively with each other, I don't see any reason why this shouldn't be absolutely outstanding.

My Prediction:  both Benoit and SmackDown! will benefit more from having the IC Title than RVD or RAW would...  that doesn't mean that's the direction the Fed will go, but it does mean that's what I'll base my prediction on.  And this time, I think RVD should tap out (hey, it didn't kill the Rock's career, did it?)...


And then we move right on to what I think is the match I'm most looking forward to... with both guys really over and really good at what they do, it's hard to call this a sleeper.  But somehow, it seems like it is (unfairly) being overshadowed on this card.  

Kurt Angle is, flat-out, the best all-around talent in WWE right now, combining great mic work with some of the company's best in-ring efforts.  Working with Rey has already given him the chance to showcase the former ("You must be THIS TALL to talk to Kurt Angle"), and on Sunday, there will be ample opportunity to display the latter.

Mysterio has, at least during his first month in the company, broken firmly out of the cruiserweight mold to play with the big boys.  His hot new ring entrance has also contributed just as much as his hot matches to him getting over big with fans.  He picked the right summer, I think, to bring elements of Spider-Man to the table!  By pinning Angle in a tag match -- and then by causing Angle to lose another match to Billy Kidman -- Mysterio's also gotten a big assist from the creative team, too.

My Prediction:  Angle's not gonna lose on Sunday, but hopefully, the story-telling will come across loud and clear and go something like this...  Rey Mysterio wrestled his heart out, almost won a few times, but in the end, he had to tap out.


Going back to last November, when Flair returned to the WWF, I thought this could be a money feud.  The war of the words, I figured, would be gold, and then the in-ring pay-off should be solid, too.  Now that the Fed's gotten around to doing it, it hasn't been quite that riveting...  but it's had it's moments.

In fact, the lack of a war of words has probably been part of the problem.  Though what we've gotten (especially out of Jericho) has been super, there have been 10 minute promos wasted on other guys that might have really helped push this program over the top.  And Flair's gotten almost NO rebuttal time:  he's been relegated to pantsing Jericho, hitting him with trashcans, and smashing guitars.  But little to no mic time...

Still, the pay-off on Sunday should be big.  Flair's getting by mostly on just hitting his big spots (a lot of chops, flopping, and working on the knee to set up the Figure Four), but they are big spots that should pop the crowd.  And Jericho's really good, so it's not like Flair's working with the proverbial broom handle.

My Prediction:  god, I hate to sound like a broken record, but I'm taking the heel again.  Jericho cheats to win!


When Benoit and the IC Title went over to SD!, the UnAmericans (with their freshly won tag titles) defected to RAW.  They dispatched the Hardy Boyz, which left Booker and Goldust as pretty much the sole established tag team to contend with.  Well, after Booker T beat Lance Storm in a singles match, the tag title match was set.

The UnAmericans have actually been on a role the past two weeks, besting the opposition in eight- and six-man tag matches (including Christian pinning Goldust on RAW this past week).  But I'm not so sure that the jig isn't up...  the odd couple of Booker and Goldust are one of the more consistently entertaining parts of RAW, and have gotten over solidly with fans.  They might be in line for some gold.

Then again, Storm and Christian won the belts by beating no less a team than Hulk Hogan and Edge, so it's not like they're massively over-matched.  With the pro-USA crowd heat and the overall talent level of those involved here, I think the one thing we can be certain of is that we'll have ourselves yet another nice little match, here...

My Prediction:  my gut says Booker and Goldust, but my brain says, "Wait!  It makes more sense to keep the titles on Storm and Christian," since Booker and Goldust have more potential as singles then the UnAmericans do.  I'll go with...  the brain, even though it means picking six of out of six heels to win.


This match was pretty quietly slapped together over the past months worth of SmackDown! mid-card matches.  In various tag team and backstage encounters, Edge found himself opposed by a number of different combinations.  But Eddie was the one constant.  

And so, we have us a match.  I am not complaining.

Like Angle/Mysterio, this is hard to label a sleeper simply because it features two very talented, very established stars.  But again, it is overshadowed by other, higher-profile matches on the card.  If there is one risk involved in this match, it's that fans will be a bit burnt out from other matches, and don't get as fired up for this one.  A dead crowd can take a lot away from even a very good contest...

My Prediction:  FINALLY, I can pick a babyface!  Edge will go over here, and then I think it should be on to an IC Title feud with Eddie's pal, Chris Benoit.


Well, here's the one out of eight that I'm not so fired up for.  The prep work for this feud was minimal, and the overall vibe is basically, "Well, we can't have a PPV without the Undertaker, so let's just throw Test at him."

They've crossed paths a few times (and Test pinned Taker in an eight-man tag match two weeks ago), and simply by confirming that he is an American, Taker's done the requisite promo work to set up this match.  Eh, whatever.

Action-wise, this actually could be a pretty good big man match... it's just that the storyline backing up said match seems more worthy of a supporting role on RAW than of a PPV slot.

My Prediction:  Taker goes over, cleanly. [There, two faces out of eight.... that's reasonable, I think.  Plus, like I said, I really wouldn't be surprised if Booker and Goldust also won to further even out the sides.]


With only eight matches announced, I think you can be fairly certain that there will be a few other things added to the show on Sunday...

Chief among them should be some sort of confrontation (or a series of vignettes, at least) between Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon.  Steph's pre-main event promo on last night's SD! indicated that the matter of who "steals the show" at SummerSlam is one of great importance to her.  I'm not sure what heuristic you could use to judge, but I anticipate that the two GMs will stage an informal competition to see who's stars deliver the goods.  [Also:  I hate to say this right when I'm taking a real liking to the non-evil, non-slutty Steph... but I think if Bischoff tried to give her a Three Minute Warning, it'd go over huge.  And it beats the hell out of the other option, which is doing some sort of Island Boyz vs. Big Show match...] 

Along the same lines:  hopefully, the announcer situation will be handled better than last month's PPV (where you had SD! guys calling RAW matches and vice versa).  Since RAW's announce table has been moved, the ideal situation would be for Ross and Lawler to sit at one table and call the RAW matches, while Tazz and Cole sit ringside at another table and call SD! matches.  Give the inter-roster IC Title match to Tazz/Cole, and let JR and King call the main event...

Possible additional matches:  the build-up to Raven vs. D'Lo Brown has happened exclusively on Heat, and my guess would be that they'll face off on the live pre-PPV edition of that show on Sunday...  a hardcore title match or women's match could easily be added, and would help pace the card so that there are "breathers" between the seven really big matches on the show... as mentioned above, an Island Boyz/Big Show match wouldn't be a ridiculous thing to expect, either, though it's also not such a promising idea...  and lastly:  it might not be a match situation, but things certainly seem to be building to the return of Kane, who has to make his decision regarding which roster he's going to commit to.

In any case, just the as-announced card is really stellar... you ought to make an effort to check this show out on Sunday night.  But if you don't, well, just come on back to OO in the 11pm hour (eastern) on Sunday, and I'll have full results from the SummerSlam PPV for you!

Weekend NewsBites

  • The overnight rating for last night's SmackDown! was a 4.7, which is up three-tenths from the previous week.  A final rating will be available in Monday's OO...
  • Ron Killings was injured during his successful NWA Title defense on Wednesday very well-received NWA-TNA PPV...  a blow to the back of his head left him unable to wrestle a match later in the evening (when TNA taped next week's show).
    No additional information is available, though TNA expects to have his services back in two weeks for their next set of tapings.
  • Tiger Ali Singh is suing WWE, claiming that WWE employees desecrated his turban and that he was forced to portray an unflatteringly stereotypical Indian character during his tenure there.
    Singh -- who says he suffered a career-ending injury wrestling at a non-WWE show last year -- is seeking $7 million in damages.  You can get the full details here.
  • Ken Shamrock is returning to the Octagon.  He'll compete at UFC 40, on November 22 in Las Vegas, facing Tito Ortiz for the UFC's Light Heavyweight Title.
    Shamrock, of course, first gained fame in UFC before transitioning to the WWF in 1997.  Since parting ways with the WWF, he's split time between pro wrestling and other shootfighting organizations besides UFC...

  • And I think that just about does it...  OO's SummerSlam coverage should start immediately after the show concludes on Sunday night, so come on back for that.  Then, on Monday, we'll add Scott's PPV Rant, plus other news and fall-out from the show.
    See you then...


Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.

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