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Deconstructing the Road to Summerslam ’14

I said my goodbyes not realizing I was a few weeks ahead of
schedule for school, so I am going to be around for longer. How long will
depend on how hard my classes are this semester. It is unlikely I will be
writing anymore DVD reviews, though. Even if my classes are easy, I will still
not have enough time.
Summerslam is two weeks away. That means there are two Monday
Night Raws left to influence people to buy it. This Summerslam, because of the
Network’s underwhelming numbers, might be the most important one yet.
Therefore, WWE’s product should be hot right now from both a creative and
wrestlers’ performance standpoint. This week’s Raw showed little signs of that,
though. With the exception of the main event, its build for Summerslam was
dubious at best.
Let’s now take a look at all the important matches for
Summerslam.
Lesnar and Cena’s angle launched due to the Authority hating
Cena as champion so much, that they made a deal with their former enemies to get
the title off him. The story would have been better and made more sense if
Daniel Bryan had not been injured.  While
HHH had plenty of reasons to hate Bryan, he has not many reasons to hate
Cena. His resentment towards him has been forced and vague, to say in the least. It has made his authority gimmick less dimensional, because he is hating on a babyface who is best for business. And unlike all the other GM Authority people, HHH was refreshing because his character was more than hating the babyfaces for the sake of it. His character was  multifaceted because he only hated merely on the babyfaces that he thought weren’t good for business. In essence, the creative staff inserted Cena in Bryan’s original role – in
spite of it making no sense.
The story has fortunately moved away from that nonsense, as
the vocal point is now about it being a huge fight. To build it up as one, WWE
took a page out of the UFC’s playbook by using a similar array of video packages
and sit down interviews. There is no doubt about it that Cena’s happy-go-lucky persona can be very annoying,
although it does make things mean more when he becomes super serious. Due to playtime
being over, it emphasizes how big of a threat Lesnar is to Cena. Speaking of Brock,
he should never talk on a live microphone again. The difference between him
talking backstage and live are night and day, coming off excessively  more intimidating in taped interviews.
Ultimately, they have added in realism, continuity, and red-hot
heat into this.  Similar to an episode of
Seinfeld where Constanta does everything opposite from his natural instincts, WWE
has built this from doing the opposite of what they would normally do.
Unlike the UFC, though, this is trying to be ultra-serious in
the face of there being tons of silliness around it. It is difficult to take
something seriously when there is a wannabe ballroom dancer who is sexually
dancing with a bald midget on the same show. Raw is flooded with so much tawdry
and childish humor that is becoming hard to take anything seriously on its show
anymore. Comic relief has its place in wrestling, but it has to be sporadic and
actually funny for it to work. In sum, the comedy has become counterproductive
and a hindrance to things that are meant to be taken seriously.
Because of how well booked the Stephanie and Brie’s feud has
been, it has not been a projected disaster. They perfectly nailed the arrested
segment, as Stephanie’s behavior was on-point. While people love to hate and
cheer against her, it is hard to rally behind Brie. Even though she has not
been as terrible as predicted, her poor delivery on the microphone and
monotonous demeanor does not make her out to be a great foil for Steph. If she
were replaced with a babyface whom people cared about and could wrestle, while someone
replaced Stephanie with someone that had an awesome heel character like herself
but could wrestle as well – the suspense for this match would be off the
charts. 
However, the McMahon’s have always had a knack for booking themselves
in a spot where they can accentuate their strengths and hide their
weaknesses. It will be interesting to see if they can book this in a manner
that makes it entertaining.
HHH was supposed to wrestle Roman Reigns at Summerslam, but it
was put on delay because WWE is going to stack Night of Champions to make people
consider renewing their membership. Unless WWE comes up with a fascinating
story, nobody is going to renew their subscription to see HHH vs. Roman Reigns,
though. At any rate, it was confirmed that Randy Orton would take on Roman
Reigns at Summerslam instead.
So far, this feud has been an example of a major problem
within. WWE thinks a story needs to add a new layer to it every week, resulting
in feuds being marred by superfluous angles. Also, a ton of ideas have become hackneyed
from being recycled continuously within a short period of time –and clichéd booking
is now unfortunately at an all-time high from no-brand separation and three
hours of Raw to fill.
Theoretically, a storyline should be no different from a
movie trailer. Both should provide a sample size of things to come to create
intrigue and a sensation of wanting more. When done properly, they can be two powerful
tools that can cause people to pay to see it. Also, wrestlers who have a series
of matches need something to happen to ensure the next one will be even better.
 TV matches can actually buildup a PPV
match, contrary to popular belief. Ziggler and Miz gave an example of that
three weeks ago. They had a condensed, fun match that left viewers wanting to
see more. That causes people to imagine how grander their title match on PPV might
be with more time and significance. In regards to the Reigns/Orton feud, though,
the booking and the wrestlers have both failed to accomplish those two things. This
has overstayed its welcome, and their matches have been tedious and bloated –both
of which have caused a resentment towards their upcoming match.
This feud has also brought up another problem in WWE: beatdown
segments are not prospering into much of anything anymore. Back in the territorial
days, a good old fashion beat down could cultivate into a long, hot feud where
the plucky babyface sought for revenge over the malicious heel and finally culminated
in a bloodshed battle where the heel paid for his sins. Nowadays, we are
fortunate if Cena is does not make a mockery of it a beating the next week–
never mind him actually selling it or cutting a revenge promo.
That alluded problem was brought up when Randy Orton beat
the holy hell out of Reigns two weeks ago. The segment that was well received among
the critics, yet the beat down had next-to-no purpose by the next week. Instead
of using it to enrich the story, Reigns brushed it off as if it did not even
affect him. So even with a blindsided attack, Orton could not damage him.  The heel becomes irrelevant when the hero becomes
invincible; when the hero is invincible, there are no signs of endangerment;
and when there are no signs of endangerment nothing is engaging nor suspenseful.
Besides, Reigns defeating someone that a poses no threat to
him is not going to get him more over. Any amount of extensive offense Orton obtains
on him will impair his credibility, to be honest. They booked themselves in a
corner here, with the only logical way Reigns can become more over is if he
squashes Orton.  They would have avoided
this situation if only Reigns had just sold the beatdown.
Hell, they could have even taken it a step further. They
could have advised him not to wrestle at Summerslam. Then, he would have looked
courageous by going against the doctor’s will. Orton would also be made into a
threat and his extended offense would not be damaging to Reigns. Their match would
also be unlike their former ones because of the distinctive story. If this was all
done thoroughly, Orton’s extensive heat segment beatdown on Regins’ injury
could have garnered some sympathy for him and made him look like a stouthearted
combatant when he overcame the injury and won.
Now, we are shifting from a feud that booked itself into a corner
to a feud that is being booked backwards. Yes, I am talking about Bray Wyatt
vs. Chris Jericho.  Due to his year
absence, Jericho needed to regain some credibility in order for it to mean something
when he puts Wyatt over. Instead of holding off on their feud, so that Jericho can
win some matches and beat someone else at Battleground, they gave Jericho
credibility via defeating the same exact wrestler who he is trying to get over.
The decision is even stupider when it is put into perspective, to be honest.
In a feeble attempt to build up their rematch, Jericho has defeated
both Harper and Rowan –disqualifying both from ringside due to the
stipulations. Of course, this story would have made more sense if Harper and
Rowan cost Jericho his match at Battleground, although WWE adding something to a
feud that does not call for it has become their modus operandi.  It is also worth noting that Wyatt’s promos
are becoming so incoherent that the message is rather difficult to understand.  There is nothing wrong with him trying to be mysterious,
but his actions are becoming much too vague from his hard-to-follow promos. Up
until this point, this feud has just damaged the Wyatt Family even more.
Finally yet importantly, it is time to tackle the Seth
Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose feud.  This can
be best described as being a mixed bag. Dean Ambrose’s madcap persona has been
a shining diamond stuck up a cow pie. He has been the best defiant-hero in WWE
since Stone Cold Steve Austin, as his promos and just overall mannerisms are so
good that he is always causing people to want more of them. He has been the
highlight of Raw for the best several of months – with Paul Heyman being the only
individual that has come close to topping him.
They have been feuding with each other on a week-to-week
basis with minimal letup since June, yet not once have they wrestled a singles
match. The ultimate purpose of this feud has become so encrusted that is now an
afterthought. And the bait-and-switch at Battleground did not help this at all,
as put a sour taste in many of the fans’ mouth – no matter how much Andy PG disagrees
about it.
Yet again, Dean Ambrose was on point this week. His loose
cannon persona is so refreshing, and it has escalated to a point where it is unsure
what he is going to do next. His range and unpredictability are what has made him
into such a dynamic character.  However,
creative has let these two down again. Out of all the stipulations Dean Ambrose
could have picked, he picked a Lumberjack one. In context, it makes sense –
Seth Rollins will not be able to run away from a beating of a lifetime –
although it is so difficult to pull off an awesome lumberjack match, and it doesn’t strike as being appropriate for such a heated feud. And why didn’t
Ambrose force Seth Rollins put up his MITB briefcase on the line – especially when they were hinting at it on Monday Night Raw? In hindsight,
it is better to hold off on that until Night of Champions, assuming that the
blow off will be in and at  Hell in the Cell. Still, it is an example of what has become so
frustrating with this company: their inability to try to pave all the crevices
in their stories. They tend to have giant plot holes in them – as their booking
wants to go from point A to D by vaguely covering points B and C.
So, those are the important matches at Summerslam. The other
ones so far are Dolph Ziggler vs. Miz for the IC title, Paige vs. AJ Lee for
the Divas title, and Jack Swagger vs Rusev in a flag match. Overall, this is a good,
almost great, looking card. With the exception of Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena – the
booking has been inconsistent, though. One week an angle is firing on all cylinders,
but then the next week it is as cold as ice.  
Obviously, they still have two weeks to hard sell this PPV. They
need to get moving as quickly as possible, though, because time is in the essence.
They especially need to put on a compelling go home show, which has been a
major weakness in the company for a while now. Those shows are leaving its viewers with a bloated feeling, as opposed to an eagerness feeling, heading towards the said month’s special event. Even Wrestlemania 30’s
go-home show was poor – and that is saying something. And one must assume that
poor go home shows can put a big damper on a PPV’s buyrate/the network.
Even though Summerslam appears to be a good show, WWE has
failed to make it look like a “cannot miss” show. Which is what they desperately need Summerslam to look like.