Before last night's WWE SummerSlam at the Staples Center it had been 14 years since I attended a wrestling event. I used to be a pretty big WWE (then WWF) fan; renting tapes of old specials, playing the awful SNES game and scrutinize magazine rankings (where's the love for Razor Ramon?!). And of course watching copious amounts of RAW and all the good jazz that came with it. If yesterday proved anything it's that I've been away for too long.
The 15,000 in attendance were treated to a bonus match before the 4:45 PPV went air. The match was between... uhh, I don't exactly remember. They were lower-tier wrestlers who performed okay. It was a decent appetizer for those hungry for action.
After the initial pyrotechnics show Staples Center filled with smoke for about ten minutes, which looked awesome. Also the giant TV monitor malfunctioned for awhile; the screens down the middle went black (which you can see in the above photo).
The first official fight on the night was for the Intercontinental Championship. Dolph Ziggler and the challenger and crowd favorite Kofi Kingston (because h e's black??) performed okay. The match culminated with The Nexus rushing from the seats and bashing Kofi. Watching it live and it in person it was pretty wild to see seven buff dudes bumrush another buff dude and (pretend to) beat the crap out of him. If anything it added further fuel to the impending Team WWE-The Nexus showdown.
Next was Alicia Fox versus Melina, who looked like she was dressed for Carnival. This was the token Divas match and the least interesting twenty minutes of the night. Melina ended up victorious and tried to look emotional winning one of two fake WWE women's championship belts. It sorta worked. What surely would have been a heartfelt speech was ruined by LayCool, the tag team chaps and the two baddest bitches in the ring.
The Big Show is listed at 485 pounds. Even from a distance it's crazy how behemoth of a man he is. He eventually beat down the trio called SES. Actually The Big Show pinned two of them; Punk ran away. I don't know who the SES chick was but during the intro she kept screaming "excuse me!" while trying to speak, which predictably led the audience to scream whatever insults it fancied. Good times.
At some point during the show The Miz showed up and went on a ten-minute rant about how basically he's awesome (!!!) and everyone else sucks. He then declared that he would help Team WWE defeat The Nexus later on. I'm selling it short with my recap but it really was quite the speech.
Sheamus versus Randy Orton (probably the most popular wrestler with the LA crowd) was in my opinion the best fight of the match. First of all it was for the highest prize in the game, the WWE Championship. Secondly the level of intensity and wrestling was great and sustained. This was a long, arduous fight that culminated with a Sheamus DQ for a chair (at least I think that's what happened). Orton lost his shit and eventually slammed Sheamus onto the announcer's table. Rage!
The second-to-last fight featured Kane vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. for the Heavyweight Championship (I think). This was billed as a vengeance match as Kane accused Rey of attacking The Undertaker on Memorial Weekend and putting him in a vegetative state. Kane was so furious that he rolled out a casket before the match, promising to close it on Rey. Mysterio professed his innocence, claiming it was Kane who brained his brother. Kane, Cain?
The battle itself was fairly interesting. The contrasting styles between the hulking Kane and the acrobatic Mysterio was hot and cold. Seeing Rey jump on Kane and twirl around was spectacular.
Eventually Kane dropped a couple choke slams and was primed to dump Rey's ranchera corpse into an eternal of burning and suffering. Kane opened the empty coffin but the mercurial Mexican escaped! Some scuffling ensued, including Kane almost crashing into the coffin. The giant shut the lid and promptly Tomestone'd Mysterio. Finally, we would see someone stuffed into the damn coffin.
When Kane opened the lid again... The Undertaker was inside! No doubt the most thunderous applause were reserved for when The Prince of Darkness emerged. Of course I was wondering how the hell a 7-foot man lied relatively still for almost half an hour. I'm guess he sneaked under the ring before the match, then rolled into the coffin (which sat atop a draped table) on cue. But anyway... The Undertaker looked menacingly at Rey... before turning to his brother! Sibling wars! Kane usurped his brother once again, Tomestone'ing him. Fade to black.
Finally, the main event. The Nexus vs. Team WWE. After The Nexus took to the ring the WWE was announced one by one, starting with its leader John Cena. Bret The Hitman Hart received a well-deserved roar from the crowd. It was weird seeing a superstar from my childhood wearing a t-shirt to cover his gut. Other superstars included The Edge and Chris Jericho. When The Miz showed up he was promptly booted by the John Cena and replaced by Daniel Bryant... who I guess is a great wrestler and got kicked out of wrestling? These fake storylines are confusing.
The fight itself was good. Predictably it went back and forth until only The Baron and John Cena remained. Cena, who had been pummeled by The Nexus as well as The Edge and Jericho (due to extenuating circumstances and accidental friendly fire), fooled The Baron for a quick takedown.
Highlights during the melee included Hitman performing a Sharpshooter, then promptly getting DQ'ed for picking up a folding chair. The Miz also ran in and took out one of the WWE stars while the ref wasn't looking.
But the story of the match was Cena. He crowd loved or hated him, chants alternating between "Go Cena!" and "Cena Sucks! While not the greatest technical wrestler to ever grace the ring he demonstrated why he's a star. He has it. He's willing to have 20,000 pairs of eyes on him and accept the task of entertaining, make people believe this is real. When he pumped up the crowd during the match, people believed. When John was mobbed outside the ring, crashing against the step steels and slammed against the concrete floor people winced (okay, that stuff might have been really painfully). And after Cena emerged victoriously he stayed in the ring for five minutes to thank the crowd. And it responded.
Hell, even his upcoming wrestling movie with Patricia Clarkson and Danny Glover looks decent.
All in all it was a helluva fun time. Certainly more fun than the dozen or so Clippers games I've been to at the Staples Center. On my way out I couldn't help notice the kids sitting next to me. I was once like them; easily excitable from watching grown men pretend to beat the shit out of each other. And for one night I reverted to my former self. Thanks SummerSlam. Hope to see you next year.