Last night was SummerSlam, the Biggest Party of the Summer and the second biggest PPV of the year. With grudge matches, title matches and even a Ring of Fire match, should everyone feel like they got their money’s worth? That question is a lot to process, but that’s why they pay me the Mega Bucks.
For those who missed the Money in the Bank PPV review, the criteria for these is simply: “Did I get my money’s worth?” in terms of the individual matches and the PPV as a whole, using the tried and true “what was this trying to do, and how well did it succeed” rubric.
Each match is rated plus or minus on a sliding scale between 1 and -1, with matches worth multiple rewatches worth 1, a just-quite-PPV quality match being 0, and things that make me reevaluate being a fan earning up to a -1 score. The higher the number, the better Bang For Your Buck on the PPV. We’ll (eventually) keep a running tally for each PPV, and a handy list of PPVs we review to give you (and us) a better idea of what we thought was worth the time to check out in terms of matches and PPVs. As for the scale, it’s not particularly complicated but here are the basic levels (on a per-match average):
Like last month’s, we’re going to be using what I said during the What’s the Worst That Could Happen preview to see how close I was to “predicting” what unfolded, and how it stacked up to my best hopes and worst fears. Enjoy!
United States Champion Dean Ambrose vs. Rob Van Dam (Kickoff Match)
“Worst Case Scenario: Rob Van Dam isn’t sent back in time to ECW, continues wrestling regularly.”
To be honest, this match wasn’t all that terrible. It wasn’t “good”, but it definitely did its job. Most notably, it let Ambrose win, while letting The Shield and the Big Show/Mark Henry/RVD feud to continue without taking up valuable time for the Natalya vs. Brie Bella match. Of course, since this is not technically a PPV match, it won’t be included in the formula, but it’s definitely something I wouldn’t be against seeing again. For Free.
Kane vs. Bray Wyatt (Ring of Fire Match)
“What Will Happen: A good, if not particularly well-worked, match tells an interesting. if ultimately forgettable, story. Kane disappears for six months, comes back as Big Show’s character from Knucklehead.”
The match between these two was not a particularly well-worked one that and had an interesting but forgettable story. It gets a small amount of points for the actual lit lantern, the safety/idea of the guillotine step spot, and the asbestos blanket as a clever — if incredibly predictable (ask Brandon Stroud) — narrative work-around.
Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow
“Best Case Scenario: After talking Damien into putting up the briefcase, the crowd gets behind Cody at the level they were during the Money in the Bank match, he narrowly loses to Sandow in an epic cheat spot which compels the Powers That Be to grant Cody a rematch at Night of Champions in the form of a ladder match. In the build up to that match, Cody starts giving mustache rides to plants in the audience.”
Even though this was essentially the opposite of what would have been “best”, it managed to hit all the right notes for the match they were having. However, since nothing was on the line, it felt like a match they had on for the sake of rounding out a card when they could have had a tag title match on here instead (unless the Big Show still can’t totally go). If this ends with Rhodes vs. Scholar for the MitB contract at Night of Champions, that’s cool, otherwise, this could have been replaced by a more “important” match. But it definitely wasn’t bad, unenjoyable, disappointing.
Natalya vs. Brie Bella
“What Will Happen: A short match that will feel like it is not a short match”
This will not get the first negative score in the history of the Bang for Your Buck PPV review, so it has that going for it. Which is nice.
World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian
“What Will Happen: A meh match that elicits a meh crowd reaction where approximately 90% of Christian’s moves are telegraphed well in advance, with the only crowd reaction coming from his incessant clapping and the only saving grace coming from the fact that he has no chance to win this match.”
I was wrong about this match. Mostly because I forgot that Alberto Del Rio has entered a Bret Hart zone where all of his matches are technically proficient and aesthetically pleasing. We should be rooting for the style of match and work that Alberto Del Rio does. As the WHC turns into the Intercontinental championship (in a good way), guys like him — people who have a strong in-ring character (brutal fucking shark monster), a great workrate and the ability to work a variety of different styles within the context of their in-ring character (see: Wyatt, Bray) — are going to be extremely important in making it a true secondary title, as opposed to the “other white meat” level when it was a SmackDown!-only title and the “other other white meat” status it’s had since they combined brands. If not for the two main events, this would have been considered one of the best matches of the year. Instead it will known as the “secret really good match on this card”, which ain’t bad.
CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar
“What Nick Wants to Happen: A good match that I don’t feel like an asshole for genuinely giving a shit about.”
Waffles. That was as high quality a match as you’re going to pay to see. From a storytelling perspective, that added about 1-200,000 more buys for the next time these two face off, with Punk getting “revenge” on Paul (his stated goal), but losing because of his single-minded focus on the Walrus (which now feels like a legitimate counterpart to Bobby Heenan’s “Weasel” nickname/character). Brock and Punk made one another look great (like wrestlers are supposed to), but not in a way that seemed forced. They worked as “intellectual” equals, inasmuch as they were neck-and-neck until Punk’s insatiable need to “Kill! Kill! Destroy!” Paul Heyman ended up being his (both literal and metaphorical) downfall. These guys were always going to have a good match from a physical standpoint, but Brock Lesnar continues to be underrated as an in-ring psychologist and CM Punk continues to be (despite the loss) the BEST IN THE WORLD.
Dolph Ziggler & Kaitlyn vs. Big E Langston & Divas Champion AJ Lee
“What Nick Wants to Happen: Nobody will look stupid.”
Gross, but not depressing. First negative rating ever? Sure, why not. So many people disliked the idea of this match so much — if only because they could have had a tag title match or two separate matches between these four — that it could be argued that this was, what the kids call a “net negative”: more people would want to pay to see (especially the two separate matches between these four) and NOBODY was paying to see this match. It’s not that we should hate this match for what it was, per se, but we should hate it being something we’ve paid to see. Which is the whole point of Pay-Per-Views (and these reviews).
WWE Champion John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan (feat. Special Guest Referee Triple H)
“Best Case Scenario: Triple H saves his inevitable chicanery for after Daniel Bryan goes over with a clean small package finish, which leads to Randy Orton cashing in the Money in the Bank contract on DB, turning heel and reforming Evolution with Triple H. Batista comes back because God Loves Me.”
Thank God for small favors. This was an absolute barnburner of a match, the best of Daniel Bryan’s WWE career (surprising, I know, as I’ve been told John Cena can’t wrestle) and exactly what you need from a “passing of the torch” match. The in-ring work was brilliant, the storytelling was off-the-charts and the CLEAN finish deserves a bonus itself, as not only does John Cena rarely loses, he NEVER loses completely clean in the middle of the ring. Except to the Rock. So, in one night, they basically made Daniel Bryan a love child of Bret Hart and The Rock.
There hasn’t been a non-hometown crowd want something more than LA wanted Wash.-native Daniel Bryan to win that title since Jeff Hardy won his first WWE Title at Armageddon all those years/drug arrests ago. This the stuff dreams are made of, from both a wrestling fan and wrestling booker point-of-view. The only way you could make a babyface hotter would be, I don’t know, taking the belt away from him through nefarious but total legal in-ring means. Oh wait:
Randy Orton vs. WWE Champion Daniel Bryan (Money in the Bank cash-in feat. Special Guest Referee Triple H)
This was executed precisely the way it needed to be. They gave Daniel Bryan the hero’s welcome to Mount Olympus, then had Hades turn on him to help out Ares. Orton becomes, if not the “corporate” champion, the “corporate approved” champion and Daniel Bryan gets to chase the title through the next few months, hopefully for a major blow-off match between two guys who have been building a feud for the better part of the last few months. Absolutely perfect booking to end what was a top-heavy but very well put-together PPV, which is why this is the first “bonus” in the history of the Bang for Your Buck PPV review. Good job by you, WWE.
As always, the Bang for Your Buck PPV review articulates the execution of this card through numbers just fine. It has the highest overall score, because even with one or two not-so-great matches (and one that had no business being on the card from a business perspective) it was so top-heavy that it almost felt like you underpaid. This was exactly what it was supposed to be: a PPV that had a decent amount of (well-built from a storyline perspective) filler with two Match of the Year candidates. That they included a fantastic (if eminently predictable and not-so-wonderfully built) Alberto Del Rio/Christian match thrown in for fun makes this a Must See PPV. This was the best PPV since we’ve started reviewing and — off the top of our collective heads/wrestling libraries — at least Extreme Rules 2012. Would recommend, relevant to your interests (if you like wrestling, I mean).
Per Match: .5579 (.56 if you’re nasty)