JC’s Top Rope Report: SummerSlam’s Most Questionable Booking Decisions

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We are less than a week away from SummerSlam, which is looking to be one of the better cards of the year. Last year’s SummerSlam had two Match of the Year candidates on it. I don’t think this year’s will, but it has been built pretty well from top to bottom.

SummerSlam has generally been considered the second biggest PPV of the year. Some people might say the Royal Rumble is number two, but I would still put SummerSlam #2 on the list.

I was looking to put together some kind of SummerSlam themed post for this week. There are a lot of positives to look at. Last year I listed the Top 25 matches in SummerSlam history. So since I looked at the good from SummerSlam last year, I figured this year I would take a look at some of the negatives. I tried to find a theme that could tie into this year’s SummerSlam, and that’s why I decided to talk about some of the more questionable booking decisions in SummerSlam history. This list will look at the Top 5. Also, I’ll talk about why this year’s SummerSlam could tie into this topic if something does go down.

5. SummerSlam 1999- Mankind Wins The WWF Championship

-Everything about this SummerSlam was pointing towards Triple H vs Steve Austin for the WWF Title. Then all of the sudden, Mankind was added to the match. I remember as a kid not being happy about it. It’s the first time I remember being upset with how something was booked. It’s when I started looking up stuff online and reading the “dirt sheets” as they were called.

The story behind this one is that Steve Austin wasn’t willing to put Triple H over. He apparently believed that HHH wasn’t ready for the Title. And of course, since Triple H didn’t start dating Stephanie McMahon yet, it was something that would have been allowed. That is why Mankind was added. Add in at the time current Minnesota Governor and former wrestler Jesse Ventura as ref, you almost had to have a face go over. But the Mankind win just made zero sense when Triple H ended up winning the Title the next night. You could have had HHH pin Mankind in the match, and a reluctant Jesse Ventura count three. Or have Austin retain the Title and have HHH win it in the six pack challenge that would happen at the next PPV. Even the pop for Mankind winning was tame. He seemed like the third wheel in the entire build/match. Backstage politics goes into a lot of this list, so get ready.

4. SummerSlam 2003- Goldberg Destroys All, Still Doesn’t Win The World Title

-When it comes to story telling in the wrestling business, I tend to lean toward the side that says the heel should win the first battle. It gives the face a reason to still want to go after the heel and extend the program. That’s just how I like to book things. Now of course there are exceptions to that. Sometimes a face is just so hot that you have to strike while the iron is hot. Or if the iron is almost out of steam. And that was the case of Goldberg in the WWE.

There were a lot of people excited to see Goldberg come into the WWE. The problem was, however, that Goldberg wasn’t going to get booked like he was in WCW. And Goldberg should have expected that coming in. Did he not see how the Invasion was booked? After the Goldberg/Rock dream match was out of the way, it was almost like they didn’t know what to do with Goldberg. He had a program with Chris Jericho then moved on to the World Title.

A good amount of people expected Goldberg to walk out of the Elimination Chamber at SummerSlam as World Champ. HHH had a groin injury and the match was perfect for Goldberg’s set of skills. And he looked like a bad ass the entire match. And just when it looked like Goldberg was set to finish off HHH, he ate a sledgehammer shot and was pinned. It took all the air out of the building. Goldberg just wasn’t the same after that. His win the next month didn’t get a strong reaction. The WWE needed to strike while they still could with Goldberg, but it didn’t happen. This was also during HHH’s 2003 World Title reign, and we already saw what happened when he faced Booker T at Wrestlemania 19.

3. SummerSlam 1993- Lex Luger Wins, Via Countout

-The summer of 1993 was a time of change in the WWE. Hulk Hogan left the company. Vince McMahon was looking for a new top guy to lead him into a new generation. Bret Hart was there but Vince didn’t seem to have full faith in him. At the time, Yokozuna was the WWF Champion. Vince decided that he wanted an American hero to challenge Yoko for the Title at SummerSlam. With Hogan gone, a new one was needed. Enter Lex Luger.

Luger was built up as the next Hulk Hogan. The rivalry started when Luger bodyslammed Yokozuna on the USS Intrepid on July 4th. He was given a bus named the Lex Express and toured the country to gain support. It seemed like everything was working in Luger’s favor, and most assumed that Lex was going to take the Title off of Yoko at SummerSlam. Instead, Luger ended up winning via countout when he knocked Yoko over the top with his elbow. But Luger celebrated the win like he won the Title, which is something that I still don’t get to this day. Luger didn’t look the least bit upset that he failed to win the WWF Title in his one and only shot at the Title, per the stipulations of the contract.

It seemed really odd that Luger didn’t win the Title after all that build up. Luger lost all of his momentum after not winning the Title. Even a short reign for Luger would have made sense. Luger could have won the Title at SummerSlam then lost it back to Yoko at Survivor Series. At least give Luger some momentum going into the Rumble/Wrestlemania. Have a screwy finish at Survivor Series, then you can move right into the same story for all parties involved at Wrestlemania X. By then, people were already dis-interested in Luger and moved on to Bret. Maybe if Luger had a Title reign more people would have still cared about Luger. You can debate the work of Lex Luger in the ring all you want, but he was over a lot during his career.

2. SummerSlam 1996- Vader Wins, Wins, But Loses In The End

-When you look back at the career of Vader, he may honestly be one of the worst booked wrestlers in the history of wrestling. He started off strong in WCW but then became a victim of the Hulk Hogan Reign in WCW. Hogan didn’t lose the Title to him, even though it would have made more sense for Hogan to lose, then regain the Title from Vader. Build Vader up as a threat, and then Hogan wins and looks good in the end conquering the mighty Vader.

I’m sure Vader thought he was moving into a better situation when he went to the WWF. But he walked right into the Shawn Michaels Power Trip Period. Shawn Michaels is my favorite wrestler of all time, but even I will admit that Michaels was a huge prick in the mid-90s. Vader was built up strong going into his match with HBK, but similar to Hogan, HBK didn’t want to drop the Title to Vader. Vader won the match at first via countout, then DQ, and he was finally pinned by Michaels after a second restart. Vader was never really the same after this. He never sniffed the main event again and never got a Title run in the WWF.

Similar to what I mentioned with Hulk Hogan, Vader could have won the Title here, held it for a couple months then lost it back to Shawn Michaels somewhere down the line. Or, they could have built Vader up as a huge threat as Champ and let him hold the Title to Wrestlemania. Vader ultimately was a victim of backstage politics throughout his career. I’d love to see a wrestler like Vader in today’s WWE. An agile big man would get over well with the fans. To me, Vader is the best big man ever in the wrestling business.

1. SummerSlam 2010- John Cena Defeats The Nexus

-A lot of people were excited for the Nexus angle when it started. It was something different. It got people talking. At the time, it was the kind of shake up that the WWE needed. Many thought that the WWE was finally giving some young guys a chance to shine and breakout as stars in the WWE. But we should have known better, because the WWE was just teasing us again.

Wade Barrett was the right man to lead The Nexus. He was the best mic worker out of all of them and after Daniel Bryan was fired, probably the best wrestler in the group too. But the WWE got cold feet with the group and didn’t think they were ready for the big stage. The stage was set for a big 7-on-7 match at SummerSlam. And just when you thought the Nexus was going to win, John Cena ruined everything. I’ve defended Cena a lot during his career, but I can’t in this situation. On Chris Jericho’s podcast with Edge, they both talked about how Cena wanted to do things his way and not put the Nexus over. The show was up against the clock. Cena was DDT’s on the floor, and then he came back not even two minutes later to eliminate Justin Gabriel and Wade Barrett and win the match.

To me, the Nexus angle was dead after that. Nothing they could do would save them at that point. Cena already beat the Nexus, so what was the point of everything else going forward? And really, this type of match should have been saved for Survivor Series. I could do a whole post on its own regarding the Nexus angle in the WWE. I still can’t believe Barrett didn’t get a run with the WWE Title. They could have had the Nexus hold some Titles and rule over the WWE. Maybe we could have even found out who was behind the idea of Nexus, something that was talked about but never revealed. But the downfall of the Nexus started here and nothing that happened after could save it.

So how does this year’s SummerSlam play into this list? It’s quite simple. If Brock Lesnar doesn’t win the WWE Title, it could shoot up to the top of the list. I would say at least to number two. The WWE has already invested a lot into Brock Lesnar. He ended The Streak at Wrestlemania. If he loses in his next match to John Cena, no matter how it happens, Lesnar winning at Wrestlemania is ruined. The reason I’ve accepted Lesnar winning at Wrestlemania is because the rest of the story makes sense: Win the WWE Title, Go on a reign of destruction in the WWE, put over the next big star at Wrestlemania 31. Losing to Cena at SummerSlam takes away all of that. And it could set the WWE back even further then it is now.

Until Next Time,

Justin C

Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka

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