WWE SummerSlam 2012
The 25th annual edition of the summer spectacular (billed by the company as being the 25th anniversary), WWE SummerSlam 2012 was promoted as being The Perfect Storm, whatever that meant. What it was supposed to be referring to was Brock Lesnar facing Triple H in their first televised battle, following months of build-up and following a decade of speculation as to what would happen if these two had collided, had Lesnar not left WWE for eight years. But he was now back in the fold and ready to play The Game, in the main bout of what was clearly a one-match card.
WWE United States Championship Match
Santino Marella (C) vs. Antonio Cesaro
At this point, WWE was using social media platforms to establish the pre-show as something worthy of fan interest, but for that to succeed, there had to be something important taking place prior to the PPV beginning properly. That makes this pre-show match pivotal, because those who tuned in early were treated to a title change. Santino even holding the US Title was unlikely, and barely anybody believed (and I dare say hoped) that his reign would last over five months. His run with the gold finally ended here, though, as relative newcomer Cesaro managed to make fairly short work of Marella, and a Neutraliser earned Antonio the title. Cesaro would have a long reign of his own, holding onto the US belt until April 2013.
Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler
That’s not to say that the rest of the show wasn’t up to scratch, though. For instance, the opening battle was a treat to see, as Jericho was a babyface for the first time since 2008 (he too had been away from WWE, though for a lot less time than Brock was gone) and aiming to defeat Ziggler, whose star was seriously rising having claimed the Money In The Bank briefcase for a World Heavyweight Championship opportunity. This seemed like something of a dream match beforehand, and it played out in that manner with some awesome exchanges, dramatic near-falls and major spots, in particular a Jericho hurricanrana to Dolph off the top rope. It was assumed that Ziggler would get a victory here to enhance his reputation, but it would be Y2J’s night, as he made Dolph submit to the Walls Of Jericho. Ziggler would rebound by beating Chris in a Raw rematch with his case at stake, which resulted in Jericho having to leave WWE again for a while. This was a very good opener, and arguably the highlight of the show depending on your thoughts about the main event.
Daniel Bryan vs. Kane
Originally, Bryan was meant to oppose Charlie Sheen in some form, which would have gotten WWE a lot of publicity. That never transpired, but we did get an unusual size and styles clash in the form of Daniel against Kane. The story was that new Raw General Manager AJ Lee was punishing Bryan for his past sins, and amongst the elements of her wrath was making him face The Big Red Machine. This is better than you might expect, partly because Kane still had it in the ring at this stage and partly because Bryan is able to take almost any match situation and make the most of it. And it was Bryan who came out on top with a roll-up pin, capitalising on Kane trying to go a bit further with his evil streak than the moment perhaps required. Afterwards, Kane went crazy backstage, and as Josh Matthews stupidly tried to interview him, Kane sent him flying into the abyss. This would lead to both Bryan and Kane attending anger management sessions in some of the best comedy ever in WWE, as well as them forming the hugely popular Team Hell No tandem.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match
The Miz (C) vs. Rey Mysterio
Miz, the wannabe movie star, is from Cleveland, Ohio but had made his residence in Hollywood by this point (at least according to his on-screen persona), which made him a hometown hero of sorts in Los Angeles, California. This meant he received many cheers and his challenger, Mysterio, received some boos, despite his San Diego hometown actually being in California. Got all that? Anyway, this was a decent scrap, though by this stage Miz was in the midst of a slow descent down the card, and despite only returning recently from a long injury lay-off, Mysterio was starting to feel like he had passed his best. Miz claimed the surprisingly clean pinfall victory with a Skull-Crushing Finale in an unmemorable match.
World Heavyweight Championship Match
Sheamus (C) vs. Alberto Del Rio
Del Rio had originally targeted Sheamus the night after WrestleMania XXVIII, but for various reasons, he only got his first singles crack at the gold at Money In The Bank, where Sheamus won. For some reason, he got a rematch here, and the combination of a lukewarm babyface titleholder in Sheamus and a cold-as-ice heel challenger in ADR meant that, despite their skills in the ring, this was as forgettable a title match as you will get on a major supershow. Both of these guys can wrestle (or could, since Sheamus is said to be close to retirement for health reasons), and their styles mesh with most opponents, but neither is renowned for spectacular offence, dynamic charisma or eye-catching spots. The upshot is that, though both men tried, this was just another match, one that the LA audience wasn’t too bothered about. Sheamus hit the Irish Curse for the pinfall win, but Alberto’s foot was on the bottom rope unbeknownst to the referee. This would lead to a thankfully superior rematch at Night Of Champions, at which point this feud finally came to an end, and not before time.
WWE Tag Team Championship Match
R-Truth & Kofi Kingston (C) vs. The Prime Time Players
This match had received some decent promotion, with Darren Young and Titus O’Neil having earned their opportunity back at No Way Out in June. It had taken some time for the championship match to actually happen, to the point that by the time it occurred, the PTP’s manager AW (Abraham Washington) had been fired amidst a sea of controversy. The match itself is nothing special, in fact, it’s a bit of a bore (bonus points if you get that reference). I mean, it was okay, but if you watched this PPV live, by the time the show ended, you will have already forgotten that this even took place. A Little Jimmy by Truth to Young made it a successful title defence for the babyfaces, and the Players would have to wait a lot longer for a run with the doubles belts in WWE.
WWE Championship Triple Threat Match
CM Punk (C) vs. John Cena vs. Big Show
We were well into Punk’s 434-day reign as WWE Champion by this stage, and he had recently turned heel on The Rock at Raw 1000 to set up their eventual contest at Royal Rumble 2013. Punk’s justification was that he wasn’t receiving the proper credit or treatment as WWE Champion, and part of the fall-out was this three-way bout. Cena was back in the hunt for the gold, but it was Big Show who dominated the majority of this match, essentially making it a two-on-one contest at times, albeit with the one – the giant – standing tall. Of course, whenever somebody is booked to dominate a lengthy match in this fashion (especially as a super-big villain), they tend to lose, and that proved to be the case, though not before a swerve (bro). Punk locked in a Kofi Clutch as Cena trapped Show in the STF, and under pressure from both submissions, Show, erm, submitted. But this would have meant a confusing finish, so AJ Lee came out to have the match restarted. Show Chokeslammed them both to almost seize the title, but then he tasted an AA by Cena (Jerry Lawler shrieking as if he’d never seen this became tired when Cena had hit Show with about 40 of them), only for Punk to throw him out of the ring and pin Show to retain. Cena would continue to feud with Punk after this, which led to a superb bout at Night Of Champions. Here, the three-way was well-executed, but again it’s a match that is barely remembered these days.
Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H
The main event had a big-fight feel to it, based on months of animosity dating back to Brock breaking HHH’s arm on Raw in response to The Game questioning his demands. This led to a Lesnar suspension, the return of Paul Heyman as his legal counsel, HHH reinstating Brock if he would face him at SummerSlam, a brawl at Raw 1000, and Lesnar breaking Shawn Michaels’ arm the previous Monday night, just after Shawn had said he would be in H’s corner for this bout. HHH was determined to make Brock pay, and he even told referee Scott Armstrong that he didn’t want the match stopping for anything other than a clear pinfall or submission.
Beforehand, there was an UFC-esque vibe, with the lights turned down aside a shining spotlight on both combatants as the introductions were made. From there, we were privy to a hard-hitting, physical fight that went in and out of the ring, with both men focusing on hurting one another, albeit with limited use of weapons and props. This officially was not a No Holds Barred match, but since H had insisted that this bout not be stopped for countouts or disqualifications, it barely was by all accounts. Both men did significant damage to one another throughout, with HHH sending Brock ribs-first into the corner of an announcer’s table to focus on his weak spot, the stomach, based on Lesnar’s previous diverticulitis illness (though WWE fans hadn’t been informed about Brock’s health woes beforehand, which reduced the impact of this spot). HHH hit a Pedigree for a two-count, before a low blow and an F5 have Lesnar a near-fall of his own. Brock applied the Kimura but HHH found a way to escape, and he then hit a second Pedigree, only for HHH to be dragged back into a Kimura, with Brock applying increased pressure to break H’s arm again, forcing the tap-out.
This was a very good main event, and if you focus solely on what you were witnessing, you might even say that it was a great fight. However, the LA crowd disagreed, reacting to much of the contest with silence, either because they didn’t care about one or more of the combatants, or because they didn’t care about the issue between them. Five years earlier (when Brock’s name was still familiar to relatively new WWE fans), this would have been a Match Of The Year contender, but in 2012, Lesnar had been gone for so long that a lot of newer followers didn’t know him or didn’t care about him, which was something that took WWE a good while to reverse. Adding to the awkwardness, as HHH rose to his feet holding his weakened arm expecting a rousing ovation for his efforts, the babyface Game instead received chants of “You tapped out!” The implication was that HHH would retire, but he would ultimately return and continue his feud with Lesnar in 2013. Trivia note: this was HHH’s last ever match with long hair, as he would chop off his long locks shortly afterwards.
WWE SummerSlam 2012 is an intriguing card to try and provide a final analysis of. In my opinion, it has two very enjoyable matches, with the rest of the show being adequate-to-boring, but with nothing being particularly bad. If you took away Lesnar vs. HHH, though, it would not feel like a major supershow at all, and if you removed Jericho vs. Ziggler as well, then it would barely have any redeeming value. So, this SummerSlam is sort of just a footnote really: it does have its moments, but it also feels insignificant in several ways, making this a show that is not one of the worst SummerSlams ever, but it definitely isn’t one of the best either.