Wrestling Review: WWE SummerSlam 2005 feat. Hulk Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels

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WWE SummerSlam 2005

In comparison to the 2004 card, which boasted some entertaining bouts but reduced star power, WWE SummerSlam 2005 was a huge deal due to its main event. The first ever match between Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels made this the most-watched SummerSlam ever in the pre-Network era, as wrestling’s biggest legend and one of the industry’s greatest in-ring performers of all-time battled on a major stage. The same PPV offered two heavyweight title bouts, a Ladder match, a clash between two fierce legitimate rivals and more which arguably made this show more anticipated than WrestleMania 21 earlier in the year, so let’s take a look back at one of the more famous SummerSlam cards in history.

WWE United States Championship Match
Orlando Jordan (C) vs. Chris Benoit

Unlike nowadays, it was a rarity in the mid-2000s for WWE to present super-short PPV encounters. But this proved to be the exception: after a boring clash between these two at The Great American Bash which was (accurately) attributed to Jordan’s lack of talent, in this rematch WWE chose to have it end as soon as possible. Benoit caught him early with a German suplex and tapped him out to the Crippler Crossface in just 25 seconds to win the gold. Jordan’s push was essentially over, and few were upset about it; in fact, fans were very happy at this match presentation, and with the then-popular Benoit lifting the US crown.

Edge vs. Matt Hardy

The set-up for this match was something that fans still discuss to this day. Edge had gotten romantic with Lita, who was Matt’s girlfriend, and Matt’s resultant outburst led him to be fired by WWE. Sounds like a good storyline, except that it was actually real. Lita really did have an affair with Edge, cheating on her boyfriend of six years, and Matt really did lose his job over it (which made fans furious, since he was the victim in the affair). Edge and Lita were pelted with massive boos and chants of “You sold out!” everywhere they went, causing WWE to turn Lita heel and align her with Edge on-screen. Then, WWE rehired Matt to turn this real animosity into a televised storyline, and it led to some of the most gripping wrestling television that you will see. Matt’s sneak attacks and verbal tirades were authentic, as were the retorts by Edge (who cut one hell of a backstage promo about the whole ordeal) and Lita. All of which made their SummerSlam scrap here one to savour.

Or so we thought. Because, while it was fought at a furious pace and designed to look more like a fight than a wrestling match, it was ended prematurely when Edge drilled Matt headfirst on the ring post, which busted him open badly, but not so much that fans would have been particularly moved. Yet it was enough for officials to call a halt to the contest, declaring Edge the winner by stoppage. For this to succeed, Edge needed to go full-on Lesnar on Hardy, making it look like things really had turned into a shoot. Instead, though Edge targeted the wound, it wasn’t nearly enough to make this a believable and justifiable end to the match. Nevertheless, their feud would rumble on, and whilst the rivalry didn’t quite meet expectations, the first month or so of this saga is still incredible to watch back today. (Incidentally, there are some who believe that the original affair was a complete work as well, though I disagree with those sentiments.)

Ladder Match For The Custody Of Dominick
Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero

Your eyes are not deceiving you: the next match, held under Ladder rules, was for the custody of Rey’s eight-year-old son Dominick. WWE storylines were pretty damn wild in 2005 (and we won’t even mention the whole Muhammad Hassan situation, which had suddenly ended the previous month). Basically, Eddie couldn’t beat Rey in many attempts, which included Latino Heat turning heel and going insane on his former best friend. To gain a psychological edge, though, Guerrero revealed that he had a secret relating to Rey’s son, which he eventually revealed to be that Eddie was actually his father. Instead of saying that Eddie was full of it, Mysterio admitted it, but noted that he and his family had adopted and taken good care of Dominick, with Guerrero only now raising issue about it. All of which resulted in this Ladder match, with custody of the kid on the line. I personally had no problem with the subject matter, but many others did, either because it was deeply and uncomfortably personal because it was just ridiculous. However, you can’t help but laugh at the idea that, instead of going through legal proceedings, these guys chose to decide who could look after Dominick in a Ladder match.

Aside from that, these two were amongst WWE’s elite performers in mid-2005, which meant that this would probably be a thrilling encounter, and that’s what we were treated to. There were plenty of great high spots, as well as one or two that didn’t go to plan. In fact, this match is remembered by a lot of people for the scene when Eddie screamed “where the f–k is Vickie?” due to his wife being delayed in arriving to the ring for her contribution. These aside though, this was a very good battle, with the heavy animosity creating a tense atmosphere, partly because Eddie surely had to beat Rey at some point, but Mysterio couldn’t lose custody of his child could he? And as it turned out, it was Vickie pushing the ladder over on Eddie to give Rey the victory. Very strange, but undeniably compelling to some degree; Eddie would finally defeat Rey in a Steel Cage match a few weeks later.

Kurt Angle vs. Eugene

I noted at the beginning how WWE wasn’t known for truncating major PPV matches during this period, and yet this was the third match to go no more than five minutes. In this case, mega-heel Angle was getting revenge on Eugene, who had successfully obtained his Olympic gold medal from him in a recent Invitational. Hey, Eugene was still pretty over with fans, though he wasn’t popular with fans here in Washington D.C. If anything, they treated him as the villain, and Kurt as a conquering babyface hero, and Kurt lived up to his end of the bargain by running through Eugene with ease, drilling him with an Angle Slam and submitting him to the Ankle Lock to regain his most prized possession.

The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton

This was a rematch from WrestleMania 21, where Orton had failed to end The Streak. Because this was their second showdown (and bear in mind that Orton was still fresh to WWE, though a clear main event talent), and because it wasn’t WrestleMania, you could tell what outcome WWE would go for here in order to extend the feud a little longer (I should mention that Orton had been on the shelf with a shoulder injury, which delayed their second PPV encounter). What fans probably weren’t expecting was the way in which Randy earned his victory: after Taker hit a Chokeslam, a confused elderly fan wandered into the ring, with officials removing him as quickly as they could. Taker sold it well, treating this as if it was a genuine incident, as opposed to it being an interfering party who he could sock in the jaw. But the distraction led to him walking straight into an RKO that gave Randy the pinfall win. And afterwards, Orton celebrated with the fan, who removed his disguise and revealed himself to be Cowboy Bob Orton. A smart strategy by the Ortons, then, though their war with The Dead Man was far, far from over.

WWE Championship Match
John Cena (C) vs. Chris Jericho

Cena’s first title defence on a Big-Four PPV is most notable for the external factors than the action, though it is a thrilling contest and an underrated championship clash from the annals of SummerSlam. This marked the first occasion that Cena was the recipient of mixed reactions on a major scale, an issue that would go from being a one-time dilemma to a full-time problem that became a symbol of Cena’s entire main event career. Jericho would exit WWE after a Raw rematch the following night, where his job was at stake, and he has noted that this feud with Cena was the ideal way for him to end his first tenure with the company. In addition, Christian had originally teased a Cena feud for months, but when the time came for WWE to pull the trigger, the insertion (and ultimate replacement for Captain Charisma) of Y2J led Christian to soon depart WWE as well. In the midst of all this, and as part of what I noted was a damn good match, Cena was able to withstand Jericho’s best offensive weapons and nail the match-winning FU to retain the WWE Title. Cena remained the WWE Champion and was establishing himself as The Guy, though the fan resentment was slowly gathering momentum to the point where, by November, he was the most vilified top-level babyface in WWE history, and things would actually escalate from there.

World Heavyweight Championship No Holds Barred Match
Batista (C) vs. John Bradshaw Layfield

While Cena received a fair few catcalls, The Animal was treated as a returning hometown hero, and that’s because he was; Batista was defending his title here in his home city against the loathsome JBL under No Holds Barred rules. Bradshaw was one of the dullest wrestlers ever, but he could succeed in a fight where anything was legal, and that proved to be the case here as Batista and JBL had a much better bout on this occasion than they had the previous month at TGAB. The JBL title push had been a never-ending nightmare for WWE fans since the spring of 2004, but it was finally coming to an end, with this match giving Batista a decisive win over the so-called Wrestling God. Batista was able to kick out of the Clothesline From Hell and nail Bradshaw with a Batista Bomb, before hitting him with another Batista Bomb onto the steel stairs for the victory. JBL wrangled himself one more shot at the WHC under Texas Bull Rope rules on SmackDown, and upon his defeat there, he exited the championship picture. Thank goodness.

Hulk Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels

And so we come to the match that everyone was waiting to see, and the bout that this show is most famous for. Michaels had asked Hogan to team up with him on a few occasions, before Superkicking him and turning heel on him in a major surprise, with the intention of finding out if he could defeat The Hulkster. On the night, it was vintage Hogan offence until Shawn sent him into the ring post, which busted Hulk open to a massive degree. A Shawn sleeper hold saw Hogan’s blood pouring onto his arm like somebody was filling up a river or something. Of course, Hogan fought back, but a referee bump allowed Shawn to regain control. A Michaels Sharpshooter led to chants of “We want Bret!” (Shawn had mocked Hart in the build-up, so some were anticipating a shock Hitman cameo here), and after Hogan survived it, Michaels struck with a low blow, a chairshot, an elbow drop and Sweet Chin Music. But of course, the legend that is Hulk Hogan wasn’t staying down for all of that, Hulking Up, booting Shawn and finally Legdropping him for the pinfall win to a huge pop. Afterwards, Shawn shook Hogan’s hand, and turned back babyface.

A few things to address here. Firstly, Shawn had been absolutely tearing it up as a heel, which included some classic promos (one of those being in Montreal where he mocked Bret, in a segment that is one of the greatest heel moments in WWE history), so it disappointed fans that he turned back face right afterwards. Secondly, the rumour and innuendo suggests that Shawn was supposed to win a rematch leading to Hulk triumphing in a final battle at some point, but Hulk (allegedly) put the kibosh on it. This, in turn, is why many people believe that Shawn oversold like crazy in this match; Michaels would say that he was just bumping big as a heel, a trademark of his younger days, but some of his tumbles here had to be seen to be believed (along with the pre-match scene of Michaels digging an imaginary burial as Hulk made his entrance). And though Shawn had turned face again, he fired some clear shots at Hogan in subsequent weeks which seemed to come from the heart, and Michaels later called Hogan a “dick” on a DVD. It would be fascinating to hear both sides of the story about this someday, but needless to say that the whole thing was something to behold, and the match lived up to its massive hype, regardless of why or how certain aspects transpired in the manner that they did.

On the whole, WWE SummerSlam 2005 is a right mix on the quality scale. The three top matches are enjoyable though not quite classics, and the Ladder match is a lot of fun. But three of the matches are short (one is very short), and Taker vs. Orton is good but not great. This makes SummerSlam 2005 an adequate show overall and one that is worth seeing for the better matches, but it’s understandable why some onlookers don’t have the fondest memories of this particular card.