Triple H, October 2011:

“When I grew up, I hated Hogan. I thought he was terrible and didn’t like to watch him. I was like Punk in a way. I liked the Steamboats and Flairs and the ones that could go. Would I be right in saying that Hogan was the wrong guy to go with, and they should’ve changed directions and gone with Steamboat because he was the better wrestler? Ludicrous.” - Triple H. October, 2011.

Road to Summer Slam 2007 - 5

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Part 4 is here.

Very briefly.

The matter, of course, that we haven't covered from the road to Summer Slam '07 is Benoit.

For purposes of the Counterfactual, there's not much to say. Benoit left the storyline after XXII; I brought him back just after XXIII for the surprise farewell, so he could give up the Triple Crown title and say goodbye.

There's not much addressing of it that we'd do on the TV shows. A ten bell, I think, for the whole family, a commentary from the studio, away from arenas, not part of programs. If there were wrestlers who wanted to wear armbands, that would be fine.

Right after Owen died, Jericho arrived. The Clique had a "this is our sandbox" now moment; I tried as best I could to not have that be about Owen, but instead about the seeming end of the Clique/Hart feud, given that Bret and Davey Boy had also left. I didn't have any desire to use "win one for Owen" in the storyline, that doesn't appeal to me, but I am committed to this Clique/Harts throughline; I like it in the same way that a soap opera family feud might exist for generations. Coincidentally (spoiler alert) Jericho's about to come back, and he's coming back in a Hart/Clique context (double spoiler alert) and the subtext of Jericho once again riding in after the death of a Hart babyface is unavoidable.

Probably, in Counterfactual world, Summer Slam occurring when it does means a toned down product in terms of the level of violence which would be tasteful. Hard to see a way a throat slash gesture is salvageable, for example, for the foreseeable future. I do have a violent conclusion coming to a current program and I think the narrative requires it - my thought is it can happen after Summer Slam, however.

Benoit doesn't disappear from the record books - doesn't vanish from Counterfactual history; hard to do that with the greatest wrestler who ever lived (possible exception of Kobashi) and solidly the greatest in Counterfactual history.

Beyond that - a year after the events, I'm unsure my thoughts have changed that much. I think the science on concussions is fairly embryonic, but there is some data that's worth taking into account in considering the last days of Benoit. That aside, I assume I think about it in a way similar to most of you. Sort of hard to squarely consider. Meltzer wrote really emotionally about Flair's retirement; he clearly identified his own life in wrestling with Flair's career - and took personally the moments when Flair was given less respect, less due, than Meltzer thought he was due. Like an athlete you might follow from college to the pros to the HOF, Meltzer rode the ups and downs with Flair and had a heartfelt reaction to his retirement.

I didn't. For me, Flair was just a guy. No disrespect - Flair was a very good (if a little overrated, honestly) worker, but I didn't have the emotional attachment that others did. His last match didn't make me cry; Eddy and Benoit hugging after XX made me cry; they were the guys whose careers I followed, they were the ones whose careers my interest in wrestling tracked, and through Japan and ECW and WCW and the years in the WWF middle, they were the ones I formed an attachment to. That they're both gone (and Owen and Pillman and Davey and Rude and Hennig and you know the list) is hard to look at.

It didn't end wrestling for me though, both because while the type of wrestling I like, stiff, bump-filled, high impact - takes a physical toll in a way that a career in the NFL leaves its retirees broken - the death toll in Japan, which has a far more physical style than worked here, just isn't there. So, it's not the suplexes that are killing people - it's the drugs, recreational, pain killing, performance enhancing - it's the North American wrestling cocktail that's led to the body count. Wrestling doesn't kill more people than football does. The North American wrestling lifestyle has.

And the second reason is that at the turn of the millennium, I found new guys - like tape trading is where I found Benoit/Eddy in the early 90s - a new round of tape trading, facilitated by DVDs and the internet, led to my finding the east coast indie circuit in the late 90s and the turn of the millennium, where I could follow guys like Punk and Joe and Danielson and AJ from their first days in the ring. I feel invested in their careers like I did in Benoit's and Eddy's; I didn't cry when Punk won the big gold belt the other week (seriously, did that happen? that's a weird moment given how I've structured the Counterfactual) but I popped big. And while I know the most likely result is a wild decrease in his match quality, a downturn in ROH (which is my favorite North American promotion ever) and maybe a burial of his place in history -- the mark in me really wants Danielson to sign with WWE. Both because I'd get to use him, and because I want to see him holding up the belt, maybe hugging Joe, after XXX.

That's it.

Summer Slam 2007 will be posted in August. Punk v. London is your main event.

Road to Summer Slam 2007 - 4

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Part 3 is here.

In the previous posts, we've set up the following:
ECW Title: CM Punk v. Paul London
WWF Title: Booker T v. Rey Mysterio
Worldwide Titles: Randy Orton v. Brian Kendrick
Perejas Increibles: Punk/London v. Orton/Kendrick

In Part 3, the tag title was set up without revealing who the challengers are - as the LWO had its summerlong feud with Heat turn into a new feud with a team we didn't name.

That team is S&S - The Superstar and the Sidekick - Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch.
Cade and Murdoch are in the NWA, on Friday Night Fight Night - and throughout 2007, as that show begins to deveop its identity, they are the core tag act. The dynamic between the two is not dissimilar to the Will Farrell/John C Reilly shtick they did in Talledega Nights - in fact, I'm going to steal a catchphrase from the movie "That Just Happened" and make it the name of Murdoch's finisher (flip piledriver - Petey Williams's Canadian Destroyer).

Cade's the Superstar - he's got the big, fancy robe and the crazy physique and the bronzer and the platinum hair. He carries himself like he's Ric Flair in 1989. Murdoch's the Sidekick, trucker hat, farmer's tan, and his clothes are covered in advertising patches, like a stock car racer. Their promos always include some type of product placement or ad catchphrase, with the idea being that they're getting paid. Cade's not really doing comedy, not really trying to pull off the Ferrell character, he's just being pro wrestling heel - but Murdoch's telling jokes. Unlike the Punk/Colt dynamic that is established this summer, Cade doesn't get irritated with Murdoch, Murdoch's doing his job, selling the product, moving merchandise, keeping them on task.
As mentioned in Part 3 - over the summer - they unexpectedly appear on RAW to take out the LWO during a couple of high profile moments, as the LWO/Heat program comes to an end - to set up the tag title match at Summer Slam.

Unified Tag Titles: LWO v. S&S

That look at Fight Night takes us to the NWA Title - Fit Finlay is, of course, the champ, having retired Flair at XXIII. Fit, with Dean Malenko as his manager, is the face of Fight Night - tough, stiff, humorless, rugged -- Fit's a guy who will kick your ass legit, he's the champ and the locker room enforcer. And he and Dean make it clear after Mania that for Summer Slam, they want to defend the belt against an up and comer - they know they aren't here forever - they bleed NWA, Dean was NWA Champ back before the WWF buyout (clips, so many clips to show) and they set a tone that they want to create a culture on Fight Night where it is clear the man who holds the NWA belt is the real world's champion - the best wrestler on the planet.

So, they look to inculcate that whenever they can - working on the young guys, looking for a new generation who will be the face of Fight Night in the future --

But the guy who keeps blowing them off - who is always more interested in how he looks and photo shoots and his girl Melina - is Johnny Nitro.

I teased this a little in an earlier storyline that was background in 2006 - when Arn took over Haas and Benjamin after XXII, calling them Strong Style, toughening them up - they ran through the WWF tag ranks, clearing out the deadweight - the last team standing was MNM, with Nitro being the one who proved he was tough enough to stay in the company when guys like Bradshaw and Mercury left from the beatings.
But now we reset Nitro a little - he's concerned about his hair and his abs and his girl - he blows Fit off, isn't interested in the Fight Night culture - he's all showbiz -- and that enrages Fit and Dean, who decide its their duty to teach him a lesson.

Nitro stays a step ahead of them, through various chickenshit heel chicanery, all summer -- Nitro and Melina laughing, taunting - saying after Summer Slam it will be the Nitro Wrestling Alliance - that Fit can wrestle in the senior's division - that their vision of the NWA is glitz and glamor and beautiful people. Fit wants everyone to be as personality-free as he and Malenko are - Nitro is the one saving the business - saving the NWA - and looking pretty doing it.

That's the matchup - with Fit vowing not just to beat Nitro - but to beat some respect into him - that the NWA isn't about style, it's about substance, and the Summer Slam clash will be over which vision of the NWA will prevail.
NWA Title: Fit Finlay v. Johnny Nitro
6 matches down - 2 left.

Back to the WWF - recall, on the Road to XXIII, we met Eddie Little (Umaga) - Little is our Kimbo Slice, he was launched in viral internet videos of his streetfighting in late '06, building as much of a following as we can generate - although he was barely controllable, he entered as Steamboat's man against Dusty's man, Monte Brown, in the winner gets a contract match at XXIII -- Little went over, signed the contract - showed contempt for the entire process.

Little's a cross between Kimbo Slice and the Necro Butcher - I see him wrestling in a wifebeater, jeans and no shoes - unleashing rage on his opponents - Little is nicknamed "The Juggernaut" by Taz - and will now be The Juggernaut Eddie Little, and probably, eventually, just The Juggernaut.
Taz is an interesting comparison, actually - part of his gimmick was he was supposed to be a legit badass, legit miserable, mean, a guy who would fuck you up if you crossed him -- I'd like stories leaked to the sheets about how Little is out of control - he's scary, dangerous, legit fucked up - how he gets into locker room fights, how he beat the hell out of the Brooklyn Brawler. That kinda thing.
The storyline is he v. Steamboat; sometimes, Little no shows RAW. Or he gets DQ'd by beating up a referee - or Howard Finkel. Steamboat threatens to fire him, Little doesn't care - I'M THE JUGGERNAUT, BITCH!! - becomes his catchprase.

Steamboat decides to make him wrestle twice at Summer Slam - that he's going to earn his money on PPV. And he's going to wrestle against Cena and Kennedy. Cena and Kennedy have been a bottom card babyface tag act; Cena's a former tag champ, with Orton - but as Orton's gone on to win the IC, Cena's been struggling.

Steamboat brings them into the office, tells them that this is a very competitive time in the WWF, there's a whole universe of talented young wrestlers - and for whatever reason, the two of them aren't getting it done.
So he says there's an ultimatum. If they can't beat Little at Summer Slam, he's going to look hard at trading them away. He doesn't know if there's room for them on Monday nights anymore.
And that's the program - Cena and Kennedy are fighting for their jobs, taking on Little in two separate singles matches at Summer Slam - Steamboat hoping to light a fire under the young wrestlers - and maybe teach Little a lesson.

Coming in August from East Rutherford is Summer Slam 2007:

Call your cable company! We keep building.

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