Part 1 is here.
SummerSlam’s coming in August from East Rutherford.
Long view as we march to XXIV from Orlando next March:
Now that there are 3 separate champions, three separate companies with three distinct identities, as often as possible, each looks to proclaim its superiority, specifically the superiority of its champion. Booker (WWF) Fit (NWA) Punk (ECW/GDI) are all put over hard as the real worlds champion – and there is much speculation about if/when the belts will ever be unified again. The push for that unification comes from the WWF side; the motivating element of Steamboat’s character is that his job is to bring the company back together, to bring everyone back under the WWF umbrella and to reassert the WWF Championship as the dominant title belt in the world. It’s the driving force behind all of his decisions. GDI is the rebellious upstart; the NWA sells its UFC-like stiffness – but the WWF doesn’t need to establish brand identity – its struggle is to regain unquestioned control of the wrestling universe.
At XXIII, Steamboat announced that the main event for XXIV would be a TLC match, the first TLC match in the WWF since the bodybag match that ended the E/C v. Hardys v. Dudleys tag feud and saw 5 of the 6 competitors get stretchered from ringside. Unlike the build for the Edge/Matt Cell main event at XXIII, we don’t know the participants yet – but at every arena all year long we see the posters for XXIV, the outline of the tables and chairs – a ladder reaching to the sky – the tag:
Tables. Ladders. Chairs. Titles. Wrestlemania XXIV. March, 2008. Orlando.
8 matches to set up.
Wrestlemania ended, recall, with the gigantic Cell match between Edge and Matt – Hardy gaining revenge, getting the victory in the main event of XXIII. It was clean and brutal and bloody and definitive and marked the end of the feud.
And, of course, the show didn’t end then. GDI – Punk and his crew – entered to make their mark on the big show, splattering Matt and Edge all over the cage they locked behind them.
The three moments of note – Edge crawling, for some much speculated reason – to protect Matt, shielding him from the blows, taking the chairshots himself to spare Matt. Two, Jeff, after losing the 3 way for the Worldwide Titles earlier in the evening (Randy Orton taking the straps, getting the fall on the champ, Shane Helms) hobbling to ringside, seeing there was no way to get into the cage – except for the hole in the top, made earlier when Edge and Matt crashed through together, falling together through the cage as neither was willing to stop punching in order to save himself. Jeff climbing to the top and diving through, wiping out GDI momentarily in the spot that defined WM XXIII.
And 3 was Paul London. London has never turned heel, never bought fully into Punk’s GDI rap – only joining GDI and leaving the WWF when Punk promised him that he would be the one contesting for the ECW title at XXIII – a spot that Punk cavalierly then gave to RVD and Sabu. London made the big face save at the close of XXIII – cleaning house and putting the spotlight of the wrestling world on himself as Wrestlemania closed.
And that’s where we begin immediately following XXIII as the Road to Summer Slam begins.
Punk is celebratory on GDI Wrestling – he is put over as having kept the ECW belt against both Van Dam and Sabu – in Detroit no less. Punk effectively says that in one night he has established himself as the dominant World Champion in ECW history – that his feat is unmatched in wrestling – RVD and Sabu are gone – gone from the company, gone from wrestling – gone from the world, for all anyone knows. And it is all because of CM Punk and GDI.
Note the changes to the crew over the summer – Colt Cabana is on the roster now, playing his comedy role; he and Punk have a good two man bit, Colt always wanting to inject some levity – Punk always plotting, always serious – Punk carries himself like the top guy, he’s the king – but Colt wants to tell jokes, wants to hang out – wants to have fun. Over the summer, we can see that Punk is loyal to Cabana, that he, Maria, and Colt are a crew within the GDI structure. Joining the roster soon – Matt Sydal, who will be keeping that name. Already on the roster but soon to be able to appear on PPV – Jimmy Yang. When last we saw Yang a few years ago – he had a surfer gimmick, San Diego Jimmy Yang – and feuded with Ultimo and Tajiri. Now, he is just Yang, dropping the Jimmy and going all Yakuza – spiky hair, mirrored sunglasses, black suit. Yang.
Also changing is the announce – Josh Matthews remains the principal voice of GDI, but Al Snow is now gone as the color man – coming out of losing the tag titles at XXIII – Tommy Dreamer takes over as the analyst. Dreamer’s gonna turn face here, moving to his real world Dreamer character, the regular guy, true blue ECW character – he can occasionally serve as counterpoint to Punk, as there is no commissioner figure on Tuesday.
Punk’s defending the ECW belt is the main event of Summer Slam – the dominant GDI storyline is that Punk won’t let Paul London in the building. Punk’s on top – he sells GDI as tight knit, as a family, as unbreakable – if they stand together they wind up on top of the wrestling world – where’s Edge – gone – where’s Matt – gone, where’s Jeff – gone – where’s RVD and Sabu – gone – when you cross GDI – you get gone.
London’s not a team player, he’s only in it for himself.
So, London starts running on Punk the same program that Punk ran on the whole WWF when he debuted – London goes to indie shows that aren’t GDI – and somehow (Punk blames Dreamer) his matches wind up getting shown on the grainy videotape on Tuesdays. Punk says London has no job anymore – he’s not GDI – but London matches wind up on the air – and now London, playing even smaller venues then GDI, out-indying the indie alternative – keeps crashing GDI with his tapes.
London, with his crowds behind him – starts cutting promos on Punk – Punk’s the one just in it for himself – he talks about all of GDI becoming stars, champions – the best wrestlers alive – but he’s the only one who seems to be booked on the big shows – where’s the title shots for everyone else - what about the rest of the guys – Noble and Kendrick and Yang and even Colt Cabana.
London trying to ferment some distrust, dissatisfaction – Punk trying to keep them together, saying protecting him, protecting the ECW belt is what GDI is all about.
Eventually it looks like the rubber’s about to meet the road for Punk – the crew seems ready to mutiny – Punk’s kept a psychological hold on this group of wrestlers since his debut – he’s the puppetmaster, the manipulator – he has been constantly positioned as a master of psychological warfare – but now, with London going all guerilla with videotapes, Punk’s promises look hollow – there’s a moment where it looks like there’s gonna be a revolt – “Where are our title shots – what about what Paul says – when are we gonna get our shots – what about us – any of us – any of us, Punk…
When Punk says “you want title shots – you want a title shot at Summer Slam – what about an Intercontinental Title Shot – what about a shot at the Worldwide Titles – what about – a shot against Randy Orton”
And Orton’s music hits – and Randy Orton appears on GDI.
Recall, the way the tag belts and the IC maintain significance in a universe with 3 World Champions is that they’re the wrestlers who defend on all 3 shows – the World Champs and the rest of the rosters are married to their individual shows – but the Worldwide (Orton) and the tags (LWO) work all week, can wrestle against anyone.
Orton’s gimmick is now the same as his real world gimmick – the idea that he would stand at the Hammerstein or some equivalent is clearly beneath him, but Orton says he’s beaten the top contender at WWF (let’s say Helms) and NWA (lets say Haas) and he got a call from Punk saying that there were some boys on Tuesday night who might like a shot at the Champ.
Orton gets into all of their faces – saying that he’ll put up his Worldwide belts against someone from GDI at Summer Slam – and they can work that out among themselves – he’ll be there in East Rutherford in August to get his pinfall and get his check.
That’s enough to win the GDI wrestlers to Punk’s side – fuck that London, he doesn’t know anything – and we get some type of round robin points based tournament on the road to Summer Slam – one of the results of that being that the tag team of Noble and Kendrick gets busted up when the competition between them gets too heated.
It winds up that its Kendrick who comes out on top in the GDI Challenge – Brian Kendrick is going to Summer Slam to challenge Randy Orton for the Worldwide belts.
As that challenge is going on – London steps it up – making forays into the Hammerstein or equivalent to attack individual GDI wrestlers – calling Punk out each time – demanding that Punk faces him man to man. London gets all of them – taking them all out one at a time all summer – there’s a spot, after Kendrick has earned his title shot – where London has a chance to wipe Kendrick out.
There should be drama – London is about to hurt Kendrick – taking away his chance to be Worldwide Champ – taking away the biggest match of his life.
But we all know that London really still loves his former tag partner – they’re brothers, they came up together in San Antonio – they were junior Cliquesters under Michaels – they wanted to be tag champs, to rise together – and it’s all gone wrong – but London still has that glimmer of affection for Kendrick down deep like babyfaces do – and despite everything – he can’t pull the trigger on wiping his old partner out – he spares Kendrick, allowing him to keep his shot –
And that’s when Punk finally pounces – Punk and after a little hesitation, Kendrick, take London apart – they stand over him and Punk yells out to London that he’s got himself his world title shot at Summer Slam.
So – we’ve set up 2 matches and actually 3.
ECW Title: CM Punk v. Paul London
Worldwide Titles: Randy Orton v. Brian Kendrick
Also, recall the Summer Slam opening tag tradition is parejas increibles – the mixed partners tag match. This year – the opening tag for Summer Slam will be Paul London and CM Punk against Brian Kendrick and Randy Orton.
3 matches down. 5 to go on the Road to Summer Slam 2007.