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 SummerSlam 2011-Part 1

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Wrestlemania 27 is here.

Summer Slam 2011 is next month from Los Angeles.

On the way – Underground Summer in the WWE.  Three years ago WWF started a new developmental system, WWFUniversity (WWFU – nicknamed the Underground). From the initial graduating class came Jack Swagger and Nick Nemeth, who became Division One; from the second class, Sheamus and McIntyre, the Hooligans, and from the third, Empire – Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel and now Alex Riley. 

At Wrestlemania 27, they all came together (save for Swagger, the poster boy for Underground, but we’ll get to that) joined by the other Underground notables – DiBiase, the Harts, Douchebags – Underground left Mania with all the title belts in a shocking coup.

It was a plan masterminded by two men, Underground head trainer Steve Regal and WWF Commissioner Bret Hart. Regal and Fit Finlay were Nemeth’s initial post-Underground relationship, well before Regal’s association with Underground, the men united over a common dislike of Defiance. Regal and Fit were then mentors of Hooligans, again, even before Regal was head trainer.   

And then Regal has personally geared the training of Barrett – those 3 men, Nemeth, Sheamus, Barrett make up an inner circle (they don’t wear the t-shirts, for example) of Underground.  What’s in it for Regal?  Over the past year he’s fought really an ideological war with GDI over which is the best route to wrestling greatness.  Regal’s marshaling of Underground past and present into a cohesive force to win every belt in the company is the ultimate triumph of his will.

And Bret?  Bret started to push Nemeth away from Swagger back at Rumble ’10, it was what might have gone missed in his big return to the company.  Bret’s first act as Commissioner was to nudge all the tag teams apart – giving him greater access to Sheamus and DiBiase. What’s in it for Bret?

Bret’s primary opponent this year has been Punk – Bret dislikes Punk for exactly the reason he said he did; Punk threw down the WWF Championship.  And even though the fans and Steamboat have forgiven him, the motivating character trait of Bret’s entire career has been preservation of the WWF Championship above all.  Aligning with Underground allowed him to keep the WWF Title in a glass case protected by a dozen men.

Beyond smashing GDI, Bret was also able to take care of the Clique. 

Bret’s keeping Punk away from the belt gave the appearance of an alignment with Edge, an alignment that wounded Jericho so deeply he left the company rather than hand over the Triple Crown the night after last year’s Summer Slam.  But Bret was just biding him time – and not only was able to end 
Edge’s career (as Shawn’s was ended a year previous) but take advantage of what he knew would be an attempt to save by the rest of the Clique – and have them get taken out too.

Regal controls all 3 belts.  Bret’s buried Punk, the rest of GDI, and the Clique.  A plan came together.
That plan is celebrated all summer, but specifically the night after Mania – which ends with the full group in and surrounding the ring – when Bret invites GDI to join them.

Bret’s going to spike the football here. 

Earlier in the night we found out that GDI’s Thursday program on WGN was ending, their time slot purchased by WWF and this Thursday would be the last episode, making it the death of GDI.

Bret takes this opportunity to offer everyone contracts.

He tells Steamboat there will always be a place for him in the WWF.  He’s a legend, he can watch anytime he wants from a luxury box. 

He tells Sydal and Tatsu that they can have their old jobs back, granted, they’ll be starting at the minimum salary and shouldn’t expect to see any PPV’s for awhile, but it’s all about opportunity in the WWF.

He tells Black that he has lots of TV exposure for him – on the brand new WWF show – Underground, hosted by Steve Austin.  Black can compete with the new class of Underground for WWF contracts.

He tells Punk that he’s got a contract and will be wrestling at Summer Slam – in the opening match.
And he tells Danielson that by doing what no man has ever done before, beating Rey Mysterio at Wrestlemania, he has a large contract offer for him – and all he has to do is tell WWF Champion Nick Nemeth that he, in fact, is the best wrestler in the world.

All of them want to tell Bret to screw himself – but Steamboat tells them not to.  He says they all have families and careers to look after; and now that they’ve lost TV, there’s just not enough money for a GDI promotion.  He says they should take the offers.

One by one they do (all still selling the Mania beatdown), each one more tortured than the previous Sydal and Tatsu sign contracts and exit.  Black signs a contract and then goes to stand with the rest of the cast of the new Underground TV show (Dean Ambrose, the Usos, for example). Punk is no longer tortured over Maria guy – beating Edge has lifted that all away from him, he’s cut his hair, the Edge tattoos are gone – he seems to relish the challenge of the odds being against him and he cuts a quick promo to the effect that they should have fired him when they had the chance.

Danielson goes last – and he turns down the contract.

He says he’s not for sale.  The one thing that matters to him is wrestling, and for ten years he’s gone out every night all around the world to prove he’s the best…wrestler…in the world.

And Bret can’t write him a check big enough to buy that from him.

Nemeth, now the full real world Ziggler character, gets in Danielson’s face, says he doesn’t need Danielson’s acknowledgement, he’s the best wrestler in the world because he’s carrying the WWF Championship belt.

They go nose to nose; Danielson tells Nemeth he’ll see him around, and he and Steamboat leave the ring.  We get the “Whose House…Our House” chant and that ends RAW.

Thursday night is the last GDI – there are no GDI wrestlers, Underground takes over the arena and trashes it; they rip up all the memorabilia (stuff from Steamboat’s career, indie stuff from all the guys, like they’d take a framed copy of the poster for the first ROH show, destroy it and replace with a picture of Tyler Reks) they destroy the ring – they set fire to whatever the primary GDI banner is.  It’s made clear to us that all the WWF guys have been specifically sent far away –  so the only guy left is Danielson, he arrives eventually in streetclothes and does the Mania spot where he beats up half a dozen guys before getting overwhelmed by the numbers – Punk then shows up anyway, ‘cause he’s Punk, and does the spot Danielson just did.  Underground does the Whose House chant and that’s it for GDI.  Bret, of course, wasn’t there, but gives tacit approval to the action, maybe keeps a souvenir in his office.

That sets up much of the summer.

Sydal and Tatsu get to feed Underground; first the tag champs, who need some credibility and then the Hart kids, to embed them as heels.  Those programs turn into three Summer Slam matches:

CM Punk v. Wade Barrett
CM Punk v. Alex Riley
No DQ: Bryan Danielson v. John Cena

Which doesn’t help Sydal and Tatsu much, I recognize.

Punk’s the man against the machine here, doing a babyface Steve Austin – I think real world Bret can handle the role created for him in the Counterfactual so far, but probably not a promo heavy summer as counterpoint to Punk (Punk’s been heavy and morose for awhile, so, as mentioned, he really lightens up in this stretch – it’s really his first shot ever as wiseguy babyface) so whatever Bret can’t do Regal can as Punk’s foil.

After Underground gets established over the long summer stretch between Mania and SSlam, Punk can begin to fuck them up a little with some sneak attacks on Douchebags – and then on Empire, Punk enabling Sydal and Tatsu to win singles matches over Empire, Punk attacking Gabriel enough that he’s going to be out of action for SSlam, meaning its Riley that will take his spot.

That enrages Barrett, note that he/Sheamus/Nemeth are the unofficial inner circle of Underground, no one is saying that, but over the summer they increasingly are positioned ahead of the others (no Underground t-shirts for them).  Barrett says he doesn’t care how many WWF Titles Punk has, he’s the one with gold now.    That’s how we make the back to back opening matches for Summer Slam, Punk’s gonna face Barrett and Riley in singles matches. 

After Punk injures Gabriel Bret rules that if Punk attacks another wrestler who he isn’t in a match with, he, like Sydal and Tatsu, will be banned from Pay Per View.  Now, after Mania, we always start driving to next year’s Mania. But this year there’s another PPV we’re driving toward, it’s WWF 100.

The Royal Rumble will be the 100th WWF PPV – so this year that’s the event with the signage in every arena; that’s the even that is being spoken about as the culmination of the year – even bigger than Wrestlemania 28 is WWF 100. 

So Punk would not only be excluded from that event, but also miss the Survivor Series in Madison Square Garden.

So, it’s reasonably high stakes (without threatening he be fired) for Punk to stop attacking Underground, given the glamour of the upcoming PPV season. 

That gets us to Danielson. 

Danielson spends the summer of 2011 the way real world Punk should have; once GDI goes off the air the week after 27 he’s off TV.  But then he starts popping up on indie shows, at Comic-Con, on youtube.  Danielson and Ricky Steamboat together – saying that the best wrestler in the world isn’t on Monday, he isn’t on Friday, he’s wherever he happens to be at that moment.  We see Danielson signs get confiscated on RAW; we see planted fans who take off their Underground shirts to show a Danielson shirt get escorted from buildings – the announce never talks about it, maybe Punk brings his phone to the ring one match and shows a youtube clip of Danielson and Steamboat. 

The guy who starts talking about it is Cena.

Cena cuts an anti-Danielson promo, maybe after a best in the world chant goes up during a Nemeth match. You know the terrain; Cena really resents GDI, dislikes how the fans treat those guys like they’re better wrestlers than he is – all Cena’s done is bleed for the WWF, and a guy who isn’t even here gets more respect than he does. 

Bret will, in a subsequent segment, tell Cena he appreciated that – and he’d also appreciate if Cena would look out for the Hart kids as they wrestle Sydal/Tatsu.  Cena agrees.

Tyson bumps on a highspot to the outside, Cena is checking on him when Harry (bye, Harry) is pulled under the ring by an unseen figure (we’re at the top of August at this point). He gets counted out, and by the time Cena and Kidd realize that he’s gone – Harry emerges from under the ring covered in blood – Underground hits the ramp, Harry collapses, the announce tells the story – clearly it’s Punk, Punk is under the ring, Punk has attacked Harry and Punk will be removed from all WWF PPVs –

But it’s not Punk – it’s Danielson – he escapes through the crowd, the fans chant Best in the World.

The following week, Cena, with his light tube, says that if Danielson wants to get violent then he needs to get violent against him; Cena brings out Bret – Bret obviously is furious, as angry as he can get at this point, he needs to hit as high as he can go on the rage meter and tell Danielson and Steamboat that they are gutless – Cena says he wants to challenge Danielson to a No DQ match at Summer Slam, Bret says goddamn right – the challenge is answered at an indie show later that week, Danielson says if Cena thinks all he can do is chain wrestle he hasn’t been paying attention. Danielson (it would be good if he was in PWG since Summer Slam is in LA and I want this close to the event to give Danielson all summer to stay off TV) says when John Cena hit him with a light tube a year and a half ago he let it go; he doesn’t care about John Cena, but when Harry Smith and the rest of Underground came into his house and trashed it – they made the wrong enemy.  And if John Cena wants to go hardcore – Bryan Danielson’s ready to teach him what it means.

That almost wraps GDI; Tyler Black spends the summer on WWF Underground (Tough Enough) he’s picked on hard (as are the Usos, who are billed as the Rock’s cousins).  Black won’t quit, no matter how badly he’s treated (Booker T serves as babyface trainer, and he winds up pushing back against the Underground bullying eventually; that’s going to lead to Nemeth/Sheamus/Barrett appearing on the season finale of Underground to take Booker out) and makes the finals against Dean Ambrose (that he takes the WWF name isn’t part of the story explicitly, but it’s not an accident).
Ambrose wins – he gets the WWF contract – and joins Underground. 

 That’s 3 matches set up.

In part 2 – the 3 title matches and the balance of the card.


Mike Heine said...

Loving it dude. Brilliant long term booking and continuity that real world Vince could stand to learn from!
I gotta say I never saw the Wrestlemania swerve coming, but afterwards it made perfect sense. Good stuff!

Jim said...

Thanks - I knew for a couple of years I wanted to put Underground together in some belt sweeping fashion and actually it was Edge's retirement that put this specific plan in motion.

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