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 2015

Friday, July 01, 2016

Summer Slam 2015 is coming in August from Brooklyn.

Let’s reset. 

RAW is real world RAW, the show that drives story. We try to avoid too many in ring promos and the away from the ring stuff is designed to either appear raw or stylized, with no backstage stuff in the manner of real world RAW.  We do some blue screen promos, some ECW style Pulp Fiction segments, a lot of highlight packages and taped pieces.  The announcers are Joey Styles, Christian, and Renee Young doing Gene Okerlund’s old job. 

Fight Night is real world Smackdown, it’s all matches and highlight packages.  If there’s a promo it’s presented as spontaneous.  RAW should feel as big as it can, Fight Night should feel small, intense, you want to hear the impact of the blows, smell the sweat, flinch from the violence.  Joey and Steve Regal are your announcers. 

GVU is NXT.  There’s a name change coming.  GVU is GDI v. Underground which I’ll explain momentarily.  It’s at Full Sail, which we call WWF University.  Scott Stanford and Corey Graves is your announce. 

There’s other Network programming.  For years there’s been a livestream of developmental, it predates the creation of the Network and continues thereon.  Just a raw feed of training and in the house where many of the developmental prospects live.  Developmental is called Underground, and a recap show, Notes From Underground, appears on the Network where the best moments from the week are in clip form, like The Soup.  They do one segment where they do clips from the rest of the programming as well.

There’s a First Take/PTI style debate show where the issues currently existing in the promotion are debated, kayfabe intact.  There’s a straight news show, like a Sportscenter, which covers the entire sport, anything going on in every promotion.  There’s a sheet show which isn’t listed as programming, it’s “off the menu” and it takes a code sent out on twitter to access it.  It’s a total shoot, we’d start off by trying to either hire Meltzer or just broadcast his podcast and failing that we’d work our way down. No holds barred. 

There are events, such as a ten week counting down of the 100 Greatest Wrestlers of all Time, there are clip shows recapping “this year in wrestling” – where we go through the pivotal events of a past year, mini documtentaries, round tables like the one Okerlund used to host, list type countdown shows - I could go on – there’s plenty of original programming is my point. Every single day of the year there should be at least one piece of original programming on the Network.  

Let’s get to the build for Summer Slam.

Here’s the card, every match is made by the newest member of the Championship Committee, Edge.

WWF Title: Brock Lesnar (w/Heyman) v. Kevin Steen (Special Guest Referee-Ricky Steamboat)
Tags: The Shield (Black/Ambrose w/Langston) v. Underground (Sheamus/Barrett)
IC: Bray Wyatt (w/Harper) v. John Cena
Number One Contender: Claudio Castagnoli v. Nick Nemeth
Pac v. Kalisto
Luke Harper v. Rusev (w/GHB and Lana)
Randy Orton v. Roman Reigns-Uso
Number One Contender Triple Threat: Sasha Banks v. Becky Lynch v. Charlotte Flair (w/Ric)
New Day (Kingston/Woods) v. TPPTPTP (Young/O’Neil)

Here’s how we get there.

The driving force through the summer is factional warfare.

GDI (Steen/Generico/Claudio/Pac)
Paul Heyman Guys (Lesnar/Kenta/Devitt/La Sombra)
Underground (Nemeth/Sheamus/Barrett/Swagger)

GDI stands for God Damn Independent; it’s a nearly ten year old faction started by Punk designed to be the proxy for an ROH invasion of WWF.  Steen’s a heel, the other three are white meat babies, Claudio was WWF Champion when Steen arrived, so even though Steen assumed a leadership role he deferred to Claudio’s desire to work in his chosen manner.  Now, however, Steen increases the pressure on Pac and Claudio to toughen up – GDI is down, currently and Steen says it’s due to their being soft.  Pac and Generico both wear masks, Pac is making his PPV debut at Summer Slam.  Steen browbeats Claudio and Pac pretty intensely, using all the codes for "be heels now" that you can think of.

If GDI is down, it’s the Paul Heyman Guys who are up, Lesnar is WWF Champion, Kenta beat Danielson at Mania in what appears to be his last match.  La Sombra is new, he shows up this summer to balance out the numbers. 

Here’s how long we’ve been doing a developmental storyline – the original head trainer was Taz. 

WWF University is also known as WWFU and most commonly referred to as Underground.  Once guys move through developmental and hit the main roster they’re affiliated, however Nemeth has been on opposite sides of the babyface/heel divide from former friends Sheamus/Barrett for years and just reunited to beat down The Shield at Mania.  Nemeth /Swagger establish themselves as tweeners during the summer, Sheamus and Barrett remain complete heels. 

They all meet in multiple combinations for most of the summer, Lesnar’s used sparingly, Steen and Generico never work as a two man tag, Nemeth and Claudio built a friendship the prior summer and that carries over.  Underground gets peeled off mid build when The Shield returns.  The Shield will defend their tag titles at Summer Slam as the longest reigning champions of any type in the Wrestlemania era, when they return they kill Swagger, that results in his leaving the main roster to go down to developmental to serve as trainer for Jordan/Gable.  Kalisto takes his spot.

The culmination is War Games, which we do every few years as needed – it’s GDI v. Paul Heyman Guys, the stakes are to get to name the special guest referee for Summer Slam.

GDI goes over, Steen gets the submission on Kenta, who is severely injured in the match.  Also injured is Generico, who fought through it, avoiding elimination, saving his team. Both men go on the shelf.  

In the subsequent RAW, we get the decision – GDI picks Steamboat as guest referee.

Steamboat has been involved with GDI since its inception, first as it’s chief antagonist as he was WWF Commissioner (currently, WWF has a Championship Committee, Austin, Michaels and Edge, all past Triple Crown winners…the Triple Crown means they’ve held all 3 WWF titles…the Championship Committee is rarely seen, rarely more than once for each man a cycle, Edge just took his spot at Mania which is why his profile is higher in this build) and a feud with Punk from their mutual days in both TNA and ROH carried over to WWF.  Eventually, Punk would beat Steamboat at Mania.  Eventually, Steamboat would become the owner of GDI, but divested himself over the past year. 

Steamboat appears with everyone from both factions and Edge in the ring.  Heyman, obviously is angry given Steamboat’s GDI association – but Steamboat makes clear his unimpeachable honesty and suggests that Steen is the reason he left GDI so we can add intrigue to that element of the match. 

The overall storyline of the match is Lesnar’s an unstoppable monster, beaten only by Danielson in this run, and the Lesnar matches clearly impacted all of his opponents, and how will Steen stand up to that onslaught?

The Shield’s held the tag titles for two years+, it’s the longest reign of any titleholder in the Mania era, and they haven’t been afraid to tell you about it.  But after their win over a reunited Division One (Nemeth/Swagger) at Mania they were attacked by Sheamus/Barrett with Nemeth and Swagger, both babyfaces, joining in.

That version of The Shield was Black/Ambrose – they’re largely who works in regular tag matches with Langston as their bodyguard who also works in 6 man matches, of which there have been many in this run (a really good analogue is the Hart Foundation, which was Bret and Davey Boy with the Anvil as the third guy; there were two primaries, but they also had a lot of 6 man matches and their title reign was Freebird rules).  At Mania, however, Langston lost a singles match to Rusev, so he was not present for either the record breaking win or the post match attack.  Ambrose and Black make a couple of references to that during the build – the build is fast, they take off most of the summer, returning at the top of August to kill Swagger and kick off the program where they swear vengeance on Sheamus/Barrett. 

Barrett and Sheamus were tag rivals turned stablemates when all of the Underground members on the main roster banded together in a big angle several years ago.  Barrett’s been tag champ, Sheamus has been IC champ, both have missed lots of time recently with injuries – this is their first tag effort together, both have been on the wrong side of The Shield during this run, as has been most of the roster. That's the thing - The Shield hasn't just squeaked by, they've been the Road Warriors, they've killed errrrybody.  

The Wyatt Family was Bray, Luke Harper (who was then called Harper) Cena and Virgil (Dustin Rhodes) – over the past year we’ve seen them split off, Harper added a first name, turned face and won the IC title.  He then defended it against Virgil, who turned face and returned to his old name.  The Wyatts added a man, Harper (stay with me) who is Damian Sandow (formerly of Underground, but now under the cult like sway of Wyatt) doing all the mannerisms and wearing the clothes of Luke Harper (Bray replaced Luke, see?).  Bray, with aid of Harper, took the IC from Luke at Mania.  Edge, as mentioned, puts the card together for Summer Slam – he brings the Wyatts (at this point, Bray, Cena, Harper) to the ring and says he was a tag champ who had to struggle to get singles opportunities.  He once felt lost in a stable (Edge and Christian are members of the Clique; the Clique was once in a year long feud with Team Angle, the enforcer for which was Regal, that animates the tension among the two color announcers; additionally, Regal is the leader of Underground, he became head trainer after Taz and then Rotundo left and is credited with the creation of the performance center.  Regal is an enormous figure in WWF; he is the template for the future of the promotion. Even in his role as color announcer, Regal makes no secret of his preference for Underground) and in the spirit of pay it forward, Edge says at Summer Slam, Bray will be defending against Cena (Cena’s a former tag champ, never had a singles shot).

That serves to do what you’d expect – Cena, unlike Dustin or Harper, doesn’t jump at the chance – he’s the most loyal to Bray, Cena's defining character trait has always been loyalty, so for weeks he says he isn’t going to do it or will lay down and give the win the Bray, but Edge needles him, that maybe it’s for the best, could be that rap that Bray laid on Cena that he was, in a different world, a multi time world champion movie star, was just a bunch of nonsense and as long as Cena doesn’t try to beat Bray, he’ll never have to find out.

It gets under Cena’s skin enough that by show time, while Cena hasn’t left the Family, he’s fired up to find out, to get what might be his only singles shot.  Bray takes it well, doesn’t look to smack Cena down, says win, lose, or draw, when the night is over the IC belt stays in the Family and everything is fine. 

Other than Lesnar, who is also the current champ, there are only two former WWF Champions on the roster, Nemeth and Claudio.  Edge puts them together, winner will wrestle for the WWF Championship at Survivor Series.  Nemeth is also the most recent Triple Crown winner, he’s been a babyface for awhile, but now becomes a tweener; a year ago, he and Claudio formed a friendship as they joined to battle the Wyatts, and they were able to keep that friendship all summer despite the factional warfare and Steen increasing his pressure on Claudio to stop being a pussy. 

Pac, in a mask, makes his PPV debut (international commitments, contractual holdups, that’s the kind of thing given as reasons for guys not doing PPVs) against young Kalisto, also making his PPV debut in what is expected to be a spot fest (not a pejorative).  Steen is glad Pac’s finally put his outside obligations being him and wants to see Pac really take advantage of the kid. Really work him over,

Luke Harper, as mentioned, lost the IC at Mania – Edge puts him in a match with the undefeated powerhouse Rusev, doing the Russian gimmick with Lana, but also with GHB (Bradshaw) as a wealthy right wing benefactor. 

The Usos failed again at Mania, they’re the always a bridesmaid tag team and at Mania they lost to the Direct to Video team of Miz/HHH-M and Randy Orton.  Reigns, coming off that loss and the other big match losses which have proceeded it, vows to exterminate each of the three members of D2V and that starts here with Orton. 

Paige is Women’s Champion, she’s in a stable, 4-Ground with Sasha/Becky/Charlotte.  Ric Flair, who returned to the promotion in the build for the Sting/Undertaker Mania match, now joins the act, sort of like how in a young musical act a parent might act as a manager – that’s the role Flair assumes for 4-Ground.  They adopt a Four Horsemen shtick, expensive clothes, limousines, VIP at all the clubs – and they do a lot of gang style beatdowns of every other woman in the promotion and developmental. There’s a couple of months of 4-Ground wiping out the rest of the women’s roster and establishing their personas within the group under Flair’s direction – Sasha’s the worker, Becky’s the enforcer, Paige has the strap and Charlotte….Charlotte largely lingers in the background.  There’s wariness that, given that Flair is her father, he will favor her, but there’s been no evidence of that and everyone trusts Ole’ Naitch.

Shawn, on tape, says he asked Edge if he could put together the women’s match – and what he wants to see is a Three Way Dance to determine the number one contender.  Becky v. Sasha v. Charlotte.
Flair does the full “I’m furious Ric Flair” bit – says WWF is trying to break apart the finest faction of women’s wrestlers ever created, says his women will stay together, that 4-Ground will remain intact regardless of who comes out ahead.

And that becomes the talking point for all of them – regardless of who wins at Summer Slam and who goes on to face Paige at Survivor Series, they will all stay together no matter what. 

The last match on the card features an African-American comedy tag act that is designed as a parody of what can be the minstrelization of black acts in wrestling…and also the New Day.

A couple years ago, we put together Tyler Perry Presents The Prime Time Players, Young and O’Neill, saying that we wouldn’t be using them on cards, given their working limitations, but they’d be out there, on the programming, doing comedy that could too easily move from parody to stereotype for me to feel good about trying to write it.

I’d suggest to you that’s an excellent way to think about real world New Day.

So, they’re here – taking on New Day which is Kingston and, making his in ring debut, Woods.
Except Woods can’t actually work the show, so he won’t be working, it’s a bait and switch.  New Day is doing a black identity gimmick, Kingston changes the name of Trouble in Paradise to Intersectionality.  They’ve got t-shirts that say #blackwrestlinglivesmatter.  Woods is a professor, strictly a manager type thusfar, but he makes his in ring debut (except not) at Summer Slam. TPPPTPTP clowns their seriousness, calls Woods Dr Harry Edwards, Woods asks Young and O'Neill which one is Step and which one is Fetchit.  And that's why it's better that I'm not trying to navigate that comedy space.  

That’s the card.  Two more items.

We’ve got two dark matches on the show – the first features an appearance advertised for months, Jushin Thunder Liger will appear in a WWF ring for the first and perhaps only time, he’ll wrestle Prince Devitt. There's been history of NJPW pieces on the Network to provide context for Liger and NJPW has gotten some plugs for the AXS show and PPVs. 

And then there’s Samoa Joe.

Joe made his WWF debut running in during the Sting/Undertaker Mania match.  He killed lots of guys and left without speaking.

He now starts to show up on GVU.

Unannounced, without music, he walks out just before a random match, say Tyler Breeze against an enhancement guy – he tells the enhancement guy to beat it – he does – he takes the spot, and kills Breeze dead. 

Renee Young tries to talk to him in the aisle, he blows by like she’s not there.

A couple weeks later he does it again, say to kill Baron Corbin. 

This time when Renee tries to stop him, he stares hard as if considering if he wants to speak, but does not.

A week later he’s called out by SG Ryback, who does Joe think he is to show up in his house, that kind of thing.  He challenges Joe to meet him next week.

Joe does, Joe kills him, Joe talks.

He says he’s been dominating this sport for a dozen years.  Longest running champ in ROH and TNA history.  He’s not a G or a U.  He’s the OG. 

And every year, WWF would call with a money offer – an embarrassingly low offer.  And he’d watch GDI grow, watch guys who he beat, who he was better than, win titles – and it fueled him with a darkness that he cannot express. 

Joe didn’t come to Mania to be a Horseman, to save his brothers – Joe came to Mania because he got paid; because in 2015, WWF finally made him a decent offer – and no surprise, it came on Bryan Danielson’s last day.  They needed Joe so they paid Joe. They finally needed Joe enough to pay him.  Joe says they could have gotten him in his prime.  They could have gotten the guy who wrestled Kobashi.  Could have gotten a Wrestlemania main eventer for years. 

Instead – they got the guy who now runs GVU.  You're not gonna see him in RAW, on Fight Night, on PPV.  Not gonna see him win titles.  That's not the Joe they got.  They got the Joe who owns GVU.  
This is my ride.  And it is a dark ride.

In fact – that’s what we’re calling this place now.  Dark Ride Wrestling.  GDI can come, I’ll whip their ass.  Underground can come, I’ll whip their ass. Anyone in the world can come to Dark Ride Wrestling, as long as they understand one thing.

Joe is gonna kill you.

The next week, all of the signage has changed, all of the advertising has changed, there's new theme music, it’s Dark Ride Wrestling, which pisses off everyone.  Jamie Noble returns to an on camera role after several years away; he was last seen as part of GDI.  Noble’s with Gargano and Ciampa, making their debuts.  He says he’s a former ROH Champ, just like Joe – and unlike Joe, he actually is a GDI OG.  And the idea that Joe thinks he can walk into the WWF and change the name of this show is the height of arrogance. 

Joe enters – asks Noble to pick a guy – he picks Gargano – they have a back and forth match, and Joe goes over. 

The next week, it’s Swagger making his debut as trainer for Gable/Jordan.  His arm is in a sling to sell the Shield beat down.  He says he’s a WWF tag champion, he’s actually main evented WWF PPVs, and for Joe to come in here and change the name is the height of arrogance.

Joe enters – asks him to pick – he picks Jordan, Joe beats him.

The next time we see Joe, he’s attacked by both teams, full four man beat down and Joe’s left laid out.

A dark match at Summer Slam is set, it’s going to be Gable and Ciampa teaming up against Joe and anyone he can get to work with him – if Joe wins, the show will permanently remain Dark Ride Wrestling.  If he loses, it reverts to GVU. 

One more item – a special announcement by Senator Linda McMahon (Linda won her first Senate election and has governed as an Elizabeth Warren style economic populist), Linda’s traveled the country for a year, doing talk show appearances, going to multiple states to speak, she wrote a best selling book, and now, in August, 2015, she’s coming to Brooklyn for a special announcement.

Whatever could it be?

So, here’s your card.

WWF Title: Brock Lesnar (w/Heyman) v. Kevin Steen (Special Guest Referee-Ricky Steamboat)
Tags: The Shield (Black/Ambrose w/Langston) v. Underground (Sheamus/Barrett)
IC: Bray Wyatt (w/Harper) v. John Cena
Number One Contender: Claudio Castagnoli v. Nick Nemeth
Pac v. Kalisto
Luke Harper v. Rusev (w/GHB and Lana)
Randy Orton v. Roman Reigns-Uso
Number One Contender Triple Threat: Sasha Banks v. Becky Lynch v. Charlotte Flair (w/Ric)
New Day (Kingston/Woods) v. TPPTPTP (Young/O’Neil)

Add in the appearance by Linda and, at least for those in attendance, the two dark matches, you’ve got a pretty good event.  Coming in August – Summer Slam 2015!

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