August 15, 2004
Air Canada Center
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Buy Rate: .94
Announcers: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole & Tazz
Sunday Night Heat
Rob Van Dam (Rob Szatkowski) defeats Rene Dupree (Rene Goguen) with the Five-Star Frog Splash at 9:35
Pay Per View
Fun Fact: On the July 29 Smackdown, Teddy Long was announced as the new GM of Smackdown. Long immediately turned face upon the announcement. We will get into the circumstances that led to Kurt Angle’s removal later in the review.
1) The Dudley Boys defeat Billy Kidman (Peter Gruner), Paul London & Rey Mysterio (Oscar Gutierrez) when Spike Dudley (Matt Hyson) pins Kidman after a 3D at 8:06
Fun Fact: On July 1, JBL announced that he would be defending his belt against a Dudley in the main event of the show. Excitement quickly turned to anger for Bubba and D-Von when JBL said he would be facing Spike. Later that night, Bubba and D-Von told Spike not to mess up his chance and that they would help him if he wanted it, but he wanted to go it alone. That strategy would backfire, as JBL won the match. On 7/8, things got worse as the Dudleys lost their tag titles to Paul London and Billy Kidman. On 7/15, after two weeks of telling his brothers to leave him alone, D-Von ignored Spike’s wishes and helped him with a tag match. On 7/22, Spike became the number one contender for the cruiserweight title. Bubba and D-Von congratulated their brother and promised him they wouldn’t interfere in his title match if he didn’t interfere in D-Von’s match with his buddy Rey Mysterio. Spike would keep his word and Mysterio pinned D-Von. The next week, Spike defeated Mysterio to win the cruiserweight strap after his brothers interfered. Spike was angry and apologized to Rey for what went down. Later that night, Rey would help London and Kidman beat the Dudleys to retain their belts. A week later, Spike finally gave into his brothers’ pressure. Bubba and D-Von defeated Rey and Spike and after the match Spike hit Rey with a low blow and the Dudleys celebrated as a family. The next week, the united Dudleys beat down London, Kidman and Rey to set up this showdown.
Scott: This is an interesting opener that actually sees the Dudleys with a fresh dynamic, and I never thought that was possible. I had been saying for the past few reviews that the Dudleys have been stale and boring for quite a while. However here was a slurve that they never tried: Actually having Spike being in charge of the family. In both ECW and in WWE Spike was the little twerp who got pushed around by his bigger brothers. Now Spike is the mad genius and the Dudleys are his charges. On the other side this fresh new team of Paul London and Billy Kidman teams with the very popular Rey Mysterio. Kidman and London won the tag straps and now they are a dynamic in the mid-card that made Smackdown the better of the two brands in 2003 and was sorely lacking so far in 2004. Smackdown hadn’t filled the holes that were lost with various roster moves dating back to the end of 2003 so they were really struggling with their mid-card. The Dudleys were involved in that insipid feud with Undertaker & Paul Heyman, but then they settled back into their role as tag team heroes, or in this case heels, but now they have little brother Spike calling the shots. Kidman was a guy that I always thought could really be valuable for the Smackdown brand but he seemed to go in and out and never really found a solid footing. Some heel chicanery leads to the Dudleys win, and rightfully so. Spike Dudley’s change really adds something different and frankly its something that Smackdown sorely needed. Grade: 2.5
Justin: Summerslam kicks off with a fresh matchup that is a small illustration of the changes Smackdown has gone through since the summer arrived. Kidman and London were now the tag champs and Spike Dudley had turned heel and taken the cruiserweight title from his former friend Mysterio. The Dudleys were untied as a heel tandem and were really in a groove. The Dudleys seemed reinvigorated here and were settling back into the mid-card after their brief main event foray in June. I liked Spike as the diminutive bully that bossed his bigger brothers around, as it was a cool twist. This match had a nice old school Summerslam feel and a throwback to the multi-man matches of years past. London and Kidman made for a nice fit as they had a good and cohesive look and complimentary styles. They looked strong in there as champs, as did Rey Mysterio, who was super over and flying around the ring as always. The crowd was a bit quiet out of the gate, but I thought this was a solid opener. The faces showed good teamwork and got a great near fall on a Kidman shooting star press. The finish was well done too as Spike gets the pin after his brothers do the dirty work. This was a fun little opener with non-stop action that gets the show off and running. Grade: 2.5
2) Kane (Glen Jacobs) defeats Matt Hardy with a chokeslam off the top rope at 6:08; Due to pre-match stipulation, Lita was now engaged to Kane
Fun Fact: On 8/2, Kane accosted Lita backstage and offered her the following deal. He would face Matt Hardy at Summerslam and Lita would have to marry the winner. Lita said she welcomed the opportunity to be done with Kane once and for all and accepted the offer. A week later, Lita told Matt that the doctor confirmed the baby belonged to Kane. Later that night, both men signed the contract for the PPV match and the segment ended with Matt tipping a table over on Kane and smacking him with a briefcase. The next week, the heel Divas threw Lita a mock bridal shower, giving her insulting gifts. That night, Matt cost Kane a title match against Edge in the final salvo before this match.
Scott: This storyline is so strange but frankly they’ve run out of things for Kane to do. With Matt winning their match at Vengeance, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Kane was going to win this one, which means we have to endure another silly Raw wedding. The match was booked somewhat strangely, as Matt dominated the action until Kane comes with a chokeslam out of nowhere and gets the win. This is where the Toronto crowd, historically one of the best in WWE history, starts to act very strangely. Out of nowhere they start calling Lita a slut, which is compounded by the fact that Kane actually won the match with a big top rope chokeslam. The crowd was holding signs bashing Lita and liking Kane? It doesn’t stop there tonight, but this is where it begins. The match is kind of a mess, just like this storyline. Grade: 1
Justin: This bizarre storyline takes another awkward twist, as Lita would be forced to marry the winner. Already pregnant with Kane’s baby, Lita’s emotions were torn, as the man she really loved was jaded and angry over the whole mess. Matt got off to a fast start as the crowd began what would become a trend throughout the night as they began vociferously speaking their mind in unconventional ways. Here, they began chanting “slut” at Lita, showing her no compassion. Hardy actually controlled a good amount of the match, but Kane quickly washed that away with a great super chokeslam for the win. Matt was finished and Lita was now reluctantly betrothed to Kane. The match was a solid brawl but really could have used more brutality to get the hatred of the feud over. The crowd was out of it early, but picked up for the finish, which was well done. Kane wins and the Raw family now had a wedding to look forward to. Grade: 1.5
3) John Cena defeats Booker T. (Booker Huffman) with an FU at 6:25 in Match One of a Best of Five Series
Fun Fact: On 7/1, Booker became the number one contender for the US title by defeating Rob Van Dam and Rene Dupree. On 7/8, Booker received that title match. During the bout, Cena accidentally clotheslined Angle on the floor. Luther Reigns jumped Cena, leading to a no contest. Angle then stripped Cena of his title, stating that Cena had broken his probation by putting his hands on the GM once again. Angle would get some revenge the next week by forcing Cena in a handicap match, which ended when Booker pinned him. On 7/22, Angle handed the title to Booker, saying the board’s decision would come the following week, but he was so sure of the outcome, he gave Booker the gold now. The next week, new GM Teddy Long took the belt back from Booker and announced that a new champion would be determined with an eight-man elimination match. Booker would end up winning the match and officially becoming US Champion. On 8/5, Long told Booker that he and Cena would compete in a best-of-five series to determine an undisputed champion, as Cena had never officially lost the belt. Cena would get the final strike in on 8/12, when he pinned Booker in a six-man tag. The best-of concept was a play off of Booker’s best-of-seven war with Chris Benoit over the WCW TV title back in 1998.
Scott: I love this concept of the “best-of” series between competitors, similar to my love of tournaments. Cena and Booker work well together as evidenced by their Bash interaction in the four-way match. This match isn’t bad, but I thought they’d get at least ten minutes to tell the story in the ring. It seems like these early matches were very short, but unlike the imbalance of match times at Vengeance, here the matches are fairly even and spread out. I’ve realized that Booker T was always a better heel in his career than a babyface and this was a perfect example. He feels disrespected, and then gets a gift from outgoing GM Kurt Angle but new GM Teddy Long is making Booker earn it since Cena never lost the title. Michael Cole and Tazz are really cooking here as they keep the action moving and no silly analogies. Cena hits an FU out of nowhere to get the win, but again these two could have used a few more minutes to keep the pace going, as the match was going on, then the FU and its over. Cena goes up 1-0. Grade: 2
Justin: John Cena emerges to a big pop as he attempts to strike first in the best-of-five series to regain his US title. I liked the concept here and it worked well for Booker and Benoit back in WCW, so the bookers thought they could recapture that magic again here. This had become a good rivalry and Booker was finally involved in something interesting for the first time in a while. Booker worked Cena over with his usual wear down offense, but it worked well due to Cena’s great selling. It also worked based on the overall scope of the feud, as the announcers really emphasized how Booker was also wearing down Cena for their remaining matches in addition to trying to win this one. Cena would fight through the beating and quickly drop Booker with an FU for the flash pin to take a lead in the series. The match was solid stuff and well worked, but was missing something to really call it anything more than just an OK outing. Grade: 2
4) Edge (Adam Copeland) defeats Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) and Batista to retain WWE Intercontinental Championship when he pins Jericho with a spear at 8:26
Fun Fact: On 8/2, Chris Jericho had Edge as a guest on the Highlight Reel. He informed the champ that he would be defending his IC title against Jericho and Batista at Summerslam. The two argued a bit and then ended up brawling in the ring. The next week, Jericho would pin Edge in a non-title match. After the bout, Batista assaulted the champ.
Scott: Here’s where the crowd really gets into Bizarro mode. As expected, the IC Champ gets the hottest ovation in his hometown of Toronto. The match starts off with Batista dominating the action, and then Edge gets control. At one point, Jericho grabs Batista’s leg from the outside. Batista kicks him off, then Edge drops kicks Batista through the ropes. At this point something very strange happens. Edge starts getting booed. Everything he does gets boos from the crowd. Now that I’m watching this match, Edge started showing the look of someone who was slowly starting to change his ways. These little looks and sneers. I think partially Chris Jericho is to indirectly blame for this too because he was ridiculously over with the fans and I think they wanted to see him win another IC Title. When Batista replaced Jericho in the ring we thought probably that Edge would get the fans’ cheers back. When the fans were still booing Edge during exchanges with the heel Batista, you knew something was up. This match was going well, until Edge all of a sudden hits the spear and wins the match, much to the…chagrin of the crowd? So weird. Edge retains the title and the crowd doesn’t like it. Grade: 2
Justin: Edge gets a nice hometown pop as he returns to Toronto with gold around his waist. Unfortunately for him, that was the only positive reaction he would get for the rest of the match, as the crowd quickly turned on him and began cheering both of his opponents. This was an interesting blend here as Edge and Jericho had been steady week in and week out on Raw and Batista was continuing so improve under the wing of Triple H and Ric Flair. Batista would use his power offense to control Jericho early. Once Edge got into the mix, he and Jericho had a good little segment, but that is when the crowd turned on Edge and things got ugly for him. It got bad enough that JR and King even mentioned it and it would continue throughout the show to the point that they would talk about it for the rest of the night. I can’t really say I blamed the crowd here, as Edge’s character was still pretty bland despite his ring work having rounded back into form. Future crowds will take the cue from the Toronto fans and Edge was in for some interesting changes as the year progresses. I liked Batista’s crisp offense here too as he really snapped off his moves to make them look impactful. The end came out of nowhere and had no build, which really hurt the match. Overall, it was choppy and just OK and I must say I was disappointed. Edge hangs on to his gold but it seems as if the fans were quickly tiring of his bland face act. Grade: 2.5
5) Kurt Angle defeats Eddie Guerrero by submission with the Anklelock at 13:38
Fun Fact: Following the Bash, Kurt Angle’s abuse of power got even more out of control. On 7/1, he punished referee Charles Robinson by making his fight his bodyguard, Luther Reigns. On 7/15, things came to a head during an Eddie Guerrero/JBL steel cage title match. During the match, a masked man hit the ring and prevented Eddie from winning. Eddie was able to unmask the man to reveal Angle, who was supposedly crippled for life with a broken leg. Despite the reveal, Angle was proud of himself as JBL retained. A week later, Angle, still in the wheelchair, was maniacal, proclaiming that Smackdown would be the home of morality and would not house guys like Cena and Guerrero as champions. He then fired ring announcer Tony Chimmel for the way he proudly announced Eddie as the winner back at Wrestlemania XX. He would also fire Funaki after he told Angle that stripping Cena of his gold was unfair. At the end of the night, Angle’s world came crashing down as Mr. McMahon met him in the ring. Vince asked Kurt for his resignation, but Kurt begged for his job because he was unable to wrestle. Vince said that he was going to be given a Humanitarian Award for hiring the handicapped Angle as GM, but that was all ruined by Angle showing he was healthy last week. Vince then fired him as GM and reinstated him as a wrestler and putting him in a match with Guerrero at the PPV. Vince grabbed Angle’s crutch and swung it at him to prove that Kurt was healthy. On 7/29, Eddie came out with a box of goods that he took from Angle’s GM office. He began to auction them off to the crowd, but Angle came out to interject when Eddie tried to sell Kurt’s gold medals for a dollar. Angle threatened to steal Eddie’s car, but when he turned the key, powder shot out of the steering wheel, sending Angle scurrying. The following two weeks saw both men deliver intense promos to set the stage for this showdown.
Scott: The crowd’s bizarre behavior continues as they start chanting Kurt Angle’s name from the get-go. Now Eddie doesn’t get booed or anything, like Edge in the previous match, but still, Angle getting cheered? In their first meeting since Wrestlemania, Angle and Guerrero go back and forth and the crowd suddenly shuts up. I don’t know what kind of “whacky tobacky” is being sold outside the Air Canada Centre, but I’d like some…or not. The match is great, pretty much what you’d expect from these two. It’s great to see Angle back into the ring and faking the leg injury for the storyline. Unfortunately doing that severely hurt Smackdown’s roster, but it does bring us this match so that’s ok with me. Again Guerrero’s ankle is a focus and indeed Angle reverses the philosophy of the “untied boot” and Angle grapevines the bare ankle of Latino Heat, and Eddie has to tap out. No hurt on either guy with this match, just a rematch that was inevitable and as expected, top notch. Grade: 3
Justin: This rivalry has taken many incarnations, but it has been going since the end of 2003. Eddie gets a warm welcome as he was set for this Wrestlemania rematch. Once again, though, the crowd would turn things around and began to side with Angle as the match wore on. Kurt had his buddy Luther Reigns at ringside and it seemed like a matter of time before he got involved. Eddie’s goal in the match was to prove he could win clean and that he didn’t need to cheat his way to victory. He showed great speed early as the two traded some mat holds and reversals. Eddie would steal Kurt’s finisher and hook in an Anklelock, but Kurt quickly turned the tables, leading to a neat Anklelock battle segment. Angle would continue to punish the ankle and they were able to keep the crowd into it despite spending a lot of time on the mat. One of the highlights of the match was an awesome super throw off the top rope by Angle. Angle would then rip off Eddie’s boot in a nice callback to their Wrestlemania match when Eddie unlaced it so it would slip off during the Anklelock. Eddie would battle back and get a nice near fall on a frog splash, but Angle was just too strong in the end. The finish was red hot with another great Anklelock segment. This time, Angle hooked it tight, dropped down, wrenched it in and Eddie was forced to tap out. By the end the crowd was completely behind Angle and he delivered a strong, clean win that was needed to reestablish him as a main player on the Smackdown scene. The match was smart and well worked and Angle has now avenged his Mania loss. Despite evening things up, this feud was far from over. Grade: 3.5
6) Triple H (Paul Levesque) defeats Eugene (Nick Dinsmore) with the Pedigree at 14:05
Fun Fact: On 7/12, an angry Evolution struck and laid out Chris Benoit, Eugene and William Regal to close out the show. Regal had really begun sticking up for Eugene, who he had grown quite fond of since being assigned as his keeper. The next week’s show opened with Triple H and Bischoff laughing it up over Eugene’s demise. Eric said his nephew was gone for good and gave Triple H an Iron Man title match with Chris Benoit as a reward. As they gloated, William Regal came out and attacked the Game. A week later, Benoit defeated Hunter with an assist from the returning Eugene. On 8/2, Hunter called out Eugene for costing him his title chance. Regal came down instead and took responsibility for unleashing Eugene the week before. Regal then challenged him to a match, which Hunter quickly accepted. During the bout, Hunter used a pair of brass knucks to bloody Regal, giving William the DQ win. Hunter then grabbed his sledgehammer and beat Regal senseless with it. As medics were wheeling Regal to the back on a stretcher, Hunter grabbed him by the neck brace and flipped him over in a nasty bump. Bischoff then granted Hunter a match with Eugene at the PPV. On 8/9, we saw that Regal was keeping Eugene in a hotel room until it was time for his match. However, when Regal was distracted, Eugene snuck out and headed off. When Eugene got to the ring, he called out Hunter. The Game appeared on the Tron and revealed that he was in the hotel room. The camera panned over to see Regal beaten down and tied up. Hunter hammered on him some more, blaming Eugene for everything that was happening. Eugene would get the last licks in when he saved Benoit from an Evolution beatdown, but this feud was pretty much all Triple H.
Scott: Quick and painless. That’s what I wanted this match to be. I disliked the Eugene character from the beginning, and now I’m extremely happy that it was going to come to an end on this night. The bizarre Toronto crowd continued to drink the “joy juice” as they’re booing Eugene. That’s not a complete shock as he was getting booed for a while. The match is a slaughter, as except for some punches here and there Triple H essentially beats the hell out of him. For those that always say Triple H doesn’t put young talent over, this is not an example of that. Eugene was nothing more than a lower mid-card character and for some reason the crowd dug him for a while and they elevated it to the main events and it worked for a very short time. By the time his appearance at Vengeance wrecked what was a pretty good main event match between Triple H and Chris Benoit, everyone turned on it and it was time to end it. Eugene hit some token finishers to maybe get the crowd going, but the eventual Pedigree spared us any further pain and suffering. Grade: 2
Justin: After toying with Eugene earlier this summer, Triple H’s manipulation bit him in the ass in two consecutive title matches. Hunter wanted revenge and was on a tear on Raw, putting quality beatings on William Regal in the weeks before the show. Eugene wanted to defend his friend and get revenge of his own for a bloody assault Evolution had given him. Eugene got off to a fast start to kick off the match, but Hunter would use Lillian Garcia as a distraction to turn momentum. It was the first sign of a pattern that would last throughout the match: Hunter outsmarting Eugene. The Bizarro crowd struck again here, supporting Triple H from bell to bell as he outsmarted and dissected Eugene. The Game was crisp and overpowering with his offense and it was a good thing to see in the midcard for a change. The pace was pretty good until Hunter locked on the dreaded sleeperhold, which slowed things way down. It was at that point that the match really went too long and became an extended squash. Eugene battled his way back and in a funny spot, he flipped Hunter the bird and dropped him with a stunner. Flair would hit ringside and run interference for a minute, long enough to allow Hunter to hit Eugene with a low blow and a Pedigree for the win. Both men really worked hard here and the hot finish bumped the grade after the slow middle nearly killed it. After the match, Regal came down and took out Flair to get some revenge for Evolution’s antics. From here, Eugene drops down from the main event picture while the Game is elevated right back up to his usual perch. Grade: 2.5
*** Over the summer, WWE began holding a Diva Search contest to find the next Diva. The elimination contest began on July 19 and each week the Divas competed in various contests. The fans would then vote a Diva off each week. The contestants of the first Diva Search were Christy Hemme, Carmella DeCesare, Joy Giovanni, Amy Weber, Maria Kanellis, Tracie Wright, Michelle McCool, Chandra Costello, Camille Anderson and Julia Costello. At this point in the PPV, we got a Diva Dodgeball competition between the Diva wannabes and the current Divas. The contest saw Joy, Amy, Tracie, Maria, Christy and Michelle take on Victoria, Gail Kim, Jazz, Stacy Keibler, Molly Holly and Nidia. The wannabes would win the competition and the Diva Search would continue to eat up time on Raw into the fall, much to the consternation of many fans. ***
7) John Bradshaw Layfield defeats Undertaker (Mark Callaway) by disqualification to retain WWE Heavyweight Championship when Undertaker hits Layfield with the title belt at 17:37
Fun Fact: On 7/22, JBL defeated a local jobber. After the match, Undertaker came to the ring and confronted the champion. After JBL ran his mouth a bit, Undertaker grabbed him and dropped him with a chokeslam before announcing that he would be challenging JBL at Summerslam. On 8/5, JBL brought out a midget Undertaker to mock and abuse. This drew out the real Deadman, who fought JBL off and loaded him up for a Tombstone. Before he could drop him, Orlando Jordan hit the ring and saved the champion. The following week, JBL cut a really strong promo setting the stage for the PPV. He also announced that Orlando Jordan was now his Chief of Staff. Later that night, OJ faced off with Taker, but that ended in DQ when JBL interfered.
Fun Fact II: Orlando Jordan had debut in May 2003 as a face. After a year of meandering around the lower midcard, Jordan resurfaced on Smackdown as JBL’s Chief of Staff.
Scott: Our first big title match is a battle of two former members of the Corporate Ministry. You knew that when JBL won the WWE Title in June that a feud with the Deadman was inevitable. Now the Toronto crowd really goes bonkers, when during a leg submission move, the crowd starts doing the wave. The Wave? This isn’t a friggin Blue Jays game, folks. You can also hear them doing strange chants and cat calls and it almost takes away from the storytelling in the ring. The match isn’t horrible, but it’s a little sloppy as both guys tried to feel each other out and almost were going in slow motion. There’s a couple of badly executed moves, ref bumps and Orlando Jordan interference. Taker then hits JBL with the title and the ref sees it, calling for the DQ. I don’t know if facing Taker was supposed to legitimize JBL as a champion, but the post-match beatdown where a bloodied JBL was left on the limo hood was more entertaining than the seventeen minutes of action. The crowd woke up somewhat for this and the chokeslam through the limo’s roof. The match served its purpose, but the post-match beatdown made up for the substandard action in the ring. Unfortunately you knew a rematch was coming. Grade: 1.5
Justin: After trudging around the midcard since his return as the Deadman, Undertaker is finally back in the title picture. He looked focused and intense as he hit the ring. When he first won the title, JBL was seen as somewhat of a joke. Here, he has gained some credibility and is carrying himself well as champion. His promo work had been really good and his brawling was solid as well. He isn’t all the way there yet, but he was definitely making strides. The champ was aggressive as he worked around Taker’s usual offense attack. I liked the commentary here as Cole and Tazz did a nice job breaking down the match and styles of each man. That was something they were really good at each week on Smackdown and it carried over to the PPVs. OJ would get involved to turn the tide and as JBL took over, the crowd got creative once again and broke out the wave. Of course, the last time a Toronto crowd busted out a big time wave on PPV was back at Wrestlemania VI. As the wave flowed around the arena, Cole and Tazz spouted the “Bizarro World” meme to explain away the crowd. I liked the back and forth flow here as neither man had control for too long. JBL looked strong and resilient and this was a good match for him to increase his stature. There were some really good near falls at the end and any of them would have been better than the lame DQ finish we got instead. Taker uses the belt, the ref catches him and calls for the bell, knocking this grade down a bit in the process. The match was hard fought and was a fun power match that kept me into it the whole way through. Taker didn’t relent after the bell and beat JBL around the ring. He dragged him over to the limo and finished the champ off with a chokeslam through the roof. The aftermath clearly set up a rematch that would come at the next Smackdown PPV. JBL hangs on to his belt and loses some of the momentum he gained with a good outing during the match. Grade: 2.5
8) Randy Orton defeats Chris Benoit to win World Heavyweight Championship with an RKO at 20:09
Fun Fact: On 7/26, Randy Orton won a battle royal to earn this title match. A week later, Orton pinned Benoit in a six-man tag, taking him out with an RKO.
Scott: Our main event is a unique battle between the conquering, very popular World Heavyweight Champion and the young stud with the wrestling pedigree. I know that Orton is one of those that the company really believes can be a player for years to come and indeed he can. This early run was a real good template of how all the parts were coming into place. He had the ability in the ring, and yes I know he had a cache of restholds but that’s fine, he’s technically still a rookie per se when you factor injury time into the equation. His promo skills are pretty solid, and he has that “look” that the Shawn Michaels and Steve Austins had early in their career. This match was a big test for him, as he was main eventing the second biggest show of the year against one of the best wrestlers in the world. Then all of a sudden, literally out of the blue, Orton hits an RKO and out of nowhere Orton is the new World Heavyweight Champion. I couldn’t believe it when I first saw it. Benoit’s run had come to an end. He had one impressive streak of success dating back to his win in Philly at the Royal Rumble. Here, however we christen a new champion. The match was very good, and kudos to Benoit for passing the torch to the young stud. Obviously Orton was still a heel but you could tell with the crowd reaction and the growing energy for him that a change was happening. However, was this too quick? Obviously not as quick as Brock Lesnar in 2002, but still it was pretty quick. We’ll see if this works out in the long run, but for now we had the match of the night and a shocking title change to wrap up this otherwise average show. Grade: 3.5
Justin: For the first time as World Champion, Chris Benoit main events a PPV against somebody other than Triple H or Shawn Michaels. Here he takes on the upstart challenger Randy Orton, who was vying to become the youngest World Champion in WWE history. After his lengthy IC title reign, Orton had won over a great number of fans, and that carries over here as he actually turns a great portion of the crowd against hometown hero Benoit. The two would tussle on the mat early with Orton focusing on the arm of Benoit. Both broke out some fresh spots and it added a unique feel to the match. In the scariest spot of the match, Benoit does an insane suicide dive, but misses Orton and careens into the barricade. Orton would capitalize with good stiff offense that further got the crowd in his corner. After Benoit had crashed into the barrier, Orton turned his attention from the arm to the neck. An underlying story of the match was Benoit’s determination to lock Orton in the Sharpshooter. After Orton fought it off a few times, Benoit finally hooked Randy in the hold and wrenched it in tight until Orton reached the ropes. The finish was really good as Orton drilled Benoit with a stiff boot as he came off the top with a headbutt attempt. Orton would capitalize and hit an RKO for the upset win, ending Benoit’s title run that began with so much optimism back in March. The win by Orton was clean and was a star making victory. It was a great match that was smart and hard-fought. Orton’s win is a good moment, even if it signifies the end of the Benoit era. The question now was how Triple H and the rest of Evolution would take Orton’s win. Grade: 4
Scott: Before I threw the DVD in I was kind of dreading watching this show. I remember most of the matches being boring and the screwed-up Toronto crowd really pissing me off. Now after watching it again, I don’t hate it as much as I did. It’s still pretty bland, as the undercard had one painfully average match after another. The Angle/Guerrero and Benoit/Orton matches were the high points, but that was the expected highlights on paper. The Taker/JBL match was a lumbering mess of two guys with little chemistry. I did like the opener, but more for the character changes than the match itself. I still don’t get the hook of the Lita/Kane thing, but at least my favorite wrestler dumped a bad gimmick back to the mid-card. Cena/Booker was ok, but Cena is another joining Orton as a beacon of the company’s future. As a recap, the Raw brand was looking good with a new main eventer and some future character changes, partially thanks to this Bizarro crowd. Smackdown immediately looks better with Kurt Angle back in the mix, but we still aren’t sure about JBL as champ and Undertaker isn’t giving him immediate credibility. The company does look very different then it did when the year started, and change is continuing. I think the talents on the show were far and wide but for some reason the matches only delivered about half of their intended expectations. Final Grade: C
Justin: This was an interesting Summerslam coming off what has been a rollercoaster year for WWE. No match on this show was bad by any means, but only one was great and another was really good. The rest were just sort of there. They were fun to watch, but didn’t really inspire you to gush over the PPV. The crowd was hot all night, albeit very strange as well. While it was great to see fresh blood pushed to the top of the card, it was bittersweet to see Benoit’s reign come crashing to an end. Back in March, he and Eddie Guerrero were on top of the promotion and it seemed like they were poised to lead the two brands into the future. However, just five months later, neither man holds a belt and by the end of the year, both would be back in the upper mid-card. Other than that, this was a decent PPV. I know I am overrating this a bit, but I enjoyed watching it and everyone worked hard out there, even if most matches didn’t quite click. After a hot start to 2004, things have cooled off a bit heading into the fall. We will see if WWE can pick things back up as we head towards the end of the year. Final Grade: C+
MVP: Randy Orton & Chris Benoit
Runner Up: Kurt Angle & Eddie Guerrero
Non MVP: Matt Hardy
Runner Up: Eugene