Previously on the Retro Express, I talked about Summerslam 2007. I questioned whether this PPV was able to live up to the high standards that fans expect from the second biggest show of the year. Now it’s time to do it again. At Summerslam 2008, we got two world title matches as well as two major grudge matches from RAW and SmackDown! Batista faced John Cena for the first time ever while Undertaker and Edge settled their year-long feud in a Hell in a Cell battle. Did this show deliver?
Date: August 17th 2008
Brand: RAW, SmackDown! and ECW
City: Indianapolis, Indiana
Jeff Hardy vs MVP
One of the biggest criticisms of WWE commentary of the last five years is that the announcers are portrayed as less intelligent than the audience they are supposed to explain things to. Jim Ross was not like these modern-day announcers. He did his research and was on the ball, especially during this pay-per-view. Small stats like Jeff Hardy’s Summerslam record up until his match with MVP can make it seem like there’s a lot more on the line, even if there isn’t. There was a lot of little things like JR thanking the UK fans for staying up to watch the event. Being aware of the struggles of international audiences and rewarding them with little facts that would make the commentary seem worthwhile.
MVP kicked it off with a bell-to-belly on Jeff into the turnbuckle. We got pretty big “MVP” chants actually. Jeff hit the neckbreaker to try and turn the match around. There was a good counter when MVP countered a wheel kick with a simple kick to the gut. No flashy counter. He kept it as simple as possible by simply kicking the man in the gut. I don’t know why I’m giving this a lot of credit but even the simplest of moves can add to a match.
MVP went for the boot but Jeff countered it into a sleeper drop. Jeff hit the Whisper In The Wind. Jeff went to the top rope but Shelton Benjamin ran out. Jeff jumped on Shelton, which gave MVP the chance to recover in the ring. Jeff went for the Swanton Bomb but MVP moved out off the way and hit the Drive-By for the win. I thought this was fine for an opener. It’s just funny looking back in hindsight, because Jeff would go on to be a major part of the world title scene on SmackDown! for the next year.
Match Rating: **1/4
The lovely looking Maria interviewed Santino Marella and Beth Phoenix backstage. They were set to challenge for the Intercontinental and Women’s titles in a tag team match. Early on in the year, Santino and Maria were an on-screen couple. They had broken up since then, with Santino commenting that Maria had let herself go. Maria made fun of Santino’s unibrow, to which Santino claimed that he’d grown it for Beth. Awwww.
We then got the first mention of this pay-per-view WWE poll, asking whether Edge and Vickie Guerrero would get a divorce. This was a very hard period for the couple’s marriage. Edge had cheated on Vickie and Vickie’s revenge was to put Edge in Hell in a Cell. Edge went nuts and messed with Vickie on SmackDown! This vote ended up with 78% of the crowd voting that they would.
Mickie James (c) and Kofi Kingston (c) vs Beth Phoenix and Santino Marella for the Women’s Championship and Intercontinental Championship
Let me start off by saying that Mickie James looked absolutely lovely here, as did Beth for that matter. There was a sign in the crowd that said “Santino stole my unibrow,” which I giggled to. Unlike modern-day WWE, the men could actually wrestle the women during inter-gender tag team matches at this point. It wasn’t like nowadays, when a female being tagged in forced the opposing man to tag out.
Kofi got the hot tag and ran wild. Kofi Kingston faked a dive, which saw Santino diving into Beth’s arms. Santino had some great trash talk during this match! Mickie James then ran wild and hit the Mickie-DT on Santino. Beth hit her with the Glam Slam out of nowhere to win the match and win herself the Women’s title and win Santino the Intercontinental title.
This was an OK match but it was really the moment of Beth and Santino both becoming champions that stood out. Beth had effectively fought Santino’s own battles for him and won him the Intercontinental title. The celebrations were great as Beth piggy-backed Santino to the back! Just great post-match celebrations from the heels!
Match Rating: *3/4
We got Shawn Michaels coming out with his wife Rebecca. The storyline going into this segment was that Chris Jericho really messed up Michaels’ eye during their match at The Great American Bash 2008. Shawn came out to address the fans and thanked them for their support. He told the fans that the doctor had recommended that he walked away. He admitted that it was finally time to heed the doctor’s advice and walk away from the WWE. Rebecca’s acting during this was pretty damn great as she was brought to tears in the ring. I actually looked it up and it turns out that Rebecca was actually one of the old WCW Nitro Girls, where she performed as Whisper. With her experience in wrestling, it’s kind of understandable about why Rebecca was so good… other than watching Shawn that is.
A lot of the fans were literally brought to tears. This was how well this was all performed because the fans were legitimately thinking that this was the end for Shawn. There were even “please don’t retire” signs brought to the arena. This was all interrupted by Chris Jericho…
Chris Jericho said that Shawn was leaving because of what Jericho did to him and wanted Shawn to admit it. Jericho refused to leave the ring before he did it. He said that he wanted the last moment of Michaels’ career being to admit that Jericho put him out for good. Michaels said that he would but gave Jericho some advice. Michaels told Jericho to sit his family down and tell them that “daddy would never ever be Shawn Michaels.” Shawn and Rebecca were about to leave when Jericho pulled Michaels’ arm. He went to punch Shawn and inadvertently punched Rebecca.
Michaels was shaken by what just happened. This was one of those moments that showed just how great Shawn was. Shawn was initially filled with rage as the crowd is encouraging him to attack Jericho. After about 30 seconds of pure rage, Michaels couldn’t bring himself to do anything and just went back to consoling his wife. These were all true emotions as a lot of times, when something awful happens to your loved ones, your first instincts is to unleash hell on the culprit. At the same time, you can’t help but do nothing as you are fearing for the safety of your family. This was all incredible stuff.
The fans were all into this, which helped. The funny thing is that it was later revealed that Jericho ACTUALLY punched Rebecca during the segment. He accidentally legitimately punched her and Jericho has talked about how he and Shawn were both mortified after it all happened. They both told a story on Jericho’s podcast about it as they were both backstage with Rebecca. Shawn was walking her back up the entrance ramp and asking if Rebecca was OK, and Rebecca responded by saying that at least her teeth were still in! It gets better as when the three of them were backstage as Rebecca is getting looked at, she turns to Chris and says: “Is that all you got?”
Rebecca being a total trooper about the whole thing made it so much better in hindsight! This segment was so great and it leads to a great match at Unforgiven (which will be the next PPV I review on the Retro Express) and their No Mercy match. These two just knew what to do from that point on. Michaels’ promos were all on point. Jericho’s promos were all on point. Their contract signing on RAW that followed was great. This was all amazing television and thank god that this was eventually elevated to being a title feud, as it was the best thing going in all of WWE at the time.
Mark Henry (c) w/Tony Atlas vs Matt Hardy for the ECW Championship
So right after one of the best PPV talking segments of all time, we got THIS wrestling match – if you even want to call it that. This was technically a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP match as Mark Henry defended the title against Matt Hardy. What happened was that Matt Hardy hits the Twist of Fate on Mark Henry. As Matt is about to win, Tony Atlas pulls Matt out of the ring and throws him into the steel steps which causes a disqualification. This match lasted 26 seconds and ended with a disqualification.
This sort of stuff wasn’t rare with the ECW title, as Kane actually won the title in 8 seconds from Chavo Guerrero earlier on in that year. However, this benefited absolutely nobody. You hurt Mark Henry, who was apparently already beaten in 26 seconds. You hurt Matt Hardy, who was taken out by a semi-retired former wrestler in Tony Atlas. 26 seconds for supposedly the biggest program for ECW. Unbelievable.
So Jeff Hardy made the save and hit a Swanton Bomb on Tony. The Hardyz then double-teamed Mark Henry and hit him with the double suplex on the outside. This actually got a big reaction.
Match Rating: N/A (Didn’t last long enough)
CM Punk (c) vs JBL for the World Heavyweight Championship
Punk kicked off the match with the control. He unloaded with suicide dives and cross bodies. The commentators mentioned that CM Punk had watched Batman five times. I don’t know if they meant the original Batman film from the 1990s or the Dark Knight film that came out shortly before this, but I approve whatever film he watched.
JBL hit a fallaway slam from the top rope in order to take control of the match. JBL was very wobbly on the ropes which could have ended badly. Punk then made the comeback. Punk hit the running knee and bulldog, which JBL went down too early for. Punk went for the GTS but JBL countered it with a simple but effective clothesline. CM Punk’s springboard attempt was countered into a powerslam. CM Punk kicked JBL in the head, which saw them both crash down to the mat and clashed heads. JBL somehow landed on top of Punk, which led to Punk’s head being busted open.
In the end, CM Punk picked up the victory with the GTS. There was a fair amount of miscommunication during this match, including the clash of the heads from earlier on. These two worked at vastly different paces. They tried hard but it was just not to be.
Match Rating: **1/4
The Great Khali was warming up backstage, ahead of his big WWE Championship showdown with Triple H.
Triple H (c) vs The Great Khali w/Ranjin Singh for the WWE Championship
The last time I reviewed a World Championship match that involved the Great Khali, I was critical to put it nicely. At Summerslam 2007, Khali and Batista had a REALLY bad match. This match involving Khali and Triple H was much better than that match. I don’t want that to suggest that Batista is a bad worker or anything. In fact, his match with John Cena would very much dispute that. However, it’s at least good to know that he somewhat improved in the year between world title matches at Summerslam.
There was insightful commentary from Jim Ross and Tazz, as JR was talking about the size difference between Triple H and Khali. He said something along the lines of “7’3 and 6’3 – you do the math.” Tazz’s response to JR’s height analysis was “I don’t like math.” Quite the banter from Tazz and Jim Ross…
The story of the match was that Triple H kept trying to do the Pedigree on Khali, but Khali was simply too big. Khali hit the two-handed chokeslam right off the bat. Khali tried a vice grip on Triple H to “you can’t wrestle” chants. Khali did the big chop. Khali elbowed Triple H in the face and Triple H dropped to the floor Ric Flair style. I don’t want to keep comparing this match to the Batista match mentioned earlier, but Triple H’s selling was much better than Batista’s. HHH’s selling actually did make Khali come as effective with his attack. Khali elbowed him and Hunter went down immediately. Whenever Batista sold something, he would stumble and THEN fall down. Interesting to think about.
We got more “you can’t wrestle” chants, with Khali responding by putting Triple H in a nerve hold. Triple H fought out of it and hit his signature facebuster, which sent Khali into the ropes. Khali was tangled in the ropes but was still able to backdrop Triple H to the floor. Khali went for the Vice Grip. After Hunter fought out of it, Khali just went back to the grip. Triple H eventually successfully hit the pedigree to a big pop and he got the pin to retain the title.
Obviously, the two world title matches on card were never meant to mean much. When you’ve got Batista vs John Cena for the first time as well as a Hell in a Cell, there wasn’t gonna be much pressure on these two matches to perform. They were two matches that featured a clash of styles, with the big man fighting the little man. The World title match was better than the WWE title match but HHH/Khali was not terrible or anything. At least you can say that the match had a story to it, with Triple H trying to hit the pedigree on this big man. After fighting and fighting, Triple H eventually hit it and got a big reaction for it. There were “you can’t wrestle” chants to Khali but this match did a fine build-up to the big finisher spot in the end. They put over the Pedigree and the crowd were into the finish so in that sense, a thumbs up.
Match Rating: *3/4
John Cena vs Batista
Anyone that has ever been a WWE fan will know that WWE are prone to hyperbole and for good reason. The WWE, in theory, have to try and convince you that the next big match coming up is an important match. In a lot of cases, to achieve this goal, they have to go completely over-board with putting the two men involved over. Even if you know that it won’t be the greatest match of all time, they will always claim that these matches will be historical matches. They did a tremendous job in trying to convince the fans that this match between John Cena and Batista would be an all-time classic. I would not go as far as to say that it was one of the best matches of all time but, after it was over, it ended up feeling like a very special match.
There was a mixed reaction for John Cena as usual. Cole and Lawler tried very hard to put this match over. The video package tried to promote the idea that these two were going to explode in their match but yet they started the match by doing a lock-up. This rivalry wasn’t that intense but a pet peeve of mine is when two guys, that supposedly hate each other, begin their big match with a regular lock-up.
Batista tried a Batista Bomb but Cena got out of it, which was followed by a big clothesline. Batista then started to work on the leg on Cena, with chop blocks, shinbreakers and Figure Four Leg Locks. It’s very strange for the big man to focus on the leg of the little man. Cena went for the FU but ended up launching Dave over the top rope. Cena did his comeback while selling his leg. Cena tried the FU again but Batista got out of it and hit a big boot. Batista unloaded with a series of shoulder blocks, followed by a clothesline. Batista hit the spinebuster. Cena got out of a Batista Bomb attempt with a simple leg DDT, following it up with an STFU. Jerry Lawler, with a rare glimpse of insight, noticed that he locked on the STFU in the same part of the ring where he made Triple H tap out at WrestleMania 22.
Batista reversed a FU attempt into a rear-naked choke, somehow giving us a foreshadowing of Batista doing MMA just before he returned to WWE in 2014! Batista hit the spear but Cena kicked out. We got an awesome spot where Cena reversed an Oklahoma Slam into a FU for a near fall. They battled on the top rope, getting the boo/yeah treatment. In a memorable moment, Cena went for the leg drop but Batista countered this into a Batista Bomb. This was the move that left Cena with a herniated disc and sidelined him for a while. Cena certainly looked in a lot of pain after the match.
Amazingly, that wasn’t the finish as Cena kicked out. Batista eventually hit one more Batista Bomb and won. A very good match between these two men. On paper, Batista and Cena really shouldn’t have been expected to have a match this good. However, they really did give it their A game. The catch powerbomb spot was pretty dangerous and led to an injury, which would be my biggest criticism. However, Cena soon came back from this and thank god that the injury wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
I don’t think the injury should take anything away from the match though and these two performed really well. A BIG THUMBS UP FROM ME! Second best match on the show by far…
Match Rating: ***1/2
Undertaker vs Edge in a Hell in a Cell match
I mentioned that Cena vs Batista was the second best match on the show – this was undisputed best thing on the show. Undertaker and Edge had the final match in their really good feud from 2007 to 2008. They recapped all of this in the video package beforehand.
Undertaker took control at the start. Edge’s stable La Familia was watching backstage. Undertaker got the steel steps and leaned them on the corner, which set him up to do a snake eyes drop to Edge onto the steel steps. Very innovative stuff here. Edge then dropkicked and speared Undertaker into these steel steps. Edge got out two tables and then hit Undertaker with the steel steps. Edge stacked the tables on top of each other and tried to suplex Undertaker into them. Undertaker tried a chokeslam but Edge saved himself with a jawbreaker. Edge used a chair and got out a third table, setting it up in the ring. The stacked tables were still outside of the ring. Edge grounded Undertaker with two chair shots to the face and one to the back, which allowed him time to go get a big ladder.
The next spot was a callback to a segment on SmackDown! a few weeks before this. In the segment, Mick Foley tried to motivate Edge so he could face Undertaker in the Cell. Edge said “I understand” and then kicked Mick Foley’s arse. He ended the beating by jumping off a ladder with a chair into Foley, who was on a table. In a callback to that moment, Edge did the same spot and yelled “I understand” before crashing onto the Undertaker.
Edge tried a conchairto, but Undertaker stopped him by grabbing his throat. The two battled outside of the ring, where Edge speared Undertaker through the cell wall. That was an awesome spot as Undertaker was bleeding from the arm. They fought outside of the cell.
Undertaker took apart the announce table when Edge intervened, hitting Undertaker with the television monitors. I’ve seen the next spot several times but I always loved this. There were three announce tables for this show, for the three separate RAW, SmackDown! and ECW brands. Edge stood on one announce table, ran across to the second announce table and hit Undertaker with a spear, which sent them crashing into the third table. I thought this was a really well executed spot.
After some brawling, they went back into the cell which got some boos. I guess a lot of fans were expecting Edge and Undertaker to go to the top off the cell after they got out of it. The funny thing is that Edge actually mentioned on Chris Jericho’s podcast that he wanted to end this match with a Tombstone on the top of the cell! What a scary spot that would have been!
Edge hit Undertaker with the ladder in the ring. Edge then hit Undertaker with a camera, which was a callback to when Edge cost Undertaker the world title during a Hell in a Cell match at Survivor Series 2007. Edge tried a spear but ran into a chokeslam. Edge hit the Edgecution for a near fall.
Undertaker tried a Last Ride into the tables on the outside but Edge got out of it and hit a spear. This got a near fall as well. Edge tried the ten punches spot in the corner, which almost never ends well when you’re facing the Undertaker! Undertaker hit the Last Ride. Undertaker tried to do some serious damage with a tombstone onto the steel steps but Edge countered. Edge tried the Undertaker’s Old School but Undertaker countered this with a chokeslam into the tables on the outside.
Then we got a bit of poetic justice, as Undertaker started using all of Edge’s own moves against him. He hit Edge with an awesome looking spear. Undertaker then hit Edge with the camera, which was revenge from earlier. Undertaker then did a conchairto of his own. Edge’s back was all cut open as Undertaker hit the tombstone and won.
Then Undertaker ended the night, when he chokeslammed Edge through the ring and into HELL! We got a weird graphic from this, as Undertaker was setting up the chokeslam from the top of the ladder which supposedly sent Edge to hell.
An absolutely incredible Hell in a Cell match. I think this will probably go down as one of my favourites. These two left it all out there and there was some great booking for this feud-ending match. I loved the callbacks to old angles featuring these two men. Undertaker got his revenge by giving Edge a bit of his own medicine. A lot of nasty spots were taken as these two ended their feud in a big way. Bravo to both men. I loved this match.
Match Rating: ****1/2
Overall, I thought the show was fine. If it were not for the Hell in a Cell match and Batista/Cena, I don’t think this PPV would live long in the memories of a lot of fans. There was nothing really special about the undercard, other than the Shawn Michaels segment and Santino and Beth’s double celebration. Other than that, there was not much to it. However, the final two matches of the show really bumped up the show. At the end of the day, it was a forgettable show up until the final two matches which could go down as two of the most memorable matches in Summerslam history.