SummerSlam served as a compelling mid-summer night’s journey into the best of WWE programming.
Although the show started slow, SummerSlam steadily built momentum with the Uso’s-New Day tag match, and reached its crescendo during a Fatal 4-Way Universal Championship match that highlighted the strengths of Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman, Samoe Joe, and Roman Reigns.
Yet the most significant news broke 48 hours before the show even started.
Daniel Bryan said his brain is completely healthy and he is ready to re-enter the wrestling ring.
Edge and Christian’s weekly E & C’s Pod of Awesomeness released its newest edition on Friday, which included an interview with Bryan. Both Edge and Christian were forced to step away from the ring due to injuries—Edge was done in by his neck, while Christian had concussion issues.
Bryan explained that the lesion on the brain was a huge misunderstanding.
WWE was never painted as the antagonist. The company has and continues to deal with concussion-related lawsuits, which exacerbates an already complicated situation. The cautionary measures from WWE are designed to help the talent and protect the company, but Bryan said he is determined to re-open the discussion of once again wrestling for WWE.
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Bryan also admitted that he has had ten documented concussions and four post-concussion seizures, but that the lesion in his brain—which was the reason he ultimately decided to retire from in-ring activity—only meant that he has average reflex time.
“My brain is no worse than your average college football player’s brain,” Bryan explained to Edge and Christian.
Bryan is working with the Joe Namath Institute and still receiving treatments to improve his cognitive functions.
“Wrestling is something that nothing else can replace for me,” Bryan said on the podcast. He also shared that he still has goals in his wrestling career.
“I had a conversation with Vince… I don’t remember if it was before WrestleMania 30 or if it was after WrestleMania 30, but it went something along the lines like this: Vince said something along the lines to me like, ‘We really want to push Roman to be the next John Cena,’ and I had said to him, ‘Boss, I 100 percent support that, but I just want you to know I want to be the next John Cena.’”
Bryan never had the chance to replace Cena, with concussions serving as a major deterrent for his health and career. Bryan also mentioned that a major roadblock in his discussions with WWE is his own dishonesty, as he admitted that he has lied about his health in the past to continue wrestling.
PJ Black, who wrestled in WWE as Justin Gabriel, connected with SI.com in February of 2016—right after Bryan retired—and noted that he was not surprised by the retirement.
“The guy is super talented, but he couldn’t even remember matches that happened a few weeks ago,” said Black. “That’s how I knew he was done.”
Eventually, Bryan will return to in-ring action. The question, therefore, is if it will ever be inside a WWE ring.
Will WWE allow Bryan to walk, in which case he would be sure to sign with New Japan Pro Wrestling during their expansion into the United States?
As soon as we think we know the answers, Daniel Bryan changes the question.
John Cena is back on Monday nights on the USA Network for one reason: Vince McMahon wants Cena to elevate and give the rub to Roman Reigns.
The prevailing factor behind Cena’s move to Raw is all about his opponents. The decision was not made solely because Cena is going to draw ratings, but rather because of who Cena is going to draw ratings with.
Just like Hulk Hogan—who needed a long line of heels with heat in “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant, and King Kong Bundy—as well as Steve Austin, who was over but still needed the heat from Vince McMahon, John Cena needs the right opponents in order to succeed. The decision to move Cena was only difficult until McMahon decided he wants to build to Cena-Reigns.
From a story-driven perspective, Cena also now has multiple fresh antagonists in Samoa Joe, The Drifter, and Braun Strowman. The plan is to continue to elevate Cena even more, and then use his elevation to put over Reigns.
In other news…
• “The King” Jerry Lawler returns to the ring this Friday in Pittsfield, Mass., for Northeast Wrestling, and he will challenge Ring of Honor and Northeast Wrestling champion Cody Rhodes for both titles.
“Cody doesn’t think there is any way I can win, but I certainly can,” said the 67-year-old Lawler, who has crafted together a legendary 46-year career in wrestling. “He’s young, he’s in his prime, and he thinks that ‘The King’ is old and way past his prime, but I just want to let him know everything still works. He’s going to find that out on Friday night.”
“The King” is 86-2 in Northeast Wrestling, and the match against Rhodes marks the first-ever NEW title shot for the WWE Hall of Famer.
“Cody dropped my name on a list of different talent he would like to wrestle,” said Lawler. “I wasn’t out there asking for a title match, but Northeast Wrestling promoter Michael Lombardi heard about Cody wanting to wrestle me, and he asked if I was interested. Then, suddenly, he called back and said that the match would be for the Ring of Honor world championship and NEW heavyweight championship, so this is going to be a title match.
“I originally questioned why the Ring of Honor people would let their champion wrestle a guy who is under contract to the WWE. How embarrassing would it be for Ring of Honor to lose their world championship to a wrestler from another company? After the match, I hope it’s not one of those situations where the Ring of Honor people have to tell me, ‘Cody really didn’t have the authority to put that title on the line.’”
Rhodes just appeared on Lawler’s podcast, Dinner with The King, and noted that Cody and his father, the late “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, are two very different performers.
“As wrestlers, Cody and Dusty are absolutely, totally different,” said Lawler. “Cody is a fabulous talent, performer, and wrestler. But I worked for years and years around and with Dusty Rhodes, and as a talker, there is nobody, and I’m talking even The Rock or ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, who could ever top Dusty Rhodes.
“Dusty and I were going to have a match years ago in Memphis, Tennessee, and Dusty said, ‘I was out capturing the stars and ‘The King’ was just out in Memphis being a big fish in a small pond. I went on to become the NWA world champion and capture the stars, and ‘The King’ was just a regional star.’ Dusty was the guy who the wrestlers all waited to hear do a promo. We’d gather around in the back to listen to him. Dusty was the master at that.”
Courtesy of his piledriver, Lawler has won more championship matches—168, to be exact—than any other wrestler in the history of the industry, and he is looking to add one more victory to that match total this Friday at Wahconah Park.
“Cody is thinking there is no way I’m going to win, but if I were Cody Rhodes, I’d certainly be thinking about the piledriver and looking out for the piledriver,” said Lawler. “I’m trying to hit 170 championship match wins before I call it a day, and this match on Friday will make it 169. Then, on September 16 in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I’ve got an NWA world heavyweight championship match with their champion, Tim Storm, so I’m looking to round it out at 170 wins, so I need this win Friday to get to 169.”
• Social video platform Twitch will livestream Triplemania XXV, the 25th anniversary event of Mexico’s biggest wrestling promotion organization, Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide, which takes place this Saturday.
Triplemania XXV will be broadcast with commentary in both Spanish and English, with a “best of” Triplemania marathon leading up to this year’s live event beginning on Thursday at noon ET. All content can be viewed on Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide’s new Twitch channels: Twitch.tv/Luchalibreaaa for Spanish and Twitch.tv/Luchalibreaaa_En for English.
“We are very excited by the reaction of our fans to the ‘Match of the Decade’ between Dr. Wagner Jr. and Psycho Clown,” said Dorian Roldán, Vice President of Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide. “This is why we decided to partner with Twitch to livestream Triplemanía XXV exclusively on their platform and mobile applications. Since we both share a passion to innovate, we look forward to having Twitch broadcast our show around the world.”
• The WWE held its second annual red carpet event for the launch of its signature video game, WWE 2K18, this Friday night in Manhattan. Reporters from all over the globe covered the event, including Breezango’s Fandango and Tyler Breeze.
Breezango interviewed Finn Balor about WWE 2K18, which will be released to the public on October 17:
“Finn, are you excited about being in the new game?” asked Fandango.
Balor replied: “I’m really, really, really, really, really excited about being in the game.”
Struck by Balor’s excitement level, Breeze noted, “Wow, that many ‘really’s’?
Fandango then interrupted, asking, “You know what I’m excited about?” as he unveiled a Sega Genesis video game cartridge of 2K18 with Breezango on the cover.
“That,” confirmed Breeze, “is the special version.”
• Drew McIntyre, who defeated Bobby Roode for the NXT championship at this past Saturday’s NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn, is 32 years old, has wrestled for 17 years, as well as competed for companies around the world, including world champion stints in Scotland’s ICW, the U.K.’s WCPW, EVOLVE, and TNA. Yet McIntyre, who has also wrestled under his real name Drew Galloway, still requested to attend Shawn Michaels’s class at the WWE Performance Center.
“The first rule of Shawn’s class is don’t talk about Shawn’s class,” said Galloway. “I was lucky enough that I had a couple offers before I came in to NXT, and I have a contract but I don’t necessarily have to be at the PC. But just because you don’t have to be doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be there trying to get better. You can always learn more if you want to be the best. When I heard Shawn Michaels—the best wrestler of all time—was running a damn class, I raised my hand and asked if I could come along and learn from Shawn Michaels.
“Fortunately enough, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in there. Shawn pulled me back one day and said, ‘I appreciate the fact that you’re going above and beyond,’ and I literally told him that I would drive across America or fly across the world for these opportunities. After wrestling for 17 years, it’s hard to put his advice into words. Shawn is giving us our PhD in wrestling. All of a sudden, when I have a question about wrestling, I just think to myself, ‘I’ll just ask Shawn Michaels.’”
• Almost as soon as Galloway defeated Roode to win the NXT championship, he was attacked by the newly-debuted Adam Cole, who has aligned himself in NXT with Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly. Cole is a superstar in the making, which is how he was booked as a three-time world champion in Ring of Honor, but Fish and O’Reilly were consistently overlooked. O’Reilly actually defeated Cole for the ROH title last December, but due to contract disputes, his only title defense was the night he dropped the belt back to Cole in January at New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 11. Underestimate Cole and Fish at your own peril.
• Dolph Ziggler appeared during the main event of Friday night’s Upright Citizens Brigade “ReVengeance” UCBW event, which is a comedy wrestling league, held at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City. The show, which started at midnight and ran for just over an hour, was a genuinely funny portrayal of wrestling promos, announcers, and matches.
“Freshly Squeezed” Orange Cassidy, who is part of Chuck Taylor’s entourage, was a recurring part of the show, and he brought his Swamp Monster out to the stage for the main event. Swamp Monster unmasked to unveil himself as Ziggler, who superkicked some of UCBW’s brightest stars—including Laundry Matt and Bloody Mary—in the show’s finale.
“Later, marks!” shouted Ziggler, as he then exited stage left to a loud ovation from the crowd.
• Robbie E, who is a former two-time tag champ, X Division, and Television champion in TNA, has started a new project outside of the wrestling ring as the ‘Dad Bod Destroyer’.
Using his full name of Rob Strauss, the 33-year-old is posting new weekly fitness video segments every Monday for Muscle and Fitness. Strauss is the father of twin nine-and-a-half month old boys, and he is promising to deliver workouts specifically designed for working fathers.
“I assured myself that I wouldn’t turn my body into a ‘Dad Bod’ once I had kids,” said Strauss, who is prepping for a big match against Jerry “The King” Lawler this Sunday at Dutchess Stadium in Wappingers, N.Y., for Northeast Wrestling. “I’ll help you make sure, no matter what, that you make time for staying fit–and that includes exercising while playing with your kids.”
• This Friday’s podcast of Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard details SummerSlam 2002, and co-host Conrad Thompson noted that even the often-pessimistic Prichard was amazed by the show.
“Bruce said this is one of the best pay per views WWE ever did,” said Thompson. “He said he rewatched the show and got lost in the matches because it’s a clinic on psychology. Bruce has a tendency to sh-- on everything, so for him to put this over as one of the best shows they ever did, that’s about as high a praise as you can get.”
The 2002 edition of SummerSlam marks an interesting time in WWE history, as there was a collision of stars from different eras including Ric Flair, Edge, Eddie Guerrero, The Undertaker, as well as a returning Shawn Michaels, and even included a main event that saw WWE undisputed champion The Rock defend against Brock Lesnar.
“We’re transitioning out of the ‘Attitude Era’ and into the ‘Ruthless Aggression’ era, and this feels like a changing of the guard,” said Thompson. “You had Rock versus Brock, which had a phenomenal buildup, but it was also Rey Mysterio’s WWE pay per view debut against Kurt Angle on the opening match, and a really underrated match between Chris Jericho and Ric Flair. There is so much going on in this show, and we’re going to have a good time with it.
Thompson also mentioned that a major component of the show will be Shawn Michaels’ return to the WWE in his unsanctioned street fight against Triple H.
“A lot of people, myself included, assumed that Michaels’ return would just be a one-off,” said Thompson. “What do you know, it ended up being the first step towards some of the best work of Shawn’s career.
“Shawn Michaels had the best second act in the history of wrestling. He had such a long absence after leaving in March of ’98 and then not coming back until here in August of ’02. He somehow came back even better than before, and stories like that normally don’t exist. That’s such an interesting situation, and that’s probably what separates Shawn from Ric Flair and everybody else; his second act was actually better than his first.”
Thompson noted that his live shows with Prichard in New York during SummerSlam weekend were a success, and he looks forward to his next show on Saturday, September 23 at the Regent Theater in Los Angeles, California.
“We’ll cover a lot of the history of WWE on the west coast, touching on WrestleMania VII and when WrestleMania went to Hollywood,” said Thompson. “We’ve already got a couple of special guests, from wrestling and from entertainment, and this will be one of the best shows we’ve ever done.”
• Lucha Underground head writer Chris “DJ” DeJoseph shared some background before one of the most heavily anticipated matches in LU history this Wednesday between Johnny Mundo and Rey Mysterio.
“These are two of the biggest stars in the world going at it for the Lucha Underground title,” said DeJoseph. “We’ve tried to make it a super fight, and that’s what it has turned into.”
DeJoseph shared that the best part of the writing process was the collaboration with Mundo and Mysterio.
“One of the highlights was working on ideas with Johnny and Rey and deciding what we wanted to do to make it the best possible storyline,” said DeJoseph. “Those guys had a lot of input, and we tried to add some layers to their characters. Rey has become this mentor character, the ultimate king of lucha libre. Johnny has expanded and now has even more depth.”
The episode also includes the Prince Puma vs. Pentagon Dark match, which will see the winner face off against the LU champion at the end of the title match at Ultima Lucha season three finale.
“We’re going to reach a crossroads here,” said DeJoseph. “There is Puma/Pentagon and Mundo/Mysterio, and only two will advance. All have some sort of history with each other, but only two of their paths will collide.”
• The fifth annual Extravaganza of Wrestling, which is run by wrestler and promoter Justin Nottke, is taking place this Sunday at the Huron County Fairgrounds in Norwalk, Ohio. A vintage-themed event, the Extravaganza will feature matches from former ECW star Little Guido, Matt Cross (who is Son of Havoc in Lucha Underground), Impact’s DJZ, Women of Honor’s Kelly Klein, and Jervis Cottonbelly.
“I had been itching to try promoting a wrestling show, but I didn’t want it to be a usual wrestling show,” said Nottke. “I’m always of the opinion that the sky can be the limit with wrestling if you present it properly and it’s done well. My girlfriend started listing off a few other vintage characters and we thought about bringing them all together on this nostalgic ride to the 1920s.
“We incorporated authentic dixieland jazz, all the vintage props, from barber poles to shoe shine chairs, to kissing booths, food trucks, we’re really just a ferris wheel and horse away from being the carnival.”
• Stat of the week: This past Sunday, Randy Orton became the first Royal Rumble winner to win a singles match at the following SummerSlam since Sheamus in 2012.
• Al Snow connected with SI.com for his weekly advice column, Inside Al's Head, and took readers back in time to 1982 when he first met the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair while wrestling in the red-hot territory of St. Louis.
“I distinctly remember [St. Louis wrestling promoter] Sam Muchnick’s yearly show in the Checkerdome, and that was the first $100,000 house I remember ever being on,” recalled Snow. “They had Dusty Rhodes, they had Greg Valentine, Harley Race, Dick the Bruiser, all of the Von Erich brothers, Crusher Blackwell, Ken Patera, and the list goes on. It was literally a parade of stars in the backstage area.
“I was a job guy back then, but most people don’t know what that actually means. Back in the day, most of your big stars—the guys in the territory who made their living off live events—didn’t get paid for TV. If you were on TV, you had the opportunity to promote yourself to make money at the actual events. I was just starting out, which meant I was on the card at a much lower level, and I was a job guy, which meant it was a job, not an opportunity. I would be paid for the day. A lot of territories would film two-to-three weeks of TV at a time, and they would bicycle the tapes around to different television stations, and I’d get paid $25 or $50 per tape. It was a job, you were paid for the day. Hence the term, ‘job guy.’”
Snow, who is now running the Collar x Elbow clothing line, vividly remembers his first encounter in St. Louis with Flair, who was already larger-than-life in 1982.
“I was pretty star struck,” admitted Snow. “These wrestlers were ones I’d only seen in magazines, and I distinctly remember Ric Flair walking in the locker room wearing light blue pants and a checkered blue blazer.
“Ric was so classy; he’d always go out of his way to thank guys who worked with him on TV. Not just that, he’d give guys a bump, meaning extra money out of his own pocket, for the guys who made him look good. Ric knew he wouldn’t draw as much money on the live events if he didn’t look good on TV, so he’d actually pay the job guys himself on top of whatever they were being paid. He went out of his way to show you his appreciation. Ric has an innate understanding of how to be a star and, to this day, still be relevant. He’s more than just a celebrity, he is an attraction that will motivate you to leave your house and pay to see him. Ric was the thing people paid to see.”
Tweet of the Week
What a weekend: Adam Cole made his NXT debut, beach balls overtook SummerSlam and Raw, Shelton Benjamin returned and Bobby Roode wrestled on SmackDown, Enzo Amore was re-assigned to 205 Live… yet I still can’t get over the fact that Mauro Ranallo is back with WWE and announced his first-ever TakeOver.