Ten Years After… WWE SummerSlam 2005

There was no bigger dream match in 2005 than Hulk Hogan Vs Shawn Michaels. The phrase “Match you never thought you’d see” is a bit overused in pro wrestling but The Hulkster Vs HBK really lived up to that billing. For the longtime, insider fans, the excitement leading up to the match was not so much about the potential of a classic match (which Hogan really hadn’t been capable of pulling off for ten years before this) but to see how the two master, backstage politicians would go against each other. Not only was it one of the biggest stars of the ’80s Vs the biggest star of the ’90s but one of the biggest primadonnas of the ’80s Vs one of the biggest primadonnas of the ’90s. One of these guys had to lose and neither of these guys wanted to.

This brought out some of the most inspired promo work from HBK, as he temporarily became a heel again and cut some of his best interviews in years. HBK had to know that the match with Hogan wouldn’t live up to his matches against Kurt Angle so he had to throw as much smoke and mirrors into the match. I’ll be damned if it didn’t almost work.

This match was also an early example of the recent trend of WWE bringing in past stars to bolster the card and putting them in the main event over the current active roster. With Rock & Austin gone and Cena and Batista not fully established yet, I guess they felt the need to bring in the stars of the past. This move to focus on the past, also coincided with the start of WWE 24/7 On Demand. I guess when you’re trying to promote your video library and having a hard time building up new superstars, the decision to have Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels main event is an easy one.

WWE SummerSlam

August 21st, 2005
Live from the MCI Center in Washington DC
Announcers: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Jonathan Coachman (RAW), Michael Cole & Tazz (Smackdown!)

Show opens with Lillian Garcia singing the National Anthem as the Navy Color Guard presents the flag. We don’t usually get the Anthem at SummerSlam but guessing they made an exception since we’re in the Nation’s Capital. Also I’m pretty sure Lillian’s never released album was supposed to come out around this time hence why she sang the Anthem at WrestleMania 21 and here (and got to sing a lame ballad at last month’s Vengeance).

Opening video package hypes John Cena Vs Chris Jericho, The Undertaker Vs Randy Orton II, Orlando Jordan Vs Chris Benoit II (this made the opening video package?), Batista Vs JBL in a Street Fight (Batista (to JBL): “You are not a Wrestling God…you’re a wrestling fraud”… yeah, it took a little time for Batista to develop on the mic), Kurt Angle Vs Eugene (this made the opening video package), Eddie Guerrero Vs Rey Mysterio’s Ladder Match, and Edge Vs Matt Hardy.  I like that they hyped every match on this show (no matter how minor), really sets it up as a big show.

Hulk Hogan Vs Shawn Michaels gets its own separate video package. Kind of disappointed that Fat Joe (ft. Nelly)’s “Get It Poppin'” is dubbed over during the opening fireworks. I always thought “Get It Poppin” was kind of a weird choice for a pay per view main evented by Hulk Hogan Vs Shawn Michaels. Especially now after we learned how Hulk Hogan feels about Fat Joe & Nelly!

JR, The Coach, & Jerry Lawler (representing RAW), Carlos & Hugo (representing the Spanish speaking community of the World) and Michael Cole & Tazz welcome us to the show. We’re going to start with a United States Title match. –

WWE United States Championship Match: Orlando Jordan (c) Vs Chris Benoit
Orlando Jordan has been US Champion for five months and eighteen days. I didn’t realize he had the title for that long. Tazz tries to sell us on Orlando Jordan being the best athlete on Smackdown again. *eyerolls*. Orlando Jordan tries to cheap shot Benoit but gets hit with a German Suplex. Benoit puts him in the Crippler Crossface and Orlando Jordan immediately taps. Benoit is the new WWE United States Champion. Zero Stars.

Kind of odd that they’d open the show with a thirty second long match but I sure as shit didn’t want to see a ten minute long Orlando Jordan match after last month’s pay per view.

Vickie Guerrero tries to reason with Eddie Guerrero. Eddie Guerrero wants to win the custody of Domenik Mysterio she he can carry along the Guerrero Legacy.

JR welcomes the veterans who are attending this show.

Video package for Matt Hardy Vs Edge. Matt Hardy had a six year relationship with Lita then she left him for Edge. Then Matt Hardy lost his job. Storyline and reality really blurred here and I’m not sure WWE capitalized on it to the best of their capabilities. A little hard to believe now but this was one of the biggest storylines of that summer, arguably as big as HBK Vs Hulk Hogan

Matt Hardy Vs Edge (with Lita)

Coach says Lita’s not gonna want to get in the middle of this. JR: “Lita not wanting to get in the middle of two men!? HEH!” I expected that kind of joke from Lawler. Matt Hardy and Edge slug it out. This seems like a legit fight. Outside of Edge spearing Matt onto the floor and a few other spots, there’s not much here that would look out of place in a real fistfight between two dudes that are legit pissed each other. Unfortunately, that “realness” kind of backfires as it’s kind of sloppy as an actual fight would be. Really appreciate what they’re doing here and it’s unique but it doesn’t work completely as a wrestling match. To add to the faux shoot feel, the referee stops the match after Matt Hardy gets busted open. Very unique and sold the storyline but kind of a lame duck finish. They could have made two stars here but ended up only making one in Edge as Matt looked like kind of a chump. **

Michael Cole claims that Senator Hilary Clinton’s staff is here. She’d be here but she’s probably out running for President. Hilary Clinton possibly running for President? Boy, things have changed in the political world in the past ten years!

We see the events leading up to Eddie Guerrero Vs Rey Mysterio’s ladder match with the custody of Domenik Mysterio on the line. I was only watching casually during this period (as I’ve mentioned before) but I did watch Smackdown! occasionally during the summer because it was still on network TV and I only had the basic channels up at my camp. I remember thinking this storyline was a bit too over the top and soap opera-ish. Eddie Guerrero pretending to be the father of Rey’s son to get under Rey’s skin seemed absurd. I guess that might have been the point.

Ladder Match for Custody of Dominik Mysterio: Eddie Guerrero (with Vickie Guerrero) Vs Rey Mysterio
Guerrero’s over the top, heel actions are so heinous, both “neutral” announcers are openly rooting for Rey Mysterio. I got to say… even those this storyline sucked, Eddie really was a joy to watch. This a pretty good ladder match with some brutal spots (especially Eddie sunset flipping Rey off the ladder onto anohter ladder) but I really can’t help but think how much better a Rey Vs Eddie Ladder Match would have been 5-10 years earlier. The ’05 Rey Vs Eddie feud was like their WCW feud with the action slowed down and the volume turned up 10,000x times. Super cheesy interference from Domenik Mysterio. Eddie yells at him and demands a hug. EDDIE’S YOUR NEW DADDY and DOMENIK WILL LOVE HIM! 619 into the ladder and Droppin’ The Dime while Eddie’s squished beneath the ladder are expected but cool spots. Just noticed that Rey’s wearing Mechanix gloves just like the Stinger.  Vickie DOES THE RIGHT THING and knocks Eddie off the ladder. Rey gets the briefcase. Some really good spots here but the soap opera BS really drags it down a level. Mercifully, this goofy storyline is done. ***1/2

Todd Grisham talks to Chris Jericho about Jericho’s WWE Championship Match with John Cena. Jericho says his time is now. After Jericho beats Cena, Cena’s fans will discard him and he’ll be the flavor of the month. Just like Andrew Shue and David Cassidy. Eerily accurate prediction!

Kurt Angle Vs Eugene (with Christy Hemme) (If Eugene Wins, He Wins Kurt Angle’s Olympic Gold Medal)
I don’t remember Hemme being paired with Eugene. Not sure why Angle’s slumming with Eugene. I really wish we’d gotten an extraneous video package for this one. Angle mauls Eugene from the getgo. Oh. I guess Eugene accidentally stole Angle’s medal. Smarky crowd hates Eugene and loves Angle cutting off his comebacks. This is basically an extended squash with Eugene occasionally doing his Tribute to the Attitude era schtick. He does an Angle Lock but Angle powers out of it and finishes him with the Angle Slam and Angle Lock. Seems like kind of a waste of Kurt Angle but at least, he went over strongly, I guess. *1/2.

After the match, Angle reenacts the 1996 Summer Olympics Gold Medal ceremony with Mike Chioda. Fans give him a standing ovation.

Divas give “The President’s Limo” a bikini car wash. Windows of the limo roll down and it’s VINNY MAC! Vince lets out a dopey shrug and a smile (had he been hanging out with RVD that afternoon) and says “Hey! Why not?”. We see a “McMahon for President” bumper stick. Oh man. If only Vince had run in ’08!!!

The Undertaker Vs Randy Orton (with Cowboy Bob Orton)
Kind of surprised that Randy Orton gets the second entrance here but he was making one of his first in ring appearances since WrestleMania 21. This is more or less an extended version of that WrestleMania match (with a different result) with Orton being the arrogant dick, who is more afraid than he lets on and Undertaker being Undertaker. These two had underrated chemistry. I thought if anybody should have broken the streak before it was actually broken, it should’ve been Orton. Kind of surprised they didn’t have any other matches after their series of matches here in ’05. Finish is a bit convoluted with Orton getting the win with the RKO after a distraction involving a fan rushing the ring. Only it turns out that the fan was Randy Orton’s dear old daddy, “Cowboy” Bob Orton. ***

Silly finish but Undertaker’s reaction is great. Father and son do Randy’s pose together before Undertaker chases them off.

JR says even though Hilary Clinton’s staff is in the house. WWE is bipartisan. We got Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie are in the house. I like WWE claiming to be playing to both sides of the aisle before just introducing a couple of Republicans

Video package for John Cena Vs Chris Jericho. John Cena’s a new type of champion for RAW, who’s willing to do what he wants and defy authority and spit in the face of Eric Bischoff! Just like Steve Austin did! Speaking of Austin, Jericho beat him and The Rock in one night a few years back.

WWE Championship Match: John Cena (c) Vs Chris Jericho
This is notable for being the first pay per view where John Cena gets an audibly mixed reaction. There were negative chants about him at One Night Stand but that’s obviously an outlier. Lawler, at this point, is still acting kind of heelish because he openly dislikes Cena and calls him an Eminem wannabe. Kind of weird to hear now. JR seems really defensive about Coach and King accusing him of being a huge Cena fan. This crowd is absolutely electric and becomes unglues during the middle of the match. It’s actually split down the middle. I like Jericho getting increasingly fired up as he realizes that the crowd is on his side.  Really enjoy this match but I feel like the ending is a bit too abrupt to call it a full fledged classic though. He catches Jericho with a fluke FU as Y2J is coming off the ropes.  Certainly memorable in being the first big Cena match where he overcomes the odds in front of a hostile audience. ***1/2

Michael Cole & Tazz introduce the video package for Smackdown’s main event. World Champion Batista defending his title for the first time in his hometown of Washington DC against John Bradshaw Layfield.

No Holds Barred Match for the World Championship: Batista (c) Vs John Bradshaw Layfield
Batista jumps JBL from the start. Kind of weird to see Batista being played up as the hometown hero cause he really seems like more of a “Parts Unknown” type. This match is a rare instance where the feud setup a match where the heel got his ass kicked for ten minutes – and the heel actually ended up getting his ass kicked for ten minutes. Sometimes doing the obvious thing is the right thing. JBL gets in just enough offense to look credible but does take quite the ass kicking. Not really a great match but effective in basically writing off JBL as the #1 heel on Smackdown. He’d shift back down to the midcard after this. Batista wins with a Batista Bomb on the steel steps. **

After the match, Batista rips one of the fake JBL dollar bills in half.

JR says even after thirty years in the business, occasionally, a moment will amaze him. Up next is a match that no one ever thought would happen. It’s Icon Vs Legend! Shawn Michaels Vs Hulk Hogan. Ironically, they started off as friends but it all went sour when HBK attacked Hogan. HBK’s working every night while Hogan’s living off past memories. I like how implicitly HBK’s reason for turning on Hulk Hogan wasn’t as good of a worker as him. Which I mean, talk about heels who have justified beliefs.

Shawn Michaels Vs Hulk Hogan
JR incorrectly says it’s been thirteen years since we’ve heard “Real American” at SummerSlam. It was actually fourteen years. Contrary to what “Hulkster in Heaven” said, Hulkster did not wrestle at Wembley Stadium at SummerSlam ’92!A huge fucking American flag unfurls during Hogan’s entrance. HBK’s entrance is surprisingly understated. JR says both men are undefeated at SummerSlam in singles competition, which I guess is technically correct? HBK has had a few notable SummerSlam moments (second ladder match with Razor at ’95, comeback against Triple H in ’02) but he also missed a lot of years, was buried in multiman matches, or had cheap victories. Not exactly Taker’s streak! This is about as good as a Hulk Hogan match could be in 2005. I’m not sure if Shawn Michaels’ comically ridiculous overselling helped or hurt the match but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t entertaining and the most memorable aspect of the match. Hulkster blades because that’s the only way the ’05 version of Hogan could remotely sell. He does take a chairshot too. Hogan wins after surviving said chairshot and the Sweet Chin Music. Legdrop finishes it. Hard to rate match. Perfectly watchable and at times, entertaining but technically, not very good. I feel like I’ve said that a lot tonight. Still like I said, this is as good as we’re gonna get for a match featuring a 52 year old Hulk Hogan. **1/2.

After the match, Shawn Michaels says “I needed to know” and shakes Hulk Hogan’s hand, which prematurely ended HBK’s brief return to being a heel.

So ultimately, as good of a backstage politician that Shawn Michaels was, he couldn’t outmaneuver the master politician Hulk Hogan. But at the end of the today, I think HBK might have lost the battle but won the war. When people remember this pay per view, they remember HBK’s entertaining antics leading up to it and his over the top selling at it more than they remember the fact that Hogan got the W.

As for the show itself, I thought it was good but not great. It seems like there were a bunch of matches that were good but not quite good enough to be considered outright classics (Eddie Vs Rey Ladder Match, The Undertaker Vs Randy Orton II, John Cena Vs Chris Jericho). Add to that the surreal nature of Matt Hardy Vs Edge and the main event and you have a show that seems like it should’ve been an out and out slam dunk but only gets a marginal thumbs up. If I had to sum up the show, I’d say “Good but not great and it felt slightly off most of the night.”

I know it’s hard to fit everybody on both brands on these shows but it seems like a lot of people were either underused (Benoit & Angle) or not on the show at all. Intercontinental Champion Carlito, Shelton Benjamin, Kane, Big Show, both sets of Tag Team Champs, and the entire women’s division were not on the show at all. Only thing is I can’t think off the top of my head what could’ve been cut.  The 2005 roster was actually pretty loaded, although you sometimes couldn’t tell by the quality of these shows.

Up Next on Ten Years After… I head down south to Orlando, Florida to take another look at TNA and one of 2005’s Match of the Year Candidates. Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, and Christopher Daniels face off in a Triple Threat Match for the X Division Title at TNA’s Unbreakable 2005! 

Written by Connor McGrath

Connor McGrath is a public access television show host and part-time amateur comedian, who resides in Portland, Maine. He contributes reviews of Northeast independent wrestling promotion, NWA On Fire along with occasional guest articles.

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