For millions of fans worldwide, this Sunday means only one thing…The Biggest Party of the Summer ©, SUMMERSLAM! This year’s version features something that many online fans have been clamoring for years, as Daniel Bryan gets a well-deserved shot at the WWE Championship in the main event against John Cena. Hard to believe it’s been three years ago since Cena reintroduced him in the main event SummerSlam battle against The Nexus. I couldn’t help but be in awe at the reversal of roles since that time.
I spent a good deal of time with Wade Barrett in FCW (when he was using the name Stu Sanders) and you couldn’t have convinced me that he wasn’t going to be a World Champion by the end of that year. I’m not going to get into a rant about the booking of Barrett because we’d need more time than Doc Brown could shake a stick at for me to air my grievances about that. But the point is, Bryan was able to fight his way out a beard shaving from Barrett with relative ease. Three years ago, Barrett was leading a one of the best booked (for a period) groups in many years, and now, he can’t shave the beard of a guy that took orders from him three years ago…ah I’m doing it again, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. But you know what? The point of this story is Daniel Bryan. What an amazing journey he has had.
Now I’m not going to pretend I’ve seen all of his matches in ROH, Japan, and everywhere else he tore the house down at before he got to WWE because I didn’t. When Daniel Bryan was clawing his way through the independents, so was I. I didn’t have much time to keep up with his journey because I was working on mine. But his climb to the top, and his chance at immortality, and potential to have a once in a lifetime show stealing match reminds me of one of my favorite childhood memories from when I was a kid. 22 years ago, another well-traveled veteran, amazing technical wrestling with a passionate fan following had made a climb up the WWE ladder and was ready to take the next step on the second biggest show of the year. Of course, I’m talking about Bret “The Hitman” Hart. After 7 years of working his way up the ladder via the tag team ranks, Bret challenged the legendary Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig for the Intercontinental Championship.
Now admittedly, the Intercontinental Championship is not the WWE Championship, but in 1991, come on man, the I-C Belt was the BEES KNEES! I remember looking forward to this match even more than Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior taking on Sgt. Slaughter, Col. Mustafa, and Gen. Adnan in what was billed as The Match Made In Hell. Because, I was only 11 years old and holy cow even I knew there wasn’t no way on earth that Hogan and Warrior were EVER going to lose! But with the Perfect-Hitman bout, you really didn’t know who was going to come out on top. I remember the rest of the card, and thinking back I think we ALL also knew that the Legion of Doom was going to win the WWF Tag Team Championship from the Road Warriors, and that the Big Bossman was going to send The Mountie to jail. The poor lovable Bushwackers didn’t stand a chance against The Natural Disasters either. Hennig had been booked to, pardon the pun, perfection the previous two years, and to many people, is the benchmark of what the Intercontinental Champion should be. Hart was only a few months into his singles run, and I remember thinking, “Wait a minute, what happened to The Anvil?” I don’t recall there being a major angle to set the match up either, but a lot of the dynamics are similar.
Even though the IC title match wasn’t the main event, a lot of the circumstances are eerily similar (to me anyway). Now, the booking seemed to be always that the Intercontinental Championship changed at every SummerSlam, and I had even notice that as a kid. But it just seemed, at the time, unlikely that Bret would leave Madison Square Garden as Intercontinental Champion , even though the booking (and definitely the crowd response) leaned towards Bret winning the championship. But Perfect was on such a roll, that not a soul would have been surprised if he had retained.
This year’s SummerSlam main event has the same mystique. Daniel Bryan is on an incredible roll. The crowd wants it. The booking seems to call for it. Everyone will be ecstatic. The crowd will go bonkers, the IWC will rejoice, and there will be a brand new man in the record books as being WWE Champion. But if the reverse happens, and Cena retains, will anyone be really surprised? Nope.
History will show SummerSlam 1991 as being the event that catapulted Bret “The Hitman” Hart into a bona-fide, money-drawing, main eventer for the years that followed. Daniel Bryan has shown time and time again that he has the main event skills to hang with anybody. He’s proven to be versatile as a character and “YES” is on its way to being the “WHAT” of this generation. Will SummerSlam 2013 be to Daniel Bryan what SummerSlam 1991 was to Bret “The Hitman” Hart? We’ll know the answer come Sunday. Just like then, it’s near impossible to predict a winner. Which is EXACTLY the way wrestling is supposed to be booked! That is was sells main events and that is what sells tickets. I’d venture to guess WWE will be very pleased with the business figures from this year’s SummerSlam. But I’m going to predict that SummerSlam 2013 will be Daniel Bryan’s SummerSlam 1991.
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