Vintage Vault – SummerSlam 2008


*** Scott & Justin’s PPV reviews are a chronological look back at WWE PPV history that began with a review of WrestleMania I. After a brief hiatus, the PICs are back where they left off. The reviews include fun facts that provide insight into the match, competitors and state of the company along with overviews of the match action and opinions and thoughts on the outcomes. If you would like to review the full archive, stretching from WrestleMania I through Backlash 2008, please visit the old Place to Be Podcast message board. You can also find recent posts here at Place to Be Nation. Also, be sure to leave feedback on the reviews on our Facebook page. Enjoy! ***

August 17, 2008
Conseco Fieldhouse
Indianapolis, IN
Attendance: 12,480
Announcers: Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross, Tazz, Todd Grisham & Matt Striker

Fun Fact: On the 7/28 Raw, Shane McMahon arrived and revealed the new General Manager on Monday nights: Mike Adamle. Adamle was stepping in to run the show after Mr. McMahon had been seriously injured when the stage collapsed on him during the Million Dollar Giveaway. With Adamle leaving the booth, Todd Grisham stepped in as the lead announcer for ECW.

1) Montel Vontavious Porter defeats Jeff Hardy with the Drive-By at 10:12

Fun Fact: On the 7/25 Smackdown, Jeff Hardy was a guest of MVP’s VIP Lounge. MVP really laid a tongue lashing on Hardy, calling him a risk taker but noting that those risks led to a sixty day suspension, missing WrestleMania and possibly led to the fire that burnt down Hardy’s house and took the life of his dog Jack. After MVP called Hardy a detriment to his family and friends, Hardy talked about second chances and stated that MVP should agree with that stance. After MVP told Hardy to settle down, Hardy chased him from the ring. The next week, MVP interfered in Hardy’s match with Great Khali and aided in Hardy losing the match. The next night on the final Saturday Night’s Main Event in company history, MVP again cost Hardy a match, this time against Edge. The interference continued on 8/8, when MVP caused a DQ and cost Hardy the United States title in his challenge of Shelton Benjamin. On the go home show, MVP claimed he was only trying to help Hardy get his life on track but now he would be forced to bury him at SummerSlam. Later that night, MVP again cost Hardy the US Title but this time got some revenge when he hit MVP with the Twist of Fate and Swanton Bomb after the bell.

Scott: We open the final Summerslam outside California (as of February 2014) with a feud that was kind of fresh and new. Hardy was locked into the Intercontinental Title for much of late-2007 into 2008. Here it’s just a straight up match with the former US Champion. Hardy would be on course for bigger things as 2008 continues, but here he takes on a guy who’s carried the Smackdown mid-card for much of the past year. Since beating Chris Benoit over a year ago for the US title, MVP has been a beast in the ring and on the stick. He puts some creative submission holds on Hardy, many involving the arms and neck. 2008 was the year that the smoke wouldn’t clear after the show-opening pyro. It seemed like MVP put on a few pounds over the past few months but the body suit hides it for the most part. The last several minutes became one reversal after another as both men go for quick pins. Hardy was in a strange place at this point, with his house catching fire and his dog dying. A surprising finish as current US Champion Shelton Benjamin distracts Hardy enough to cause him to miss the Swanton. MVP hits the kick to the head for the win. I’m surprised by this, but maybe Hardy was being punished for something. As the months progress, he obviously wasn’t. I like this match particularly the back and forth reversals. Grade: **1/2

Justin: This feud got really hot and really personal very quickly, as titles were cast and nasty barbs were traded. Hardy is still really damn over here and MVP had really come into his own as a solid mid-card stud in 2008. Hardy was able to frustrate MVP early and started to work the arm a bit, which continued to show the development of Hardy as a worker. When he left WWE in 2003, he was nothing more than a disjointed spot monkey, but since his return in 2006, he had really learned how to better package together a match. I will also agree with Scott here about this commentary team, as JR and Tazz both seem to have reinvigorated each other. I enjoy Mick Foley quite a bit in his role, but Tazz needed a life preserver after nearly drowning on ECW, post Joey Styles. It was good to hear him back in his comfort zone of analyzing the matches instead of having to carry the storylines. Once MVP turned the tide, he zeroed right in on Hardy’s neck and did a nice job of working the resthold, smashing Hardy with crossface forearms as he sat in a Camel Clutch. The cool thing about MVP was his willingness to always develop and add to his moveset and style. I feel like every big match he wrestled, he always seemed to work something new into the mix. His style is also entertaining, a point Tazz makes on a couple of occasions., and he paid attention to the small details, like tying up both legs on pin attempts. Just when Hardy seemed to have the match in hand, Shelton Benjamin came out and ran some interference, leading Hardy turning his attention and wiping him out on the floor. Hardy quickly went back up top, but thanks to the delay, he now came up empty on a Swanton. MVP followed with the Drive-By to pick up the win. I really dug that opener and could have went for another five minutes of it easily. Tazz puts over Hardy’s recklessness as the reason he lost, and I would agree. MVP gets the win and continues his hot streak as one of Smackdown’s most consistent players. Grade: ***

2) Santino Marella & Beth Phoenix defeat Kofi Kingston & Mickie James to win the Intercontinental and Women’s Championships when Phoenix pins James with the Glam Slam at 5:39

Fun Fact: On 7/21, Santino Marella issued an open challenge but clarified he did not want to wrestle a woman. The challenge was answered by a returning D-Lo Brown, but after the match, Beth Phoenix came out and punched Marella in response to his sexist remarks. After the two struggled for a moment, they ended up awkwardly kissing to end the segment. The next week, they claimed their relationship was strictly professional, but after defeating Brown and Kelly Kelly, Beth eventually gave in and planted a big kiss on Marella. On 8/4, Marella and Phoenix went to Mike Adamle’s office and demanded that they receive title matches at SummerSlam. Instead, Adamle gave them a tag team match against Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston and Women’s Champion Mickie James with both titles on the line. Kingston and James had recently begun teaming in inter-gender matches as well as assisting each other when needed. Later in the night, Phoenix assaulted James and laid her out. Finally, a week later, Phoenix was sending a message by beating down Kelly until James & Kingston made the save. Marella then challenged James to a match, noting that they were in her hometown. Mickie accepted, but lost the match thanks to Beth getting involved.

Scott: This would begin the best stretch of Santino Marella’s career. His heel turn and connection with the Glamazon put him back in the spotlight. After the upset win in 2007 for the IC Title over Umaga and subsequent loss of that title he floated around for a bit. The only reason that I thought the heels would win here was that Beth Phoenix was due for a Women’s Title reign, and it would be a great plot point for Santino to win the IC Title without actually pinning Kofi. I’m not discounting Santino as a worker by any stretch, but his character suits this type of storyline where he coasts on his girlfriend’s coattails. The match is solid enough, particularly the women’s combo as Mickie and Beth are obviously great workers. I forgot about the movie motif for this year’s Summerslam, complete with movie theater front on the stage. Funny since they wouldn’t start going to California until next year. Beth decks Mickie from behind and pins Mickie after hitting her finisher for the win for her team, and the unconscious Santino is bequeathed the Intercontinental Title. Grade: **

Justin: Glamarella is in the house and Beth & Santino were quickly becoming one of the most entertaining acts on Raw. I liked the fresh match concept here too, foisted on the champs by Mike Adamle. Mickie James has had a strong year, but the writing seemed to be on the wall that Beth would eventually take her gold back. Santino was getting more and more ridiculous as the weeks rolled on, developing the unibrow and mullet and some very interesting speech patterns and mannerisms as well. Jerry Lawler discusses Beth’s focus on regaining her gold, which really did seem like the grander goal of this team. She and Mickie kick things off with Beth gaining control and then tagging in Santino. Mickie actually squirmed away before hitting a couple of moves on Marella and tagging back out. Kofi was a ball of energy and a breath of fresh air thanks to his look and style. I liked that they put the title on him out of the gate, as I felt he had the ability to really grow into the role as opposed to others that drown in it. After Santino got a brief flurry in, the men bailed and the ladies were back at it, continuing what has been one of 2008’s lengthiest on and off feuds. As Mickie was rolling, Santino got involved but wiped out out by the women’s champion. However, that was all Beth needed as she decked Mickie and planted her with the Glam Slam to win both titles for her team. The post match celebration was pretty good as Santino celebrated like a mad man and then rode out of the arena atop Beth’s shoulders. The match was fine but the outcome and antics woven throughout were pretty good. Grade: *1/2

*** Shawn Michaels and his wife Rebecca make their way to the ring, as Michaels was set to discuss a major decision regarding his career. The word out of the commentary booth was that Michaels may retire due to the eye injury he had suffered at the hands of Chris Jericho, and his wife accompanying him to the ring only added fuel to that fire. He announces that his doctors have advised him to hang up the tights and that he and his wife have decided to heed that advice and walk away, much to the anger of the crowd. Michaels reviews his career and then states he is looking forward to becoming a full time husband and father. Just before he wrapped up, Michaels was interrupted by Jericho, who told Shawn he wasn’t permitted to retire and go out on his own terms. Jericho wanted him to admit that he is leaving because of Jericho and not because of his injuries or personal reasons. Michaels asked Jericho to walk out and let him retire in peace, but Jericho kept the pressure on until Michaels finally admits that he has to retire due to the actions of a “vile, selfish, worthless human being”. He dares Jericho to go home and tell his family that “daddy will never, ever be Shawn Michaels”. After a stare down between the two, Michaels started to walk away, but Jericho pulled him back in. As Jericho threw a punch, Michaels dodged him, but he ended up decking Rebecca in the face instead. As Michaels checked on his unconscious wife, the pensive, almost remorseful Jericho slowly walked away as the crowd alternated between shock and awe. Rebecca would eventually regain her senses and be escorted out, but it is now clear this feud has plenty of gas left in the tank. ***

3) Matt Hardy defeats Mark Henry by disqualification at :34; Henry retains ECW World Title

Fun Fact: Matt Hardy earned this title match on the 7/22 ECW, defeating Finlay, John Morrison and The Miz. Henry would attempt to intimidate Hardy through feats of strength and an attack on Colin Delaney, but Hardy refused to back down. On 8/12, Hardy and Henry were forced to team up against Miz & Morrison. They would win the match, but after the bell, Henry dropped Hardy with a powerslam.

Fun Fact II: Despite having been with the company since 1996, this is Mark Henry’s first SummerSlam bout.

Scott: Matt Hardy was one of 2007-08’s most valuable guys on the roster. From tag teaming with his brother on Raw, to his US Title feud with MVP, Matt’s been all over WWE TV. He makes a big step here and is involved in his first major title feud. Sadly, the match lasts less than a minute. Hardy hits the Twist of Fate on Henry, but Tony Atlas pulls Hardy out of the ring during the pin attempt and for some stupid reason there’s a disqualification. Was this because the Jericho/Michaels segment lasted so long? Why bother putting it on the show then? They would have an actual title match the following Tuesday on ECW. Grade: DUD

Justin: The build for this one has been brief, but fairly effective. The beatdown from Henry heading in and the great job Grisham & Striker do on hyping this is a major opportunity for Hardy really add some importance to a match that normally may not have had any. Tony Atlas is with Henry here, a move I enjoyed considering their similar styles in the ring. Henry tried to overpower Hardy early, but Matt was actually able to land the Twist of Fate just seconds into the bout. Before he can win the title, Atlas yanked him to the floor and decked him for a DQ. Bah. I was really looking forward to this one but it ended up being nothing. Atlas pounded on Matt until Jeff showed up to make the save. They would also take Henry over with a double suplex on the floor. Guessing Matt will get another shot soon enough, and maybe they didn’t want to blow this one off just yet, but it was still odd booking that didn’t exactly make Henry look very strong. Grade: DUD

4) CM Punk vs. John Bradshaw Layfield for World Heavyweight Title

Fun Fact: On the 7/21 Raw, and with no authority figure in place on Raw, an angry Batista granted himself a World Title rematch with CM Punk. Despite JBL interrupting and claiming he was more deserving, Punk agreed with Batista and the rematch was set for that night. Batista would win by DQ when JBL got involved and attacked him. John Cena attempted to make the save but struck Batista by accident. The next week, JBL was able to take out Punk following the champion’s win over William Regal. On 8/4, Mike Adamle granted JBL and Chris Jericho a handicapped match against Punk. If either man pinned the champion, they would earn the SummerSlam title shot, but if Punk won, neither man would advance to the PPV. Also, if the match went over ten minutes, SummerSlam would feature a rematch of the triple threat. The match would end at exactly ten minutes after JBL collapsed on Punk and pinned him after Jericho hit him with a stun gun across the top rope and he fell back onto the champion. Punk and JBL would have a face-to-face on the go home show that ended with the straight edge Punk refusing to compete in a drinking contest before tossing a shot of whiskey in JBL’s face.

Scott: The title run all fans were waiting for continued through the biggest show of the year. I still get chills during the pop that night on Raw when Punk cashed in and won the world title. His match with Batista at the GAB wasn’t awful, even though the ending was. This was a unique situation as his opponent is one who hasn’t faced a guy like Punk since feuding with the great Eddie Guerrero four years earlier. John Cena obviously doesn’t wrestle like Punk, and even Rey Mysterio doesn’t work like Punk does. Punk looked to elevate JBL to take more risks than he normally does, like a fall-away slam off the second rope. JBL became #1 contender thanks to a unique tag team match from new Raw GM Mike Adamle. I haven’t talked much about Adamle so far because he hasn’t been on camera yet on this show. JBL took control with his typical move set of strikes and wear down moves like an Abdominal Stretch. The match was better than I remember mostly because Punk adapted and settled into JBL’s style without bogging the match down and ruining it. Punk ducked a CFH and smacked JBL with a kick, but then Punk and JBL accidentally smacked heads and both guys were woozy. After more back and forth Punk hits the GTS and cleanly wins the match. I was very happy with that because he really needed it to legitimize his reign. I remember some online scuttlebutt over this reign and how many backstage were against it, but that’s a bunch of crap. The crowd was behind him and he earned it with a clean win. That was a fun match and a big win for the champion. Grade: ***

Justin: After an up and down return to the ring, JBL finds himself back into the title picture yet again. I am glad the Cena feud is finally behind him, but it certainly makes sense now why JBL came out on top of that one. I was also surprised that JBL beat Punk on TV leading into this match, as he certainly wasn’t somebody that needed to pin the champ to build credibility as a challenger. Punk hasn’t exactly been well protected in ring or at all, as guys like JBL called him a “transitional champion” on TV. Michael Cole explained all the differences between the two when it came to social choices, including the alcohol vs. straight edge stuff, which seemed a bit forced and bullyish here. I mean, I hate that as an angle altogether unless the straight edge guy is the heel being an obnoxious goof. The majority of the fans are not going to side with the non-drinker, so it put Punk in a tough spot of proving himself to people who drink, which to me is a losing battle when you consider the majority of the fanbase. Punk used his speed early on to keep JBL off balance, including a nice dive through the ropes to the floor, but JBL eventually used his size to put Punk on the mat and slowly start to break him down. I did enjoy how Cole kept reminding us of JBL’s title reign, which was epic in its own right and deserved to be held up over this feud to build JBL’s credibility. JBL slowed things way down when he started working the midsection. It started well with a nice fallaway slam, but the endless abdominal stretch halted things quite a bit. Business picked back up when Punk escaped the hold and went for the G2S but instead ate huge clothesline that rocked him hard. From that point on, I really dug this match as the pace picked up during Punk’s comebacks but JBL was a masterful asshole in cutting them off and halting momentum. After endless comeback attempts, Punk finally snuck in and hit the G2S to win a surprisingly hard hitting battle. I still wasn’t crazy about how the announcers played this up as a surprise or upset, even calling him the “underdog champion”, but JBL did his job and put him over clean as a sheet. It really made Punk look good as a guy that would keep coming back and coming back until he could hit the kill strike. Fun stuff. Grade: ***

5) Triple H defeats Great Khali with a Pedigree to retain WWE Title at 9:21

Fun Fact: Great Khali won a battle royal on the 7/25 Smackdown to earn this title match. Two weeks later, the two had an in ring segment to set up the PPV bout. After the talking ended, they competed in a broken glass arm wrestling match that ended in a mess when Khali assaulted Triple H just when the champion was about to win. Hunter tried to counter with the Pedigree, but Khali chopped him in the head and caused him to pass out after locking in the head vice. On 8/14, Triple H baited Khali into the ring by dragging his translator Runjin Singh into the ring. Khali would attempt to make the save but was clotheslined to the floor by the Game.

Scott: One of the worst feuds of Triple H’s career. The roster at this point was stacked, but at the same time disjointed. Other than Triple H, Edge and Undertaker there wasn’t much in terms of main eventers on the Smackdown roster. Raw was overloaded with guys, and that’s not counting CM Punk as World Champion. That’s why this card is so weird, as the two main title matches are in the middle of the show. I’ve watched enough Triple H matches in my life to know how this match was going to go. Hunter would start off hot, but then Khali would use his strength and size to work Triple H over and then we get a Pedigree and a win. I was thinking that Triple H would want to mimic the Hogan/Andre match from Wrestlemania III. I know how my favorite guy thinks, always wanting the epic match. Sadly, this was not going to be an epic anything. Continuously trying to execute the Pedigree was psychologically feasible and it did put over Khali as a big monster but again Triple H didn’t allow it. The match was booked too even, and it showed how much Khali wasn’t being taken seriously as a contender. Different from a year earlier when he was World Champion and feuding with Batista. The only real legit psychology was when Triple H was trying to fight the Vice Grip, which he eventually fought out of. He finally drilled the Pedigree (and the crowd went nuts), allowing for the win and the successful title defense. The match didn’t have that PPV feel, more like a Smackdown main event match. I agree with where it laid on the card, and that’s sad that the three main titles were all undercard matches. The Game is still WWE Champ, but the match was underwhelming. Grade: *1/2

Justin: Well this certainly was an interesting challenger for Triple H, who seems a bit out of place on Smackdown Despite being the reigning champion, he has clearly taken a step behind Edge and Undertaker, the longtime kingpins of Friday nights. It is refreshing and heading in, there was definitely some curiosity as to how good of a match The Game could drag out of Khali. Remember back a year, John Cena did a solid job leading Khali through a pair of watchable WWE Title matches, so we will see if Hunter can do the same. I will admit that the staredown to open the match was pretty cool, with Hunter looking up at Khali but raising his belt high in the air. The booking out of the gate was perfect, with Khali smashing Hunter and chucking him to the mat with the Tree Slam before hooking in the Vice Grip. Khali was actually moving alright here as well and Hunter did a nice job selling his big blows. I know, I am surprised as well. Even the usual Khali restholds were kept short and to the point with Hunter timing the breaks well. I liked how Tazz did a strong job selling that Hunter had to somehow find an opportunity to gain control wherever he could. It almost happened with Khali tied in the ropes, but he couldn’t get it done there and led to more punishment, including another prolonged vice grip. H would end up breaking that hitting the Pedigree to steal the win, which I loved. He hit one move, but that move has been protected enough to make you believe it was enough to win. Khali looked like a beast here, dominating the champion and Hunter really walked him through this one well. I can’t believe I enjoyed this match as much as a I did, but there it was. Grade: **

6) Batista defeats John Cena with a Batistabomb at 13:43

Fun Fact: On 7/21, this feud ignited when John Cena attempted to save Batista and CM Punk from JBL but accidentally struck The Animal as the show went off the air. The two made up the next week when Cena apologized, but started tossing some barbs at each other regarding their recent slumps and claim to a title shot. Cena suggested that despite being a WrestleMania quality match, the two should battle that night in Batista’s hometown. Before that could become official, Shane and Stephanie McMahon appeared and warned that the new GM would decide their fates. In the meantime, Cena and Batista were forced to team up against JBL and Chris Jericho at the end of that show. After the match, Mike Adamle was revealed as GM and announced that Cena and Batista would now wrestle at SummerSlam. On 8/4, the two were again forced to team up and this time they won gold, as they defeated the tag team champions Cody Rhodes & Ted DiBiase. The next week, the two superstars made it clear that their SummerSlam match would prove which of the two was the better man. Later that night, DiBiase & Rhodes regained the tag titles when they took advantage of the champions while they were arguing. After the bout, officials spilled into the ring to prevent a brawl between the two.

Fun Fact II: Despite being on the roster together since 2002 and having been main event players since 2005, this is the first time John Cena and Batista wrestled in a singles match on PPV.

Scott: I have to say, I kind of liked the build this match had. Cena admitted that on a few occasions what should have been his stage alone had to be shared. He won the WWE Title at Wrestlemania XXI to begin his run at the top and it was tempered by Batista’s World Title win over Triple H. Two years later at Wrestlemania XXIII Cena defeated Mr. Wrestlemania Shawn Michaels, but everyone talked about how Batista and Undertaker stole the show. As much as I hated the fact that the major title matches were shunted down the card for this one, I was looking forward to this one. There really wasn’t a story being told during the match, it seemed like a series of possible finishers one after the other, with not much in between. It was cool to see Batista whip out a Figure Four, going back to being upset at Ric Flair’s retirement earlier in the year. The last five minutes was nothing but STFUs, Batistabombs and FUs along with reversals of those moves. Eventually Batista had to hit two Batistabombs to finally get the three count on Cena. I wonder if this feud was to have a future with Cena losing here. It turns out Cena legitimately hurt his back in this match. The match was not horrendous, but it was really a showcase for both men’s top two moves and that’s pretty much it. The story told in between those moments was really non-existent. It’s a lot like an occasional ECW old school match where there was a string of high spots or hardcore moves but not much else. Sadly that’s what we had here. They would renew acquaintances down the line, but for now their first match together is average. Grade: **

Justin: I was certainly shocked when this match was announced because it is clearly a WrestleMania main event level war. These two had never met in the ring and had a ton of built in story behind them, dating back to their simultaneous rise to stardom in 2005. The build was basic, two guys that had never crossed paths finally found themselves on the same show and in each other’s way to the top. The match certainly felt like a big deal and you quickly forget how much Cena has lost in 2008 because he easily feels like Batista’s equal without question. Batista really controlled right out of the gate, simply using his raw power to hit some strong moves. And when that didn’t work, Batista began to work the knee, a strategy that Cole credited Ric Flair with, calling back to Batista’s apprenticeship with the Nature Boy. To really hammer it home, Batista even locked in the figure four. The only way Cena was able to finally shut Batista down was to send him flying to the floor with an FU, buying himself recovery time. Once Cena turned the tide, we got a mini reprisal of the open, with Cena hitting the big moves to Batista to get his shine in. Cena even went to the knee as well, setting up the STFU, trapping Batista in the center of the ring. The Animal survived a long visit in the hold before finally reaching the ropes. Too bad Cena didn’t properly lock the arms to really make it look good. This match really was the epitome of big superstars just hammering each other with big move after big move and kick out after kick out and not much in between. Batista even busted out a rear naked choke before folding Cena with a spear. Cena bounced back with an FU but couldn’t capitalize thanks to his balky knee. By this point the fans were really into this slugfest, especially when both men traded blows on the top rope. Cena finally shoved Batista down and went for his legdrop, but Batista had clearly scouted, caught him and hit a powerbomb for what I thought was the finish, but Cena kicked free. Batista popped up, kicked Cena in the head and hit a Batistabomb to win the bout. Wow. That was fun in a very different way. Man, what a down year for Cena across the board, as this match really elevates Batista above Cena in a way, which I guess is a good thing considering his track record as a choker. I dug the structure here, with tons of big moves because that is what a match with guys like this should be. The finish was really strong too as Batista just calmly got up, kicked him in the face and drilled him with his finisher for the clean win. This felt epic, just as it should have, and I loved the decisive finish. Grade: ***1/2

7) Undertaker defeats Edge in a Hell in the Cell match with a Tombstone at 26:44

Fun Fact: On 7/25, Vickie Guerrero got her revenge on her former lover Edge when she spurned his apology and revealed that she had reinstated the previously banned Undertaker and made a Hell in the Cell match between the two for SummerSlam. The next week, on the Cutting Edge, the former champion forced announcer Mick Foley to be his guest so he could pick his brain on facing Undertaker inside the Cell. Edge then requested Foley’s help, offering him a chance to finally gain revenge on Taker from King of the Ring 1998. Foley refused and said he didn’t like the Edge of “today” and that he relied on Vickie and shortcuts to stay on top of the sport. He warned Edge that if he showed up at SummerSlam in this mental condition, Taker would tear him apart. Edge did not take kindly to the warning and ended up beating down, using a steel chair and the ring steps before finally putting Foley through a table by diving off a ladder. On 8/8, Edge’s mental collapse continued as he assaulted his former friend Chavo Guerrero and then dumped Vickie from her wheelchair and warned that he was taking all of La Familia to hell with him at SummerSlam. A week later, Edge said he felt like he was constantly burning in hell and that it was Vickie’s fault and that Undertaker would burn with him at SummerSlam.

Fun Fact II: The 8/1 Smackdown would be Mick Foley’s final WWE appearance until November 2011. After a falling out with Vince McMahon over the way the Chairman had been treating him both backstage and on headset during his commentary, Foley decided it was time for a break. In a risky move, he eschewed Vince’s offer to come back to the booth and decided to join TNA to help their continued evolution. Foley signed a contract just days after his WWE pact expired and despite his initial deal being a short-term one, he would remain with TNA until June 2011. At first he was taken off TV because he was in danger of exceeding his maximum number of TV appearances, but once he left programming, he never returned to the Impact Zone.

Scott: I was looking forward to this one, not only because I’m a big Edge fan, but because I always mark out for guys making their cell debuts. It’s no secret that HIAC is my favorite gimmick of all time (really an extension of loving cage matches) and Taker has been in a couple of five star cell wars. Not just the first HIAC with Shawn Michaels in 1997, but my favorite Taker cell match, his loss to Brock Lesnar at No Mercy 2002. As with most HIAC matches, the heel gets creamed in the first few minutes and then one missed Taker move gives Edge an opening. Even though Edge has never been in a cell, he has been in plenty of gimmick matches where weapons and other ring “props” are used. This could definitely be the Feud of the Year for 2008, mostly because after a solid but not spectacular first match at WrestleMania, their matches got better. This one was, in my opinion, their best as both guys go all out and get very creative. I also like JR and Tazz on commentary here. I know JR felt he was demoted here but honestly he made Tazz pretty good again after being lazy on ECW. For the first time in a while we get a gimmick spot to the cell itself when Edge spears Taker through one of the cell pieces and busts through it. We get another spot of the night when Taker was wobbly on the Raw table, Edge runs from the SD table, and spears Taker through the ECW table. The crowd was pretty hot all night and they really were whipped into a frenzy for this match. The turning point where the final act begins is when Edge kicks out of a chokeslam and now both men start hitting each other with haymakers and big time weapon shots. Taker then eats another spear and kicks out. Taker pulls out the Last Ride but Edge kicks out of that too. Unlike the last couple matches where we saw a series of big moves with no real story in between, I feel here a story was being told as each spot had a plan or logic behind it. Maybe it’s because they’ve been feuding pretty much since the fall of 2007. Another big spot saw Edge go for Taker’s Old School but Taker reverses and chokeslams Edge through two tables. Taker then spears Edge and hits him with a camera, a great moment of continuity as Edge hit Taker with a camera to cost him a title match in a Cell against Batista at the previous year’s Survivor Series. Taker finally ends it with a Tombstone and then we get an over the top moment when Edge is chokeslammed from a ladder through the ring and fire comes from the open hole. Easily the match of the night and Taker finally gets revenge for being expelled from WWE in June. Grade: ****

Justin: The 2008 feud of the year crashes to a finale here. Edge has slowly slipped into madness through this year. Despite having all the power and controlling the title and his very own faction, the Undertaker has constantly stood in his way. The power finally went too far, as Edge felt infallible and cheated on Vickie Guerrero, pissing her off enough to reinstate Undertaker and make a Hell in a Cell match between Deadman and her husband. The final Smackdown with Edge driving Mick Foley out of the promotion with a memorable beatdown was pretty great as well and that was capped with Edge vowing to take Vickie to hell with him. This card was really quite stacked on top with two huge non title matches and it was fitting that this feud reigns above the rest. JR puts over Edge’s record in big time matches, noting he is 7-0 in SummerSlam singles matches and has also been fantastic at WrestleMania as well, but this is his first HIAC bout. Edge went right at Taker here, tossing right hands, a point JR calls out about how not many would go that route, but Edge knows Taker so well, he feels comfortable with that strategy. Having Tazz & JR call this one was great just because they are better about integrating psychology and history into the commentary, two things that aid a match of this magnitude. Taker started to batter Edge with the ring steps, but that plan quickly backfired when Edge used the steps against him. The growth in confidence against Taker throughout this feud has really dovetailed here, where he is able to counter some of Taker’s attack and fight him in his own game. JR notes that he thought Edge would be out of control given what we saw on Smackdown, but instead he is focused and willing to destroy himself as needed. No surprise at all that Edge utilized a lot of steel his assault, bashing Taker with chairshots laced with frustration and cold calculation. Edge was so focused that you wonder if the scene on Smackdown was an act to catch Taker off guard. After a few more minutes of punishment, Taker battled back with a well timed right hand and then sent Edge to the cell with a boot. By this point, both men were already a bit spent, so desperation started to kick in. In the first truly memorable spot of the night, Edge flew off the apron and drove himself into Taker with a spear loaded with such velocity that it sent them both crashing through the cell wall and onto the ringside mat. That was followed by a brawl around ringside, including the spot where Edge spears Taker off one announce table and through another. In a nice point of continuity, Edge bashed Taker with a video camera, a callback to last year’s Survivor Series when Edge snuck inside the cell and cost Taker his title match with Batista. The final moments of the match were littered with big moves, counters and great near falls, really getting the crowd going. By this point, Tazz was really wondering how inside the head of Taker Edge was, touting how impressive his game plan was. Edge’s first big mistake came when he tried to go Old School, which was blocked by Taker and led to the Rated R Superstar getting chokeslammed off the top through a series of tables that had been set up next to the ring. Taker would bring the story full circle, using the video camera, a con-chair-to and a Tombstone to finally polish Edge off. What a battle. After the bell, Taker wanted to bring an end to Edge for good. He returned to the ring and as the feed suffers through Taker’s influenced static and graphics, the Deadman chokeslammed Edge off a ladder and through a hole in the mat that eventually burst into flames, sending him to hell as had been predicted by both men prior to the match. Besides the quality of the action, what also makes this match great is the long story that built to it. They had battled for most of the year, so by this point, they know each other well and the hatred runs deep, spilling out inside the cell for all to see. I also need to give the fans props here as they were buzzing throughout the whole match, never quieting down or choosing sides. They just enjoyed the ride and the violence. Edge finally gets some time to off to relax and Taker is back into one of the top SD slots. This was a great HIAC match and a nice capper to what has been 2008’s best feuds. Grade: ****

Final Analysis

Scott: This was a 50/50 show that saw some really good matches and a couple stinkers. We were one for three on the major title matches as CM Punk shined on the big stage, but Triple H’s title defense was forgettable. I enjoyed the build to Cena/Batista more than the match itself. Better encounters would come from them further down the timeline. The Michaels/Jericho stuff was probably the highlight of the night, which doesn’t say much for a majority of the card. Michaels just knew how to tug the heartstrings of his fans. The Cell match was definitely the best between Edge and Taker and Edge would take some time off to sell…going to hell I guess. Besides CM Punk, the main event and the Michaels/Y2J stuff, this show is fairly forgettable. Final Grade: C-

Justin: I did not have very high expectations heading into this show, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. The card was pretty loaded at the top, and even the matches and angles on the undercard were fairly well built and filled with intrigue. The only real disappointment was the ECW title match, and that was so short, it didn’t really taint the show at all. The Michaels/Jericho showdown was fantastic and was a five star segment that cannot be discounted from the overall grade of the show. I can’t believe I enjoyed Triple H/Khali as much as I did and I really liked the superstar battle that was Cena/Batista. Add in a great main event and a red hot crowd, and this ended up being a surprising winner to me. It is not often that Scott and I differ so greatly on a show, but I really enjoyed watching this one back through. Final Grade: B