WWE had the chance to prove critics wrong with the 17th edition of SummerSlam live from the Air Canada Center in SLAM!’s hometown of Toronto. With a card that had four potential show stealers, it was a vital step towards rebuilding the company. Instead, the crowd did the wave during one of the world title matches and it will go down in history as one of the most forgettable SummerSlams of all time, a shame considering this event is usually a highlight of the year.

The Wave wasn’t the only thing the crowd did. Toronto is usually rabid, but frequently sat on their hands when they weren’t a) Booing hometown boy Edge. b) Chanting “Eugene Sucks” or. c) Chanting “Virgil” at Orlando Jordan or “Spanish Announce Table,” which at first sounded like “We Want Sable.”

There’s been a common statement as of late regarding matches involving John “Bradshaw” Layfield. “Well, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” It is not a good sign when people think so highly of the champion that “it wasn’t bad” is the best they can come up with. A dull listless brawl that I actually fell asleep during the first viewing, Bradshaw concentrated on Undertaker’s leg while the challenger tended to lock on submission moves. You could see the legit anger on Taker’s face when he looked up and saw the crowd doing the “wave.” When Taker whipped Bradshaw into referee Nick Patrick, Jordan tossed the belt in and then dragged Patrick over and used his hand to count, only getting a two count. When Bradshaw attempted to punch Taker in the corner, Taker nailed him with the Last Ride for the two count, and then nailed him with the belt, resulting in a disqualification. The crowd booed as Taker dragged JBL to the limo, slammed him onto the hood, and then chokeslammed him through the fabric roof of the vehicle. After Taker left Bradshaw was wheeled out on a stretcher as the crowd chanted “Hey Goodbye.”

The polar opposite was the great match between Chris Benoit and challenger Randy Orton. Although his Backlash match with Mick Foley was a better performance, the SummerSlam finisher was Orton’s best wrestling match to date. The crowd reminded Earl Hebner of his “screwy” past as the two locked up and went through the feeling out process and mat wrestling before Orton missed a dropkick and Benoit attempted a sharpshooter, which Orton reversed into one of his own, which was then reversed by Benoit. They ended up on the apron where Benoit connected with a DDT on the apron, hit a baseball slide, and then dove through the ropes with a tope, missing and hitting the barricade headfirst. Orton took advantage and worked over Benoit’s neck.

The two traded reversals and suplexes before Benoit hit three Germans, Orton tried to break free and ended up in three more resulting in a loud ovation from the crowd. The diving headbutt was signaled for, and Benoit took flight right into Orton’s raised feet in an awesomely stiff looking shot that resulted in a two count that was reversed into a crossface. Orton broke free, Benoit blocked the RKO, Orton went to the other side and hit it, covering Benoit for the clean pin.

Orton celebrated and the fans gave him a “respect ovation.” Benoit left the ring and then returned and extended his hand saying, “Be a man.” The two shook hands and Orton continued to celebrate, sans Evolution. Even as a heel, there were genuine tears in his eyes and he seemed in awe of his win. If one thing can be said about the wrestling business lately, it’s that the genuine emotion of title wins this year from Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and Randy Orton can’t be faked; it’s real and it shows that to at least some people, the World Title means something.

At least something does.

The next WWE Pay Per View is RAW presents Unforgiven on September 12 from Portland, Oregon.

SummerSlam 2004 Results

Rey Mysterio & The Baby AJ’s vs. The Dudley Boyz.

A hot opener that saw London finally get a chance to shine on pay per view. Some great double team moves including London springing off Kidman’s back and taking out Bubba with a senton dive. A Hart attack by Rey and Kidman on Spike set up a slingshot by Kidman to the second rope and a 619. The older Dudz broke it up and took Kidman out with the 3D before letting Spike take the pin.

Winners: The Dudley Boyz
Rating: 6 out of 10.

Till Death Do Us Part Match: Kane vs. Matt Hardy

Practically a squash, the crowd didn’t care at all as Hardy attacked Kane at the outset, hitting a side effect from the second rope. A sloppy Tornado DDT also got a two count, as did a shot with the ring bell. Hardy went to the top rope, but Kane caught him as he came off in a choke which Hardy fought out of and went for a Twist Of Fate, Kane shoved him off and hit a big boot to the face. Kane went to the top rope, but Hardy crotched him and went for a top rope DDT. Kane blocked it, and hit a top rope chokeslam for the three count. Lita, who is starting to show the pregnancy, looked less than happy.

Winner: Kane
Rating: 3/10

Backstage Randy Orton started to cut a promo on being the best star in the WWE when John Cena interrupted and thanked him for the introduction, offering him some free merch later. He then said “Hey T.Dot, can you hear me” Do you think Randy Orton will beat Chris Benoit tonight”” The resounding boos made it clear how the Toronto crowd felt about that idea. An irritated Orton finished his promo promising to become the youngest world champion.

Best of Five series – Match 1: Booker T vs. John Cena.

Benoit vs. Booker this was not. Heck this was barely Stevie Ray vs. Booker, and if they are going to try and get five matches out of this series they better start getting creative. After some jaw jacking the two finally locked up with Booker getting the advantage. After some “WWE Style” wrestling things picked up with Booker missing an ax kick and Cena taking advantage before Booker hit a flapjack. The US champion did a spin-a-roonie… right into the F-U.

Winner: John Cena
Rating: 3/10

Eric Bischoff, who recently celebrate two years in office, popped into Smackdown GM Teddy Long’s office, reminding him of the fact that every time there is a cross brand PPV there is a new GM, mentioning he has outlasted Stephanie McMahon, Paul Heyman and Kurt Angle and that Long wouldn’t last to Survivor Series. In response, Long told Bischoff that any RAW superstar who was tired of Bischoff he would gladly sign to Smackdown including nephew Eugene.

Intercontinental Title Match: Edge vs. Chris Jericho vs. Batista.

Wow, did the fans dump on hometown boy Edge, roundly booing him and chanting “Y2J” as well as “We Want Christian.” Isn’t the point of a three-way match that there are three competitors” All three were in the ring together for 20 seconds at the most, when Batista broke up the Walls of Jericho. The RAW singles match was substantially better as aside from a nice dropkick by Jericho on the outside driving Batista’s head into the stairs it didn’t offer much. Jericho sent Batista off the apron with a springboard dropkick and was speared and pinned at under ten minutes.

Winner: … and STILL Intercontinental Champion: Edge
Rating: 4/10

Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero.

There will be argument over which match was better, this or the main event. The match built around Angle constantly going for the ankle lock, as well as trying to remove Guerrero’s boot in a nod to their Wrestlemania match. The crowd unfortunately wasn’t into the match until things picked up with Guerrero hitting an Angle Slam and the triple-suplexes, now dubbed the “Three Amigos.” I can see it now “He’s hit the Steve Martin, can he hit the Martin Short” yes he did! Here comes the trifecta” yes a perfect Chevy Chase!” (I really hope somebody gets that since I lied, cheated and stole it.) The first Frog Splash attempt was stopped with a pop-up superplex. The second attempt saw Guerrero crash into the canvas when Angle moved, removing Guerrero’s boot and twisting the ankle sans boot, it looked sick. He fought out, but was soon trapped in it again and forced to tap out.

Winner: Kurt Angle
Rating 8/10

Triple-H vs. Eugene

Considering how violent the build up was, this was a relatively simple and clean match that was entertaining but forgettable, other then the crowd’s complete turn on Eugene, chanting “Eugene Sucks.” Eugene made a Hulk Hogan comeback out of a sleeper and the crowd booed the big boot and the legdrop, as JR reminded us of Wrestlemania X-8. A couple of teases for the pedigree before Eugene reversed it into a slingshot into the corner, (which is how one defeats The Game) and hitting his own Pedigree. Ric Flair, who made his way down the aisle just before to a loud pop put Hunter’s foot on the rope. Eugene hit a stunner, and a Rock bottom, but a Special Elbow was stopped by HHH with an “Arn Anderson Spinebuster.” William Regal came to ringside and decked Flair with the brass knuckles, but Eugene watched that instead of his foe and walked into a pedigree.

Winner: Triple H.
Rating: 5/10.

Diva Dodgeball

So let me get this straight, Rob Van Dam was on Heat, neither tag title was defended, yet we get this garbage” Total, total crap that saw “Team Dream” dominate the women who actually earned their contracts, well, most of them. After it was over Trish and Victoria got into it, since, you know, the women are supposed to be feuding. But hey, maybe on RAW we can see more Ice Cream covered breasts. Ugh.

Winners: Technically, the contestants. In reality anyone who went to the bathroom.
Rating: Not worth rating.

WWE Championship Match: John “Bradshaw” Layfield vs. The Undertaker.

Winner: … and STILL WWE Champion: John “Bradshaw” Layfield via DQ.
Rating: 2/10.

World Championship Match: Chris Benoit vs. Randy Orton

Winner: … and NEW World Champion: Randy Orton
Rating: 8/10

Overall Rating: 5/10