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[2013-08-18-WWE-Summerslam] John Cena vs Daniel Bryan / Randy Orton vs Daniel Bryan

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This was the Daniel Bryan Show, and major kudos to Cena for being so gracious yet again. Cena of course would use his size and strength to get advantages and avoid getting his ass handed to him on the mat. An early La Tatipia surfboard attempt by D-Bry was cancelled out when Cena lifted D-Bry out of position. I was actually openly criticizing D-Bry during this spot because he didn't use his fists on the rear shoulders region of Cena to get the leverage he needed on an opponent of this caliber, strength, and size. I also recall early in the match he gave D-Bry a vertical suplex on the floor. Hey, if you're going to take stupid bumps, this is the match where you fucking do it.

D-Bry got to show the WWE fanbase what so many fans of independent wrestling had enjoyed throughout the 2000s decade. He was constantly finding new ways to get submissions locked on, including a beautiful and poetic STF on Cena. However, I must now mention that Cena came into this match with a torn tricep. It was severe enough that he had a mass on his left elbow because of it. Of course D-Bry took advantage of it, as well as Cena's respective shoulder that had collided with the ring post, getting the LeBell Lock clamped on at various points in the match, and Cena did a great job like Lesnar earlier in the night of making the audience wonder if he was really going to tap out. D-Bry also channeled Punk in that same match against Lesnar when he dropped Cena with a DDT reversal.

Other great moments in the match include Cena blocking an attempted Frankensteiner with a Styles Clash that was almost botched very badly. There was also a spot near the end when D-Bry did his signature running dropkicks in the corner, but on the third one, Cena ran forward to deliver a vicious clothesline much like Cesaro had done to D-Bry the month before. Both times when this clothesline was delivered it brought back memories of D-Bry's series against his greatest opponent Nigel McGuinness.

The finish of the match came when D-Bry reversed an attempted Death Valley Driver into a small package nearfall, then followed that up with a roundhouse kick to Cena's head. He then debuted the Busaiku knee in front of the WWE audience, and achieved his greatest career moment to date, pinning John Cena clean in the middle of the ring for the WWE Championship in the main event of SummerSlam, with Triple H, who had been fair, impartial, and allowed the combatants to be the focus of the match, counting the pin. The new finisher D-Bry used didn't get a huge pop, which I could see some pointing out as a flaw in the match. But it wasn't. D-Bry's new finisher debuted here and took out the biggest superstar in the industry of the 21st Century so far, to establish its lethal effect. And when the day comes on perhaps a much, much, much bigger stage, the crowd will fucking erupt if he so hits it in a certain main event match that will have the WWE Championship on the line.

Post-match, Cena shakes hands and congratulates the new WWE Champion, as does HHH. D-Bry gets several minutes to celebrate his crowning achievement in front of an ecstatic crowd, with confetti falling throughout the Staples Center. This was such a sentimental and bad-ass moment, one that is so rewarding for fans of pro wrestling. This was just as fucking good as when D-Bry won the ROH Title from James Gibson eight years earlier.

After several minutes, Randy Orton interrupts and comes to ringside, teasing that he will cash it in. He walks away but stops, still contemplating on what to do. HHH approaches D-Bry and suddenly gives him a Pedigree, which has the crowd in a stunned uproar! Orton then gets in the ring and gladly cashes in, to which HHH gleefully obliges. Orton gets the successful pin. I must mention here that D-Bry not kicking out of the Pedigree was a BERRIAL. Actually, no it wasn't. As I stated earlier, having that move take him out here after a grueling MOTYC against Cena will build the drama and have the crowd even more appreciative for when that special day comes that D-Bry does kick out of it.

And that's why even though I wasn't as quite in love with this as I was with Lesnar vs. Punk, this segment couldn't have been executed any better. Cena did a great job in reminding the audience of his grit, love, passion, and SKILL for the business and championship. D-Bry did his thing that I'm guessing most who read this post have grown accustomed to over the past decade from him, this time in front of the largest audience possible outside of WrestleMania, and thus elevated the importance of the title with his performance while also elevating his stock in the company.

Triple H was great in being in the background during the main event, making his heel turn, while many expected it, even more devastating. And Orton had finally turned heel too, because D-Bry was the only one the audience had both enough respect and sympathy for to be angry at him for being such a spineless opportunist. What an epic, epic season finale this show was. ****1/2

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I feel kind of bad comparing this to a completely different match that happened to have been on the same show, but when I was watching this I couldn't help but think, "How can anyone think this is better than Punk/Lesnar?" Just look at the video packages. Punk/Lesnar had this great story about a former trying to get revenge on a friend who betrayed him by taking down an unstoppable monster. Here we get a strange beard storyline with some referee shenanigans. The match also doesn't suddenly grab you like Punk/Lesnar, instead slowly really slowly as they play up Cena's injured elbow. He goes out and gets it checked by the doctor and then works a headlock using it to show he's fine and that's about the last time it's made out as serious factor. It feels like Chekhov's gun that they'd make a big deal out of it in the beginning just for it to become a non-factor as the match gets going. Anyway, they work some nice submissions stuff from there. I appreciate Cena really going out of his way to sell the surfboard as a serious move to avoid. They also kind of establish the dynamic of Bryan finding ways to stop Cena from doing his usual stuff with his unique style, which forces Cena to rely more on powering through things. I do think the match was built too much on big moves and near falls for my tastes, though the style seemed to work for the crowd. That piledriver thing Cena did off the top rope and the transition into the STF looked sick. I enjoyed the finish run, though it kind of felt like they were aping HBK/Taker with the yay-boo strike exchanges and spot where they used each other's bodies to get up. Neat post-match. I'm in the camp it probably would have been a better moment to have Bryan kick out of the pedigree like how Cena kicked out the first spear during Edge's NYR cash-in, but I can see the argument for why he didn't. Not a classic, but a great WWE moment and main event. ****

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This started off like a typical big match, slow and the two being cautious. They had some lovely exchanges on the mat and have a nice knuckle lock struggle. Speaking of which; I always love the “You can’t wrestle” chant right before Cena goes all grapple fuck and proves he can. Then the fans chanting “you still suck”. Lol. Idiot fans being idiots as per usual. Then there was a great transition for Cena to take control with Cena throwing Bryan neck first into the ropes and then basically hits a shoulder block on Bryan, who is no on the apron, sending him flying hard into the announcers table. The momentum switches in the match were great at times. Bryan made a brief comeback, hit the Yes kicks which Cena reversed into a Five knuckle shuffle which then Bryan blocks with a kick to the head and then Cena cuts him off with a slam and then hits the Five knuckle shuffle in a minute lock fantastic sequence with momentum going back and forth - totally blew my mind. Bryan was excellent at the little things in this match. The way he brought the crowd alive by just milking in the crowd, the way he slowly pulled himself up after hitting a spider suplex to Cena off the top rope and then put his hands in the air. Playing to the crowd for maximum effect. There was a scary, yet great counter by Cena to a hurricanrana into an STF by just dropping off the ropes, almost dropping Bryan on his head. I almost thought that he was doing a styles clash for a second. Cena brings everything he has in this match, intensity and all. He even hits a stiff lariat to Bryan when Bryan tries to hit a knee in the corner. The best part of the match, for me, was when they started trading slaps which transition to the closing stretch so, so well. Then the finish with Bryan debuting the Busaiku Knee was a great way to end the match. 

It says a ton when you completely forget the Special ref. One, that they didn’t need a clutch and instead got you into the match on your own. And two, HHH did a good job as ref. Two outstanding performances that kept you engaged from start to finish. Starting with some great grappling exchanges, eventually turning into a great battle of Bryan having to fight from beneath and come up with new ways to beat Cena and be champion. Tremendous match. ****3/4
 

The post match angle was tremendously well done. Stunned the crowd and just sent me back to 2013 when my 13 year old self was sat in silence for like an hour, unable to comprehend what happened. That's what wrestling does to you, man. When done right, anyway.

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This felt similar to the Cena/Punk match from MITB as the story is the same. It's the WWE guy versus the indy guy, but this is a much better match due to Bryan being a much slicker worker. The crowd chanting 'You can't wrestle' at Cena is laughable, as he can more than hold his own when grappling with Bryan. Cena works well as a quasi-heel. He over powers Bryan and takes just a little bit longer to do his signature taunts, which really rile up the crowd. I have to give credit for Triple H being a great special referee too, you completely forget he's there, which makes the swerve more unpredictable. This is a technical classic with a story that's easy to get sucked into.  A five star classic that's not even either guy's best match! 

★★★★★

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I agree with FXNJ I dont see how people like this more than Punk/Brock, yet it seems this match is greatly preferred. I liked the extracurricular story of the match of Daniel Bryan, career Indy guy beating The Man at Summerslam for The Title, but the actual match narrative was not as engrossing as Punk/Brock's take on David vs Goliath. 

WWE Champion John Cena vs Daniel Bryan - Summerslam 2013

Daniel Bryan heeled himself hard in my household when he came off as an angry, little nerd troll in the buildup. John Cena is in it for the fame so lame and such a boldface lie. Bryan's championing of wrestling comes off as so whiny. John Cena is a great champion and a damn hard worker. I know they were playing off internet stereotypes and it was the right call, but I became such a Cena fan after his great response that absolutely owns nerd troll Bryan's argument. Bryan would have turned himself heel with the audience in any other situation besides being against Cena. 

Summerslam 2013 was the last traditional PPV I ordered before the Network. I was excited for both this and Punk/Lesnar. I came away that night thinking Punk/Brock was the clear match of the night and was shocked Cena vs Bryan was preferred. I recently re-watched Punk vs Brock came away thinking it was even better than I remember. This match is exactly where I thought it would be in my mind. It is a great match because of everything around it not really because of the match itself. Whereas Punk vs Brock put together a killer narrative that crushed from beginning to end. This match was really driven by Bryan the career indy wrestler challenging the undisputed Man of WWE. Their respective rises parallel each other. Both won their first World Championships in 2005 and each became the face of their faction of wrestling fans. It was in 2005 that Bryan overcame Joe, Punk, AJ and Low-Ki to be the Man of the Indy scene. I would argue at the beginning of the indy scene Bryan was 5th place to those men in terms of popularity and kayfabe positioning. But with Joe & AJ firmly in TNA, Punk in WWE and Low-Ki's self-implosion, Bryan became the face of Indy wrestling therefore "good" wrestling. Whereas Cena through sheer force of will became the Man of WWE and therefore the ultimate villain of "good" wrestling fans. To be clear, Cena had many great matches in this time period. That outside story bolsters this match. 

The actual match is great dont get me wrong, but I dont feel this overwhelming sense of greatness. Cena has a huge wrap on his left arm, I thought it was staph, but it was something else and basically his elbow had become swollen as a baseball. Typical Cena style chain wrestling to start which chicken soup for the traditional wrestling fan's soul as it reminds me of NWA Championship style. I loved that Cena resisted the Mexican Surfboard and kicked Bryan off. I thought they should have come back to it. It is nice reminder that certain moves you really need to wear down your opponent and earn. Bryan had not earned this hold yet. They each tease their Finishers: YesLock and F-U, but neither can apply them. Cena shouldertackles Bryan off the apron hard into the announce table. Cena is whipped into the stairs but Cena does a suplex off the stairs to "You Still Suck" chants. Tough crowd. Early narrative seems to be Cena is favoring the elbow, but also trying to show it still works. Bryan is getting overpowered, but has a couple fancy counters.

I thought the best part of the match was the short Cena control segment. Cena used that big ol meaty hands and just tees off on Bryan. Powerbomb gets two. Bryan was the Cinderella story. This was Cena's time to channel to Bret Hart and play the subtle heel. I dont think Cena controlled enough of this match. I think down the stretch there was too much sympathy for Cena. Nice hope spot/cutoff segment they ran with Bryan looking to land kicks and quicken the pace, but Cena was using power and evasion to maintain control. Underutilized story is that since Bryan relies on speed to land his blows that this is high-risk they shouldnt always land. Cena goes through his comeback sequence but gets distracted by the crowd. He eats a kick on the 5 Knuckle Shuffle. They do their submission teases and come back to it. Cena goes for the F-U, Bryan lands on his feet. Bryan gets a missile dropkick. 

This is where they lose me. There is plenty of action, but I dont feel like there is much connective tissue or logical progression. Bryan targets the arm for a little bit, we get Cena going for an STF and then Bryan does an STF. Then Bryan goes for a bunch of German Suplex bridge pin attempts. Cena goes for FU again, but he just took a bunch of Germans and Bryan wrangles him into the YESLock and then a Guillotine Choke. Flash F-U gets two and it is Cena's first sign of life in a while. At this point, I think Cena has been re-positioned as the babyface. He was taking the brunt of punishment, persevering and when doesnt get the pin there you feel for him. Cena is going for his top rope legdrop and Bryan is a tenacious pitbull just fighting uphill to gain control. Cool spot is the Spider Superplex and then Diving Headbutt. I really liked that as a nearfall. Cena powders wisely to catch a breath. Cena smashes him on the suicide dive and then hits that Legdrop onto the Head he does and this one looked WICKED! Only two. Super F-U, Bryan fights it off, I thought maybe they were going for a Styles Clash, but really they wanted to drop into a Boston Crab maybe or maybe a Powerbomb, anyways, it was almost a fucking Ganso Bomb with Bryan's head just inches from the mat. That could have been bad. STF vs YESLock both men make the ropes. Bryan who is the Energizer Bunny of Pro Wrestling comes flying with dropkicks on the 3rd one CENA HITS A MONSTER TRUCK LARIAT AND JBL CREAMS HIS PANTS! It was fucking great! They do another double-KO which was unnecessary Cena's lariat already levelled the playing field. Cena catches Bryan at one point and you feel like it is the End. Cena sells it so well because he talks some trash and it is a typical Cena finish. He hoists him up, but Bryan rolls into a cradle. Hits a wicked kick to the head and then the KENTA Running Knee for the win. Had he ever used that before in WWE? I dont remember it. I liked it. 

I will say this also the angle afterwards is an all-time great angle. They may have bungled the aftermath only to accidentally to right the course in time for Mania, but this angle with HHH/Orton/Bryan after Summerslam is up there with Funk/Flair from WrestleWar '89 as one of my all-time favorite angles. 

As a match, nothing felt consequential until Cena catches Bryan coming off the ropes and looks like he is going to hit the F-U to win by the way that was fourth to last spot and about a minute or two of match time left so that's not good. Up until that point, it was a lot of move trading. It was still exciting, but it was not a sticky match. I couldnt really remember the order the spots were in because the order didnt matter. The order should matter. You could take any of those spots I listed above and mix up the order and come away feeling the match is the same. In a truly classic match, you cant do that. So thats what holds this match back from all-time great status. Three things keep me high on this match: great action, Daniel Bryan's Cinderella win and the Authority (HHH & Orton) immediately ripping it away. ****1/4 

 

  

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Strange dynamic here, as the challenger and crowd favorite took most of the match as if he was a defending heel champion, working a little subtle prick, proving a superior striker and more resourceful wrestler, cutting off Big Match John at every chance. Theoretical face champ Cena has an elbow injury to protect and uses his sheer strength in every hope spot but eventually becomes a war of attrition in which Bryan has mounted too much cumulative offense against him, and pins him after the Busaiku Knee Kick. A feather in the cap on the uniqueness of Daniel Bryan’s resume, Cena gave him so much and he delivered a performance much more compelling than the obvious “runty but worthy, sympathy challenger works from underneath when facing THE man”. Post match had me gutted live, but I’m not gonna complain here since in hindsight  lead to amazing things. ****1/2

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