Happy birthday, Hulkster!
In addition to being the go-home show for SummerSlam, this week’s episode of Raw was heavily advertised as a birthday celebration for WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan, who turned 61.
Video clips featuring some of Hogan’s most memorable moments were shown throughout the night as well as pretaped birthday wishes from various celebrities.
The final segment saw the entire roster grace the stage while Hogan’s longtime friends, Gene Okerlund and Jimmy Hart were in the ring to introduce him. A video tribute set to Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” played on the titantron. Seriously, this video was freaking awesome. When it was over you could tell that Hogan was genuinely touched. After thanking the fans and giving a hilarious Network plug, several of Hogan’s closest running mates—Ric Flair, Paul Orndorff, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Roddy Piper—came down to pay their respects. Seeing all these legends in the ring together sent a chill down my spine.
Much to my delight, Hogan ripped off his traditional red and yellow garb to reveal a black and white NWO shirt. The fans went crazy for the reunion of the original NWO trio of Hogan, Hall, and Nash.
The festive mood was disrupted by the arrival of Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. He gave menacing looks to every legend in the ring before engaging in a long staredown with Hogan. John Cena rushed out to Hogan’s aid and challenge Lesnar to a fight. Instead, Lesnar bailed with Heyman to a chorus of boos.
This was an effective ending to the show. Not only did Hogan’s birthday celebration make for some unforgettable television, but we also got a final hard sell for Cena vs. Lesnar this Sunday.
Cena vs. Lesnar headlines strong SummerSlam card
With the biggest show of the summer only a couple of days away, it seems that all the major angles are peaking for what could be one of the better SummerSlams in history.
Unlike last year’s show that was centered around two excellent matches in Bryan vs. Cena and Punk vs. Lesnar, this year’s show appears to have more overall depth. However, there is no denying that the big draw of this year’s show is Cena vs. Lesnar.
The work on the microphone by Cena, Lesnar and Paul Heyman have given it the feel of a big-time fight. This is quite a feat since both Cena and Lesnar have only been on one show together, without any physical contact, since their match was announced.
Cena’s been cutting some of the best consistent promos of his career in putting over Lesnar as a legitimate threat and confronting his own fears about stepping into the ring with him again. Despite beating Lesnar at Extreme Rules in 2012, the narrative being told is that Brock was really the one that came out victorious. In a stark contrast to how Cena typically addresses his opponents on the mic, he’s eliminated the comedy and taken a dead serious approach in building their program.
Heyman’s been excellent at every turn and is easily the best talker in the business today.
While Lesnar doesn’t say much in the ring, he absolutely shines in the pre-taped video packages. There is a WWE Network special on the history of Cena vs. Lesnar that I encourage every fan to check out. The thoughts you see expressed by both are likely not too far off from how they really feel about each other away from the cameras.
The second biggest match on the show is undoubtedly Stephanie McMahon vs. Brie Bella. While Brie has been very good at certain points, Stephanie has really carried the bulk of the program.
I felt this week’s angle involving Brie’s arrest was the first true misstep in their rivalry. Stephanie’s arrest a few weeks ago in Miami was one of the year’s best angles. Brie’s arrest, for slapping Bryan’s physical therapist, whom Stephanie claimed he was having an affair with, came across as overkill. However, I don’t expect it to detract from the match. Regardless of who emerges victorious, I have a feeling this story is far from over.
As for the rest of the card, Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns should be very good to great. Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins should by all means be the second best match of the show, but the lumberjack stipulation may hurt it. I don’t have high expectations for Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt, but hopefully I’m proven wrong. Jack Swagger vs. Rusev in a flag match should have great crowd heat. The Paige vs. AJ program have featured some strong storytelling. They are in a similar predicament to Jericho vs. Wyatt in that they will likely try to have a better match than their previous encounter. Miz vs. Ziggler should be good also.
WWE Network goes global
A WWE press release issued on Tuesday stated that the, “U.S. English language version of WWE Network is now available, on an over-the-top basis, in more than 170 countries and territories, including Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Spain, and the Nordics, among others. The network is expected to be live in the U.K. by this October and plans for the network in Italy, UAE, Germany, Japan, India, China, Thailand and Malaysia will be communicated at a later date.”
The WWE also announced a change to its pricing structure for the network. The network is still available for $9.99 with a six-month commitment, but for those who wish to pay on a month-by-month basis, the network is now available for $12.99, down from $19.99, which was what the company announced during its quarterly conference call July 31.
According to WWE, the change in price “better reflects the variety of economics that exist internationally.”
The network is available in Canada as a premium channel on Rogers Cable. The Canadian version has drawn criticism for two reasons. First, the price point is two dollars more at $11.99 a month. Second, they only have access to the scheduled programming and none of the on-demand content.
There are also reports that a large portion of Canadians are without the network because they don’t live in the area that Rogers covers.
There is a well-researched Bleacher Report article written by Chris Harrington that gives a statistical perspective on the potential ramifications of the global launch.
Kevin Steen heads to NXT
On Tuesday WWE officially announced the signing of Kevin Steen to its NXT division.
At just 30 years old, Steen has wrestled around the world for nearly 15 years. He is best known for his time spent in Ring of Honor where he held their world championship. While Steen is a great performer and one of the best talkers in the business, there was concern by those in management over his weight. I’m sure that he will have plenty of time to get into proper physical condition while training at the WWE Performance Center.
The announcement of his signing came as more of a formality since it was heavily rumored for some time that Steen was close to completing a deal.
WWE is really stocking up on talent for its NXT roster. With great workers such as Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn already established, and newcomers Steen, Kenta, and Fergal Devitt joining the mix, the overall quality of the product looks to approaching an all-time high.