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    Half Luck, Half Skul: August Madness - The Greatest SummerSlam Match (Final 4 & Winner!)

    We made it! After dozens of decisions, some agonizing, some as painless as Seth Rollins' suicide dive, we have reached the conclusion of August Madness and are moments away from voting for the greatest match in SummerSlam history. Of course, first, we will whittle down the Final 4 to get our final match-up. I am once again joined by mizfan, Oliver, Steven, Mazza, Maverick, and Prime Time.

    Here we go. Our Final 4 consists of Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart from SummerSlam 1994, Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena from SummerSlam 2013, Rob Van Dam vs. Jeff Hardy from SummerSlam 2001, and Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk from SummerSlam 2013. A quick reminder of how we got here:








    Let's make this thing happen!




    Bracket A vs. Bracket B















    (1) Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart ('94) vs. (3) Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena ('13)


    Steven: This is the hardest choice that I think will be faced in this entire thing. Easily. Probably my two favorite matches in SummerSlam history coming head to head in a battle for the ages.

    Cena vs Bryan is great. I absolutely love it for any number of reasons, from the build to the actual execution of the match to the clean victory for Daniel. It's just absolute quality from top to bottom.

    It's not Owen vs Bret, though. Few things can touch that, to be honest. The build was epic, the match itself was flawless and even the aftermath was pretty awesome and not bitterly disappointing like the aftermath of Cena/Bryan. It is the greatest cage match of all time, in my estimation, and perhaps the greatest chapter in one of the most iconic rivalries of my lifetime.

    Oliver: This is going to be a much, much harder choice than the other side of the brackets here, I think, and I suspect that will play out across my fellow columnists as well.

    Iíve already stated in this that Bryan vs Cena is probably my favourite modern WWE match, and Iím going to stand by that. Itís got pretty incredible competition for that ranking, actually, but it continues to stand above anything else Iíve seen except maybe Bryan vs Triple H. Sweet Jeebus Bryan was on it during this period of his career, just delivering great match after great match. Heck, Iíve only just thought of his match with Bray at the Rumble from this period too, and now I really want to watch that one again. Iím one of those people from the camp that thought Bryan Danielson was the best wrestler in the world when he was in RoH, so perhaps itís no surprise that I feel that way for him in WWE as well, but he became so rounded as a performer in WWE that itís night and day to me when I go back and watch his RoH work.

    Anyway, enough about me. But before I get to the match, I just wanted to say that there was one really frigging ace moment in the build up to this. Iím pretty sure itís on the go home Raw, but Bryan doesnít show respect to Cena because heís Ďnot a wrestlerí. I know itís kind of a classic John Cena thing now that heís Ďnot a wrestlerí and a Sports Entertainer, but the moment Bryan says it here you really feel the truth is coming through. And then that sort of ties into the match, with Bryan completely rinsing him at wrestling itself but also anything that even vaguely involves a crowd reaction. Like, this crowd is ALL OVER Daniel Bryan. They love him from the moment he turns up. You could put this Daniel Bryan against Actual Jesus, run the match in Texas, and Actual Jesus would get booed over Bryan in 2013.

    And the match is absolute hot damned fire too. I could chronicle every moment, but I wonít Ė one thing I really, really love sincerely about this though is that it flips our expectations on their head, and I donít just mean because Bryan wins. How many major WWE matches have ended with a brand new finisher, on a major stage? Iím going to hazard the answer is none. But even better than that, after all the match, all the build-up and going through the motions during the match itself, the ending is so sudden. In fact, to completely invert the standard WWE storytelling, they spent the weeks before this match building up Bryan as the master of the small package, allowing us to buy it as the finish, only for Cena to kick out of that as a spectacular false finish. And just as you expect them to enter another sequence of finisher reversal Bryan just wins by kicking and kneeing his opponent in the damned head. ItísÖitís beautiful. Itís everything this stupid sport of sweaty, nearly naked men cuddling each other should be. Itís a faith restorer for when faith has been lost. Itís a reminder that wrestling can, sometimes, be transcendent.

    Does Bret vs Owen measure up to that? Itís a big ask going in to this watch, but theyíre going to try their damndest. First up, something small but perfect Iíve just noticed Ė Bret, the hero, has predominantly pink gear with bits of black. Owen, the villain Ė more black than pink. Itís such a small thing that I must have watched this match 3 or 4 times now during this thing alone and not really noticed it, but I love it. The association of the two with each other, wearing the same colours but inverting the dominant colour to clearly lay out their roles in the match. Itís beautiful. And I love also that, rather than let this warm up and get hot, Owen starts it hot by attacking Bret. The passion roaring through him, the desperation to best his brother and become champion, he just canít contain himself. No feeling out, now tentative start, just fast and hard, the way a blood feud should be.

    Iíll say again that my biggest love of this is that itís a match in a cage as opposed to a cage match Ė too many of the latter are about the cage as a weapon, whereas this is the sort of psychological and well-paced affair I like to see in a cage. Itís about the attrition of wrestling, incapacitating an opponent for long enough to escape the cage because pins and submissions are for wussies and that addition is the worst thing WWE have ever done to cage matches. In terms of just pure storytelling, I think this is a masterpiece. I would guess itís no surprise that these two brothers, who have grown up wrestling each other, would put on an inch perfect clinic of wrestling, especially given the talent they both had, but I think more than that whatís incredible is they delivered it within confinement. And when you give in to the even nature of the match, the ending is so completely logical, Bret barely winning the match overall and just managing to trap Owen rather than actually convincingly beat him Ė and tie that in to the post-match beatdown angle, and you get something where both guys come out looking great.

    Itís just not Bryan vs Cena, and doesnít have the same emotional impact on me. Sorry, but those two take the win here.

    Once more with feeling, though Ė I really fucking miss Owen Hart.

    mizfan: Ironically, after having to face so many tough choices through this whole tournament, the semi-finals are for me a pretty obvious no brainer. The Harts put on a very logical cage match, that canít be disputed, but Iíll say one last (I hope) time, logical isnít always the same as compelling, and there are stretches in the match where the interest level drops. Bryan/Cena is an explosive encounter with massive historical significance, and thatís on top of having a basic story just as good as the Harts did. Give me Bryan and Cena on this one, no question.

    Prime Time: This is the point that I jump off the 2013 train. Yes, by the standards of what we see today it no doubt qualifies as a great match, but Iíd be lying if I didnít think the standards of today are lower than they were in 1994. People do more, but they donít do it with the same artistry. And then thereís the fuck finish, which no doubt helps extend something in this age of churning out TV material like sausages but no doubt hurts the match itself. There are matches in this that Iíd have voted for over the brothersí cage match - and not all of them have Bret Hart in, before anyone says it - but they are all gone now. So with very little expectation that itíll progress, Iíll take the Harts in the cage.

    Skulduggery: Is this how mizfan felt in the Survivor Series tournament, when his bane, Cena/Authority went all the way to the finals? Did he too have a vein threatening to burst out of his forehead?

    Thereís a sequence, around five minutes into the cage match, where one brother dives towards the cage door in the hopes of escape. The other brother, who is right there, prevents the escape and drags him back into the ring. And then, without, you know, delivering a move or anything to incapacitate him, the brother that pulled his opponent back into the ring, simply dives toward the cage door himself in hopes of escape! Uh, hello? You think the guy who just dove was fatigued so much by a simple drag toward the center of the ring that he canít prevent your escape? Oh, and by the way, I didnít specify which brother was which because they both do this like 3 or 4 times in a row! Happenings of this vein occasionally pop up in ladder matches, too, I will admit that. When they do, though, I find Iím often able to excuse it, or at least let it only minimally disrupt my enjoyment, because of the insane excitement of the entire match. But, to me, the whole of Bret/Owen doesnít have that excitementÖso it makes this kind of thing stick out like a sore thumb.

    Back to the repeated cage escape attempts Ė this shit happens, like I said, about five minutes into the cage match. One of the things that I love about Bret/Owen from WrestleMania is (in addition to the ridiculously silky wrestling and chemistry) the unrelenting sense from each brother that they desperately want to prove their superiority. I donít get this vibe in their SummerSlam match, because five minutes in, they are both trying to slip outside for Ė letís call a spade a spade Ė a paperwork victory.

    I can admit that things do in the avenue of logic improve from that rock bottom, but one of the phrases mizfan has used a couple times this project does really speak to me in this scenario Ė whatís logical isnít always compelling. And I donít find Owen/Bret compelling enough to break past the height of foothills, much less into the stratosphere.

    Daniel Bryan and John Cena, on the other hand, is a clear winner in this match-up to me. Itís an excellent and engrossing match. Rather than kiss its ass all over the place, though, I think itís high time for a little dissection. There are a lot of great moves and sequences between the two, including Cenaís stairs-to-ground vertical suplex, Bryanís release superplex, Cena catching Bryanís running moonsault, and great transitions between submission holds. You have to give it up to Cena for not only wrestling this whole bout with a tennis ball inside of his elbow, but for having that elbow be the focus of Bryanís attack as often as it was. I also really have to applaud the decision to debut Bryanís new finisher in this match Ė it was a unique way to surprise the crowd at the end without relying on a series of false finishes. Plus, thatís quite possibly still to date the greatest sell of that move!

    Iím not as crazy about every single second of this match as some are, though. I find that slap fight near the end to be pretty silly. I was engrossed with the entire match until that point (and seeing as how Iím no Daniel Bryan fan in general, thatís quite the accomplishment the two performed), and that took me out of it. Pretty jutting andÖjust not my style at all. But really, given the match as a whole, I can only complain about that so much. Still a terrific match, and worthy of crushing the Harts!

    Mazza: No time to fuck about here. Whoever said blood is thicker than water is just plain wrong. Well not literally, but you know what I am getting at. A pair of bros go up against a pair of bros-in-law and itís an easy choice for me. As Iíve previously stated, I am no big fan of the cage match. Give me their Mania bout over that one every damn time. If it was the Mania one, Iíd have to think about it for at least a minute. Itís not however. Cena and Bryan was an absolute beast of a main event on a beast of a card that could have easily been a let down considering the hype but came out and delivered a sure fire five star bout in my book. Absolutely warrants a place in the final.

    Maverick: Iíve certainly been vocal about my love of the cage match throughout this process, but my fond memories of that summer of 2013 lead me to lean towards Bryan and Cena. It was a remarkable piece of work in so many ways, constructed as a feelgood babyface win which would have felt improbable only a few months before. The fact it ushered in a wonderful six to nine months of Bryan chasing the belt against the Authority gives it bonus marks.

    (3) Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena ('13) wins 5-2





    Bracket C vs. Bracket D














    (12) Rob Van Dam vs. Jeff Hardy ('01) vs. (2) Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk ('13)


    Mazza: Poor bracket C. We were always going to get to this point and the representative would look way out of its depth. Jeff and Rob had an excellent match, however itís not an elite SummerSlam match. It has had a fantastic Cinderella story but I doubt even the hippest of the hop on this panel will give it a nod here. I expect nothing less than a 7-0 squash for the Beast vs the Best. I certainly wonít be going against the grain. And I do hope my fellow judges did the right thing earlier and we make this final a SummerSlam 2013 showdown.

    mizfan: As I said, thereís really no doubt in my mind which way the votes should go here. RVD/Jeff is a great car crash, but Lesnar/Punk is a volcanic encounter that boils over in all the best ways, top notch storytelling and character work, stupendous action, really what more could you ask for? Itís 2013 all around here, and hereís hoping thatís all we see in the finals!

    Skulduggery: Well, itíll be an all-2013 final if my ballot has anything to say about it! And that wouldnít have even been my optimal choice. But given their opponents, neither semi is a particularly difficult choice for me. Brock and Punk have to go through here. RVD and Jeff Hardy is a hell of a match. But they are similar to Lesnar and Punkís last few victims, stretching all the way back to Orton vs. Christian. The similarity is that Van Dam and Hardy check every box they are going for, and itís a sufficient quantity and quality of boxes to make for an exciting watch. They dazzle us with athletics, such as Robís ridiculous swing of a marionetted Hardy and top-rope rolling heel kick (though it doesnít quite catch everything). They make us excitedly cringe with some insane spills representative of the era. And they keep us on the edge of our seat, with the winner a pendulum of possibility Ė either man could plausibly pull out the win.

    But are they the only match to pull off all of those tricks within, even, the same six-month time span? Do they even pull off all of those tricks better than any other match within that kind of window? Does TLC II at WrestleMania X-Seven not check every box more pointedly, more violently, and then shock us with boxes we thought couldnít even ever exist? How about TLC III on SmackDown?

    Normally, itís an unfair comparison Ė but we are down to the Final Four, we are in rarefied air, and we need to start dissecting the tiny things in order to divide these kinds of matches. Brock and Punk do something in a completely different, albeit just as exciting (if not more so!) genre. But what they pull off is not something that was done better multiple times in the four months preceding it. I honestly struggle to think of a match in 10 years before Brock/Punk that had the whole David vs. Goliath tone to it that magnetized such intrigue, such violence, such captivation, and such believability that David could pull it off without suspending the disbelief of the power of Goliath.

    Hardy and Van Dam was great, but it had a broader target than the Heyman guys, and it hit that target with less force than a pile of other matches with chronological spitting distance. Thereís an element of degree of difficulty here. Plus, I just like Lesnar and Punk more, and by a healthy margin. And I love ladder matches. So it takes something special to beat that!

    Oliver: I thought this would be closer than itís actually ended up after watching the two.

    Iíve really enjoyed rediscovering RVD vs Hardy during this, and the fact that it ran out the winner from a reasonably stacked Bracket C is probably a testament to the longevity of the match itself. Plus, you know, car crash ladder matches are always fun, even if this one isnít an all-out vehicular homicide and more considered than might be expected. I think itís actually the second point that has steered the match through this group a bit more, as the storytelling and natural progression of spots through the match gives a surprising hook to something that, on paper, looks like it will be utter, utter chaos. Itís been underrated, probably for too long Ė WWE didnít even put it on either of itís two ladder match compilations, which shows itís even underrated by the company that put it on. And the second one of those DVDs had Jeff Hardy vs Carlito on it, so someoneís presumably just blind and deaf and got asked to throw ladder matches at a DVD.

    Mind you, they did pick the TLC match between Lawler and Miz, from the Raw when Sheamus won King of the Ring. That match is great, especially for a Raw main event and ESPECIALLY for something involving 127 year old Jerry Lawler.

    Hardy and RVD just had such great chemistry here, and they worked it all together so well with each other. They really meshed, which I suppose takes into consideration the fact that their styles are pretty similar but also they always just seemed to make whatever was given to them work for them. That and doing drugs together. I bet they did a lot of drugs together. Anyway, the match is great, even with the misstep at the end, but itís not Punk/Lesnar great.

    And boy howdy how great is Punk/Lesnar? Pre-breaking The Streak Lesnar was the shit. I wish weíd stuck with that, but the moment The Streak was broken and then the subsequent SummerSlam main event it all kind of derailed for him, and something has been off ever since. I think heís been coasting, to be honest with you. But oh shit, this match man! The trash talk from Lesnar, the Three Amigos stealing as a fuck you to Eddie, the brutality of it all, the sheer gritty nature of it, the crowd going ballistic for Punk and Lesnar just for doing simple things, Punk being driven to distraction by Heyman, the real target of his ire. Punk just never, ever stopping even though heís clearly outgunned, the scrappiest dog in the fight, like Scrappy Doo but actually effective. Itís everything I love about professional wrestling, in execution and storytelling, and itís phenomenal.

    Punk vs Lesnar get my vote.

    Maverick: Well done to RVD and Jeff for making it this far, a true Cinderella story. It is certainly an excellent Attitude pattern ladder match, with innovation and high spots aplenty. However, the magnificence of Lesnar and Punkís tornado of destruction across the Staples Center has to win out here. Punk was one of very few stars to have a believable match with Lesnar across the Beastís second WWE run, and to be honest, this was the high point of the Brock part time experience. A truly rewatchable experience.

    Steven: It kinda hurts me to cast my vote for Brock, even if Punk's along for the ride. Especially against two of my personal favorites in Jeff and RVD. It just feels inherently wrong somehow.

    It's gotta be done, though. Punk vs Lesnar is not only Brock's best match since returning to the company, it was a shining example of just how great Punk could be in that underdog role. He gave everything he had and took all that Lesnar had to offer and made a damn work of performance art out of it. I'm rolling with Punk/Brock.

    Prime Time: Lesnar and Punk knocked out the match that Iíd have backed against anything in this thing last time around, and itís tempting to try and set your face against it for that respect. But you just canít do it here. Even though I donít think either of these is one of the four best Summerslam matches of all time, Iíd be willing to bet that if each of us were to draw up a list of our top Summerslam matches, thereís a good chance that the ladder match wouldnít be on it. For me this is a bit like the Nexus match, in that it has benefit from the format, and is probably doing better than it has any right to do.. And I donít think thatís true of Lesnar and Punk. While itís not a favourite match of mine by any stretch of the imagination, itís easy enough to see how it got here. And so it has to progress, and I suspect and fear itíll do so and take this to an all-2013 final. Given my own strong feelings about what wrestling has become in the past twenty years, you can imagine how sad will make me, but such is life.

    (2) Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk ('13) wins 7-0





    Finals




    (3) Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena ('13) vs. (2) Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk ('13)





    Skulduggery: Wild that it came down to this! 30 years spanning SummerSlam, and it boiled down to two matches that occurred barely 30 minutes apart.

    So much has been said about both matches. And for me, it comes down to more or less the defining tone of each match. Bryan/Cena, not terribly unlike Hart/Perfect, has that polish, that zip, that clinical science to it. Lesnar and Punk tugs and tears; itís raw and in your face; it feels more personal and has a knottier bite to it. That by itself doesnít win it the day, because Iím a sucker for many polished, clinical matches, but the No-DQ matchís razorback definitely appeals more to me in this instance. Bryan and Cena had an excellent version of a prototypical John Cena vs. Indy Favorite match Ė far better than Styles/Cena, in the ranks of Rollins/Cena, etc. But Brock and Punk hardly has a mirror match in its horizon. The closest I can think of its style (the Godzilla vs. Batman, where Godzilla is the clear favorite and yet it still feels close) is Rollins/Cena/Lesnar, but what Punk/Lesnar has on that is a) it accomplishes an incredible feat with two wrestlers, and b) itís far more personal.

    Iíve been parroting it all tournament, and there have been one or two matches Iíve flat out enjoyed more than Punk/Lesnar, but since Bryan/Cena is not one of those, it falls to the same trap that Lesnar and Punk have set for the likes of Orton/Christian, Hart/Perfect, and RVD/Hardy. I vote emphatically for the Best vs. the Beast.




    Mazza: So pretty early on in this thing I called the possibility of the final being a battle of these juggernauts from 2013. It really was a magical time to be a wrestling fan. We were in the early days of our The Right Side of the Pond podcast on LoP Radio and we really did look forward to discussing the happenings of the WWE every single week. And while I am not down on the current product as much as most, there is no doubt that the anticipation was on another level 5 years back (even if often the backlash online was not so different). Everyone was hyped for this double main and neither match disappointed. In fact, both matches probably delivered more than we hoped. To do that, nothing short of five stars would have worked. My point here is that I believe SummerSlam 2013 delivered two five star matches. Very few events in history can boast the same in my book. I fucking loved the Attitude Era but I don't think even that managed to do that. In fact in my decade of reviewing, I believe only WrestleMania X managed to do the same. How do you split two five star matches? Well you could break your scale like good old Dave. But that's just stupid and makes a mockery of your career's work. Only one way to split them, and that is to give the nod to the one you have a deeper connection with. And quite honestly, it's a relatively easy choice to make. Brock vs Punk is amazing and one of those rare matches that deserves a top rating. Bryan vs Cena does the same but that has something that hits me in that special place. It taps into my emotions in a way that the Beast and the Best didn't and that is where I split them.




    Maverick: Ultimately, I think we have two very worthy finalists here. Personally, my favourite Summerslam matches ever have all fallen by the wayside, and I was particularly pulling for Angle vs Austin to make it further, but Summerslam 2013 is the second best edition in the history of the show for a reason; this double main event was a massive smash hit. Bryan and Cena was incredibly significant in the manner that Cena went down, clean in the middle of the ring. How often had we seen that up to that point? It felt like a watershed moment. Meanwhile, Lesnar vs Punk, Best vs Beast, was just about as perfect a special attraction as you could ever wish to see. For me, I'm a Punk guy more than a Bryan guy, so I have to go for Punk vs Lesnar. I think it's more rewatchable, I think you get lost in the moment of it a lot more, and it stands out as a match that doesn't really have another one quite like it in company history. It's tough, but Punk and Lesnar for me.




    Steven: I can't believe that Bret vs Owen lost. I'm honestly and very genuinely crestfallen. I mean, I dig Bryan vs Cena and all that, but it's just flat out not as good as the Hart vs Hart cage match in my opinion.

    I guess I vote for Bryan/Cena, as it is a better match than Lesnar/Punk. I formally decree, however, that I don't think either of these bouts are the best in SummerSlam history. This series isn't titled Steven Picks The Best SummerSlam Matches Of All The Evers, though, so... yeah.




    Prime Time: I did say in the last one that this was the result that I feared, with the two 2013 matches coming up against one another. Nowadays weíve a tendency to bang on about wrestling as art, but by 2013 the truth is the real art of wrestling was already a thing of the past, and weíve thrown out a lot of matches that have it, in favour of a couple thatÖ well, donít. I feel if I donít make that point before I add something else I wonít really be true to myself.

    Now, having that said, by the standards of what ďwrestlingĒ, and yes I do need the scare-quotes, has become in the twenty-first century, we do have a couple of pretty good examples here. And there is a real distinction between the two matches to choose from. I do believe Daniel Bryan is the best performer of his generation, and his match with Cena is probably the closest that something in that style that I will like.

    I donít usually go a bundle on no-holds barred, preferring something a bit more Ďstraightí. But Lesnar and Punk is only a few small touches away from being something that I could really like. A few more desperation shots before beginning a comeback here, a bit more selling there Ė almost universally on Punkís part Ė and I think this would then be something that Iíd say deserved to be here ahead of some of the classicís that weíd thrown out.

    So what do I choose? The near-perfect example of what ďwrestlingĒ has become featuring my favourite wrestler of the era, or the one that, despite hardly playing to my tastes at all, looks like it could almost be a last hurrah for wrestling, no-quotes-required?

    I think when I think about it in those terms I give the nod to Punk and Lesnar. Bryan and Cena is good, but can often feel a bit like an exchange of moves rather than a fight. Itís an exhibition, where thereís an obvious chance for everyone to showcase what they do, and thereís a twee, turn-taking feel at times. Iíve thrown other matches featuring the likes of Rollins and Ambrose out of this tournament for that very reason and I figure that, my man Bryan or no, I have to be consistent. Punk and Lesnar, by contrast, is brutal at times, and though Iíd rather Punk made it more clear that heís fighting for his life in there rather than just firing back after taking heavy offense, as he does on a few occasions, itís still a much more involving affair because for so much more of it the rhythms of control feel more like a contest. And lastly, itís got to be worth adding that a lot of the good work is completely undone by the Money in the Bank switch at the end of the Cena and Bryan match. While Heymanís involvement might be seen as a cheap finish to some, it feels within the orbit of this kind of match; the MITB cash-in and Hunter turn feels like bullshit, and cheapens all that has come before. If it had been closer, Iíd have probably gone with the no-holds barred match using that ending as a tiebreaker. As it is, Iím happy to go with Punk and Brock for several reasons.




    mizfan: I could honestly hardly be happier with this final. The only way I could have been happier is if Bret and Perfect had made it down the line, but even so thereís something perfect in and of itself in having 2013 dominate the final vote like it has. I may have drifted away from WWE in 2014, but it wasnít 2013ís fault, as they really made a push to keep my interest during the year, and Summerslam was a big part of that. A one-two punch like this on the same show is damn near miraculous, especially since both matches are absolute, bonafide classics while being utterly different from each other.

    Bryan/Cena is a paradigm shifting masterpiece, a brilliant blending of classic wrestling and storytelling, a match that had a hand in changing the very fabric of WWE.

    Lesnar/Punk tells a very different story but no less perfectly, and the personal element shines through to the credit of the match. Punkís righteous fury, justified yet still somehow smirking, crashing against the unstoppable force of Lesnar, with Heymanís sinister strings attached, is a beautiful combination.

    These matches are in rarefied air. Bryan/Cena is a scientific celebration of wrestling at itís core and helped redefine the modern WWE main event, and Lesnar/Punk was the overflowing of emotion, containing so much it could hardly hold it all at once, and I mean that in the best way.

    I love both matches dearly, but I feel now exactly as I did 5 years ago. Both of these matches are amazing, but only one has ramifications that are still being felt today, and thatís Bryan/Cena. Thatís where my vote is going, but this is a case where I really think you canít go wrong.




    Oliver: Iím not sure how far SummerSlam 2013 is from the greatest ever discussion as a whole, but it must be damned close to the top even if it does have Brie Bella in a match. You know that line about how talent isnít sexually transmitted, from a Raw on 2014 Ė I think the night after November Madness runner up Team Cena vs Team Authority happened, but I could be wrong Ė well thatís never been truer than of Brie Bella. Lass is married to Daniel Bryan, who has the second-best suicide dive in the business (whattup, King Cuerno) and yet she can barely clear the ropes:


    Shameful.

    But speaking generally, the 2013 card is incredibly solid and runs really deep, including previously (unfairly?) discarded Alberto Del Rio vs Christian match which is a damned solid bout. And capped off with two incredible main events like these, I think itís impossible to ignore when it comes to GOAT SummerSlam discussions. And what a pair of main events these are! I think Iíve set my stall out on where my vote is going to go here in recent entries to this, but just for one last time I want to rewatch this pair and make sure that what my mind thinks now is still what my mind thinks afterwards. But either way, itís very, very close for sure.

    Just as a fun aside, I had our master of ceremonies Skulduggery check the record books and this is the first Madness where no number one seed has reached the final two. I canít, immediately, think of two more deserving matches to carry a whiff of the underdog about them all the way through a competition, even if the difference between those bouts ranked 1-4 has seemed very minimal for me at times in this process, particularly.

    Anyway, the matches. Like their seedings here and subsequent progress beyond the more glamorous number one seeds, both matches are about the underdog. For years, Bryan had been the underdog in WWE, never rated above being a solid midcard hand, often overlooked for any opportunity. That, of course, changed because the WWE themselves cocked it all up and booked the 18 second debacle, which nearly derailed a whole WrestleMania until Triple H and Undertaker showed up. Punk, of course, had a very similar experience of having to fight for everything he got in WWE, as chronicled on his DVD, and the fact that they both got to headline pay per views opposite each other as well as against others in duel headline slots is testament to how good they were at playing this role, if not in character then at least in matches.

    Ultimately, though, the playing of the underdog is where the similarities between Punk and Bryan Ė and these matches Ė end.

    Punkís quest for acceptance in WWE always seemed driven by his ego. Itís why he build a band of followers of his specific lifestyle around him, why when that disbanded he looked to lead Nexus, why when he moved on from that it wasnít on to something smaller but something much, much bigger, and why he could effectively carry the WWE Championship for nearly a year and a half. The man whoís ego is bruised, however, is the most dangerous man Ė a man on the lookout for revenge, who will take that revenge given any opportunity, and a man who will not rest until he completes his quest for vengeance. Heyman bruised his ego, and Punk is now driven nearly mad trying for revenge Ė the simplest of stories told incredibly effectively by the pair of them heading into this show.

    Standing in Punkís way, however, is a 6 foot 3 inch, 286 pound gamma-radiated Beast.

    As WWE would have it, this wasnít Punk vs Lesnar Ė this was Best vs Beast. And you truly believe, due to his ego, that at the very least Punk believes he is the Best in the World. And you know, because it is so, that Lesnar is a Beast, a man who cannot be stopped once he is rolling. The divide is stark, and the action reflects that. Itís not nuanced and pretty Ė itís grubby and scrappy, like Punk is and Lesnar once was. Punk, a mad man, charges straight at the Beast to open the match, but to no avail as he gets immediately shoved away and completely physically dominated. Itís funny, although Iíve mentioned Brock breaking out the Three Amigos before in this series I donít think Iíve ever really considered the parallels between this match and the Eddie match in 2004, if not in story and other things then at least in general framing. And yeah, of course, Punk ends up distracted come the end as Heyman introduces himself into the match Ė Punkís now bruised ego getting the better of him as he changes targets in a moment of strength, Lesnar trapped in the Anaconda Vice but Punk breaking the hold. Thereís such a great narrative to this one, a really masterful sense of the roles of each guy in the match and coupled to strong storytelling tying everything back together to the grander tale being told. Still kind of bugs me that we never got a rematch, as I think there was scope there to do it. WWE would probably have put Heyman in a shark cage for it, mind you.

    Against that, we have the underdog story of Daniel Bryan. Unlike Punk, Bryan carried himself with humility and, dare it be said, grace throughout his WWE career. He spent so long making chicken salad our of chicken shit, from Gail Kim affairs to Team Hell No (which, Iím just throwing out there, certainly started as chicken shit) that you knew he was happy to just be there and, no pun intended, was a bit of a Ďyes maní who would just take things on the chin time and time again. And against that, you have John Cena Ė the ultimate in WWE company men. While the lead up might have played up their differences, as people I think they might be more similar than we think Ė even if Bryan would probably rather own a farm in the hills than Cenaís Florida mansion with pools and crap like that. Compare that against Punk and Lesnar, and youíve got chalk and cheese going up against two sides of the same coin.

    Perhaps, therefore, itís no surprise that Bryan vs Cena is quite a slick, well worked affair that doesnít relate back much to its overarching narrative. Of course, the Ďwrestler vs sports entertainerí thing does come through a little bit in their work at the start, but overall itís a match fought on a level playing field between two equals Ė which is huge for Daniel Bryan, considering that WWE subsequently built their product around him for a number of months. It was key that he was displayed as being as good as the face of the company, and the two of them did that terrifically well. Thereís also subtle heel mannerisms thrown in there by Cena, which mostly feel like a play to the crowd reaction heís getting but equally suggest that heís found someone on his level and needs to dig deep to beat them. Itís subtle, but itís there, and I love it. And the ending that they build to throughout the ebb and flow of this masterpiece is just right on the button, the way they work the crowd and keep them so invested throughout every little thing they do in that finishÖitís so breathless when these two work together, and I will forever be the saddest of sad pandas that we never got a proper rematch between the two Ė a couple of matches before this, one on Velocity, which I donít think anybody cares to count, and one on Raw in the dark reaches of 2012, but nothing after this. I hope we get a chance to see if they can improve on perfection, because I have a sneaky feeling those two could do it.

    And if that last sentence doesnít make it clear, Iím voting for Bryan vs Cena. I thought I might have a bit of a quandary over it with Punk vs Lesnar on the other side, but no. I didnít wavier at all while watching Best vs Beast here, and watching the true best in the world finally reach the top of the WWE mountain got me right in the guts again.

    And then that bastard Randall Keith Orton showed up. The little shithead.




    (3) Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena ('13) wins August Madness by a final vote of 4-3









    And there it is. Daniel Bryan's conquest over the Franchise Player has been deemed the greatest match in SummerSlam history! Bryan and Cena join the ranks of Orton/Foley, Team Austin/Team Bischoff, and Bret/Austin as tournament winners. They are also the first non-(1)-seed to win a Madness tournament, the only match in the PG era to be crowned champion, and the only non-gimmick match to win. (That last point could be contested, I guess, but technically traditional Survivor Series elimination matches and Submission matches are gimmicks.)

    This was also the first 4-3 vote in a Madness final, which is kind of fitting for the two matches from 2013. Separated by a sliver even five years later.

    I would like to express a MASSIVE thank you to my six co-collaborators for their participation, hours of hard work, and truly enjoyable writing brought to the table. None of this is remotely possible without them.

    August Madness, in the books!

  2. #2
    The Brain
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    Very pleased with this outcome, the only match I liked better at the start was Bret vs. Perfect but I think this is well deserving of the #1 spot of recognition. What a match that was, just phenomenal.

    Really love Skul tearing away at the sacred cow of the Hart brothers cage match, he articulated a lot of things that were bugging me but I hadn't fleshed out into my writing yet. And yes, sounds like you were in much the same position as I was with that damned Authority match!

    Shoutout to Ollie for showing love Miz/Lawler. If we ever did a Raw Madness, that match should be in the brackets, and I'd probably vote it way down the line if I could. Also, Ollie's longform write ups are so great.

    Also love Pete's breakdown of why he voted for Lesnar/Punk, I still stand by Bryan/Cena but you did a great job spelling out what makes it better to you in a way that I can really see. There is an element of desperation in that match that is different than the story being told in Bryan/Cena. Awesome analysis there.

    Thanks to all and to Skul especially, looking forward to the next one!

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    Splendid, and what a terrific set of write ups from everyone here. I've loved this series from start to finish, Skul, finding out previously underrated bouts that I now love, seeing old favourites slip out of favour the more I watched them, and all the while watching these two matches progressed.

    It's been a blast to write about these bouts again and again. Thanks, Skul. Thanks, everyone.

  5. #5
    LOP's part time glass ceiling DynamiteBillington's Avatar
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    Nearly missed this, only just noticed it had been posted!!

    As much as I was rooting for Bret/Bulldog from the start, once that had gone my main desire was to see the Cena/Nexus abomination get eliminated - that should have been a first round loser, no way it should have beat some of the matches it did on it's extended run.

    That said, I really need to go back & rewatch SummerSlam '13 sometime soon.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by DynamiteBillington View Post
    Nearly missed this, only just noticed it had been posted!!

    As much as I was rooting for Bret/Bulldog from the start, once that had gone my main desire was to see the Cena/Nexus abomination get eliminated - that should have been a first round loser, no way it should have beat some of the matches it did on it's extended run.

    That said, I really need to go back & rewatch SummerSlam '13 sometime soon.
    It really is a funny one, is Nexus vs WWE.

    On the one hand, that ending is a shocker and whoever set that match up to be that way cannot have been thinking clearly. Even if it had to be a WWE win, the manner of it was really bad.

    On the other, I think they really nailed a lot of what happened between the opening bell and that final handful of minutes, Bret's elimination aside (Bret shouldn't have been anywhere near that match, it's a shame he was). Most of Nexus got their chance to show what they could do, Team WWE progressed nicely through it with their storyline work, and all in all it was decent.

    That it went so far was a bit of a surprise to me, admittedly, but every time I voted for it I did so out of simply enjoying it more than it's opponent.

  7. #7
    Administrator Prime Time's Avatar
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    I'm not bothered by the diving for the door thing because if you put it into the context of sport, it makes sense. We've got used to the convention of wrestling by which someone usually wins after wearing down their opponent for so long, and we get so used to it that it has sort of become what people expect to happen. But think about it in terms of sport - how many times does something happen simply because the opposition gets their defence wrong? That's basically what is happening here - by diving for the door, in a sporting context, you force the opponent to stop you, and he only has to get his defence wrong once and you've won. I don't see it as a negative, then, but as purely positive - the only way you can really have a PG cagematch that is about the gimmick, and not one that's about the violence.

    That said, I don't see it as an untouchable match that I've seen suggested in some of these and in the feedback. It's probably the weakest of Bret's big Summerslam matches from 1990-1994, and as Maz points out, not a patch on the Wrestlemania bout. Sure, any match with Bret Hart and Owen Hart is technically going to be better than almost anything you want to throw up against it, but it's not untouchable.

    I still think Bret and Perfect should have won the whole thing, though!

    On the Nexus/WWE match, I think I broadly agree with Oliver in the post above. I do enjoy most of the match a lot, and that carried it past things I didn't have strong feelings for, even with the awful, awful finish. The one thing I wouldn't agree with is that even though Bret obviously shouldn't have been anywhere near the match, once he is in there, I thought they handled his role pretty well. Get him in, few spots to get the cheers, and get him out without the downer of his getting beaten. Perfect, really, and as a fan I kinda enjoyed the cameo. But yes, cold, rational head on, and he had no business being in there.

    Thanks for inviting me in on this.

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

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