Judge Paul Pritchard couldn't tell a GTS from an STD.
Our reviews of WWE: SummerSlam 2008 (published October 10th, 2008), WWE: SummerSlam 2009 (published November 6th, 2009), WWE: SummerSlam 2010 (published November 7th, 2010), WWE: Summerslam: The Complete Anthology, Volume 1 (1988-1992) (published May 16th, 2009), WWE: Summerslam: The Complete Anthology, Volume 2 (1993-1997) (published May 16th, 2009), WWE: Summerslam: The Complete Anthology, Volume 3 (1998-2002) (published October 5th, 2009), and WWE: Summerslam: The Complete Anthology, Volume 4 (2003-2007) (published October 15th, 2009) are also available.
"One match, one winner, one undisputed WWE Champion"
With the events and fallout of Money in the Bank 2011 suggesting a period of transition in the WWE, it falls to Smackdown 2011, the annual summer slobber-knocker, to see if the wrestling promotion can truly move on from the PG era. The superstars to make the move are in place, in particular CM Punk and The Miz, who have what it takes to step into the void left by Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. Can the WWE deliver on their promise?
• The Miz, R-Truth, and Alberto Del Rio vs. Kofi Kingston, John Morrison, and Rey Mysterio
Despite featuring some of the most exciting talent on the WWE roster, this opening match really takes its time to get going, and never really explodes into life. There are certainly standout moments, including The Miz's reverse DDT on Kofi. Likewise John Morrison and Kofi team up to good effect, but it's not enough to raise the match above mediocrity. Disappointing.
• Sheamus vs. Mark Henry
Having recently laid waste to The Big Show and Kane, Mark Henry faces The Celtic Warrior, Sheamus. The matchup really feels more focused on getting over Sheamus as a face—whilst ensuring Mark Henry's reign of terror continues—than actually delivering a satisfying show. There are some big bumps taken by both men, but this is hardly thrilling stuff. Highlight of the match? That would be Booker T's comment that Mark Henry "just left a skid mark on that boy," after Henry nearly takes Sheamus's head off with his giant posterior.
• Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix in a match for the WWE Diva's Championship
I can't quite believe I'm going to say this, but this match isn't half bad. In fact, it's actually pretty good. I'm no fan of the WWE Divas division, and personally think TNA's Knockouts division wipes the floor with it, but Kelly Kelly and Beth Phoenix put on quite a show here, with a fast-paced, high-energy matchup. Phoenix, by far the better wrestler, puts in the lion's share of the hard work, though credit where it's due, the more athletic Kelly Kelly shows some solid technical skills.
• Wade Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan
This matchup builds on the momentum started during the Phoenix/Kelly match, and pits the technical skills of D Bri against the brawler, Wade Barrett. Bryan's comparative lack of size seems to be the only thing keeping him from being at the very top of the WWE, as he consistently puts on an entertaining match, and can seemingly work with anyone. This match has a nice ebb and flow to it, with both men having chances to claim the win, with the clash of styles proving an enticing mix. Like Bryan, Barrett really is deserving of a more sustained push from the WWE, and always gets a great reaction from the crowd, and makes for the kind of heel you love to hate.
• Christan vs. Randy Orton in a match for the World Heavyweight Championship
The two top dogs of the Smackdown brand continue their rivalry in this no-disqualification match. Their last encounter at Money In The Bank 2011 was a classic, and it was always going to take something special to top that, but an early appearance from The R-Rated Superstar, Edge, is certainly a good place to start. Sadly, unlike their last encounter, this match has a sense of inevitability to it that detracts from an otherwise four-star match. It's no surprise the WWE want the belt back on Orton—he sells more merchandise—but would it really hurt to give Christian a real run as champ? If not for the years he's put in for the company, then for the fact that he is (as Booker T. argues) the most underrated talent in the WWE, and, heel or face, always get a great pop from the crowd. Still, grumbles aside, both men revel in the no-holds-barred nature of the match, so much so that it's almost like we're back in the Attitude era. Christian really goes to town on Orton with a Kendo stick, and in return takes an RKO through an announce table, culminating in a suitably violent finale. Top stuff.
• CM Punk vs. John Cena in a match for the Undisputed Championship
John Cena, it's not your fault. You've carried the WWE through the PG era, and we salute you for it. Still, let's face facts: the PG era sucked, and you are not, and never will be, worthy of such a title-laden career. In CM Punk, the fans finally have someone who they respect, and who the WWE seems to have big plans for. The booing Cena gets now is only equaled by the cheers he received a few short years ago. A heel turn isn't just inevitable for Cena, it's vital if the guy is to really stay relevant for the fans. This match is immediately notable for both wrestlers entering the ring as WWE Champion, and both men delivering a match worthy of the billing. Like all good wrestling matches, this match has a beginning, middle, and end, and builds in both momentum and tension as it progresses. With Triple H officiating, and Stephanie McMahon lurking in the wings, there were plenty of potential twists, but few would have guessed the final outcome here. Considering how memorable the conclusion to their title match at Money in the Bank 2011 was, credit should be given to the WWE writers for coming up with something that actually manages to top it. It may not be what the fans would have necessarily wanted, but it sure as hell made for a talking point; just make sure you keep watching after the main event.
As is the norm, the 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is excellent, and backed up by a lively 5.1 soundtrack. The sole extra is a post-match interview with Alberto Del Rio.
Due to a poor start, WWE: Smackdown 2011 fails to match, let alone top WWE: Money in the Bank 2011. Yet it still delivers an entertaining PPV and keeps the WWE on the right path.
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