Nose moustache: You can't unsee it.
Summerslam is WWE's regular August pay-per-view; it's been a yearly tradition since 1988, when the first installment was held at Madison Square Garden. As the fourth of the "Big Five" PPVs (the others being Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, Survivor Series and King of the Ring), this annual event has enjoyed a great amount of success over the years. Though it has no regular "gimmick matches" like most of its Big Five brethren, Summerslam typically mixes a handful of title defenses with several mid-card matches. Early installments kicked things off with a bang, thanks to the steamrolling popularity of stars like Hulk Hogan, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Jake "The Snake" Roberts and The Ultimate Warrior. Even the "heels" (or bad guys, if you're new to the sport) like Andre the Giant, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase proved to be an essential part of the picture. Since then, many of the faces, gimmicks and styles have changed...but for the most part, it's still a battle of good vs. evil.
To be honest, I can't remember the last time WWE delivered two great pay-per-view events in a row, but this year's Summerslam marks the first time in years. It's an extremely satisfying follow-up to July's Money in the Bank 2001, easily their best show since the "PG Era" began. For the second consecutive month, just about everything falls into place: we get not one, but two blistering main-event brawls, a handful of entertaining mid-card bouts and even a solid Divas match. Of course, if there's one nagging complaint about this card, it's a vague sense of déjà vu...but then again, that's what happens when you put on a PPV every month. Once again, John Cena and CM Punk headline the show, Mark Henry continues his "beast mode" turn, we get an exciting curtain-jerker and much more. Summerslam 2011 was held at Los Angeles' Staples Center on August 14 and includes the following matches:
1. Kofi Kingston, John Morrison and Rey Mysterio vs. The Miz, R-Truth and Alberto Del Rio
2. Mark Henry vs. Sheamus
3. Beth Phoenix vs. Kelly Kelly [Divas Championship Match]
4. Wade Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan
5. Christian vs. Randy Orton [No-DQ World Heavyweight Championship Match]
6. John Cena vs. CM Punk [Undisputed WWE Championship Match]
Ebony and Ivory, up close and personal.
Summerslam 2001's somewhat unconventional format works it its advantage here. Half of the evening's matches are championship-free...and to be honest, it doesn't make much of a difference. The refreshing lack of "special stipulation" matches is another plus; in fact, the only exception is the no-holds-barred brawl between Christian (who looks to have stolen all of Sheamus' skin pigment) and Randy Orton, and the gimmick plays out nicely. There's also a ton of time devoted to the co-main events, nearly half the entire show's worth. We've got to be honest and admit that wrestling's "storylines" are rarely anything but cheesy backdrops, but most of the continuity here is preserved nicely. This genuinely feels like a true sequel to MITB 2011, both in quality and overall atmosphere. Summerslam 2011 doesn't quite reach the dizzying heights of its predecessor, but it's a top-notch effort in its own right.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, Summerslam 2011 looks about as good as other recent WWE DVDs. Colors are bold and bright, onscreen graphics are razor-sharp and black levels are typically good. With that said, there's a notable and expected amount of compression artifacts and digital combing on display here, most likely due to the fast action, long crowd shots and smoky pyrotechnic displays. A decent presentation of tricky material; nothing more, nothing less.
The audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby Surround; likewise, it's similar in quality to recent WWE releases. Crowd reactions and play-by-play commentary come through loud and clear, creating a rich and satisfying experience overall. As expected, a Spanish play-by-play track is included during the show.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. This three-hour show is divided into just under 12 chapters, one per match or significant filler event. No obvious layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc release is housed in a standard keepcase and includes no inserts.
Only one extra here, and it's a very minor one: we get a quick Bonus Interview
with Alberto Del Rio, who played a major part in the event's closing minutes. Unfortunately, the dark match between Dolph Ziggler and Alex Riley has not been included. Why does WWE continue to overlook these?
Believe it or not, WWE has served up two fantastic pay-per-views in a row. Summerslam 2011 is every bit as good as July's Money in the Bank, offering tons of great action and a few interesting storylines to boot. WWE fans who have all but given up on the "PG Era" are encouraged to give both of these a shot, as they offer a taste of quality that we haven't regularly seen in about a decade. The DVD pairs a decent technical presentation with no real extras, but the relatively low price tag makes Summerslam 2011 a no-brainer. Since there's no Blu-Ray option, consider this release Highly Recommended.
Why thank you, WWE Universe.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes at a local gallery and runs a website or two. He also enjoys slacking off, telling lame jokes and writing stuff in third person.