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10 Things We Learned From WWE SummerSlam 2004

A game of dodgeball resulted in Wrestler's Court involving Val Venis and Triple H...

On paper, SummerSlam 2004 looked like a kick-ass show. You had Chris Benoit defending the World Heavyweight Title against rising star Randy Orton, a Kurt Angle/Eddie Guerrero WrestleMania rematch, Eugene seeking revenge on Triple H in an unexpectedly-enjoyable feud, and an IC title triple threat with Edge, Chris Jericho, and Batista duking it out. It seemed as though SummerSlam was destined to be a good one.

Instead, the show is hardly ever called back on, save for mentioning that Orton won his first World Title there (over a nameless opponent). Some questionable angles like the portrayal of the Eugene character, the involvement of Lita as an unwilling broodmare for Kane, and, of course, the ultimate fate of the defending champion in the night's main event don't exactly reflect the more stringent values of the company today. While WWE revels in some of their over-the-top Attitude Era zaniness when it's convenient, SummerSlam 2004 could be termed as slightly inconvenient.

Viewed on its own merits, it's a somewhat unusual show, but hardly a bad one by any means. More or less, SummerSlam 2004 is an oddity that encapsulates just what WWE was in 2004, and where it was going to be headed in the not-too-distant future.

10. Canadian Grand Slam


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The 2004 SummerSlam emanated from the Air Canada Centre (today Scotiabank Arena) in Toronto, ON, making it the first (and so far only) SummerSlam to take place north of the border. Prior to 2004, SummerSlam was the only event from WWE's classic Big Four to have never taken place in Canada.

The Royal Rumble was the first to have a Canadian locale, when the televised 1988 edition took place in Hamilton, ON. WrestleMania followed suit in 1990 when the sixth annual grand spectacle occurred in the relatively-new SkyDome in Toronto. Survivor Series was third to the part with the infamous 1997 event in Montreal, and we all know how that one turned out. Thankfully, SummerSlam 2004 would come to a conclusion without any promoters getting punched out by deposed, outgoing champions.

9. Day Is Night, Up Is Down


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SummerSlam 2004 wasn't the first time that Toronto fans became known for tailoring their crowd reactions to the opposite of WWE's desires. WrestleMania X8 two years earlier was the site of not only Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock, but The People vs. The Rock, which Jim Ross comically referred to as a "mixed reaction". I guess if the fans were being outright hostile toward Rock, grenade launchers may have been involved.

The 2004 SummerSlam saw similar backwards reactions from the crowd, particularly in booing babyfaces like Eugene and Edge, while cheering on Randy Orton in his World Title win over Chris Benoit. This was the first time the term "Bizarro Land" was used on a WWE broadcast to refer to those photo-negative crowds, coined by Jerry Lawler. Since that night 14 years ago, WWE has used "Bizarro Land" as a go-to phrase whenever the crowds aren't doing as they're told.

8. Version 1.0 Needs An Upgrade


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Speaking of reasons why this show tends to collect dust these days, you have the charming Matt Hardy-Kane fiasco in which the winners gets to marry Lita, who Kane had impregnated kinda/sorta against her will. The only good that came out of the entire angle was the debut of Gene Snitsky, unlikely megastar, which took place after Hardy would be written out for quite some time.

Shortly before SummerSlam, it was reported that Hardy was dealing with a very serious knee injury. The Sensei of Mattitude had a torn MCL in his left limb, as well as the virtual absence of an ACL, which had been whittled down to tatters. Hardy would lose the match, before being Chokeslammed off the Raw stage eight nights later by Kane during the may-as-well-be-a shotgun wedding with Lita. Ahh, simpler times.

7. Holding Out For The Heroes


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Fans who were happy to see Rob Van Dam vanquish Rene Dupree on the Sunday Night Heat pre-show needed to savour that moment. For the eight pay-per-view matches that would follow, only two of them would see a designated babyface win, and only one out of those two was going to be a good guy over the long haul.

The third and fourth matches of the eight-bout pay-per-view saw John Cena and Edge, respectively, win their matches. Cena defeated Booker T in in the kickoff to their US Title best-of-five series, while Edge would retain the IC title over Chris Jericho and Batista in a triple threat match. Cena, for his part, received a rather mild reaction, while Edge was soundly booed in his native province of Ontario. Contrast this to SummerSlam 1991, when the good guys won all the big matches, and nobody booed when "Macho Man" and Miss Elizabeth exchanged their vows. Again: ahh, simpler times.

6. A Winning Edge


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Despite the Toronto fans treating him as though he'd just wiped his ass with a Tie Domi jersey, Edge was put over fellow countryman Jericho in the Triple Threat Match. By virtue of the win, Edge retained the Intercontinental championship that he'd just won five weeks earlier, and SummerSlam allowed him to join some very rare company.

With the victory, Edge became only the second man in SummerSlam history (keep in mind, this here is the 17th SummerSlam) to retain the IC belt. Shawn Michaels had previously retained the gold at two SummerSlams (1993 and 1995), and they were via count-out and ladder climb, respectively. Thus, Edge became the first man to retain the IC belt via pinfall or submission at SummerSlam. In every other year, the title either changed hands, or, in two cases (1996 and 2003) it went undefended.

5. Diva Dodgeball Resulted In Wrestler's Court


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Owed to the success of the hilarious Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, WWE pitted its incumbent divas (Gail Kim, Jazz, Stacy Keibler, et al) against the remaining Diva Search contestants (including Maria Kanellis, Christy Hemme, and Michelle McCool) in a six-on-six game of playground-style dodgeball. The Diva Search contingent would win, only losing one team member along the way.

Some may have believed that this was a worked competition, that the outsider team was given a win to boost their profile, but no - this was one hundred per cent a shoot. The Diva hopefuls mopped the floor with the contracted WWE women, with the competition not even being close. This reportedly caused an uproar backstage among the boys, some of whom felt the ladies had embarrassed the company by getting their visors handed to them. The losing women's faction would have to endure Wrestler's Court, with Val Venis as prosecutor and Triple H as judge, with Ivory acting as pseudo-defense attorney.

4. You've Got A Friend In Death


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Looking back, JBL's reign as WWE Champion wasn't as bad as it seemed. Yes, SmackDown saw its pay-per-view numbers decline wildly with him on top (he had a hard time escaping the "APA Bradshaw" stigma), but he was the perfect villain for drawing good heat, and he had no problem playing the pie-in-the-face patsy to whatever good guy got one over on him.

JBL was matched up with Darkside Undertaker V2, and would ultimately win by disqualification, extending the feud. According to JBL, Undertaker had actually volunteered to put him over cleanly, in order to give his close friend ('Taker would serve as a groomsman at JBL's wedding the following year) a needed victory that would add credibility to his reign. JBL says he refused the offer, as he felt he needed to keep holding onto the belt through questionable means, and that a clean win would only temper the heat he was prone to building.

3. A Fan Almost Ruined This Illusion


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Undertaker made up for his disqualification loss by mauling JBL post-match, culminating the violent flurry with a pretty nifty visual. The Phenom dragged still-champion JBL to his limousine and proceeded to Chokeslam the tycoon through the roof of it. JBL landed on a crash pad in the cab area of the vehicle, and the stunt went off without a hitch. But that almost was not the case.

The continued hooliganism of the Toronto fans led to one reveller jumping the rail and trying to climb on top of the car, unaware that the roof was designed to break away with a certain amount of overt contact. Had he jumped on the roof with any more force, he would have both blown the visual shock that was coming, and quite possibly hurt himself. JBL claimed that a stunt coordinator had patched the roof a bit more shortly before his entrance (to keep the roof from noticeably sagging), and that may have been all that prevented the fan from screwing everything up.

2. A Legend (Killer) In His Prime


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After a spirited, well-worked main event, young Randy Orton felled Chris Benoit with a swift RKO, ending the five-month World Heavyweight title reign of the Canadian Crippler. Orton had come a long way since his main roster debut two years and four months earlier and was fast-tracked to the World Title realm far sooner than many would've guessed.

At the time of the win, Orton was 24 years and four months old, making him the youngest man to hold any World Title under the WWE banner, a mark that still stands today. Some conspiracy theorists out there have floated the idea that Orton was rocketed to that level with the idea of breaking Brock Lesnar's mark with the WWE Championship (25 years, six weeks old in August 2002) out of spite, due to Lesnar quitting the previous March. Given other instances of possible pettiness that fans have noticed over the years, it's certainly a possibility.

1. Don't Get Used To This Ending


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Orton's win marked the first time in the then-two-year history of the World Heavyweight Title that the belt changed hands at a SummerSlam. Before its merger with the WWE Championship in 2013, the World Heavyweight Title would only change hands twice more at a SummerSlam: when CM Punk defeated Jeff Hardy in 2009, and when Orton toppled Christian in 2011.

In fact, Orton's win marked the last time that any of the brand's top belts (WWE, World, or ECW) would change hands at SummerSlam until Punk's show-ending defeat of Hardy in 2009. The ECW belt would never change hands at SummerSlam in its four defences between 2006 and 2009, and the WWE belt would see a long drought between swaps during this time frame. SummerSlam was usually a show for reinforcing the defending champions with a notable win, with 2004 being one exception in which they put the new kid over at the end.

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Justin Henry

Written by Justin Henry

In addition to writing lists and commentaries for Cultaholic, Justin is also a features writer and interviewer for Fighting Spirit Magazine, and is co-author of the WWE-related book Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.