In professional wrestling (the kind you see on television, anyway), there is a long-running series of can't-miss pay-per-views each year. They used to be known as the "Big Four": Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and the Survivor Series. It briefly turned into the "Big Five" when the King of the Ring was a thing people could get excited about.
As mainstream interest in pro wrestling has ebbed and flowed, though, these "can't-miss" shows are sometimes "nah, go ahead and miss 'em" shows and generally Royal Rumble and WrestleMania are the only two PPVs you need to see every year (if any). Even Survivor Series is now usually "just another show," having been supplanted by Elimination Chamber in any sort of "Big Four" configuration.
But SummerSlam is still a big deal in most years and the 2013 edition is headlined by one of the most-anticipated matches in recent memory (at least as far as Internet nerds like myself are concerned). The card is lopsided at best, but the top matches have the capacity to deliver intense excitement or grueling apathy and impotent frustration -- just like a real sport!
I'm here to walk you through each of the matches on this year's card to tell you who the heck these people are and why you should order some pizzas and have some friends over. If you're hesitant to throw a party, did I mention that betting on pro wrestling is growing increasingly popular? Sure, NOW you're listening.
SummerSlam airs live on pay-per-view on Sunday, Aug. 18 at 8 p.m. ET. You can catch the pre-show and live opening match beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET on YouTube and Facebook.
United States Championship: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Rob Van Dam
What am I looking at here? Okay, see the guy in the mushroom skullet and airbrushed tights? The one who keeps somersaulting for no reason? That's Rob Van Dam. You may remember him from "ECW" when he did exactly what he's doing right now, but with slightly more cusses. The other guy in the flak vest is Dean Ambrose. He's part of a quasi-terrorist group called The Shield, of which the other two members are the tag team champions. They're not wrestling on this show because they may be in trouble backstage or maybe because the WWE forgot they have tag team champions. They'll probably show up to help Ambrose win, though, because they like to play The Damned Numbers Game (patent pending).
Why you should care: Dean Ambrose is amazing. He wrestles like a crazy person would wrestle. He's probably not like many other people you've seen in a wrestling ring. On the flip side of this coin, maybe it's been a few years since you've seen RVD wrestle and you love nostalgia. It's okay. Drink it in. Or hey, maybe you love airbrushed dragons. Well, you're in luck!
Please note that this match is the free pre-show "kickoff" match, so even if you're not watching the pay-per-view, you can watch this live on YouTube, you cheapskate.
Tangent: I think if they're going to call the pre-PPV shows a "kickoff" they should have a guy kick another guy in the ring. Sort of like the national anthem, but with kicking instead of singing. They're both patriotic in their own way.
Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow
What am I looking at here? Cody Rhodes is the lithe, super-in-shape guy with the inexplicable John Waters mustache. Damien Sandow is the guy in the bathrobe. Man, pro wrestling is weird. Please (as always) note that Cody Rhodes is the son of Dusty Rhodes. This can be explained by the simple genetic fact that his mother was a sphinx.
Why you should care: These two guys used to be TOTES BESTIES until Sandow snatched a world title shot from Rhodes and won it for himself at Money in the Bank. This match doesn't actually appear to be for the luscious chocolate briefcase that Sandow currently holds, but who even knows any more. If none of that made sense to you, I repeat again: wrestling is weird. For this match, just shut up and go with it. Spend the whole match wondering how Dusty managed to answer that sphinx's riddle.
Dolph Ziggler & Kaitlyn vs. Big E Langston & AJ Lee
What am I looking at here? The bleach-blonde (in parts) team is Dolph and Kaitlyn. They're not really a thing but they're bound together by betrayal and hatred. Or something. The team with the beefy guy who is 80% chest and the hilariously tiny woman is Big E and AJ. They've (perhaps) got a thiiiiiing goin oooonnnnn.
Why you should care: A LOVE RECTANGLE. Kinda. Dolph, Big E and AJ used to be a wonderful trio of great friends whom Internet fans (notably Brandon Stroud at With Leather, whose Best and Worst of Raw should be a weekly must-read) dubbed "Team Rocket." Then Dolph dumped AJ and broke her heart. She got Big E in the breakup. Kaitlyn is a former tag team partner of AJ's and man they've just been feuding FOREVER. There's not a lot to get personally invested in here. So you can fixate on how Big E has the most chest you've ever seen on a person. It's borderline pornographic. It's okay; get swept away thinking about it. Everyone else is doing the same thing.
Ring of Fire match: Kane vs. Bray Wyatt
What am I looking at here? Kane is Kane. He's always been Kane. Except when he was fake Diesel and an evil dentist, I guess. If that's too inside for you, though, Kane is the guy in the mask. Bray Wyatt is the stringy-haired heavyset fellow dressed like Max Cady who is accompanied by two massive hillbillies and has THE COOLEST ENTRANCE OF ALL TIME OH MY GOODNESS. Bray is the leader of the cultist "Wyatt Family" and their first act in the WWE was to take Kane out of commission for a few weeks. Now he wants revenge. INSIDE A RING OF FIRE.
Why you should care: The Wyatt Family is new, different and exciting. Bray, like the aforementioned Dean Ambrose, doesn't really talk, act, or wrestle like anyone else you may have seen. Oh, did I mention the RING WILL BE SURROUNDED BY FIRE? Kane's specialty used to be getting set on fire, so maybe someone will be set on fire! Like, on purpose. maybe.
World Heavyweight Championship: Alberto del Rio (c) vs. Christian
What am I looking at here? Alberto del Rio is the smarmy, scarf-wearing World Heavyweight champ. Christian is the frail fellow who looks like an especially tall Estelle Getty. Seriously, he's the oldest-looking 39-year-old you've ever seen. Look at his Wikipedia page photo. It looks like he's actively dying. And that's a particularly good photo of Christian.
Why you should care: Man, who even knows. This match was made because they got two weeks from the pay-per-view and realized one of their two world titles wasn't set to be defended. Christian was available. And here we are. There's virtually no chance there's a title change here, but if there is it will be HILARIOUS. On account of Christian is so old. He'll celebrate by pounding some Centrum Silver and going to bed at 9.
CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar
What am I looking at here? The guy who inexplicably looks like Wolverine, but skinny and with tattoos, is CM Punk. The pinhead is former UFC Heavyweight Champion and licensed jerky enthusiast Brock Lesnar. You may know him by his other names: Bork Laser, Bort Luncher, Biff Lastington, Brick Lightning, Braff Loganberry, Brat Lanker, etc.
Why you should care: This match is being touted as "the Beast vs. the Best," wherein Brock is an unstoppable monster who exists only for destruction and CM Punk is the self-proclaimed "best in the world," where he must rely on his cunning and ability in order to stop the rampaging, jerky-fueled hulk heading his way. That's even before you throw in the wrinkle of Brock's manager Paul Heyman having betrayed his former best friend in the world, CM Punk. Just shut up and watch this match. It's going to be amazing. Brock is going to hit Punk with things and Punk is going to die one million deaths before (probably) winning.
WWE Championship: John Cena (c) vs. Daniel Bryan
What am I looking at here? You know who John Cena is. Even if you don't know what wrestling is, you know who John Cena is. He's one of the most successful and famous wrestlers of all time. Even if you hate what he is and what he does, he's in a special category of untouchable success in the world of professional wrestling, along with Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The other guy -- the little guy with the crazy beard -- is the best professional wrestler in the world. He has been for about 10 years now, but WWE and their fans are just now catching on.
Why you should care: Because this could be one of the best matches of the year. It could be the moment that Internet geeks, fans of the underdog and John Cena haters have been hoping for for years. Daniel Bryan could become the most unlikely, and most deserving, WWE Champion ever. This could be the night that a man on the very precipice of megastardom tips over the edge and proves himself to the world.
It could also be an absolute clusterfrick, however, because Triple H has inserted himself into the match as a special guest referee and Randy Orton is waiting in the wings with his WWE Championship Money in the Bank briefcase. It's possible that Triple H could distract from a match that didn't need any additional theatrics, or it could be that Daniel Bryan could win the title, only to have Orton cash in his title shot and immediately defeat him for the belt. There's a lot that could go wrong here, but also a lot that could go right. Either way, it should be entertaining, full of drama and bound to provoke intense reactions one way or the other.
Above all, remember this: pro wrestling is weird. That's sort of why it's so wonderful.