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SummerSlam Preview: Cesaro vs. Sheamus (Best of 7 Series Kickoff)

This past Monday on RawRaw GM Mick Foley announced the addition of a new Raw match-up for this Sunday’s SummerSlamby declaring that embittered enemies Sheamus and Cesaro would embark on a Best of 7 Series to settle their grievances, with the opening kickoff match happening at WWE’s premier summer event. And while chances are this could be one of the Kickoff Show’s matches, one shouldn’t look at this as a sign that the angle isn’t being taken seriously. Over the past few months, the WWE has shown that Kickoff matches aren’t meant to be afterthoughts or punishments – they’re legitimately putting some exciting matches on the Kickoff to set up the mood for the whole show. Kalisto and Ryback had perhaps their best matches of their WWE careers in their own kickoff matches.

The intriguing part of any Best of 7 Series is the end result. These matches go a long way in allowing the participants to not only showcase their full arsenal of abilities (from ring work to ring psychology), but by the series’ end, the chemistry accrued only escalates. Both competitors usually emerge with more respect, not only from their locker rooms but from the fans themselves.

Back in 1986, a young star in the NWA named Magnum TA had a hellacious Best of 7 series with the villainous Nikita Koloff over the NWA United States Championship. Koloff won the first three matches, imposing his Russian superiority over the upstart American, but Magnum won three straight to force a deciding seventh match. Magnum would lose the 7th match following interference from Nikita’s countrymen (Ivan Koloff and Krusher Kruschev), but Magnum emerged as a bona fide star. Sadly, it was months later than Magnum TA would be involved in a car accident that would ultimately cut his meteoric rise to an abrupt halt.

In 1998, WCW was faced with the prospect of losing out on Booker T‘s character when his brother Stevie Ray went down with an injury. One half of the ultra popular Harlem Heat tag team, Booker was the charismatic and most popular member, but he had long been utilized as a tag team specialist, where he and Stevie Ray were WCW’s most decorated tag team champions. Booker T soon joined the hunt for the WCW Television title and in a series that propelled both himself and opponent Chris Benoit into the stratosphere as far as individual performances, it was Booker that shocked the world more. Benoit was already known as a singles competitor and always had his supporters. But Booker, away from the limitations of tag team wrestling, was given more individual focus and showed the world that he could compete on a level with Chris Benoit, in many ways surpassing the more technical wrestler. Without this series, Booker T would never have become the 5-time WCW World Champion.

The prospect of Sheamus and Cesaro battling it out for seven confirmed matches, is a great prospect for fans of either Superstar. Sheamus, despite a short transitional run as WWE Champion last fall, has been muddled in odd bookings for a while now. When utilized as a straight up brawler, he shines as a heel and even had successful face runs. But he’s been used too often as a bully against smaller opponents, rather than compete against similar sized wrestlers to truly bring out his best. In Cesaro, we’ll see just that.

Cesaro has long been regarded one of WWE’s most underappreciated and underutilized Superstars. The man has tools for seemingly any occasion, but for some reason, is rarely given the occasion to use them. In a series as elongated as this, we will most likely get to see varying stipulations to see just what Cesaro can bring the table, from technique to brawling. With the angles focus squarely on who is the best fighter, both participants are free from any dangling side shows that could deter the outcome.  Hopefully WWE lets them just put on 15-20 minute matches with that exact focus, allowing both to showcase the potential that both have shown glimpses of in the past.

The first match of these kinds of series are always the toughest to pick. Will WWE have Sheamus dominate the series early, like Nikita did to Magnum TA, only for Cesaro to mount the comeback at the end? Or will they trade the matches back and forth like Booker and Benoit, each gaining respect for the other by the series’ end?

Cesaro would do well to win the first match. After all, he’s the face and Sheamus always does better when he’s hungry for respect rather than being the bully. He could easily come back more vicious from a loss.

Regardless the outcome, if parlayed properly, we could see the best use of these two men and their talents than we’ve seen either yet fully display for the WWE Universe.

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