Friday, August 19, 2016

A different kind of SummerSlam

SummerSlam is the big money show of the weekend, but this honestly feels like one of the strangest iterations of the event. None of the "main events" really feel like a main event to me, although I suppose Raw's offering is probably the strongest of the three. But with a double digit number of matches on the card, it promises to offer some interesting battles. And if Battleground was any indication last month, the more varied matches with smaller pre-match packages actually worked really well. Here's a rundown of the card.

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  • Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins: I'm not sure this will actually main event, but the crowning of a Universal champion is momentous, even if the title's name is painful. I suspect this will be Rollins to win, although it does feel foolish to debut the Demon King in action and have him lose in his first outing. But it was even more foolish to have the Demon King appear days before the pay-per-view. Still it would take a momentous shift in WWE booking to have Balor win the title a month into his run as a member of the main roster.
  • Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler: Ziggler's push to main event status still doesn't quite feel cemented, which makes this feel like the weakest of the three big matches. Still, I suspect it will have strong storyline potential. I suspect a heel turn for Ziggler is in the future and with the right booking, he could be a strong new heel main eventer on the brand, not unlike Shawn Michaels in the early 90s. But it remains to be seen if WWE will really pull the trigger on Ziggler.
  • Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar: I suspect this will actually be the final match of the night and I think it can only end one way. It makes no sense for Orton to be the man to take Lesnar down after all this time. The two will have a compelling match, but Orton's trip to Suplex City feels preordained.
  • The New Day vs. The Club: The New Day need to drop the tag titles. There, I've said it. With Big E out, this match could go one of two ways. Either The New Day wins despite the odds or WWE buries Woods and Kingston's momentum by having them lose. Honestly, I'd rather see The New Day lose at full strength, then split up to pursue different ends in the aftermath. A Big E main event push should be a no brainer in the next year.
  • AJ Styles vs. John Cena: Will Cena lose at SummerSlam? It seems unlikely, but I'm sure somehow The Club won't be involved despite being in the same building. The brand extension really derailed the momentum of their conflict and this match has no added stakes. I see Cena taking the win to set up the rubber match at Backlash.
  • Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte: This could be the sleeper match of the night. They had a great match on Raw and while their feud feels artifically extended now, I think one huge blowoff on pay-per-view should cement Sasha's place as a new face of the company.
  • Enzo and Big Cass vs. Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho: Seriously, still no JeriKO? The name's a no-brainer, right? Anyway, this could be stupendous as the makeshift Canadian team might not make much sense, but they should have a great match with the up-and-coming babyface unit.
  • Sheamus vs. Cesaro: Seven matches against Sheamus feels like a punishment for Cesaro, doesn't it? I still think Cesaro would do better as a trade to Smackdown, but at least he's got a storyline on television. I still think he's the natural opponent for Rusev in an ongoing feud, but WWE clearly disagrees.
  • Roman Reigns vs. Rusev: The US title match has a bunch of people expecting Reigns to start a midcard reign. After weeks of one-upping the Bulgarian Brute, I just can't see Rusev get buried on pay-per-view against the leader of the new spat of Wellness violations. Rusev takes the win and hopefully ends the feud quickly.
  • The Miz vs. Apollo Crews: If Crews is to have any purpose on WWE's main roster, he needs to win the Intercontinental title. Miz has barely done anything but host talk shows and lose to Randy Orton of late. His role on television works well for him, but keeping a title around his waist makes no sense. Crews getting a clean win could start out a great run... or he could become this generation's Rocky Maivia.
  • Carmella, Becky Lynch and Naomi vs. Natalya, Alexa Bliss and ?: Smackdown has six women on its roster. They just lost one to a Wellness violation. Nikki Bella just got cleared. Could she come back as the major heel star of the show? Or will a heel turn for Asuka on Saturday lead to her making a main roster appearance the way Bayley did at Battleground? Or will WWE lazily insert Nia Jax as she shows up to destroy everyone in some cross promotional mess? Your guess is as good as mine, but they all make this match more intriguing.

Overall, SummerSlam looks to have a solid card. WWE's pay-per-views have featured great wrestling in the last few months, even if the continuation of storylines isn't always the strongest. Battleground changed that a bit, but SummerSlam could cement a new direction. We will find out which is true on Sunday night.

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