By Matt Straub
If you have ever bought a ticket to a WWE event or looked at the fine print when buying a pay-per-view, you’re familiar with the expression “card subject to change.” This disclaimer absolves WWE of any responsibility if any match they advertise doesn’t come off, whether it’s due to a script change, injury, or, as is the new trend, wellness policy violation.
So as you read this, remember, there’s still time for matches to change. Paige, Alberto Del Rio, and Eva Marie have all been busted for wellness violations in recent days, and another big star, Roman Reigns, just returned from one. WWE is being more transparent about their violations these days, which is good in that it explains some of the changes. Now that WWE is a public company, it helps build trust as well. Of course, WWE’s handling of the Brock Lesnar messed, where they reportedly thought of ways to avoid having to test him, left a sour note.
The good news, however, is SummerSlam is here. The second-biggest show of the year has a new standing home in the new wrestling hotbed of the east, Brooklyn. The Barclays Center has surpassed Madison Square Garden as WWE’s home base in this part of the country, which is interesting in its own right. Wherever this show is, it’s usually a good one. This year should be no exception, though I’m not sure the roster depth is good enough right now for this to be a four-hour supershow. The parts which deserve to be on the show should be good, but there will be plenty of bathroom break opportunities. Four hours is fine for Wrestlemania, but too long for a wrestling card.
Now, let’s look at the show as it’s set to run, noting that WWE hasn’t even made clear which match is the main event. They are clearly hoping quality and quantity mix well tonight.
American Alpha, The Hype Bros & The Usos vs. Breezango, The Ascension & The Vaudevillains (Kickoff Match)
Matt’s analysis and pick: As you’ll notice during the previews of the early matches, WWE is trying to get as many people on the show as possible. This match is designed to show the depth of the Smackdown Tag Team division. It does, but not in the way WWE intended, as it shows how many worthless teams are around. My only observations here are that I’m surprised to learn the Ascension is still a thing and that I don’t care about any of these people. We’ll give the Usos a win here because they’re the only group which has worked in the past with any longevity. Breezango won last month and no one cared. Letting Ryder win in New York would be cool, but I can’t see it.
Sami Zayn & Neville vs. The Dudley Boyz (Kickoff Match)
Matt’s analysis and pick: Remember when Sami Zayn was getting big matches? Remember when the Dudleys were the top tag team in WWE? I don’t know if the little guys can hit great spots against bigger guys, but they should get a few things done. I’d guess the Dudleys win because they have to stay together, while the other two could go right back to singles. Speaking of which, does Bubba Ray regret leaving TNA? What’s better? Being the top guy in a lesser organization, or being on the kickoff match at SummerSlam?
Cesaro vs. Sheamus First in a best-of-7 series (Kickoff Match)
Matt’s analysis and pick: Who starts a series at the PPV? Shouldn’t you END a series at SummerSlam? Also, who wants to see Sheamus wrestle anyone seven times? And why don’t the last two matches they’ve had this month count as part of the seven? While I’m not a huge Cesaro guy, he deserves better than this. I’ll give Sheamus the win here, otherwise we wouldn’t have much of a series to look forward to.
Carmella, Becky Lynch & Naomi vs. Natalya & Alexa Bliss
Matt’s analysis and pick: Speaking of people who deserve better, why is Becky Lynch being subjected to this garbage? Natty’s team needs a third with Eva Marie being out. I’m surprised WWE hasn’t made an announcement on the change to this match, since it’s not like there’s an epic arrival coming which is worth hiding (I don’t buy the Nikki Bella rumors). It will be some Total Divas character no one cares about filling in. Becky’s team winning and this match going fast are the only possible positive outcomes.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz vs. Apollo Crews
Matt’s analysis and pick: I like that they’re pushing new guys, but Crews in this spot seems a bit forced. He is everything Vince wants in a wrestler, so giving him a long, well thought out push would help him more than a quick shot at a title. My affection for the Miz is well-known and goes back a while. I used to dislike him, but he paid his dues over time and is truly living out a dream. He also does a lot for charity, he just doesn’t get the attention for it John Cena does. I’m fine with either guy winning, but the Miz should. I am interested to see what Crews can do on a big stage, however.
Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens
Matt’s analysis and pick: Ok, time for another round of questions. For starters, how did Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho become “closer than brothers” in the time since MITB, when they were saying awful things about each other, especially since they didn’t have much history before that feud. I know they’re both from Canada, but so are half the wrestlers you’ve ever heard of. I know WWE assumes we don’t remember what happened a few years ago, but now they think we’ve forgotten June? More importantly, why is KO being stuck here? There’s a million matches on this card, they couldn’t give him something better to do? Why can’t I watch him in a seven-match series with a good worker as opposed to a one-off tag match which means nothing? On the other side, what are they doing with Enzo and Cass? They keep laying the foundation for a breakup by making a point to mention how Cass keeps having to save Enzo. Eventually Enzo will be a singles star, but I don’t think now is the time to even hint at ending one of the company’s most popular teams. Final question: When will WWE figure out how they want an Enzo and Cass promo to go? Sometimes they do really funny stuff, like the time machine bit involving Jericho’s scarf, and sometimes Enzo just lists things which sort of rhyme. Also, all their promos need to be shorter. Still, they win here, though WWE would do well to make Enzo look better in the ring, no matter what path they take with him.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day vs. Gallows & Anderson
Matt’s analysis and pick: I love angry, violent New Day. They have done a good job evolving the team from just selling Booty-Os, which helps keep them fresh. They have even had fewer in-ring promos lately. Having another place for them to go is great, since it prevents them from getting old and means they can stay together longer. The Club has also changed, as they have been doing the comedy bits in this feud. It doesn’t work for them. Without serving as A.J.’s bodyguards, they don’t work as well. They need to be big, dominant guys. I just haven’t liked them in this program at all. The New. Day wins.
WWE Women’s Champion Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte
Matt’s analysis and pick: Believe it or not, this could be the match of the night. Without Dana at ringside, this will be focused more on the work in the ring, which should be good. I’m sure Charlotte will try some sort of heel move, but the match itself should be good. Even though she has spent a lot of time in Boston, Sasha is huge in Brooklyn, and the crowd will be fired up for this. This one should be the show stealer, and Charlotte wins to set up a third match in this feud, which I am fine with. I admit Brad was pushing Sasha long before I was on the bandwagon, but I would pay to watch this match, as long as they don’t overbook it with some silly ending.
U.S. Champion Rusev vs. Roman Reigns
Matt’s analysis and pick: Rusev has a chance to cement himself in the legacy of guys like Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect and the Honky Tonk Man who gave the lesser belts importance by holding them in big matches for a long time. I think he has found a great niche. My only question is this: why would they have these two wrestle each other for nearly a half hour on Raw the week before the PPV? Why do I need to see this match again now? Is this Roman’s new slot, or a temporary thing to keep his name out there until Vince comes up with a new way to get him back in the title picture? Rusev wins, which sets up another meeting between the two. Oh boy!
John Cena vs. AJ Styles
Matt’s analysis and pick: We’re doing this again? The story was brilliantly told before the first meeting, but that was in June and nothing is changed. Styles needs big wins to prove he belongs and hates Cena because he’s always around. Cena hates Styles because he never had the guts to show up before now. It works. But it’s also been done. I’m not sure why it has to be done again except for how thin Smackdown is. Another example of this is that Smackdown is coming to an arena near where we live Tuesday, and I have very little interest in going. Styles wins so they can fight again, which is what Smackdown needs since it has little else going for it.
WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler
Matt’s analysis and pick: Speaking of Smackdown’s depth, this is its world title match. Ziggler is a good worker, but has always been a notch below the big talent. I like Ambrose a lot more than other people do, but he needs to be in with someone important to make his match work. As it stands now, I’m not sure he can carry a feud. This one just doesn’t work at all. Ambrose wins and, hopefully, goes on to something else. There is little to say about this match, which is very bad news for Smackdown and Ambrose.
Finn Bálor vs. Seth Rollins to crown the first WWE Universal Champion
Matt’s analysis and pick: Finn’s entrance is awesome and the people love him. But is he already ready to beat the company’s top guy? I’m not sure. I think this could be a good match, in fact I’m quite sure it will be, but Balor hasn’t been on my TV long enough to really get me fired up. Having this match at Survivor Series would have been epic. For now, I think Balor loses and goes back to building himself up as he should. Also, how dumb is the name Universal Champion? I hate when the WWE title is not the top belt in the company, as it always should be. I’m also disappointed there wasn’t more of a tournament for the new title. Rollins has really grown on me over time. He’s still not a top, top level guy yet, but he clearly is the top guy on Raw right now and should have the belt. Hopefully WWE figures out a way to have him win the belt while keeping Finn strong.
Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton
Matt’s analysis and pick: The rumor is this match will go on last, which makes no sense. The titles are diluted enough without a match between two guys with no real history going on as the main event instead of a title match. If you want to promote Smackdown, put that title on last. If you want to get Finn over as an important character, do that one last. Don’t put two guys who are already big on for a match which needs no more build, and deserves it even less. They have done pretty well with this one in terms of the storyline, with Randy getting in a great line on Raw a few weeks ago about how he’d win with “no enhancement needed.” They have also played up the RKO well, implying Orton could win with one move. Lesnar, meanwhile, has Paul Heyman, so all his buildups will be good. His own work (unscripted apparently, at least at the end) on Raw last week was good as well. Unfortunately, this feud just has no meaning to it, which hurts the match. It’s thrown together, and may be the start of a series of one-offs for Lesnar, who is starting to tease a match with Goldberg. I was at a PPV match between Lesnar and Goldberg, and it might have been the worst match I’ve ever seen, so I really hope they don’t do it again. Also, that was more than a decade ago, so the quality now would be even worse, if possible. My guess is Brock wins tonight. My hope is the Goldberg rumors are not true.