By Matt Straub and Brad Carroll
If you ever wondered if you could have too much of a good thing, you’ll get your answer Sunday night. Summerslam, the second-biggest show of the year for WWE, is going to last nearly seven hours if you count the matches on the Kickoff show. If you’re a wrestling addict, you’ll love all the action. If you’re a purist, care about the company’s creative big picture, had something to do at some point on Sunday, or wanted to sleep, you have reservations about investing nearly a third of your day to a PPV.
Are there some potentially great matches on the card? Yes. In fact, this has the potential to be an outstanding show. Will those matches, however, be lost in the shuffle on a card which is overbooked beyond belief, as is too often the case at Wrestlemania? Is WWE risking hurting the spectacle of Wrestlemania if the average PPV becomes four hours and the other big shows go more than six? You can’t make Wrestlemania feel insignificant, but it definitely hurts your most important show if it’s not different from Summerslam or the Royal Rumble.
There are important things for WWE to consider about its future going forward, with the basic setup of its schedule and shows being the biggest to watch. There’s a chance WWE is pushing itself too far both in terms of its own production and what it can reasonably expect its fans, particularly the less hardcore group, to invest in the product. Finding a way to scale back in the long term is wise, but at this point it would be perceived by many as the company admitting it couldn’t hold people’s interest for so long month after month.
Let’s worry about all these issues on Monday. For one day, and I mean that literally, we can just sit back and enjoy a lot of wrestling. This is a card which should make waiting through the boring parts worth it to get to the good stuff. Let’s break down what to watch for, what it means, and when to take a nap during SummerSlam.
[Part I of our preview and predictions is below. Click here for Part II.]
Raw Tag Team Champions The B-Team vs. The Revival (Kickoff Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Can I just mention again how much I hate what they’ve done to Curtis Axel? This is a gifted athlete who comes from exceptional wrestling heritage. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be at least heading down Randy Orton’s career path. Maybe he’d never have main evented a card even with a good push, but he should have been an exceptionally good performer at the top of the mid-card the way his father was or the Miz is now. At least he’s getting some legitimate face time with Bo Dallas, who also comes from incredible bloodlines. In fact, I’d have loved this tag team if it was treated that way, instead of this “B-Team” nonsense. Call the them the Sons of something. Make them a well-booked version of what Legacy should have been. Perhaps they were booked as hapless cronies too long to recover, but it would have been worth a chance. The good news here is they have the belts and not Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy, who are still members of my least favorite tag team ever, even ahead of the Bushwhackers. They go up here against another team with potential, but who hasn’t gotten off the ground. You know who needs a revival? These two guys. They won’t get it here. B-team wins.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Oh, how far the Raw tag team division has tumbled. Remember when Sheamus and Cesaro ruled the division and had challengers that were actually interesting to watch and putting together tremendous matches to boot? Yeah, that’s long gone. We had Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy in a weirdly-thrown together tag team given a championship run, only to get upended by The B-Team, a duo being pushed from the ashes known as The Miz’s entourage. Throw in the Revival, which have been used as glorified jobbers since getting the call-up from NXT, and you have three tag teams that are completely void of excitement, bringing only comedy to the titles and the show. Wyatt and Hardy appear to be over with as a team, as Hardy hinted at retirement after Monday Night Raw on Twitter. The B-Team is still in its infancy, and just got their own, team-specific theme song, so they will be a thing for a while. The Revival will always be together, it’s just how WWE wants to present them as viable challengers that matters. Now, for this match that nobody will see, it could go one of two ways. 1. The Revival win and continue a rivalry with The B-Team for the coming month, keeping both teams fresh and in something meaningful. 2. The B-Team wins, The Revival go away again, and the Authors of Pain step into the challengers role and soon after take the titles. I believe AOP is looked at in higher regard than The Revival, so let’s go that route. The B-Team wins, but the end is near.
Rusev & Lana vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas & Zelina Vega
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: We’re off to a strong start with the preview, but we can’t go that long for every match, or it will take as long for you to read this as it will for the card to be completed. Fortunately, there’s not much to talk about here. WWE continues to not have any idea what to do with Rusev, who goes from contending for titles to comedy act to enhancement talent at the drop of a hat. He’s in the third role here, as he and the Ravishing non-Russian lose and give Almas a needed rub. Rusev then feuds with Aiden English, making him a legit wrestler again. Don’t worry, Rusev fans. Even after he’s done making two newer faces famous, he’ll somehow be right back in the U.S. title picture.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I agree with Straub about Rusev. He’s either in a main event-level match, or forgotten altogether. But the bigger problem is WWE believing Rusev and Lana can get over the same without Aiden English. Remember, it was English that brought Rusev Day to the world, and Rusev wouldn’t have gotten as over as he is now without him. WWE, of course, wants to destroy that by having Rusev and English split and eventually feud over nothing. Nobody wants to see that, so please WWE, don’t do it. Meanwhile, Lana has lost her appeal in a hurry, especially after wearing her Happy Lana Day shirt, which nobody has latched onto, probably to her ego's surprise. It’s also pretty funny, annoying is a better word, that Lana springs from an English accent to a Russian one in the same sentence during promos. They team up here to take on Andrade Almas and Zelina Vega, who both need something meaningful to do, as both have immense star power. This is a waste of their time, but necessary because WWE’s writers can’t come up with interesting stories for most of the roster. Still, Almas and Vega win, with English likely playing a role in the finish.
WWE Cruiserweight Champion Cedric Alexander vs. Drew Gulak
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: This match makes me think of two old wrestling bits. The first was in WCW, which would have a bunch of cruiserweights come out each week and fight in the middle of the show for no reason at all, then continue after as though nothing happened, never again mentioning the match or even trying to make an angle out of it. The second is from WWE in the same timeframe, when Kane would decide he wanted the ring, then come out and end whatever awful match was happening by choke-slamming both participants “straight to hell”, as J.R. would say. By the way, Kane is now the real-life mayor of a real-life city. I would have loved to have seen more of that campaign. When he was mad during a debate, did he kill the lights and shoot fire? Since he won’t be there to end this dreck early, let’s hope Alexander gets a quick win and we move on.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Straub has some interesting anecdotes for this match. I have none. Alexander wins and continues his reign on 205 Live. Is that show still on? Do any of you out there watch it?
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Bludgeon Brothers vs. The New Day
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: We should mention first the next event actually listed on the WWE’s schedule for Summerslam after the cruiserweights is Elias singing. We all know he’s going to promote his album and end up in a feud. I think I’d rather hear him sing. I know I’d rather hear the New Day be funny than I would watch the former Wyatt family wrestle. Yes Harper is agile for a man his size, but his new attire and persona just doesn’t work, and Rowan never did anything for me. You can argue this feud should be given more time to build, but it won’t be. New. Day. Wins.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I was a little surprised with The New Day winning the mini tag team tournament to qualify for this match against the Bludgeon Brothers. The New Day don’t need the titles to be over with the crowd, and can step into pretty much any role and do well in it. (Even though I’ve had it with the pancakes). This spot could have been better used for the emergence on SmackDown of Sheamus and Cesaro or Sanity, even though they are all heels, so it might not work out as well as I think. But The New Day are here against the Bludgeon Brothers, which already took out the Usos, which got the better of the New Day in a series of great matches. I really have no idea how this one will play out. The Bludgeons can’t be stopped now. The New Day really shouldn’t be here if they were just going to lose. So, which way does WWE go? I’ll go Bludgeons in what will be a surprisingly great match.
Finn Bálor vs. Constable Baron Corbin
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: WWE lists one of Finn Balor’s names as “The Extraordinary man”. I don’t even have a joke here, I just wanted to mention that. The name itself is its own punchline. I’ve been ranting for a year about what they did to Balor, so there’s no sense in rehashing it. Suffice it to say he needs the win here. Corbin’s position allows him to start fights, create feuds and put himself in matches any time he wants. Balor must win to keep any shred of credibility and hope of an eventual return up the card. Balor wins, then finds something else meaningless to do instead of fighting for the belt he never lost. OK, I’m sorry, I had to mention it once.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: It’s funny Straub brings up the extraordinary man thing because I absolutely hate it when Finn Balor is called that. And it has more to do with the way the announcers pronounce it: extra (space) ordinary. It makes it sounds horrible and not special at all. But that’s probably the least of the sins being afflicted on Balor since he had to relinquish the Universal championship due to injury. Balor deserves more, obviously. And can we get the demon back? Please. Baron Corbin has had a nice renaissance with his own career since being named constable, something that could have been downright dumb, but has made him a legit heel on Raw. Nobody could have predicted that after Corbin’s meteoric fall from Mr. Money in the Bank to a joke on SmackDown. Corbin is on a nice career roll, but Balor needs and gets the win.
United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jeff Hardy
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: I’m glad Shinsuke Nakamura finally got a belt. I’m glad he gets to be a heel, which suits him better. I’d be happier if he stopped being so uncomfortable to watch, and I’d be ecstatic if WWE put him in a feud of any importance at all. We know he’s winning, so what’s the point? He’s not losing to Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, or former New York Jet Billy Hardee. I wanted to work James Hasty in, but I couldn’t. You can tell it's the boring part of the show if I’m mentioning random old Jets.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Straub, don’t be so Hasty to come to a conclusion on this match, it really could go either way. Eh, not even I believe that. Shinsuke Nakamura is going to win. The only interesting part is what Randy Orton will do during or after the match. Orton can’t go after Nakamura, as that would ruin his heel turn, so he will probably cost Hardy the win somehow and end up doing something even more disturbing to Brother Nero than the earlobe pull heard around the world.
SmackDown Women’s Champion Carmella vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch
(Triple Threat Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Speaking of wasted opportunities, we’ve gone from Charlotte and Asuka to Carmella as champion in a three-way match. At least Becky Lynch, one of the most underused performers around, got a push heading into this one. WWE has always done sideshows better than wrestling, which is why Ms. Rousey is making waves on Raw despite the inability to understand which emotion goes with which situation. Somehow, the wrestling promotion manages to struggle to sell great wrestling, which is how we ended up with Carmella as the champion and two of the great women’s wrestlers serving as her enhancement workers. Their job Sunday is to make Carmella seem believable as champion. If they can’t do it, no one can. Carmella wins, Charlotte and Becky feud, I cry.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I really wish Carmella was better in the ring, because she would be a gigantic heel star. Just imagine if she had Alexa Bliss’s believability as champion … Mella would indeed be Money. But she’s going to look even worse in this match than she already is, as Charlotte and Becky Lynch are two of the best wrestlers in the company. I can see WWE going the way Straub breaks it down above, but something tells me there will be a title change and it’s finally going to be Becky Lynch getting her true moment to shine.
Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: WWE had a chance to do something really good here. There’s been on-screen heat between these two for almost a decade, and the Miz pulled off one of the best promos in a generation on Bryan a couple of years ago. There’s an easy storyline and a chance to make the hatred feel real, as the best matches do. With WWE’s recent trend of worked-shoots, these two could have thrown great insults at each other for a month and really made us care about this match. We’ve been telling you it was coming in our previews for months, and the build we’ve all been waiting for could have been special. Instead, we got the Miz throwing a doll at Bryan, who was dumb enough to think a real baby would fly that far, only to get dropped on his head (Bryan’s, not the non-existent baby). This was followed by a luke-warm promo battle which turned into a plug for the Miz’s TV show. The one on USA, that is, not Miz TV. I suppose they could keep building this, but doing it before Summerslam would have been better than potentially having them fight again next month. Bryan wins because he needs it more. Miz was right about one thing: people aren’t as into Bryan as they once were. He needs wins to build his momentum back.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I really get mad when good guys in WWE make their points in promos that are completely off base and not believable in any way, putting the blame on the heel for something every other human being would do in that situation. That’s happened a lot with Daniel Bryan since his return, and specifically in his interaction with The Miz. Bryan has been wrong about The Miz a lot, calling him a coward and trying to devalue him as a wrestler, competitor and overall star. It’s lazy and comes off to me as pure jealousy. No matter if you like Bryan or not, he needs The Miz way more than The Miz needs him. Bryan has been going nowhere since his return from injury and while this was always going to be the feud people would want to see him in, it’s all because of The Miz. Bryan is definitely second fiddle here. The WWE did a great job promoting this match on SmackDown this past week, with a three-part retrospective delving into their past. They will probably play it again before the match and it should get people even more hyped for it. Granted, it might have been too little too late in the build, but better late than never. The match should be real good, too, and the crowd should be into it for sure. But we all know the outcome. The Miz should win, but it’ll be Daniel Bryan getting his hand raised last.
Read Part II of our SummerSlam preview and predictions here