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 II of our preview and predictions is below. Click here for Part I.]
Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: While I’m going to see Pearl Jam for the eighth time in a couple weeks, my favorite single concert ever is Nirvana’s Unplugged show. At one point during that show, Kurt Cobain prepares for a song by warning the audience he’s likely going to mess it up, meaning they’ll have to do it again for the TV taping, and the live audience “will just have to wait.” The song goes perfectly, and Cobain turns to his bandmates and says, “hey, I didn’t screw up,” before turning back to the crowd and warning, “but here’s another one I could screw up.” Well, here’s one WWE is sure to screw up, even if it manages to get this far in flawless fashion. We know they’re going to screw it up because they’ve already announced each man will have someone in their corners, and we all know they’ll get involved. Seth and Dolph could put on an absolute show here, especially on a PPV which has plenty of time to give them. Did I mention this thing goes almost seven hours? Instead, we’re going to get some action between Dean Ambrose and Drew McIntyre, which will ruin what should have been a classic, even if no one turns on anyone. We’ve talked so much lately about this feud helping restore the IC belt’s luster, but WWE couldn’t just let the wrestling belt be won in a wrestling match. Dolph wins so Seth and Dean can move on to whatever is next, while I come out of it incredibly disappointed. At least the work should be outstanding.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Straub is about to see Pearl Jam for the eighth time. I’ve seen KISS and Alice Cooper once and man both shows were epic. I went to those concerts without Straub. Why? Because he never invites me to see Pearl Jam. Straub is a jerk. Anyway, Dean Ambrose made his return to Raw on Monday night and boy was the crowd into it. He got a huge pop and proved again that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Before getting injured, Ambrose was in desperate need of a jolt, as his character was dying. But going away for a while, and hitting the gym pretty hard, was all it took for Ambrose to return to a crowd favorite. Now, of course, the question is will he stay on that side or turn heel. After that pop Monday it might be more difficult to pull the trigger on a heel turn, but if you look at the options, what else is there for Ambrose and Seth Rollins to do from here other than feud with each other? A feud, mind you, everyone would want to sink their teeth into. They don’t need the title for that. Dolph Ziggler does need the title, however, as without it he’s just a random heel with backup from a future world champion, a spot Ziggler won’t ascend to. There’s going to be a lot of action inside the ring and outside as well, between Ambrose and Drew McIntyre, and this is sure to be a classic. And it will be helped by not having a countdown clock on the screen. Ziggler gets the win and we’ll all have to wait and see if and/or how Ambrose turns on Rollins.
Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Here’s a perfect example of a match we could have done without on this card, even if the wrestlers are both big names. Braun has run out of things to throw Owens off of or into. He can’t lose now, as it would only hurt his push, not to mention cost him his future title shot based on the stipulations here. Even worse, there’s no way to make an Owens win seem believable unless it’s a fluke. You could have done it at the start of the feud, but not after Braun has spent months using Owens as a tackling dummy. There’s nothing to be gained here. This is just time we’re losing from the good matches.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I actually think this feud has been a lot of fun since Braun Strowman threw Kevin Owens off the cage. Before that, not so much, but after, Owens has been gold on the mic and his interactions, or lackthereof, with Strowman. Owens’ attempts to steal the briefcase on Raw are good for a solid laugh, as is his running away from Strowman whenever things go poorly. Adding the stipulation where Strowman can lose the briefcase by pinfall, submission, countout or disqualification gives this matchup an added layer other than what would have been a typical squash result. Owens has a realistic chance to walk out of SummerSlam with the briefcase. Heck, he could leave as Universal champion, although that’s not going to happen. The whole question becomes is WWE ready for Strowman to cash in and win the world title? WWE has booked it the opposite way several times already, so it’s not as easy a choice as you might think. The fans want Strowman as champion, but we all know by now that means nothing. If Roman Reigns wins the Universal title later on, and we’ll get to that soon, does WWE really want to get the title off him that quick after taking forever to finally beat Brock Lesnar? And if you’re saying, well, Strowman can take his time and cash in whenever he wants down the line. But that makes Strowman appear weak. If it’s not the night after SummerSlam, then when the heck would it be and what would the point be if he didn’t do it then? He wants to be world champion, no? He’s not going to do the whole sneak attack way former winners have done it. It wouldn’t be his character. You know who’s character that is? Kevin Owens. It’s not going to be clean by any stretch, but Owens is walking out of Brooklyn with the briefcase.
Raw Women's Champion Alexa Bliss vs. Ronda Rousey
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Remember when Apollo Crews was in NXT and they brought Scott Hall in to teach him how to talk? Why didn’t WWE spend whatever it took to have Rousey trained in storytelling before they tried to push her? She’s done remarkably well in the ring, but her acting has been painful, which is shocking for someone who has actually been in movies. I know none of them were Oscar winners, but you’d think Rousey would know which face is happy and which one is sad. She giggles when she should be acting tough, and mugs for the camera when she should be celebrating. It’s not even bad at this point, it’s bizarre. It’s as though she doesn’t understand human emotion. Thank God she’s had Bliss to carry her through their program. Bliss has become a true MVP of the women’s division, which I never thought she’d be until she pulled it off. She’s wonderful, and will help make Ronda look like a star. WWE has done a better job than I first thought in picking Ronda’s matches, letting her get comfortable in spots where she’d look good. She has also earned her praise for the in-ring stuff, which is what we’ve finally gotten to here. Ronda wins her first belt, and this match might even be good. Also, it wouldn’t shock me if it closes the show. There’s only one other option, and it’s not one WWE can risk. More on that later.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: We’ve already kept you long enough (and thanks for reading!) so I’m not going to do any rehashing. Straub is exactly right in every way when it comes to Ronda Rousey. I will repeat this one thing: Thank God for Alexa Bliss. She’s awesome and the reason this feud has any legs at all. Put it this way, is there any chance Rousey loses a fight to Bliss? No. Now, in the world of WWE, is it possible Bliss leaves Brooklyn as champion? Yes. Bliss making you believe that speaks to how amazing she is. For the ring work itself, I want to see how much Rousey has improved. You know, more than just flipping opponents. It’s violent and looks great, but she needs to add things to her arsenal. This match could end up being the main event, and if that’s the case, Rousey is going to win the title. If it doesn’t close, then Bliss has a great chance to leave as champion. Either way, Rousey is going to win. It’s just a matter if the WWE wants her to have the title this soon or save it for, perhaps, WrestleMania. That’s the way I’m going, as Rousey wins, but Bliss retains.
WWE Champion AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Great matches, as we often say, need both a good story and an unpredictable result. We have the story here we should have had with Miz and Daniel thanks to Joe’s phenomenal promo on Smackdown. As I’m sure Brad will remind us, I love Joe. He’s great at everything he does, from promos to matches to the way he carries himself. He has Arn Anderson’s mind, Ric Flair’s swagger, Shawn Michaels’ charisma and Brock Lesnar’s athletic ability. You know, back when Brock cared about wrestling. He’s my second-favorite Joe behind Joe Klecko. Injuries have slowed his career even more than the awful booking he has been given. He’s going to be a multi-time WWE champion, but not yet. Herein lies the problem. There’s no unpredictability here. AJ is breaking records and about to be a huge part of WWE’s promotion for its new video game. He can’t lose now. By this time next year, however, Joe will be champion. Samoa Joe, not Klecko. He and Mark Gastineau got robbed of a shot at the title twice.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: First of all, we all know Straub’s favorite all-time Joe isn’t Samoa or Klecko, it’s Roman Reigns. You know, Leati Joseph Anoaʻi, the real name of Mr. Reigns, aka, Straub’s favorite wrestler this side of John Cena. Straub’s love knows no bounds, my friends. There’s been talk of this match actually ending the show, but considering AJ Styles wasn’t even closing out SmackDown-specific PPV’s, I seriously doubt he will do so at WWE’s second biggest show of the year. That doesn’t mean it won’t be great, or won’t steal the show, because it has the potential to do both. Straub told me about Samoa Joe a long time ago, when he was in TNA or wherever it was at the time, but I’ve always had my doubts. I had an interview set with Joe several years ago, but TNA, as the story was told to me, didn’t want any of their wrestlers talking to the media because another wrestler bad-mouthed them to the press, so the whole thing was canceled. That probably clouded my judgment, but Joe has turned me around, more so with his promos than anything else. He’s great on the mic and the prototypical heel. His personal attacks on Styles have been pointed and aggressive, and I like it. Some don’t, but that’s what heels do. That’s Attitude Era stuff. Now, Styles did break the SmackDown champion record held previously by JBL, so if they wanted to get the title off him, now could be the time. But Styles has become the face of the franchise and the face of the franchise isn’t going to lose. At least not yet.
Universal Champion Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: This is it. If you made it this far, thank you and God bless you. You’re a hardcore fan. Which means you hate Roman Reigns. Here’s the thing, however: you also hate this version of Lesnar. The one who won’t show up, doesn’t defend the title, and no longer even cares enough to show off his physical gifts, resorting to matches which are nothing more than suplexes. In a place like New York, which can be, shall we say, hostile, this match has the potential of getting booed out of the building from the intros on. WWE actually did something interesting by having Brock border on funny a couple of weeks ago, then teasing a split with Paul Heyman. Instead of building it, however, they resolved that angle a week before the show by having Heyman help Brock injure Reigns. Which reminds me, I have to play logic police at least once in this preview, so here it goes. You’re Brock Lesnar, one of the biggest, baddest men alive. Your advocate has just blinded the man you’ll face next week for your title. If your goal is to soften him up before Brooklyn, wouldn’t you beat him up by hitting his ribs repeatedly, or breaking his ankle, or suplexing him until his back snaps? Instead, Lesnar puts on a sleeper hold, from which a wrestler can be recovered in minutes. It made as much sense as Lesnar still being champion. The good news is that ends Sunday. The bad news is this means the show goes off the air (probably close to midnight) with Roman holding the belt while being booed mercilessly. It’s not a great look, but it’s the only end to what has been a mess for months, and one which could have been avoided in April. The only other option is a Braun cash in to end the show, but I think they wait and give him his own night. He will be champion perhaps as soon as Monday, but not after Summerslam. Roman wins, WWE gets its belt back, and fans get to boo it all. That is, if they’re still awake.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: The crowd is going to turn on this match immediately, making it a hard sell to run last. But Vince McMahon and company are likely still clinging to the idea that if Roman Reigns beats the evil Brock Lesnar, the fans will come around and cheer the conquering hero. It’s not going to happen, though. Why? Well, there is the fact everyone hates Roman Reigns, except Straub, but it’s because Reigns keeps getting these chances, despite losing every single time. It’s frustrating for a fanbase that wants something new. It’s frustrating that this is the third straight Brock Lesnar match we’ve written about and the opponent has been Reigns each time. He’s lost the first two, and it would border on hilarity if he lost again, but I don’t think WWE is going to do that. Reigns is going to win, the crowd will boo, and hopefully will serenade Brock Lesnar with a nah-nah-nah-nah-hey-hey-hey-goodbye tune after that. Reigns will start what should be an extended title run and we’ll all be depressed. But, hey, maybe we’ll get Reigns vs. Bobby Lashley Part III for the title next? Can’t wait for that! (I’m dying inside).
Read Part I of our SummerSlam preview and predictions here