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TJRWrestling WWE SummerSlam 2016 Preview

John: The 29th edition of SummerSlam is finally here as World Wrestling Entertainment presents this year’s event from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York for the second year in a row. It should be a hot crowd even though the PPV is running four hours and there’s a two-hour Kickoff Show. One prediction I know for sure is that it’s going to be a long night!

Before I pass it over to my buddies here, I need to mention once again that it’s absolutely f’n ridiculous that we have an 11 match card on Sunday night and there’s no Sami Zayn match. The guy had one of the best matches of the year in beating Kevin Owens, which was huge for his character. They followed it up with nothing. What a joke. You need to be better than that, WWE creative team. (Late Edit: He was added in a match on Friday afternoon. I inserted it below, but my rant remains.)

Joining me for the preview are Matty J. Douglas, Mike Holland and joining the team is my third favorite Kurt in the world (after Angle and Warner), it’s our NXT reviewer guy Kurt Zamora. Here are Mike and Kurt with some opening thoughts.

Mike: SummerFest season is upon us, and I for one couldn’t be happier. WWE has treated this event like the mainstream affair it should be, and we’ve got four hours and eleven matches to give us another reason to beat the heat of this summer weekend. It’s also the very first pay-per-view since they decided to go back to the brand split, and thus has allowed for a decent mix of new and established stars to compete in a way that might not have been possible previously.

You have to like the fact that both major title matches are featuring someone different, with Finn Balor bringing his pedigree and Demon King persona into his battle with Seth Rollins over the much-maligned Universal belt while Dolph Ziggler is rescued from midcard obscurity to challenge World title holder Dean Ambrose. As if all of that intrigue weren’t enough, you’ve got an interbrand match that feels fresh with Raw’s Brock Lesnar waging war against Smackdown’s Randy Orton for television storyline supremacy. I’m not convinced this will be the best PPV of the year, but it’s got a decent shot for sure.

Kurt: This is quite the show for me to join the preview team. Hopefully you don’t hate me too much once I’m done. You probably will, though. There are 11 matches listed for the show right now and I don’t foresee any of them getting bumped to the pre-show, save maybe the IC Title Match.

For my initial thoughts, I’m going to make a bold prediction for the pre-show and join the Canton Crusade on Sami Zayn being left off the show. How about you have Heath Slater hijack the pre-show and demand another chance to prove himself to get a contract. Heath has really done a great job with his Free Agent role and deserves some sort of spotlight on the show. He issues an open challenge, and a fired up Sami Zayn comes out to accept it. Two men with proverbial chips on their shoulders proceed to have a hell of a match, which is a win-win situation for everyone. I know Sami deserves better, but let’s make lemonade out of lemons and help two causes that are deserving in the process.

(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner is courtesy of our friend Melo Man. Go visit his website prowrestlinglinks.com for convenient links to all kinds of different wrestling related websites.)

JOHN EDIT: WWE finally added a match for Zayn. Two Kickoff Show matches were added late Friday afternoon.

Sami Zayn & Neville vs. The Dudley Boyz

American Alpha, The Hype Bros & The Usos vs. Breezango, The Ascension & The Vaudevillains.

They did that second match on SD. I think the face teams will win both matches although if the heels won the 12 man tag that would be smarter.

 

Best of 7 Series (Match 1): Sheamus vs. Cesaro (Kickoff Match according to WWE.com)

Matt: I have frequently advocated for the return of the best of seven series to WWE television. In any permutation of the format I’ve pitched in my pieces, I have had Cesaro as one of the combatants. So I should be psyched about this right? Weirdly I’m not that thrilled.

Chalk it up to the fact that this series being booked makes no sense, given that Cesaro has beaten Sheamus twice in two weeks. If they had traded wins, I could see the necessity and novelty of an elongated series of bouts, but given the reality of the situation, I don’t see why this needs to be happening. We are essentially seeing a Best of 9 Series that Cesaro already leads 2-0.

Furthermore, I’m just not a Sheamus fan. I don’t think that their styles can make for 9 interesting and unique matches. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn in a best of 7, I’m into that. Cesaro vs. Neville in a best of 7 could yield 7 incredible and different kinds of contests. Cesaro vs. Sheamus just doesn’t get me excited.

Winner: Sheamus (because going down 0-3 in a best of 9 is no way to make Sheamus look competitive)

Kurt: Although their previous matches were highly physical and enjoyable to watch, I’m not sure who was clamoring for seven more of them. We’re well past the point of knowing that Cesaro deserves more than this, so it’s not worth rehashing. The best thing Sheamus has done in 2016 wasn’t even in the ring. It was his role as Rocksteady in TMNT2. That says a lot about his standing in the company, which he himself has brought up in various media interviews recently.

The fact that this was created without any carrot dangling for both men makes it even less inspired. Is it really that important to know they’re better than the other guy? I don’t think it is, but maybe it’ll be announced at some point that a title shot will be on the line. I see this series going one of two ways, either they alternate wins through the first 6 matches and it’s built up as too tight to call for the 7th match. Or, as I’m going to predict, Sheamus will jump out to a 3-0 lead, and the story will be Cesaro’s resolve and ability to come back and tie up the series and ultimately win it.

Winner: Sheamus by pinfall

Mike: I always enjoy when WWE pretends they’ve had some grand idea over something that’s been around forever and a day. A best of seven series? How novel! That said, it’s been a while since this company has done it, and they’ve got a couple of decent enough hands to work with in Sheamus and Cesaro. They’ve actually built this up decently since the brand split, and I’d naturally watch Cesaro wrestle anyone. Amazingly, he has great chemistry with the big Irishman and elevates him to a different level when they do battle.

Do they need seven matches with absolutely nothing but bragging rights on the line? Not so sure about that one. I’d like to have been a title belt in play, but we can expect some very good wrestling nonetheless. It’s literally sort of a coin flip when you’re predicting a single match in a seven series, but since Cesaro has been booked big over Sheamus on television lately I’ll assume the opposite happens here. One hopes that after this feud they will give Cesaro something better to work on. He’s being wasted on WWE programming week after week.

Winner: Sheamus

John: Sheamus has lost the four matches he’s been in since the brand split including two to Cesaro, so he has to win this match, right? I mean if he doesn’t the guy is going to continue his Barry Horowitz-like streak and it’s not going to look good. Plus, isn’t Heath Slater the designated orange haired guy that loses matches in this company? Don’t confuse us, WWE.

I like the idea of the Best of 7 and I think Cesaro will win it 4-3, but I hope there’s a prize for the winner like a shot at the US Title or even the Universal Title. It shouldn’t just be seven matches to see who the better man is. Give them something to fight for in the storyline.

Winner: Sheamus

Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens

Matt: This is almost guaranteed to be the Summerslam opener. There might not be a better way to open any show than with the Jordan of Jargon himself, Enzo Amore displaying his gift of gab. He and Big Cass will definitely get the Brooklyn crowd (myself included) whipped into frenzy with what I’m hoping will be one of his most inspired promos to date.

I’ve enjoyed this rivalry for the most part. The pairing of Jericho and Owens has been splendid and Enzo and Cass always deliver on the mic. I’m not expecting a barn burner of an opening match, but I do expect it to be good. These guys can all work a solid match and I’m more than certain that they’ll deliver a very fun opener for the show.

Winners: Enzo and Cass (because you gotta start things off on a high note for the Brooklyn crowd)

Kurt: There is no better opener for this show than the two most entertaining entities in WWE right now. I even think they’ve both surpassed The New Day in terms of entertainment value on the mic. I hope “Jeri-KO” becomes one of those teams that weren’t supposed to last long term, but get over big, and end up being a long term plan. The mic work for this program has been fantastic and would love to see more of it before the match starts. Obviously the crowd will be hot for Enzo and Cass’ return home, so it will be a hot crowd hanging on every word.

I think the result of this match will correlate with the result of the Tag Title match. With that said, as much as I’d love to see a Jeri-KO vs. New Day program for the tag titles, I think I’m going to have to settle for one without the titles involved and Enzo and Cass will be primed to move on to become the new #1 Contenders against Gallows and Anderson. Sorry for the spoiler.

Winners: Enzo & Big Cass by pinfall

Mike: One of the best things about the brand split thus far is that it’s allowed excellent heels Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens to team up, forming the best thing to come out of Canada since ice hockey. Even though both guys are essentially the same character, their improvisational microphone work has been both phenomenal and hilarious. That also has made them the perfect foils for Enzo & Cass, crowd-hype masters whose ability to entertain exceeds their ability to wrestle in a way that is not bad at all.

If there’s one slight issue I have about this match, it’s that Jericho and Owens both feel like they’re biding time waiting for the next thing they are going to do rather than an authentic tandem. Kevin Owens has made a WWE career out of walking out on his partner du jour and Jericho is likely due for his next Fozzy break any day now. That doesn’t add up very well in a recipe for success here. Enzo & Cass are primed for bigger things down the line. This will be a good battle, but I fear JeriKO has already seen its end of days.

Winners: Enzo Amore and Big Cass

John: I mentioned on this week’s TJRWrestling podcast (cheap plug) that as long as Enzo & Cass are on a PPV they should be the opening match just because they do such a great job of hyping up the crowd. It’s going to be awesome to see the reaction they get in front of the New York crowd.

As a Canadian, I want to stand up with hand on my chest and sing the anthem when I see Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens teaming up. They are wonderful together, but they are not a regular tag team the way Enzo & Cass. The role of Jericho and Owens in this match is to beat up Enzo for much of it, take the Kevin Nash-like offense of Big Cass and get beat. It’s all about elevating the full time tag team to get them ready for a tag team title feud in the near future.

Winners: Enzo & Cass

 

Naomi, Becky Lynch & Carmella vs. Natalya, Alexa Bliss & ???

Matt: With the news coming out that Eva Marie has been suspended for a wellness policy violation, this match has become littered with questions. Will it be a handicap match? Will the heels find a partner? Can this match survive without the radiant brilliance that is the Eva Marie entrance?

In all honesty, I wouldn’t be surprised if a newly cleared Nikki Bella makes her return to fill the void left behind by Eva Marie. It’s a good spot for her to return in, being that working a tag match will provide a safety net. Not to mention that her being on Smackdown Live is a no brainer given her longtime boyfriend John Cena and her brother in law Daniel Bryan are also members of that brand.

Winners: Natalya, Alexa Bliss & Nikki Bella (because when in a bind, insert a Bella… plus the storyline potential of Nikki on Smackdown Live is just too juicy resist)

Kurt: If only you could’ve seen the hype job I gave Eva Marie before the tragic news of her suspension came through. Now… who cares? The next 30 days are going to suck anyways. I’m All Sad Everything.

Told you that you’d probably end up hating me.

Winners: Carmella, Becky Lynch, & Naomi by pinfall

Mike: News of Eva Marie’s suspension hit this match hard, as originally it was to be the entire female roster from the Smackdown side doing battle. I’ll pass on the irony of a gimmick built around not showing up now really not showing up, but it’s perfect. This may not be preferable to a singles contest between Becky and Natalya, but given that Tuesday’s show lacks a Women’s Title thus far, options are a bit limited.

Should WWE press on without Eva, I’d assume it’s a handicap situation, though placing the heels in the weaker spot is very rare. Should the company decide on a replacement, however, this thing becomes a whole lot more interesting in a hurry. An easy pick would be the just-cleared Nikki Bella, who would be a surprising heel at this stage but has a romantic connection with Smackdown’s John Cena and would be a big deal return angle. My preference? Clearly Maryse, and I shouldn’t have to explain why. It matters not, because at the end of the day it’s the face side winning here. It behooves Smackdown to book Becky Lynch like the star she is until they figure things out.

Winners: Naomi, Becky Lynch & Carmella

John: I’m going with the faces to win because that was my pick when the match was set up before Eva Marie’s Wellness Policy violation took her out of the match. It feels like the perfect chance to give some Naomi some momentum now that she’s got that glow in the dark ring gear (how long did it take to make that?) and the funky new entrance she has as well.

I know Nikki Bella is cleared, but I’m not sure if it makes sense to put her on the heel team because she’ll probably be cheered. They could do it where she is on that team, somebody else gets pinned and Natalya feuds with Nikki after the match. Perhaps they could change it to Naomi & Becky with Carmella not officially in the match to make it fair. Anyway, the face team wins.

Winners: Naomi, Becky Lynch & Carmella

 

WWE Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Apollo Crews

Matt: The WWE have done a very good job of making this match feel inconsequential. If The Miz goes over Apollo, I don’t feel like he gains anything and I have no narrative reason to really pull for Crews to capture his first championship in the WWE. They have done nothing to make this feel like an opportunity of a lifetime for Apollo Crews and a real challenge for The Miz. What we’re left with is probably the coldest match on the entire card.

Maybe if they spent less time drawing attention to the fact that Apollo Crews’ name is absurdly similar to a fictional character from the Rocky franchise (one of the biggest reasons it is a horrible name) and spent more time showcasing Apollo’s greatest strengths, then maybe we would care. Miz is the best heel in the company, but that doesn’t mean people will automatically love his rivals. You have to give people reasons to love them, and all they’ve done is tell us Apollo Crews doesn’t matter. Maybe they can get Adonis Creed to compete in this match. At least we know stuff about his character from them movie last year.

Winner and Still WWE Intercontinental Champion: The Miz (because there would be absolutely zero pop for an Apollo Crews win here, so why not save it for when they actually try to get him over?)

Kurt: As much as Smackdown has admirably tried to resuscitate Crews’ standing, I still don’t buy him as a top guy of any sorts. I hate to say it, but he’s bland. I was hoping that being paired with someone like The Miz, who has actually had his career resuscitated this year, would bring out a new side of Crews. Yet, it was not meant to be. Some of the social media posts that The Miz has posted to promote this match have been funny and would’ve been nice to bring to TV. However, it feels like even on a show that doesn’t have a large roster and thus should be able to spend extra time on a program for the IC Title, this match is nothing more than an afterthought.

The worst thing they could do is change the title in a filler match. If they’re determined to have Crews be a top guy for the brand, extend this program out and make Crews chase the title longer. Let the crowd get behind him more. I’m going to predict they go that route, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they went ahead and pulled the trigger on a Crews title reign.

Winner: Apollo Crews by disqualification so Miz retains title (I would have Maryse get involved in the finish somehow; she’s a great asset to The Miz)

Mike: Apollo Crews is a prime example of being careful what you wish for. He was very good in NXT, but has fizzled since his call up to the main roster because there’s very little to his character. He shows up, smiles, does a couple power moves, and is eliminated from your recollection forever. The Miz, meanwhile, has been stuck in neutral since the brand split. He was doing some very good work as champion prior to that, but now has once more been reduced to a talk show host who’s there to get laid out by Randy Orton or whoever else the company really wants to push. Booking your Intercontinental champion to get owned by Orton five seconds into your split? Not the logical way to build a star.

This one comes down to whether you think Crews is the right guy to take the belt from the Miz, since all of his matches tend to end the same way. I haven’t seen anything from Apollo so far that makes me feel the time is right for a title change. Miz can employ his standard chicanery to get the nod, and then Crews can lose it and bring some of that intensity he’s been lacking. Don’t think this feud ends here.

Winner (and still Intercontinental Champion): The Miz

John: It’s the second straight month where The Miz has an Intercontinental Title match against a new opponent (last month was Darren Young) that wasn’t built up that well. Sure, Crews won a triple threat match to earn the title shot. The problem is in the two weeks that followed, they barely did anything with these guys to make me think I should root for Crews or that he is going to beat Miz. Make us care, WWE. Please! A 30 second clip that happened “during commercial” this week on Smackdown is not an encouraging sign.

I think Miz will retain using some cheap tactic (perhaps a distraction from Maryse?) with Crews possibly winning the title in September or October unless they give up on him, which would be a shame.

Winner: The Miz

 

WWE Tag Team Championship: The New Day vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

Matt: I fear we could be seeing the end of The New Day. I have seen the writing on the wall. I figured they’d hold the titles until Summerslam (where they won them a year ago) and drop them to Gallows and Anderson in Brooklyn. Now that the time has arrived, I’m still not ready for it, despite having months to prepare for this possibility.

I think what has me anxious about the whole thing isn’t that they’ll simply lose the titles, but that the group will disband. While I’m hoping Big E returns on Sunday to help them win and retain their WWE World Tag Team Championships, I could easily see him coming out to cost them the belts, or worse, not appearing at all, only to return later as a singles competitor. What an unceremonious demise for The New Day, who have been the shinning beacon of hope in the WWE for the better part of a year. I’ll hope for the best, but I fear the worst for my favourite act in the WWE.

Winners and New WWE Tag Team Champions: Gallows and Anderson (because I guess making testicle jokes for a couple of weeks makes you Tag Team Champs according to Vinny Mac)

Kurt: This match is a victim of WWE not following the KISS philosophy, Keep It Simple, Stupid. The basis of this angle was right. Have Gallows and Anderson show their mean streak, take out one of The New Day members, and even the odds heading into this match. It was even smart to have the person taken out be Big E since he’s the biggest member of the group and would guarantee Gallows and Anderson the size advantage in this match. That’s all they needed to do. Instead, we get “ringpostitis” and then an egg got blown up in a microwave. Really? This was so bad, even The New Day couldn’t salvage it with their brand of entertainment.

This angle should’ve brought both teams to another level, but I think they took a step back. Luckily with this match being in Brooklyn, the crowd will still make this match feel like a big deal. Despite the fact I revealed earlier who I thought would win, let me be very clear, THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO BREAK UP THE NEW DAY. That is literally the worst decision WWE could make right now.

Winners: New Tag Team Champions, Gallows and Anderson via pinfall

Mike: Oh, poor Gallows and Anderson. They were absolute beasts in Japan and have been reduced to the type of really bad comedy skits that WWE does for seemingly their own amusement. If you’d have told me we’d have a feud and title match built out of an angle involving testicles, I’d probably have believed you. It made no sense to split them from AJ Styles, but the hook here is they will have an advantage since Big E won’t be able to participate. One would think this would be the blowoff match for this feud, but it’s not immediately clear where either group will go once it’s finished.

I imagine Big E will be there to seek his revenge, but the time seems right for a title change. New Day has made for excellent champs, but the group’s breakup has been teased a bit and Gallows and Anderson have done everything asked of them. They can turn around and hit the undo button shortly thereafter if they wish, but it would take balls to let G&A reign supreme. Feel free to hire me for your writing staff, WWE.

Winners (and NEW Tag Team Champions): Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson

John: I’ve enjoyed the New Day act for the past year and a half (since they were let loose), but they’re going to lose the titles here and it’s probably going to lead to the end of the group. The thought of that happening has me really sad. It’s just something we have grown accustomed to in wrestling. As good of a group as they are, we know that groups don’t last forever in WWE.

The story going in is that Big E is out because Gallows & Anderson crushed his balls against the ring post. It’s probably going to mean a loss for Woods & Kingston leading to Big E coming back saying he didn’t lose the titles, they did. One or two of them turn heel and that’s a big angle for the rest of they ar. I think the G&A team is really good, plus they have a ready made feud with Enzo & Cass, so the title change makes sense.

Winners and New Tag Team Champions: Gallows & Anderson

 

WWE Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte

Matt: I don’t think there’s much I can say here other than this match will be great. If their match on the first Raw after the draft was any indication of what this match can and should be, then we’re all in for a treat. I was surprised they gave away the moment of Sasha winning the belt for free on Raw, but that must mean that they have something great planned for this match.

These two women will deliver in every sense of the word. I hope they go out there and try to steal the show. The crowd in attendance might not get to pop for Sasha capturing the title on Sunday, but I’m confident that Charlotte and Sasha will give us plenty to pop for.

Winner and Still WWE Women’s Champion: Sasha Banks (because I don’t see what putting the belt back on Charlotte accomplishes)

Kurt: This is a tough spot for these two ladies. Not only do they have pressure to try and top their Raw classic, but they have to do it in a match that is far more predictable than the original was. No one believes Charlotte is going to get the title back. I think Sasha is unnatural as a babyface and would be much more suited as a heel, but the crowd is clearly behind her and would like to see her be the leader of this division. This storyline has been good at times, clunky at others, but it doesn’t matter once they get in the ring.

I have a feeling this match won’t be as good as the original, but WWE will hype it afterwards like it was. I have to think they’ll do something to get another match out of these two, as now that Paige is suspended, there’s not much in the way of credible challengers. (Nia Jax is being groomed, but not there yet.) I foresee Dana Brooke doing something that costs Charlotte the match (even thought Brooke is banned) and then that leads to a Triple Threat match, which provides the bridge to a Dana babyface turn and feud with Charlotte.

Winner: Sasha Banks by submission

Mike: This title match would be on the other side of the intrigue scale, with new champion Sasha Banks defending against the woman she took the title from. While this promises to be very good given the talent involved, it’s pretty clear that WWE is running with Sasha as one of the big faces of their brand.

Charlotte already has a built-in feud waiting with the odd chemistry of her understudy Dana Brooke (who was banned from ringside for this match), so I can’t imagine they go back on things and give her the strap so soon after her loss.

A bigger question than the outcome of this match concerns what will be next for Sasha as champion, and the smart money would be on Nia Jax. Jax has really only handled minor league competition since her call-up, but has a unique look and would be the perfect opponent for Banks. This is the slam dunk of the evening for me. The Boss retains.

Winner (and still Women’s Champion): Sasha Banks

John: It’s pretty rare for challengers to win title rematches, so that’s why most people are going to pick Sasha Banks to retain and I am too. However, it’s interesting to note that on various WWE betting websites (such as Bovada), the odds changed in a major way on Friday with Charlotte becoming the favorite. That could mean nothing, but could also mean that people that know the results bet that way and it changed things. That’s what tends to happen with the betting odds.

Anyway, I’m hoping they get 15 minutes of in-ring time like their Raw title match from last month because if they do it should be great. It may be tough for them to stand out as the best match with so many other great bouts at SummerSlam, but it will likely be outstanding. There may not be as much drama without a title change, though. I’m still going to enjoy it.

Winner: Sasha Banks

 

WWE United States Championship: Rusev vs. Roman Reigns

Matt: After Monday I don’t care to see this match. I don’t think these guys can produce something much better than what they did Monday, and even if they do, I’m just not interested in it. Roman Reigns as US Champ doesn’t do anything for me. Rusev retaining against Reigns would be a big win for him no doubt, but I can’t muster up the energy to care.

Both of these men would have been better off having matches with Sami Zayn. Zayn trying to capture the title from Rusev has way more legs than Roman Reigns attempting the same does. Reigns finally snapping and taking his frustrations out on Sami Zayn leaving to a clash between the two at Summerslam would have been must see programming. Instead Sami’s not on the card and we’re watching these two greasy brutes do battle for the second time in less than a week. Excuse me while I yawn.

Winner and Still WWE United States Champion: Rusev (because if he loses clean twice to Roman in less than a week and drops the title, he loses a lot of credibility)

Kurt: Although I’m not in the camp that says that WWE is just sweeping Roman’s suspension under the rug, it is quite odd to me that they booked Roman to go over clean in a 20-minute match, just six days before the PPV. It’s as if they wanted to ensure Roman came out looking stronger than Rusev after SummerSlam because their PPV match wouldn’t be as long and Rusev is now sure to win. I would like to see Rusev get a decisive win here and make Roman tap to the Accolade, but I don’t see any chance of that happening. Lana will get involved (yes, I know I’m starting out my tenure here with a lot of interference in this show) and exact some sort of revenge for what Roman did to her.

I think it makes sense for this program to continue past SummerSlam, so I’d have Rusev pick up a cheap win here and then decide down the road if you want Roman to be the one to defeat him, or have Rusev go over strong at the end. It’s undeniable that this program has garnered much better crowd reactions for Roman, so that’s a positive.

Winner: Rusev by pinfall after Lana interference

Mike: What do you do if you’re Vince McMahon and your handpicked successor to John Cena is getting booed every night before serving a substance suspension? You stash him in the middle of the card and pretend nothing has changed. Roman Reigns has gone back to essentially where he was before, looking dominant and picking up wins to close out weekly shows. Reigns has also been bested by Finn Balor since his return and seen the spot we assumed he’d occupy go to someone else. Think of it as Titan Tower’s equivalent of a timeout.

One person who’s had a big rub since the split is Rusev, who’s gotten plenty of camera time and been booked fairly solidly as US champ. One would think Reigns crushes Rusev here, but nothing is ever so simple. I think WWE needs the Bulgarian Brute to keep growing as a dominant heel, and I’m not convinced they are ready to hand Roman a belt after his faux pas. Reigns doesn’t have to lose clean, but he will lose here in my opinion. He’ll have to wait a little longer to reclaim his catbird seat.

Winner (and still United States Champion): Rusev

John: After they were on Raw for nearly an hour if you include the segments before the really long main event, I’ve had enough of this rivalry already. I feel bad for saying that because going into this match I was mildly excited. I just think it was a mistake to do such a long, non-title match on Raw that Reigns won clean. I also think they did that match so they can have Rusev retain here. Clean win? Probably not. It may be a DQ finish too, but Rusev finds a way to leave with the title.

Winner by disqualification: Roman Reigns (Rusev retains the title)

 

John Cena vs. AJ Styles

Matt: Looking back to when AJ first turned heel by attacking Cena and forming The Club with his pals Gallows and Anderson, I couldn’t have imagined how much AJ would thrive on the villainous side of the ledger. His promos vastly improved, he coined a great catchphrase in “Beat Up John Cena” and he’s catapulted himself into conversation of WWE MVPs for 2016.

John Cena has been great in his own right. He has played a great hero to Styles’ bad guy, and despite a couple of hiccups, has managed to mostly put over AJ’s undeniable ability. They have been perfect foils for one another, and I can honestly say I wasn’t quite sure how they’d match up when this all began.

I’m probably looking forward to this match the most on Sunday night. I expect it to be better than their first match, which was really, really good. Both guys thrive on a big stage and they will undoubtedly deliver the goods.

Winner: AJ Styles (because giving him a decisive win sets up for a WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match in the near future)

Kurt: It really should be as simple as, “John Cena is going to film American Grit season two after this, so AJ will win.” It’s just never that simple with Cena, though. After what we saw with the Kevin Owens storyline, and the fact that it’s John Cena period, there’s the doubt that lingers that Super Cena will rise from the ashes once more and add AJ to his list of competitors that just could never be booked to go over on him. AJ has made Cena up his game, especially on the mic, but KO made Cena up his game as well, and that got him nowhere. Not to mention that AJ hasn’t exactly been protected as of late, and you can see where my hesitation to pick AJ comes from.

I’m going to be an optimist and hope for the best. AJ is the one who will be on all the live events moving forward, he’ll be a top contender for either Dean or Dolph, and Smackdown DESPERATELY needs a top star. Not only that, but with the news now that Smackdown will lose Alberto Del Rio for 30 days, that is a glaring hole on the heels side of things. They need a top HEEL star. With no Club by his side, now is the time to let AJ really shine and show WWE what everyone else already knows.

Winner: AJ Styles by pinfall

Mike: It sort of feels like AJ and John have been feuding forever even though they haven’t. One thing that is not at all in doubt is that this will be a very good match. Both men have shown a propensity to rise to the occasion and both rarely disappoint in a big match situation. What may be very much in doubt is the outcome.

While Cena would appear to have an advantage historically in this rubber match, a couple of factors work against him here. One is that he’s expected to be taking some time off again in order to film a second season of American Grit (yeah, I didn’t believe it either). Another is that if you assume Dean Ambrose is walking out of SummerSlam as champion, he needs a top heel to feud with going forward and Styles fits the bill. AJ and John haven’t seen the last of each other by any stretch, but this new and improved Cena isn’t above giving someone a rub for the right reasons. It will truly be a different day for WWE if AJ gets the upper hand here, and that’s a good thing.

Winner: AJ Styles

John: I’ve been torn on this prediction for a month now. Styles should win so that he can be lined up as the next WWE Title contender, but do I really think he’s going to beat Cena twice in PPV matches? No. Styles won at Money in the Bank in singles in what was a cheap victory and then Cena pinned him in the six-man tag at Battleground. A six-man tag doesn’t mean things are even, though. Then there’s Cena leaving for a couple of months to film American Grit like he did last fall. No specific date has been announced for that, which makes me think they have another match at Backlash with a stipulation that sees Styles as the winner.

I’m pretty excited about this in terms of match quality. They have worked together a lot in the last couple of months, so the chemistry should be there. I think it’s going to be one of the longest matches of the show and should be one of the best matches of the year. In the end, I’ll go with Cena although I’d really like to be wrong about that.

Winner: John Cena


 

WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler

Matt: If there’s one thing I’ll give this match credit for, it’s the fact that it’s pretty fresh. If you asked me a few months ago whether either of these guys would be in this position on this card, I would have been very skeptical. In that sense, the brand split is already paying off, with guys being given opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have been afforded.

The thing that I’ve appreciated most about this feud on Smackdown has been that it has allowed Dean Ambrose to embrace a more serious side of his character. I was never a fan of the goofy, loony toons version of Dean. With him playing the role of antagonist to Dolph, he has really gotten to show his chops on the microphone. He’s delivered some of the most thought provoking promos of his career in the last few weeks between cutting Dolph down, calling him a whiner, and informing him that winning the title won’t be the solution to his problems, but the start of them. He’s really sold that Dolph doesn’t fully understand what it takes to capture the belt.

Dolph has been good as well. Sure he’s flubbed a line or two, and he’s relied a little too heavily on his “I’m delivering a really passionate promo” voice, but with all that said, he’s played his role very well and the go home segment between the two on MizTV on Tuesday was great.

At the end of the day, there isn’t a guy in the WWE that has been booked stronger than Dean Ambrose in the last few months. He has really shown that he has a star quality about him, and has been booked as such. I don’t expect that to end on Sunday.

Winner and Still WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Dean Ambrose (because you don’t win the much anticipated Shield Triple Threat and then lose to Dolph Ziggler)

Kurt: I wish I could say the combination of Ambrose’s awkward appearance on Stone Cold’s podcast and the fact that Ziggler has rejuvenated his career with some tremendous promos, would somehow create a formula to where Dolph walks out of SummerSlam as the WWE Champion. However, this match has two things going against it. One, they won’t have a title change here because the Raw brand is guaranteed to crown a new champion, and you don’t want this match to steal any of that thunder. Secondly, despite all the efforts they’ve made to make Ziggler credible again, it’s just not enough yet. Ziggler’s promo on Smackdown this past week may have been the promo of the year so far, it was that good. It’s just too little, too late. Had they done that promo and then this match was three or four weeks down the road, I think you could’ve built some real momentum for Ziggler at that point. Since they waited until the last minute though, I don’t think anyone bought it, which is a real shame.

I know Ziggler is going to want to legitimately steal the show with this match and not just have it be a tagline for a t-shirt anymore. Ambrose is going to want to go step for step with Ziggler and match his intensity, which will ensure this match is at least four stars, getting close to five territory. If there was one positive from Ambrose’s interview with Austin, it’s that he does care about his in ring product. He wants to leave a mark. This match with Ziggler will give him that opportunity. I really think this could be a Mankind/HBK Mind Games type match, where it was an odd/thrown together match, but will be remembered fondly for years to come.

Winner: Dean Ambrose by pinfall

Mike: This title match is an enigma because it features a challenger that nobody saw coming. I am a huge fan of Dolph’s work and actually really like where this angle has taken him, right to the edge of becoming a darker heel type. The issue is that I can’t shake from my mind that this same guy was trying and failing to overcome Baron Corbin for the better part of the last six months. It’s very hard to buy Dolph as championship material because the company has mismanaged him for so long. That’s not his fault, of course, but it can’t help but factor into the forecast for this match.

As for Ambrose, the jury is out on him as well. It was a major coup for him to land the premier spot on Smackdown, going in as World champion, and there is little doubt he garners major fan reaction every time he shows up. Does the WWE truly believe he’s world champion material, however? That answer is a bit more muddled, but he’s at least getting a very prolonged bite at the apple. Smackdown is a bit short on top heels, and got shorter still when Alberto Del Rio was suspended. Bray Wyatt is conveniently not involved in anything on this card, and that might give you more than a clue on where the champion will go from here. I have not a shred of doubt that Ziggler and Ambrose will put on one hell of a show Sunday. Unfortunately, from a booking point of view, I’m equally certain that Ziggler will not be leaving with gold around his waist.

Winner (and still World Heavyweight Champion): Dean Ambrose

John: The build for this match has been really good. I think it’s been better than the major title on Raw too. I’m still going to pick Ambrose to retain the title because I feel like he’s going to have a few more months with the gold, but I like the way Ziggler has been built up as a credible threat. For most of the year, Ziggler was booked poorly. In the last month they figured out how to use him the right way and I hope that continues for him.

I’m very interested in seeing what happens with Ziggler after the loss. They could easily turn him heel and continue the feud that way. The Smackdown roster is need of some heels anyway, so having this rivalry move forward with Ziggler in a heel role could benefit both guys. I’m not sure if he will turn heel, but I think it would be the best thing for him long term.

This will probably go 15-20 minutes, lots of nearfalls for both guys and maybe kicking out of finishing moves too. In the end, I expect Ambrose to retain the gold.

Winner: Dean Ambrose


 

WWE Universal Championship: Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor

Matt: The WWE, at least in my humble opinion, have booked themselves into a bit of a pickle with this match right here. I’m not talking about the absurdity of giving away The Demon King on Raw despite the fact that in his entire time on NXT I can’t recall him ever donning the paint other than at the Takeover Specials (which makes what happened on Raw even more ridiculous). The pickle they’ve found themselves in is in regard to who wins this match.

You see, they’re in a bit of a catch 22 here. If Finn wins, the fans could turn on him, seeing this as too much too soon. He’s had two matches on the main roster and becomes Monday Night Raw’s top Champion. I really like the guy, but the sheer speed of that rise to the top would make me feel like he didn’t earn it. That said, if he loses, you kind of undercut the specialness of The Demon King alter ego, which should seem like a big deal, but simply won’t be if he loses the first time we see it. Thus the aforementioned pickle.

Don’t get me wrong, the match should be outstanding. Both of these guys can go, as they’ve proven countless times in various forums. Seth or Finn would both be great inaugural WWE Universal Champions. With that said either Finn becomes the guy too soon, or The Demon King loses his lustre on night one regardless of how hard fought the bout is.

The only way to have everything, would be to book a double turn here. Have Rollins lose due to outside interference from Gallows and Anderson, who reform the Club with a heel Finn Balor. Seth turns babyface and chases the villainous Champion Balor, who is flanked by his bald brethren. Maybe Seth can reunite with his boys The New Day to do battle with The Club. I’m just spit balling here.

Winner and the FIRST WWE UNIVERSAL Champion: Seth Rollins (because I don’t think the WWE has it in them to book a monumental double turn in this spot. They love the status quo, regardless of how it defangs The Demon King persona)

Kurt: I had some reservations about this match heading into this past Monday’s Raw, but they were all squashed after that fantastic in-ring segment between the two of them. Rollins was money on the mic, and then the debut of Balor as The Demon was done perfectly. I know some people are complaining that they gave away the entrance for free, and that doesn’t make much sense. To those, I’d say you’re right, but this situation is different. That entrance is so spectacular, and so unlike anything we’ve ever seen, I think it actually convinced people to order the Network just to see it again. Not to just see it again, but also to see what he does in the ring once he becomes that persona.

This match should be given the most time out of any on the show. Give them 25 minutes at least, and have them leave every jaw on the ground in that arena and watching at home. Both men have a very strong case as to why they should win the title, which makes it very hard to choose. I’ve got to think that WWE is aware that they’re on to something with Balor. He’s unlike most anything we’ve ever seen. He arrived looking like a star, he carries himself like a star, and the fans treat him like a star. In a day and age where you have a lot of great talent, but not many transcendent stars… now is the time to create one of those transcendent stars. Finn Balor can be that guy. Establish the new title with a new star and really give this “new era” some momentum.

Winner: Finn Balor is the first WWE Universal Champion

Mike: Goofy name aside, this match is a very big deal for the WWE. I hesitate to say that their future is at stake, but this encounter will go a long way indeed toward defining the brand moving forward. Balor and his Demon King persona got the royal treatment upon arrival on the main roster, getting the duke over some very established talent and being picked very high in the brand split draft. The bulk of the viewing audience seems to both like and respond to him, and that’s of maximum importance as the company tries to get more eyeballs glued to their Network. Having all of that hoopla extinguished courtesy of losing to Seth Rollins seems like a bit of a stretch from that perspective.

All of that being said, this is the WWE and I’m not completely convinced they are sold on Balor just yet. Rollins has shown vast improvement since the start of his solo run, and there’s plenty more story to be told in regards to his “break” from the Authority. I can’t help but feel that has been kept on the back burner only to be brought back out in time for next year’s WrestleMania. Rollins looks beatable but that’s always been part of his shtick, and oddly Balor coming out on top Monday only furthers my sneaking suspicion that Finn is not getting the call on SummerSlam Sunday. There is a school of thought that Finn must win in order to remain credible, but I dispute it. These two will put on one hell of a match and there are plenty of ways to end it without booking Balor to lose clean. One face champion and one heel champion representing the two brands makes the most sense to me. Rollins finds a way to get it done in the match of the night.

Winner (and first ever Universal Champion): Seth Rollins

John: I’m in the camp of those that think if you have Balor debut the “Demon King” look in a main roster match for the first time and he loses then you are hurting his character right off the bat. On the other hand, it does seem smarter to put new title on the more established guy in terms of main roster credibility. That’s why it’s a tough match to predict and that’s what we like to see too. Easy matches to predict can be boring. This one will be very interesting.

As for the match, I’m really excited about it. They match up very well in terms of size, style in the ring, the moves that they do and the amount of credible moves they have. There are going to be a lot of believable nearfalls in this match. Rollins is supposed to be a heel, but it’s not like he acts like a heel that much and I think the Brooklyn crowd is going to cheer both guys for much of this match. It may be the longest match of the night at 20+ minutes too.

I’m going with Balor because I think WWE knows that Rollins will be fine whether he wins or loses. This is one of the biggest shows of the year, so it makes sense to put Balor over huge. I think Rollins will get the title soon, but not yet. Balor wins.

Winner and the first WWE Universal Champion: Finn Balor


 

Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton

Matt: Can I be real with you guys? I’m losing interest in Brock Lesnar. I know, I know, he’s a legitimate star and mainstream attraction. He’s one of the most legitimate threats inside a WWE ring. Unfortunately, I don’t follow the UFC much, if at all, and his mainstream appeal doesn’t do much for me by way of his narrative exploits within the television universe of WWE.

I know I’m supposed to be excited that he’s even there. His presence is a present for us wrestling fans, right? Well its a gift that has gotten noticeably repetitive. Show up, stand while Paul talks, suplex guys, leave for months. Rinse and repeat.

I loved what Dean said about his Wrestlemania match with Brock, because it echoed everything that I’ve been thinking for a little while. Brock is artistically lazy. He does the bare minimum, in the ring and within the narrative for the WWE. As a guy that enjoys the art of storytelling, its frustrating to watch him. It’s even more frustrating to see what has happened over the last few days to Paige, Eva and Alberto all getting suspended for their Wellness Policy Violations, and where Roman in on this card due to his Violation last month, yet Brock is featured prominently, in one the most hyped matches on this card, despite a pair a violations stemming from his UFC bout last month. You might say I’m a little disenchanted with Brock Lesnar. I get why people see him as larger than life, but if I’m being honest, I frankly find him artistically dull.

I hope Brock is motivated to deliver a great match that is more than a series of suplexes, followed by a stretch where he is in peril due to his arrogant approach during the match, but ultimately staves off a valiant effort by his underdog opponent eventually defeating them while only using punches, suplexes, a kimura lock and the F-5. The formula is getting transparent. Randy can work and I really want to enjoy this match. Despite my growing disenchantment with Brock, I’m hoping they knock it outta the park.

Winner: Brock Lesnar (because it’s unlikely he sees any negative repercussion for his failed drug tests, despite several other going down because of theirs)

Kurt: Let me start by saying that even though Orton is one of my top two all time favorite wrestlers, that “Viperville” line he kept delivering was so corny, it almost took me out of this match completely. There have been rumblings going back as far as WrestleMania 29 that Orton didn’t want to get into the ring with Lesnar, feeling that him being injury prone and Lesnar being unsafe at times, was a bad combination. Whatever changed, I’m happy it did because I think this can honestly be one of Lesnar’s best match ever and also a bit of a career renaissance for Orton.

Orton’s psychology in big matches like this is unparalleled and I think if you combine that with what should be a pissed off and motivated Lesnar, this should be a sight to see. Whether or not Lesnar “gives a shit” in his own words, about his drug testing results in UFC, the fact that Dean Ambrose publicly called him lazy and uncreative, or even Heath Slater’s kids, I still feel Lesnar is going to come into this match wanting to prove a point that he’s the biggest box office attraction in WWE for a reason.

This match should close the show, and that’s not a slight at the two title matches, just a fact that this match really is that big in the grand scheme of things. It’s a tricky match to pick, because much in the vein of AJ vs. Cena, after this match is over it’s going to be Orton as the one who will be at all the live events and being one of the top two babyfaces along with Ambrose. So he needs the win just to protect the brand. Of course, predicting Lesnar to lose a match is like predicting a Zack Ryder push being sustained. It COULD happen, but ultimately you know it won’t.

If Lesnar is going to lose, this would be the perfect spot for him. Orton is a credible opponent, and WWE could spin it that Lesnar was distracted by his UFC venture, etc. We won’t see Lesnar again until Royal Rumble probably, so that gives him time to get beefed up again (don’t act like you didn’t notice how much smaller he is now), and come back even more angry and vengeful. I’m going out on a limb with this one, but God help me if Orton proceeds to tell everyone for the next few months how he took Brock to Viperville.

Winner: Randy Orton by pinfall

Mike: No match has more intrigue than this one, and it’s not for any title. A good deal of that has to do with factors outside of the ring, not the least of which was Brock’s failed test while competing for the UFC. While that test in and of itself had nothing to do with World Wrestling Entertainment, it at the very least put them on the defensive and at most made wrestlers openly question the double standard existing within WWE when it comes to part time talent. Lesnar has been booked as a force of nature for quite some time, so it’s hard to imagine that even someone with the standing of the Viper could put him down clean and land that storyline in jeopardy.

There’s also the overshadowing of Goldberg, rumored to be in town to promote the new WWE video game and apparently in theory available to confront Brock Lesnar and atone for the sins of the past. While that is strictly conjecture, WWE has quietly pushed the idea and it would be an ideal way to hand Lesnar the loss while still protecting his image. Orton is himself returning from an extended absence and could ill afford to take the loss here. I am of a mind that WWE may not have always intended for Orton to win this match, but this combination of happenstance and unforced errors has to some degree led to a changing of the guard. Lesnar needs to serve his time for getting a substantial amount of egg on WWE’s face, and this allows for a big shock value moment that they can play off of until Survivor Series. It also would reinforce the idea that Smackdown is the better brand, which has been a tough sell indeed so far. Viperville is the lamest name for a location I can think of, but it’s going to claim a surprising tourist this weekend.

Winner: Randy Orton

John: I’m pretty excited for this match because it’s fresh. I think I’ve said that a few times in this preview, which is a good thing. We don’t know what kind of match they are going to have. To change it up a bit, here are some questions with some quick answers.

Is Lesnar going to sell much? I hope so because when he gave Ambrose very little at WrestleMania it was a boring match, but when he has competitive matches he’s very good.

Will Orton take 10+ German suplexes like John Cena did two years ago? I have my doubts that it will be that many, but you never know.

Will they kick out of finishing moves? I expect that to happen a few times.

Will the crowd side with one guy over another? It will probably be split because the crowd loves chanting “Suplex City” for Lesnar and also “RKO” for Orton.

Is it going to be the last match? I feel like it should be just based on the importance of the match, but it wouldn’t shock me if Rollins/Balor goes last to establish the new Universal Title or if Ambrose/Ziggler went last since it’s for the WWE Title.

In terms of the match result, I’ve leaned both ways in the last couple of weeks. After Brock Lesnar was announced as using PED’s leading up to his UFC 200 fight, I feel like WWE is embarrassed a bit. They’re not going to suspend him because they said they are against drug testing part timers, but they can send a message by having Orton win this match. It’s Orton that is a full time performer and he’s a big enough name that fans would believe it if he beat Lesnar.

I’m going with Lesnar for the win because I think WWE wants to keep building him up as a big deal. He’s the biggest draw they have at this point, so booking him to lose could be damaging. I think it’s going to be a very competitive match that is going to be great, but in the end it’s Lesanr that gets the win with a third F5.

Winner: Brock Lesnar


For more of my in-depth thoughts on Lesnar vs. Orton and the rest of the show, check out my exclusive SummerSlam article on TheComeback.com as well.

You can also listen to the TJRWrestling Podcast for this week with myself and my co-host Rey that includes talking about all WWE topics including a SummerSlam preview.

For iTunes search “TJRWrestling” or go here for other ways of listening.

 

Final Thoughts

John: I think it’s going to be an awesome show. As I’ve said in the weeks leading up to SummerSlam, the television shows haven’t been that great, but the matches are going to be outstanding. We don’t have to deal with poorly written dialogue or stupid skits during matches. It’s a chance for this talented roster to show what they can do in the ring. I’m most excited about Rollins/Balor, Lesnar/Orton and Cena/Styles in that order, but there are really six or seven matches that I would say have a chance to be outstanding.

I’ll end it by saying that if SummerSlam isn’t the best WWE PPV this year (so far) I’ll be very surprised.

Check out my SummerSlam review live on Sunday night on TJRWrestling.net or check it out after the show is over.

Matt – @MJDP_GSE

Mike – @DharmanRockwell

Kurt – @KTankTMB

John – @johnreport

If you want to send an email, send it to me at mrjohncanton@gmail.com as well. Thanks for reading.