The previous ten matches featured those that will likely be in the opening two hours of SummerSlam, and featured in the 90-minute NXT special on Wednesday. These ten matches are the top-attractions of the weekend. Let’s see how they measure up…
NXT – TYLER BREEZE vs JUSHIN “THUNDER” LIGER
What it is: It’s the “other” great superstar in the NXT nine. Tyler Breeze is the one who doesn’t get a lot of title shots. He’s never gone one-on-one for the top prize on a big special. He’s usually the guy who you beat in order to challenge for the title. But as a character, he’s on point. As a performer, though he’s not flashy he’s mastered the “WWE Style” and has been able to work matches with opponents of all sizes and styles. His opponent this time is a legend in wrestling. Jushin Liger used to be seen every Monday night on Nitro, tearing the house down in a throwaway cruiserweight match, or stealing the show on some random Halloween Havoc. He was lightning fast, agile as hummingbird, and one of the most “crisp” wrestlers in Japanese wrestling history.
Why it’s special: Because how could it not be? The announcement was so unexpected. It opened up so many possibilities for future NXT shows. Might there be more legends coming in to work with the (touring) NXT brand? If Thunder Liger can drop in for a Takeover match, why not Ultimo Dragon (whose first WWE run was beyond forgettable)? Why not Vader? Granted, Liger is not the same spry young cruiserweight he was in the old days, but he’s still going to put on a great match. He’s not signed any contract, and so this is likely a one-off appearance, but it will be a memorable one.
What should happen: Liger should flip and spin and go all out, and then drop to the mat via a Beauty Shot for the 1-2-3. As cool as it will be to see him, he’s not there to get himself over. He’s there to help Tyler Breeze look like a million and one bucks.
SO OF COURSE…
WWE – RYBACK vs MIZ vs BIG SHOW
What it is: It’s the match we were “deprived” of last month, because God remembered that Ryback was holding the cursed Intercontinental Championship and promptly struck him with leprosy or something. He’s all healed up now, which means GOOD NEWS we get to do the match here! Ryback’s the champ whose character is wanting to feed on the flesh of his victims, and also share his life story about how wrestling gave him a purpose and how the IC title means so much to him because it’s his first title and blah blah blah blah blah. Miz is the guy who is secretly one of the most entertaining acts in the company, but because he’s the Miz no one wants to admit it. The fact is, he’s very very good at Sports Entertainment. It’s when he takes off his sockless loafers, white hoodie thing and sunglasses, and actually steps into a wrestling ring in his underwear that he suddenly stops looking the part. Big Show is old, tired and broken down. The crowd doesn’t care anymore, and hasn’t since…2000.
Why it’s special: Uh…because when I said that Randy Orton vs Sheamus would be the only bathroom break of the show, I totally forgot this match was happening. So there you go. Bathroom breaks are special.
What should happen: Big Show should win so that the cursed IC title can finally put his career out of its misery. Or maybe Ryback should retain and miss the next six months with serious hemorrhoids. Or maybe Miz should win but refuse to accept it, leaving the title in limbo because its more dangerous than the freaking Babadook. Either way, someone has to win, so at least its one of these losers who’ll take the prize.
SO OF COURSE…
NXT – BARON CORBIN vs SAMOA JOE
What it is: It’s the Baron Corbin vs Rhyno match, only this “Rhyno” has a future in WWE, whereas the original Rhyno only had a past in it. That makes the match have a little more intrigue. Baron Corbin is the “lone wolf:” A lanky, pudgy-bellied, “monster” heel who thinks he’s better than the nerd wrestlers from Ring of Honor, because he’s a real athlete who has done real athlete stuff. Too bad this isn’t one of those shows. Too bad for him this is a wrestling show, and too bad that his wrestling skills are limited to punching, clothslining and hitting his finisher. Samoa Joe is the newcomer to NXT. It seemed like he was next in line for a title feud with Kevin Owens but Owens was called up to the main roster earlier than expected and that threw a lot of plans for a loop. Joe’s kind of been meandering in NXT since his debut, lacking any direction suitable for a performer of his stature. At the very least, a feud with a rising superstar on the show is something to work with.
Why it’s special: Because Joe isn’t Rhyno. That was a match whose finish was obvious: The vet puts over the rising star. That’s the story Breeze and Liger are telling. With this matchup you have a young talent still establishing himself, and a vet who has established himself and was brought in to be a major player. Corbin hasn’t taken many losses (maybe two since his character took off). Joe hasn’t lost clean at all. NXT doesn’t do dusty finishes. Something’s gotta give. Like with Cesaro vs Owens, the intrigue of the match is that both guys need the win and neither really needs to lose. Those are the kind of matches you can sit back and just enjoy.
What should happen: Samoa Joe needs to win. He’s got more immediate upside and a loss in a high profile match might kickoff the second phase of Baron Corbin’s character. It’s win-win for both parties. If Corbin wins, he’s beating a big big name opponent. He’d almost have to move into the NXT title picture, and on a technical level he’s not ready for that. Joe winning would be a surprise only superficially; he beats an “unbeatable” baddie. But he’s a good guy; that’s what they do. He can beat Corbin and either continue the feud, move on to another feud with a similar class of opponent, or move to the title picture. There’s much more flexibility, booking-wise, in a Joe win.
SO OF COURSE…
WWE – STARDUST & THE COSMIC KING vs GREEN ARROW AND HIS SIDEKICK NEVILLE
What it is: It’s the WWE’s embracing of their “ironically hip” status. Stardust is the whacked out Cody Rhodes persona who is more “Frank Gorshin Riddler” than he is the “Goldust wannabe” he started out as. Wade Barrett is his tag partner, the poor soul who can’t seem to find a winning gimmick, or if he can, can’t seem to keep from having it taken away from him. He’s in this match because this has to be a tag match. Green Arrow can’t go toe-to-toe with Stardust in singles competition. Neville is thrown in for the same purpose. All nuance to his NXT character is gone. Now he’s just Evan Bourne with more of a kick-based offense, and an even twirlier finishing move. The Wildcard here is Green Arrow (actor Stephen Amell). It’s not expected he’ll do much more than get the hot tag and brawl for a minute before tagging back out. After that he’ll probably have a big moment on the sideline and then get involved in the finish of the match…
Why it’s special: Because unlike most celebrity matches, this time the celeb is not an ancillary figure. He’s feuding directly with the heel. Often there is a heel vs babyface feud going on and the celeb gets caught in the middle, siding with the face and helping him (or her) win the match. Here the driving force behind the match is Stardust vs Amell. Therefore…
What should happen: Amell should pin Stardust. That’s the only natural conclusion to the story. They’re not building to a Hell in a Cell match or anything. This is it. You have to jump right to the final chapter. Good guy wins. In this case Green Arrow is the good guy. He can’t conquer the henchman. He has to defeat the big bad.
SO OF COURSE…
NXT – BAMF vs VAUDEVILLAINS
What it is: It’s the Tag Title match no one expected, or really wanted, but now everyone seems pretty jazzed about. BAMF (the Blake, Alexa, Murphy Factor) have done great work going from generic nobody tag team and generic princess female, to one of the most annoying teams in WWE. I won’t say they’re hated (though Alexa Bliss is close) but they are…appropriately disliked. The Vaudvillains started out as a babyface team that got “good” reactions. Their gimmick was quirky enough to work and their entrance was always a hoot, but as performers they never really connected. Then they turned heel and won over a little more of the crowd. Then they sort of slipped back into being babyfaces right around the time everyone was gearing up for an Enzo and Cass title run. That run never happened and instead the Vaudvillains will fight for the prize. Even when they were named #1 contenders, the crowd never really got behind them (probably because everyone thought Enzo and Cass were still going to end up in the title match), until…
Why it’s special: Because of Alexa Bliss vs the mystery partner of the Vaudvillains. While the Vaudvillains struggled to connect with the crowd, Bliss took the feud on her shoulders, embracing her heel turn and carried the feud to the Takeover finish line. She’s almost entirely the reason why anyone is excited about this match. The Vaudvillains have promised a female equalizer and if it’s who fans are hoping it is, it will be special indeed.
What should happen: Vaudvillains should team up with Blue Pants. Because why not. She’s bright and colorful and modern, and they are sepia toned and old timey and classical. You can bring her out like a turn of the century (the 20th century) vaudeville lady if you want. I don’t care. It doesn’t have to be a permanent partnership, but it can be the springboard to a Bliss vs Blue feud that would have fans giddy. Do it. As for the finish: Blake and Murphy retain. That seems the wise choice. The big payoff they’re setting the fans up for is not the Vaudvillains winning, it’s the Vaudevillans’ partner. Once she’s revealed, the heels can steal a win so long as Bliss gets got.
SO OF COURSE…
WWE – 2/3 SHIELD vs 2/3 WYATT FAMILY
What it is: It’s the rekindling of the feud that spawned the best match of the year at Elimination Chamber 2014. Except that the feud itself was already rekindled between Wyatt and Ambrose in the back half of 2014, and before that the Shield and Wyatts had plenty of rematches that failed to live up to the greatness of the original instant-classic. This time we have one missing component from each team and everyone else is much more wounded than they were in February of last year. Wyatt is damaged goods from his feud with Cena, Reigns is still (slowly) recovering from acute onset of “Vince McMahon overpush,” Harper split with Bray, then split with Eric Rowen, then reteamed with Rowen, then lost Rowen then reteamed with Bray. He’s been everywhere but really nowhere for the past twelve months. Ambrose could be as big as Austin, but he never will be because no one over there has a clue what to do with him.
Why it’s special: It isn’t. For all the things I just stated, this match is a dead duck. Other than Ambrose there’s no one the crowd is crazy for.
What should happen: Other than Ambrose, there’s no one the crowd is crazy for. So Ambrose should win the match, beating Bray Wyatt (which he’s never done) and going on a run that leads to his winning the rumble and winning the title at WrestleMania. Why not? He’s one of the few the crowd organically loves.
SO OF COURSE…
NXT – APOLLO CREWS vs TYE DILLINGER
What it is: It’s the debut of the guy sure to be the next big thing in NXT. First Neville left, then the injures took Hideo Itami and Sami Zayn, plus Kevin Owens is soon to depart. All of that happening in such close succession (to say nothing of poor Alex Riley’s injurlol I’m just joshin’ ya) means NXT needs some new blood. And since Samoa Joe is busy…with…Baron Corbin…it falls on the former Uhaa Nation to be the next guy up to bat.
Why it’s special: Because he’s going to be a WWE World Heavyweight Champion within the next four years. What’s more special than seeing his first match? He’s big, athletic, agile, skilled in the ring and has great charisma. He needs a little polish on the stick and unfortunately he’s not the tallest guy out there, but he’s got a lot of what Vince loves, and I think he’s going to love this guy. If you’ve never seen him, I think you are too.
What should happen: This isn’t even a guess. Apollo goes over. Tye Dillinger is too good to be used as fodder but someone had to do it and Elias Sampson was busy. Tye will be fine though; his “Perfect 10” gimmick just started and within a month no one will remember that he lost to Apollo. But people will be talking about Apollo. He’s the real deal and he’s going to start things off right with a win.
SO OF COURSE…
WWE – TEAM BELLAS vs TEAM PCB vs TEAM BAD
What it is: It’s the main roster version of the Divas revolution. It’s nine ladies, only five of them relevant, competing in a nine-diva, three-team, one-fall to an elimination, tag match. There’s Team Bellas: Led by Divas Champion Nikki (okay wrestler when motivated; only motivated when booked to win), along with Brie (bad wrestler, tries hard; still bad wrestler) and Alicia Fox (okay wrestler, tries hard; coming off of injury). There’s team PCB, led by Paige (the first of the NXT ladies to matter), Charlotte (Flair’s daughter who is very good but not great, but will be pushed to the moon because of obvious reasons) and Becky Lynch (the one everyone secretly loves, so Vince likely hates). And then there’s team BAD, which they tell me is led by Naomi (okay wrestler, rumored to have an attitude problem with all these new Divas taking her spot), along with Sasha Banks (hearts, hugs, kisses, the best, the baddest, the boss; deserving of a top 3 spot in PWI’s top 500 wrestlers of the year) and bringing up the rear is Tamina (horrible, bad, dangerous, stop Tamina stop).
Why it’s special: It’s not. There’s no motivation. There’s no goal. There’s no reason for any of it. It’s just arbitrarily assigned teams fighting for no reason other than the fact that the other teams are “opposing” teams. No title is on the line. No title shot is up for grabs. It’s meaningless. It’s the same “girls fighting because all girls hate each other” nonsense we’ve gotten for years and years only this time with a few better athletes in the fray.
What should happen: Everybody should just stop. The WWE Divas should all go to NXT to train under Sara Del Ray. The NXT Divas should stay on Raw and run the division under Triple H’s oversight, free from any input from Vince McMahon (or any lackey thereof). Give them one-two segments on Raw per week, let them build characters with specific motivations, goals and obstacles to overcome, treat them like actual thinking human beings, and let the real revolution actually take course. That’s what you should do.
SO OF COURSE…
NXT – SASHA BANKS vs BAYLEY
What it is: It’s the NXT version of the Divas revolution. It’s two ladies, both of them very relevant, competing for the richest prize in women’s wrestling and a championship that means just as much to the fans as the NXT World Championship does. Long-time NXT fans have followed the rise of the women’s division. Though many babyfaces have come and gone the real heart of the group was Bayley. She was the Sami Zayn of the women’s division. She was THE face. On the other side of the coin was Sasha. Other women had their shots before either of them. They were nobodies, used as jobbers until finally they found their identity, found their moment and took their chance. Bayley became the ultimate good
guy gal. The sweetheart who is just happy to be there and excited to see (and HUG!) the WWE superstars who would occasionally stop by NXT to say hello. Sasha was the good, bland nobody who got scooped up by Summer Rae and Charlotte and her Beautiful People stable. Even then she was in the background, until Summer skipped off to Raw and Charlotte won the women’s title. Sasha had her shot at the title but lost at Takeover: R-Evolution. She then scooped up Becky Lynch from babyface obscurity and made her own lap dog out of her. Finally, with the pieces in place, Sasha stole the Women’s title in a brilliant fatal four way match at Takeover: Rival. Since then she has revealed her true colors as an insecure champion who ran from challenges because she never really believed she was good enough: The title was her way to convince others she was “the boss.” Eventually, during the course of her reign, she actually became good enough, and became “THE BO$$,” not just cocky but dominant and brilliant in and out of the ring.
Why it’s special: Because the journey of these two women has been a years-long story. They have crossed paths numerous times, with Sasha once being Bayley’s friend, and then stabbing her in the back to join Summer and Charlotte. Bayley has been trying to capture the Women’s title but has never been able to put it all together. She lost a solo match with Charlotte, then lost the aforementioned fatal four way. She kept getting passed over, until she was literally passed over as the trio of ladies headed up to Raw, leaving Bayley to be taunted by Emma and Dana. She needs to win the title, for all the reasons Sasha needed to win it, except Bayley’s motives and drive never turned her dark. Throughout her journey she has stayed the smiling, hugging, happy Bayley that fans of all stripes know and love.
What should happen: The only logical and right conclusion to this story. Bayley wins. She proves she’s on the same level as Charlotte, Becky and Sasha. All four then embrace and take a bow, signifying the end of the first Divas Revolution. Bayley then feuds with Dana and Emma and carries the torch for a while before joining her old frenemies on Raw.
SO OF COURSE…
WWE – SETH ROLLINS vs JOHN CENA
What it is: It’s the ULTIMATE CHALLENGE! except John Cena is both Warrior and Hogan. Rollins is Dynamite Kid who happened to pick up the belt accidentally one day. Cena’s the US champ, Rollins is the WWE champ. Cena is angry because he says Rollins is disrespecting the title by being such a chump. Everyone else is angry at Vince for that, but Cena’s a TV character so what’re you gonna do. Rollins and Cena have a match, because there’s NOTHING WWE does better than get you hyped for a match on PPV by showing it to you on Raw over and over and over before hand. Rollins breaks Cena’s nose for realsies and Cena has to have emergency surgery. Adding insult to injury, the Rock shows up to visit him at the hospital on his way to grant a Make-a-Wish. I made that last part up. Cena comes back all sassy and mad and says he guarantees he’s going to take the title.
Why it’s special: Because Cena’s having a GREAT year of wrestling matches. There is no doubt this match is going to be incredible. The finish may suck, but the 20 minutes before hand are going to be off the chain. Other than that, this isn’t special. The US/WWE title for title stipulation adds no real intrigue to the match. It’s been said by others a thousand times but had Cena just lost to Owens last month, Owens and Cesaro could be fighting over a title that has a TON of value. Cena could have, as always, shrugged off the loss and gone straight to challenging for the WWE title. Why? Because that’s the perk of being “the face that runs the place.” No one would have batted an eye. Instead the US title sits in limbo, losing value every day it hangs around a WWE title feud. Also, the moment Cena said he would win, the match lost what little drama there was. Cena never loses when he says he’s going to win. He doesn’t always make bold predictions, but when he does, take it to the bank kids, Superman’s gonna win. Doesn’t matter if you’re Edge, Big Show, JBL, Batista, Randy Orton, Kurt Angle, Rusev or Kevin Owens. If he says he’s winning, there’s your finish. The only exception I can imagine is if Cena were to somehow not lose, like say if the title were lost to Sheamus in a cash-in. In that case Cena can claim he had the title won, were it not for extenuating circumstances.
What should happen: I dunno, that maybe? Sheamus cash-in? It would be poetic for Rollins to lose like that, considering how he won the title in the first place. That sets up a three-way feud throughout the fall, and then the title can reset in January in the push toward Mania. Anything other than lolcenawins would be preferable.
SO OF COURSE…
NXT – FINN BALOR vs KEVIN OWENS
What it is: It’s the main event. A rematch from the thrilling Beast in the East contest that saw Finn Balor defeat the unbeaten (in singles competition) Kevin Owens to win the NXT Championship. Since losing, Owens has gone on to lose two in a row to John Cena, and started a new trend of just walking out of matches. He’s mixed in with a feud with Cesaro on the main show, making this rematch feel more like a bit of necessity than a logical next step in the booking process. Both men have done their part to sell the match though. Owens mic work is second to none right now. He’s CM Punk-good. Balor has never been one for talking but right now he’s just playing the “hunted champion” so brooding looks and promises of payback are enough. Plus the fans know what they’re going to get; they’re more than excited to see it.
Why it’s special: Because it’s a ladder match, because it’s Balor vs Owens. Because there’s a little bit of doubt in my mind about the finish. Because Owens has looked too vulnerable as of late, and Balor as “the Demon” has been too unbeatable. Wrestling has a way of eventually balancing those uneven things out. Usually. Not always. That and you know it’s going to be special. It’s the main event of the biggest show in NXT history.
What should happen: Balor retains. Sorry Kevin Owens. Balor retains, feuds with Samoa Joe and then a returning Hideo Itami, at which point he turns heel and shows the world what he really can do.
SO OF COURSE…
WWE – BROCK LESNAR vs UNDERTAKER
What it is: It’s the main event. A rematch from the disappointing WrestleMania 30 contest that saw Brock Lesnar defeat the unbeaten (at WrestleMania) Undertaker to snap the 21-0 winning streak. Since losing Undertaker took a year off, returned at WrestleMania 31 to defeat Bray Wyatt (in a match we’re not supposed to remember I suppose; the way they tell it Taker disappeared after WM30 and rematerialized at the conclusion to Battleground this year). Ratings are down and Vince is having his semi-annual freakout, so he booked a rematch no one was really clamoring for. Taker is working heel, and Paul Heyman is out of his mind right now cutting some of the best promos in the history of the business. They’ve done a good job getting fans to buy into a match they didn’t want. Now it’s up to both men to deliver. This is their chance at a mulligan for the WM30 match that was hampered from the word go by an early Taker concussion. Both guys have the pride to know they can do better than that. Here’s their chance.
Why it’s special: Because the finish is very much in doubt. This is one of those finishes that was decided as soon as the match was booked, because when it was, it was decided whether there would be a third match. We don’t know if that’s the plan or not. If it is, then the logical third match will be at WrestleMania 32, and if that’s the case then Undertaker needs to lose at SummerSlam, to give the retirement stipulation some real weight. If there is no third match planned, and this is just a Vince McMahon bandaid on a SummerSlam he was worried wouldn’t sell, then I can see Taker winning and that being the end of it. With Undertaker playing such a strong heel that points to a loss and a March return asking for a retirement match (which would turn him babyface). But ultimately this is one of those matches with a lot of pre-planning going into the finish.
What should happen: Lesnar wins and don’t even do a rematch. Bring Taker back at Survivor Series this year (25th anniversary of his debut) and cut a promo announcing retirement. Bring out Sting. Challenge for a double-retirement, and just end them both at Mania 32. Move Lesnar over to feud with a natural heel when he returns. Of course, as I said, this is one of those matches that has a long-story in mind. With that said, the only really horrible thing you can do is build up this rematch, after the fans never really asked for it or clamored for it, and then end it in a non-finish of some kind.
SO OF COURSE…
Oh well. There’s always NXT.
See you SATURDAY!