In this day and age you can’t just “predict” a PPV anymore, you have to to account for the capricious whims of WWE’s septuagenarian, sleep-deprived egomaniac owner. You can’t just “preview” a PPV…you have to preview how things should go, in a reasonable and sane world, and then add “so of course…” and explain what Vince McMahon will probably do instead.
Consider this your SO OF COURSE preview of Summer LITERALLY SEVEN HOURS OF PPV COVERAGE BEGINNING WITH JERRY LAWLER’S DAD JOKES ON THE PRE-SHOW WHAT BETTER WAY TO ENJOY THE TWILIGHT OF SUMMER MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON OUR SOULS! slam.
That’s WWE.com’s official poster for SummerSlam. It features John Cena right in the middle (who is on the mid-card this year) but not AJ Styles, his opponent. Roman Reigns (who is on the mid-card this year) is right next to Cena, but not Reigns’ opponent, US Champion Rusev. It features neither of the fresh faces challenging for a world title, nor is there any sight of Randy Orton or Brock Lesnar (whose face should never miss a poster for a show he’s working). But it does feature Alberto Del Rio, who wasn’t even working a match on the show before he was suspended.
Last time on SO OF COURSE! WWE held its final PPV of the non-brand split (brand spliced?) era: Battleground. The show was notable in that nothing of significance or consequence happened for the entire show. Bayley made her first main roster appearance in a tag match alongside Sasha Banks, but it wasn’t a real call-up so it doesn’t matter. Natalya beat Becky Lynch, but they’re still feuding. Sami Zayn finally (in WWE) beat Kevin Owens, but Zayn isn’t even working the show which is just stupid in at least six different ways. Likewise the Wyatts beat the Tag champs (in a non-title match) but for SummerSlam are doing zilch.
Dean Ambrose pinned Roman Reigns clean to retain the WWE Championship. That’s the only thing even close to a story here, but considering Reigns is apparently still eating dirt after his wellness violation last month, that’s not even that big of a shock.
But after Battleground, WWE officially hit the reset button and launched the Brand Split.
After a month there are already some pros and cons (for another article), but to summarize: Raw is still too long (despite guys still getting lost in the shuffle), and Smackdown is still too short on starpower.
Nevertheless, feuds have been set up and both brands are starting to find their identities. The new stage-designs are nice (even if they are just redressed versions of old PPV stages) as are the new camera angles and the different approaches to booking and presentation (jobber matches, post-match interviews, “previously on” videos, etc). It’s several steps in the right direction.
Not to mention Heath Slater. Current MVP of the Brand Split.
So let’s dive in to the SummerSlam card and consider all the ways Vince can blow it!
First of all, there are a whopping eleven matches on this card. What is this, 1998? Presumably a couple of them will end up on the extended, WrestleMania-like preshow, so let’s assume that the Smackdown women’s tag match (now devoid of Eva Marie who got suspended for boob steroids or something) gets demoted to the pre-show, since it’s the most expendable match on the card.
As for the other match, it’s a tossup between Miz/Crews for the IC title and the Cesaro/Sheamus best of seven kickoff. Never bet against Vince not knowing what he has in Cesaro so expect that one to get bumped with the women.
SO OF COURSE!
MAIN SHOW EXTRAVAGANZOHMYGOSHIT’SAFOURHOURSHOW
ENZO & CASS vs JERI-KO
WWE likes to have hometown heroes open their shows, to get the crowd super jacked. So I expect this to be the first match of the night. Also, since Enzo is likely to spit hot fire on the mic before the bell, and the fact that Jericho and Owens are making magic as a team, I expect this match to be carried by the crowd and our emotions to four stars even if its pedestrian…which it won’t because Jericho and Owens won’t let it happen.
In the end though, the heels are going to lay down. What happens next is a mystery. A Jericho/Owens feud could be money, and Owens is just the kind of backstabbing turdmuffin to give Jericho a powerbomb on the ring apron after their first setback as a team. As great as their matches/feud would be, Jericho is doing too much good work as a heel to go back to being a corny goodguy. The real exciting thing would be for Jericho to turn on Owens, and give KO his first run as a babyface…a role he could kill if given the chance.
SO OF COURSE
SASHA BANKS vs CHARLOTTE
This seems a bit underwhelming ever since Sasha won the Women’s title a few weeks ago. Everything about the way the company has treated Sasha—clearly the most popular female performer they have (and one of the most popular, period)—has been baffling. Instead of crowning her at WrestleMania, which everyone seemed to expect and want, they instead dropped her off the map entirely for a few months while Charlotte toyed around with the likes of Natalya. Finally Sasha returned to the spotlight, but instead of building to a big win on a big stage, they gave her the win on Raw. So now the SummerSlam match seems to have lost a little bit of the spark fans have been hoping for since WrestleMania.
Nevertheless, these two have always had great chemistry together and they are guaranteed, if given time, to put on a show. It will feel a lot like an NXT title rematch, where the champ puts down the former champ one more time just to be done with the feud and move on to the next challenge (perhaps Nikki Bella, who seems ready to return).
SO OF COURSE
THE MIZ vs APOLLO CREWS
When Crews debuted in NXT it seemed like he was primed for a big push and a quick jump to the main roster. He had a great look, great size (not tall, but very muscular), great athleticism and other intangibles that seemed like Vince would swoon over. But on NXT he never found his groove. He got called up quickly, but when it happened by then he had proven he wasn’t ready for it. Since his post-Mania call up, he’s floundered.
Now he’s getting a push on Smackdown and there really are only two paths for him: Either he’ll catch on in the brand split as so many other “lost in the shuffle” midcarders did a decade ago, or he’ll continue to be a bland babyface that no one can invest in. Giving him the title seems like the only way to give the first option a chance, not giving him the title seems like a good way to ensure the second option happens. In my opinion, Miz has done a good job carrying the IC title and making it a belt fans want to see change hands (which is the job of a heel champ). The time is about right for a title change, and other than Crews, who on SD is really legit enough in the midcard to win it? The best finish here seems to be for Miz to cheat to retain, give Crews an edge (and a personality fans can get behind) in the followup and build to a title change at the first SD-only PPV next month.
SO OF COURSE
NEW DAY vs GALLOWS & ANDERSON
New Day still has to hold the Tag Titles for a few more months before they are well and truly the longest reigning Tag champs in WWF/E history. They already claim the title now because the championships they defend were created in 2002. The original Tag championships, which began in 1971, were held by Demolition for 478 days. New Day is currently sitting at a little over 360 days (their second reign started at SummerSlam last year). Whatever happens on Sunday, New Day has earned their place among the greatest Tag Teams in WWF/E history, which is an amazing thing to think about, considering how their time as a team began.
Is the time right for a title change? Perhaps, and the remnants of The Club could certainly use some legitimacy after debuting as hot stuff a few months ago and not really being booked to live up to their hype. WWE may have title plans for Enzo and Cass, which would certainly lean toward a heel team for them to beat. On the other hand Jeri-KO might have a few more months’ worth of legs, so maybe the babyfaces retain on Sunday and then get feed to Owens and Jericho. There’s a lot of possibilities, but whether it happens Sunday or soon after, it seems like we’ve reached the logical conclusion to New Day’s great championship run.
SO OF COURSE
RUSEV vs ROMAN REIGNS
It’s simple: If Roman wins then his post-wellness violation burial is still ongoing. If Roman loses then his punishment is over and he’ll be back near the top in no time. That sounds backwards but it’s not. Winning the US title would signal that he’s going to stay in the mid-card for a few more months (it’s only a matter of time before Vince tries again to get him over as the top star). Losing the US title (challenge) would signal that his place is not in the midcard and that he’ll be back to main-eventing PPVs perhaps as soon as next month.
You might say that it’s crazy to think that losing a midcard title would lead to challenging for a world title, but to that I say: #WWELOGIC is an actual hashtag that is regularly used to mock Vince’s penchant for insanity. So predicting a winner is really about predicting whether or not Vince is done giving Roman a timeout in the midcard. Is he? Or, does he see a few more months of gold to mine with Rollins and Balor? There’s a lot that could be done between two former NXT superstars. One’s the first ever NXT Champ, the other is the longest reigning. You could easily incorporate their history—
SO OF COURSE
..no wait, I’m not done. You could bring in The Club as Rollins’ new posse, in a twist on what everyone is expectin—
SO OF COURSE
NO WAIT! Rollins and Balor could easily stretch out for another three or four months! You don’t need to rush bringing Rom—
SO OF COURSE
JOHN CENA vs AJ STYLES
Raise your hand if you think AJ Styles is going to beat John Cena? Put your hand down Mrs. Styles.
John Cena may be in the midcard, he may be winding down, he may be stepping away from the brightest spotlight to force others to step up and take his spot (which, let’s be honest, is something Hogan, Hart, Michaels, Austin, Triple H never did), but John Cena is still John Cena. He’s still the house. You never bet against the house. The house doesn’t “always” win, but…the saying is “the house always wins” for a reason.
The only way John Cena loses is if Undertaker appears, costing him the match, planting the seed for a WrestleMania showdown in Orlando.
SO OF COURSE
RANDY ORTON vs BROCK LESNAR
WWE has tried really hard, and almost succeeded, despite the fact that one of these two is a part-timer and the other is confined to only one brand, in turning this wannabe dream match into something I want to watch. And be honest, no one really wanted to watch this match when it was announced a month ago. You all wanted to see one spot. You know what it is. F5 into an RKO. That’s it. Whether it results in a pinfall or a nearfall that spot is going to be the spot of the night. I only wish it could happen in 1999 so 10,000 flashbulbs could give it that truly special effect.
Other than that, what else is there? Orton has always been the most “2005 Ford Taurus” of wrestlers. You’re not going to be on the edge of your seat watching him work his craft. Lesnar has devolved into “suplex, suplex, suplex, CLOTHSLINE, suplex, F5, kickout, suplexsuplexsuplex, F5, pin and win.” It was cool when he massacred Cena a couple years ago to win the title, but rarely does a Lesnar match ever make you sit up and be amazed anymore. Of course, he’s putting forth approximately zero effort because he has no actual reason to. And yet, despite being almost bored with his ring work, I still can’t help but be drawn in by his incredible stage presence.
Still, this is a one-spot match. Give me the F5 into an RKO. After that I don’t care who wins or loses.
SO OF COURSE
OH PLEASE LET IT GO VINCE!
DEAN AMBROSE vs DOLPH ZIGGLER
Credit to Dolph Ziggler for giving this match and feud 100% effort, pulling out a side of him that he hasn’t shown since 2013. This, despite the fact that he has no chance whatsoever in winning, is admirable. This is his one chance fancy and he’s not going to let us down. He’s going to go out there and put on a great match with Dean, I have no doubt. And in the end, Dirty Deeds is going to put him away…and probably only one Dirty Deeds will do it.
SO OF COURSE
SETH ROLLINS vs FINN BALOR
Let’s just set aside the fact that Vince played the “Demon (king)” card on Raw instead of waiting six more days to debut it on SummerSlam properly. Let’s just set aside the fact that, if they wanted to give fans a “taste” of the Demon (king) they could have simply played around with the lighting and done a little work on the Titantron. Heaven knows WWE’s production department in charge of their vignettes are masters of their craft, and the people (person, old and insane person) in charge of booking the shows are the opposite of that.
Set all that aside. Balor has to win, right? There’s no other outcome, is there? WWE can be absolutely brain dead at times, but there’s no way they would actually debut the Demon (king) in a match, after all the hype and all the build up just to have him lose…even on a technicality; even having him lose because of interference or some other nonsense would be terrible. They can’t possibly hate money and the future that much that they would fast track this golden ticket of a gimmick to the main event only to have him lose in literally his first big (main roster) match. THEY CAN’T POSSIBLY BE THIS STUPID CAN THEY? No. I refuse to believe it.
SO OF COURSE!
Oh well. There’s always NXT. Here’s to TAKEOVER SATURDAY NIGHT!
Speaking of, if you’re wondering…
Bobby Roode over Almas (that theme song is amazing)
Aries over No Way Jose (via shenanigans; Jose will either be NXT champion within a year or on the main roster)
Gargano & Ciampa over Revival (this is the most unpredictable finish of the night, in my opinion)
Asuka over Bayley (take a bow, hugger)
Shinsuke Nakamura over Samoa Joe (come to Smackdown please, Joe)
Joe vs Naka is going to be a volcano. Watch it.