Before we get to the WWE’s annual summertime event, I had to first of all wish The Immortal Hulk Hogan a happy 61st Birthday and while the whole segment memorable, this was clearly the best part.
Survey Says… one more for the good guys!
Oh, yea, Summerslam is THIS Sunday on PPV and the WWE Network. One of WWE’s classic “Big Four” Pay Per Views it always tends to be the biggest show since Wrestlemania and the Staples Center is sure to be packed with minor celebrities anxious to watch a rather well-fleshed out card. So, without Further ado…
Rusev w/Lana vs. Jack Swagger w/Zeb Colter – Flag Match
It’s ’80s WWF redux with the no good, pro-Russian Rusev with Lana taking on the All-American American Jack Swagger with his compatriot Zeb Colter in a patriotic flag match. After Rusev was established as a monster through weeks of squashes he finally took it too far and started running down the USA. Swagger being a “Real American,” took umbrage with that and challenged him to a fight at last month’s Battleground PPV, and was subsequently knocked unconscious during the bout. While the world has its own issues with Russia, WWE’s flirting with cultural relevance did get them in a bit of hot water, but it’s classic East versus West booking. The Flag stipulation (meaning to win you have to either hang or take down your respective nation’s flag) will give both competitors an out without looking weak in taking a loss. Rusev’s currently “undefeated,” and I expect that to continue despite the valiant efforts of Jack Swagger. On a side note, if you told me you thought he’d be the one getting over after splitting with Cesaro, you’re lying.
Paige vs. AJ Lee – Divas Championship Match
The “Frenemies” have been building up to this one for months, after losing the title to Paige the night after Wrestlemania, the WWE Universe was shocked to see AJ reclaim the butterfly belt immediately upon returning from hiatus (honeymoon with CM Punk). I feel like they’ve done this storyline before with the Divas title in the past, but the quality of talent involved makes that seem like an arbitrary complaint. Paige’s run as Champion got real stale because of her lack of quality opponents during her reign. While the Division is much improved, most of the Divas can’t wrestle wrestle which is an issue. Now, if Tamina can get healthy and WWE can put some faith back in Natalya, hopefully that’ll change, but for now it looks like it’s going to be the Paige & AJ show. Hopefully with Paige having storyline injured AJ and a higher level of animosity between the competitors we”ll see a more aggressive outing than last month’s bout. While they could possibly get a fifth match out of this storyline, I’m tired of hearing middle aged announcers argue over what “Frenemies” are.
Winner: AJ Lee
Bray Wyatt vs. Chris Jericho – Wyatt Family Banned from Ringside
Chris Jericho has so many things going on, his podcast, his band (which coincidentally provided one of the theme songs for Summerslam) that when he does come back, you always know it’s for a limited time. Y2J is one of my all-time favorite performers and he’s done what a lot of the previous generation wouldn’t do for him, put over young talent. While it doesn’t always work, looking at you Fandango, he’s a credible threat and still works better than most. Ever since I started writing this column, I’ve been beating the drum for Bray Wyatt and the Wyatt family. I think they’re incredibly talented in all facets of the business and clearly they’re over with the audience, but it seems like the WWE doesn’t know what they’ve been building them up for. Bray has lost too many times on too many big stages to continue being taken seriously, if he loses again on Sunday. Jericho did get his cohorts barred from ringside which will make their encounter different from last month’s, but hopefully this will be the big win I’ve been craving.
Winner: Bray Wyatt
Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose – Lumberjack Match
This has been one of the most organic feuds and has done a great job of establishing these two characters post-Shield break-up. We’ve had plenty of “crazy” wrestling characters in the past, but Ambrose has been striking that right balance between psychotic and believable. These two have put on some quality matches in the past and I don’t have any reason to believe this one will be any different. My one hope is they find a unique way to make use of the Lumberjack Stipulation, it’s used too often on Raw without any real consequence to having other wrestlers circling the ring. Considering their match at Battleground was a “forfeit” by Ambrose, look for this one to get some significant time and hopefully be more of a match than the brawls they’ve been having.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton
While it was laughable that Orton thought he deserved yet another WWE World Heavyweight Championship opportunity, I’m glad they took it as a chance to give both him and Roman something to do at Summerslam. Reigns is clearly a guy the WWE is molding to be a future champion and this match is another step on that ladder. Orton is a Triple Crown winner, 10+ time World/WWE Champion and has the chops to make Roman look good. Orton’s status as The Authority’s dream champion and their go-to guy is wearing a little thin, so I’m hoping they’ll switch things up after this match. It’s probably still too soon to put Roman in the title picture, outside of a multi-man bout, but they’ll have to find someone outside of Kane and Orton to keep his momentum going.
Winner: Roman Reigns
The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler – Intercontinental Championship Match
The Miz was a terrible good guy, just the worst, not even getting approval to use Ric Flair’s figure four helped his case. Dolph Ziggler is an excellent tweener, his cocky attitude as the “Show Off,” would normally lead him to be a complete heel, but he does exactly what his t-shirt says and backs it up in the ring every night. Miz embracing his “Hollywood” persona despite his starring efforts being mostly direct to home video or basic cable, has gotten fans to react to him once again. Conversely, fans have been falling all over themselves to let the WWE know how much they love Dolph Ziggler and want him back on top, since his last World Title reign was cut short by injury. While I’m somewhat disappointed they keep having to bring legitimacy back to the Intercontinental title, this feud has been a good shot in the arm after Wade Barrett had to unfortunately forfeit it. I also like the added dimension of both characters playing off their Cleveland roots with Ziggler portraying the hard working athlete who’s dream was to become IC Champion and Miz as the guy who went on the Real World to make it to the WWE. I hope they’re given enough time to give us a proper match and I think a title switch will allow this burgeoning feud to continue past Sunday.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
Stephanie McMahon vs. Brie Bella
This match arguably has the most build-up of any other contest on the entire card and is an off-shoot of The Authority’s feud with Daniel Bryan that started even before the 2013 edition of Summerslam. Back at WWE Payback Brie Bella had quit so her husband Daniel Bryan wouldn’t have to forfeit the title, which didn’t end up mattering because Bryan’s injury has put him on the shelf indefinitely and he forfeited the title anyways. The storyline then shifted with Stephanie taking out her aggression on Brie’s amply bosom-ed twin sister Nikki, placing her in unfair match ups and having Brie escorted from the backstage area. The final straw was Stephanie slapping Brie while she was in the audience supporting her sister and subsequently being arrested for it. This storyline was getting a lot of attention, taking up closing segments, but it all went astray last Monday night. Seemingly ripping a page out of TNA’s “Claire Lynch” storyline, Stephanie introduced a woman claiming to be having an affair with Daniel Bryan. Brie then confronted her in the ring, slapping her and also getting arrested for it. That last bit seemed wholly unnecessary, but regardless the Boss and the Bella are finally going to settle it in the ring. This is Stephanie’s first match since 2003, not that she was ever much of an in-ring competitor despite a lengthy reign as Women’s Champion, so it’ll be interesting to see how a mother of three handles the much more capable Brie Bella. Look for Authority cronies and Nikki Bella to get involved in the contest. This will by no means be a mat classic, but should be entertaining if done correctly.
Winner: Brie Bella
Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena – WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match
The Champ versus The Beast, the biggest match of the card with Lesnar making his in-ring return since becoming the 1, behind 21-1 at Wrestlemania XXX. Brock’s victory over The Undertaker left the 75,000+ at the Superdome in stunned silence and his manager Paul Heyman has milked it for all it’s worth ever since. Cena on the other hand went to reclaim the company’s top title for a 15th time after Daniel Bryan was forced to vacate it prior to the Money in the Bank PPV. The build up for this one is based largely on both men’s history in the business with Cena portrayed as the WWE’s constant since Brock’s full-time departure in 2004. Brock, the former NCAA and UFC Champion has been painted as a hired mercenary, one who only cares about making money and not the WWE as a whole. Both wrestlers debuted in 2002 with Brock being shot to the top in a matter of months, while for Cena it was a couple years and a gimmick change before he even won the US Title. So to Brock’s credit, his claim that if he stayed in the WWE, there would be no John Cena is wholly believable. The WWE has done a great job with additional video packages and pieces with each guy stating their case and making compelling points. Which is how usually the best feuds are done, each guy has a legitimate beef with the other and a each wrestler has an equal shot at winning. Also, it’s pretty indisputable that Paul Heyman is one of the best, if not the best, manager in pro-wrestling history. They way he vivisects the crowd and his clients’ opponents is a thing of beauty. These two have clashed previously once in 2003 when Lesnar was Champion and the Doctor of Thuganomics was a brash upstart and again in 2012 where Cena won but was battered in the process, though they haven’t harped on these previous encounters too much. I’m really looking forward to this one, Cena gets a lot of flack for his five moves of doom, but when he has the right opponent and the lights are on, he can really step it up. This one will be a war, and the exaggerated reactions of Paul Heyman at ringside will be the icing on the cake.
Winner: Brock Lesnar, I don’t know how they’ll pull it off with his part-time schedule, but Lesnar’s as hot as he’s ever been and whenever he drops the belt, it’ll do wonders for that competitor’s career.