This Sunday, the WWE holds their annual Summerslam extravaganza. With thirteen matches spread out over six hours, Summerslam is second only to Wrestlemania in terms of size and importance. This year, Summerslam will have six different title matches, plus a couple of secondary matches that could have major ramifications for the rest of the year. Here are five of the biggest and most interesting storylines to follow into Summerslam:
The Beast Vs. The Viper
At UFC 200, Brock Lesnar proved that he was just as capable of defeating an opponent in the octagon as he was inside a squared circle. Although Lesnar's defeat of Mark Hunt was tainted by a positive drug test, the 39 year old heavyweight is still one of the scariest fighters in the world. Shortly before his UFC 200 fight, the WWE announced he'd face a returning Randy Orton in the main event at Summerslam.
Surprisingly, Orton and Lesnar have never fought one another during their fourteen year history at the WWE. Although the two came up together through WWE's developmental system, Lesnar initially left the company in 2004, just as Orton's star began to rise. When Lesnar returned to the WWE in 2012, Orton and Lesnar's paths never seemed to cross, as Lesnar was busy feuding with the likes of John Cena, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose.
In addition to being a "dream match" featuring two of the WWE's top wrestlers, Orton and Lesnar' match also has some company-wide implications as the wrestlers represent the WWE's seperate brands. Lesnar was one of the top draft picks for Monday Night RAW, while Orton was drafter to Smackdown Live. If Orton can hit just one of his patented "RKO's out of nowhere" to pin Lesnar, he could give Smackdown a much needed jolt of legitimacy.
Still, Lesnar should be the favorite in this match. He's a legitimate unstoppable force that has torn through the WWE over the last few years, losing only because of cheap shots or outside interference. Unless there's a major distraction (say, a returning Goldberg, perhaps?), expect Lesnar to suplex Orton into submission and get the win.prevnext
A Rare Face vs. Face Championship Match
The current WWE World Heavyweight Champion is fan favorite Dean Ambrose, who cashed in a Money in the Bank contract to pull the title off of Seth Rollins two months ago. After beating Rollins and Reigns in a Triple Threat match at Battleground last month, Ambrose officially established himself as the face of the new Smackdown brand and the top champion in the country. With the triple threat match against his ex-SHIELD teammates out of the way, Ambrose's title reign has officially begun.
Ambrose's next challenger is Dolph Ziggler, another fan favorite with a history of missed opportunities and failed pushes. Many feel that Ziggler has never gotten a fair shake with the WWE, as his only real Championship reign was cut short by injury. As of late, Ziggler has acted as a gateway of sorts, entering into feuds with newer wrestlers and losing to establish them as a legitimate threat.
Although both Ambrose and Ziggler are faces (wrestling speak for "good guys), Ambrose has taken on the persona as the cocky champion during this feud, questioning Ziggler's drive to win and disparaging his career. It's unclear if Ambrose is doing this to motivate Ziggler or if he's just playing mind games, but the comments have given Ziggler a new edge in recent weeks. Last week, Ziggler delivered a surprise superkick to Ambrose, laying him out and delivering a strong message to the champion.
From a "big picture" standpoint, there is absolutely no reason for Ambrose to lose this match. If the WWE wants to groom Ambrose as one of their top guys, then he needs to stay WWE World Heavyweight Champion for a long time. A far more interesting story is what Ziggler will do when he falls short once again in one the biggest matches of his career.prevnext
The First Universal Champion
With the WWE World Heavyweight Championship safely in the hands of Smackdown's Dean Ambrose, Stephanie McMahon declared that her Monday Night RAW brand needed a new top championship of its own. Thus, the WWE Universal Championship was born, with its first holder to be decided in a match between Seth Rollins and Finn Balor.
Finn Balor spent the last year as the face of the NXT developmental system. After holding the NXT Championship for near a year, Balor got the long awaited call up to the main roster during last month's brand draft. Balor immediately made a splash on his first RAW, beating Roman Reigns and six other wrestlers for a shot at the new Universal Title.
In addition to his years of experience as one of Japan's top wrestlers, Balor also has a second persona that comes out during big matches. As "the Demon King", Balor stalks to the ring coated in war paint, ready to unleash his dark side on his opponent. Although Rollins mocked the Demon King for weeks, Balor's alter ego is a nearly unbeatable force that has only lost one time inside a WWE ring.
This match is probably the biggest toss up on the Summerslam card. Rollins is one of the WWE's top wrestlers and a legitimate main event draw. His last title reign was cut short due to a knee injury and a win here would give him a chance to pick up where he left off last November. However, the Demon King could be WWE merchandising gold, provided that Balor's alter ego is protected properly. If the Demon does show up at Summerslam, Balor should pick up the win.prevnext
It's a New Day for the Tag Team Division
The New Day last won the WWE Tag Team Titles at Summerslam last year, and have held onto the belts for nearly a full calendar year. During that time period, the New Day have picked up win after win against every team they've faced, either through cheating or via their tried and true "power of positivity".
Because of their Internet friendly antics, the New Day are now one of the WWE's top acts, but their title reign has gotten a little stale over the last few months. Frankly, the Tag Team division has stagnated under them and it might be time for the WWE to shake things up.
Enter "The Club", a tag team made up of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Anderson and Gallows were previously part of the Bullet Club, a popular heel stable over in Japan founded by Finn Balor and previously led by fellow WWE wrestler AJ Styles. Everyone expected the Club to reenact their Bullet Club antics, but so far the group hasn't done much besides helping Styles beat up on John Cena.
Last month, the Club finally took aim at the WWE Tag Team Titles and quickly took Big E, the New Day's strongest member, out of commission with "ringpostitis" (they rammed his crotch into a ringpost). For the first time in a while, the New Day are suddenly vulnerable and Summerslam could mark a changing of the guard. If the Club does win, it would continue the Bullet Club's cross-promotional dominance as Bullet Club leader Kenny Omega recently won the prestigious G-1 Tournament in Japan and Bullet Club member Adam Cole just won the Ring of Honor Championship on Friday night.prevnext
A New Era for Women's Wrestling
Last summer, the WWE launched a "Divas Revolution" with the hopes of revitalizing their women's division. The Divas Revolution largely centered around three women, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch, each of whom had earned critical acclaim for their work in the WWE's developmental system.
Eventually, Charlotte would emerge as the WWE's new Women's Champion, a title made to replace the Divas Championship. She also turned heel during her nearly year long title reign, relying on her father Ric Flair and protege Dana Brooke for help to win matches. However, after Banks beat Charlotte at Battleground last month (with an assist from former NXT Women's Champion Bayley), she earned a shot at Charlotte's title. Banks capitalized on her championship opportunity by beating Charlotte in a surprise Championship match on the first Monday Night RAW of the WWE's "New Era".
In a perfect world, Sasha would solidify her new title reign with a victory at Summerslam. But with the women's roster now split between two shows, there would be few strong opponents for Sasha to face if Charlotte was permanently out of the picture. Expect some sort of shenanigans at Summerslam to keep Sasha and Charlotte feuding for the immediate future.prevnext
The Best of the Rest
The second biggest non-title match on the card (after Lesnar/Orton) is the match between AJ Styles and John Cena. Styles considers himself as one of the best wrestlers in the world, and he's made it his mission to send Cena packing from the WWE to prove that Cena's popularity and reign as the "face that runs the place" was a mistake. Styles picked up a win with the help of his friends in the Club at Battleground, but this should be a definitive one on one matchup. Cena doesn't pick up clean losses very often, so a win by Styles would solidify his spot as one of the WWE's top guys.
There's two other title matches on the Summerslam card: a United States Championship match between Roman Reigns and Rusev and an Intercontinental Championship bout between the Miz and Apollo Crews. Reigns was once considered to be the top guy by the WWE, until he was recently suspended for violating the company's Wellness Policy. A victory over Rusev would mean the WWE has forgiven him, but a loss means that Reigns is still in the company doghouse.0comments
The Intercontinental Championship match doesn't have the same amount of buildup or intrigue. The Miz has been a fun heel champion, cheating his way to victories since Wrestlemania. His opponent Apollo Crews is athletically gifted, but he hasn't done much since getting called up from NXT. A Crews victory could give the wrestler a much needed storyline, but it's more likely that the Miz will retain somehow.
The other big match at Summerslam is a tag team match between Enzo and Cass and Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho (aka Jeri-KO). This has the possibility to be the most entertaining match at Summerslam, if only for the epic verbal jousting between Enzo, Owens, and Jericho. Enzo is probably the best talker on the WWE, a "certified G" who tends to bite off just a little more than he can chew. Luckily, Big Cass (a future main eventer) has the raw power and strength to typically pull Enzo out of whatever fight he's dragged himself into. Owens and Jericho are both top tier heels, able to actually match wits with Enzo and throw fists with Cass. Expect a decent balance of humor and fun wrestling with this match.prev