WWE has another huge weekend of wrestling events scheduled this weekend, and it’s safe to say that the stakes are high in a lot of ways. Over the course of a live NXT TakeOver special and a four-plus hour SummerSlam Pay Per View, an incredible nine titles will be on the line, including a match to determine the very first WWE Universal Champion. Plus, Brock Lesnar wrestles his first match since WrestleMania, amidst accusations of drug use from the USADA and laziness from other wrestlers. Oh yeah, and it’s also the first Pay Per View to occur fully within the confines of the new Brand Extension (remember, Battleground’s matches were booked before the Draft ever happened), and will likely set the tone for WWE’s plans for the rest of 2016. We thought about predicting match results, but anyone can do that, so we decided to take a deeper look at all the important stuff we think you should pay attention to on SummerSlam weekend, things that could determine if the whole event is a smashing success, or WWE’s worst nightmare.
14. It Pays To Be Roode
Bobby Roode’s NXT debut instantly made him a star. Sure, he’d been a big deal in TNA, but even at their best, that company got a fraction of WWE’s viewers, so it’s likely a lot of people still hadn’t heard of him when he walked through the curtain in NXT. But none of that mattered because from that first promo, Bobby Roode established that he is a big deal to be taken seriously. Also, his incredible entrance music (which might also be terrible, we’re still deciding) didn’t hurt his cause. While Roode’s prior experience definitely helped with his recognition, it was also on him to take the ball and run with it, and so far, he’s done a spectacular job, which should make his Brooklyn entrance something to behold. Contrast this to Roode’s opponent at TakeOver, Andrade “Cien” Almas, a very talented wrestler who was a big star before NXT, but who has stumbled badly out of the gate with an odd name, fairly silly ring attire, and very little character to speak of. Almas has tried hard, but the writing was on the wall when he was overshadowed by his first opponent, Tye Dillinger, at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, and we wouldn’t be shocked if he gets retooled very soon after facing Roode in Brooklyn.
13. The Main Roster’s Gain Is The NXT Women’s Division’s Loss…And Also Gain?
It’s pretty much known without being openly said at this point that TakeOver will be Bayley’s last match in NXT, and she will bring her hugs and snap-bands and wacky arm-waving inflatable tube men to the main roster very soon afterwards. Bayley’s graduation basically marks the final end of an era in the NXT Women’s Division, as everyone from what could be considered the “first generation” of women’s wrestlers has moved to the main roster, leaving a division that is currently Asuka and a group of women who have made limited appearances on NXT programming. While Australian wrestler Billie Kay has received some additional time recently, the whole division is primed for an influx of new talent, and the good news is, that should start with a woman who will be making her entrance into NXT the same night Bayley makes her exit: Ember Moon. Known as ‘Athena’ on the independent circuit, she looks to be the woman who can help Asuka carry the ‘new’ generation of women in NXT for the forseeable future, along with holdovers like Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Liv Morgan, and another soon-to-debut talent, Nikki Glencross (also, someone sign Santana Garrett to an NXT contract before she disappears back into the indies again). While the NXT Women’s Division is facing a huge period of change, don’t expect it to disappear anytime soon.
12. Tag Teams Are On The Rise
Another division looking to make waves during SummerSlam weekend is the tag division, which faces both split rosters on the main brand and an upcoming Dusty Rhodes Memorial Tag Team Classic on NXT. Hence, a need for a lot more tag teams, and a weekend which will see several pairings attempt to become the focal points of their respective shows. In NXT, workhorse champions The Revival, who will probably never make the main roster but are perfect in their role as grizzled NXT veterans, will take on the indie team of Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano, who absolutely tore down the house facing each other in the Cruiserweight Classic tournament, while the spectre of the Paul Ellering-led Authors of Pain lurks in the shadows. Meanwhile, the New Day faces their toughest test yet, as they put their titles on the line against The Club, in a match we fully expect them to lose, giving us new WWE Tag Team Champions for the first time in nearly a year. Also, Enzo and Cass will do their thing against Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens, a team that we both hope is short-lived (because Owens should be doing something important) but also want to see stick around, because they’re so gosh-darned entertaining together. And we haven’t even gotten into Smackdown, which is trying to ramp up their own tag division in order to feature it at the first Smackdown-only PPV, Backlash. Thanks to WWE making the wise decision not to split up every team in the Draft, tag team wrestling isn’t dead, it might actually be getting even stronger.
11. Don’t Sleep On No Way Jose
We need to talk about this guy right now, because we want to be able to point to this in a year when he’s a fan favorite on the main roster and say “Yeah, we knew this would happen”. While No Way Jose has a silly name and is far from the best wrestler to come out of NXT, the combination of a great theme song and infectious charisma, as well as a well-scripted reveal that he’s not necessarily just a fun-loving idiot, but a guy with darkness inside that comes out when provoked, has made him a definite hot prospect that everyone should be keeping their eyes on. We don’t expect his match with Austin Aries to steal the show, but taking on the Greatest Man Who Ever Lived is a huge step forward for Jose, who has only wrestled a few squash matches on NXT to this point. Win or lose, the part people are going to remember is that Jose might very well get one of the best reactions from a hot Brooklyn crowd. Hopefully WWE doesn’t use that as a reason to propel him to the main roster before he’s ready, because he definitely still has a lot to learn in the ring, but it should be a good indicator of his future success.
10. One Will Win, One Will Leave
Actually, this headline could refer to Bayley-Asuka as well, but we’re talking about one of what could be many potential Match of the Weekend candidates (along with Bayley-Asuka, now that you mention it), the NXT Title match between Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura, where we fully believe that whomever doesn’t win the match will very likely end up on the main roster sooner rather than later. And honestly, we don’t care which one it is, but if we had to choose, we’d have to go with Nakamura making the jump first. The thing you can say about Shinsuke Nakamura is that he has “it”. Not the “it” that Chris Jericho keeps talking about, but the “it” that makes someone look like an absolute star. While we already knew he could wrestle great matches in big situations, Nakamura’s time in NXT, wrestling short matches against jobbers and promoting his match with Samoa Joe, has really shown that he’s great at all facets of the business. He can entertain a crowd with a few words and gestures (even though he’s actually completely fluent in English), wrestle comedy matches and play “got your nose” with an enraged Samoa Joe, and then when the red light goes on, he can wrestle with the very best of them. Everything about Nakamura screams “star”, and we can’t honestly see him in NXT much longer, unless he wins the title at Brooklyn. And if he does that, then Joe needs to move up, because that brand isn’t big enough for both of them.
9. Round And Round We Go
Leaving NXT TakeOver behind, it’s on to the main roster Pay Per View we go, with a look at this last-minute match between Sheamus and Cesaro. It’s the first in a “Best of Seven” series, which as anyone who has followed WWE for the last few years knows, it basically how every feud with Sheamus recently has always gone, just with an official limit on the number of rematches this time. We’re sure we’re not the only ones who could point out that Cesaro already beat Sheamus in two straight matches, so has technically already won the feud handily, but then WWE couldn’t stretch this thing out to the first Raw-branded PPV in lieu of actually giving them something better to do, so here we are. Speaking of which, what’s the actual point of this? Usually, when wrestling does “Best of” series, there’s a title on the line that will be decided. But whomever wins between Cesaro and Sheamus will get…what? Maybe down the road they’ll announce some sort of prize, but until then, this is literally a feud based around two guys who have good matches with each other and zero direction fighting each other repeatedly an arbirtrary number of times for, possibly, no reason. On the bright side, at least they have a match at SummerSlam. Nice job ending your fifteen year feud with Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn! Too bad Creative has nothing for you!
8. Oh, Don’t Look So Shocked
Here’s something you probably already guessed: Roman Reigns’ feud with Rusev is the latest attempt to re-heat Reigns’ character before inevitably pushing him back into the main event down the road! Honestly, we’re fine with it as long as “down the road” means “after next year’s WrestleMania at the earliest”, but of course, it probably doesn’t. At this point, though, we’re more concerned that WWE has misread things again, making Reigns actually look like a massive dick to Rusev and Lana in the guise of being “cool”. When you look like the bad guy compared to a pair of America-hating jerks with superiority complexes, that’s a problem. We’re also not sure what the point of having Reigns fight Rusev in a twenty-plus minute match on the last Raw before SummerSlam was, even if it was a very good match. Hey, now you can see the same match again at SummerSlam, only likely shorter and for a title, which means less since we already know that the alleged babyface can beat the champion easily, even when the champ is all fired up in defense of his wife and got the upper hand with a backstage ambush before the match!
7. John Cena Hates SummerSlam
As we covered in our discussion of interesting SummerSlam statistics, John Cena doesn’t have the best record at SummerSlam, and hasn’t won a match at the event since 2010. It would seem like a rematch with AJ Styles, who now does not have The Club for back-up, would be the cure for Cena’s SummerSlam woes, as well as set up a rubber match at a future PPV. And while that still may be what happens, there are a few factors that we feel might result in a different ending to that match. First of all, as much as WWE will continue to pretend that Smackdown matters, moving Cena to that brand in the draft is a subtle demotion and a nod to the fact that the company is looking for ways to transition away from Cena as the biggest star in the promotion. Even in the weeks since the Draft, Cena has seemed like a lesser part of WWE, and his feud with Styles has almost been an afterthought. Secondly, Cena’s reality show with Fox got renewed, and that means it’s all but certain that Cena will be taking more time off this fall to film the new season, as he continues to move into a part-time role. And finally, AJ Styles is a legitimate star who has a limited shelf life due to his age, and WWE should probably strike while the iron is hot and put him up against whomever ends up WWE World Heavyweight Champion after SummerSlam. A win against Cena would give him the legitimate claim to a title shot, and we wouldn’t be shocked if that’s the direction things go.
6. Don’t Call It A Revolution
It’s been a year since the now hastily-retconned “Women’s (nee Divas) Revolution” took place, and while the whole early part is best left forgotten, we’ve finally somewhat reached a place where it was meant to go the whole time, with excellent female wrestlers having awesome matches on Pay Per View that aren’t just the “filler” bathroom break showcases of the past. The booking may still not be as strong as it was when the Horsewomen were making their name in NXT, but the end result is still what we wanted to see, with Sasha facing Charlotte one-on-one, no possible shenanigans (unless Charlotte has other, more secret proteges that we’re unaware of), in a match that already has a high bar to clear thanks to their first match on Raw. The best part is, they have the ability to clear that bar, and really show people what they can do, at one of the biggest shows of the year. Sure, the Smackdown Women’s division is without a title to fight for and continues to dance around having Eva Marie actually wrestle and thus show off how she earned all that crowd heat in the first place, but even split in two, the Women’s Division in WWE is at the strongest it’s been since the days of Trish Stratus and company, and only has the potential to get better. So, while the last year hasn’t been a revolution of any sort, it’s definitely been an incredible evolution of one facet of the wrestling business that we’re fully in support of.
5. Any Match Could Steal The Show
And by “any match”, we mean “at either TakeOver or SummerSlam”, as both cards are absolutely jam-packed full of potential Match of the Weekend, or even Match of the Year candidates. From NXT alone, you’ve got Joe-Nakamura, Asuka-Bayley, and Revival-Ciampa/Gargano, all of which should be spectacular. And then you get into SummerSlam, which features just top-class matches up and down the card. You’ve got another Charlotte-Sasha title match, Balor-Rollins, and Ambrose-Ziggler, which are obvious candidates. Then you’ve got the potential for greatness in Rusev-Reigns, which they showed off on Raw, Cena-Styles looking to top their first one-on-one match, and whatever Brock decides to bring to the table against Orton (more on that in a bit). Even the last-minute entry of Sheamus-Cesaro puts another on the list! The bottom line is, if you want to see good wrestling, you are almost certainly going to be very happy with whatever you watch on SummerSlam weekend. You know, unless they take all the time away from those matches and decide that what we really want to see is a twenty-minute concert by Wale instead. We’re just saying, it’s a possibility.
4. Someone’s Switching Sides
Come on, you didn’t expect WWE to keep the rosters stable for more than a month, did you? Thanks to Orton-Lesnar, the brands are already intermingling, and several wrestlers have made threats towards seeking greener pastures on the other show. And while we’ll give credit to WWE for giving the brand extension a few weeks to settle out before changing things, that time has shown that there’s clearly some wrestlers on the wrong brand who should switch as soon as possible. The most obvious choice is Cesaro, but now he’s trapped in that “Best of 7” Series, so we’ll switch it up and go with Sami Zayn, who as we mentioned, finally defeated his lifelong foe Kevin Owens once and for all at Battleground, and now has absolutely nothing of value to do, while still being stuck on the same brand as the one man he’s been tied to for his entire wrestling career. We’re not saying Sami’s the one who will make the first move, but we’ll be shocked if by the end of SummerSlam weekend (including the first Raw after the PPV, which you might recall, is also set to be a cross-brand show), someone noteworthy hasn’t changed allegiances.
3. This Could Be The Start Of Something Zig
For all his show-stealing and incredibly in-ring abilities, Dolph Ziggler is doing some of his best work as a guy who is really pissed off that his entire career feels like a waste. And he hasn’t even gotten to the part where he addresses about the ridiculous Lana-Rusev-Summer Rae thing from last year! Ziggler is a two-time World Champion who is treated worse than any former World Champion not named Jack Swagger (who, at least, kind of deserves it), and has been a shameful waste of talent by WWE for many years. Even though it’s obviously scripted, letting Ziggler go out on Smackdown and blow off some steam about the disastrous turns his career has taken in the past decade has somewhat rejeuvenated him as a character. It probably won’t push him over the top into a World Champion again, and it might not even force him into a heel turn, but it has made him something we weren’t sure he’d ever be again, and that’s ‘relevant’. With a roster so thin, Smackdown needs to take full advantage of the talent they have, and rebuilding Dolph Ziggler into the star he should have always been is a good place to start. Next up, Bray Wyatt!
2. Finn Balor Wins The Title, And Then…
Even though WWE made the questionable decision of showing off “The Demon King” the week before SummerSlam, the odds are still incredibly high that Balor will walk away as the very first WWE Universal Champion. You don’t bring in a guy, have him beat three other top contenders in one match and then Roman Reigns cleanly in a second on his first night, show off his dark (and very merchandisable) side, and then have him lose the big match. The real question is, what happens to Balor after winning the title? He’s not going to be the Demon on a regular basis (or at least, he shouldn’t), and his non-bodypainted character is probably his big weakness, one he was often criticized for as NXT Champion. Well, it’s his weakness as a face, anyway. That’s right, we’re on the “double turn” train, because the fans want to cheer Rollins anyway, and Balor’s two cronies have an excellent chance of becoming WWE Tag Team Champions at SummerSlam, plus ‘Balor Club’ is still right there in Finn’s (non-Demon) entrance video. Turning Finn may seem like an odd choice, given his t-shirt selling ability, but as a creative decision, it would probably be best for business in the long-term.
1. Brock Lesnar Main Events, And Probably Disappoints
Maybe we’re wrong and Brock Lesnar decides to put on a show at SummerSlam to shut up the people who call him “lazy”, a number which has grown in recent months. He was certainly more invested than we’ve seen in a long time on Raw, actually engaging with Heath Slater and showing some of that charisma he had before he started letting Paul Heyman do absolutely all of his talking. Plus, there’s no doubt that this cross-brand match featuring WWE’s alleged biggest drawing card and a 12-time World Champion that they’ve been trying to sell as being over a decade in the making isn’t the final match of SummerSlam. But in our gut, we know Brock’s probably just there for the paycheck, he’s going to get his suplexes in, and then go home, and we won’t see him again until 2017. Maybe we’re wrong, and the match will be surprisingly great. But if Brock couldn’t feign interest in WrestleMania, why would he try harder in another basically meaningless match coming on the heels of all the controversy from UFC, when he’d probably rather retreat to his ranch in Canada and forget about his troubles for a few months?
- Finn Balor Suffered Shoulder Injury At SummerSlam, Severity Unknown
- Chris Jericho and Brock Lesnar Had An Altercation Backstage After SummerSlam
- Roman Reigns’ Suspension Caused A Butterfly Effect With WWE’s Future Plans
- Take A Look At The First Photos Of The New WWE Universal Championship
- WWE Announces Jon Stewart Will Appear At SummerSlam