The 30th edition of WWE SummerSlam takes place this Sunday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. If you plan on watching the show you should be warned that it’s going to be a long night, so pace yourselves. There are 13 matches on this show because the pay-per-view portion of the broadcast starts at 7 p.m. with a four-hour runtime and there’s a two-hour Kickoff Show starting at 5 p.m. as well.

Is the show too long? Yes, it is. I have people say to me who cares if they put three matches on the Kickoff Show because it’s all on WWE Network anyway. It’s a fair point, but the problem with a five-hour show (the first Kickoff Show hour likely won’t have a match) is you’re asking the Brooklyn crowd to make noise for five hours. There are going to be several dead matches because of it. That’s why shows like Saturday’s NXT Takeover Brooklyn event is going to have more energy because it’s five matches in over two hours. Trust me, there’s a big difference in energy level when you ask a crowd to care about the matches for over four hours.

Here’s a closer look at the WWE Universal Title match between champion Brock Lesnar and his three challengers Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe. Remember that in a match like this, there are no disqualifications and the first fall leaves with the title.

The Build to Lesnar vs. Reigns vs. Joe vs. Strowman

The match was set up using the typical WWE formula for setting up multi-person matches. Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns had a No. 1 contender’s match for the Universal Title on the July 17 edition of Raw, but it was interrupted by Braun Strowman, who beat up both guys. What was going to happen after that? The obvious announcement that those three guys would challenge Lesnar for the Universal Title at SummerSlam. You would think WWE’s creative team would be sick of setting up matches the same way all the time, but they seem to love being repetitive.

On the July 31 Raw, Reigns beat Strowman and Joe in a triple threat when he pinned Joe clean.

Two weeks ago at Raw in Toronto, Strowman faced Reigns in a Last Man Standing match on Aug. 7 where they brawled right by me while I was in attendance. It was a really good match that ended with Samoa Joe choking out Roman Reigns to give Strowman the cheap win.

There were also some interesting promos from Lesnar’s advocate/mouthpiece Paul Heyman, who claims that Lesnar isn’t happy with this match and the possibility of losing the title without getting beat. Heyman said that if Lesnar loses then they are leaving WWE, which led to multiple UFC references. It’s a smart way to build up this match because some people believe Lesnar is leaving WWE soon. I don’t because I know better and know he’s in WWE until WrestleMania at least, but some fans are going to buy into it.

Lesnar didn’t interact with the other three guys that much in the past month, but he did get involved with them in the main event of Raw this week. There was a four-way face off segment that saw Reigns hit Joe with a Spear, Strowman hit Reigns with a Powerslam and Lesnar had a near brawl with Strowman that was broken up by a few dozen guys.

I liked the way it was built up on this week’s Raw because it left us wanting more and makes me care more about the match going into Sunday night. The build has been pretty good.

Crowd Reaction

It’s going to be a weird dynamic because Lesnar is booked as a clear face, so he should get a lot of cheers as he suplexes everybody. Strowman and Joe are heels who are also cool in the eyes of a lot of fans that want to see either one of them win the Universal Title for the first time. If you watched this show without knowing any backstory, you might think Strowman and Joe are faces because of how loud the crowd will be in support of them.

Roman Reigns will get booed, yet he’ll be booked like a heroic babyface because that’s how Vince McMahon is. It’s one of the most bizarre things about WWE, yet here we are over two years into these crowd reactions with not much changing.

Match Quality

I think it will be a great match and one of the best WWE matches this year. If you recall the Extreme Rules 2017 event back in June, then you probably remember how good it was when Samoa Joe won the Fatal 5-Way match. They got a lot of time, had a lot of big moments and the finish was booked well. When you have four or more guys in a match, you can set up a lot of big spots and tell an interesting story.

I’m more of a traditionalist that likes one-on-one matches, but I think the Fatal 4-Way is going to work for these guys because they all have credibility as legit badasses. Lesnar’s had that rep for 15 years. Strowman has only been on the scene for the last couple of years and has really impressed in the last year. Samoa Joe has had the same rep as Lesnar for the same period of time, but this is just his first year on WWE’s main roster. Roman Reigns is a tough guy and booked as the guy who can take a beating and give it back to somebody else worse.

They will probably get 20 minutes, there will be weapons used all match long and have tables broken as well. Lesnar may get put through a table to paint the picture that he might lose the title, which would then set up a big comeback from him leading to finish. It’s a formula they did at Royal Rumble 2015, when Lesnar faced John Cena and Seth Rollins in a fantastic match.

When a match feels like a real fight like this match does, it helps and it makes people more excited to see what might happen. That’s why it’s going to be the best match on the card with a hot crowd as long as they can stay alert all night long.

What’s Next

It feels as though Lesnar vs. Strowman is next in terms of singles matches for Brock. It was reported a few weeks back that Lesnar was scheduled for Raw’s No Mercy PPV in late September and I assume that it’s going to be a title match against one of these guys. Strowman makes the most sense.

As for Reigns and Joe, they’ve had several matches together and it wouldn’t surprise me if they had a match at No Mercy too.

The Winner

My prediction for this match has changed in the last month. The first instinct I had was to go with Samoa Joe because I think if you have him beat Reigns or Strowman without beating Lesnar, then WWE could go back to Joe vs. Lesnar at some point. That changed when Heyman kept mentioning he might leave WWE with Lesnar and the news came out that Lesnar was booked for No Mercy.

Lesnar is my pick and I feel confident in making that pick. It could certainly go to one of the other guys since Lesnar is just a part-timer and the others work every week. That’s a valid point which makes sense. I’m going with Brock to hold the title for at least a little bit longer. He may not hold it to WrestleMania next year, but I think he’ll get through SummerSlam as the Universal Champion.

Prediction: Brock Lesnar retains the Universal Championship

WWE Championship: Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

They have done this match at live events over the last month, so hopefully there’s some good chemistry. Mahal’s matches are just average at best, while Nakamura has had a few gems on the main roster, but nothing that has really stood out. I don’t expect it to be great, due to Mahal’s limitations. I’m hoping there’s a spectacular entrance for Nakamura because that’s part of the aura that makes him special.

Nakamura is undefeated in singles matches on the main roster. Should he lose his first singles match on Smackdown to Jinder Mahal of all people? I don’t think so.

I’m going with the Nakamura title win because I think Mahal’s reign as champion has been mediocre at best. With that said, that prediction is far from a lock. I think Mahal losing by disqualification and keeping the title is a possibility too. It would be a way to keep the title on Mahal, which I don’t want although it might happen because of how enamored Vince McMahon appears to be with Mahal.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura wins the WWE Championship

John Cena vs. Baron Corbin

It’s not an easy match to predict because Corbin couldn’t win the WWE Title after a failed cash-in attempt on this week’s Smackdown and it was done in such a way that it made him look like an idiot. He lost in five seconds, so I’m wondering what’s next. Are they going to book him like a guy on a losing streak where he can’t seem to win matches anymore or will that loss lead to him getting better? If it was me, I would have him win his next match because he needs that bounce back win a lot. However, look at his opponent. It’s John Cena.

With Cena set to move to the Raw brand (he’s a “free agent” in the storyline) after SummerSlam (it hasn’t been announced on TV, but it’s coming), I feel like he’s going to head to the red brand with some positive momentum. Having Cena put over Corbin and then leave for Raw makes him look like a loser. Of course, 16-time World Champion Cena would never be seen as a loser, but he’s also the guy who wins a lot in PPVs and I feel like this is going to be yet another PPV win for Cena.

Prediction: John Cena wins clean

United States Championship: AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens (Shane McMahon is the referee)

This feels like the end of the feud between Styles and Owens, as well as a major point in the Kevin Owens storyline with Shane that has been presented as more important than the title. In the last two weeks on Smackdown, it felt like they spent more time pushing the “Will Shane be impartial?” storyline, rather than the importance of the title.

The most likely ending will be something where Owens gets a pinfall after some cheap move, but Shane isn’t there to count it. That could lead to another spot where Styles takes advantage of Owens complaining and pinning Owens to win when Shane recovers. The next Smackdown PPV is Hell in a Cell on Oct. 8 and I think it’s possible they do Owens vs. Shane there. Just a guess at this point, but that’s what I think.

If I had to pick one match as the biggest lock in terms of a match result, I’d go with this.

Prediction: AJ Styles retains the US Title while Owens blames Shane for the loss

Raw Tag Team Championships: Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins

This is my favorite match on the show other than the main event because there’s a freshness to it. I think it’s going to be an awesome match due to Ambrose and Rollins teaming up for a title shot and I believe they should win too. Sheamus and Cesaro have done an excellent job as heels who are on the same page working together, but I don’t feel like this needs to be a long title reign.

A title change would make a lot of sense because it would give something for Ambrose and Rollins to do for a few months without putting them in the Universal Title picture. They can be a cohesive unit for a few minutes, have them face off with Raw’s other good teams and when they lose the titles, perhaps that is when Ambrose can turn heel because he needs it. I hope this gets 15  to 20 minutes because it could be one of WWE’s best tag matches this year.

Prediction: Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins win the Raw Tag Team Titles

Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks

Banks was put into this spot after Bayley hurt her shoulder. I don’t think Bayley would have beat Bliss, but I think Banks might because Banks hasn’t won the title since last November. The crowd should be firmly behind Banks and it would feel like a big moment to win.

I’ve also mentioned in my Raw reviews that I think WWE is going to want to push Nia Jax to the title picture and have her get more experience working with Banks in some big PPV title matches. That’s why they should move the title to Banks here and Jax will probably win the title before the end of the year. It doesn’t make sense to have the title go from Bliss to Jax, so I think Banks will win here mainly for that reason.

Prediction: Sasha Banks wins the Raw Women’s Championship

Randy Orton vs. Rusev

They set up this feud a few weeks ago with neither guy having anything else to do. Rusev put over John Cena for the 100th time (at least it felt that way) and Orton lost three straight WWE Title matches to Jinder Mahal at the last three PPVs. None of Orton’s losses were clean, so he was protected a lot in those losses. I think this match is being done to give Orton some positive momentum. I’m a fan of Rusev and I think he needs the win more, but I doubt it’s going to happen here.

Prediction: Randy Orton wins

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Naomi vs. Natalya

I like both women a lot and think it should be a good match. The problem is there’s not much of a story. Natalya won a match to be top contender and there’s not much else there. I feel like they picked Natalya for this match to give Naomi a good worker to have a solid 10-minute match with and that Naomi’s going to retain. I’d be surprised if they do a title change.

Also, I don’t think Carmella will successfully cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase here. It might happen in a month or two, but not yet.

Prediction: Naomi retains the Smackdown Women’s Championship

“The Demon” Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt

This is a rematch from Raw, which was a clean win for Wyatt in a match that wasn’t very impressive. After that match, Wyatt dumped some red liquid on him and Balor freaked out. Balor did a promo saying the “Demon” was coming back for the first time since last year’s SummerSlam. I’d be shocked if Balor didn’t win this match in convincing fashion. The Balor entrance will be extra cool with the demon body paint and the crowd will love to see it.

Prediction: Finn Balor wins

Big Show vs. Big Cass (Enzo Amore will be in a shark cage above the ring)

Bathroom break match. I really don’t care and I think the crowd is going to chant “boring” during this match because that’s what this feud is. We all know Vinny Mac loves pushing the big guys. This is like his dream match because they both got “Big” in their names. I almost wish Vince was back on commentary to talk about how BIG they both are! He would be in heaven.

This should be a win for Big Cass. I don’t think Cass will lose a match the rest of the year. He’ll get a push like Strowman in the last year. I think Strowman is better, but you know WWE is going to get behind this guy.

Prediction: Big Cass wins

SmackDown Tag Team Championships: The New Day vs. The Usos (Kickoff Match)

The New Day duo is Big E and Xavier Woods for this match, which was announced on Smackdown. It’s their third straight PPV match, so I was hoping for something to make it stand out like a Street Fight or a Ladder Match. Nope. It’s just a regular match that was bumped down to the Kickoff Show as well. I feel like that’s a disservice to the quality performers that these guys are and they should be given more of a spotlight. That’s what happens when you have a 13-match card, though. You can’t feature everybody. Anyway, New Day should retain their title because there’s no reason for it to be just a one-month title reign.

Prediction: New Day retains their Smackdown Tag Team Titles

WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Akira Tozawa vs. Neville (Kickoff Match)

They did the title change on Monday’s Raw and it drew a good ovation. Tozawa winning was a mild surprise because there aren’t a lot of heels lined up for him after he gets by Neville. That’s why they might do another title change to get it back to Neville, but I’m not going to predict that. I’ll go with the Tozawa retain here and I wonder what’s next for both guys after the rematch.

Prediction: Akira Tozawa retains the Cruiserweight Championship

Jason Jordan and The Hardy Boyz vs. The Miz, Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel (Kickoff Match)

It’s a rematch from Monday’s Raw that was added to the Kickoff Show on Thursday. When they did the match as impromptu tag on Raw, I thought why would they do it here and not do it at SummerSlam? Of course, here we are at SummerSlam and they are doing it again. That means three matches on this show already took place on Monday’s Raw, so it feels like another repeat. The face team of Jordan and the Hardys should win with Jordan getting the win for this team since it was Jeff who got the victory on Monday.

Prediction: Jason Jordan and The Hardy Boyz win

In Closing

I feel like it’s a pretty good show that will be carried on the strength of the main event. If that match is as great as I think it will be, then SummerSlam will be remembered as one of the better shows of the year because of how much depth there is on the rest of the card.

One thing I think WWE failed to do this year is create some fresh matches. Like I said earlier, three of the matches took place on Monday and we’re getting them again on Sunday. That’s not ideal. I pointed out the Raw Tag Team Title match as my second favorite match on the show because it’s fresh and different. That’s something WWE has to be better at doing when they set up these PPV lineups because it would make the shows better if there was less familiarity in these matches.

After writing all of that out, I realize I picked three title changes. It seems like a lot, but there are also eight title matches on the show, so there should be a few changes to mix things up a bit.

You can watch WWE SummerSlam this Sunday on WWE Network at 7 p.m. ET with a Kickoff Show starting at 5 p.m. ET as well. I’ll be back on Monday with a review of the show.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He's written for WhatCulture, Bleacher Report, Layfield Report, Rajah.com and many other places. You can follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at mrjohncanton@gmail.com with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at TJRWrestling.net.