This Sunday night in Brooklyn, World Wrestling Entertainment presents the 29th edition of the “biggest party of the summer” known as SummerSlam. It’s a show with 11 advertised matches, featuring Brock Lesnar battling Randy Orton in a match that is “15 years in the making,” while all six current championships on WWE’s main roster are on the line as well.
SummerSlam is likely going be the best WWE pay-per-view of the year because of strong matches from top to bottom, fresh matches in some cases and rematches that people want to see as well.
What’s the main event? That’s up for debate because there’s the Lesnar vs. Orton match that has been built up really well on both Raw and Smackdown over the last month. Then there’s Dean Ambrose defending the WWE World Title for the Smackdown brand against Dolph Ziggler, and the first match for the WWE Universal Title is set to take place with Seth Rollins battling Finn Balor for the first time ever in WWE.
Lesnar vs. Orton is a big deal because they have a long history together, even though they haven’t crossed paths in WWE on a big stage. The two men started training at Ohio Valley Wrestling at the same time in 2001 (Lesnar actually started in 2000) along with the likes of John Cena, Batista and Shelton Benjamin. When both were called up to the main roster in 2002, Lesnar received a massive push leading to a WWE Championship victory within four months, while Orton was the young guy full of potential.
They had a match on Smackdown on Sept. 5, 2002 as Lesnar (the WWE Champion at the time) was getting ready to face The Undertaker at Unforgiven, while Orton was just a 22-year-old looking to make a name for himself. There was a cool finish to the match with Orton hitting a cross-body block from the top rope, Lesnar caught him, rolled through and finished him off with the F5.
Since that first encounter, Lesnar had a short run in WWE that ended in 2004 when he left the company (because he “hates people,” according to Orton), while Orton went on to win his first World Title at SummerSlam 2004. Orton was 24 years old when he won, making him the youngest World Champion in WWE history. Lesnar was second-youngest at 25 years of age. It wasn’t an accident that WWE had somebody beat Lesnar’s record in the same year he walked out of the company. It was WWE’s way of showing they had plenty of people there to fill the void.
Fast-forward 12 years later to today and the 36-year-old Orton is a 12-time WWE World Champion that has been one of the most valuable performers in WWE during the past 15 years. Lesnar is valuable too, but he’s not considered a WWE lifer, which upsets some people. He’s the guy that is there because people want to pay to see him beat people up, whether it’s in a UFC octagon or a WWE ring. Some people like Orton more simply because he’s been there longer and probably likes the wrestling business more than Lesnar does.
I think WWE has done a great job in building up the match considering the brand split that took place last month, so they haven’t been on the same show more than two nights prior to the match. On Aug. 1, Orton snuck onto Raw to give Lesnar the RKO #outtanowhere (they love hashtags in WWE). The next night, Lesnar struck back with the F5 on Smackdown Live.
As they both showed during their run-ins earlier in the month, they possess two of the best finishing moves in WWE history with the crowd going wild for both of them. It’s pretty amazing how popular the RKO is, considering Orton’s been using it for a decade and Diamond Dallas Page was using it through the mid-1990s as well. That move has aged very well.
The video package they did with both guys sitting down for interviews was excellent. Orton talked about how it bugged him that Lesnar left the company in 2004 while Lesnar stated that even though he knew Orton, it’s not like they were ever friends. WWE does a fantastic job of building matches through video packages. This was one of the better ones this year.
Where things get difficult is trying to pick the winner of the match. If both guys were full-time wrestlers, then it would be easy to pick Lesnar. However, we don’t know when Lesnar’s next WWE match is going to be. Will he be on one of the PPVs from September through the end of the year? That’s not known. If he isn’t coming back until January’s Royal Rumble, then should they put him over here or give Orton the win because he will be on television most Tuesdays as part of Smackdown?
The other factor is that Lesnar allegedly failed two drug tests prior to his UFC 200 victory last month and even though WWE didn’t suspend him, they may choose to “punish” him by having him lose a match. Lesnar’s Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) failure isn’t something WWE is going to be thrilled about, even though they have no reason to talk about it on their broadcast aside from Orton saying “no enhancement needed” at Battleground last month. In recent weeks, WWE has said they don’t drug test part-time performers like him — which doesn’t make WWE look great, by the way.
A win for Orton would be huge for his career as well as the Smackdown brand. If WWE wants to make Smackdown feel bigger than Raw and for Orton to get back a lot of momentum as a top face wrestler on that show, then they should have him win. That doesn’t mean he will, but it’s a possibility.
I’m leaning towards Lesnar as the pick, just because it’s rare to see him lose. Look for Orton to hit a RKO or maybe two of them and Lesnar will kick out. I think it’s going to take two or three F5’s, but ultimately Lesnar will be victorious.
The Pick: Brock Lesnar
Here are my predictions for the rest of the SummerSlam lineup. All graphics come from WWE.com.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler
This feud has been built up well. I really liked their promo on Smackdown this week with Ziggler dropping Ambrose with a Superkick. I’m expecting Ambrose to win because I think he’ll feud with AJ Styles pretty soon and that would be better as a title feud.
Ziggler will come close, but he’ll fail. I expect a very close match that the crowd will care about a lot. What interests me also is if Ziggler turns heel soon after the loss because that might be the best thing for his career.
The Pick: Dean Ambrose
WWE Universal Championship: Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor
It’s the first match for Raw’s newly created championship that will be the equivalent of a World Title. As a side note, I’m intrigued by what the title may look like. At this point, nobody really knows. I guess a Universal Title is even bigger, right? I’m sure planets like Saturn and Jupiter really care!
For Balor, this is his first main roster PPV match. He’s only had two matches on the main roster, yet he’s here against a former two-time WWE Champion in Rollins. They hyped up the Demon King version of Balor on Raw big-time when they mentioned “demon king” about 40 times during that broadcast. My feeling is that if he were to wrestle a main roster match as the Demon for the first time and lose, that really wouldn’t make him look good. I think Balor is going to win an awesome match. Really looking forward to it.
The Pick: Finn Balor is the new WWE Universal Champion
John Cena vs. AJ Styles
This is their second big match after Styles won two months ago at Money in the Bank, thanks to some help. At last month’s Battleground, Cena pinned Styles in a six-man tag.
Cena’s expected to miss a couple of months of WWE TV to film season two of American Grit, but it might be after the Sept. 11 Backlash pay-per-view. I think Cena will win here, Styles will beat him at Backlash, and then Styles can go after the WWE Title. If Styles wins here, it would be even better and may happen if Cena leaves to film the TV show soon. I just don’t expect Cena to lose two PPV singles matches in a row because it’s so rare. It should be an excellent match.
The Pick: John Cena
WWE United States Championship: Rusev vs. Roman Reigns
I would care more about this match if they weren’t on Raw for nearly an hour and if they didn’t have a three-segment main event match that Reigns won clean. I’m not sure how they are going to do the finish, but I think Rusev will leave as the US Champion. It will probably be a cheap win for Rusev or maybe some sort of disqualification finish. I just don’t see Reigns leaving with this title that he has showed no interest in winning.
The Pick: Rusev
WWE Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte
This is a rematch from their excellent July 25 Raw match when Banks won the title. Champions get a rematch for any title they lose, but they usually don’t win. Banks should retain in a match that gets 15-20 minutes, which never used to happen for women’s wrestlers. It’s one of the better things WWE has been doing this year.
The Pick: Sasha Banks
WWE Tag Team Championship: The New Day vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
It’s time for a title change. I don’t think any of the other titles will change hands, so it would fit well on this show. Since the story is that Big E is out with an injured groin, Gallows & Anderson should be able to handle Woods & Kingston, which could lead to some New Day conflict.
I feel like this is going to be the start of the New Day split. Big E can complain about how he didn’t lose the titles, they did and suddenly the group will have problems. I don’t want them to split up yet, but this is WWE where they always end things too early. Gallows & Anderson are a great team, so they deserve to be the ones to end The New Day’s one-year title reign.
The Pick: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson become the new Tag Team Champions
WWE Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Apollo Crews
It’s nice to see a “new” guy like Crews getting an IC Title shot, but this hasn’t been built well at all. They have barely had any TV time in the last two weeks. The crowd is probably going to be dead for most of this. It feels like the start of a rivalry rather than an ending, so Miz will probably get disqualified or win by cheat. That can lead to a rematch down the road with Crews winning the title in September or October. It just doesn’t feel like the right time yet.
The Pick: The Miz
Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens
This match sees a full-time team in Enzo & Cass against a part-time team in Jericho & Owens. I think it’s just a case of using Jericho & Owens to put over the popular faces, which can lead to Enzo & Cass feuding with Gallows & Anderson in the near future. There’s a possibility that Jericho or Owens could turn face after the team fizzles out, but I hope not because I like both guys better as heels.
The Pick: Enzo & Cass
Natalya, Eva Marie & Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi, Becky Lynch & Carmella
The six women of Smackdown are in tag team action. Will Eva Marie finally have a match? I’m not sure if she’ll do anything here. It seems like this will be done to put over Naomi, who has a new ring entrance and gear. I’m not sure how they are going to replace Eva Marie. Nikki Bella is ready to come back, but she would likely be a face, so I’m not sure what they might do.
Update: Eva Marie has been suspended due to a wellness policy violation, so she will not participate in this match.
The Pick: Naomi, Becky Lynch & Carmella
Best-of-7 Series (Match 1): Sheamus vs. Cesaro
Sheamus has failed to win a match on Raw since the brand split took place last month, including two clean losses to Cesaro. Time for a win, right? Since it’s a best-of-seven series, it might as well be in this match. I think Cesaro’s going to win the series, but Sheamus will win this match.
The Pick: Sheamus
I’m really excited for this show. I think it’s going to be the best pay-per-view of the year because they have four hours of time to fill, including two hours for the Kickoff Show. That’s going to mean the top five matches are all going to get 15+ minutes of in-ring time and if they get that, the event will deliver several outstanding bouts. There’s nothing on the card which is that bad aside from the six women’s tag, which will probably be kept short.
On a final note, I think it’s terrible that Sami Zayn isn’t advertised for a match on this show. Maybe they will add something, but it’s bad that they have 11 matches and can’t think of anything for a guy that is a big part of WWE’s future. Come on, creative team. You can do better than this.
This Saturday night is the WWE NXT Takeover Brooklyn event as well, which should be outstanding. Here’s my preview of that, in case you missed it last week.
SummerSlam airs this Sunday, Aug. 21 on WWE Network with a start time of 7 p.m. ET with the Kickoff Show starting at 5 p.m. ET. I’ll be back on Monday will a full rundown of everything that happens. Enjoy it!