AJ Styles defends against Samoa Joe, Dean Ambrose returns, and the Big Dog tries to finally get it done against Brock Lesnar.
Next to WrestleMania, SummerSlam is generally regarded as the second-biggest pay-per-view in WWE’s library (and yes, sigh, the Biggest Party of the Summer). This year’s lineup certainly lives up to that billing, with several huge matchups that could have major implications in the stories going forward. If nothing else, a 7pm ET start time and a two hour kickoff show means the show will be colossal from a pure time-spent-watching standpoint. Buckle up for six to seven hours of WWE action, wrestling fans!
In lieu of wasting any more time since you’ll need all the free time you can get just to finish the damn show, let’s dive into our preview and predictions.
Cedric Alexander (c) vs. Drew Gulak (Kickoff Show – WWE Cruiserweight Championship)
Drew Gulak may have been unsuccessful in his quest to win the NXT United Kingdom Championship, being knocked out in the first round by Gentleman Jack Gallagher, but the man for a better 205 Live has the chance to capture the purple strap in the SummerSlam kickoff show.
Patrick: This is where I admit I’ve been a bad wrestling fan and have barely been watching any 205 Live. I’ve heard great things, and I’ve checked out some of the most buzzworthy matchups (usually involving Buddy Murphy of all people – man, what a turnaround), but that’s about it. It’s not anything against the show, which is usually actually quite good — it’s just that there’s so much WWE to get through every week as is. That said, Alexander has had the title since WrestleMania and it might be nice to switch things up a bit. Gulak has one of the most developed and interesting characters on the show, so he’s as good a pick as any.
Winner: Drew Gulak
Jason: I like Cedric Alexander. You like Cedric Alexander. We all like Cedric Alexander…but just like all real baby faces he works best while chasing the title and is kind of boring as a champ. As such, it feels like his time has come. Four months is respectable, so let’s let the be-suited nerd with the PowerPoint presentation play chap for a while before the WWE finally puts the purple belt out to pasture.
Winner: Guu Drewlak
Brian: Am I the only one who misses the PowerPoint presentations? I think, out of all the non-HHH gimmicks on 205 Live, that’s the one I would have kept. There are so many talented people on the 205 Live roster, the title deserves to be moved around a bit. Not constantly, but let’s not create a NXT UK Championship situation here. SummerSlam seems like a perfect opportunity to hit the next chapter in the purple brand and giving Gulak a chance to shine with the title is a great start.
Winner: Drew Gulak
The B-Team (c) vs. The Revival (Kickoff Show – Raw Tag Team Championships)
Against all odds, the unlikeliest tag team in recent memory not only took the Raw Tag Team Championships from seasoned vets Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt, but they fended the Deleters of Worlds off in their attempts to recapture the gold. The Cinderella story has continued, but the hard-nosed Revival look to put and end to that and get their career back on track.
Patrick: Honestly, I’m surprised the B-Team success angle has been going on for as long as it has, but I have to admit, the crowd is starting to dig them. They’re fine for what they are and they play their roles well, but let’s face it: The Raw tag team division is a complete joke compared to what SmackDown‘s putting out, and having the former Miztourage as torch bearers isn’t doing anything to fix that. The Revival have had a tough go of things on the main roster, but this is an easy opportunity to turn that around and elevate them where they belong.
Winners: The Revival
Jason: I say this every time the B-Team shows up to one of these things, but Jesus I am done with this comedy jobber tandem fluking into wins over better competitors. I also feel like every time the Revival is on one of these things I say that they desperately need this win to salvage anything resembling respect. When these two feelings coincide into one match…I think I’m due to be disappointed again. I want to be wrong on this one, but I think the B-Team are pulling this out.
Winners: Bo and Curt
Brian: I am really happy with the concept and execution of The B-Team as everything except champions. There is a need in wrestling for comedy acts and Bo and Axel fit the role really well. Now, the fact that there are essentially 3-4 low-level comedy-ish acts on Raw is a HUGE problem, but I digress. Let’s hope that this is the moment for a reset on The Revival’s momentum, catapulting them into a feud with AoP, a team they’ve proven they can have good matches with. That or Titus Worldwide or something. Can we rebuild the division, please?
Winners: The Revival
Rusev and Lana vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega (Kickoff Show)
It has not been a happy Rusev Day in many weeks, thanks to a series of miscommunications between Rusev, Lana and Aiden English. It’s clear English is trying his best to prove himself a valuable asset for the Bulgarian Brute, but he’s managed to bungle every opportunity as of late. Taking advantage of this are the emergent Andrade “Cien” Almas and his business associate Zelina Vega, who have racked up a series of wins against Rusev and Lana.
Patrick: It’s a shame this is on the pre-show, because this has been a pretty entertaining program thus far. Sure, Rusev went from vying for the WWE Championship to jerking the curtain, but it’s clear Almas is going to be somebody in WWE in short order, so this is far from a throwaway contest. Expect the further dissolution of Rusev Day and Almas and Vega to take advantage.
Winners: Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega
Jason: If Aiden English doesn’t cost my man RuRu this match either on purpose or otherwise, I’ll eat my hat. I don’t think the turn comes just yet, but Aiden’s definitely f-----g this one up for Mr. and Mrs. Brute and El Idolo and Zelina are gonna notch another PPV (pre-show) victory.
Winners: The former La Sombra and Thea Trinidad
Brian: This is the kind of pre-show match that makes that 2 hours(!!!) worth at least paying attention to. A lot of people will be mad about the placement of this match, but I think this will be a great way to kick Andrade further up the card while starting something between Rusev and English, perhaps a “Lana’s accent on a pole” match or something.
Winner: El Idolo and Zelina Vega
Finn Balor vs. Constable Corbin
Ever since being promoted to the newly-created role of Constable of Raw by Stephanie McMahon, Baron Corbin has used his newfound power to make Finn Balor’s life a living hell. Finn, ever the optimist, hasn’t let it get him down, but he’ll have to try to ward off the Constable once again in Brooklyn.
Patrick: Man…talk about a worthless feud. I love Finn Balor and I don’t even hate Baron Corbin, but this is just not doing either of them any favors. Corbin hates Balor because…he’s short? I guess? And Finn is…happy about it? I dunno, what else is all that smiling supposed to convey? As far as predicting a winner goes, I think Corbin as a comedy character can soak up the loss better than Balor can, and Balor desperately needs to close this chapter out if he’s to be taken seriously going forward.
Winner: Finn Balor
Jason: Baron Corbin is doing his best work as a sycophantic authoritarian heel and yet he still kind of sucks. Finn Balor deserves so much better than fighting a guy for calling him short. Dude was the first ever Universal Champion. He should be fighting guys with name recognition and heat, not slumming it with a guy who would be otherwise shoehorned into a 6-man tag alongside the Authors of Pain or something.
Winner: The guy who doesn’t dress in a shirt from H&M
Brian: I’m still of the belief that Finn Balor will be a main event player once Brock is gone. It might take a little while to build him back up, but a feud with Kevin Owens or a returning Sami Zayn in the next year will up his status. In-ring, there’s no question who should win this match. In Vince’s head? I just don’t know anymore.
Winner: The Once and Future Demon King
Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs. The New Day (SmackDown Tag Team Championships)
Bludgeon Brothers have been untouchable as SmackDown Tag Team Champions, even putting away the mighty Team Hell No following a vicious assault before the match at Extreme Rules. This reign of terror prompted SmackDown Live General Manager Paige to create a tournament to determine the #1 contenders for the titles, which came down to The New Day and The Bar in a fantastic match in which New Day was victorious. Next up: conquer the most imposing force SmackDown Live‘s tag division has ever seen. They’re gonna need a lot of pancakes.
Patrick: It’s clear that as a General Manager, Paige cares way more about her tag division than her Raw counterpart Kurt Angle does. I doubt Angle would ever care enough to put together a tournament for his division, even a miniature one like this. New Day proved on SmackDown against The Bar that they are still the gold standard in WWE’s tag division, even if they have been without the titles for a long while. However, I feel that their role here is to continue to put over Harper and Rowan as monsters, so they’ll be doing the honors in Brooklyn.
Winners: Bludgeon Brothers
Jason: The New Day have been actually gaining a surprising amount of momentum on the road to this match while the Hammer Brothers have been pretty stagnant since…well, since the Fashion Files. I think you have a lot more options for good matches and merch sales by putting those belts back on Kofi, Woods and E, so let the pancake platoon get one up on the BBs.
Winners: The NEW DAY
Brian: For me to take The Bludgeon Brothers seriously as an act, they need the titles right now. That’s all there is to it. If they don’t have the straps, there is little reason for me to care. They don’t have depth yet. New Day has oodles of depth, creativity, and the gravitas to lose a tough match like this and still be a constantly featured team, perhaps even moving Kofi into the main event picture once the WWE title starts shifting around.
Winners: The LARPers
Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens (If Strowman loses by any means, Owens wins the Money in the Bank briefcase)
Kevin Owens used his suck-up relationship with Baron Corbin and Stephanie McMahon to finagle an amazing situation for himself when he convinced Steph to force Mr. Money in the Bank to put his briefcase up for grabs in this match at SummerSlam. Even sweeter, the stipulation is that if Strowman loses by any means whatsoever, he loses the briefcase, meaning even count outs and DQs are fair game.
Patrick: I both love and hate this matchup. I love that Owens snaked his way into this match, and I really hope he does come away with the briefcase, because his character is tailor made for it and it’s not doing anything for Strowman, just as I feared. I hate it because it’s one of those situations that has a very, very easy solution: Strowman loses if he’s DQed, right? Being attacked by outside interference counts as a disqualification, so why doesn’t Owens just have his buddy Jinder Mahal run down the second the match starts and punch him once, causing the DQ? It obviously won’t happen that way because wrestling, but this should be a fun match with lots of spots where Owens looks for the easy out. I’m going to follow my heart and say KO walks away with the briefcase here.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Jason: I said it earlier about Finn Balor, but it’s true here too: Kevin Owens deserves better. Not that Braun Strowman isn’t a quality opponent or anything — I honestly may rank Braun Strowman as the best big man of all time — it’s that Owens’ booking in this feud has reduced the former Universal Champion to a total joke. He’s one of the best performers in the company and he’s a loser who can’t win a match unless its by technicality. Though I think he would have been a better fit for the role, I don’t see Kev leaving with the Money in the Bank Briefcase. Braun’s going to keep rolling and hopefully cash in at the end of the night to leave as the new Universal Champion…dear god, I hope that’s the case.
Brian: Owens and Strowman both are main event talent. Without the shadow of The Beast covering everything on Raw, Strowman would be the unstoppable champ with Owens trying to find a way to get Roman Reigns out of the way so he could get his Universal Title back. Next year in Jerusalem. The MitB contract doesn’t work well for faces without calling their shots, ala Cena or RVD. Owens will find a way to win this match when BRAUN suddenly snaps a limb off or something.
Winner: Kevin O-ooooooowens
Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz
Eight years in the making. Everybody knows Daniel Bryan’s long history with The Miz, dating back to the first iteration of NXT where Miz was Bryan’s pro. In the eight years since, Bryan has taken the United States Championship from Miz, gone on to main event WrestleMania and win the WWE Championship (a feat Miz has also accomplished and still brags about to this day), and hell, as if just to prove he can do anything Miz can do, Bryan’s even starred in a successful reality show of his own on Total Bellas. Oh yeah, and there was also the whole Talking Smack fiasco. The point is, this has been a long time coming.
Patrick: For me, this is the main event right here. Daniel Bryan has once again lucked into an emotionally resonant, reality-based storyline that’ll be remembered for years to come. It happened in the lead-up to WrestleMania XXX with The Authority, and everything that’s happened between The Miz and Daniel Bryan — especially during Bryan’s forced retirement — has brought them to this point. It’s impossible to write a wrestling storyline this good, and that’s what makes wrestling so special to me: how organically stories like this can come together. I very much hope this is just the start of a feud that culminates at WrestleMania, and if that’s the case, I see The Miz weaseling his way to a crooked victory here.
Winner: The Miz
Jason: One of a handful of matches I hope can live up to the considerable hype surrounding it, The Miz Vs. Daniel Bryan has had the company’s best non-NXT build since CM Punk fought John Cena back in 2011, and though Bryan is one of the all time in-ring greats, Miz’s skills between the ropes are not in his league. I feel like many people think the outcome likely depends on Bryan’s questionable contract status heading into the event, but that might be a bit too on the nose. Even if they plan to do a full series of matches, I see Bryan taking the first one in the series, with Miz escalating the situation as they head to a rubber match at WrestleMania. Or they give him the win because they want the crowd to have a happy ending for a match they care about. Either way, it’ll be vegan steaks on Sunday!
Brian: In a match that would get lost in the shuffle of a WrestleMania, this long-term grudge match has gotten one of the most organic builds of any in the business. These two have despised each other for years and now, finally, can meet in the ring. Where else are we getting this kind of build in the WWE? The packages from Tuesday perfectly laid out the story and there is not a single person who will be in Barclay’s on Sunday that doesn’t want to see Miz get his head kicked in. Yes! Yes! Yes!
Winner: Brie’s Babby Daddy
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Jeff Hardy (WWE United States Championship)
Jeff Hardy is back, but he’s fighting a war on two fronts. On one hand, he’s the #1 contender for Shinsuke Nakamura’s United States Championship, invoking his rematch clause after losing the title in embarrassing, record fashion at Extreme Rules. As if the champ who has a penchant for low blows wasn’t enough, Hardy has to look over his shoulder for a Viper every chance he gets, as a newly vicious Randy Orton has centered his sights on the Charismatic Enigma. With so much against him, how will Hardy be able to pull out a win at SummerSlam?
Patrick: I’m really digging the new-attitude Randy Orton (so long as he keeps it in his pants this time around), and it seems like this match is just sort of tying up loose ends between Hardy and Nakamura so they can move toward a Hardy/Orton feud. That’s fine by me. As for Nakamura’s next challenger? Assuming he’s done with Miz after Sunday, why not Daniel Bryan?
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Jason: Sigh, I wish they would just give Nak a strong win over a quality opponent here, but with Handy Orton lurking in the background waiting to shake Jeff’s hand without his consent, the writing is on the wall here. Expect Hardy to look like he’s going to get the win only for the Viper to break away from his busy schedule of harassing new writers long enough to cost the Charismatic Enigma the match. Nak rolls on.
Winner: The Artist…well, the good artist…well…the one who doesn’t paint his face
Brian: Jeff Hardy is one of a handful of wrestlers on the roster who will never need a title to remain relevant. Randy Orton is another. Hey, perfect! Shinsuke can get a signature win over a WWE veteran and move on to showcase his weird bad guy persona against some other talented and overlooked stars.
Dolph Ziggler (c) (with Drew McIntyre) vs. Seth Rollins (with Dean Ambrose) (WWE Intercontinental Championship)
The Intercontinental Championship meant everything to Seth Rollins, and with the help of his new bodyguard Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler took that away. The numbers game has proven to be too much for the Kingslayer, but on Monday night a certain Lunatic returned to his side, providing one hell of an equalizer. Will it be enough for Rollins to reclaim the gold?
Patrick: I personally would have saved Ambrose’s return for SummerSlam itself, but honestly, I have no complaints about the way it was done this Monday night. The crowd went absolutely nuts when his music hit, even though it was completely telegraphed and drawn out by Rollins. Ambrose looks to have packed on more than a few pounds of muscles and ditched the goofy bangs, and it’ll be fun to have him back in the mix. As far as the match at hand: I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Ambrose heel turn, costing Rollins the title and moving into another installment of Ambrose/Rollins.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
Jason: So I don’t know if you know this, reader, but I wear glasses because I have trouble reading from a distance. Things further away than a few feet tend to get a little blurry and hard to make out. It’s made driving a challenge and impacted my life in numerous ways — all that and even I can see this Dean Ambrose turn coming from a mile away. Deano is costing Seth this match and then beating the ever loving s--t out of him to cement his status as the top heel on the red brand: Brock-free division.
Brian: I know we’re all on the “Turn Dean Heel” train, but can we wait until Survivor Series? Please? I want to see mean af Dean Ambrose taking on Drew McIntyre! Let’s have some sort of traditional SS match and he can turn on Rollins for all the right reasons then. He looks so good, you guys. I’m jealous of Renee. Another IC run, this time as a heel, would be great. Oh, the match. Rollins wins.
Winner: The Architect
Carmella (c) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair (Triple Threat – SmackDown Women’s Championship)
Carmella’s held onto the SmackDown Women’s Championship since cashing in on the Queen by hook or by crook, but she doesn’t seem to have any more tricks (or chinless wonders) up her sleeve — her time may be up this Sunday. Becky Lynch defeated the Princess of Staten Island to earn this title shot, but a returning Charlotte managed to work her way into the match as well. Charlotte and Becky are longtime friends, but is Charlotte stealing Beck’s thunder here?
Patrick: I’m a little disappointed Charlotte is overshadowing Becky here, but at least that’s the story they’re going with. Since that seems to be the linchpin (no pun intended) of the angle, I imagine it will factor into the result. Charlotte ruining Becky’s moment by reclaiming the gold and giving Becky someone to chase could make for compelling television. Either way though, I think Mella is no longer money.
Winner: Charlotte Flair
Jason: Once Charlotte got her (golden and beautiful) ass added to this match, the writing was on the wall. Charlotte and Becky are going to cancel each other out and the never-ending nightmare that is Carmella’s SmackDown Women’s Title reign will keep marching on. As is my theme in this write up, Becky deserves better. Just give her a damn run with the title already.
Winner: The Moonwalking, trash talking princess of Staten Island
Brian: My article on the math of triple threat matches tells me that Carmella has little chance of coming away with the title here. On to Charlotte and Charlotte’s friend. Charlotte’s friend was the first ever SmackDown Women’s Champion. Charlotte’s friend is incredibly talented and deserves some time in the spotlight, even if she has to break Charlotte’s arm to do so. Actually, what I really want is for Carmella to be put into both the Figure Eight and the Dis-arm-her at the same time and tap to both. Co-champs? Final fight the next PPV?
Winner: The Irish Lass Kicker/The Queen
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Ronda Rousey (Raw Women’s Championship)
Ronda Rousey’s suspension is up, and she’s out for blood. Alexa Bliss has gotten the better of the Baddest Woman on the Planet as of late, but Little Miss Bliss’s luck has likely run out at SummerSlam. She won’t be able to hide behind suspensions or Mickie James or Alicia Fox — she must defend her title against one of the most physically imposing women in WWE history.
Patrick: I’m excited to see where this one goes. I’ll admit it: I’m a Ronda Rousey mark and have been since day one in WWE. Even before that, actually, as she’s also the reason I’m a (very casual) UFC fan. Rousey has proven she’s an even better pro wrestler than she was a fighter, having an excellent debut at WrestleMania and having a very good match against Nia Jax at Money in the Bank. Bliss is one of the best characters in the women’s division, but her in-ring work has a ways to go. Still, if she can rag doll for Rousey, this one should be entertaining.
Winner: Ronda Rousey
Jason: You ever seen a Rottweiler fight a Chihuahua?
Winner: Rowdy Ronda
Brian: If Vince is good, Bliss will get shattered here. Why not have Ronda just destroy her? It will begin a great build of dominance into Night of Champions vs Becky Balboa, which will eventually lead to Mania vs Charlotte in the first women’s Mania main event slot.
Winner: The Baddest Woman on the Planet
AJ Styles (c) vs. Samoa Joe (WWE Championship)
AJ Styles and Samoa Joe have been in each other’s proximity for almost two decades. Two former TNA icons, the two have faced off in the Impact Zone many times, but this is their first tussle in the big leagues of the WWE — and it’s for the richest prize in sports entertainment to boot. Joe immediately made the matchup personal when he evoked AJ’s family, calling the Phenomenal One a failure to his wife and children. Is that enough to get into the head of the Champ Who Runs the Camp?
Patrick: This match needs no story, but the story they did muster has been pretty weak. The family angle seemed to come out of nowhere and is so forced. But again, it’s AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe, so who really cares? This should be a great match. I feel like AJ will walk away with the title — he’s one of the few guys I’m perfectly happy to see a year+ long reign with a world title, and this feud with Samoa Joe is so new that it doesn’t seem like the right time to take it off him just yet.
Winner: AJ Styles
Jason: Man, this is one where I want to be wrong, but AJ Styles is holding onto that title through at least Survivor Series. Dude is the cover star of WWE 2K19 and if you think they’re taking the title off of him before the game drops in October, prepare to be disappointed. It’s a shame too, because Joe has been doing great work since his move to SmackDown…you know, when he’s actually on TV. I would love Joe to be the WWE Champion, I just don’t see it happening. Maybe in November.
Winner: Alan Jones Styles.
Brian: We’ve reached another WWE artificial milestone with AJ Styles recently becoming the longest reigning SDL-only champion, surpassing the great (?) JBL. Time to move the belt along. AJ doesn’t need it, but AJ chasing it along with 2-3 others would be…Phenomenal. Joe deserves a run as a monster heel champ, avoiding AJ’s rematch clause at all costs. I can’t wait for this one.
Winner: The Samoan Submission Machine
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns (Universal Championship)
Welcome to Groundhog Day SummerSlam, where once again Roman Reigns will try to pry the Universal Championship from Brock Lesnar’s ungrateful hands. Lesnar has made no attempt to hide the fact that he’s eyeing a UFC return, but if he can go to the octagon while also holding Monday Night Raw‘s top prize, why not? All Brock sees is more dollar signs. A tiff with his advocate, Paul Heyman, a few weeks ago on Raw added some intrigue to this match, but it seemed to all be misdirection. So here we go again: Can the Big Dog topple the Beast?
Patrick: I am getting fatigue from writing about this particular match up so much. Please just make it end. I want Reigns to win the title and just be done with this and Brock Lesnar in general. I guess that’s WWE’s goal, but it’s less of a “I can’t wait to see Roman take down Brock” and more of a “let’s just effing get this over with already.”
Winner: Roman Reigns
Jason: I mean, it’s gotta be Roman right? If he loses here, what the hell have we been doing with this guy for the past few years? This guy has tried and failed to beat the Beast on three occasions so far. If he loses the fourth, Roman may as well hang up his flack jacket and head for the damn Impact Zone. If they worry about the reaction of the crowd, there’s the plan C of the MITB winner, but honestly, just give Roman the damn belt and lets get on with it.
Winner: The Big Dog
Brian: I’m just tired. This will go on last after 3-4 really solid or even great matches happen. The crowd will have been there for nearly 6 hours. In New York. At the Barclay’s Center. They are going to boo the s--t out of Roman no matter what. Just move the belt along to Roman so it can get back in circulation and actually mean something.
Winner: God, I hope Roman Reigns
If you’d like more wrestling news, opinions and hot takes, check out our weekly podcast, Poor Taste Wrestling. New episodes are available every Friday, where we break down Raw, SmackDown Live, NXT and more every week. You can also follow us on Twitter @AiPTwrestling for up-to-the-minute news and opinions.