For WWE, this year's SummerSlam is made up of four R's: Ronda Rousey and Roman Reigns. One is a newcomer who set sports entertainment on fire since stepping out of the octagon and into the wrestling ring. The other remains perhaps the most controversial talent on the roster.
For Rousey, the biggest pay-per-view of the summer brings with it a match against Alexa Bliss and a chance to capture her first title in WWE. For Reigns, it's an opportunity to capture the Universal Championship for the first time and put to bed a long-running feud with Brock Lesnar who appears to be returning to UFC in 2019. His pursuit of the title has been a priority for WWE's creative team this year who have been tasked with turning the tide of opinion among the haters in the stands. Art is imitating life in their feud as Lesnar is being portrayed as a champion who rarely shows up and has been unwilling to defend it on the rare occasions he does.
The move has worked to a certain extent with Reigns garnering some sympathy from fans. Nonetheless, crowd reaction remains largely splintered and it will be very interesting to see how the diehard fans react should he win Sunday night. Will cheers outweigh boos? Perhaps time will tell.
There's no doubting how the crowd will react to a Rousey victory, which would cap off a whirlwind weekend for the international icon. She's also busy promoting her new movie Mile 22 which hits theaters this weekend. Should her match at SummerSlam end with a title being held above her head the roof at Barclays Center will blow sky high. It's the kind of headline that WWE would relish.
Overall, there are more than a dozen matches on the card. Among the other high profile matches AJ Styles will defend the WWE Championship against Samoa Joe, Carmella defends the SmackDown Women's Championship against Becky Lynch and Charlotte, Daniel Bryan takes on The Miz in a long-coming grudge match, and Seth Rollins looks to "burn it down" and defeat Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Championship.
Here is how I see everything playing out along with veteran wrestling journalists and Press Slam Podcast co-hosts Scott Fishman and Aaron Oster.
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns
Chuck: With the reported imminent expiration of Brock Lesnar's contract and a return to UFC on the horizon, it seems like a foregone conclusion that he will be dropping the title here. The only question is who he will be dropping it to. Will Braun Strowman cash in his Money In The Bank contract to become the new champ? Does it come after Reigns wins? I like the sound of that. PICK: Roman Reigns
Scott: The way the story has played out with Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman an important piece of it all, there really isn't any other way to go other than the "Big Dog" getting his win back. If Lesnar stays or not in WWE, the Universal championship needs some more screen time on television. And with the "Beast Incarnate" holding the gold, that won't happen. Now if this means Reigns wins only for Braun Strowman cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase remains to be seen. PICK: Roman Reigns
Aaron: If this is the match, and nothing else happens, then I don't see how Reigns can lose. I know it will be tempting to have Lesnar as champion as he's prepping for his UFC title fight to capitalize on the publicity, but Reigns can't lose again to Lesnar in a one-on-one match. To me, the question is if/when the Money in the Bank briefcase gets cashed in. If Braun Strowman still has the briefcase at the end of the night, I see no way he doesn't cash in, whether it's before or during the match, or after. If it's Kevin Owens, you can wait a little longer. However, it's likely if the briefcase gets cashed in after the match, that it's Reigns standing tall before the cash-in. PICK: Roman Reigns
RAW Women's Championship
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Ronda Rousey
Chuck: A title win by "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey will make headlines across the world. And with this being WWE's second-largest event of the year and it being in New York City, the time is right. Get ready for a new era. PICK: Ronda Rousey
Scott: WWE would love to promote the headline of "WWE Superstar Ronda Rousey Wins Women's Championship at SummerSlam." She also has a movie out this week in Mile 22. All the pieces are there, regardless of whether we feel it's a little early into the UFC Hall of Famer's run in WWE or not. She isn't your typical signing. WWE wants to make sure they get the most out of their investment and having Rousey represent the company as the Raw women's championship does that. Especially, when they have the Evolution in October to promote. PICK: Ronda Rousey
Aaron: I've floated a theory that perhaps Alexa Bliss could turn towards a suddenly called up Shayna Baszler to help her win this. That's the only situation where Bliss could win though. While she won the match, Rousey failed in her first attempt to win the title. She's most likely not failing in her second. PICK: Ronda Rousey
AJ Styles (c) vs. Samoa Joe
Chuck: For long-time wrestling fans this is the continuation of a rivalry that dates back more than a decade. They began squaring off in Ring of Honor and carried the feud to Impact Wrestling. Now, the next chapter of their history will be written in Brooklyn. Styles is only a few months shy of holding the title for a year and this feud seems to be a stop-gap for what's coming next. Thus, I see the gold staying around his waist for a while longer. PICK: AJ Styles
Scott: Things are personal between AJ Styles and Samoa Joe. The end of SmackDown Live this week could be a sign of things to come. Joe getting into Styles' head, using his family and their history against him. Fact is Styles has had a lengthy reign with the title and having him chase it at this point intrigues me more right now. Joe has been outstanding on the mic and in the ring. It's time to solidify his dominance with a championship win. PICK: Samoa Joe
Aaron: SmackDown could use a bit of a shakeup. And what better way than to give Samoa Joe a run with the title? That doesn't mean that AJ Styles would go away, but we've also never really seen him chase the title, particularly as a face. Something new for him would be good. And after really floundering for a year and a half, it would be awesome to see Samoa Joe get rewarded for being one of the best all-around performers on the roster over the past six month. PICK: Samoa Joe0
SmackDown Women's Championship - Triple Threat Match
Carmella (c) vs. Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair
Chuck: With James Ellsworth once again cast of the WWE island, Carmella is left to fend of two top championship contenders on her own. Tensions between Becky and Charlotte have been teased and cast doubt on this one. The question becomes whether a possible fractured friendship will lead to the pair taking themselves out and leaving Carmella to retain. The bottom line is that the future is in a feud between Becky and Charlotte. I'm going with Carmella to retain, but look for her to drop it shortly thereafter. PICK: Carmella
Scott: Here is another toss-up. I'm choosing Charlotte winning as a catalyst for a feud between her and Becky Lynch. I can see Flair and Carmella meeting in September, but Flair ultimately on a path to meet Lynch at Evolution. I think Lynch breaking down, tired of Flair taking the spotlight is an intriguing story to pursue. PICK: Charlotte Flair
Aaron: I can't figure this match out at all. I do think we're headed towards Charlotte vs. Becky for the title at Evolution. But there are so many ways to get there. I think the easiest way to set up a face/heel dynamic and make sure to stretch it out for another two months is for the two bickering in the ring and allowing Carmella to get a sneaky win, have one of them take the title in the next month, and the other to turn on them. PICK: Carmella
Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz
Chuck: This match has been a long time coming. The Miz has been antagonizing Daniel Bryan since long before he was medically cleared to return. When the verbal barbs started flying, it led to speculation that Bryan's return was right around the corner. It would be a while longer, but now we're finally getting a payoff. As much as I'd like to see a happy ending here, I think The Miz is too hot to take away the title right now. The Miz and Mrs. has just been renewed and he continues to do the finest work of his career. So, I think this can gets kicked down the road for now… but this isn't over. PICK: The Miz
Scott: I initially was thinking of Daniel Bryan getting the feel-good moment at SummerSlam after years of story. Then I thought there is more money in having a future match between the two if Miz won. Then Miz can gloat for months only for Bryan to take his win back at a big show like a WrestleMania. Even better if Miz is WWE champion by the time the show comes around. PICK: The Miz
Aaron: This is the match we've all been waiting for. However, I don't think it's the last one. And the main way to make sure that we have this match happen again, whether it's at Hell in a Cell or, as many of us hope, at WrestleMania 35? Have Miz win in an underhanded fashion here. PICK: The Miz
Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Seth Rollins
Chuck: The return of Dean Ambrose makes this one interesting. It evens out the odds with Dolph Ziggler who has Drew McIntyre in his corner. I can see a scenario where The Lunatic Fringe turns on his former partner in The Shield and costs him the title. He's got a new look so why not give his character a reset as well. PICK: Dolph Ziggler
Scott: There are many ways this match can play out. Adding the returning Dean Ambrose to the mix definitely bring a new level of interest to this one. I can see a heel turn by Ambrose in the match or maybe even at Raw the next night. Then you ask yourself how long Drew McIntyre will stand along with Ziggler. Or it can go the traditional route, but there is something about the Ambrose and Rollins reunion that I don't feel it will last. Another thought that would be cool but probably won't happen is for Ambrose to join Ziggler and McIntyre. It's a toss-up. So I'll go with Ziggler here, partly because I hold out hope Rollins will return back in the Universal title picture eventually. PICK: Dolph Ziggler
Aaron: This match is all about what happens with Dean Ambrose. We all expect him to turn. Will it be right now, or will it be after he helps Seth Rollins win the title so they can feud over it? My hunch is that it happens right at SummerSlam. We had the feel-good moment on RAW, so why wait? PICK: Dolph Ziggler
Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens
Chuck: This feud has been a treat to watch. I think this might be the end of it so at least we'll have the memories, including Owens being pushed off the stage by Strowman in a port-a-potty. Fittingly, Owens' odds of winning here have gone right down the toilet. PICK: Braun Strowman.
Scott: All the talk from Braun Strowman about cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase when Brock Lesnar is around, it wouldn't do any favors for the "Monster Among Men" to not follow through on one of WWE's biggest shows of the year. This is why Kevin Owens defeating Strowman is unlikely. PICK: Braun Strowman
Aaron: Kevin Owens makes for a more interesting storyline going forward, and you can do more with it. However, they didn't set all this up for Strowman to lose now. PICK: Braun Strowman
United States Championship
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Jeff Hardy
Chuck: The Charismatic Enigma doesn't need a title to get over with the fans. Conversely, Nakamura is still somewhat cutting his teeth as a heel and another underhanded victory will help sharpen those fangs. PICK: Shinsuke Nakamura
Scott: I want Shinsuke Nakamura to have a longer title run, so I'm going with Jeff Hardy here. There is the underlying story with Randy Orton in the shadows that I'm sure will prevent Hardy from any kind of success. Maybe it ends in a DQ or some other way. The Orton factor is sure to play out more at SummerSlam, adding fuel to the fire for his rivalry with the "Charismatic Enigma." PICK: Shinsuke Nakamura
Aaron: Why isn't Randy Orton involved in this match? Isn't the big feud Hardy vs. Orton? I'm really confused. I think you could make a case that Hardy will beat Nakamura so Hardy/Orton is for the US title. However, I think the cleaner solution is to have Hardy lose (likely due to Orton outside interference) and separate both of them from the US title picture. PICK: Shinsuke Nakamura
Finn Bálor vs. Constable Baron Corbin
Chuck: A loss only bolsters Corbin's character and he's an integral part of Raw at the moment. So why ruin a good thing with a win? PICK: Finn Bálor
Scott: Constable Corbin wouldn't be hurt at all by a Finn Balor loss. And at this point, Balor needs the victory more if they want to keep him a viable contender for the Universal or Intercontinental titles. Corbin is making the most of his valuable TV time and growing a character that can find success down the line. Though at this point Balor getting the win seems to make the most sense. PICK: Finn Bálor
Aaron: I still think that Baron Corbin is the more interesting character in this moment. However, I've come around on the idea that right now, it doesn't matter what he does in the ring. As long as he's the Constable, he has an important spot on the roster. PICK: Finn Bálor
SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs. The New Day
Chuck: I wish WWE would do more with The Bludgeon Brothers as champions. In some ways, I feel the SmackDown tag division has stalled and both teams enter this match a little stale. But, WWE has been putting a little weight behind The New Day as of late. Thus, we're going with the kings of Booty O's. PICK: The New Day
Scott: I think for me mainly because the New Day went through this big tournament to even get a shot at the Bludgeon Brothers. I can't see WWE making them go through all that to lose against the Bludgeon Brothers. I wouldn't rule it out, but I'm going with New Day scraping by with the gold. PICK: The New Day
Aaron: I feel like whoever dethrones the Bludgeon Brothers should have a bit of a chase before doing it. We didn't get a chase here. While The New Day would make sense eventually, I think that it should happen at a later pay-per-view. PICK: The Bludgeon Brothers
Raw Tag Team Championship – Kickoff Match
The B-Team (c) vs. The Revival
Chuck: The Raw tag division is the antithesis of what's happening on Tuesday nights. It is daisy fresh with the rise of The B-Team. The Revival has great potential as evidenced by their run in NXT, but that hasn't translated yet to the main roster. Thus … PICK: The B-Team
Scott: I've loved the Rudy reign of the B-Team within the tag division. But if WWE wants to do anything with the Revival, they need to win the titles in this scenario. Too often Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson have been relegated to the background. There is money with this old school throwback standing atop the tag ranks. If it doesn't happen here, I fear for what is next for them long-term. PICK: The B-Team
Aaron: If this wasn't on the pre-show, I'd have more faith in The Revival winning. Since it is, I'll go with The B-Team. PICK: The B-Team
WWE Cruiserweight Championship – Kickoff Match
Cedric Alexander (c) vs. Drew Gulak
Chuck: Oddsmakers have been going back and forth with this one which is interesting to me. It seems like Gulak should be the clear winner here. I'm ignoring the ping-ponging money line and going with my guy. PICK: Drew Gulak
Scott: I could create a PowerPoint of all the reasons Drew Gulak should be winning the cruiserweight championship. We've seen a character change within Gulak over the last few months. A serious side. I think there is potential with Gulak to take the title in a different direction in what Cedric Alexander. Switching things up would do 205 Live some good. PICK: Drew Gulak
Aaron: To me this match is more about the future of 205 Live. In my eyes, that future is building towards Lio Rush. And if that's the case, it makes more sense for Cedric Alexander to retain here, building towards the Cedric/Lio match. PICK: Cedric Alexander
Rusev and Lana vs. Andrade "Cien" Almas and Zelina Vega – Kickoff Match
Chuck: Aiden English isn't listed on this match but he might as well be. There's no way that he doesn't' play a role in this one. They've been building toward a feud between the English and Rusev and it will continue here. Look for Rusev and Lana to win with help from English, but their crooning cohort to turn on them Tuesday night. PICK: Rusev and Lana
Scott: Given everything going on with Aiden English, I think it all explodes with English snapping. He costs Lana and Rusev the tag team match. The seeds for the end of their partnership have been playing out over the last few weeks. Almas and Vega are ready to move on and forward. A win here does that for them while creating a new rivalry with Rusev and English over Lana. PICK: Andrade "Cien" Almas and Zelina Vega
Aaron: Will Aiden English once again accidentally screw over Rusev and Lana, or will he finally come through? I'll lean towards the latter, at least temporarily reuniting the trio as it'll be Rusev Day in Brooklyn. PICK: Rusev and Lana
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