The John Report: WWE SummerSlam 2017 Preview

Submitted by John Canton on August 18, 2017 - 7:54pm
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John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE SummerSlam preview featuring both Raw and Smackdown Live as they team together to present the 30th edition of SummerSlam. The show takes place this Sunday, August 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

I’m not going to say much for the intro because we have 13 matches to get through for this show that has a four hour PPV and two hour Kickoff Show. Good luck to the crowd staying loud all night because it’s not going to be easy even though the lineup is solid. Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora, Matthew J. Douglas and Mike Holland.

(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner up top is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)

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

Kurt: It's amazing how one injury can affect so much. Scott Dawson's injury took The Club off the show and probably cost them a babyface turn. It took The Hardyz off a match with a story and something that probably would've continued their Broken/Woken unveiling and put them in a match where they're playing second fiddle to a guy getting a push that no one is buying. That same guy, Jason Jordan, probably was in line for an IC Title match at this show and now he's put in a six-man match on the kickoff show. As for the actual match, what more can be said besides what we already saw on Raw?

Prediction: Hardyz and Jordan

Mike: Crisis averted, as many of Raw's recent storyline focal points will indeed make the big show. This late-announced match fortunately gives The Miz something to do, and while I'd prefer a better use for the Intercontinental Champ, this will have to do and will at minimum continue the saga of Kurt Angle's "son" Jason Jordan. (The less said of that, the better. McMahon's compunction for family intrigue has fallen flat of late.)

The Hardyz are a bit of a throw-in, as they were due to face The Revival before injury struck. I figured Gallows & Anderson would be the replacement, but instead they are opting for the six-man tag. That does make sense given Monday's Raw, which established their involvement and saw the faces get the duke. As you can imagine, I'd expect the 50/50 book to add another chapter. I don't know that putting Jordan directly into the Miz's line of fire so soon is doing him any favors. Matt and Jeff losing again continues the countdown toward their breaking point, I suppose. Nothing much to see here, but expect another crowing promo from the king of them the day after.

Winners: Miz, Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel

Matthew: There aren’t too many matches on this card. Let’s add another one! I am very disappointed that this is where The Hardyz have landed on this card due to Revival member Scott Dawson’s injury. I’m ready to see Woken Hardy vignettes! Give me Woken Matt!

As far as this match… it’s something I guess. It doesn’t quite matter what happens, for anybody involved. I’m struggling here guys. The Hardyz need some opponents to feud with and/or to produce Wonderful and Glorious vignettes of their Awakening! Stay WOKE!

Winners: Hardy Boyz and Jason Jordan (not that it matters)

John: Same match they did on Raw except Jordan will pin Miz this time instead of Jeff pinning Dallas. They shouldn’t have done the match on Raw and just built it for SummerSlam instead, but WWE tends to rush things these days. Be patient, creative team. Build things up better, please.

Winners: Hardy Boyz and Jason Jordan

Cruiserweight Championship: Akira Tozawa vs. Neville (Kickoff Show)

Kurt: As much as a cool moment that it was for Tozawa to win the title and be the one to take down the “King of the Cruiserweights”, I think what’s ultimately discouraging is the fact that this match is on the kickoff show again. One could argue that Austin Aries’ time in WWE started coming to an end when his match against Neville was in the same spot and didn’t even make the DVD release. Here we are 4-5 months later and the division clearly hasn’t made any traction. So why should we care about this match or the division?

As for the match, I can only assume this will be a long rivalry despite the fact there’s no reason for Tozawa to lose the title this quickly. As long as Neville had the title, I can’t see him out of the title picture that quickly.

Prediction: Akira Tozawa retains

Mike: Fans were understandably perplexed when Cruiserweight champion Neville, who's been so dominant in this category for a good long run now, oddly dropped the strap to Akira Tozawa of all people on this past week's Raw. That's not a knock on Tozawa, who's charismatic enough for the job and has had a "tough guy" adaptation of his character since his pairing with the Titus Brand; rather, it's a startling fall from grace for a dominant champion heading into a major event.

There's only two schools of thought on this in my view, and you can choose which you attend. (You're on your own with tuition, though. I'm no Bernie Sanders.) The first is that Tozawa got a clean win because WWE loves them some 50/50 booking. That means all the better to eat you with, my dear, and Neville gets his belt back in a poolside flip-flop. The other is that Neville is entering the major title picture and leaving the cruiser division in the rearview, in which case Tozawa clearly retains. Now that you've read the syllabus, make your choice. I'm headed to ABC Elementary. It's packed, of course, but I can't afford private school.

Winner (and NEW Cruiserweight Champion): Neville

Matthew: The title change on Monday was cool, and seeing as they’ve been moved to the kickoff show, was probably the best place to have Tozawa win the belt, with maximum eyes on it. The truth is, even if the pre-show matches are well booked and technically great, the fact that they’re on the pre-show unquestionably diminishes their shine exponentially.

The Raw match was good, and I expect more of the same Sunday. Both guys are great workers. The question is whether they let Akira hold the title for a while or if Neville recaptures it in quick fashion, as he is the biggest star in the division by a pretty big margin. I’m hoping that Titus Worldwide can keep the championship in their brand.

Winner and Still Cruiserweight Champion: Akira Tozawa (because I believe in the POWAH of TOZAWA!)

John: The only reason to do a title change back to Neville is because there aren’t interesting heels among the cruiserweights already. The crowd is already dead most of the time for their matches even when a great performer like Neville out there. Is Tozawa vs. Nese or Daivari going to generate interest? I doubt it. That’s why I was mildly surprised by the title change on Raw and why it’s a possibility that Neville gets it back six days later.

I’m picking Tozawa because I think WWE wants to see how far they can go with him and this “Titus Worldwide” thing, but it’s far from a sure thing.

Winner: Akira Tozawa

Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The New Day vs. The Usos (Kickoff Show)

Kurt: I’m sure a lot of people will be annoyed/disgruntled that this was bumped to the kickoff show, but hear me out. This makes a lot of sense, but it’s congruent on what the follow up will be. I’ve said to numerous people lately that a Hell in a Cell match between these two would be a lot of fun and makes a lot of sense. (Play off the Uso Penitentiary catchphrase.) So how do you get them to October to get to that match? You have this match on the kickoff show (thus keeping the spotlight off them for now until it’s time to be on them) and have it end in either a double DQ or a time limit draw, something along those lines.

Smackdown has no established tag teams right now besides Breezango and they’re clearly tied up in whatever it is they’re doing right now. It’s the Usos and New Day for as far as the eye can see. They’re entertaining enough to keep us drawn in for another six weeks or so and then give them the spotlight they truly deserve and put them in Hell in a Cell in Detroit.

Prediction: Double DQ

Mike: The New Day and The Usos have been feuding for a while, and I'm not sure that it ends no matter what happens here. Breezango's vignettes have been entertaining but haven't exactly positioned them as credible, American Alpha went omega, and most of the other teams seem comprised of whoever shared an episode of Ride Along that week. On the plus side, both of these teams can talk, and their feud has been largely entertaining. If you think The New Day bringing down the belts and gobbling up mic time for ten to fifteen each week isn't a solid strategy, you must not have watched any Raws for the last two years.

I have high hopes for this match as far as what we'll see in ring, but they are tempered somewhat by WWE's decision to put them on the preshow. Something has to go there, I know, but I think it knocks ten minutes easy off some of the better workers at the expense of filler later. Championship matches on the preshow aren't my cup of tea either. I'm no stuffy historian decrying the importance of wrestling titles, but did I mention Enzo in a shark cage?

Winners (and STILL Smackdown Tag Team Champions): The New Day

Matthew: I’m very disappointed that these guys aren’t getting more of a spotlight, as everyone in this feud has been stellar. The Usos have been on fire as of late and New Day have been perfect foils for them at every turn. This had been one of the most consistently entertaining stories the WWE has been able to tell all year, and it deserved better than the kick-off show. It deserved better than just a run of the mill tag team match. This should have been a Ladder Match, or better yet a TLC match.

That kind of tag team title match would have set Brooklyn on Fire! You could even have Rikishi come out to counteract New Day’s third man. If not Rikishi, then Sean Maluta from the CWC. It would have become an instant Summerslam Classic. Instead we are going to get a run of the mill, Tag Team match. It’ll likely be very good, but it won’t be something etched in our memories for years to come, which is unfortunate.

Winners and Still Smackdown Tag Team Champions: The NEW DAY! (because I always rock with the New Day y’all!)

John: Third straight PPV for this match. I was hoping for a bigger spotlight for them and instead they are relegated to the Kickoff Show. If they get 15 minutes they could have one of the best matches of the night because they have worked together so much for the last few months. There’s obviously a lot of chemistry there. With New Day winning the titles last month, it would feel too soon to do another title change, so I’ll go with the champs retaining. Who do they face next? That’s a problem because Smackdown doesn’t have a lot of teams right now.

Winners: The New Day

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Naomi vs. Natalya

Kurt: I wish this match had more buzz behind it as this is a huge moment in Nattie’s career and I’m really happy to see her get an opportunity like this on such a big stage. I’ve always thought Nattie was a better babyface than a heel but it seems like every week she’s on television; she’s feeling more comfortable as a heel.

The question everyone has is if Carmella will cash in after the match is over. Based on Corbin no longer having his briefcase, I think that leaves the door wide open for Carmella to cash in. However, I think it’s not going to happen. With Naomi now getting the specialized title for her, it seems like the brand has a lot invested in her and like I said, this match just doesn’t have a lot of buzz so I can’t see Nattie winning nor can I see Naomi losing the title in any fashion. Maybe it seems too obvious Naomi will retain and Carmella will cash in for the big surprise, but I just don’t see it.

Prediction: Naomi retains (No cash-in by Carmella)

Mike: No area of either roster has been infected with the disease of doing so little with so much as the blue brand's Women's division. After months and months of the entire roster doing battle with each other, we're left in some strange little gray area where Lana doesn't ever win matches but coaches Tamina and Becky Lynch jobs out weekly. Naomi's done a reasonable enough job as champion, and she's improved leaps and bounds in the ring in my estimation, but you can't help but get the feeling that the WWE is pushing her as a marketable quick fix more than capable long-term planning. But, hey, at least the belt glows now.

Natalya has felt these growing pains from way back in the day, as she more than nearly anyone has been the victim of WWE's stop-and-start "revolution" booking that's broken down on the highway too many times to count. MITB winner Carmella isn't even on the card, and has smartly been presented as potentially cashing it in on anyone, not necessarily just a face champ, but let's get it straight: When she does hand in the briefcase, she will win, to avoid Corbingate 2.0. The belt glows now!

Winner (and STILL Smackdown Women's Champion): Naomi

Matthew: The build to this match has been somewhat pedestrian as it concerns the two primary competitors. It’s as much about a battle for the title between Naomi and Natalya, as much as it is about the 1st and 2nd Ms. Money In The Bank, waiting in the wings to cash in her contract. Carmella and her associate Ellsworth have routinely made it apparent that they will be crashing the winner’s celebration and taking the title.

Now there are three possibilities: all the posturing by Carmella is a fake out designed to get the ladies paranoid (but to what end for Carmella?), she really is going to cash in and win the title or she’ll cash in and lose because of Ellsworth’s incompetence. I would have assumed the third option until Corbin cashed in and lost his briefcase this week. Now I think Carmella either won’t cash in, or will win 100% if she does. At this point she kinda has to, considering how heavy-handed the tease has been.

Winner and New Smackdown Women’s Champion: Carmella (because she’s calling her shot)

John: They will work hard and have a solid match, but the crowd may not be into it that much because there’s a weak story. Natalya earned the title shot with a win. After that, there wasn’t much done to promote this. Smackdown’s creative team has taken a few weeks off in the last month, or at least that’s what it feels like with this feud. They didn’t even try to create interest in this match other than a few Natalya promos mocking the glow that Naomi likes. I think Naomi retains. I don’t think Carmella will cash in either. Save it for down the road.

Winner: Naomi

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

Kurt: Based on the heat Enzo apparently has with the majority of the roster, I’m sure a few of them are hoping he just gets left in that cage permanently. This match is nothing more than a showcase for Big Cass (I guess it could also be a sick fantasy of Vince…ok maybe not “could” but “is”) so the real story here is Enzo. Where does he go from here? Is he just going to continue to find guys to try to take out Cass because he can’t do it himself? Almost comes across as a heel tactic but obviously based on his recent promos, he’s still one of the most beloved characters on the entire roster. He really belongs in the 205 Live group, but I’m getting the suspicion that he’s gotten rumblings they want him there and he doesn’t want to go, so he keeps making comments on TV and social media that he’s 206. As for the match, hopefully it will surprise us like the first Braun/Show match.

Prediction: Big Cass

Mike: Oh dear. I'm not sure which member of WWE creative can be blamed for their endless fascination with shark cages, but considering this is the third such stipulation of the last 365 (counting NXT too), they either fell asleep during Jaws after some bad Chinese food or they're trying to get over the fact that Michael Phelps didn't really race a great white. Either way, I will at least appreciate that having Enzo cooped up inside the cage rather than running around like a mannequin on speed can ratchet up my enjoyment of this match a solid half star.

Enzo/Cass is a horrible feud because of the obvious size disparity between the two men. Even if we hadn't spent the last three months reading how detested Amore is in the locker room, does any sentient being honestly give him a chance in hell? Big Show takes care of that element, but given his glorified jobber activity and rare Raw appearances, it's really not that much different. It should look better at least. Big Cass needs to get back with real-life paramour Carmella in a hurry. That leaves Ellsworth for Enzo, which is perfect actually. Both soon to be appearing at a gymnasium near you.

Winner: Big Cass

Matthew: I care very little about this match, and hope it’s scheduled at a time where I can go grab a bite to eat, maybe watch a little bit of Game Of Thrones, etc. The only worthwhile thing that can occur during this match, would be for Enzo to turn on Big Show and pledge his loyalty and service to Big Cass, as a manager and mouthpiece, stating that Cass has showed him the error of his ways. I think they’d get a lot of heat for that. Any other outcome is not something that I care about in the least.

Winner: Big Cass (Big Whoop!)

John: This will be bad and I hope it takes place at a time when I need a bathroom break because I’ll be writing all night. Think of me, WWE. Big Cass winning seems like a sure thing and if he doesn’t I’d be very surprised because this is the standard older wrestler in Show putting over the younger wrestler in Cass. Meanwhile, Vinny Mac will be marking out over how big they are. The shorter this match is, the better.

Winner: Big Cass

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

Kurt: Poor, poor Bayley. Not that her already being in the title picture made any sense, but she did seem like she was regaining some confidence before this untimely injury. If you listened to her podcast appearance with Stone Cold, she sounded very much like a person who understood they had lost what made them great in the first place and it was on them to find it. I was quite impressed by her words and thought maybe an “upset” victory over Alexa here at SummerSlam would’ve kickstarted a good run for her. Alas, that wasn’t meant to be and we’re back to Sasha. My feelings on her are well known, but just on the surface it doesn’t seem like WWE knows what to do with her. They use her when they need her (like here) but don’t want to put everything they have behind her. (I have theories, which some have even come out recently on various news sites.) For that reason and because Alexa STILL hasn’t gotten a chance to show what made her great on Smackdown, I think Alexa needs to keep the title.

Prediction: Alexa Bliss retains

Mike: If heat in reality made for the best match on the card, this four alarm fire would tear the house down. In the other reality that is professional wrestling, it's your taped-together assignment from Wikipedia after your hard-researched term paper fell down the storm drain and was taken by It. This spot was Bayley's, naturally, and after the endless setbacks she has had since breaking onto the main roster, one would think it was her chance to finally capture the gold, especially given how her "extreme" match with Bliss ended not so very long ago.

Injury changed the plans, however, and make no mistake that Sasha Banks is far too good to be just a fill-in. I have no doubt this match will deliver, but whether the WWE has the same plans for her is another matter entirely. Given that the seeds have been sown for a Banks heel turn for a while now, it makes sense to me to have Bliss go over here. A program with Nia Jax could mark the time until Bayley's triumphant return, and then you could have Banks spoil the party big time if you wanted to. Sometimes Plan B is Plan B for a reason.

Winner (and STILL Raw Women's Champion): Alexa Bliss

Matthew: I feel like when Bayley was in this spot, they were setting up for her to beat Bliss and eventually engage in a rivalry with Sasha Banks. With Banks now in the spot, I actually don’t see things really changing. I think Bliss (as much as I love her) is gearing up to drop the title, paving the way for a big feud between Sasha and Bayley soon afterward.

I think the match will be pretty good. These two women work well with one another given their size. They match each other very well. I’m certainly expecting a Sasha win the title for the 47th time, followed by a rematch at the next Raw PPV, and then a returning Bayley to claim the title shot she is owed against The Boss. It writes itself.

Winner and New Raw Women’s Champion: Sasha Banks (because the future angles for this division write themselves)

John: I’m going with Banks because WWE likes to put titles on people after they are replacements for other wrestlers. That’s what Banks is because Bayley got hurt. If Bayley is back in a month or two then perhaps Banks can turn heel as an egotistical champion. Another option is that Banks moves on to a feud (as a face) against Nia Jax, who WWE obviously likes. I like Bliss okay, but her matches don’t impress me much. She’s a better talker than wrestler that’s for sure.

Winner: Sasha Banks wins Raw Women’s Title

Randy Orton vs. Rusev

Kurt: There really isn’t anything to say about this match. This is a match for the sake of having a match just because someone (maybe Orton himself if he has that much stroke) realized it’d be kind of ridiculous to have the guy who just had 3 consecutive WWE Title matches be left off the second biggest show of the year. I’d like to hope Rusev will be made to look good in this match, but as you’ll see below, I think this will be a rather quick match. R-K-O, 1-2-3.

Prediction: Randy Orton

Mike: Randy Orton has been fighting Jinder Mahal for so long that even he might be surprised that it's Rusev he's facing at SummerSlam. It's been rather a tough year for both men, as the Orton/Wyatt feud ended poorly and match after match with Mahal has failed to deliver. Rusev, meanwhile, made his triumphant return from injury after weeks of doing nothing to promptly lose to John Cena in a flag match. It's perhaps fitting, then, that one of those two men has to look better after Sunday. Right?

Of the whole slate of matches in front of me, this is one of the few that to my mind could really go either way. Rusev is in line for a push at some point, and it would make sense to position him strongly should Nakamura walk away with the big belt later in the evening. Orton is already a main eventer, though, and I'm not convinced that allowing him to lose yet again won't damage him more. The best solution is to have Orton lose due to chicanery of some kind, a fact that was reinforced when he employed his RKO to such great effect Tuesday. Pro tip: It's not "out of nowhere" when the crowd is chanting Randy.

Winner: Rusev

Matthew: This match didn’t have much time to build on TV, and I honestly think that the match would be better served if they did the angle they worked on Smackdown at the PPV. Have Rusev come to the ring and talk crap about Orton for a minute, the Orton hits the RKO out of nowhere to win the match in less than 20 seconds.

This show already has too many matches, having a quick one like that would have been fun. Truth be told, I would have rather seen Rusev vs. Gable and maybe Randy challenge someone from Raw like he did last year. Oh well, this is what we have.

Winner: Randy Orton (because he’s lost at like 1000 straight PPVs to Jinder, so he’s getting a win here)

John: Rusev is the worst booked wrestler in WWE in the last 13 months since the brand split along with Sami Zayn. Three months ago he was demanding WWE Title shots and then it was completely dropped because WWE decided to push Jinder. At least Rusev has a match on this card, though. Sami Zayn, one of the five best in-ring performers in the company, can’t even get a match at SummerSlam when there are 13 matches. What a joke, really.

Anyway, this should be an easy win for Orton after he lost to Jinder in his last three PPV matches. If Rusev wins, it would be really cheap to set up another match.

Winner: Randy Orton

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

Kurt: People who read my work on TJR or see my thoughts on Twitter complain all the time that I’m too negative towards Raw. Well here ya go, something I can be positive about! The build towards Seth and Dean getting back together was perfectly done. They didn’t just put them together and ignore the past. They made the past the story. I loved that. Then they didn’t rush the reuniting. They milked it just perfectly.

In this era of WWE, lagging interest and ratings, you don’t get many reactions like the one Rollins and Ambrose got this past Monday when their fists connected. That is a HUGE sign that Raw may be on to something big (more on this later) and they need to run with it. Sheamus and Cesaro are great and will be just as good, if not better, trying to get their titles back. This should be a lot of fun and I could easily see this stealing the show if given the right amount of time.

Prediction: New Raw Tag Champs, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins

Mike: This one is also a toughie. Sheamus and Cesaro have proven to be a formidable team, staving off challenges from The Hardys and others while outlasting anyone's expectations of what they'd do as a tandem. The slow build of the 2/3 Shield Reunion Solution, however, has been a thing of beauty to watch. I'll admit that it's been overproduced and overscripted, particularly this past Monday when we got to the fiftieth straight teasing of the fist bump. But, hell, it's been fun to watch. I forgot how wonderful it is to watch Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins play off of each other, a particularly impressive feat considering it's wicked entertaining to watch them hate each other.

It's common knowledge that S&C have to drop the gold at some point due to movie commitments for the Celtic Warrior. WWE has been guilty of many a smark swerve in the recent past, and with everyone hoping The Shield's reunion culminates with a couple of belts, this would be the time to pull that rabbit out of the hat. In this case, though, I sort of think the vision of Ambrose and Rollins reunited as two badass champs is a SummerSlam cover photo.

Winners (and NEW Raw Tag Team Champions): Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins

Matthew: This has been one of the better angles the WWE has worked heading into Summerslam. Hell it’s one of the better angles they’ve worked all year. Has it been perfect? Absolutely not. At times the angle has been booked in an oddly romantic manner. Aside from that, there have definitely been missteps narratively.

I think the focus leaned heavily toward Seth’s point of view, and really never delved into the psychology of why Dean was so apprehensive about trusting Seth. This was a moment where you could bring up that Dean hasn’t ever had a stable family life, or been in a stable environment his entire life. The Shield became his family, his stability, and for years he flourished in the confines of that brotherhood. He wasn’t just betrayed by an ally, or someone he thought he could trust. He was betrayed by someone he genuinely thought of as family. That’s why it hurt him so bad. That’s why he can’t trust Seth again. I really think the angle would have benefitted from Seth realizing why what he did was so scarring for Dean.

As it has been booked, it’s been pretty good and very well received, so I’m simply knit-picking. I can definitely see the WWE running with Dean and Seth as a tag team for a while, as Raw needs babyface tag teams. So I definitely see them winning the belts, either here or in the near future. That being said, if it were me, I’d have Dean turn on Seth at Summerslam for maximum heat, creating a lasting memory at a big PPV for Dean Ambrose. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, heel Dean Ambrose is money. Heel Dean Ambrose saying to Seth “I believe you’ve changed and are a better man, but I don’t forgive you!” is the stuff dreams are made of guys!

Winners and New Raw Tag Team Champions: Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins (because they’re going to milk this reunion for a bit)

John: The booking leading up to this match was great because unlike most things in WWE, they were patient with it, the crowd wanted the Ambrose/Rollins weeks ago and they held off until the last Raw before SummerSlam to have them finally appear to be on the same page. One of WWE’s booking problems (and they have many) is that they rush stories too fast. Look at what happens when you take your time to tell a story. The last two weeks on Raw, the whole crowd was chanting “yes” for two dudes sticking their fists in front of them. It’s simple and it works.

I’m going with the title change just because it would lead to cool moment to see Rollins and Ambrose as the tag team champions. They don’t need to have a long title reign. It can be only be a few months, but I want to see it happen and I think the crowd will be hot for it too. Sheamus and Cesaro are doing a well as champs. Do they really need the titles? No, they’re established. Put it on Rollins and Ambrose and ride nostalgia wave a bit because the fans want this mini Shield reunion, so you might as well give it to them.

Winners and New Raw Tag Team Champions: Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins

Is it a good sign that all four of us are picking a title change? Probably not.

“The Demon” Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt

Kurt: Hey look at this, another thing to be positive about on Raw! Despite Balor keeping people off the scent by saying in some media interviews recently that The Demon wouldn’t show up against Bray Wyatt, The Demon will be alive and well in Brooklyn. Besides the ABSURD way that Michael Cole described the blood that Wyatt poured on Balor, I thought it was a really creative way to get in the head of Balor and make him go to that place. I also loved how “The Demon” being confirmed to show up was made to be a big deal. He is two personalities and should be treated as such.

I wish this match had a Falls Count Anywhere or Last Man Standing stipulation attached to it so that both men and their “demons” could go all out. Maybe that’s still to come as this is a really interesting feud and something that finally fits Wyatt’s personality. I wouldn’t complain about seeing more between these two, but for this match specifically, The Demon is undefeated and I don’t see that ending here.

Prediction: “The Demon” Finn Balor

Mike: This feud has had its moments as well. While I for one would hope that both Bray and Finn would be more heavily factored into the championship scene, their respective characters are perfect for a solid tete-a-tete. We knew that Balor's Demon persona would be brought back into the light at some point, and it makes perfect sense to resurrect it against a guy who knows a thing or two about things that go bump in the night. From blood bucket shenanigans to rambling promos in bad lighting, this has had it all.

Unfortunately for Bray, advertising the Demon means his chances of winning this effectively get reduced down to zero. In addition to coming out on top Monday, you can't have Finn dust off the Demon wear and come up short. It's too soon to tell whether Balor's work style and injuries have landed him in "Daniel Bryan" hot water and muddied his chances of regaining the Universal Championship he never actually lost. Conversely, it's far too late to convince me that it ever matters whether Bray Wyatt actually wins a major match on PPV at all. Let's hope this is the start of something good.

Winner: "The Demon" Finn Balor

Matthew: It’ll be cool to see The Demon and that entrance again for the first time in a year. The last time we saw it was at Summerslam last year, and it is one of the cooler aspects of Finn’s character. Hopefully they do better in setting The Demon apart from regular Finn Balor in the ring. Have him be more aggressive. Maybe have The Demon perform a set of moves Finn doesn’t usually do. If you’re going to do the whole Demon thing, go all out. (sidebar: on Raw, the announcers said they were getting word it would be Demon Balor taking on Bray… did he fill out a form or something?)

I wish I was more into the idea of this match, but once the entrances are done, I’m pretty much out. I’m all the way out on Bray Wyatt as presently constituted. The guy needs a shake-up in a bad way. Turn him babyface. Let him recruit new minions. Give him a real, clear mission or goal. This whole ambiguous agent of chaos isn’t working anymore.

Winner: Demon Finn Balor (because The Demon should be protected for as long as possible)

John: Their match on Raw was average. Their match I saw at a live event two weeks ago was below average. Some guys just don’t have great chemistry. I’m not sure what it is with Wyatt, but it feels like his matches have been suffering this year. Wyatt won clean on Raw, so 50/50 booking shall strike again. Balor’s going to be rocking the “Demon” look so of course he’s going to win.

Winner: Finn Balor

John Cena vs. Baron Corbin

Kurt: I was all excited for this match and Corbin getting an opportunity like this on the second biggest show of the year… and then Tuesday happened. All that excitement just went away. With the briefcase, even if Corbin loses this match, he’s got the failsafe backup plan. Now without it, a loss to Cena would do almost irreparable damage. Cena is either leaving altogether or going to Raw after this match with Corbin, so Corbin HAS to win and look convincing doing it. People need to forget about him losing the briefcase the way he did, and quickly. The only way that can happen is if he makes an example out of Cena.

I had this idea in my head before Tuesday, but now want it to happen even more. Nikki Bella has made known she’ll be front row for this match. I would love to see Corbin administer a beating on Cena so badly that Nikki has to react someway. Crying, interfering, both, etc. Corbin needs to look vicious. Since Smackdown makes very few mistakes, I hope there is a master plan for him and this wasn’t a sign they’ve lost faith in him.

Prediction: Baron Corbin

Mike: The stakes for this match were strangely and unquestionably raised on Tuesday's Smackdown, when Baron Corbin made what appeared to be the largest mistake of his career by cashing in his MITB shot on a dazed Jinder Mahal only to see the champion roll him up due to a John Cena drawn-out distraction. The whole thing was painful, really, from the time it took for Corbin to seemingly make up his mind to take the chance to the camera zooming in on him trying not to look over at Cena while he got ready to intervene. Despite the botches, it made this match far more relevant.

There is only one way to undo the perceived damage done by Tuesday's event, and now Corbin has even more reason to do so. Since Cena cost him his "guaranteed" championship, Corbin can go on an unprecedented offensive, dealing major damage and surviving Cena's renowned arsenal. Should Jinder stumble and lose the belt, Corbin has quickly risen right back to where he was with no harm and no foul. As for Cena? If he's going to Raw, it's not to face Goldust. Raw interference would fit right in. Miz?

Winner: Baron Corbin

Matthew: What do I say here? It’s a match. John Cena is very good at wrestling stuff. Baron Corbin in kayfabe will be very angry at Cena because he’s wasted his Money In The Bank Briefcase in part due to Cena’s distraction. The only problem is that Baron Corbin has never, in his entire career, dating all the way back to NXT, put on a memorable match. Not one. Ever.

If anybody can get it out of him it’ll be Cena, and yet I still doubt this match will be one I remember next week. Baron Corbin has a long way to go as a character and a performer, and while I never root for others to fail, I’m happy they held off on him winning the WWE Championship for now. No need to rush the project.

Winner: John Cena (because this may be his last Smackdown appearance for a while and he needs to look strong headed to Raw)

John: I don’t know if Corbin is in the doghouse for being a jerk to people on Twitter or if the Money in the Bank loss was just the start of some bigger angle, but I think he’s going to lose here too. The main reason for that is because Cena’s going to Raw after SummerSlam (remember that whole “Cena is a free agent” storyline) and I highly doubt that he’s going to go to Raw after losing in a PPV match. The way I’d book it is have Cena win, Corbin attacks after the match and they set up some kind of match whenever Cena goes back to Smackdown. I just don’t think Corbin is winning here. It may be a losing streak gimmick for him to try to re-establish him and try to get him over more.

I really hope Cena’s first Raw feud is with Samoa Joe, who trained with Cena about 17 years ago when they were starting out. I’m sure both of them want to have some matches together too.

Winner: John Cena

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

Kurt: Twice this match has happened, twice we thought it would be match of the night, twice we’ve been burned with horrible finishes. Is the third time a charm? I really hope so. These guys have yet to be let loose and have a match of the year candidate like everyone knows they can. As much as I love Shane O Mac, I hope his involvement is very minimal and with a big stage like SummerSlam, these two guys finally shine against each other. I really enjoyed KO’s “New face of America” routine, but I understand dropping that when you have Jinder and Rusev. With that not being an option anymore, the title really does no good on KO. Styles on the other hand, can make the title as prestigious as Cena did when he had his Open Challenge run.

I think this match sets up the WWE Title match because I don’t think Smackdown will want both titles held by heels or by faces. If Styles wins here, Jinder retains. If KO wins, Nakamura becomes champion. Based on my thoughts for the WWE Title match and the fact I think the title will be better suited on Styles, I’m going with him.

Prediction: AJ Styles retains

Mike: I feel like these guys have wrestled a ton lately, and we're always just short on getting the match we'd expect on paper. That still makes it the best match of the night on many occasions, but there's been a little something missing. I would fully expect that situation to be remedied at SummerSlam, as they've upped the ante by adding Smackdown GM Shane McMahon as the guest referee. In case you're unfamiliar with how guest referees work in pro wrestling, let me offer a quick primer:

1) They will never call it right down the middle, especially when they say they will call it right down the middle. 2) They will be involved in multiple bumps. (Given that this is Shane, that rule applies twofold.) 3) They will seemingly perform a simple act of enforcement which will masquerade as open and wanton bias. (Given that Shane is a McMahon, multiply that one times a thousand.) Sum total: Poor Kevin Owens doesn't stand a chance. He's been slowly building to a feud with Shane-O-Mac, anyway, so this whole exercise pretty much just helps it along. And unfortunately guarantees another bad ending to another great match.

If you want it called right down the middle, get Nick Patrick.

Winner (and STILL United States Champion): AJ Styles

Matthew: This may be the best straight up match on the show, but there isn’t really anything to say about it. We’ve seen these guys wrestle before and we know what we’re in for and what they’re capable of as performers. The addition of Shane is a nice little wrinkle to keep things interesting/fresh.

Chances are that they are setting up for an eventual Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens feud. I’m not against the idea. Owens has already mostly dropped the whole “Face of America” thing he had going for a while, so I don’t really see him winning. I do however expect a stellar match and I’m excited to see where AJ heads for his next rivalry.

Winner and Still United States Champion: AJ Styles (because you gotta sow the seeds for Shane-O/KO)

John: Styles winning seems like a sure thing. The story is going to be about Shane because his last name is McMahon and if you saw the last two weeks on Smackdown, they pushed the special ref story much more than they pushed the value of the US Title. Styles wins, Owens loses, Owens blames Shane for the loss and that sets up Owens vs. Shane at Hell in a Cell in early October.

Styles as US Champion is fine, but I’d rather see him main eventing where he should be. I’m not sure who his next rival would be. Maybe Corbin or Rusev. A Styles vs. Orton rivalry would be perfect although face vs. face doesn’t work as well.

Winner: AJ Styles

WWE Championship: Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Kurt: I hate to be the one that rains on the “Nakamura as champion” parade, but why should we all be hoping this will happen? Because he’s a better option than Jinder? Because Jinder has failed as champion? Name alone? None of these are good reasons. I hate to say it, but Nakamura’s run on the main roster has been lackluster at best. A feud with Dolph that gave more to Dolph than it did Nakamura and now Dolph isn’t even on TV. A feud with Corbin that included only being in about 5 minutes of the Money in the Bank match, followed by a pretty boring match at Battleground. Then a match with John Cena where he almost killed the poster boy of the company and he’s lucky that Cena was professional enough to know it was probably more on him than Nakamura that it happened. (By the way Randy, Mr. Kennedy says hello.) I don’t think the title on Nakamura is going to magically change everything. Jinder has gotten better and better as champion whether you want to admit it or not. He still has momentum to gain and I think a win over Nakamura would do wonders for him. Keep the title on Jinder and make Nakamura earn it more. Send all hate mail/tweets to @KTankTMB on Twitter.

Prediction: Jinder Mahal retains

Mike: You've got to hand it to Jinder: Despite being dealt a fairly bad hand as far as his odd stranglehold on the second most important title in the WWE, he's been pretty solidly entertaining. It feels like we made the wrong turn into doing the time warp again every time we get the evil foreigner shtick, but politically speaking, it's working big time. I can't say it's been worth a Punjabi Prison match or seeing The Great Khali again, but hey, overall it's totes acceptable.

The obvious question here is how WWE plans to handle Nakamura, who manages to blow the roof off of nearly every building despite making promos sound like a cross between Funaki and a badly dubbed Bruce Lee B-reel. The playbook for this is seemingly near at hand, since Nakamura had similar treatment during his time in NXT: a long undefeated streak culminating in a championship victory. This approach does two things, and both of them well: it establishes someone as a major player, and it makes whoever eventually defeats that player another major player. This is fairly important to the blue brand.

Given that Corbin coughed up the briefcase, you could make the argument that it favors maintaining a heel champ in Mahal. It's actually the opposite, however. Corbin would cash in against a fan favorite champ in a moment of weakness, and you don't want to make Nakamura look weak at the pinnacle of his achievement. You want to protect him, give him a solid run, and hope that the crowd reacts better to him than they did to Mahal. I for one think they most certainly will. I don't care if I understand one lick of what Nakamura is saying on the microphone. I definitely don't have to understand his fashion sense. What speaks to me is what happens when he gets in the ring, and that's a universal language you don't need a Rosetta stone to translate. I think the blue brand gets a big boost when he gets his time in the sun this weekend. And he deserves it.

Winner (and NEW WWE Champion): Shinsuke Nakamura

Matthew:  Can we all agree that outside of Toronto, where he received a pretty big pop and overwhelming support, that the Jinder Mahal experiment has been a pretty big failure? I mean certain stuff worked. The celebrations he has with Indian dancers and music is very cool to look at and gives the illusion that he’s interesting as a character. (I must say that Tuesday’s version made me uncomfortable, mostly due to the fans booing him for being foreign and daring to do foreign things in America, on the heels of recent events in the United States… pretty tone deaf. The only saving grace was that Shinsuke, a Japanese man, came to confront him and it wasn’t some “babyface” American to put the foreigner in his place).

He isn’t JBL, guys. He’s barely better than Jack Swagger as Champion. And it isn’t that I don’t like him, it’s that this was all rushed and I can’t suspend my disbelief here. I don’t believe in him as a World Champion on this show. Maybe he can work his way back up to this point in the future, but I’m just about done with the charade.

With all the qualms I can come up with about the way Shinsuke has been booked on the main roster, I can’t say that he hasn’t been made to look strong. The guy hasn’t lost a match yet in singles action, and is still over, despite some questionable booking. I still say that he needs to be kept larger than life. An eccentric that doesn’t explain his actions via promo, but rather leaves silently and allows you to interpret and pull what you will from his actions/art. He should be a mystery, a question that we never quite get answered. He shouldn’t be humanized through interviews or promos, he should be deified via the mystery that surrounds him and others attempting to pin him down and understand him. He should be booked closer to The Undertaker and Sting than he should be to Cena, Stone Cold or The Rock, meaning less promos, more obscurity.

There’s a match here right?

Winner and New WWE Champion: Shinsuke Nakamura (even though I think it’s too soon. He shouldn’t even have gotten a title shot until he won The Royal Rumble. That would have been optimal and grown his legend exponentially)

John: I’m all aboard the “Nakamura as WWE Champion” train. It could have been built up better because he’s only been the number one contender for a couple of weeks. Beating John Cena clean was a big thing and it put over Nakamura in a big way. Nakamura will also get one of the loudest reactions of the night on Sunday thanks to his cool violin entrance that could have him led to the ring by a violinist like they have done in the past.

As for Jinder Mahal, he carries himself well and has the physique that makes him look credible to the average fan, but once the bell rings he’s just so average. I have yet to get into any of his matches because it’s just the most basic stuff. When you have a roster as talented as WWE has right now, it’s tough to get excited about Jinder Mahal WWE Title matches considering that last year we saw AJ Styles in those types of matches. I don’t think Jinder’s reign has done anything for business anywhere, so they might as well move the title off him.

My first pick for a finish is Nakamura winning clean and becoming WWE Champion. My second pick for a finish is doing the cheap thing where the Singh Brothers interfere and get Mahal disqualified to have him leave with the title while Nakamura remains undefeated in singles matches. I find it hard to believe that WWE would book Nakamura to lose clean in a match like this.

Winner and New WWE Champion: Shinsuke Nakamura

WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe vs. Braun Strowman

Kurt: Holy Trifecta Raw! Another match from that brand I’m excited for. How can you not be excited for this match? Four men, all with ample momentum and buzz surrounding them, all with a case to be made that they deserve to win this match. Braun is my favorite thing going on Raw right now. I love everything the guy has done. Joe has made himself a lot of money and cemented his status as a top guy, which is truly a joy to see for all the hard work he’s put in his career. Brock Lesnar has all the allure of UFC surrounding him now, but his contract with WWE isn’t up until after WrestleMania so to me that’s just smoke and mirrors right now. However, if anyone could get out of a contract like that, I’d put money on Brock. That leaves Roman.

If everything was equal and I wasn’t trying to think outside the box, I’d pick Joe to win. But I bring you back to my prediction for the tag titles. They’re onto something huge with the reuniting of Dean and Seth. Now, let’s just bring the third man back and make it complete. WWE is hell-bent on Roman being a babyface, regardless of all the “it doesn’t matter if you boo or cheer” shtick. Imagine Dean and Seth running in during this match and taking out some or all of the other three men in this match and Roman capturing the title. All three men with fists in the middle, all with titles high in the air. WWE needs something to jumpstart the company. People want The Shield back together. Let’s kill two birds with one stone and on one of the biggest shows of the year, let’s give the fans a visual and audio to remember as the show ends.

Prediction: New Universal Champion, Roman Reigns. Sierra Hotel India Echo Lima Delta.

Mike: If you listened carefully to the best in the business, Paul Heyman, he already methodically and demonstratively told you exactly how this main event was going to go. We can start with the simple "non-sanctioned" stipulation from him that should Brock Lesnar lose the Universal Title at 'Slam, both of them would be gone from the WWE. While you can take any wrestling stip with a grain of salt, this was a subtle attempt to raise the stakes without really raising them at all. How can you manage to make a champion in a four way dance even MORE vulnerable, especially one built like the Beast Incarnate? Put his career on the line.

If you think Lesnar is done after SummerSlam, no matter what the potential UFC scuttlebutt, there's land in Florida I'm just itching to get rid of. Should that evidence not be enough, Heyman again walked us through all the potential scenarios on Monday. He gave us solid and credible reasons why any one of the others should be the one to end up with his hand raised, and interestingly it seemed that Braun Strowman and not Roman Reigns was the one who most had to be dealt with. Line of the night? Beast vs. Monster.

Samoa Joe, thanks for coming. You did a credible job in your opportunity against Lesnar with Strowman on the shelf, but you weren't winning then and you aren't winning now. Strowman in many ways is too much like Lesnar to beat Lesnar. He'll stand tall, make no mistake, and he will not be taking the pin. His mission in this match is to allow his overwhelming hatred of Roman Reigns to get in the way of his desire to be champion. In eliminating his enemy, he will allow for Brock to retain.

It's easier than you think to protect Reigns in this match. He won't look bad, because the plans have not changed for him to be the one to end Lesnar's reign on McMahon's terms. There will surely be a moment or two during this match when you allow yourself to be convinced that things will go a different way, certainly if the gents involved do their jobs well, which I fully expect them to. Just remember when the final bell rings: Paul Heyman told you the outcome before the match ever began.

Winner (and STILL Universal Champion): Brock Lesnar

Matthew: I’ll keep this short since I went long for Shinsuke/Jinder (surprisingly). I think this is one of the best booked main events the WWE has done this year. All four are legitimately over in their own ways. All four are legitimate contenders to walk away with the title on Sunday. All four men will have their fans in attendance and will blow the roof off of Barclays.

I expect this match to be a hard hitting display of raw power and monstrosity. Brock is going to have to work (or lay around while others work for a while) because of the format of the match, which pleases me. This match will be a lot of fun, and I have absolutely no idea who will win it.

Winner and New WWE Universal Champion: Samoa Joe (because I have to go with my heart)

John: I’m going with Lesnar to retain. That wasn’t my pick when the match was first announced because I thought they were going to do this match to take the title off Brock without having him get beat. Samoa Joe was the name that came to mind as the winner. However, Paul Heyman has done a brilliant job with his promos to sell people on the idea of Brock and Paul leaving WWE if Brock loses. That’s why I’m going with Brock, though. He’s not leaving and he’s booked for No Mercy in LA next month where I think he’ll face Strowman (teased well on Raw this week), so Lesnar winning the match makes the most sense.

The match should be a lot of fun because you’ve got four power wrestlers that have worked well together in the past aside from Brock and Braun, who haven’t locked up, but I think it will be easy to get the crowd excited for their faceoff. I also think the crowd is going to be really hot for it with plenty of cheers for three of them and then Reigns is likely going to get booed heavily. It should end after about 20 minutes with Lesnar pinning Joe because I think WWE will want to keep the Roman and Braun looking strong.

If you want more of my thoughts on this match, I broke it down in-depth in my article on The Comeback with over 1,000 words just talking about these guys.

Winner: Brock Lesnar

 

BONUS TOPICS!

Match I'm Looking Forward To The Most

Kurt: This answer would’ve been different before Tuesday, but it’s now Corbin/Cena for the reasons explained above. This match is critical for Corbin.

Mike: Even despite the outcome being obvious, the main event should be excellent. High spots aplenty.

Matthew: Ambrose & Rollins vs. Cesaro & Sheamus

John: It’s the Universal Title match. I’m excited about the Raw Tag Team Title match too.

 

Match I Care About The Least

Kurt: Rusev vs. Orton. At least Cass/Show has a story behind it.

Mike: Big Show vs. Big Cass is ironic in how little I care about it.

Matthew: Unfortunately The Hardyz & Jordan vs. The Miztourage.

John: Big Cass vs. Big Show. I know why they are doing it, but I can’t say I care.

 

Longest Match

Kurt: If this is it for KO/AJ, I’d like it to be that match, but I’m sure it’ll be the Fatal 4-Way.

Mike: You'd have to think the 4-way would be the obvious choice, but I'll go Styles/Owens. There will need to be a few close calls.

Matthew: Fatal 4Way.

John: Several candidates here. I’m going with the 4-Way just because I think it’s going in the 20-25 minute range even though most Lesnar matches are shorter than that.

 

Shortest Match

Kurt: Rusev vs. Orton

Mike: Repetitive, but Show/Cass is my pick. Big slow guys don't get very long.

Matthew: Big Show and Big Cass.

John: Big Show vs. Big Cass. Show’s matches with Strowman were around 15 minutes, but I don’t think Cass can do that at this point.

 

Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)

Kurt: Between a 7-8, closer to a 7. Considering Raw has a couple things now that have my interest peaked and Smackdown is the constant, this should really be a solid show.

Mike: There's a ton here, so I'm not going lower than a 7. Nakamura, Demon Balor, Ambrose/Rollins...my hopes are high for an epic night.

Matthew: I’ll say a 7. There are some matches/moments I’m excited to see, but it’s to at the top end of cards I’ve every seen either.

John: If this show was three hours with the best seven or eight matches instead of 13 matches over six hours (counting Kickoff) then it’s probably a 8 from me. However, it’s going to be such a long night trying to keep our interest, so I’m going with a 7 out of 10, which is still good and better than most PPVs this year.

 

Final Thoughts

Mike: To me, this is a "big deal" event for WWE, and not just due to the super sized card. If you measure this as a crossroads for the company, we'll have a far better idea at who they are throwing their weight behind for the months leading up to Royal Rumble. The obvious names are just that, obvious names, but for some folks (Baron Corbin, Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, and Sasha Banks, to name a few) this could completely flip the script on the typical WWE storylines in a way that should make the week to week viewing more entertaining.

Of course, it could always go the other way too. I think WWE has positioned themselves well to make this a big and interesting night. If even half of what I hope happens actually happens, we'll have plenty to talk about Monday. And that's why we do this and love this, right? I fully expect this to be a very good show. Tough to be excellent given how long it is, but I'm definitely excited about this card's chances to deliver.

John: This was over 10,000 words long, so I don’t think there’s much more to say except that I’m excited for some of it and that I wish some of it was promoted better.

Thanks to the crew for joining me once again. I will have a live review of SummerSlam on Sunday night, so check it out on TJRWrestling.net during the show or after it’s over for all of my thoughts, ratings and analysis.

Kurt - @KTankTMB

Mike - @DharmanRockwell

Matthew - @MJDP_GSE

John - @johnreport

If you want to send an email, send it to me at mrjohncanton@gmail.com as well. Thanks for reading.




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