The John Report: WWE SummerSlam 2018 Preview

John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE SummerSlam preview for a show that is going to run about 20 hours long on Sunday. Okay so that’s a bit of a stretch, but if you count the Kickoff Show then SummerSlam (aka “The Summerfest” right Jeremy Piven?) will be at least six hours and probably close to seven hours. SummerSlam takes place this Sunday, August 18 in Brooklyn, NY. The start time is 7pmET/6pmCT for the main card and the Kickoff Show starts two hours earlier at 5pmET/4pmCT with 13 matches scheduled for the show. Good luck to the Brooklyn crowd in staying alert for all of it.

Here’s a pretty cool hype video for the show featuring actor Terry Crews that WWE released on their Youtube channel.

Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora, Matthew Phillips and Mike Holland.

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

 

Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander (c) vs. Drew Gulak (Kickoff Show)

Kurt: In my perfect world, 205 Live would be the first hour of Raw and then Raw would be scaled back to two hours. Vince will never lose the third hour of revenue, so isn’t this a happy medium for all parties? Then maybe I’d be able to know what the hell is going on in 205 Live and be able to give you a more appropriate thought process on their title match at the second biggest show of the year. As it is, I don’t watch, so I have no idea how Gulak is in this match or if he’s worthy to win the title.

Prediction: Cedric Alexander retains

Mike: I've been watching a lot more of 205 Live lately, and I attribute quite a bit of that to their excellent tournament following the release of Enzo Amore. I've been a big fan of Cedric's work since his Ring of Honor days, and his Cruiserweight Classic tilt with Kota Ibushi was hands down my favorite of the series. He's a super solid worker and surely deserves the faith placed in him and the title placed on him.

All of that said, how can I not support Drew Gulak? He's from the Philadelphia area, he's entertaining as hell, and he did a gimmick with PowerPoint presentations. That's three boxes checked and we're just getting started. I always felt Gulak got a bit jobbed out of his rightful due with the Rich Swann situation, and I'm curious to see what he'll bring to the championship. I'm all for an even "better" 205 Live. Won't happen Sunday, though. Alexander is on a roll.

Winner (and STILL Cruiserweight Champion): Cedric Alexander

Matthew: This match could be cool. I probably won’t see it, but they are both good wrestlers. An interesting clash of styles, with Gulak being a more ground based grappler and Cedric relying more on his athleticism and strikes. That style difference will either lead to a fun bout or a bit of a mess. Hopefully it’ll be the former.

Winner and Still Cruiserweight Champion: Cedric Alexander (because I like him better… I don’t pay much attention to 205 Live so I honestly have no way of knowing narratively which outcome to favour)

John: I watch 205 Live most weeks and it’s a solid show, but the crowds barely react to it. There are some special matches occasionally when they go over 15 minutes or even 20 minutes in some cases. Gulak’s a good performer, but I think if this was Alexander vs. Buddy Murphy it would be a better match. Anyway, I’ll go with Alexander to retain although if it’s Gulalk that’s okay because he’s a hard worker that deserves it. I could see that happening leading to Mustafa Ali getting the title from Gulak down the road. I’ll still with Cedric for now.

Winner: Cedric Alexander

 

Raw Tag Team Championships: The B Team (c) vs. The Revival (Kickoff Show)

Kurt: Again, in a perfect world, The Revival would become champions here and revive (pun intended) the Raw tag division to have it rival how good the Smackdown tag division is. I’m happy for Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas getting an opportunity like this. I always want to see guys who are buried at the back of the line, find something that brings them back to TV on a regular basis. That being said, this B Team thing just doesn’t work for me. Authors of Pain deserve more. The Ascension have deserved more since the day they came from NXT. There’s potential in this division and it needs to be focused on like it is on Smackdown.

Prediction: The Revival become Raw Tag Team Champions

Mike: Not sure what to say about the state of the Raw Tag Team Titles these days, other than that it makes sense for them to be on the preshow. The uncertain future of Matt Hardy (and, therefore, his oddball team with Bray Wyatt) has allowed for the B-Team of Axel and Dallas to reign supreme. It's a bit of recycled Job Squad, to be sure, but it's an unexpected and perfectly acceptable offshoot of the decision to move The Miz over to Smackdown. WWE has a lengthy history of these "fun" teams, but what they generally don't have is staying power.

The Revival, on the other hand, could bring some order back to these belts, as they took NXT by force and put on award-winning matches show after show. They're an obvious example of a hot NXT act nearly being rendered irrelevant by their main show booking (ask Sanity how that's going) and could clearly use the boost and prestige such a decision would bring. The Revival's no-frills ass-kicker gimmick would serve as a fitting counterpoint to quite a bit of WWE's current booking. Make it so.

Winners (and NEW Raw Tag Team Champions): The Revival

Matthew: Raw’s Tag Team Division is a joke. That said I know The Revival are a good team. I hope they win and we can go back to getting good competitive Tag Team Championship feuds. Tag team wrestling is my favourite version of the art form and Dash and Dawson are very good at it when it’s taken seriously. Get the belts off the B-Team and onto The Revival. Not sure how much that helps given that the rest of the division is fairly hopeless though. Beyond Authors of Pain, the Tag Teams on Raw are a joke, which is unfortunate. Maybe they can let Lucha House Party compete for the Tag Titles going forward? Put together a new makeshift team? Call up somebody from NXT? I’m spitballing.

Winners and New Raw Tag Team Champions: The Revival (because they’re better)

John: The Raw tag team division is boring. Aside from the Authors of Pain waiting in the wings, there’s not much depth at all. I guess The B Team will be considered faces after this match because with Matt Hardy taking time off for injury reasons, there are no real face turns on the Raw brand. I’ll go with The B Team to retain even though I’d love to see The Revival win the titles. I just think the Authors of Pain are more likely as the next champs, so keep it on the face B Team and have them run into problems against Authors of Pain perhaps at the next PPV called Hell in a Cell in September.

Winners: The B Team

 

Rusev and Lana vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega (Kickoff Show)

Kurt: When we were last here for Extreme Rules, I made the point that Rusev was going to need to take one step back after his WWE title match to take two steps forward as an overall superstar. Here we are at that one step back. He needed to become a full fledged babyface and although the kickoff show seems like such a demotion for him, I think this is the perfect storyline for him to do just that. Everyone loves Lana. What’s not to love? She’s incredibly gorgeous and she deserves endless credit for the leaps and bounds she’s made trying to learn the ropes. Her becoming a wrestler was never in the cards when she was hired. She’s obviously not the greatest, but I’m legitimately impressed every time she’s in the ring. Rusev joining her side against a duo like Almas and Vega, who are so easy to boo, is a great way to let the crowd know they can really get behind him. I think Rusev and Lana can be a huge draw for Smackdown and I hope this match is the start of that.

Prediction: Rusev & Lana

Mike: I feel like easily half of the SummerSlam card features a match where we expect someone to turn on someone else, and that makes for interesting possibilities if not perhaps the most creative storytelling. One of those matches is on the preshow, which likely will mark the end of Rusev Day as we know it. (Considering Rusev Day has lasted almost a full calendar year, that's still a pretty decent run.) WWE has been over-the-top obvious with their handling of the impending Aiden English/Rusev implosion, to the point where any sane viewer would question why it hasn't happened already. Because that's what the big shows are for, natch. And I don't mean Paul Wight.

We've seen plenty of characters like Andrade Almas over the years (Alberto Del Rio comes to mind rather instantaneously), but it's a super effective trope. I liked the arc with his "former friend" Sin Cara, and I won't complain about Zelina Vega (sadly, not Savio's sister, and they are missing out on that opportunity big time) being given some solid screen time either. I can't imagine English staying paired with Rusev & Lana much longer, so they must lose again here.

Winners: Andrade "Cien" Almas and Zelina Vega

Matthew: This match can be sneaky good, albeit with nothing of note at stake. I expect them to showcase Almas a lot. Babyface Rusev will also be insanely over if there are people at the arena during this match (not a given). I woudn’t be shocked if Aiden English costs Rusev and Lana, only this time intentionally (which would be a mistake because he is a HUGE part of why Rusev Day is popular and works).

Winners: Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega (because they are still building their credibility)

John: The story in this rivalry has been that Rusev’s buddy Aiden English has accidentally cost Rusev and Lana in matches against Almas and Vega. Does that happen again? I say no. Put Rusev and Lana over here perhaps with English getting involved without screwing up. What I would do is set up a tag match with Rusev and English on Smackdown, then have English turn on Rusev in that match and that sets off that rivalry. I’m not that secure in my Rusev/Lana pick because Almas and Vega are new acts that should be booked strong on Smackdown, so having them lose may be the wrong call. It could go either way.

Winners: Rusev and Lana

 

Finn Balor vs. Baron Corbin

Kurt: I’m a massive fan of Baron Corbin and I think Finn Balor is the most misused person on the entire WWE roster. Yet, here I am, bored to death of these two together. They don’t have any chemistry with each other, which isn’t a shot to either because sometimes that just happens, and yet this feels like the 20th match between these two in the last couple months. Even if this is the end, no matter who wins, it won’t have helped either one of these guys. Finn went from THE GUY at Summerslam 2 years ago, to the biggest throwaway match on the main card. A part of me wonders if Vince regrets pushing him so quickly after getting called up from NXT, only to see him get injured right away, and he decided at that point he didn’t want to do anything else with him.

Prediction: Baron Corbin (Strictly because at least he has something going for him with the Constable gimmick)

Mike: Whatever happened to Finn Balor? It seems a really long time since Balor fans had anything to be excited about, and it makes me wonder why creative didn't even bother to dust off his "Demon King" character to make this overwrought glorified Monday Night Raw match interesting in the least. I've made the argument before that Baron Corbin hasn't been worth the time or energy expended on him by this company, and his recent incarnation has proven me right in that regard. What's the difference between his constable character and his Lone Wolf persona? A haircut and a wardrobe change.

None of that matters in the House of McMahon, however, and Corbin clearly has won at least somebody over. How else to explain his continued presence on major cards at the expense of much better and more interesting talent? This could really go either way, but since Balor hit his finisher on Corbin on Monday's Raw, we'll go 50/50 booking rule and give the constable the nod here. I'm not putting any more thought into something this boring.

Winner: Baron Corbin

Matthew: I can’t. I refuse to talk about this match in any serious way. How long has it been since we’ve seen The Demon? They can’t at least give us that here? Even they know this match isn’t worth it.

Winner: Finn Balor (but I don’t care either way to be honest)

John: I’m so bored by Baron Corbin. I don’t want to be because he works hard, but he had the most boring 20-minute match on Raw this past Monday against Roman Reigns. He should be better at longer matches by now. Anyway, this match has been done a bunch of times already. I’m tired of it. I wish Balor was on Smackdown because he seems to be lost in the shuffle on Raw with no real chance of getting to the Universal Title level again. I’ll go with Balor to win while also predicting they do it again Raw with Corbin getting the win there because this Raw creative team loves repeating the same shit over and over.

Winner: Finn Balor

 

Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs. The New Day

Kurt: On one hand, you have a great tournament, with a spectacular match between The New Day and The Bar in the finals, that brought this match together. You wouldn’t want to waste all that equity and not have The New Day win the titles here. On the other hand, it’s The New Day. I love The New Day, but isn’t it about time to let the three of them do what they can separately and bring them together when needed? Becoming tag champions again just feels too much like what we’ve already seen, and then sure enough we’ll get The Usos as their first contenders. Smackdown’s tag division is rock solid, but it’s short on teams. They have the four teams in the tournament and The Club. That’s about it, so everything is going to feel repetitive soon. However, at least The Bludgeon Brothers still feel fresh, so I’m going with them to stay champions.

Prediction: Bludgeon Brothers retain

Mike: I'm not sure what to say about the trajectory of The Bludgeon Brothers, who have done an admirable job running roughshod over the blue brand's tag division but continue to have weekly matches against enhancement talent. They're big and bad, we get it, but couldn't we find a different way to demonstrate? It's recycled Braun Strowman material that hasn't even had a chance to properly die before being excavated and resuscitated. Beating a couple more ham and eggers won't impress us at this point.

As for The New Day, the most interesting part of this match will likely be whatever kind of ring entrance they have. I feel like it's tough to break up the trio at this point because their creative input is so entertaining, but it's lately been at the expense of the work itself and that's unfortunate. TND have gone as far as they can go as Freebird champs, and putting them in those roles again is the equivalent of treading water. I don't see any reason to switch up titleholders at this point.

Winners (and STILL Tag Team Champions): The Bludgeon Brothers

Matthew: I really hope they let New Day have a real match here. So many of the Bludgeon Brothers matches are squashes or uncompetitive. I get that you are building mystique with them, making them look strong, but seriously, I need a good tag team match on this show. Tag Team wrestling is so damn good when they let it be. New Day can deliver great matches. I know Harper and Rowan have done the same in the past. Let these teams have a real match.

Winners and New Tag Team Champions: The New Day (because I won’t choose against New Day… I love them and everything they represent to me too much to not choose them)

John: I think the Bludgeon Brothers will keep the titles. It just doesn’t feel like the right time to end their four month reign as champions. I wonder if there will be an interesting story that takes place for the SD Tag Team Titles because most of the time it’s just about a team stepping up to challenge the champs leading to a loss.

How about creating an issue among The New Day after they lose this match and then they can wonder if they can be champions again? I want there to be an interesting storyline. Perhaps it can lead to something where they agree that if they can’t beat the Bludgeon Brothers for the titles then they will go their separate ways. Fans will think the group is ending, but then they win the titles and The New Day are stronger than ever. That’s a storyline idea for September, October, November and maybe into December to get the titles back on New Day. For now, I’ll go with the Bludgeon Brothers to win in about eight minutes or so.

Winners: The Bludgeon Brothers

 

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Carmella (c) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair

Kurt: John asked a question on Facebook before Extreme Rules: Who has been booked more poorly on the main roster - Asuka or Bayley? I said it was Bayley unless Asuka didn’t win the Smackdown Title at Extreme Rules. Here we are, she didn’t win the title, and she’s nowhere to be seen. It’s a tragedy. I’m happy for Becky’s career renaissance she’s currently having, and Charlotte has given us a couple reasons to be invested in her return, but I can’t help but see this match and just feel disappointment for Asuka.

I would love to see Becky turn heel on Charlotte, because I don’t think a lot of people would see that coming, but my guess is that if anyone turns, it’ll be Charlotte. Either way, I don’t see a title change since they’re clearly invested in establishing Carmella as champion.

Prediction: Carmella retains

Mike: We'll start with the easiest call: Becky Lynch, much as it pains me to say, will not be winning the belt here. It's entirely possible that WWE keeps the strap on Carmella, who is sensational in her heel role on the mic, but even less effective between the ropes than her Raw counterpart, Alexa Bliss. It seems that it's been decided that both women's championships will just remain on heels forever, or at least you're forgiven for feeling that way.

The storyline between Lynch and Charlotte (very real and very good friends) is always catnip for wrestling writers, and this is one you can see coming from ten miles away. Charlotte being a late addition to a match originally supposed to be a one-on-one was a smart choice, as it not only increases the options but gives you a built in storyline once this is wrapped up. While Carmella could be the beneficiary of this drama, my take is that Charlotte will take advantage of the work of her good friend and escape with the gold. (Lynch's one-woman show this past Tuesday served as confirmation.) Charlotte will eventually re-emerge as her rightful heel. I look forward to that.

Winner (and NEW Smackdown Women's Champion): Charlotte Flair

Matthew: Making this a triple threat is a really smart bit of business. The weakness of Carmella is her in-ring work. She’s got a lot of charisma and is endlessly disdainful, but she leaves a lot to be desired in her match quality. This sets up for Becky and Charlotte to carry the lion’s share of the wrestling here, and deliver a great match in ring despite Carmella’s weakness in that regard. Less heavy lifting for the champ.

This also have a multitude of outcomes that are possible. Will Becky ride her momentum to the Title? Will Charlotte steal the spotlight and the moment? With those two cancel each other out and allow Carmella to steal the win? All outcomes are very possible and lead to vastly different narrative directions. Colour me interested.

Winner and New Smackdown Women’s Champion: Becky Lynch (because call me sentimental, but she’s the most beloved and I want her to succeed)

John: When the match was just Carmella vs. Becky Lynch I would have said it’s the right time to put Lynch over for the title. After Charlotte was added to the mix, I got off the Becky bandwagon as far as my prediction goes and thought that Carmella was going to be winner here. I think we’ll see something where Carmella cheats to win whether it’s grabbing the tights or putting her feet on the rope for the pin. I think Carmella will pin Lynch. That could lead to a Charlotte vs. Becky match on Smackdown, Charlotte wins that and Charlotte wins the SD Women’s Title at Hell in a Cell in September. At the women’s Evolution PPV in October, that’s where they can do Charlotte vs. Becky for the title in what should be an outstanding match. Would one of them turn heel before that match? It’s possible, but face vs. face is fine too. That’s how I see things playing out.

I’m going with Carmella to retain. If I’m wrong on that prediction it’s fine because I would love to see one of the other two women as the champion. I think Carmella’s reign has gone on long enough.

Winner: Carmella

 

United States Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Jeff Hardy

Kurt: There’s not much to say about this match because it means nothing. Clearly, Randy Orton is going to get involved and Nakamura will retain. There’s no story between Nakamura and Hardy, it all revolves around Orton. The only thing I want to know is, are Orton and Nakamura in cahoots or not? That seems like an interesting pairing that has potential.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura retains

Mike: The decision to consistently bar Shinsuke Nakamura from being World Champion was a puzzling and infuriating one, but we'll have to content ourselves with his United States Championship run. I suppose I'll take the tradeoff, because Nakamura's heel persona has done nothing but continue to blossom since his endless set of matches with AJ Styles. We may never have gotten the truly great match we wanted between those two titans (at least not in a WWE ring), but let's not lose sight of the fact that we're getting Nakamura 2.0 and it's been a damn fun ride.

This match has been even more interesting due to the persistent presence of newly minted heel Randy Orton, who joins the long and wonderful list of WWE personalities that are just way better on the dark side. I assumed Orton would be added to this match, but off-camera allegations have perhaps put a bit of a halt on the way things are being handled there. Straight up and one-on-one, this remains the easiest match of the night to predict. I see zero chance that Jeff Hardy unseats Nakamura as champion, and figure he'll enter a prolonged feud with The Viper.

Winner (and STILL United States Champion): Shinsuke Nakamura

Matthew: This match just seems like a formality. A transition if you will. Just something they kind of need to get through. Problem is, I’m not quite sure if I’m interested in the next step. If this is leading to some kind of Triple Threat featuring these 2 and Randy Orton, I’ll be pretty disappointed.

I hope these two go in different direction post Summerslam. Hardy and Orton can do their thing, and Nakamura can feud with I don’t know, Daniel Bryan. I’m trying to will this into existence you guys.

Winner and Still United States Champion: Shinsuke Nakamura (because I think it’s the right move to let Shinsuke run with this belt for a while longer)

John: The obvious finish here involves Randy Orton interfering to cost Jeff Hardy the win. They could do something where Hardy is ready for it, he knocks Orton off the apron and Nakamura hits the Kinshasa to win. It’s obvious, but it works.Can Finn Balor move to Smackdown to feud with Nakamura over this title? That’s what I’d liked to see.

Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura

 

Intercontinental Championship: Dolph Ziggler (c) (w/Drew McIntyre) vs. Seth Rollins (w/Dean Ambrose)

Kurt: I’m still in disbelief as how flat the Ironman Match fell at Extreme Rules. I would take Ziggler and/or Rollins in a 30-minute match seven days a week, yet when they were given the chance, it just wasn’t there. The crowd clearly didn’t help and rattled both guys, but still, there just should’ve been more. Thankfully, I don’t feel about this feud the way I do about Balor/Corbin because there’s something magnetic about Ziggler and McIntyre together that I want to see anything they’re involved in. Add in a returning Dean Ambrose, who looks reinvigorated with his new look, and there’s a lot of elements here for a fun match and new life in this storyline.

I wish the IC title wasn’t involved in this, just because I think they don’t need the title (how ya doin’ Bruce Prichard?) and can have a fantastic tag feud. However, since I’m still in disbelief that Dolph isn’t scorched earth anymore, I want to see how long he can go as champion.

Prediction: Dolph Ziggler retains

Mike: I have no problem ponying up for Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler doing battle. Rollins has had a fantastic year in 2018, and in my view is the best wrestler on their roster not named Styles. Ziggler has been rescued from parts unknown and, better yet, given the opportunity to exploit his heel persona to the nth degree. All of that being said, there might be a bit of fatigue here. The Ironman match was fantastic, despite the Steel City's best efforts, but there is truly sometimes a little too much of a good thing.

The presence of Dean Ambrose in this match should be troubling for anyone rooting for Rollins to triumph. Bringing Shield members together always proves cheap pop worthy, and it was good to see Ambrose in his return this past Monday. He provides the counterbalance to Drew McIntyre being in Ziggler's corner, at least in theory. Interestingly, both sets of individuals will probably be enemies sooner rather than later. There is little to no doubt Ambrose will turn on Rollins, and that will set up one hell of a series. Will it happen at SummerSlam? I say yes. No reason to hold off on a barnburner.

Winner (and STILL Intercontinental Champion): Dolph Ziggler

Matthew: I’m pretty stoked for this. Not because of the match itself. I’ve seen the hell out of this match for a few months now and don’t really care too much about it in that regard. I’m just excited to see Dean Ambrose and what his involvement will be. We all noticed how different he was on Monday. I’m not just talking about the look. He was noticeably less goofy than I remembered him being. He didn’t smile. He didn’t smirk. He looked like a guy that just got out of prison and is ready to go kill everybody that was part of the reason he was there in the first place (that’s a movie starring The Rock I think). He was like an uncaged animal. He was wound up and scowling for every damn second he was on our television screens. I liked it a lot.

Now I know everybody is going to be looking for whether Dean will turn here. And it is possible. His lack of joviality as his “friend” Seth Rollins was grinning like a proud papa seems to set the stage for an “unexpected” betrayal. I just think it’s a little too soon. Sure the suddenness of a turn on Sunday would be fun, but it’d be fleeting. Build a groundwork for it for a little while. Just not too long.

Winner and New Intercontinental Champion: Seth Rollins (because Dean providing the assist, and a little patience from us, can make this eventual Dean Ambrose heel run pretty legendary)

John: I’m going with Rollins to retain in a match that will likely be better than the Ironman match last month because if you go 15-20 minutes it’s easier to have a great match than if you are going 30 minutes with a lot of falls in the match. The finish should be something where McIntyre tries to interfere, Ambrose is there to stop him, Ziggler gets distracted by all of that and Rollins connects with The Stomp to win and get back his title.

I also think getting the IC Title off Ziggler is smart and it may be a good idea to have Ziggler/McIntyre win the Tag Team Titles to give them some more credibility that way too.

I know a lot of people are wanting the heel turn from Ambrose. I should point out that for the last two months or so I was getting daily “when is Ambrose coming back?” questions. Now that he is back, I’m getting “when is Ambrose turning heel?” questions pretty much every day. I say wait for it, people. There’s no good reason to do it now. I think WWE should milk another Shield reunion in the last four months of the year, make it look like all is well with them and then Ambrose can turn heel around the Royal Rumble. Doing it now feels pointless. The next batch of PPVs are not a big deal. Save the turn for the Rumble, which leads to Ambrose vs. Rollins vs. Reigns at WrestleMania. If one of them is holding the Universal Title then that’s even better. For now, Rollins wins.

Winner and New Intercontinental Champion: Seth Rollins

 

For the Money in the Bank Contract: Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens

(If Strowman loses by DQ or countout then he loses the contract.)

Kurt: Until the writing team for Raw, and more importantly Vince, show me otherwise, I have to choose the least exciting and least popular decision for this match, and ultimately how it plays out for the Universal Title match. Everyone assumes it’s a done deal that Braun wins this match and then cashes in his Money in the Bank later in the night. However, this whole storyline has been Braun doing everything humanly (and not so humanly) possible to Owens, and Owens is still standing and now has his chance to take everything away from Braun. As much as I hate to say it, I think this is the night for Vince’s wet dream, master plan, and part 1 of that plan is Kevin Owens winning this match (probably by the lamest way possible) and becoming Money in the Bank contract holder. Stay tuned for Part two, but spoiler alert, you won’t like it.

Prediction: Kevin Owens becomes Money in the Bank

Mike: Of all the matches on the card other than the Universal Title match, this may be the most intriguing. It is precisely that specter of the main event hanging over this which makes it fun to dig into. There is naturally a high degree of possibility that whoever wins this encounter will cash their MITB briefcase in following the conclusion of Lesnar/Reigns, and I do indeed think that occurs. Strowman is incredibly over right now, and has been the beneficiary of some of the most protective booking WWE has ever done. Much of that booking has been at the expense of Owens, who has endured every manner of embarrassment in this feud including his cheap "win" to earn him this opportunity.

Should Strowman win this, the course is very clearly set. There is simply no way he loses if he cashes in later that night. In my mind, though, he doesn't need the briefcase. He can still have his moment because of the way he's been built to this point, and it will be 100% believable. Owens, though, needs the credibility boost and is a perfect candidate to cash in the briefcase the correct way, as a cowardly opportunistic heel. Do the math.

Winner: Kevin Owens

Matthew: I’m against this conceptually. I hate putting The Briefcase on the line once it’s already been procured. Even the way they set that up here was annoying to me. At least have Owens trick Braun into putting it on the line. Let Owens look at least a little bit clever.

I’m torn because on the one hand, I don’t want Braun to win the title via traditional Money In The Bank cash in (meaning taking advantage of an already hurt opponent). On the other hand, narratively it’d serve him right to lose the briefcase because as far as the story I’ve been presented, Braun, a much larger more intimidating man, has been targeting Kevin Owens for abuse and bullying. Comeuppance seems just in this regard.

Winner and Still Mr. Monster in the Bank: Braun Strowman (because changing the holder of the MITB doesn’t seem necessary or prudent here)

John: I think Strowman should win this match in five minutes or less and if he doesn’t, that would be a disappointment. I mean no disrespect to my fellow husky, bearded Canadian Kevin Owens, but I think SummerSlam 2018 needs to be the coronation of Strowman as a top guy in WWE. They have invested two years in this guy from when he was drafted in July 2016 as a singles heel to when he turned face about a year ago after he put Brock Lesnar through multiple announce tables at SummerSlam last year. The fans love this guy as much as anybody in WWE. If Owens gets the briefcase back then it’s 2016 all over again. I want some progress. I want Strowman to look as dominant as ever in this match and then make even more noise later in the show. I don’t want Strowman because I think he’s the best wrestler in WWE. I just like that he is cheered and liked by the WWE Universe. Listen to the crowd, WWE. It’s important.

Winner: Braun Strowman

 

Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz

Kurt: The match we’ve all been waiting for. It’s the true main event of the show, and that’s no disrespect to the matches listed after this, because they’re all fantastic in their own right. This one is professional wrestling at its very core. You believe this one. You believe Miz and Daniel genuinely hate each other. You believe that Miz believes everything he says. You believe that Daniel needs this win more than anything else ever in his career. Minus the awkward 15 seconds where Miz compared Daniel to a crying baby, I have loved every second of these two together.

The video packages on Smackdown this week were some of the best in recent memory. The other beauty of this match is it does genuinely make you think there’s a chance that Daniel isn’t re-signing in September. If he was, you would think they’d wait a little longer on this match. It’s been brilliantly booked and I think this is really just the start of something legendary between these two. With everything Miz has said leading up to this match, imagine the hatred and vitriol he will have if Daniel Bryan beats him. This should be nothing short of spectacular.

Prediction: Daniel Bryan

Mike: Welcome to one of two candidates for match of the night. It's hard to properly encapsulate the fervor surrounding this match, but the fact that some simple video packages aired during SmackDown were enough to make me practically salivate with anticipation should tell you something. Put simply, this feud is what WWE has really had a lot of difficulty doing of late: a solid backstory with lots of various elements that builds to a crescendo. Is there anyone who doesn't want Miz to get what's coming to him, and is there anyone who doesn't want Daniel Bryan to be the one to deliver that justice? 'Nuff said.

It would make complete sense for Bryan to serve just desserts to Miz on Sunday, save the presence of two pesky facts. One is that adversity always makes for a better tale, and the second is that Bryan has yet to sign a contract assuring his presence after Labor Day. There's so much story to tell here, tracing all the way back to Tough Enough, and one match couldn't possibly contain it all. I think Bryan will come out the victor and will sign his new deal. But neither will happen Sunday.

Winner: The Miz

Matthew: Watch the video packages they aired for this match as many times as you can before Sunday. They are splendidly produced and deserve every view you can give them. Then enjoy this match at Summerslam. This is the most emotionally charged match on the card for me, as I 100% understand and identify with each man’s motivation heading in. And what’s more amazing is that they are both right. I’m with them both and it’s bloody brilliantly conflicting as a viewer.

I can’t say anything to sell how much I’m looking forward to this more than what the WWE has presented us. Truly wonderful work from their production team, their writers, from The Miz and Daniel Bryan. I love how these two, this match, and everything around and leading up to it has made me feel as a viewer. Bravo.

Winner: Daniel Bryan (because even though my heart says The Miz, whose praises I have been singing for years now and a man whose journey to this point I find truly awe-inspiring in its own way, I have to go with my brain and say Bryan)

John: It’s my favorite match on the card. The build has been awesome mostly because WWE has been smart enough to not put them in tag matches or have them do much physicality. There was the in-ring segment a few weeks ago with Miz getting the upper hand and also Miz attacking Bryan “on set” for the Miz reality show, but most of the feud has been about trash talk along with the three great video packages that were on Smackdown this past week.

It’s hard to pick a winner because I can see it going either way and I think it’s the start of several big matches between them. The way I’m leaning is a win for The Miz in controversial fashion possibly thanks to Maryse showing up to cheat to win, which could lead to Brie Bella returning in Bryan’s corner and maybe even setting up a tag match between the married couples. There’s also Hell in a Cell coming up next month, which makes me think Miz winning here makes a lot of sense leading to a rematch at Hell in a Cell with Bryan going over. If Bryan wins here, Miz could attack him after the match or on Smackdown leading to that same Hell in a Cell match, but I think the Miz win is the better way to set that up.

This one should be a lot of fun with a hot crowd and I hope they get 15-20 minutes to have a great match like I know they can do.

Winner: The Miz

 

Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Ronda Rousey

Kurt: Even as such a massive Ronda fan, I’m continually blown away at how good she is already. The last person I’ve seen pick it up this quickly, is her WrestleMania partner, Kurt Angle. Even her promo on Raw when she had to speak basically on the behalf of WWE to Natalya on the loss of her father, she nailed that. That is not an easy spot to be in, for anyone on the roster, and Ronda handled it with poise and grace and had the entire audience hanging on her every word and giving that speech its proper respect.

I haven’t predicted many title changes for this show and the reason for that is because I think they’re going to have a succession of title changes in the big three matches and they want these finishes to have the biggest impact possible on the live crowd. I think that’s sound strategy and I think the Brooklyn crowd will more than deliver the moment they’re hoping to get, especially here with Ronda becoming the champion.

Prediction: New Raw Women’s Champion, Ronda Rousey

Mike: There are two sides to every story, as they say, and one side is that Alexa Bliss could remain champion (as she has seemingly been for, I don't know, ever?). The other, and the one I favor, is that this is indeed Ronda Rousey's time. Rousey has not only generated excellent fan reactions since her introduction in Philly those many moons ago, but has been leaps and bounds ahead of where I'd expect her to be at this point in time. We all knew she was a fantastic and physical athlete, but her determination to succeed at this next chapter has been beyond expectation. Kudos to her.

I wrote about the importance of Rousey's signing to WWE, and that importance just gets underscored by the day. As the company presses on to Evolution, it falls to Rousey to be the standard bearer and rightly so. This is almost beyond wrestling in some ways. It's not a lock that she wins here, of course: they could choose to anoint her at Evolution. But SummerSlam is a Big 5 show, and this is a moment worthy of a show that big. It's time to deliver on the promises. Let's get rowdy.

Winner (and NEW Raw Women's Champion): Ronda Rousey

Matthew: If this is anything like Ronda’s past performances, this should be fun. Ronda really gets the theatric nature of pro-wrestling and her matches have all been pretty damn fun to watch, despite not being mat classics. Frankly I’d rather watch a fun match than a technical classic 9 times out of 10.

I’m not sure how long this match will realistically go, but I am certain that Alexa will put her double jointed arm on display after an arm bar. If they don’t do it I’ll be shocked and consider it a dereliction of duty on the WWE’s part.

Part of me is concerned that Ronda winning will be too much too fast for her. It’s a fine line before you cross into the territory where fans will turn on her for being handed two title shots and the championship 4 matches into her career. So I am conflicted with my pick here.

Winner and New Raw Women’s Champion: Ronda Rousey (because ultimately I’m not sure how long her run in the WWE will be. It’s very possibly worth the risk to get the ball moving very quickly with her in this spot)

John: Rousey should win this match in under about eight minutes or so. I think they might do a spot early with Alicia Fox tripping her up to give Bliss the advantage, but then Rousey should make her comeback and win. I know there are some people thinking Rousey should win the title at Evolution in October instead. I think SummerSlam is the better time for it and then Rousey can walk into Evolution potentially in the main event as the champion. Rousey can do all the press and interviews for Evolution while wearing that title and it will get WWE more mainstream attention that way.

I don’t expect a great match, but they have likely rehearsed it a bunch of times because that’s how WWE does Rousey matches. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s smart to prepare for it. The crowd should be into it and Rousey should win to make the fans happy.

Winner and New Raw Women’s Champion: Ronda Rousey

 

WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. Samoa Joe

Kurt: Much like at WrestleMania when we couldn’t believe AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura was the WWE Title match on the card, here we are at Summerslam, and I can’t believe it’s AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe for the WWE Title. I swear if Joe starts delivering nut shots though, I’m done watching WWE. As great as AJ is, he can’t be champion forever, and Samoa Joe is beyond deserving of becoming the new champion. Much like Daniel vs. Miz, Joe is what’s great about pro wrestling. He’s believable. He makes you hang on every word he says, everything has meaning, and his work in the ring is crisp and looks brutal. I thought AJ could’ve sold the ending of Smackdown a little better, but then the video on WWE.com immediately after made up for it.

AJ has done everything he can as champion, and has proven just how important the main title can be, which in turn has cast an even bigger negative light on Raw for never having the Universal Champion on TV. I’d like to see a new route for AJ, and the wrestling fan in me would love to see Samoa Joe as WWE Champion. Five years ago, there was no chance in hell of that ever happening. It’s a crazy business we’re all fans of.

Prediction: New WWE Champion, Samoa Joe

Mike: It's been evident that we were ramping up for a Styles vs. Joe showdown, and I still find myself stunned that it's happening. These two tore it down in TNA on more than one occasion, and I would be hard pressed to think this will be any different. I've been an unabashed supporter of Styles's work before and after becoming champion, and this feud with Joe feels personal because it is. The two have a shared history outside and inside of WWE, and that's always pretty special when you've been following their respective careers. Where Styles and Nakamura generally delivered inside the ring, Nakamura's obvious limitations with the microphone and their somewhat silly overtones took away from the result. That won't be a problem here. Joe might be the best active wrestler on the stick in the entire company, and he has no problem showing how good his powerful and unique style is between the ropes either.

The idea that Samoa Joe will be WWE Champion is to me a fact rather than an opinion. He's just too good not to take advantage of. The idea that he will take the strap from Styles at SummerSlam, though, might be more of a stretch. It's entirely possible, but I don't see it happening just yet. My take is that Styles will win an extremely exciting and forceful encounter with several false finishes, and end up suffering a very different fate in a rematch that will likely be even more brutal than this. One thing is for sure: You don't want to miss a second of this one.

Winner (and STILL WWE Champion): AJ Styles

Matthew: Who would have imagined that we would get this match in the WWE? Two of TNA’s most prolific Champions and legends, going head to head for the WWE Championship, THE Championship of this company. It’s kind of magical and hopefully there is some kind of documentary being cooked up for the Network about these guys’ history and the sheer improbability of this match happening at one of the WWE flagship events.

AJ has had an almost improbably long title reign. It shows how much faith the company has in him and honestly it’s an amount of faith I’m surprised he’s been able to garner. Not because of his skills, but because of the way the WWE usually operates.

His nearly 300 day Championship reign is on the line against a worthy opponent, and a man who has also improbably garnered the support of the powers that be. Samoa Joe might be the best promo guy in the entire company not named Paul Heyman. He has been intense, cutting and oh so believable. He truly deserves not only the opportunity to be in this stage, but the chance to hold the belt.

This won’t be their TNA matches. Both men are much older than they were in those days… I’m pretty excited if age and experience can make this match better than all the rest.

Winner and New WWE Champion: Samoa Joe (because AJ Styles loses no credibility by losing, and lucky us, it extends this rivalry)

John: It feels like the right time for AJ Styles to drop the title after nine months as the champion. Styles has been the best wrestler in WWE since he showed up in January 2016 and I’m glad he’s a two-time WWE Champion, but now I want Joe to hold that title. I’ve been a fan of these guys from the early days in their career in the early 2000s when they were making names for themselves in TNA/Impact and Ring of Honor. It’s so cool that they are competing for the WWE Title at a major show at SummerSlam. Should this have happened in a WWE ring five or ten years earlier? Sure, I would have loved that, but I’ll still enjoy it a lot in 2018 as well.

I like the personal nature of the feud with Joe taking shots at Styles as a father and reading the fake letter from AJ’s wife Wendy. It tells the audience that these guys know eachother well, so Joe must resort to cheap tactics to get into AJ’s head. I think that’s going to lead to Joe winning the title because Styles will make some key mistake late in the match and Joe will capitalize with the Coquina Clutch to leave as WWE Champion. Like the Bryan/Miz feud, this feels like the start of a story that will stretch across two, three or more PPVs.

Winner and New WWE Champion: Samoa Joe

 

Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

Kurt: I’ve defended Roman Reigns for months, so there’s no reason to rehash that. I don’t care if it’s him or Braun, or literally anyone else on the roster, I just want the Universal Title off Brock Lesnar. The brand needs the champion there every week. I told you what part one of Vince’s master plan is for this show, Keven Owens winning Money in the Bank. Everyone’s grand plan is having Roman win this match, only to have Braun yank the rug out from under him and cash in MITB and leave the Universal Champion. As much as I would love to see that, because Braun is CLEARLY the guy who should be THE GUY, I just don’t see any way Vince does that to Roman. Part two of his plan, and what I think will actually happen, is Roman will win an absolute war with Brock. I wouldn’t be surprised to see blood again from Roman in this match. Owens, now in possession of the briefcase, comes in and cashes in, thinking it’s a sure thing. Roman pops up with a Superman Punch, lands a spear, and retains the title against Owens. This can lead to Owens being Reigns’ first challenger for the title or it can lead to Braun being his first challenger because he feels robbed of his opportunity to cash in himself. (Remember, I think he’s going to lose in the lamest way possible).

Either way, everyone be damned, Vince is going to make sure Roman gets his moment and is full steam ahead as the man with the Universal Title. Don’t forget everyone, I’m the one who predicted Baron Corbin to win the Royal Rumble, and numerous other horrible predictions, so I’ve probably just guaranteed the opposite is going to happen here. You can all thank me later. If I’m right though, send me all your hate tweets at @KTankTJR.

Prediction: New Universal Champion, Roman Reigns (Kevin Owens unsuccessfully cashes in MITB)

Mike: The largest problem with this entire mess of a Universal Title match has been that all the detours have actually added very little to the story. There is absolutely no reason we should still be talking about whether or not Roman Reigns will defeat Brock Lesnar. Lesnar's current flirtation with the UFC has added another dimension to the storyline, of course, but it's nothing we haven't seen or heard before. No offense to Brock, but I don't really care if he goes at this point. Reigns' constant assertions that we need a full time champion are accurate, but whether it's him that we need as champion? I'm fairly sure the crowd lets him know how they feel about that nightly.

I think WWE actually handled the Lesnar/Heyman breakup tease (and Heyman/Reigns partnership) really well, and I'm glad they dispensed with it before Sunday. Vince and company continue to play chicken with the fans in pretending to give them what they want, and let's face it, they're going to win. Is it good for the product? That's another question entirely. Reigns will eventually get support, and he's worked hard to earn it, but will anyone care by then? That's the poser we face at this juncture.

If it's understood that Lesnar has to lose, it's equally understood that Reigns can't win. Not straight up, and certainly not if WWE expects their last moments after this supersized marathon to be boos raining down on their biggest deal. Fortunately for all involved, they have an out clause. Either Strowman or Owens can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, continuing the paradigm of Reigns but allowing him to finally triumph over Brock. Owens makes more sense to me given the circumstances.

Winner (and NEW Universal Champion): Kevin Owens, following a successful cash-in

Matthew: The umpteenth time is the charm, right? Maybe things will be different this time. Maybe we’ll all love Roman Reigns now. Maybe we’ll all finally be excited on Sunday, the night of his 173rd coronation as THE GUY in the WWE! Or this might just go exactly the way it has gone, every time they’ve done this.

I commend the effort. They really tried. They really did a lot of work to make things different, but at the end of the day I doubt the reaction will be any different. The fans will likely crap all over this match and furthermore, the match will probably be kinda bad.

So the question is what happens. They can’t afford to put off Roman’s crowning ceremony again, can they? Roman has to beat The Beast, right?

Winner and New Universal Champion: Roman Reigns (because they can’t afford to give up on everything they’ve invested in)\

Now, most people think there will be a cash in. I’ll say that if there is, it’ll be Braun, and it’ll be at the start of the match because I don’t picture Braun the type to pick the bones with his cash in. If he does, I still think the result is the same. If they put off Roman winning the belt again, that’s it. It’s over for him as far as I’m concerned.

John: I hope this is the last Reigns vs. Lesnar match. Enough already. For whatever reason, Vince McMahon got cold feet when he wanted to have Roman Reigns beat Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title at WrestleMania 31 in 2015 and then Vince did it again for the Universal Title at this year’s WrestleMania. They followed up with a lame finish at the Greatest Royal Rumble event in late August. It didn’t help Reigns. Sure, some fans are cheering Reigns a bit more in the last month because Lesnar has ripped on WWE heavily in backstage segments, but it’s not like the Brooklyn crowd is going to love Reigns. They will likely boo him like they always do.

This will probably be a 10-15 minute match with a lot of finishing moves, a lot of two counts and ultimately Reigns gets the win after two or three Spears in a row. As Reigns is celebrating after finally beating Lesnar clean to win the Universal Title, that’s when the music of Braun Strowman hits.

Winner and New Universal Champion: Roman Reigns (…but wait there is more)

I think Braun Strowman should end the night as the Universal Champion. I want to see the successful cash-in happen on Roman Reigns. Am I absolutely convinced it will happen? No. I’m not that sure of it, but it would be the ending that would send the fans home happy and give us a SummerSlam moment we’ll never forget. Strowman has been pushed hard for over two years. All he has to show for is a tag team title win with a 10-year-old kid partner. It’s time to elevate him to that next level as the Universal Champion.

Winner and New Universal Champion: Braun Strowman

 

BONUS TOPICS!

The Match I'm Looking Forward To The Most

Kurt: I’m such a huge Ronda fan and since I think she’s going to win the title, I’m going to say her vs. Bliss. But Miz vs. Daniel is a VERY close second.

Mike: Joe/Styles. I rank it a hair above Miz/Bryan because I think it will be a better match.

Matthew: Bryan vs The Miz… that match has the most emotional weight.

John: It’s Miz vs. Bryan first, Styles vs. Joe second and everything else is clearly behind them. I’m intrigued by some match finishes more than actual matches in some cases.

 

The Match I Care About The Least

Kurt: A 3-way tie between Cruiserweight Title, US Title and Corbin/Balor.

Mike: Not including kickoffs, I'd say Bludgeons vs. New Day. Nothing to see here.

Matthew: Corbin vs Balor (yawn).

John: Balor vs. Corbin.

 

Longest Match

Kurt: I hope it’s Miz vs. Bryan. My gut says it’ll be AJ vs. Joe.

Mike: Joe/Styles. Could also be Rollins/Ziggler, but I'm good either way.

Matthew: Joe vs. AJ.

John: I’m going with Styles vs. Joe as well. That’s going over 20 minutes.

 

Shortest Match

Kurt: It should be the US Title match, but I’ll say Corbin vs. Balor.

Mike: Rousey vs. Bliss.

Matthew: Strowman vs Owens.

John: Braun Strowman beating Kevin Owens in about five minutes.

 

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

Kurt: There are 3 matches I could care less about, and 3 matches I’m beyond excited for. Plus, the potential for a new Universal Champion, FINALLY. It’s SummerSlam, so by default I’m excited, but I don’t think I can go higher than a 7.

Mike: I'm going 8. I think the builds have been largely solid and there's plenty of possibility for championship changes. The implications of the MITB contact, the Lesnar situation, Rousey's first championship opportunity, Miz/Bryan...the list goes on. Nice job by WWE making this feel special.

Matthew: Solid 7. A lot of stuff that I don’t care that much about but some stuff that I’m pretty damn excited for.

John: I think 7 is fair. There are enough good matches on the card to keep my interest mainly on the Smackdown side. I am intrigued by some of the booking decisions on the Raw side. My concern is that the crowd is going to die for half the show because of how long it is.

 

Final Thoughts

John: That’s all for us. Thanks to the crew for joining me once again. I will write a live review of SummerSlam on TJRWrestling.net on Sunday night.

Follow us on Twitter here:

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.