WWE’s second biggest pay-per-view of the year is upon us! Live from sunny Los Angeles this weekend is Summer Slam! After a really solid Battleground last month, the bar is pretty high for this show. Summer Slam has a storied history of exciting match-ups and this year’s installment looks to be no different. To see my picks for this weekend’s show, hit the jump and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter as I live-tweet the show on Sunday!
JACK SWAGGER vs RUSEV
As I mentioned last month with Battleground, I feel that WWE is absolutely dropping the ball by not having the US Title as part of this match, especially since they are doing absolutely nothing with Sheamus as the champion. That being said, I am really impressed with how well they have built up this feud. I’ve never had any interest in anything that Jack Swagger has done before this (even though I have loved Zeb since his watching him as Dutch Mantell many years ago), but I’ve been completely hooked on this program. While it is important for them to keep pushing Rusev as a monster, I see Swagger coming out on top here. With this being a flag match, Rusev won’t need to be pinned in order to lose, so his streak will remain intact while Swagger gets a much needed “feel good” win, possibly leading to another rematch next month where Rusev will come out on top.
Winner: JACK SWAGGER
CHRIS JERICHO vs BRAY WYATT
I was so excited for Jericho and Wyatt’s match at Battleground, but was really let down when it ended rather abruptly and cleanly. Wyatt was one of the hottest characters in the company earlier this year, but his long list of pay-per-view losses is really dragging him down. Plus, it doesn’t make sense for Rowan and Harper to be banned from ringside when they had nothing to do with the previous Jericho/Wyatt match. Had they caused Jericho to lose, it would make sense. That baffles me. If there is any hope for Wyatt to become the megastar that he clearly has the potential to be, he needs to start a “big match” winning streak by beating Jericho here and then running roughshod through the roster in the coming months. If Wyatt loses here, I don’t see the character lasting much longer which is a HUGE shame as Wyatt is the most interesting performer on the entire roster.
Prediction: BRAY WYATT
DOLPH ZIGGLER vs THE MIZ ©
Dolph Ziggler is the single most underutilized wrestler in the entire company, so I am incredibly happy that he is finally in an actual feud after months of floundering in the midcard. The buildup to this match was solid, with Ziggler coming across as a great contender in the last few weeks and Miz’s cowardly “Hollywood” persona being a nice foil. The Miz hasn’t had the championship for very long and is getting great heat, so while Ziggler really deserves a championship, I see Miz leaving with his championship. If Ziggler does win, it will likely be by count-out or disqualification so that Miz can keep the belt, but I’m thinking we’ll see Miz get the cheap win here. The big question isn’t whether or not Miz will retain—it’s whether or not Ziggler not winning the belt will affect the huge response he has received from the crowd over the last few months. The WWE fans absolutely love this guy (and with good reason), but how long will they keep backing him before his lack of “big wins” causes them to lose interest?
Winner: THE MIZ
BRIE BELLA vs STEPHANIE McMAHON
Wouldn’t it be awesome if the actual Divas Championship was given as much time on Raw as this feud? Not only have the segments each week for Brie and Stephanie been considerably longer than pretty much any Divas match on TV in the last year, but two of them were actually done as the main event segment! While I’ve been mostly entertained with this program (although I thought the infidelity hoax angle was a little too “Attitude Era” for my taste), I know that the match isn’t going to live up to the hype. While the Bella Twins have made great strides with their in-ring work, Brie really isn’t good enough to carry a high profile match, especially with an inexperienced opponent like Stephanie, who hasn’t wrestled in over a decade and even though really wasn’t much of a wrestler to start with. Obviously this will be more brawling than wrestling and the actual match will be shorter than the pomp that surrounds it, but despite how entertaining the feud has been—mostly thanks to Stephanie showing just how much she is Vince’s daughter—I suspect this will be the low-point of the pay-per-view. I suspect Brie will get the big win here using a sloppily executed “Yes Lock,” but with some type of swerve at the end, potentially with Nikki turning on her sister.
Prediction: BRIE BELLA
PAIGE vs AJ LEE ©
Divas Championship Match
If you’ve been reading my PPV preview posts, you’ll know that I’m very critical of how the WWE handles its Divas division. Most of the matches are too short, poorly placed on the card, and in general, the wrestlers highlighted aren’t the best workers on the roster. That being said, the AJ and Paige feud has been developed much better than the last several big Divas feuds and they have the potential for putting on a really great match. I feel like Paige really needs a big moment here—her reign as Divas champion had some solid matches, but really failed to develop a personality for the young talent. We’ve seen more of it as she taunts AJ, but I really feel like she isn’t catching on with the crowd. I don’t see her beating AJ here, but I do think we’ll see a big moment here, whether it a standout performance or a big swerve.
Prediction: AJ LEE
SETH ROLLINS vs DEAN AMBROSE
Even though we didn’t get a match at Battleground last month, I loved the way that things panned out in the Rollins and Ambrose feud. Not putting these two in the ring together, but instead letting them brawl all around the arena did an awesome job of building tension between the two. When these two finally do get together in the ring at Summer Slam, it is going to be an emotional, physical battle that is going to tear the roof off the building. I’d much rather see the match teased but not happening rather than a cheap finish at Battleground leading to a rematch this month. I’ve jumped back and forth multiple times on who I think will win this one, as I feel it could really go either way. I’m going to go with Rollins only because I’m picking Roman Reigns over Randy Orton, so I feel like the winner here is going to be the hell Rollins. The bigger question is how the Lumberjack stipulation will play out. They have done a good job of highlighting how many enemies these men have made, which ups the stakes for this match, but I really have no idea how much that will add to or detract from the match. Will we see some new alliances? Will new feuds develop? Will there be any reason to have it whatsoever?
Prediction: SETH ROLLINS
RANDY ORTON vs ROMAN REIGNS
If I’m not mistaken, this is actually the first major singles match that Roman Reigns has had. The majority of his two years as part of The Shield was spent in tag matches and since their breakup, he has only been part of multi-wrestler matches. It’ll be interesting to see if he can bring the same intensity and strong in-ring storytelling here that he has in his big tag PPV matches. The last several weeks has seen some solid singles work from Reigns, but this is the big time. I mentioned last month that his loss at Battleground, which set up this match, was just the first step in his eventual world title reign. This feud with Orton is the next step. Orton has been one of the top stars in the company for ten years now and so Reigns picking up a big win over the Viper will go a long way to cementing Reigns role as a top superstar in the future, especially after their incredibly intense altercations over the last few weeks. I expect this to be a very physical battle and that Orton will hold his own, but Reigns is going to come out on a top before setting his sights on bigger things—which I suspect will be a feud Triple H and then eventually the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Prediction: ROMAN REIGNS
BROCK LESNAR vs JOHN CENA ©
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
When the promotional material for this match first leaked on the internet, I had almost zero interest in the match, even though I have been a huge fan of Lesnar ever since his collegiate wrestling successes. I’m not a huge fan of Cena and I don’t think he is the right person to be the champion (let’s face it, he doesn’t need it to be the biggest star in the company). Then, however, Paul Heyman worked his usual magic and now I’m completely hooked. Heyman’s promos and, surprisingly, Cena’s reactions have done an incredible job to hype up this match, especially this past week when Heyman kicked off Raw with one of the best promos I have heard in the last several years. When you add in the bizarre and intense interview with Lesnar that dropped last week (the infamous “blood, urine, and vomit” interview), the stakes feel high in a way that WWE really hasn’t be able to build since moving to monthly pay-per-views. This has an old school feel and so Lesnar’s win, which I guarantee will be brutal, is going to feel momentous. I see the beast tearing through Cena in convincing fashion, then running roughshod over the roster for the next several months before a fresh talent finally steps up to stop him, instantly becoming a major superstar in the process. My money is on that person being Roman Reigns and probably not until Wrestlemania. A win there after Lesnar beat the Undertaker this year, Cena in a brutal feud here, and then a host of superstars between now and next spring will elevate Reigns into the top spot in the company, where he is likely to stay for the rest of his career.
Prediction: BROCK LESNAR
What are your thoughts? Share them here or tweet them to me at @RyanSchrodt!