8/20/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker
Background: A year and a half after Lesnar ended Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania, Undertaker returned to cost Lesnar his title match against Seth Rollins at Battleground. They brawled endlessly the next night on Raw and a blood feud was born.
Prediction: It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around what happens next if Lesnar wins again. An Undertaker win introduces the possibility of a rubber match at Wrestlemania. It also gives him momentum toward a possible- even likely- retirement match in his home state against any opponent.
Storyline Implications: The interesting note here has been that Undertaker has been a straightforward heel since his return. He’s far too revered to be a true heel at this point in his career and it’s much more likely that he’s working in heelish tones to balance the growing adoration for Lesnar. Might a third party get involved here (Sting? Kane?) to set up the final chapter in Undertaker’s career?
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins vs. US Champion John Cena
Background: The night after Rollins survived Lesnar, Cena stepped up to challenge him. Although Rollins mangled Cena’s face with his knee, Cena ultimately prevailed in their first encounter. It would be easy to forget that result, though, as the build for the match has seen a more confident Rollins riding high.
Prediction: Rollins will leave SummerSlam as WWE Champion. I’m not sure how the storyline mechanics will work, but it’s hard to imagine him holding both belts (a la Jay Lethal) for more than a night or two. He probably won’t win cleanly, nor should he. In any case, this match should be one of the best of the night and maybe the summer.
Storyline Implications: Given how good he has been, it’s easy to forget that Rollins is still growing as a dominant heel champion. Fans are learning to truly hate him. It would be a mistake to short-circuit that process. Meanwhile, Cena has been so outstanding this year in his semi-main event side show that it would be a shame for him to change lanes.
Randy Orton vs. Sheamus
Background: Including the Money in the Bank match, this will be the third consecutive match Sheamus and Orton have worked together at a PPV. They have a long history of animosity, including a failed alliance against The Shield at Wrestlemania. In this iteration, the MITB briefcase has been central to the story.
Prediction: Every sign points to an Orton win. He had Rollins beat for the Title on Raw. Sheamus has the briefcase to keep him in the mix despite a loss. When a result seems obvious, it’s usually smart to go the other direction. I’ll pick Sheamus to win by using the briefcase, which will lead Orton to challenging him for that same briefcase next month.
Storyline Implications: Other than the two wrestlers in the title match, these two have the best cases for a title match of their own. It would not be surprising to see one or both of them facing Rollins at Night of Champions or soon after.
Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro
Background: Amidst the outstanding Owens-Cena rivalry, Cesaro worked a terrific match with Cena that grew from a one-off to a full-blown feud of its own. They have butted up against the title match and the Sheamus-Orton rivalry repeatedly, which is lofty territory for two wrestlers who have yet to main event a PPV.
Prediction: A case could be made for either wrestler “needing” this win. In actuality, both wrestlers are getting such great reactions right now that neither one “needs” much of anything. The final result is essentially a coin flip, so I’ll take Cesaro on the strength of his growing grassroots fans support.
Storyline Implications: A win in this match could hot-shot either wrestler to a title shot. On the other hand, this could be the first match in a long-term rivalry. I doubt that Owens and Cesaro were ever supposed to have a feud with one another, but it’s off to such a good start that I would like to see WWE invest some serious time and effort into building the rivalry. For two wrestlers on the way up, they need to create memorable moments for this match and program to help both of them.
Jon Stewart to Host SummerSlam
Background: Now that Stewart’s run on The Daily Show has officially ended, he can resume his long-running rivalry with WWE Champion and poster boy for The Authority, Seth Rollins.
Prediction: WWE has a spotty history with celebrity appearances. From celebrities who are out of their depth (Lawrence Taylor in a Wrestlemania Main Event), to celebrities who don’t appreciate wrestling (Jeremy Piven), to celebrities who aren’t really celebrities (Maria Menounos), there have been plenty of swings and misses. Stewart has shown that he cares about WWE and has the chops to entertain on this stage.
Storyline Implications: While it’s most likely that Stewart’s appearance is a one-off way to draw a few extra eyeballs, I would love to see him perpetuate his mini-feud with Rollins. Their limited time together has been highly entertaining and has made Rollins look like more than an ordinary wrestler.
The Wyatt Family vs. Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose
Background: Where to begin? The Shield and the Wyatts dominated WWE for over a year until they finally collided at Elimination Chamber 2014. The feud has run hot and cold, but this rekindling of the rivalry feels more like a way to keep the wrestlers busy than a way to cultivate them.
Prediction: The most popular rumor on the internet is that this match will be the impetus for one of Reigns or Ambrose to turn on the other. If it has to be one, I think Reigns makes more sense because more fans care about Ambrose. Whether than happens or not, I think the Wyatts are more likely to come out on top.
Storyline Implications: Maybe the reason that everyone loves the heel turn rumor is that it’s so hard to see what comes next for any of these wrestlers in their current iteration. Absent a big swerve, I think we’re slated for more of the same.
Intercontinental Champion Ryback vs. Big Show vs. Miz
Background: Finally over his staph infection, Ryback is finally ready to defend his title against the challengers he was supposed to face six weeks ago. With Ryback off of TV, Big Show almost came off as a babyface opposite the eminently heelish Miz.
Prediction: Ryback will win, both because it makes sense to see if fans get behind him in a serious way and because neither of the challengers would reinvigorate a rapidly diminishing title.
Storyline Implications: The best outcome might be a very decisive result because it would allow Ryback to move on to another challenger. There are probably ten other heels on the roster I would rather watch challenge for the Intercontinental Title than Big Show, and Miz is more mouthpiece than wrestler at this point.
Team Bella vs. Team BAD vs. Team PCB
Background: Nikki Bella’s proclamation that there was no one left to challenger her in the Divas Division led to the introduction of Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch. The injection of talent has already made women’s wrestling much more interesting week in and week out. Now, the gang warfare comes to a head in an elimination tag match.
Prediction: The only sure thing is that Team Bella will be eliminated last. There is serious risk of a trainwreck in a match with nine wrestlers. If they can put together a coherent story that makes one of the teams look strong, it will be quite an achievement. Since Sasha made Nikki tap out last week, I’ll take PCB to put the champ down again.
Storyline Implications: The next PPV is Night of Champions, which will likely be the end of Nikki’s interminable title reign. All signs point to a triple threat title defense. Sasha has seemingly already booked her ticket to that match. The question is whether Paige or Charlotte will join her.
Stephen Amell and Neville vs. Stardust and King Barrett
Background: Stardust spent months jabbing TV’s Arrow on Twitter before they finally came to blows on Raw. That confrontation dovetailed with the ongoing superhero story between Neville and Stardust. Barrett was brought into the match because, well, he was nearby.
Prediction: This match is the easiest pick on the card. Celebrities are brought on to big shows to look good and Amell will be no exception. Plus, it won’t be the first time either Stardust or Barrett suffer and embarrassing loss.
Storyline Implications: The wrestling world has been abuzz with how competent Amell looked in his brawl and backstage interaction with HHH. Realistically, his on-screen time might have added up to one minute, so it’s probably fair to withhold final judgment. In any case, Neville will likely carry the match and also carry on the surprisingly fun rivalry with Stardust after SummerSlam. As for Barret, well, maybe he’ll remain nearby.
Dolph Ziggler (with Lana) vs. Rusev (with Summer Rae)
Background: Rusev belittled Lana until she finally left him for the more fun Ziggler. Rusev retaliated with a crutch to Ziggler’s throat and a Summer Accolade to Lana. The non-overlapping schedules of Rusev (an injury) and Ziggler (a movie shoot) have created a slow build to this match that has made it better than it would have been otherwise.
Prediction: It’s easy to forget since he has slid down the card a bit, but Rusev has still a pristine won-loss record. WWE clearly has plan for him beyond his Russian nationalist introduction, so he will likely win here to reassert his dominance.
Storyline Implications: For all the reasons stated above- the slow development, Rusev’s momentum, and the long-term Lana involvement-, Rusev and Ziggler are likely to wrestle beyond this show.
Tag Team Champions Prime Time Players vs. New Day vs. Los Matadores vs. Lucha Dragons
Background: The PTPers and New Day have essentially monopolized the tag team division since Tyson Kidd’s injury took him and Cesaro out of it. The other teams are merely refuse inserted into the match to make it look like a fresh matchup.
Prediction: As we saw during their first title run, New Day has the ability to elevate the entire tag division. I’m glad that Darren Young and Titus O’Neil have held WWE gold, but I think the division would be better led by the team with a much higher ceiling.
Storyline Implications: Like several of the matches before it, this match probably does not represent the end of hostilities between its participants. If Night of Champions doesn’t include a New Day-PTP rematch, I hope that means a new tag team has entered the division, because no other team deserves that slot.