WWE SummerSlam 2016 Preview
- We’re only days away from the 29th annual SummerSlam, often times credited as the unofficial WrestleMania of Summer until recent years where the spotlight of the show has been given almost equal status as the showcase of the immortals. For the second straight year, SummerSlam will emanate from the Barklays Center in Brooklyn, NY, as well as the second time that NXT Takeover will be hosted from the same venue one night earlier. Adding to the magnitude of the event is that SummerSlam is the official first Pay-Per-View featuring exclusive rosters, with Battleground having taken place before the split became official for the weekly television product. With a four hour Pay-Per-View/Network Special, a 2-hour Kickoff Show, and as of this writing, 11 matches announced, there’s plenty to speculate and be excited about. So, in order of least to most important, I give you the Official Preview of SummerSlam, 2016...
1. Becky Lynch, Carmella, and Naomi vs. Natalya, Alexa Bliss, and Eva Marie:
I wouldn’t be surprised if this were to be featured on the Kickoff Show, as well as another match, yet to be named match (possibly a male tag team match featuring the Smackdown guys). There’s lots of people complaining about the lack of depth to the Women’s roster on Smackdown, ignoring that only three women are used in a relevant way as far as in-ring performance goes on Raw, while all six women of Smackdown are treated on equal ground. Becky is the top good girl, Carmella is the new underdog, and Naomi is somewhere in the middle, while we’ve got Nattie as the top foil, Alexa Bliss presented as someone capable of competing at the level, and the greatest troll in the history of the division, Miss Eva Marie. It seems like either Becky or Naomi can feud with Eva Marie while Carmella vs. Natalya seems like it will continue to move forward. I don’t expect this to be a good match, but they’re clearly positioning Eva Marie for big things. My best guess, when it comes to her participation, is yet another convenient delay that allows her to come back late and steal a pin fall after doing zero work.
Prediction: Natalya, Alexa, and Eva Marie when Eva steals a pin fall.
2. Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz © vs. Apollo Crews:
This one might get bumped to the Kickoff Show if they don’t add another match to pad things out, and rightfully so. Apollo "Don’t Call Me Creed" Crews scored a pin fall in a triple threat with Kalisto and Baron Corbin to earn his shot at the title. The following week, the Miz ignored Renee Young’s questions about Crews, instead remaining infatuated by his wife and valet, Maryse. This week on the go-home Smackdown Live, the only build for the match actually took place during the commercial break, with Miz insisting on calling Apollo "Apollo Creed" and getting laid out with a Spin-Out Powerbomb. This match is the perfect opportunity to hold off on a title change and building to a title switch at the 1st Smackdown Exclusive Special in September.
Prediction: Apollo Creed by Count-Out.
3. Cesaro vs. Sheamus:
I know they haven’t done it in years, but I absolutely HATE these "Best of 7" Series scenarios, especially when they never really have a point to begin with. OK, so I get the idea these two keep fighting, but in the two weeks before the series was officially announced, Cesaro had already defeated Sheamus twice. There’s nothing to fight over, and neither man is positioned anywhere near the radar for a Championship run, and that includes the United States Title. Either man would be better off on the Smackdown Roster, both to give them something significant near the top of the card (Sheamus is fine as long as he’s not in the #1 program, though) and to pad out a weak mid-card. Since this is match #1 in what will likely be 7 (because God knows that Vince and Co. will NEVER book something to not go the maximum number), it only makes sense to put the babyface in a hole early and having him fight as the undercard.
Prediction: Sheamus by pin fall, possibly with a handful of tights.
4. Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens:
I’m not sure I understand this one, and I don’t see where it could be going, either. A few weeks ago on Monday Night Raw, they did a weird segment with Enzo and Jericho coming to the respective side of Sasha Banks and Charlotte, leading into a Mixed Tag where Jericho laid out Enzo until Big Cass made the save. Jericho, stammering to announce back up (which turned into a dumb joke involving the real name of wrestling legend Arn Anderson), suddenly found back up in the form of Kevin Owens, a man who has never proven to be a reliable partner since he joined WWE a little more than one year ago. The big picture is always going to be that Big Cass will break away from Enzo for a big singles run, but that’s too soon for such a move, so we have to look at the other side... will WWE actually do something with Kevin Owens as a babyface? Jericho is due to leave soon, and as a heel, writing him off TV via a beat-down wouldn’t make much sense. This feels like something for these four men to do while people figure out what to do with the three that will remain going forward.
Prediction: Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens, with one of them pinning Enzo.
5. WWE Tag Team Championship Match: The New Day © vs. The Club:
We’ve approached the one-year anniversary for the second reign for the New Day as Tag Team Champions, and now more than ever before seems like the most likely scenario for them to drop the titles. The New Day will be represented by Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods, with Big E. out of action selling a beat down courtesy Gallows and Anderson. Unfortunately, after that the whole build up for the match consisted of lame comedy from the Club over busting Big E.’s genitals, and a handful of matches that clocked in at an average of 90-seconds. As much as people want to dog the Smackdown Tag Team Division, the Raw Division instantly took the top heel team and made them a couple of clowns, and there’s not much depth beyond them (the stale Dudley Boyz, teasing a breakup, and the Shining freaking Stars). Since most of the storyline has involved the Club in a favorable position, common sense should dictate that the New Day will overcome the odds without the powerhouse of the team and keep their reign going.
Prediction: The New Day retains with Xavier Woods scoring the surprise pin fall.
6. WWE Women’s Championship Match: Sasha Banks © vs. Charlotte:
Due to Sasha Banks defeating Dana Brooke in a match a couple of shows back, she will be banned from ringside. The likely and much anticipated title switch was rushed onto the first episode of Monday Night Raw following the brand split, so now we’ve got a rematch where if Sasha wins, that’s fine, but it won’t have the same magic as actually winning the title. It was a year ago at SummerSlam where the WWE Universe™ was first being introduced to the "Diva’s Revolution", and at Takeover: Brooklyn, Sasha, along with Bayley, stole the show in what I’d consider the best women’s match in WWE history. Based on their match on Monday Night Raw and the various times we’ve seen them in high profile situations, this should be a good match with potential to be great, but I feel like it would’ve been better off just holding back on the title change. I understand they wanted to make that episode feel like a big deal, but it was at the expense of the second biggest PPV of the year. Moving forward I have to question the direction for all involved. Sasha Banks is much better as an arrogant heel, but the only other woman on Raw being built up is Nia Jax, so we’re left with Banks miscast as a smiling babyface when she should be an obnoxious heel that likes to push people around.
Prediction: Sasha Banks retains via submission with the Bank Statement.
7. WWE United States Championship Match: Rusev © vs. Roman Reigns:
Quite the demotion for Roman Reigns after headlining most of the PPV’s for the last year and being involved in the previous two WrestleMania Main Events. It’s for the better, at least for now, as the crowds have actually taken a bit of a liking to Reigns in his fight with the EVIL foreign menace and his obnoxious sometimes-Russian valet. On the other side, this is quite an improvement for Rusev after feuding with Titus O’Neil of all people for what felt like an eternity. The big build began a few weeks back when Reigns interrupted the "wedding celebration" of Rusev and Lana, leaving Lana covered in cake and Rusev steaming mad. Last week, they decided to have a go at each other 6-days sooner than expected, but it was Rusev fighting for his wife’s honor rather than defending the Championship. Reigns won of course in what was a pretty good match, but here we go again: they just gave away a PPV caliber match on the go-home show, so now they get to go out there and do it again, but with a screw-job finish. I know I’ve already predicted one undercard title match with a lame ending, but I have a feeling we’ll be getting that for this one too, and building to a bigger rematch at whatever the Raw Exclusive Network Special™ is in September.
Winner: Roman Reigns via Disqualification.
8. John Cena vs. A.J. Styles:
I know it’s a bit ridiculous to consider this the 4th match from the top, but by comparison, it really has featured the least build for the headlining matches. If you’ll recall, it was at Money in the Bank that Styles scored a somewhat tainted victory over John Cena, and he hasn’t let us forget about that one. Cena pinned Styles in their next encounter, part of a Six-Man Tag at Battleground, but that seems to have already been forgotten. Another match with potential to be great, especially on a 4-hour PPV and plenty of time allotted. 50/50 booking tends to rear its ugly head, so it all comes down to where Battleground factors in. If you count that in their series, then I can see them putting Styles over, but don’t expect it to be clean. Remember, we’re on a cross-promotional PPV, so having the Club show up to aid Styles again, after he promised it would just be one-on-one, would continue to frustrate Cena and make Styles look like a chicken-sh*t heel who doubts if he can win the big one on his own, and with an EXCLUSIVE Special coming up for Smackdown, holding off for the big payoff match between these two makes more than enough sense.
Prediction: A.J. Styles via pin fall and interference from The Club.
9. WWE World Championship Match: Dean Ambrose © vs. Dolph Ziggler:
In the span of four weeks, Dolph Ziggler went from "that guy in the midcard who can have a good match" to a serious contender to the WWE Championship. With Ambrose playing a subtle heel and being allowed to shine through with an antagonistic tone in all their confrontations, it has brought out a rejuvenated fire in Ziggler. Does that mean the work is done? No, of course not. Ziggler’s rehabilitation requires a bit more time, especially in the weeks following SummerSlam, but it is moving in the right direction. We’ve gotten face-to-face confrontations, the classic "mismatched partners who dislike each other" scenario, accidental knockouts and retribution, and the go-home show’ sucker kick from Ziggler leaving Ambrose out. You know what we didn’t see? Them fighting one-on-one in the weeks leading up to the show, like Raw has done with Rusev/Reigns and Charlotte/Sasha. Of all the main event level matches, this has the potential to be a great match or hit as low as "alright", depending on how serious they are in pushing this as a big deal and how much time they get. I don’t expect a title change, but I’m more interested in where we go with both men following SummerSlam.
Prediction: Dean Ambrose retains with Dirty Deeds.
10. WWE Universal Championship Match: Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins:
The top match featuring Raw Exclusive Superstars, and the big crowning moment for the newly created UNIVERSAL Championship. My goodness, does that name come across as quite lame. Balor was given quite an introduction to the main roster, scoring not only a victory in a Fatal 4-Way but earning his spot in this match by getting a clean victory over Roman Reigns the same night. This without a shadow of doubt will be the best match of the night, unless both men have what would be a spectacular case of having off-nights at the same time. The big deal for the last couple of weeks is the "Demon King" (groan) part of Finn Balor’s persona, the mind-games he plays when in Demon gear, and the relentless attitude that the character entails. So of course, WWE gives away the big moment on Raw, complete with entrance and the body paint, instead of just teasing it with shadowy illusions and other forms of smoke and mirrors. Have I mentioned how much I feel like they are doing too much on Raw instead of trying to build things to logical conclusions? It would make no sense to job Balor in such a high profile debut, especially in Demon attire, but you never know sometimes.
Prediction: Finn Balor via pin fall with the Coup de Grace.
11. Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar:
Finally, the biggest match of the night, although there’s a chance it won’t go on last. It’s Suplex City vs. Viper-Ville, The F-5 vs. The RKO (Out of Nowhere™). It’s 15-Years in the making, except for all the times they fought in OVW and there one match on Smackdown way back in the infancy of Brock Lesnar’s 1st Championship reign. Lesnar hasn’t had an official match for WWE since the needless destruction of Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 32, while Orton has been featured on Smackdown beating the piss out of undercard guys like Fandango and Heath Slater after a lengthy absence due to major shoulder surgery. When it comes to Brock matches, it’s become more about being a spectacle than a well-worked match, so this could either hit high on the quality chart or crash and burn. Orton is a good worker, but what can he get out of Lesnar? Will be bump around like a ping-pong ball or force Lesnar to work a more traditional match? Moving forward on Smackdown, Randy Orton has potential as a World Title threat, as well as top card program potential with Styles and Bray Wyatt, while Brock can just be Brock. Orton needs the win more, and Brock’s willingness to job because he doesn’t care is all that I need to know to make my pick.
Prediction: Randy Orton after 7 or 8 RKO’s.
Final Thoughts: Even though it’s only the Blockbuster of the Summer (or whatever lame phrase they use to push SummerSlam), this has the potential to a much better card from start to finish than WrestleMania 32 produced. There’s at least 4 high profile matches with 4-star potential, and most of the undercard at worst should be pretty good. There’s only two matches on the card I don’t expect much from, so that leaves us with NINE chances for something to look forward to, whether it’s a great performance, great creative direction, or a combination of both. We’ll see how it all turns out at SummerSlam this Sunday night.
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