WWE has a chance to redeem itself on the big stage.
WrestleMania 32 back in April was a total flop in the eyes of many, especially after back-to-back years of crazy excitement at the “Showcase of the Immortals.” There have been a few pay-per-view events since the disappointing showing, but Sunday night offers the first real opportunity for WWE to get back into the good graces of casual wrestling fans, as the company’s second-biggest annual event, SummerSlam, invades Barclays Center with a jam-packed match card.
This year’s SummerSlam will feature some newcomers in addition to established stars. Finn Balor, for one, has an opportunity to burst onto the scene, as he’ll square off against Seth Rollins for the new WWE universal championship in his first pay-per-view event with the main roster.
The biggest party of the summer is scheduled to last four hours and feature 11 matches. Jon Stewart is among those expected to appear, and if last year is any indication, that could mean bad news for John Cena, who was ambushed by the actor/comedian during his match against Rollins at the 2015 SummerSlam.
This marks the first SummerSlam since WWE recently split into two brands — Raw and SmackDown — so that adds another layer to what should be an action-filled night.
Date: Sunday, Aug. 21
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Barclays Center
How to watch: WWE Network or pay-per-view
To hold you over until the first bell, let’s run down the match card and give a prediction for each clash.
Becky Lynch, Naomi and Carmela vs. Natalya, Alexa Bliss and TBD
This was a late addition to the card, and it seems the sole purpose is to show off the talent of the women on the SmackDown side of the fence. The lone women’s title currently resides on Raw.
There’s not much to sink your teeth into here, especially now that Eva Marie has been suspended by the company, leaving the match’s direction even more up in the air. But hey, maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised. A few of these women are very good in-ring workers, after all.
Prediction: Becky Lynch, Naomi and Carmela win a match that doesn’t progress much of a storyline.
Cesaro vs. Sheamus (Match 1 of best-of-seven series)
Was I the only one that cringed when I heard Mick Foley announce that Cesaro and Sheamus would begin a best-of-seven series … after they’ve already fought what seems like 100 times?
Cesaro is excellent and has been underutilized for a while. Sheamus, meanwhile, is serviceable but extremely boring. These two might have some good matches along the way, at least. Let’s hope it starts Sunday night or else it’ll be impossible to build any momentum whatsoever in this series.
Prediction: Sheamus wins. Cesaro has won the last two head-to-head matches, so let’s play the percentages and say Sheamus is due for a victory, especially with the credibility of the “rivalry” at stake.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho
Enzo and Cass are must-see TV every Monday night. They’re very entertaining, especially Enzo, who is incredible on the mic given his quick wit and unique delivery.
The team of Owens and Jericho — known as “Jeri-KO” — still feels thrown together despite both being very good performers.
Prediction: Enzo and Cass win a match that’s designed to build their credibility. Something happens between Owens and Jericho, leading to a new feud.
The New Day vs. Anderson and Gallows (WWE tag team championship match)
The New Day have held the belts for a long time, but it feels like they’re losing some steam. Although Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods remain wildly popular, the trio isn’t quite as over as it once was.
Anderson and Gallows have established themselves as a major force in the tag team division. Ever since they arrived in WWE, it has seemed like just a matter of time before they win gold.
Prediction: The New Day finally lose the belts and break up in the process. Big E has been sidelined with an injury as part of the storyline, so it’d be easy for WWE to have him turn on his partners, especially Woods, if they’re unable to retain the titles in his absence.
Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte (WWE women’s championship match)
Sasha winning the belt on “RAW” took some juice out of this rivalry, if only because it seemed for so long like she’d finally overcome Charlotte at a major pay-per-view event. These two are phenomenal in the ring, though, so it should be an excellent match — perhaps one of the evening’s best — regardless of the outcome.
Prediction: Sasha retains but is promptly interrupted by Nia Jax, who lays a beatdown on “The Boss.”
The Miz vs. Apollo Crews (WWE intercontinental championship match)
This just goes to show how far the IC title has fallen in recent years. And it’s a damn shame.
Not to take anything away from The Miz, who does an admirable job at making people hate him, or Crews, who is as athletic as they come. But there’s really nothing to see here, unless Crews soon develops some more charisma to accompany his freakish in-ring talent.
Prediction: The Miz wins in cheap fashion because that’s what The Miz does.
Roman Reigns vs. Rusev (WWE United States championship match)
I’m still not sure why these two faced each other on the SummerSlam go-home show Monday night. And I’m even more perplexed at why Reigns won clean. But apparently, we’re supposed to be excited for a rematch with the belt on the line this time around.
Prediction: Reigns officially is out of the main event picture, for now, which is music to many wrestling fans’ ears. The problem? He’s about to become champion again, as he’ll take down Rusev this Sunday one way or another.
Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler (WWE championship match)
It’s still stunning that Ziggler is in the title picture after months — heck, years — of toiling in the mid card. If this was three or four years ago, people would be going berserk.
Unfortunately, Ziggler enters this match with very little momentum despite a few good weeks of TV. It’s hard to envision him walking away with the belt, unless something really crazy happens.
Prediction: Ambrose retains the belt, but Bray Wyatt gets involved in some manner.
Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor (WWE universal championship match)
Is it possible this feud is the first shoe to drop in a potential program between The Shield and The Club, with the ultimate payoff coming at WrestleMania 33? Probably not. But it’s fun to think about.
This match could steal the show given each superstar’s athleticism. It also could be a landmark moment for WWE if something notable happens, as Rollins figures to be a face of the company for many years while Balor is a budding superstar in his own right.
Prediction: Rollins walks out as the inaugural universal champion — yes, that name still is stupid — and Balor is commended for being the new guy who gave it his all. This probably is the first installment in a lengthy feud.
John Cena vs. AJ Styles
It seems like every Cena feud ends the same way: He loses to a new guy to put them over and then later redeems himself by scoring the end-all victory. Essentially, he loses a battle (or two) to win the war.
It’s possible we’re looking at something different here, though. Styles is a proven star based on his experience even before landing with WWE. It would behoove WWE to give him a chance to be the face of SmackDown.
Prediction: Styles bucks the trend and picks up a win over Cena. Cena then works a lighter schedule moving forward as he pursues other endeavors outside of sports entertainment.
Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton
These two have been putting butts in seats for years, so this is an intriguing match, even if it came more out of nowhere than an Orton RKO.
Conventional wisdom says Lesnar continues his reign of dominance and makes Orton his next victim. But Orton has been over with the crowd since coming back and needs to reassert himself. Plus, there’s the real-life situation involving Lesnar’s failed drug tests with UFC, so perhaps WWE could issue some punishment in the form of a loss.
Prediction: Let’s get wild here and say Orton wins after Bill Goldberg interferes. Goldberg is supposed to be in Brooklyn doing stuff for the upcoming “WWE 2k17” video game. Maybe he’ll also become part of the show, and who better for him to go toe-to-toe with than the guy he last faced at WrestleMania XX?