The moment we’ve been waiting for is just about here. The long, hot summer is wrapping up. Kids are headed back to school, the weather is slowly cooling off, and WWE will present SummerSlam on Sunday.
The weekend is even better, because NXT will be presenting TakeOver: Brooklyn III on Saturday. It promises to be a weekend full of interesting action.
There is a ton to cover, so we’ll get right to it.
The Professor’s Study Guide – SummerSlam Weekend Preview and Predictions
Since NXT is currently WWE’s best wrestling program, and since the guys from the gold and black brand are up on Saturday, let’s start with them.
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn
Aleister Black vs. Hideo Itami – Black has been an imposing force since arriving in NXT, and will likely remain undefeated here. The real question is whether NXT decides to keep some heel heat on Itami by having him perform a post-match beat down or some other skullduggery. If Itami is ever going to be a force in NXT, something big has to happen here. Look for Black to get the win, but Itami to keep some heat.
Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas – Almas is in the same boat as Itami. He’s a guy who came into NXT with great fanfare and simply hasn’t lived up to the hype, for whatever reason. Gargano is a huge fan favorite, and this feud is simply to mark time until Gargano’s former tag partner, Tomasso Ciampa, can come back from injury for the feud everyone’s been waiting for. Almas has had a bit of heat since Zelina Vega was added to his act, but I don’t think it will be enough here. Gargano wins.
The Authors of Pain vs. SAnitY (NXT Tag Team Championship) – AOP has been dominant since showing up in NXT, and could be ready for a spot on the main roster. SAnitY was without front man Eric Young for a while, but Young reappeared a few weeks ago to help build the hype for this match. I could see SAnitY going over here and AOP appearing on Raw Monday (given that The Revival’s push has been derailed twice by injuries already). However, my gut tells me that AOP retains here.
Asuka vs. Ember Moon (NXT Women’s Championship) – Asuka has been the single most dominant performer in NXT history. She’s held the championship for over 500 days and has winning streak of over 180 matches. I don’t expect any of that to change here. However, NXT has to do something, or the women’s division will soon become an afterthought. I think Asuka wins. In my fantasy booking, she then shows up on SmackDown on Tuesday, gives the NXT belt to Daniel Bryan, and tells him to send it to William Regal because she’s come to SmackDown to find some real competition. That won’t happen, but something like it needs to take place soon.
Bobby Roode vs. Drew McIntyre (NXT Championship) – I think this is the title most likely to change hands. Roode has been a fantastic champion for NXT, but is destined to be a breakout star on the main roster sooner than later. Also, he has a built-in feud with Roderick Strong waiting for him even if he drops the belt and stays in NXT. McIntyre needs to maintain his momentum, so I say he wins the belt here.
Akira Tozowa vs. Neville (WWE Cruiserweight Championship) – Though it hasn’t officially been announced, rumor has it that this match will take place on the kickoff show. WWE did a lot of strange things last week moving into SummerSlam, including reuniting two thirds of The Shield on Raw and having Baron Corbin (unsuccessfully) cash in his Money in the Bank contract on SmackDown. This is another of those strange decisions. I’m not sure why WWE would want to have Neville lose the Cruiserweight title at all, much less on a weekly show. I think Neville wins the belt back Sunday, starting the inevitable breakup angle between Tozawa and Titus Worldwide.
The New Day vs. The Usos (SmackDown Tag Team Championships) – This match is officially on the kickoff show. How far has New Day fallen? Once thought likely to be the top act on SmackDown, they’re relegated to the kickoff show for one of the biggest events of the year. I’m not sure why this was pushed here. Maybe it’s just because of the loaded card. Right now, I think the Usos are a more entertaining team than New Day. The SmackDown tag roster is thin, so I think the Usos go over here, just to keep the feud alive until some new teams can be brought into the mix.
Naomi vs. Natalya (SmackDown Women’s Championship) – Both of these women will work hard on Sunday, and the match should be a good one. The problem is that most of the audience will be more focused on Carmella’s possible Money in the Bank cash in than they will be on the match. I don’t think Carmella cashes in here. It’s a big show and what should be a huge moment might get lost in the shuffle. Naomi retains, but the clock is ticking.
Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks (Raw Women’s Championship) – Bliss has been absolutely outstanding as a heel champion. The problem is that, with Bayley injured, only Banks is a credible babyface opponent. I think Banks wins here, so that the feud with Bliss can continue until Bayley is healed up. Then, either Banks or Bayley turns heel and keeps some spark in the division.
Randy Orton vs. Rusev – This will probably turn out to be a very good match. The problem is that nothing’s really at stake here, and the buildup has been blah, at best. Orton wins, then moves on to…..who knows?
Big Show vs. Big Cass (Enzo Amore is suspended above the ring in a shark cage) – This might be the first time in history that a babyface (Amore) has been locked inside of a shark cage in WWE. The stipulation doesn’t really make sense, since Amore has been utterly ineffective in his attempts to derail Cass. WWE thinks there’s money in the big man, and he’ll go over Big Show in a match that symbolizes the passing of the torch to WWE’s new giant.
Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt – Balor has indicated that he’ll be in full “Demon Mode” for Sunday’s clash. That spells the end of Bray’s winning streak. There’s almost no way that WWE will have Balor bring out the Demon and then lose. However, the feud will probably continue for a while.
John Cena vs. Baron Corbin – Why did WWE have Corbin cash in his MitB contract on Tuesday, only to lose to Jinder Mahal? (And why did Corbin, who was waiting impatiently for the referee to ring the bell, suddenly turn and attack Cena instead of going after the wobbly champion? Are we to believe that Baron Corbin is an idiot?) The reason might be so that Corbin has a chance to go ballistic on Cena, who he’s sure to blame for the loss. There might be another reason, but we’ll talk about that later. Cena wins the match and Corbin beats him bloody shortly thereafter.
Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins vs. Sheamus and Cesaro (Raw Tag Team Championship) – I think it was a bad idea to have the former Shield members reunite on Raw. It’s a big moment, and should have been saved for a bigger stage. However, I can at least see the logic in this move. As a team, it makes sense for Rollins and Ambrose to get a tag title shot. As two individuals, it doesn’t. Rollins and Ambrose win this one, and the entire tag division becomes a better place.
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens (United States Championship – Shane McMahon as guest referee) – There are tons of rumors floating about that say Shane will be facing Owens at WrestleMania. If so, this is the next logical step in that direction. Somehow, Styles retains and Shane is involved in a controversial way. This leaves Styles free for a new feud and Owens has a reason to go after Shane O’Mac.
Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE World Heavyweight Championship) – Until Corbin unsuccessfully cashed in on Tuesday, I suspected he would be leaving SummerSlam as the new champion. Now that he’s out of the picture, I think it might be time to start the Nakamura Dynasty. (That’s my other possible reason that WWE had Corbin cash in early, and lose.) Either that, or Nakamura wins by DQ or count out. I don’t think WWE can have Mahal keep retaining the title by such shady means, however. Nakamura wins and the Barclay Center explodes with joy.
Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe (WWE Universal Championship) – This is the best Fatal Four-Way lineup in my memory. Any of the four men makes a legitimate champion, and any of the four could easily win on Sunday. If Lesnar loses, he’ll apparently leave WWE. That’s led to a lot of speculation that Lesnar will retain the belt. Of course, he typically leaves WWE for months at a time after each PPV appearance, so the stipulation wouldn’t be necessary. Strowman and Reigns are portrayed as warriors, and don’t seem to be the best suited for this format. This type of match needs a guy who’s both tough and cunning. A guy who can throw down with anyone, but wouldn’t be ashamed to steal the title by any means necessary. That all sounds like Samoa Joe to me. I’m calling my shot. Joe takes the title here.
The excitement of this big weekend is dampened by the fact that wrestling legend Ric Flair remains in critical condition in an Atlanta hospital. Flair is considered by many to be the best performer in wrestling history, and rightly so. Thoughts and prayers to the Nature Boy and his family. Hopefully, Ric will win this battle like he has so many others.