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We are two days away from the WWE’s second biggest show of the year, SummerSlam, and for all intents and purposes, it’s shaping up to be one of the best editions of the summer classic we’ve ever seen. Buoyed by two outstanding matches that have been hyped and built to perfection, a stellar undercard should help keep things rolling until the main events.
Rob Van Dam vs. Dean Ambrose (United States Championship)
Why it’s happening: Since the WWE brought Rob Van Dam back to the company at last month’s Money In The Bank pay-per-view, they haven’t given him much direction. He’s bounced around, showcasing his great talent and winning matches, but without a clear cut reason for doing so. This match is no different. For one, it’s happening on the kickoff show prior to the actual event, and therefore isn’t even technically a part of the official card. Second, it was created Monday night after RVD won a battle royal to determine a number one contender for the championship, and has been give no build outside of that.
What should happen: Ambrose and RVD are both excellent workers and could probably put together a nice feud, so it’d be great for this to kickoff a long fall of the two chasing each other for the title and RVD trying to fend off Ambrose’s compatriots in The Shield.
What will happen: Apparently RVD’s contract dictates that he take some time off after a couple of months back with the company, so we certainly won’t see him win the title. The best we can hope for is a great match between two stellar guys that’s good enough to encourage people to buy the show.
Natalya vs. Brie Bella
Why it’s happening: The WWE is insufferably promoting its reality show “Total Divas” and taking up precious pay-per-view space with what will certainly be a useless match.
What should happen: It ends quickly.
What will happen: Hopefully it ends quickly. The only way this match could be used effectively is if it’s placed between the two main events to give the crowd a brief respite in the middle of what should be two fantastic matches.
Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow
Why it’s happening: The former friends have been at odds since last month’s Money In The Bank show when Sandow pushed Rhodes off a ladder and stole the briefcase that gives the holder the right to a World Heavyweight Championship match whenever they choose. It’s partly sour grapes from Rhodes, but Sandow’s pretentiousness have made it pretty easy to get behind the kid from the legendary Rhodes family. Cody, and his baby mustache, has been playing games with the briefcase for weeks, at one point throwing it into the Gulf of Mexico and forcing Sandow to have a new version created. The contract isn’t on the line in the match, but Rhodes will undoubtedly get his hands on the briefcase again.
What should happen: The build for this match has been pretty good and there are no pressing reasons to have it go either way. It should be a great match, and the smart booking would probably have Sandow win cleanly and gloat about how easy it was, prompting Rhodes to ask for a rematch with the contract on the line.
What will happen: I’m not entirely sure where this one will go, but Sandow’s slowly starting to prove himself as a good heel, so a victory at SummerSlam could help him cement that role.
Dolph Ziggler & Kaitlyn vs. Big E. Langston and AJ Lee
Why it’s happening: Ziggler and Langston used to be friends. Ziggler and Lee and used to date. Kaitlyn wants Lee’s Divas Championship. They’re all great workers with some storylines that play well together, and this is as good a reason as any to get them on the show.
What should happen: Hopefully, we’ll eventually get a Ziggler and Langston singles match, and this contest should prove to tease that. I couldn’t care less about the two “divas” involved, but they’ve got a feud going on as well that this match will probably fuel.
What will happen: Ziggler and Kaitlyn got the upper hand Monday night on Raw, and according to wrestling logic, this means they’ll lose on Sunday. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, and as long as it leads to Ziggler and Langston going one-on-one, there isn’t really a way to screw this one up.
Kane vs. Bray Wyatt (Ring of Fire match)
Why it’s happening: The Wyatts, a creepy, backwoods, cult-like family, debuted a few weeks ago and set their sights on Kane, the “devil’s favorite demon.” Kane is no longer the hellish beast he was in the attitude era, but the Wyatts’ brand of terror is helping bringing some of it back out. Kane wants Bray, the leader, one-on-one, hence the creation of the ring of fire stipulation. And, since we’re in the PG era of the WWE, this differs from an inferno match in that the goal is not to set your opponent on fire, but rather gain a standard pinfall or submission in the ring, which will be surrounded by flames.
What should happen: Kane has long been synonymous with fire, and he should pick up the victory in this one, if only to re-establish his dominance as a monster.
What will happen: The company is getting ready to give the Wyatts a huge push, and that probably starts at SummerSlam with a victory. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Kane get “converted,” so to speak, and join the family’s ranks.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian (World Heavyweight Championship)
Why it’s happening: After Raw GM Brad Maddox let John Cena choose his own opponent for the WWE title SummerSlam, Smackdown’s Vickie Guerrerro let Alberto Del Rio do the same for the World Heavyweight Championship. Of course, he tried to choose his fat sidekick, so a triple threat match took place to determine who the opponent would actually be. Christian won that match, and the two have been going about their own business ever since, without much buildup. On top of that, for reasons unbeknownst to everyone, the two fought in a singles match on Smackdown last week, meaning the WWE basically gave away a pay-per-view match for free. As always, the World Heavyweight Championship continues to be a lowly title.
What should happen: The match itself will be good, but who really cares about the outcome. Del Rio has shown some aggression lately that makes him a better champion, but he’s still not convincing. Christian is hyping a “one more match” mantra for the contest, implying he may retire if he loses, but there doesn’t seem to be any real sense of urgency. Plus, the self-proclaimed “Captain Charisma” actually isn’t that charismatic outside of his great work with Edge back in the day.
What will happen: I’d say Del Rio picks up the victory to continue his title reign.
CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar
Why it’s happening: CM Punk used to be a Paul Heyman guy, until Heyman left him in the cold to continue working with Brock Lesnar, the former NCAA wrestling and UFC champion. The build to this match has been phenomenal, helped by the fact that Punk and Heyman are the two best mic workers in the company. The match, which should be intense, is being billed as “The best vs. The beast,” and is more about Punk vs. Heyman than Punk vs. Lesnar. But, Lesnar’s serving as Heyman’s muscle, and with Heyman doing his talking, he truly seems like a beast.
What should happen: Punk can survive a loss here and still be taken seriously, as he’s clearly the underdog in the match anyway. Lesnar, on the other hand, needs a victory to cement his role as the vicious beast. This one should be given plenty of time, with Lesnar eventually coming out on top.
What will happen: Heyman will obviously get involved at some point, and Punk’s desire to get to his former friend will probably see Punk land a couple of punches before his distraction costs him the win.
Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena (guest referee: Triple H / WWE Championship)
Why it’s happening: This match could not be more meta. After Money in the Bank, Raw GM Brad Maddox let John Cena choose his own opponent for SummerSlam, and he picked Bryan, the former Ring of Honor superstar and internet darling. The two have been trading barbs back and forth, with Bryan saying he’s an actual wrestler, compared to Cena, who’s just an entertainer, and a great segment on Raw Monday mixed reality with the fiction of the match, which is exactly when wrestling is at its best. Bryan told Cena Sunday is probably just another match to him, but for Bryan, it’s the biggest match of his life. Cena retorted by speaking directly to the internet, it seemed, talking about his desire for the business and even referencing the “four moves of doom,” a derogatory sequence used by internet fans to describe the four moves Cena usually uses to win a match.
And, since it’s the WWE and the McMahons run everything according to their own whims, there’s an underlying current about family strife. Vince claims Bryan looks like a troll and doesn’t deserve to be champion, whereas Triple H thinks he does. Thus, Trips has inserted himself as the special guest referee.
What should happen: This should be Bryan’s night. There should be a regular referee and the two should be given a ton of time to tell a great story.
What will happen: Bryan probably will win the match, as Cena is supposedly taking time off after SummerSlam to heal from an injury. However, word on the street is that Triple H will turn heel at the show, and/or Randy Orton will cash in his WWE championship Money In The Bank contract and take the title immediately. We should get a great Bryan and Orton feud throughout the fall, leading to the inevitable “all about the McMahons” situation at Wrestlemania next year, but it will probably all happen at Bryan’s expense Sunday night.