SummerSlam is the biggest part of the summer. More importantly, it's the second biggest show of the wrestling year. WWE has worked to brand the show as a West Coast WrestleMania for the last few years, setting it in media mecca Los Angeles and even hosting an Axxess event.
I don't think I'm speaking out of turn when I say this show has been built better than WrestleMania and will likely be a better show. Without the excess weight of big promotion, glitz and glamor, the WWE has built a set of matches that have actual storylines and character development.
Other than the World Heavyweight Title match, everything currently announced is personal. Each has a grudge match component to it, which makes them uniquely interesting bouts.
I'm not going to book a Rob Van Dam match, though, I could see him facing someone work-rate focused like Antonio Cesaro in the preshow. This is a gross misuse of RVD, unless they are just really trying to get people to watch on YouTube. Whoever RVD faces, especially if it happens on the preshow, he'll score the victory.
We're less than a week away and the card is mostly set. Below are predictions for the pay-per-view with a little dream booking thrown in. The matches are listed as I'd arrange them on the show.
Please share your thoughts in the comment section with your predictions.
Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow
The two former best friends turned heated rivals after Sandow halted Cody Rhodes from climbing the ladder and captured the Money in the Bank briefcase for himself. If anyone had suggested that either of these men would be on the SummerSlam card just two months ago, I would've laughed.
Neither Rhodes nor Sandow has a great resume in the last year. Team Rhodes Scholars were never allowed to reach their potential. Rhodes has smashed his head against the glass ceiling repeatedly, capping out at mid-card title contender. Sandow has only been in his character a short time but received great reactions. This feud may signal a change in course for both men.
There is nothing on the line in this match other than pride. Cody needs a win more than Sandow, so I'd give these two eight to 10 minutes, building to Rhodes outsmarting the Intellectual Savior of the Masses, hitting the Cross-Rhodes and pinning his shoulders to the ground.
An incensed Sandow will seek retribution for being humiliated. Cody will demand the briefcase be put on the line if Sandow wants another match. We get a babyface win to pop the crowd, placing an added emphasis and push for Cody by giving him the first match of the night.
Winner: Cody Rhodes.
World Heavyweight Championship Match
Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian
This is the only match on the card that leaves me feeling meh. The match itself will be very good, but there isn't an intrigue. I don't believe that Christian is actually going to win the belt, despite pinning the champ on television in consecutive matches.
This feels very place-holder to me. There were other options for this match that could have made people care or even simply put on a memorable match. Unfortunately, I don't see the the World Heavyweight Championship defense getting more than 10 minutes on the show. The lack of build leads me to put it here.
What we'll see would be equivalent to a very strong TV main event match. Christian and Del Rio are both pros and very talented in-ring performers. I expect the finish to play off Del Rio's latest affection for smashing people into or behind the ring steps with a drop kick.
Without Ricardo Rodriguez, I think we're going to see a more ruthless Del Rio. He'll ramp up the aggression in his offense and show a killer instinct we've sought. Christian, ever the great face-in-peril, will play his role to perfection and make Del Rio look like a million bucks.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
The Shield vs. Big Show and Mark Henry
These five men who need to be on the show. Mark Henry is hot on the heels of the best run of his career. He faced John freaking Cena for the WWE title just a few weeks ago on PPV. He needs to be on the SummerSlam card.
Big Show has been cleared to return, per PWInsider, and may show up this week on WWE TV. With The Shield directionless at the moment, we need to remind people of their dominance. Teaming a hot Mark Henry and returning babyface Big Show in a short, spot-heavy match that leads to, perhaps, a pair of three-man power bombs on the largest men in the WWE, The Shield will be back on track.
Winners: Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. The Shield.
Pointless 'Total Divas' Segment
This is a predictions column, and like how I'm predicting a handicap match, I think it's even more likely we'll get an extended, in-ring 'Total Divas' promotion bit. They'll likely incorporate some Hollywood types in attendance and shill the show for E!
This will come at a time in the show perfect for bathroom breaks.
Ring of Fire Match
Bray Wyatt vs. Kane
No, there hasn't ever been a "great" inferno match, but that doesn't mean inferno matches aren't great. This is being called a "Ring of Fire" match, which will probably be a very similar visual. The difference is that inferno matches required the winner to set the loser aflame. That's just not PG, kids.
Semantics aside, I'm excited for this match. It will be a great spectacle and make Bray Wyatt's first PPV match memorable. The new face hasn't been anything short of brilliant each time he and The Family have appeared on screen. The promos are highlights of every show, and now we'll get to see him in action.
Wyatt is going to win this match. He has to. I wouldn't be surprised if Kane took an extended vacation after this match is over, getting set on fire anyway. The Eater of Worlds has arrived and he's here to dispatch the Devil's Favorite Demon. Pretty confident we'll see just that on Sunday.
Winner: Bray Wyatt
CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman
By far, this is the best built match we've seen in WWE in a long time. This shouldn't come as a surprise considering the players involved. Every man understands his role and plays it to perfection.
This match is capable of closing the show, but we know it's not, which actually gives us more possibilities from a creative standpoint. This feud has legs that should reach throughout the fall and give us great matches for the next quarter. It's a rivalry that should permanently place CM Punk as John Cena's equal, setting the stage for a great battle between the two in the future.
That said, CM Punk should lose this match. Punk has been built as a resilient fighter, scratching and clawing his way to his feet every time he's knocked down. It's something we haven't seen from Punk before, showing just how tremendously talented he is as a performer.
Heyman will throw everything at Punk. I wouldn't be surprised if they ran an injury angle on Raw that puts Punk deeper in the hole at SummerSlam, maybe entering the match with taped ribs or something.
We can assume that Heyman and Axel will get involved in the match. Punk will fight it all off until, eventually, he hits a big GTS on Lesnar. That won't end the match, though, because Heyman will distract the ref, or other shenanigans will take place.
In the end, Punk will lose. He will be dismantled, setting up a rematch. A Hell in a Cell match in two months would be a brutal encounter and brilliant way to elevate the rivalry, playing off both men's strengths as brawlers.
This match won't close the show, but the roster will be hard-pressed to keep it from stealing the show.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
Dolph Ziggler and Kaitlyn vs. Big E Langston and AJ
After Punk-Lesnar, we'll need a cool-down segment. This match is personal, merging two strong undercard feuds into a single contest. Both of these feuds deserve future singles matches, but on a show like this it makes sense to push them together.
This match should be seven to eight minutes long with Ziggler making Langston look like a monster before he hits the Zig-Zag and Kaitlyn spears AJ to score the pin. The only title involved in this feud is AJ's Divas gold and in this non-title match, it makes sense for the challenger to one-up the champ.
Dolph and Big E will settle their issues later while Kaitlyn has a claim for another shot at the strap.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler and Kaitlyn.
WWE Title Match
Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena
I audibly groaned when this match was booked. The manner in which Cena smugly picked Daniel Bryan as his top contender was an all too John Cena way of setting up the WWE title main event match. The build since that first announcement, though, has been fantastic. Cena has played his role well and Bryan looks like he belongs in the title match.
This match is Bryan's coming out party. It's the biggest show he's ever main evented and it's against the biggest star on the planet. After this match, he'll prove that the Beard is Here and he ain't goin' anywhere.
That said, Bryan isn't walking out of the arena with the belt. Neither is Cena. Throughout the night, we'll get plenty of McMahon family drama segments. Triple H and Stephanie are clearly aligned against Vince and his wishes to keep Bryan from winning the title, but also his boredom with Cena.
If only there were a bona fide main event star holding a contract that he could cash-in at a moment's notice to win the WWE title. It's the obvious choice, but that doesn't make it any less perfect.
Randy Orton will walk out with the belt after Cena and Bryan put on a 20-minute-plus classic for the DVD library. The cash-in will be at the direction of Vince McMahon and Orton will transform into the corporate champion that Vinnie Mac desires.
Look, Orton is one of the biggest fan favorites in the WWE Universe. The only way he can turn heel is by attacking the more-beloved Daniel Bryan. However, the only way Orton could remain a heel is that he must align himself with Vince and portray everything that he's not.
Orton must don the suit the way Vince wants him to. He must carry himself as a corporate champion, running counter to Bryan's scraggily appearance and Cena's early-90s rap star with his oversized T-shirts and jorts that have been out of style for more than a decade.
We'll get a great match. Cena delivers on the big stage and Bryan is the hottest performer in the world right now. But we won't get the Bryan title reign just yet.
Winner: Daniel Bryan followed by Orton cash-in