SummerSlam Must Be a Home Run for WWE Network's Long-Term Success

David BixenspanFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2014

Vince McMahon at the WWE Network announcement event.
Vince McMahon at the WWE Network announcement event.Credit:

SummerSlam is historically WWE's second or third biggest show of the year.  This year, it takes on a different meaning from the past, as it's the last pay-per-view event of the initial six-month subscription period that the earliest WWE Network subscribers committed to.

Anyone who subscribed right before WrestleMania will have Night of Champions as the last major show of the commitment.

If anyone is on the fence, WWE needs to present two tremendous shows in a row to make sure they renew their subscriptions.  With WrestleMania as the center of WWE's calendar, it's possible that going forward, Night of Champions or another late summer/early autumn event could become one of the biggest shows of the year every year going forward.  

Still, a substantial number of people subscribed on day one, so WWE really needs to deliver a one-two punch starting with SummerSlam.

We're already aware that they have a strong main event, with Brock Lesnar, who appeared at the last two SummerSlam events, challenging for John Cena's WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

Lesnar has a ton of momentum coming off ending The Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania 30, as suddenly, it was as if his losses to Triple H and Cena since his return never happened.  That win made him the scary monster "real fighter" he was when he came back from the UFC.

On top of that, it's a virtual guarantee that the match will be great.  Their 2012 match was probably the best match of that year, and Lesnar hit another home run against CM Punk at last year's SummerSlam.

Yes, his WrestleMania match with The Undertaker was a big disappointment in the ring, but Undertaker suffered a severe concussion early on.

The fascinating thing about this is that it seems fairly likely Lesnar will win.  Lesnar only works a handful of dates a year and just a fraction of those are matches.  He makes a lot of money for this as "celebrity guest talent."  In theory, one would expect him to lose the title at Night of Champions, but that doesn't make sense for a number of reasons. 

Regardless, Lesnar as champion is a great hook, as the second six-month period begins for the earlier subscribers.  He's as big a box office attraction as anyone, has uniquely great matches and is completely different from anyone else in WWE.  

SummerSlam ending with him standing triumphant after destroying John Cena in a brutal war is the best thing for business right now.

WWE has to be careful in how they book key programs right now.  As much as the eventual direction of Daniel Bryan's chase benefited from the heels trolling the fans, those who didn't get it were turned off by the storyline.  You don't want to turn off those hardcore fans right now when you need them most.

Just look at last year's SummerSlam: In the ring, it was an absolutely tremendous show, one of the best in company history.  Lesnar vs. Punk and Cena vs. Bryan were both match of the year candidates, and Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian would be the best match on the vast majority of WWE shows.  Coming out of the show, though, all of the talk online was about Bryan losing the title at the end when Triple H attacked him, and Randy Orton cashed in Money in the Bank.

Even though it was a perfectly valid storyline direction, fans were angry and not in a good way.  Thankfully, Lesnar beating Cena wouldn't get that type of reaction, but WWE needs to be careful.

As for the other potential matches, it looks like Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns is among the top matches based on how Raw went down.  This is a big test for Reigns, who has only had good singles matches with the absolute most talented in-ring wrestlers in the company, like Daniel Bryan.  As good as Orton is mechanically, I'm not sure he's that guy.

As a big win for Reigns, it should get the job done, but if the match is a stinker, it could take the shine off of him.

While there's nothing official or even rumored pointing in the direction of it happening, I saw a lot of Twitter speculation during Battleground that The Usos vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan in a TLC match could take place at SummerSlam.  

Bray Wyatt's henchmen were expected to win the titles in the Battleground match, as the feud has gone on for a while, and being something of a gimmick match (best two out of three falls), it seemed like it was time for them to win.

These two teams have consistently had great matches with each other.  Ending the feud with a TLC match would be a valuable and potentially very memorable addition to the SummerSlam card.

It would go a long way in making this seem like a really special show.  It's also rare that we get TLC matches that actually have organic builds nowadays, which makes it even better.

And then there's Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose.  With the match hastily being removed from Battleground, it's obviously happening at SummerSlam even if it hadn't been announced yet.  It's another match with a chance to steal the show.  They are both tremendous performers, and theirs is the hottest feud in wrestling right now.  

This is their chance to cement themselves as top flight singles wrestlers, and I expect them to stick the landing.

If WWE pulls out all the stops, this has a strong likelihood to be a show that will get fans excited about WWE going forward, and that's what they need to strengthen WWE Network subscriptions.

David Bixenspan is the lead writer of Figure Four Weekly. Some of his work can be seen in Fighting Spirit Magazine