Biggest Storylines Heading into WWE SummerSlam
The SummerSlam pay-per-view is traditionally one of WWE's biggest and best. This year will be no different, as the company has crafted a quality card that ranks as one of the best of 2014 thus far.
The matchups are strong, but the stories are stronger, leaving fans with several matches worthy of emotional investment. From Roman Reigns' climb to the top of WWE to the return of The Viper to Stephanie McMahon's first in-ring appearance in 11 years, there is something for every portion of the audience to sink their teeth into come August 17.
Who will emerge with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship? Will Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins settle their differences when they meet one-on-one? Can Paige live up to the hype in her match with AJ Lee?
Whatever the answers to those questions may be, one thing is for certain: Fans are waiting with bated breath to find out.
In anticipation of the biggest event of the summer, take a look at 10 of the biggest and best storylines to follow on the road to SummerSlam!
10. The Daniel Bryan Factor
The centerpiece of the feud between Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon has been Daniel Bryan, whose untimely neck injury put him on the sidelines for an undetermined period of time.
With Triple H sure to be at ringside for his wife's first match in a decade, do not be surprised to see the leader of the Yes Movement accompany Brie to the ring.
It is highly unlikely Bryan gets involved in any sort of highly physical manner. At this point, his health simply will not allow it. But for the purposes of star power, his presence will immediately add importance and prestige to a match already booked and hyped like the second-most important on the card.
An appearance from Bryan would allow the company to keep him in the minds of the fans. Though it is by no means confirmed that he will even be in Los Angeles for SummerSlam, it would be a fine way to involve him in the night's festivities while benefiting Brie vs. Stephanie in the process.
9. The Biggest Match of Paige's Career
Paige's arrival on the main roster in WWE has been anything but the success most had hoped for.
She had the majority of the elements that made the anti-Diva character such a compelling one in NXT stripped away and was treated like any other generic babyface Diva. It was detrimental to her early success and resulted in her becoming far less interesting than the heel contenders.
That changed when she herself turned and brutally assaulted AJ Lee on a recent episode of Raw. That she made light of the attack and claimed that she and the Divas champion are still friends added an interesting dynamic to her act, one that has yet to be fully explained but has fans intrigued nevertheless.
The young Brit's match with AJ at SummerSlam will be the latest test in her newfound heel turn to prove that she is more than the undefined performer fans had been exposed to previously. She is a talented young woman whose entertaining side is equal to her ring work.
There has been no brighter light shone on her to this point, and it will be imperative that she and AJ deliver the quality match so many know they can if Paige is to maintain both momentum and the favor of WWE Creative.
8. Brie Bella's Big Night
No one could have imagined at the beginning of the year that one of 2014's most anticipated bouts would include Total Divas star Brie Bella, but that is the case as August 17 nears. At the 27th annual SummerSlam, she will meet Stephanie McMahon in one of the marquee bouts of the evening.
It is far and away the biggest match of Brie's career, one that will have tremendous impact on her legacy as a performer. A great match will force fans to re-examine their opinions of the raven-haired beauty. A bad one will validate every insult that has ever been hurled her way.
Considering the fact that she is working with the boss' daughter, the booking should be strong, but the spotlight will be stronger. A failure on a stage as grand as SummerSlam could lead to a major loss of good will with fans and company alike.
Simply put: Brie's future and the quality of what she is given to do on television from here on out depends on what she brings to the table when she clashes with Stephanie in just over one week.
7. The Rejuvenation of Bray Wyatt
There are few wrestlers who have suffered as mighty a fall as Bray Wyatt has since losing the feud-deciding match to John Cena back at Payback on June 29.
Since that night Wyatt's character has become repetitive, his promos more one-note and his in-ring work limited. His feud with Chris Jericho has been mediocre at best and has featured booking that has yet to differentiate itself from any other program in which he has been involved.
That is incredibly unfortunate for a performer who only two months ago was among the best in all of television.
SummerSlam presents Wyatt with a chance to rejuvenate himself as a performer and character as he takes on Jericho in a rematch of their disappointing Battleground match. In many ways, it could be the turning point for Wyatt, who is desperately in need of a great performance, a meaningful story or some other form of spark to get back the proverbial mojo that he had earlier this year.
6. Can Dolph Ziggler Win the Big One?
There is no denying the talent that Dolph Ziggler possesses. He has earned the nickname "Showoff" thanks to his stellar performances on a weekly basis and his constant determination to steal the show from those higher on the card.
With that said, he has also developed into WWE's resident lovable loser. Regardless of the pops he receives when he walks into an arena or the quality of his performances, he is booked to lose more than he wins, sometimes going weeks without a victory.
At SummerSlam, he meets intercontinental champion The Miz. Being two Superstars who have been to the mountaintop but suffered major stumbles back to the bottom, they will understandably be determined to prove that they belong back on pay-per-view in a high-profile match and deserve one more shot at making a run to the top of the industry.
Can Ziggler win the big one? Sure. He is over, is consistently great and can work with any Superstar of any size and with any style.
But WWE management has to help him, otherwise he will continue to wallow away in the midcard, his talents wasted on meaningless three-minute matches that fans will not remember five minutes after the bell rings.
5. The Return of The Viper
The return of the ruthless, relentless and violent "Viper" Randy Orton could not have come at a better time. After a year of serving as The Authority's lapdog, Orton rediscovered the edgy side of himself that helped him dominate WWE as one of its top stars over the last decade, an edginess that will be necessary if he plans to slow the freight train that is Roman Reigns.
His assault of Reigns on the July 28 episode of Raw, coupled with the intense promo he cut four days later on SmackDown, portrayed a man whose determination to rid WWE of Reigns and refocus his attention on winning back the WWE World Heavyweight Championship has pushed him over the edge into a deep, dark abyss most are going to regret he ever revisited.
Orton's return to form opens up several storytelling possibilities and the potential for a more aggressive match than it otherwise would have been. That will only help guarantee a higher-quality match, something that will benefit the overall card.
4. The War to Settle the Score?
The feud between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins dates back to the June 30 episode of Raw, when Rollins shockingly betrayed his Shield brethren and aligned himself with The Authority.
Since then, the "Lunatic Fringe" Ambrose has been the recipient of brutal, vile, vicious assaults at the hands of his onetime friend and corporate henchman Kane. He has responded by repeatedly preventing Rollins from cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase and generally being a thorn in his side.
Now, at SummerSlam the two Superstars will compete in a match that may very well serve as the blowoff to their intense rivalry.
But will it?
Ambrose will reveal his handpicked stipulation for the match on the August 8 episode of Raw, but whatever it winds up being will have to be something that lends itself to the animosity and hatred that exists between them.
A basic match of any kind will not contain the rivalry, nor will any ridiculous family-friendly gimmick bout. To really bring their feud to its conclusion, it will have to be a hardcore, anything-goes match that allows a definitive winner to be determined.
Otherwise, the match is simply another chapter in a lengthy story, a story that feels like it has many chapters left.
3. The Rise of Roman Reigns
The meteoric rise of Roman Reigns has been one of the biggest stories in all of WWE this summer, and on August 17, the second-generation star will have the opportunity to strengthen his position as WWE's next breakout main eventer as he takes on Randy Orton in one of the night's biggest matches.
All eyes will be on Reigns, who will be competing in the biggest match of his singles career inside Los Angeles' Staples Center. If that is not enough pressure, the contest comes at the second-most important event of the year, a show that has spanned nearly three decades and has been home to some of the best matches in WWE history.
The amount of hype surrounding the juggernaut-like star ensures that the pressure will be on. Orton is typically a great performer in big-match situations, so it will be up to Reigns to carry his share of the load. If he does not, the match will be considered a huge disappointment, as will Reigns' performance in it.
That sort of label is not one a prospective face of the company wants associated with himself in the midst of a major push.
If he can perform up to the level of his competition, however, it will be the validation management is waiting for before anointing him as the undisputed face of WWE.
2. Stephanie McMahon's First Match in over a Decade
When Stephanie McMahon takes to the ring for her huge match against Brie Bella at SummerSlam, it will be the first time she has competed in a legitimate match of any kind since No Mercy 2003, when she lost an "I Quit" match to father Vince.
While there are sure to be questions surrounding the potential quality of her performance, one need only look at her catalog of bouts to be assured that her match with Brie, if nothing else, will be incredibly entertaining.
In order to mask her lack of experience as a worker, Stephanie's matches traditionally are overbooked to the point that they are exercises in sports entertainment rather than anything resembling an athletic competition, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Her match with Trish Stratus is widely considered to be one of the most surprisingly good bouts in WWE, and most of that had to do with crafting the right spots and executing them at the right time. There was barely anything close to a technical wrestling move, but that did not hurt the quality or the overall enjoyment of the match.
Hiding the weaknesses and accentuating the positives is the best way to ensure the best match possible.
A consummate performer very much in the same vein as her father, Stephanie will do everything in her power to turn in a great performance. It will be up to WWE Creative to give her the support necessary.
1. Brock Lesnar's Golden Opportunity
Brock Lesnar's victory over The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXX sent shock waves through the wrestling world. The facial expressions and the stunned silence of the fans in New Orleans for the big show told the story of the most unexpected and unpredictable defeat in WWE history.
Coming out of the show, it was hard to deny Lesnar the WWE World Heavyweight Championship opportunity he and advocate Paul Heyman had petitioned for prior to the Showcase of the Immortals. On the July 21, 2014 episode of Raw, The Beast Incarnate got what he was looking for when he was named the No. 1 contender to John Cena's title.
The August 17 match between Lesnar and Cena, a rematch of their classic from Extreme Rules 2012, will be Lesnar's first championship match since February 2004, when he dropped the WWE title to Eddie Guerrero at No Way Out. Based on the quality of the previous contest between the SummerSlam opponents, expectations will understandably be high.
Can Lesnar's performance exceed those expectations, or will fans be left disappointed, much like they were by the quality of his match with the Phenom just four months earlier?
More importantly, will WWE actually put their top championship on a performer whose schedule is part-time, at best? How will they make up for the lack of title bouts on house shows? What will the top feuds on television be over or about without a championship to fight for?
There are plenty of questions and concerns surrounding the biggest match at SummerSlam, and for the sake of fan excitement and anticipation, that is a good thing.