SummerSlam is traditionally one of World Wrestling Entertainment's most important shows of the year. It has been home to some of the biggest matches of the summer, including championship showdowns between Randy Savage and Ultimate Warrior and John Cena and Randy Orton, as well as violent grudge matches like CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar and Undertaker vs. Mankind.
On August 17, the company presents the 2014 edition of its summertime spectacular, headlined by some of the biggest and brightest stars in today's pro-wrestling world. Cena, Lesnar and Orton bolster a card ripe with young talent such as Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Rusev and Paige.
With a strong lineup full of matches that could conceivably headline any WWE pay-per-view, singling out the show's biggest contests is as difficult as it has ever been.
But let's do it anyway.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar
This one is a no-brainer. The main event of the evening, for the top prize in the industry, there is no bigger match available to WWE at this moment.
Lesnar is coming off a victory over Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX while Cena is currently in the midst of his 15th heavyweight title reign since rising to the top of the industry a decade ago. The two last clashed in May 2012, just weeks after the Beast Incarnate's return to the company.
While a great deal of attention was paid to the fact that Lesnar conquered Undertaker's storied undefeated streak at WrestleMania, he did not look particularly good in doing so. The match was boring and bad, something often overlooked in favor of the historic outcome.
With so much hype preceding the bout, it will be imperative that the former WWE and UFC champion delivers one of the better performances of his career if he and Cena are to deliver on the promise of their past bouts.
A win for Lesnar would create a scenario in which WWE would be left without a consistent, full-time champion. How they would craft main event storylines without a prize to compete over would be worth watching and, at the same time, would enhance the importance of championship matches given their rarity.
Cena winning would keep the machine rolling with the franchise player at the helm.
The most interesting element to keep an eye on is the potential for a Money in the Bank cash-in by Seth Rollins. Could a brutal, violent and vicious assault by Lesnar set Rollins up to win the strap? We will have to wait until Sunday to find out.
Brie Bella vs. Stephanie McMahon
Stephanie McMahon's return to the squared circle after an 11-year absence has benefited from as much television exposure and storyline build as any other bout on the card. Of course, when you're the boss' daughter, that's the type of treatment one can expect.
As a result of the numerous segments and the heated program that WWE Creative has developed between Stephanie and Brie Bella, fan anticipation has increased gradually over the last month. Their story is an emotional one born of The Authority's mistreatment of Daniel Bryan and as a result, people care.
While the story has been outstanding to this point, with several developments over the last few weeks adding to its heat, there are very real questions and concerns about the quality of the match come August 17.
Brie has improved by leaps and bounds over the last year, but she is still not what traditional wrestling fans would consider a great worker. Stephanie has always excelled in matches in which story came first, sometimes at the expense of quality. That may lead to a molten-hot match that the general audience enjoys but one that hardcore work-rate fans detest.
A win for Stephanie makes no sense at this point. The entire story centers around Brie finally shutting the bratty boss' daughter up and gaining a measure of revenge for everyone ever wronged by her. Anything else would not only be disappointing, it would be a major booking misstep.
Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton
The return of the dangerous, vile, ruthless "Viper" Randy Orton has added a great deal of heat to a rivalry between he and the surging Roman Reigns that, at least for a minute, felt like a gigantic waste of future WWE World Heavyweight champion Reigns.
Orton has been more intense, aggressive and detestable since rediscovering his edge and leaving Reigns lying in a heap following an RKO through the announce table. It was absolutely necessary for Orton to revert back to his days as WWE's Apex Predator if he was to be taken seriously as a threat to Reigns, who has been an unstoppable juggernaut in recent months. He has and now, fans anxiously anticipate the match between the two come this weekend's huge SummerSlam pay-per-view.
Reigns has clearly been established as the future face of WWE. From the way he has been booked to recent appearances in mainstream media such as ESPN's SportsNation, he is being groomed for the top spot, currently held by John Cena. As a result, a win over Orton is a given.
The fact that Orton has developed into one of the most consistently great in-ring performers over the last three years should ensure the quality of the match, which will be the latest stop on Reigns' ascension.
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