WWE SummerSlam 2014 will be a night that belongs to the monsters and the manipulators.
Brock Lesnar is one of the many heels destined to savor victory on Aug. 17 inside Los Angeles' Staples Center. WWE's marquee summer pay-per-view promises to be a thriller thanks to a lineup heavy with grudge matches and up-and-comers looking to plant their flag at the mountaintop.
Backstage reports, a leaked match schedule and hints WWE has left behind give fans a good idea of what to expect with the matches on the card.
Lesnar won his first WWE title 12 years ago at SummerSlam 2002. He has pledged to take home the championship again, leaving his opponent in a mess of body fluids in the process.
With company officials hoping to sell a surplus of WWE Network subscriptions, it will be up to that match, Dean Ambrose's quest for revenge and Stephanie McMahon's first in-ring action since 2003 to get folks to reach into their wallets.
News, Potential Spoilers
How the McMahon vs. Brie Bella match plays out will largely depend on if WWE goes through with a rumored plan to turn sister against sister.
Nikki hasn't been featured in this storyline much as of late other than falling victim to McMahon's version of the Pedigree.
That could mean that WWE is looking to make this turn more of a surprise.
Nikki pulling a Seth Rollins on her sister would set up a feud between them that spotlights the two biggest stars of Total Divas. It's certainly something that seems possible because of that and the feud's inherent novelty.
Fans have seen numerous pairs of brothers, from the Hardys to the Harts, become enemies. It could be the Bella sisters' turn to follow in that tradition.
Whether Brie has to face an ambush from Nikki or not, it appears that she and McMahon may be put in the palate-cleanser spot on the card. A leaked SummerSlam match layout, per F4WOnline (h/t WrestlingInc), has that bout sandwiched in between two major ones.
The rumored planned match order and times are as follows:
- Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz (10 minutes)
- Bray Wyatt vs. Chris Jericho (15 minutes)
- Rusev vs. Jack Swagger (12 minutes)
- Paige vs. AJ Lee (12 minutes)
- Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (15 minutes)
- Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns (20 minutes)
- Brie Bella vs. Stephanie McMahon (15 minutes)
- Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena (25 minutes)
One of the other biggest takeaways from this is Reigns and Orton going for so long. That would be Reigns' longest match as a singles star, a sign of confidence in his ability to thrive under the SummerSlam spotlight.
Ziggler and Miz reportedly opening the show points to that being a hot match.
That slot is often used as a means to get the crowd excited early on, as we saw with The Usos and The Wyatt Family at Battleground. That means that Ziggler and Miz will be a potential show-stealer.
As for the Flag match, it's reportedly unclear what the rules will be.
Some Flag matches have ended by one wrestler grabbing his respective flag from its pole, but others have featured the man to score the pinfall or submission receiving a chance to wave his banner in the air afterward. WWE went with the flag-equals-victory route with Ted DiBiase vs. Hunico in 2012 and the other type of Flag match with Hulk Hogan vs. Nikolai Volkoff in 1985.
As for Swagger vs. Rusev, a recent report says that the company is considering going with the latter option. F4WOnline reports (h/t PWMania) that a WWE source has said that the Flag match may include pins and submissions and simply have the winner's national anthem play.
Avoiding those kinds of definitive finishes would allow WWE to keep Rusev with a loss of that kind off his record, so that feels like the smart move here.
Betting odds suggest that Swagger will be the man to walk away the victor against The Bulgarian Brute. It would seem too early in Rusev's run for the American to do that by way of pin or submission.
All the listed favorites are as follows, per OddsChecker.com:
- Brock Lesnar (1-4)
- Seth Rollins (4-7)
- The Miz (3-10)
- Roman Reigns (1-4)
- AJ Lee (4-9)
- Bray Wyatt (1-12)
- Stephanie McMahon (4-6)
- Jack Swagger (2-5)
Hogan has a different winner in mind for the main event. As he wrote on Twitter, he believes that Cena will retain:
He may be one of the few people not decked out in Cena merchandise to think that. All signs seem to point to The Beast Incarnate becoming world champion again.
- Rusev vs. Jack Swagger (Flag match)
- AJ Lee vs. Paige (Divas Championship)
- The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler (Intercontinental Championship)
- Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns
- Stephanie McMahon vs. Brie Bella
- Bray Wyatt vs. Chris Jericho
- Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (Lumberjack match)
- Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena (WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
Before we dive into my own predictions, here's how Jason Powell of ProWrestling.net sees things unfolding:
- Swagger over Rusev.
- Paige over AJ.
- The Miz over Ziggler.
- Reigns over Orton.
- McMahon over Brie.
- Wyatt over Jericho.
- Rollins over Ambrose
- Lesnar over Cena.
Old Glory Waves
The foreigner rarely wins WWE's Flag matches, especially when there's a Russian involved.
Hogan overcame Volkoff in 1985, Corporal Kirchner defeated Volkoff in their WrestleMania II Flag match, and Jim Duggan bested Boris Zhukov back in 1988. With WWE's return to the Cold War dynamic of Russia versus the U.S., look for a similar result.
Not getting pinned would allow Rusev to keep his record mostly unblemished.
He'll likely follow up the loss with an attack on his American foes. To get the most heat on Rusev, count on him going after Zeb Colter and locking him in The Accolade.
Paige Reclaims Her Title
Paige has been amping up her aggressiveness as of late. That shift in attitude will propel her to a second Divas title reign.
When she knocked AJ off the entrance ramp after AJ's match against Rosa Mendes at SmackDown, she wasn't the smiling semi-friend that she was at Battleground.
That points to WWE trying to make her look like more of a threat. This is likely going to be a long feud, one that would be furthered by a title change and the thrill of the babyface going into chase mode.
The Miz Survives
WWE will want to keep The Miz's Hollywood persona in the spotlight.
Whether he has been rebuffing Eden's attempted interview or hosting a Miz TV segment on SmackDown, the company has looked to highlight Miz's character change. Until The Marine 4: Moving Target is released in December, per IMDB, it makes sense to keep the title on him and have him throw in mentions of the WWE-produced movie.
Ziggler has been asked to lose midcard title matches aplenty in the last year. Comb through his CageMatch.net profile, and one will find losses to Curtis Axel, Big E and Bad News Barrett with the IC title on the line.
The Showoff's interview with Michael Cole looks eerily like R-Truth's reflections before he lost to Axel at last year's Battleground. This could just be WWE's way of trying to make the outcome at SummerSlam obvious.
The Miz may have to resort to underhanded techniques, but he's the safer bet.
Reigns soundly defeating Kane on Aug. 4 and being in a high-profile feud with Orton are signs of his rise, one potentially to the very top of WWE.
For the company to have him lose here would be a stunner. Losing his first major singles match is not how to build Reigns into a formidable force and future world champ.
Orton's long resume allows him to take a loss. Reigns is the rising star in need of a way to boost his resume. Defeating The Viper is exactly that.
Expect Reigns to spear Orton into the mat before challenging Triple H come Night of Champions.
The rumored Nikki turn would be the kind of surprise that makes the most of all the buildup this match has been getting.
That's bad news for Brie fans, but a feud with her sister post-SummerSlam keeps her in the spotlight. A Brie win is the more predictable route with the wrestler besting the non-wrestler.
Remember Paul Heyman pinned CM Punk last September. A shock like that is a better story than just having Brie get her revenge on McMahon.
The Monster Evens The Series
If WWE has Wyatt lose to Jericho again, it will make his 2014 pay-per-view singles record a paltry 2-5. That would run a knife through the momentum it was worked to build for him all year.
Why make The Eater of Worlds this dangerous by attacking Jericho backstage or give him the lion's share of the mic time during their verbal confrontation if not to build him up?
While their chemistry was a touch off last time around, the greatness of their 2013 NXT match and the immense talent both men possess suggests that this has a tremendous chance to be a show-stealer.
The Lumberjack match stipulation will keep Rollins from running, but it also allows for a variety of cheap ways for Rollins to win. The Authority can stack the proverbial deck by putting their own cronies around the ring, for example.
Kane can interfere, or Rollins may whack Ambrose in the head with the Money in the Bank briefcase in a moment of chaos.
An Ambrose loss only gets him more angry, pushing back the climax of this tale to a later date. They can then meet inside a steel cage or in the Hell in a Cell. Ambrose in pursuit of revenge is too enticing of a story to end in their first official collision.
Fans can bet on this being a hellacious battle much like their Extreme Rules match. They can also bet on Lesnar winning.
For those who believe he won't win the world title because of his part-time schedule, flash back to The Rock's reign in 2013 and listen to Bleacher Report's own Big Nasty's thoughts on the subject:
If WWE has Lesnar lose in his first match after ending The Undertaker's undefeated streak, it would be a waste of that feat. Knocking off an immortal should give Lesnar momentum like no one has seen before. Just being another Cena victim would cheapen The Streak and be a waste of Lesnar's aura.
Cena has overcome the odds before, but there is too much excitement built into a major title change, in The Beast continuing to roll, to go another way.
When SummerSlam comes to a close, Lesnar will join Wyatt, McMahon, The Miz, Paige and Rollins in celebrating inside the Staples Center. It will be a good night to be a villain.