Smart Ways to Boost Interest in Top WWE SummerSlam 2018 Feuds
We're nearing the home stretch for SummerSlam 2018, but there is still time to add new wrinkles into the fold for the pay-per-view on August 19.
Over the next two episodes of Raw and SmackDown, WWE will need to introduce new twists and turns for the storylines in order to build more anticipation for the card rather than let things become stagnant.
It never hurts to subvert expectations and play with the dynamics of the matches on the lineup by adding stipulations, more competitors or red herrings to keep audiences on their toes—the more the viewers want to know what will happen next, the more engaged they will be.
With that in mind, let's look at some of the matches already announced for SummerSlam 2018 and figure out ways to boost the curiosity factor.
Add a Gimmick to Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins
Once two people have fought together for 30 minutes under Iron Man rules, a standard match no different from any other has no pizazz to it.
Sure, Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler are two of the best in-ring performers WWE has seen in recent years, but it's a step back from what happened at Extreme Rules and won't get as much attention as before.
Short of adding more people to the mix, which flies in the face of this personal rivalry, the only other way to boost interest in this match is to attach some kind of gimmick to it.
A ladder match could be a good fit, as those are always suspenseful and it would stand out from the rest of the card.
There's no storyline reason to do a strap match, but it's been quite a while since one has been utilized, so that would be refreshing, too.
The key to making this more intriguing is more about avoiding the perception this will be a lesser match than what fans saw at Extreme Rules on July 15.
Tease a Heel Turn for Charlotte Flair or Becky Lynch
Now that Charlotte Flair has been added to the SmackDown Women's Championship match, she's effectively stolen Becky Lynch's thunder.
This went from feeling like a surefire victory for Straight Fire to the possible recrowning of The Queen, with Lynch having to take a step back to Flair once more, as she's always done in her career.
Knowing WWE, the next few weeks will be spent pitching the narrative that the two best friends will have tension between them as their goals conflict with their relationship—both women want to win—while Carmella will try to use that to her advantage.
To add some extra spice, though, there should be some teases that Flair or Lynch may value the title more than anything else, including morals, by having the two showcase some heel tendencies.
If it seems possible that either or both of them could turn into a villain over this match, it will create buzz of whether one will turn to the dark side just to secure the belt for themselves.
For this to be at its most effective, WWE can't simply have the two lose a tag team match due to some arguing and confusion—that happens far too many times.
Instead, both should cheat to win matches to show they are desperate and have it in them to play dirty.
Then, it's only a matter of guessing who will turn and walk out as the champion, or if both will remain babyfaces with or without a new champion being crowned.
Add Randy Orton to the United States Championship Match
It's strange that Randy Orton isn't in the United States Championship match, which currently stands as just a regular singles bout between Jeff Hardy and Shinsuke Nakamura.
After attacking Hardy multiple times, Orton is clearly feuding with him, so keeping him out of this match spoils an inevitable run-in from him that will cause enough interference for The Charismatic Enigma to lose.
However, if Orton is added to the match to make it a Triple Threat, a new dynamic is introduced: Orton vs. Nakamura.
That is already interesting, as it's a feud that has yet to happen and is a heel-against-heel situation.
Is Nakamura on The Viper's hit list, or is he someone who will just get in the way of Orton's attempts to put Hardy out of commission?
Does Orton have any aspirations to become the United States champion, or will he be too focused on unleashing his anger to allow The Artist to swoop in and retain the title while the other two are fighting?
How could Hardy overcome the task of defeating two men who are gunning for him?
These questions are much more interesting to ponder than simply how Nakamura will inevitably retain the title due to Orton inserting himself into the picture after the 15-minute mark.
Hinder Ronda Rousey and Give Alexa Bliss an Edge
It's fairly obvious Ronda Rousey has been positioned as a far superior fighter to Alexa Bliss, as her experience as champion and being in WWE longer has been nullified by Rousey's dominance.
Rousey's win comes off as a guarantee. We know the "when" is SummerSlam, the "how" is an armbar submission, the "why" is because she's a more fierce competitor and the "what" is a new champion being crowned as a result.
Barring some kind of chicanery that exists purely to stretch this out and stall until Hell in a Cell or later, there is no way Bliss walks out of SummerSlam with the belt based on how they compare to each other.
However, if there is some sort of handicap that downgrades Rousey and puts her on a more equal level to Bliss, it will cast doubt that the result is inevitable.
Ideally, this wouldn't be something as lame and transparent as having Mickie James ringside, as no fan would really buy into her being that much of a distraction to allow Bliss to score a pinfall victory.
Instead, there could be some sort of injury angle with Rousey being attacked by Bliss and James on Raw ahead of time, putting her medical status in question and taking one of her arms out of the equation, which would make it harder, if not impossible, to lock in her submission.
Once cleared to compete, she could wrestle with her injured arm taped up and causing her lots of pain, giving Bliss something to target and make it even more difficult to expect Rousey to pull out the win.
Without something that puts the two on a more equal playing field, this comes off like a lamb being led to the slaughter and something fans can skip, as it has a predictable outcome everyone can see from miles away.
Last Chance for Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar
If you count the two Royal Rumbles they were both in, the main event of SummerSlam will be the eighth match between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns.
Only once has Reigns beaten The Beast Incarnate, but even that was a technicality, as he actually pinned Dean Ambrose at Fastlane 2016 and not Lesnar.
In every other instance, Reigns has come up short. He was specifically singled out to take the pin in the Fatal 4-Way at last year's SummerSlam, was pinned at WrestleMania 34, failed to escape the cage at the Greatest Royal Rumble and took the pin from Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 31.
It is definitive, at this point, that Lesnar is the better of the two, having never once been made to look bad.
Still, WWE continues to repeat this match, which has become frustrating, tiresome and boring to sit through.
We know it will be nothing but a series of German suplexes, Superman punches, spears and not much else. Worse still, we know by now the ending doesn't matter, as WWE will likely just revisit this again in the future.
If there were genuine interest to see this over and over, it would be one thing, but that just hasn't been the case in quite a long time—perhaps not since their first encounter.
For all the people who lament having to see this again, the worst-case scenario will be to go through it at SummerSlam only to see some kind of indication that the feud still isn't over, and Reigns and Lesnar will fight again somewhere down the line.
To get ahead of the criticism that WWE is stuck on an endless loop fans aren't enjoying, there needs to be an announcement to quell those fears.
It has to be stated this will be the last time these two will face each other, no matter what the outcome.
While that doesn't stop WWE from making any mistakes regarding the finish of the match, it at least assures fans the outcome will matter and it won't just feel like another stall with the promise that next time will be different.
As it stands, this is a match we've seen too many times to be excited about. And the last thing many fans want to feel is that after sitting through it again, we'll have to sit through it a 10th or 11th time.
For an extra bonus, a stipulation can be announced that both of their careers are on the line—not just Reigns, as that will just make fans think it's a guarantee he wins.
If there is a sense of finality, the crowd will be more inclined to embrace this and hope the finale will be better than everything else that came before it, instead of just a carbon copy of WrestleMania 34.
Even then, WWE has more of a chance of driving interest away from this feud than toward it, and this may end up being one of the biggest main-event flops of all time no matter what is done to salvage the program.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.