Quick Takes: WWE SummerSlam's Most Underrated Match, AJ Styles' Greatness, MoreAugust 16, 2020
Quick Takes: WWE SummerSlam's Most Underrated Match, AJ Styles' Greatness, More
The 33rd installment of SummerSlam is just one week away, and every WWE Superstar is scratching and clawing for a spot on the card. Interestingly enough, AJ Styles is one of the hottest commodities on any brand and isn't currently slated to compete at the event.
Instead, he will be defending his coveted Intercontinental Championship against Jeff Hardy on Friday's SmackDown. The two came face-to-face on the most recent episode in what turned out to be one of the highlights of the night, just behind the heated promos from Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville.
The former friends confirmed they will be waging war in a Hair vs. Hair match at SummerSlam, and given their extremely personal rivalry, that bout has a strong chance of stealing the show.
Although Asuka was already scheduled to take on Sasha Banks for the Raw Women's Championship at SummerSlam, she has another matchup on tap for the pay-per-view against SmackDown women's champion Bayley following her big Battle Royal victory on SmackDown.
What WWE doesn't realize, however, is how this ongoing angle with Bayley, Banks and Asuka has done the rest of the women's division a giant disservice. Nothing is gained by putting everyone else on the back-burner while this storyline plays out.
This week's edition of Quick Takes will discuss the problem with Asuka contending for two titles August 23, the Deville vs. Rose rivalry, All Elite Wrestling planting the seeds for a new Four Horsemen-esque stable and more.
Mandy Rose vs. Sonya Deville Could Steal the Show at SummerSlam
Although the spotlight in SmackDown and Raw women's divisions has largely been on Sasha Banks, Bayley and Asuka in recent months, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville have quietly been having one of the strongest women's rivalries in recent WWE history.
The former Fire and Desire moved up the WWE ranks together, first on Tough Enough five years ago followed by their Raw debuts as part of Absolution in late 2017. They always had great on-screen chemistry as partners because of being close in real life, so it should come as no surprise that they have been killing it as rivals.
Their first-ever one-on-one encounter on the May 8 edition of SmackDown was entertaining enough to warrant a rematch. Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances caused their program to be put on hold over the summer, but they have wasted no time in reheating their bad blood for each other with SummerSlam on the horizon.
A Hair vs. Hair match is the perfect stipulation for them, especially since such a match hasn't been held in the women's division for more than 15 years. It illustrates how personal this feud has become and how both ladies are willing to risk it all to embarrass their archrival.
Aside from Drew McIntyre vs. Randy Orton, this has been the best-built bout heading into SummerSlam and promises to be a spectacle. Compared to everything else on tap, Rose vs. Deville may end up being the sleeper match of the night if their in-ring work proves to be as exceptional as their mic skills have been up to this point.
Asuka Challenging for 2 Titles at SummerSlam Is Step Backward for Division
Asuka and Sasha Banks will meet one-on-one for the Raw Women's Championship for third time in the span of a month at SummerSlam. The match makes sense after the controversial fashion in which Banks beat Asuka recently on Raw, but having the challenger also collide with Bayley again on that same show is overkill.
The Empress of Tomorrow earned the opportunity to vie for the SmackDown Women's Championship by winning the tri-branded Battle Royal on SmackDown. Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair and Tegan Nox all would have been better options because none of them have previously faced Bayley in singles competition.
From an in-ring standpoint, both bouts should be stellar, and it will be interesting to see which title Asuka takes home (if any), but WWE continuing to focus on just those three stars in the women's division title scene has made everyone else look inferior in comparison.
Baszler, for example, has fallen short in almost every important match she's had since being brought up to the main roster at the onset of 2020. As a result, viewers have been conditioned to not take her seriously as a threat to any title.
The same can be said for Belair, who arrived on Raw with a ton of momentum earlier this year but has suffered from a lack of direction. It wouldn't have been imperative for her or Baszler to beat Bayley at SummerSlam, but featuring Asuka in back-to-back matches that have already been done multiple times is the wrong call.
This storyline, no matter how entertaining it's been, is coming at the expense of the rest of the women's division. Few people outside of the obvious names feel as special as they should because they are not being afforded the same chances to shine.
Post-SummerSlam, that needs to change.
Is AEW About to Debut a New Four Horsemen-Esque Stable?
Anyone who has paid close attention to AEW programming over the past month or so likely noticed that there has been an emphasis on the likes of Cody, FTR, Shawn Spears, Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson. Some of them have been shown sitting in the crowd watching the others' matches and, in the cases of Blanchard and Anderson, scouting them.
It was no coincidence that the former Brain Busters were standing on the same side of the ring as FTR on Wednesday's Dynamite while The Young Bucks stood side-by-side with The Rock 'n' Roll Express. Although it's unknown whether both Anderson and Blanchard would be involved in such a stable, both would fit given their ties to the original Four Horsemen.
Spears may have to be replaced by someone else on the roster, if only because he hasn't been on the level as Cody and FTR lately, but it's worth noting that he hasn't lost since May's Double or Nothing pay-per-view. Frankie Kazarian could be considered an option because of how he too appeared in the audience in similar fashion recently.
As for Cody, it couldn't be more obvious that he's headed for a heel turn sooner rather than later—as he should be. He's been exceptional in the babyface role in AEW but has always done his best work as a heel.
He should wait to turn until FTR, Anderson, Blanchard and Spears are ready and when the fans least expect it. AEW has enough factions as it is, but something featuring those five men—and maybe even Tully's daughter, Tessa Blanchard, if the company were willing to take a chance on her—would stand out above the rest.
WWE's Move to Amway Center in Orlando Brings Much-Needed Change of Scenery
During Friday's SmackDown, Michael Cole heavily hinted on commentary that SummerSlam will emanate from a new location, and per Spectrum Sports 360's Jon Alba, it appears that is indeed the plan.
It had been rumored that WWE was set to transition its television tapings over to Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, starting with SummerSlam weekend. WWE has yet to confirm the news, but the move should be made official within the next few days as the Biggest Party of the Summer approaches.
Twitter account @WrestleVotes, which frequently breaks insider stories for WWE, added that "a new interactive experience will be introduced," with more than 2,500 square feet of LED boards allowing fans to appear live on the shows.
While the experiment is bound to have hiccups early on, it's worth commending because it shows that WWE is willing to try something different to shake up its stagnant programming. It's possible that it sounds better in theory and that it won't work as well when executed, but it's a small step in the right direction, if nothing else.
WWE was fortunate to have the Performance Center, where it has filmed Raw, SmackDown, NXT and its pay-per-views since March. However, a change of scenery was desperately needed because the PC is simply not looking as aesthetically pleasing as most would expect from a company of WWE's caliber.
We may still be a while away from fans being safely welcomed back into buildings, but this should hopefully be enough to keep viewers tuned in for now.
AJ Styles Remains Recurring Highlight on SmackDown
AJ Styles' move back to the blue brand in May has proved to the best thing that could have happened to him with the recent roll he's been on as intercontinental champion.
The Phenomenal One has regularly been among the best parts of SmackDown this summer, and Friday's episode was no exception. He took material that shouldn't have been funny but made it worthwhile, with an assist from former NWA world heavyweight champion Abyss, a.k.a. Joseph Park.
Park, who organically got over as a lawyer character in TNA eight years ago, should become a permanent part of Styles' act going forward. He's a terrific comedy character for Styles to play off of and could step in the ring if needed.
In addition to delivering on the microphone, Styles has been having some of his best matches in recent years on SmackDown. The match against Daniel Bryan in which he won the Intercontinental Championship was an instant classic, while his subsequent title defenses against Matt Riddle, Drew Gulak and Gran Metalik were superb as well.
His upcoming championship clash with Jeff Hardy should be nothing short of outstanding, but before then, Styles deserves credit for his consistency and ability to elevate everything he's a part of. After an underwhelming 2019, he's been firing on all cylinders in 2020 and has an exciting remainder of the year ahead.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.