We answered the biggest questions on our minds before SummerSlam.
With SummerSlam just a few days away, SI.com’s biggest wrestling fans got together to discuss the topics on our minds ahead of WWE’s second-biggest show of the year.
The loaded card features eight title matches, plus another with the Money in the Bank contract on the line. It promises to be an action-packed evening, which is why we wanted to break it all down.
Which undercard match are you most looking forward to?
Jean Chery: Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins. I have no doubt in my mind that these two will try and steal the show. With the return of the 'Lunatic' Dean Ambrose who's sure to influence this match in some capacity, this match has the potential to be a huge highlight on the PPV.
Kenny Ducey: I think I'm gonna go with Dolph and Seth, just because they're two tremendous in-ring workers and there's the potential for a Dean Ambrose or Drew McIntyre ambush. So many different stories could be told here surrounding the belt, and the four wrestlers involved are top-notch. This might steal the show from Bryan–Miz, which is supposed to steal the show.
Dan Greene: Since Miz vs. Daniel Bryan probably doesn't fit the undercard definition, I'm going with New Day vs. the Bludgeon Brothers. The New Day rarely disappoint and should be given the chance to have a competitive match with a team that's otherwise been made so dominant it's often boring. If this match gets enough time, these teams could put together something really fun. And I think the Smackdown women's title match is a sleeper too.
Dave Seperson: This is easy for me. The Raw Tag Team Champions match between The B-Team and The Revival. There may be no bigger fan of The Revival than me. From their incredible run in NXT, to the well deserved call-up to Raw, it’s time for Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder to finally capture the Raw Tag Team Championships and prove why they are top guys.
Justin Barrasso: Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins should combine to deliver a spectacular match, and the stage is fitting considering SummerSlam has a history (1991, 1994, 1998 just to name three) of memorable IC title matches. WWE should invest, at a minimum, 20-to-30 minutes in Ziggler-Rollins. The outside factors of Drew McIntyre and the returning Dean Ambrose also enhance the match.
Is The Miz the babyface in his feud with Daniel Bryan?
Jean Chery: In my honest opinion, yes. That doesn't mean Daniel Bryan is at all the heel in the feud. Miz has gained so much respect from the WWE Universe that even as a heel, he's gotten better reactions than some of the top faces in the company. I expect the Brooklyn crowd to be all-in for this match up by cheering both superstars in what has been the most compelling rivalry of 2018.
Kenny Ducey: I don't think so, although I think his child and reality show definitely makes him a more endearing figure. The bottom line is that Daniel Bryan owns the ultimate comeback story, and was treated like dirt by Miz for so long. I'm so excited for this match, though—even at RAW 25 they were building to this when Miz interrupted Daniel's moment to have his IC title match. So many little seeds have been planted.
Dan Greene: The Miz is not and probably never should be a babyface anywhere in the fictional wrestling universe. What makes this feud so compelling is all the layers that have built up over its years-long course, including a truthful aspect of the premise to Miz's Talking Smack rant: that he is fully and completely devoted to being a WWE performer and, in-ring style included, always trying to do what's best for the company. That should give him babyface cred in a meta sense, but character-wise he's been as obnoxious and manipulative as ever. That Bryan has responded to him with such blind rage and anger (rather than in the common jokey WWE babyface tone that undercuts so many programs) doesn't make him cede the babyface ground; it makes his character feel like a real person, which is too rare.
Dave Seperson: I want to start by saying that I believe the match between Daniel Bryan and The Miz is not only going to steal the show on Sunday, but that it could headline any house show, Raw, SmackDown, SummerSlam to even WrestleMania. Their chemistry is on another level, it’s been an 8-year feud, and whether you’re rooting for The Miz or rooting for Daniel Bryan (clearly the babyface), in the words of The Rock—“It doesn’t matter!” Neither wrestler is going to let us down, and we’re in for a treat.
Justin Barrasso: Surprisingly, yes. I’m enjoying The Miz-Daniel Bryan storyline for its nuanced shades of grey. There is truth from the villain and some bad intentions from the babyface.
The Miz has been accurate in his assessment that he is the better wrestler. Clearly this was not true at WrestleMania 30, when Bryan was arguably the best and most popular wrestler in the world. By that point, the market had corrected itself on Miz, who prematurely headlined WrestleMania 27 against John Cena. Three years later, Miz was merely filler in the inaugural Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal while Bryan defeated Triple H to open the card and made Batista tap to close the show.
But a lot has changed in four years. Bryan also claimed that Miz wrestles like a coward, which is also inaccurate. Miz has had three matches this year—his triple threat Intercontinental title match at WrestleMania against Seth Rollins and Finn Balor, his Backlash match against Rollins, and a SmackDown Live Money in the Bank qualifier match on May 8—that have all exceeded Bryan’s work since his return at ’Mania.
Bryan also interrupted Miz’s unveiling of his new reality show a few weeks ago on SmackDown. In many ways, The Miz is a tough opponent for Bryan because he oozes charisma. Bryan is better suited as the underdog, and a match against a bully in Brock Lesnar would be perfect for him. But in this feud, The Miz has come off as the more genuine of the two.
Who is most likely to turn heel by the end of the night?
Jean Chery: Charlotte Flair. It's time for the queen to get back to what kept her on top of the women's division. Carmella has excelled as champion but with the first ever WWE all women's PPV Evolution happening in October, Charlotte headlining as one of the top heels makes all the sense in the world.
Kenny Ducey: I don't see too many potential changes, so I'm going to take a huge swing and say Roman Reigns. It definitely feels like they're going to have him finally beat Brock, so this would make perfect sense. He's lost this match so many times that he has to use dirty tactics to win, he ruthlessly beats up Lesnar to get back at him after the bell, and the crowd might not hate him for walking out with the belt if he goes full heel. I know this will probably never happen, but it'd be a great time!
Dan Greene: The logic of having Reigns challenge Lesnar again and doing it in front of the Brooklyn crowd seemed to be finally pulling some kind of turn or swerve with him, but after they already teased and then subverted the speculated-about Heyman alliance on Monday, I don't think they will do a full-fledged turn with Reigns. (Unless maybe his Shield buds come celebrate with him and he attacks them for leaving him out of their little reunion and letting Brock murk him this week? I'm getting carried away.) So even though no one should want to boo her right now, I'm going to go with Natalya. Her sudden and intense friendship with Rousey seems like one that exists only to be dramatically severed at some point and having Natalya cost Rousey her match would be a good way to avoid rushing Rousey's inevitable first title win.
Dave Seperson: This one is a total guess, but would I love to see it. Big E! I want to make it known that I love The New Day unequivocally. The trio of Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston & Big E has been one of the most entertaining and creative runs of any team. But it’s time for these stars to take the next step into their rightful place among the main event singles competitors on SmackDown. Quite frankly there is nothing more that this trio could accomplish in my eyes, except to create an unbelievable storyline leading into a must watch triple threat match.
Justin Barrasso: While a heel turn is not in his future, I think we may see Brock Lesnar organically turn into a babyface. Lesnar does not appear often, and he wrestles even less, but he remains an invaluable piece of the WWE landscape. If Lesnar loses the Universal title to Roman Reigns, which I think he will, I think he will get a babyface reaction from the crowd in Brooklyn as he leaves the ring.
Is Ronda Rousey ready to be champion?
Jean Chery: Not yet. I've been a huge fan of Rousey since she joined the company full-time. She's been booked perfectly up to this point. In my opinion, what has made her so compelling is the fact that she is still earning her stripes in the business. Even with a loss, another entertaining performance by Rousey this Sunday does nothing but gain her more popularity and respect from the WWE universe.
Kenny Ducey: So, here's the thing. I think the Brock Lesnar situation has really proven that you need to have a champion who can fight on Raw every week. I mean, think about how great Kevin Owens's run was. He was there every week, he fought, he defended his title all the time. Can we be sure Rousey will fit that mold? Even though she's been champ forever, Alexa still fits that mold and she still kicks ass and compels people to watch every week. We just saw Ronda wrestle her first match on Raw. I'd like to see her settle into a little more regular of a role before giving her that shot. I'm not so sure that's going to happen, though.
Dan Greene: Rousey has been great, but no. While they can't keep booking her in unsuccessful title shots forever, there's bigger money in a bigger pursuit of the title than what we've seen so far and there's still a lot of novelty and excitement around just seeing her perform in the first place. So really, it's less about her not being ready than her not needing to be champ right now and the timing not being right. I'd hold off her big win until WrestleMania, but what do I know.
Dave Seperson: In a word, yes. Ronda Rousey was, is, and will always be a champion in my eyes. From her dominant run in the UFC, to smooth transition into the squared circle. Ronda Rousey has proven why Roddy Piper would be proud that the moniker of the “Rowdy” one should once again become a WWE champion.
Justin Barrasso: Although we are unlikely to see the reincarnation of the Bret Hart-Curt Hennig class from SummerSlam 1991, Rousey will be superb on Sunday and is ready to be one of the premiere faces of WWE.
There is too much at stake for Rousey to fail, a fact of which she is certainly aware. Bliss also works as a great opponent in this match, as she can bump and feed for Rousey, making her truly look like the “Baddest Woman on the Planet.”
Does The B-Team’s run end on Sunday?
Jean Chery: No. Why spoil a good thing? I for one have been quite entertained with how the continue to hold on the streak. The Revival will get there shot eventually but until then, I say let the B-Team troll on.
Kenny Ducey: I really hope so! The Revival need a push in the worst way imaginable. I love the B-Team—their run is everything I hoped that Breezango's run on Smackdown would be—but there are too many mouths to feed in this division. I'm worried that if The Revival don't win the belts here then they'll never win.
Dan Greene: As much as I enjoy the Revival and want to see them get a title run (or even just be used prominently and seriously), I'm hoping the B-Team keeps it going. They're perfect in their role as goofy, opportunistic champs and I think there is still plenty for them to do in that role while being chased by various challengers. Plus they just got new music that's blatantly designed to give them a signature chant, so that seems like a good sign their act is not headed for a downgrade in status just yet.
Dave Seperson: See above. The B-Team have been fantastic Raw Tag Team Champions, and I think both Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas have been underutilized in their careers. However, it’s The Revival’s time to shine.
Justin Barrasso: I just can’t buy the B-Team. I am very happy for their success, but there is very little about the time that I am enjoying in their current run.
Both Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel are third-generation wrestlers with impossible legacies to follow. Dallas is the son of Mike “I.R.S.” Rotunda, the nephew of the perennially underrated Barry Windham, and the grandson of Blackjack Mulligan. On top of that, his brother is former WWE champion Bray Wyatt. Axel is the grandson of Larry “The Axe” Henning and son of the late, great Curt Hennig, better known as Mr. Perfect.
I spoke with Axel for a story in 2016 about his father. He spoke about how he prays to his father before every match. Axel also admitted it was a cursed blessing to be the son of a legendary wrestler, saying, “It isn’t easy trying to live up to what my father accomplished—for Christ’s sake, my dad’s name was ‘Mr. Perfect.’ We’re constantly compared, and I couldn’t be prouder to be his son, but I’m not trying to be my father. It’s a common misconception, because my father is a Hall of Famer and a major star in this business, that the path was paved for me. But that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Some generational guys start their training on the WWE payroll, but I didn’t.”
My hope is that the B-Team run ends and we see Axel as an underdog babyface—which is genuinely what he is—and that Dallas works with his brother Wyatt. I don’t begrudge their current success, because this is an insanely difficult business, but I do not see a future in the B-Team.
Do we begin to take Kevin Owens seriously again?
Jean Chery: Yes, as soon as he beats Stroman for the Money in the Bank briefcase. I don't think there's a superstar who needs a win more this Sunday than Kevin Owens. His character hasn't looked impressive in quite some time. Winning the briefcase from Strowman, who clearly doesn't need it, instantly puts him back in the main event picture.
Kenny Ducey: Yeah. He's going to win this briefcase and he's going to (eventually) become a two-time champ. Why? Well for one, we know Vince loves him. Then there's the fact that after Sami Zayn's injury he's been stuck in a weird program where he can't really showcase his wrestling prowess. They're going to need to vault him into a title program eventually, and this would be the perfect way to do it. We all thought going into Money in the Bank that KO would be a tremendous choice for case-holder because of his character, so why not just give it to him now? Braun doesn't need that case, anyway. He won the match, he won the Greatest Royal Rumble, we know that he destroys everyone. I don't think he'd be a great champion—and he really doesn't need a belt to assert his dominance.
Dan Greene: It's been disappointing to see Owens reduced to being the butt of so many cartoonish hijinx of late (and to see Braun Strowman often slip into caricature), but there's something about his Kevin Owens-ness that makes me feel like even through all that, he's still always one show away from being presented as a serious contender again. He's a phenomenal wrestler whose presence and charisma is such that pretty much everything he does feels important, so all they need to do is crank his edge back up a bit and he'll be fine. Which is to say: yes, as soon as WWE wants us to.
Dave Seperson: If you weren’t taking Kevin Owens seriously already, I just have one question for you? What are you thinking?! One need not look that far back to remember that Kevin Owens is a former Universal, United States, Intercontinental and NXT Champion. Since joining WWE, Owens has unleashed brutal pop-up powerbombs to the likes of Sami Zayn all the way to Mark Henry. Braun Strowman better not underestimate Kevin Owens, or Owens could be leaving New York with the Money in the Bank briefcase.
Justin Barrasso: WWE has infused a great deal of comedy in Kevin Owens’ character, and he is no longer the same badass from his days in NXT.
Owens is still one of the best heels in the business, and I would be thrilled to see him outsmart Braun Strowman and effectively steal away the Money in the Bank briefcase on Sunday at SummerSlam.
Does Roman Reigns leave with the belt? What will the in-arena reaction be if he does?
Jean Chery: Roman Reigns will be booed after beating Brock for the Universal belt this Sunday. After the match I expect to see the briefcase cashed in by either Stroman or Owens. Either way, fans will go home happy.
Kenny Ducey: Yes. Horrible. We are all smart enough to know this.
Dan Greene: The briefcase cash-in seems like one of those obvious and logical things that WWE will avoid doing just because so many people expect it. So I'm going to say that Reigns does indeed leave with the belt, the Barclays Center nearly melts from the heat of the crowd, and Vince covers his ears with the gate receipts.
Dave Seperson: Yes, Roman will leave with the Universal Championship. I also predict he’ll leave with something else as well: a new advocate. No it won’t be the WWE Universe, I think it’s time for Paul Heyman to finally take on a new client and I know exactly who that should be. The combination of Roman Reigna and Paul Heyman would probably make fans in Brooklyn’s heads explode. From anger, to shock, to stunned silence, the impact this would leave on the WWE would be felt for a long time.
Justin Barrasso: Reigns is destined to win the belt on Sunday. Brock Lesnar has money to make and a legacy to enhance in the UFC’s Octagon, and there is ample opportunity for him to return as a special enhancement for WrestleMania.
If WWE wanted the crowd to pop for Reigns’ title victory, they should have crowned him as champ in Saudi Arabia at the Greatest Royal Rumble.
The crowd in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center will be loud in the main event, but it’s far more likely that we’re boos for the Big Dog.