While WrestleMania is traditionally WWE’s biggest event of the year, SummerSlam hopes to give it a run for its money Saturday night.
Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas will host SummerSlam, marking the first time that the pay-per-view has ever taken place at an NFL stadium. The only other SummerSlam stadium show took place nearly 30 years ago, at London’s Wembley stadium in 1992.
Unlike this year’s WrestleMania, a full-capacity crowd will be on hand for SummerSlam. A mask mandate is in place for all 40,000-plus attendees due to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Las Vegas.
The top of the card for SummerSlam also looks more like something you’d usually see at WrestleMania. In both the universal and WWE championship matches, the title challenger is a part-time wrestler. John Cena will have his first televised match in more than a year as he faces Roman Reigns for the universal title. Goldberg, who is wrestling for the first time since January, will challenge for Bobby Lashley’s WWE title.
Cena’s return to face Reigns has been the focal point of the build to SummerSlam. Aside from potentially Reigns vs. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, it’s the biggest possible match that WWE could present right now. It’s the biggest star of his era facing WWE’s biggest current star.
Cena’s return has only further proved what a unique talent he is. There’s no one like him on today’s WWE roster. His connection with the fans and the ability to play off of them is something that the WWE product is greatly missing. It may have taken until he was no longer a full-time in-ring performer, but the audience appreciates Cena more now than it ever has. When someone like Cena isn’t around as much, you inevitably miss them and start to realize how important they were. And fans also recognize that Cena doesn’t need to be doing this. He’s a legitimate Hollywood star who doesn’t get much time off between projects. But he loves pro wrestling so much that he’s dedicated more than a month of his life to coming back to WWE. Cena isn’t in it just for the spotlight of a big match against Reigns. He’s worked house shows along the way and has committed himself to this return, even if it’s only for a short period of time before going back to Hollywood.
The 54-year-old Goldberg is entering SummerSlam with something to prove. He still clearly has the presence and star power to be an effective performer. But his work in the ring needs to be good enough that people see him as a credible threat despite his age. He needs to be explosive enough that fans look forward to his matches instead of just seeing them as repetitive.
Goldberg last wrestled when he lost a WWE championship match to Drew McIntyre at the Royal Rumble. He’s now back in the same position, just facing a different champion. Immediately putting Goldberg back into the title picture is a questionable decision, but he should be motivated to follow up that disappointing Royal Rumble performance with something better.
Elsewhere on the card, SummerSlam will feature a rematch of one of this year’s WrestleMania main events, with SmackDown women’s champion Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks looking to put on a worthy successor to that historic bout. Edge and Seth Rollins will also face off in a dream match that wouldn’t be out of place as one of the top matches at any WrestleMania.
Here’s a full rundown of Saturday’s card, along with predictions for each match:
Universal championship match: Roman Reigns vs. John Cena
Cena has one post-SummerSlam date on his WWE calendar: the Sept. 10 episode of SmackDown at Madison Square Garden. That adds at least a small degree of unpredictability to the result of this match. He could theoretically win the universal title and have a short reign as champion before dropping it in New York.
But the correct finish is the obvious one. Reigns should retain the title. He shouldn’t lose it to a part-time wrestler who is already an established legend. Defeating Cena will give Reigns even more bragging rights as his universal championship reign approaches the one-year mark.
Reigns’s “Head of the Table” character is the perfect opponent for Cena, and the crowd dynamic for their match will be excellent. The only question is how good the match will be. With him involved in so many film and television projects, Cena can’t risk getting hurt and having an injury impact them. But he and Reigns are smart enough workers that they should still be able to have a standout match, using the hot crowd to their advantage to make it something memorable.
Prediction: Roman Reigns retains
WWE championship match: Bobby Lashley vs. Goldberg
Though they both involve part-timers facing dominant champions, predicting the winner of this match is more difficult than Reigns vs. Cena. Lashley retaining his title is probably what will happen, but this isn’t really a match that Goldberg can afford to lose. If Lashley does defeat him, Goldberg will have unsuccessfully challenged for the WWE championship in each of his last two matches. Goldberg’s 15-year-old son, Gage, has also been part of his father’s feud with Lashley, making for a bit of an awkward story if Lashley wins.
Goldberg’s squash of Dolph Ziggler at SummerSlam in 2019 was the ideal use of him at this point in his career. With a loss on Saturday, we’ll hopefully see something like that Ziggler match again before Goldberg is back in main events.
Prediction: Bobby Lashley retains
SmackDown women’s championship match: Bianca Belair vs. Sasha Banks
Belair and Banks’s first meeting was one of WWE’s best matches of the year. This won’t have the historical significance of that WrestleMania main event, but there’s no reason to think that the match won’t be as good or better. Following Belair’s win at WrestleMania, it would make sense for Banks to avenge that loss here, become SmackDown women’s champion again and set up a rubber match for some point down the line.
Prediction: Sasha Banks wins
Raw women’s championship match: Nikki A.S.H. vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley
Nikki Cross’ new “Almost a Superhero” character has gotten her a Money in the Bank win, a Raw women’s title reign, and a featured spot on SummerSlam. It’s been a deserving run for a talented wrestler who was previously underused and had a hard time getting on TV. Cross comes off as genuinely nice and is committed to this inspirational persona that she’s created. But, unless it evolves into something different, there’s a short shelf life on this character as a heavily pushed act.
That shelf life may not run out at SummerSlam. The triple-threat stipulation could allow Cross to capitalize on the right moment and pin either Charlotte Flair or Rhea Ripley. But regardless of what the outcome is, the Raw women’s division needs a shakeup going forward. Whether it’s with the return of Becky Lynch or the roster being freshened up in the WWE draft, the division would benefit from different faces in the title picture.
Prediction: Nikki A.S.H. retains
Edge vs. Seth Rollins
In 2014, Edge and Rollins took part in an angle where Rollins threatened to break Edge’s already injured neck. It seemed impossible that they’d ever actually face each other then. But Edge’s return has opened the door for him to have these kinds of dream matches. Edge vs. Rollins has a great chance to be the match of the night at SummerSlam.
For Rollins, a win would put him in contention to challenge for the universal championship. Edge is in a similar situation to Goldberg, where he can’t afford to lose another big match right now. Reigns defeated Edge in a triple-threat match at WrestleMania and then defeated him again in a singles match at Money in the Bank. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Edge get the win Saturday but lose to Rollins in their next meeting.
Prediction: Edge wins
Raw tag team championship match: AJ Styles and Omos vs. Randy Orton and Riddle
Randy Orton and Riddle have been one of the brightest spots on WWE television during their time as RK-Bro. A feud between them is inevitable, but there’s no reason for it to happen so soon. There’s still plenty more story to be told with their odd-couple partnership, and it will only help their eventual feud if Orton and Riddle hold the Raw tag-team titles together before Orton turns on him.
Prediction: Randy Orton and Riddle win
SmackDown tag-team championship match: The Usos vs. Rey and Dominik Mysterio
The Usos won the SmackDown tag-team titles by defeating Rey and Dominik Mysterio on the Money in the Bank preshow last month. Going into their rematch, WWE has been telling the story of Rey Mysterio trying to teach his son Dominik not to get overconfident or distracted.
The Usos are consistently involved in SmackDown’s biggest story lines alongside their cousin Reigns. With all three holding titles, there’s no reason for that to change here.
Prediction: The Usos retain
United States championship match: Sheamus vs. Damian Priest
Largely due to sustaining a broken nose, Sheamus’s United States title reign has been a disappointment. His only title defense since winning the championship at WrestleMania has been a quick squash of Humberto Carrillo.
Sheamus had a really strong stretch of in-ring work prior to his injury, and hopefully things will get back on track here. Damian Priest has come across well since his call-up to Raw, with the highlight being his tag-team match with Bad Bunny against The Miz and John Morrison at WrestleMania. SummerSlam should provide another big moment for him as he wins his first title on the main roster.
Prediction: Damian Priest wins
Drew McIntyre vs. Jinder Mahal
With McIntyre out of the WWE championship picture and unable to challenge for the title while Lashley is still champion, he’s been put into a feud with his former 3MB stablemate Jinder Mahal. A stipulation of their match is that Mahal’s associates Veer and Shanky are barred from ringside.
McIntyre’s getting the win is the right choice, though his feud with Mahal may end up continuing, since McIntyre still needs something to do while he can’t challenge for the WWE title.
Prediction: Drew McIntyre wins
Alexa Bliss vs. Eva Marie
This is easily the weakest match on the SummerSlam card. But it’s such an obviously weak match that there’s no way it won’t end up being more of an angle. Doudrop will either turn against Eva Marie or help her get the win.
Prediction: Alexa Bliss wins
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