In 2013, Summerslam might have been the best pay per view of the year, with two Match of the Year candidates. While it might not reach that level, the card this year certainly has the potential to be memorable.
Last year, both the Brock Lesnar/CM Punk match (which was my pick for match of the year) and the John Cena/Daniel Bryan match were showered with praise both from fans and critics. They were the top of a great pay-per-view, which also included an overlooked match featuring Alberto Del Rio and Christian.
The star power is there this year, too, with two big matches -- Cena vs. Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose -- that both have some big buzz. There are also a few smaller matches that could rise up and threaten to steal the show.
Here is my breakdown of Summerslam, complete with predictions.
The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Title
This match reminds me a bit of a Summerslam match from 2012 that Ziggler was involved in, against Chris Jericho. One of the lower-profile matches coming it, it ended up being one of the best.
Before you protest, no, I'm not saying Miz is at Jericho's level in the ring, but he has shown the ability to wrestle a good match, including one against Ziggler on RAW just a few weeks ago.
The WWE continues to book the mid-card titles horrendously, as Miz hasn't done anything of note since winning the title in the battle royal.
It wouldn't surprise me if either person won this, but I'm going with Miz. Ziggler could've very easily won last month if they wanted him to hold the title. If they're intent on getting Miz credible again, they can't pull the rug out from under him at this point. I could certainly see Ziggler win in a few months, but not here.
Winner: The Miz
Rusev vs. Jack Swagger in a Flag Match
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this match, or where they’re going with Rusev. Since Lana’s promo at Battleground, Rusev has looked decreasingly menacing.
Whether this is a direct response to the segment or not, something needs to happen here. Either he’s going to be back to looking like a dominant force, or we could see a sign that the WWE is souring on Rusev, and Swagger wins.
Personally, I think Rusev should win this. There’s still a lot to be told with his character, and I have doubts that the WWE would push Swagger even if he beats Rusev.
However, I could see a situation where they believe that since this is a Flag match, and the winner doesn’t need to actually pin the loser, that Rusev could afford to take the loss.
What they seem to forget though is EVERY match matters. You can bill Rusev as a guy who has never been beaten, but when he’s lost by DQ several times, and lost in a flag match, that does add up.
It’s similar to how champions can be devalued by losing non-title matches. While I fully believe Rusev should win, I have a feeling the WWE will go with the “loss but not a loss” route.
Winnner: Jack Swagger
AJ vs. Paige for the Divas Title
You could make the case that this is the most interesting feud in the WWE right now. It hasn’t necessarily been the best, but seeing Paige branch out and show off her heel side, both in her moves and her antics, has been truly compelling. It’s shown a whole new side of her, even to those who were fans in NXT.
It’s clear to me that this feud is going to continue; the question is what direction it will take.
When AJ came back, I presented a scenario where they hotshotted the title back and forth, and I still think this could be a good idea.
They also could go a direction where Paige brutalizes AJ, drawing a DQ, to set up another match. Or even have AJ win in a somewhat cheap fashion, drawing Paige’s ire.
All of those could be effective if done properly. I’m going to stick with my original thought and have Paige win it here, only to have AJ win it back down the road (maybe at Hell In A Cell?).
Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt
Something about this feud hasn't quite clicked for me. I’m not sure what about it hasn't, because the segments have been pretty decent individually, particularly the sit-down segment from this past week.
There just doesn’t seem to be much of a flow to it from one week to another.
While I think originally this feud was supposed to stretch to Night of Champions in September, I think it’s time to end it here. And there’s only one real way to end it, which is to have Wyatt win, and win convincingly.
Wyatt hasn’t had a truly convincing singles win in a pay-per-view since he beat Bryan at Royal Rumble. He needs one of those to get his momentum back. Even if this does stretch another month, this should be the result here, just so Wyatt can get back on track.
Winner: Bray Wyatt
Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton
The push for Reigns continues and, unsurprisingly, there is starting to be a bit of pushback against him from the “smart” fans.
It’s almost inevitable at this point that fans will start to go against the unstoppable face. However, that won’t stop WWE’s plans, which seem to involve pushing Reigns to the moon.
This match is arguably the easiest to pick, as it’s hard to see Reigns losing in a meaningful match in the near-future.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins in a Lumberjack Match
Besides the main event, this might be the most anticipated match of the night. To some, it might be THE most anticipated match.
The WWE has done a great job building up this confrontation, taking its time to get to the singles match. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the bait-and-switch at Battleground, it did serve its purpose to heighten the tension for this match.
The lumberjack stipulation was an interesting choice. Typically, lumberjack matches have been rather uninspiring. However, the WWE is playing up the stipulation well, repeating how everyone still hates both Rollins and Ambrose for their time in The Shield, and that all the men around the ring will want to get their hands on both men.
If both men get attacked by the lumberjacks, as opposed to the typical situation where only one man is attacked while the other is ignored, it could add to the match.
I don’t expect this feud to end here, and it will probably last until Hell in a Cell in October. Because of that, I expect Rollins to win, in probably a tainted victory.
Maybe a handful of lumberjacks will be paid off by the Authority to help Rollins at the end, or something like that. But it should be fun to watch these two go at it for another couple months.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Brie Bella vs. Stephanie McMahon
Finally, after all the build for months, this match is here. McMahon will actually get back into the ring for the first time since 2003 (an "I Quit" match against her father in Baltimore).
This match could go either way and, unusually, sportsbooks that carry wrestling bets are reflecting that, putting them at nearly identical odds.
There are two main scenarios that could play out here. The first is that Bella gets her revenge. It’s a pretty simple scenario. Just like Bryan finally got his revenge in his first match with Triple H, Bella will get her revenge in her first match with McMahon.
The problem with this is that I question if McMahon would get back into ring shape and get back in the ring for the first time in over a decade just for one match. It seems a bit counter-intuitive. I’m leaning toward saying Stephanie will win, and probably with some shenanigans.
One interesting way to do it would be to have Bella’s sister, Nikki, turn on her and help McMahon win. The Bellas aren't natural faces, and while it's worked for Brie being associated with Bryan, and going against McMahon, Nikki has had a harder time adjusting to being a face.
This would allow her to get back into her more natural heel role. There are a few problems with this though.
The first is that with Total Divas still being a big part of the promotion, would they want Nikki to be a heel? Of course, the response to that question could be that it would make for more drama on the show.
The second, and one that isn’t answered as easily, is how would you rectify the fact that John Cena is associated with evil Nikki? Granted, on RAW itself they haven’t associated the two, but with Total Divas going on, it’s something that needs to be brought up if they do go this route.
These questions make it harder to choose a winner, but one way or another I do think Stephanie pulls it out
Winner: Stephanie McMahon
John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Title
And here we are, to the main event. I’ve been saying for months that this is where Brock Lesnar capitalizes off of his win over the Undertaker, and takes the title. I’m not moving off that stance.
It makes too much sense in a time when they’re trying so hard to push the Network and regain the casual fan. They’re also likely going to be debuting a new belt with their logo change (if you missed it, the WWE changed its logo to the one they had been using for the WWE Network).
With a new belt typically comes a new champion. While people decry the ending to the match between these two at Extreme Rules 2012, many forget just how good of a match it was before the ending.
While I don’t necessarily envision this rivaling the Punk/Lesnar showdown from last year, it could certainly be a truly great match, as these two have styles that mesh so well.
So, despite knowing the probable winner, and despite the crowd continuing to boo Cena, I’m looking forward to sitting back and just watching the two of them absolutely destroy each other.
And when it’s all over, for the first time since 2003, I expect Paul Heyman to be able to add WWE World Heavyweight Champion to the long list of accolades he reads off for Lesnar.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
Thoughts? Predictions of your own? Leave them below or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster