Collectively known as the "Big Four," these are usually supercards for WWE standard and turning points in the major ongoing stories in the company.
This year, the event is also representing a change from recent trends, as more than just a handful of matches are being announced before the show. Recently, it hasn't been surprising to see three or even four bouts added to PPVs without advance notice.
Tonight's Raw represented the go-home show for SummerSlam, the last chance to build excitement and sway people to order the show. The best way to evaluate Raw is to look at the implications the show had on the major matches for Sunday's pay-per-view.
Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar: With Triple H "delayed" to the venue, Shawn Michaels lurked backstage, nervous all night. When it came time for the contract signing and Paul Heyman and Lesnar began running their mouths, HBK made his way to the ring.
Contrary to expectation, there was no physical contact between anyone, even after Triple H finally showed up. That had to be the biggest surprise on this entire episode of Raw, and gave the build to this match an unexpected turn.
Of course, it wouldn't last long, as Lesnar attacked Michaels backstage in a segment that knocked out the camera's vision. Everyone knew HBK wasn't going to make it to SummerSlam unscathed, but it was a little much for Lesnar to pull Michaels out of his car and then to break his arm.
The fact the Lesnar-Michaels-Triple H angle took the final 30 minutes of the show is telling. This match will close the PPV Sunday. This whole ordeal could have been shortened to allow for something - anything - else. This was entirely too much time dedicated to this segment.
CM Punk vs. John Cena vs. Big Show: These three men - along with Daniel Bryan met in a tag team match. Punk and Cena seemed to be cooperating for most of the match, but near the end, the champion left his partner strander.
Of course, though, Cena would overcome the challenge and hit an Attitude Adjustment of Bryan for the win. The match itself was good for television, but it's a shame to see Bryan take another clean loss for the sake of advancing a story he's not part of.
The focus of the match's ending - which featured Punk hitting Cena's signature moves - and post-match happenings was clearly on Punk and Cena, so Big Show may be a bit of an afterthought heading into SummerSlam.
Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler: These two found themselves in a triple threat match that also included Intercontinental Champion The Miz. The match itself was a lengthy and really good, fun contest that saw all three men emerge looking strong.
There were also several instances of storytelling and advancement in this match, especially involving Jericho, Ziggler and Vickie Guerrero. In the end, Guerrero's distraction of the referee allowed Ziggler to score the pinfall over his rival.
There was also development for some of the under- and midcard matches scheduled for SummerSlam, and details of those advancements can be found below.
Overall, it was a mixed bag of build for SummerSlam. The show is still a pretty stacked card and will surely deliver, but WWE has to rebound from some hit-and-miss build.
- Interference by Brodus Clay backfired during Damien Sandow's match with Christian, and there was much rejoicing - well, in my apartment anyway. The match was fairly pedestrian until Clay's music hit, and Christian tried capitalizing on the distraction with a roll-up. Sandow got out off it and hit his finisher. After Christian delivered Antonio Cesaro his first loss last week on Smackdown, I was worried Sandow would meet the same fate, but this was a more-than-welcome surprise.