The WWE's second biggest pay-per-view of the year is finally here, headlined by two huge matches: Daniel Bryan challenging John Cena for the WWE Championship and The Best in the World CM Punk vs. The Beast Incarnate Brock Lesnar. Here's a look at all the matches for tonight's card, as well as what might happen tonight.
United States Championship (Kickoff)
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Rob Van Dam
Van Dam goes from making his big return at the last pay-per-view to the pre-show, although WWE seems to be treating the preshow a little better these days, extending it to an hour for SummerSlam and actually showing it to fans who plunk down their hard-earned money for the pay-per-view rather than making you watch it online while the stupid pre-taped studio show aired on TV. But I digress. RVD and Ambrose should put on a pretty solid affair, but nearly everyone expects run-ins by the rest of the Shield and Big Show and Mark Henry based on the events of this week's Raw and Smackdown, which will either lead to a tag team titles match, or a rematch from Friday's six-man tag. Ambrose will retain regardless, if there is a tag title match, I wouldn't be shocked to see the two giants take the belts. If it ends up a six-man tag, then it could really go either way, but I think the babyfaces would go over to set up future title matches, probably at next month's Night of Champions show.
WINNER: No contest for Van Dam and Ambrose
Mixed Tag Team match
Dolph Ziggler and Kaitlyn vs. Big E Langston and AJ Lee
As good as the matches at the top of this show are, this is one of several mid-card matches that I couldn't care less about. So far, Dolph Ziggler's babyface turn has been a disaster. Because there are no titles on the line here, I think the faces get a victory, effectively ending Kaitlyn's program with AJ and Ziggler's with Big E, allowing all parties involved to move on to other things.
WINNERS: Dolph Ziggler and Kaitlyn
Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow
I've never understood why WWE doesn't have Money in the Bank winners defend the briefcase and contract like a title. This match would have a lot more heat if the title shot was on the line. Alas, it isn't, and I'm not terribly excited about it. I think Rhodes can be a decent babyface, but we haven't really gotten to see him work much in the role. Sandow is a terrific heel, but WWE doesn't like booking heels strong, especially once they win the briefcase (unless their name is Alberto Del Rio) so I fully expect Sandow to get the same treatment, and he'll struggle when/if he does get the Big Gold Belt.
WINNER: Cody Rhodes
Ring of Fire match
Kane vs. Bray Wyatt
The Ring of Fire is WWE's latest version of an Inferno match, with the difference being the fire around the ring is to keep anyone (read: Rowan and Harper) from interfering in the match, rather than setting your opponent on fire. Of course, I think there is a good chance someone catches fire -- or at least their clothes do. Something that would be kind of cool, and plays into the Wyatt character, is if he convinces his cohorts to walk through fire to help him win the match. That keeps Kane looking strong, puts over Wyatt's gimmick, and gives him a big win in his debut match at a big PPV.
WINNER: Bray Wyatt
Natalya vs. Brie Bella
Two Diva-related matches on one show? The SummerSlam payday is the reward for Natalya and the Bellas, as well as the other Divas involved. With Natalya defeating AJ Lee in a mixed tag on Raw (botched as the finish was) I have to think she's going to be in line to challenge for the Divas title soon. She beats Brie here to look strong heading into Night of Champions next month.
World Heavyweight Championship
Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Christian
Nothing against Christian, as WWE has tried to make him look strong since his return, but I feel very "meh" about him as a contender to a top title, especially at the second biggest pay-per-view of the year when Rob Van Dam is white hot and stuck in the preshow and Randy Orton isn't even booked for the pay-per-view except as a wild card as the Money in the Bank contract holder in the main event. But whatever. WWE is heavily invested in Del Rio, and he's actually getting decent heat as heel since he turned. There is a part of me that thinks a match with Ricardo Rodriguez, which is what he asked for remember, before destroying Ricardo last week on Raw, would get more heat than this. This match will turn out pretty good, because Christian always has good matches, but he'll ultimately put Del Rio over.
WINNER: And STILL World Heavyweight Champion, Alberto Del Rio
Random aside: I noted Orton isn't booked for the PPV except as a wild card. Another star conspicuous by his absence is Ryback, which was addressed on Smackdown. I thought before Sheamus was injured, WWE may have been setting up a match between the Celtic Warrior and Ryback. Now, I wouldn't be surprised if a match isn't made at the show between Ryback and Orton, with Orton going over (actually, probably with Ryback walking out). Just a thought.
The Best vs. The Beast
CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar w/ Heyman
The build for this one has been pretty darn good, now it's just a matter of whether the match can deliver. Lesnar can be hit or miss in the ring; his match with Cena was great, but his series with Triple H was much slower paced and didn't deliver in my opinion, although they may have had more to do with the Game than the Beast. I do think Punk will live up to his moniker and pull out the best match possible out of Lesnar. Punk's willing to bump around all over the place and make Lesnar look like a million bucks, and they seem to have figured out a formula for Punk to get one up on Lesnar (although it would be helped by a No DQ stipulation). While Punk will look good, I think Lesnar ultimately wins when Punk gets distracted and tries to get his hands on Heyman. After all, that's really what this feud is all about -- Punk wants to kill Heyman and Lesnar is fighting for Heyman. In that scenario, everyone looks good. For more on this match, read here why I think the Undertaker's WrestleMania plans could affect the outcome of this match for storyline purposes and why this match will ultimately prove whether CM Punk can be a top draw for the WWE.
WINNER: Brock Lesnar
WWE Championship match w/ Special Guest Referee Triple H
John Cena (c) vs. Daniel Bryan
I really hope, against all odds, that WWE doesn't turn this match into an overbooked cluster. A 30-minute title match between Cena and Bryan should be a match of the year classic that leaves people salivating over the idea of a rematch. Overbooking is going to draw the ire of wrestling fans all over the world. It's possible to give fans the best of both worlds, I think. Here's how I think I would book it: After a good 20 to 25 minutes of back-and-forth, clean action and lots of false finishes, both mean hit each other with a big bomb that puts them both on the mat. Guest referee Triple H begins the 10-count, gets to nine with neither man to his feet and refuses to stop the match. As both men begin to rise, the Shield suddenly hits the ring, laying out Cena, Bryan and the Game. With everyone down, Randy Orton's music hits and despite the match still technically going on, he cashes in his Money in the Bank briefcase with referee Brad Maddox in tow. After a punt kick to Cena's head, Orton becomes the new WWE Champion, much to the delight of Vince McMahon. Cena is written off of television for his elbow surgery, with a rematch guaranteed whenever he returns. Bryan, because he didn't lose, can stake claim to still being the No. 1 contender and begin a feud with Orton. That's a much better scenario than having Bryan win the belt and Orton immediately relieve him of it, and allows Bryan to stay hot by continuing to chase the title and hopefully, eventually, getting that big moment when he finally wins the WWE Championship.
WINNER: No contest, Orton cashes in to become NEW WWE Champion