Summerslam 2015 will take place this Sunday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Summerslam is WWE’s second biggest pay-per-view (behind Wrestlemania), and this year’s card is loaded: Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker pick up where they left off in their historic rivalry; John Cena battles Seth Rollins once again for a winner-takes-all, champion vs. champion match; the WWE Divas finally get a chance to shine; and actor Stephen Amell will actually be competing in a WWE ring.
Here are my predictions for the five must-see matchups this Sunday.
1) John Cena (United States Champion) vs. Seth Rollins (WWE World Heavyweight Champion) (Winner Takes All)
While Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker is certainly the sexiest Summerslam match, it’s Seth Rollins vs. John Cena that has the most significant historic implications.
First, there’s the whole champion vs. champion, winner-take-all thing. Never in the history of the WWE has anyone held the World Heavyweight Championship and the United States Championship at the same time.
With a pin-fall or submission victory, Rollins or Cena will achieve something completely unprecedented. And they’ll have major bragging rights. If Rollins, the heel (a.k.a. the bad guy), wins he’ll parade around Monday Night Raw claiming he’s the greatest champions of all time. Hell, he’s already called for a statue to be built in his honor when he emerges victorious.
A clean victory (one with no outside interference) is crucial for Rollins as it would bring much-needed legitimacy to the World Heavyweight title and to his title reign. The combination of weaseling his way to title wins and John Cena putting on stellar, five-star performances weekly United States Championship Open Challenge has made Cena appear to be the stronger of the two. If the World Heavyweight Championship is meant to be the most prestigious belt in the business, Rollins has to perform like it is—and win.
If Cena wins, he’ll tack on another accomplishment to his already unparalleled resume. And this is where the second major implication comes in. Not only does a win mean that Cena will hold two major titles simultaneously, but he’ll tie the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair’s record for the most World Heavyweight Championship title reigns (sixteen). Cena’s already a wrestling God. If he manages to catch Flair’s record and then surpass it somewhere down the line, Cena must be seriously considered in the he’s greatest of all time discussion.
But one thing about John Cena is certain. He’s the most polarizing figure in WWE history. Kids and young fans absolutely adore him, while older “hardcore” fans hate his guts. To many, he’s a superhero and to many others, he’s pubic enemy number one. Rollins even called Cena a “disease” that plagues the WWE. No matter if you’re a Cena lover or hater—and I tend to lean toward the hate side)—you can’t deny that he’s put on the best performances of anyone in the company (perhaps with the exception of Cesaro) since he won the U.S. Title at Wrestlemania 31 earlier this year. 31 He has single-handedly elevated a quasi-irrelevant belt to the same if not greater heights than the World Heavyweight title.
Cena has all the momentum in the world right now. His mic skills are terrific (as usual), and his ring work is the best it has ever been thanks to his injection of new, exciting moves like the springboard stunner. Not to mention, he defeated Seth Rollins with a legitimate broken nose (as in, his nose was under his right eye) he suffered during their recent match. Many signs point toward a Cena victory… but I don’t think that will happen.
I also don’t think Seth Rollins will win cleanly. I believe the Authority (led by Triple H, the COO of the company) will interfere and cost Cena the match somehow. Why? Well, Cena said it best this past week on Raw. If Cena wins, he’ll do what Triple H failed to do—win as many World Heavyweight titles as Triple H’s mentor Ric Flair. Knowing Triple H’s ego, he’ll do everything is in his power to prevent that from happening.
Prediction: I’d bet my house that Seth Rollins walks away from Summerslam as at least the World Heavyweight Champion. I see Rollins winning dirty, which is problematic since it doesn’t do much for his character. Sure gives him more heat (fans have more reasons to dislike him), but it still doesn’t prove him as a champion He hasn’t beaten anyone by himself without some type of “shenanigans”. Furthermore, a Triple H interference puts the focus on the wrong person—Triple H. Rollins needs to be the center of attention as the World Heavyweight champion at WWE’s second most important event of the year. The night needs to be about Rollins and not the semi-retired Triple H.
Photo Credit: www.idigitaltimes.com
2) Brock Lesnar (w/ Paul Heyman) vs. The Undertaker
It’s been deemed “The Match Too Big for Wrestlemania.”
The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar have been rivals for a long time in the WWE. Back in the early 2000s, the two engaged in some of the best, most violent matches in the company’s history. Their “Hell in a Cell” bout in 2002 was particularly gruesome, and it truly demonstrated that Lesnar could hang with top WWE talent.
Fast-forward to 2010, UFC 121. After Brock Lesnar lost to Cain Velasquez, there was a pretty weird confrontation between Lesnar and The Undertaker (who was a spectator at the match). You can imagine why WWE fans began salivating over the potential for a Brock Lesnar-Undertaker match at Wrestlemania.
The most shocking moment in WWE history occurred when Brock Lesnar (a.k.a. The Beast Incarnate) and The Undertaker squared off at Wrestlemania 30 a year and a half ago. Brock Lesnar defeated The Undertaker, effectively ending his undefeated streak at Wrestlemania. “The Streak” was known as the most untouchable record in the industry. No one beats Undertaker at Wrestlemania, but Lesnar did. He conquered the streak, much to the dismay of the WWE Universe. People were absolutely stunned. See here for the best reactions (begins around 1:25).
At Battleground, WWE’s most recent pay-per-view, The Undertaker returned to exact his revenge on Brock Lesnar. He cost Lesnar the WWE championship by interfering in his title match against Seth Rollins. Taker gave Lesnar a low-blow (which is exactly what it sounds like), then chokeslammed and tombstoned him. That set up the epic rematch at Summerslam: The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar.
This bout sounds incredible on paper, given that Taker and Lesnar are two of the greatest WWE superstars of all time and they have history. But, I’m concerned about The Undertaker. He’s fifty (that’s right, fifty!) years old and has showed significant signs of slowing. He didn’t have particularly great performances in his last two matches, and it’s clear that his age and health have become concerns. And forget about ability for a moment, Taker just looks old, while Lesnar—in every way, shape, and form—appears to be in the prime of his career.
Some people have complained that Undertaker vs. Lesnar doesn’t make sense right now. Why would Taker wait a eighteen months to exact revenge? My answer to that is who cares? Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker 2.0 is an exciting prospect no matter how you slice it, and that match is one of the major reasons why I will be spending my Sunday night glued to the couch.
Plus, I like how WWE hasn’t explicitly defined who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy (a.k.a. the face and the heel) Lesnar has quietly become a fan favorite due to his once-in-a-lifetime strength and athleticism. It’s a real testament to his natural talent and in-ring ability that he can win over the crowd despite defeating one of the most beloved superstars of all time and ending his Wrestlemania streak in the process.
The Undertaker, by contrast, cost Brock Lesnar the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and kicked him in the groin twice. That sounds like the dastardly work of a full-blown heel. But, The Undertaker is so idolized and respected by the WWE Universe that surely the company wouldn’t make him a bad guy.
The undefined roles allow for the WWE to treat the match as a unique attraction rather than the most important bout of the evening. Lesnar vs. The Undertaker is the ultimate fan match. Let them decide whom they want to win.
Prediction: The Undertaker defeats Brock Lesnar, setting up a grudge match at Wrestlemania 32 between the two men.
3) Dolph Ziggler (w/ Lana) vs. Rusev (w/ Summer Rae)
This contest was late addition to the Summerslam match card. And it was a great one.
If you don’t know Rusev, he’s a Russian dude who inundates us with his patriotism and loyalty to Vladimir Putin. He’s one of those old school wrestling heels, like an Iron Sheik, who fans hate because of everything he stands for (i.e. not America). Even Rusev’s finisher, the accolade, is pretty much the same submission maneuver as Shiek’s camel clutch. Rusev’s brutish Russian character demonstrates WWE’s tendency to appropriate certain cultures. But that’s a discussion for another article.
Ziggler is incredibly athletic, and he’s one of the best performers in the WWE today—don’t let the bleach blonde hair fool you. He’s frequently compared to Shawn Michaels for his ability to steal the show, which is probably the highest praise you can receive as a professional wrestler.
Like many feuds in the WWE, Rusev-Ziggler came about because of jealousy. Lana, Rusev’s former mouthpiece (and possibly lover) got a little too friendly with Ziggler who treated her with much more respect than Rusev. As a result, Rusev brutally attacked Ziggler, putting him out action for weeks. While Ziggler was on the shelf, Rusev developed a relationship with Summer Rae who began dressing and acting like Lana. After many “cat-fights”, Ziggler returned and attacked Rusev, setting up a match for Summerslam.
Although the storyline could have been developed better, Rusev vs. Ziggler has match of the night potential. Both superstars are highly adept in the ring and have proven they can put on A+ performances (especially Ziggler).
Prediction: This one is a real toss up. The WWE loves to have Ziggler lose matches, so the safe pick is Rusev. However, Ziggler just returned from injury and could use a push. As much as I want to pick Ziggler, I have to go with Rusev. This feud will continue after Summerslam and Ziggs and Lana will eventually get their revenge. Also, it’s worth remembering the classic WWE formula. When a superstar stands tall over his opponent on the show prior to a pay-per-view, he or she usually loses at the pay-per-view. Because Ziggler and Lana got the last laugh on Raw, Rusev will emerge victorious on Sunday.
4) Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro
I’m really looking forward to this match. Kevin Owens and Cesaro have been phenomenal over the past few months, each demonstrating why they’re the future of the WWE.
Owens defeated John Cena cleanly at a pay-per-view event (Elimination Chamber), a nearly impossible feat. Owens doesn’t have the typical WWE build. He’s a bit pudgy, but is very athletic for his size. His unique look and skill-set has definitely helped him create a fresh, edgy identity. The only knock on Owens is that he frequently abandons the ring if he isn’t having his way with his opponent, making him appear weak—which is the WWE’s fault, not his.
Meanwhile, Cesaro has been the second best performer of 2015 behind John Cena. Cesaro has always been a fantastic worker, but as Vince McMahon once said, he hasn’t shown an ability to connect with the crowd. But now things are different.
Cesaro now receives enormous pops (a.k.a. cheers) whenever he’s introduced, and he seems much more comfortable engaging with the fans. Although Cesaro is visibly discovering that once-missing charisma, it’s his in-ring talent that leaves me speechless. I think he’s the most complete WWE superstar. He’s quick, agile, incredibly strong, and can fly off the top rope.
Owens vs. Cesaro could wind up being the best pure wrestling match of the night. It’s definitely the contest to look out for.
Prediction: This is another tough choice, but I’m going to go with Kevin Owens. He simply needs the win more than Cesaro. If Owens loses, he’ll be in danger of falling into obscurity in the WWE, especially since he hasn’t won a significant match since his first victory over Cena. Cesaro has plenty of momentum and support from the WWE fans. He could be this year’s Daniel Bryan (a Cinderella Story), and he’ll eventually have his time to shine.
Photo Credit: wrestlingexaminer.com
5) Team Bella (Nicki Bella, Brie Bella, and Alicia Fox) vs. Team B.A.D. (Naomi, Sasha Banks, and Tamina) vs. PCB (Paige, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch)
The Revolution was televised. And now, the Revolution is here!!
Finally, the WWE Divas (a.k.a. the women in wrestling) are getting the attention they deserve. While the days of parading around in bras and panties ended a long time ago, the Divas still hadn’t been given an equal chance to showcase their talents as the men. More than that, the WWE creative team put so little effort into coming up with any kind of decent storylines for them, which turned their matches into bathroom breaks.
At one point, Natalya, one of the best female technicians in WWE history (and member of the legendary Hart family) was booked (a.k.a. scripted) to have a farting problem. That’s not a joke. More recently, Nicki Bella told her twin sister Brie Bella that she wished that she died in the womb. Yikes. Very lousy writing, poorly acted, and just yikes!
But in July, Stephanie McMahon (daughter of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and wife of COO Triple H) shook the WWE Divas division to its core. She told the fans that there were going to be some changes, and welcomed three new divas to the show. Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks—all of who had been performing in WWE’s talent developmental division NXT—jumped to WWE roster. They made a huge impact right from the get-go, locking current divas in their respective submission maneuvers.
Since that time, the WWE Divas have picked sides and battled one another week-in and week-out to claim ownership over the division. The jostling for power will culminate in a triple-threat, elimination tag team match between Team Bella (captained by WWE Divas Champion Nicki Bella), Team B.A.D. (led by Sasha Banks), and PCB (led by Paige).
This is honestly the first time I’ve been truly excited about a Divas division match in years. Actually, I think it has the potential to be the second or third best match of the night.
Prediction: PCB takes the victory here. They’ve got the most talented squad and Charlotte, Ric Flair’s daughter (WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!) is way over. This is only the beginning for the Divas.
Check back in tomorrow to see my preview and predictions for the five other Summerslam matches!