By Jason Powell
Prowrestling.net Live returns on today at 2CT/3ET with John Moore and I taking your calls on WWE SummerSlam Sunday. Prowrestling.net Live will be back on Monday at 3CT/4ET Will Pruett and I taking your calls. Listen live at PWAudio.net.
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Advantage Raw. The build to the top SummerSlam matches on the Monday night show was terrific. The four-way build was very well done, and the delayed gratification of the Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins reunion made for some of WWE’s best television of the year. Smackdown was more miss than hit (how does John Cena not deliver a fiery promo selling viewers on the overall show?). SummerSlam is big, bloated, and needlessly long, yet it’s also one big pro wrestling show, not a corporate event filled with musical performances and oddball celebrity appearances like a certain show in April tends to be.
Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns in a four-way for the WWE Universal Championship: The match didn’t really need a hook beyond it being the four biggest badasses on the Raw brand meeting in the same match. However, WWE upped the ante by having Paul Heyman proclaim that he and Lesnar are leaving if Lesnar doesn’t end the night as WWE Universal Champion. It feels like a tell. Sure, Lesnar is expected to return to UFC for the Jon Jones fight, but he’s not even back in the USADA testing pool as of the last update. Thus, my guess is that Lesnar keeps the title and does appear on Raw just as the Barclays Center temporarily teased on their social media accounts before pulling back. If Lesnar doesn’t win, then Joe is the guy who should walk away as champion. Strowman is going to be a champion at some point, but it feels like something they would be wise to build to. For that matter, I remain curious to see if they limit how much he and Lesnar are paired during this match. I’d give fans a taste without going overboard with the goal of saving that showdown match for WrestleMania. Reigns doesn’t need the championship at this point unless they opt to go with the big shakeup by having Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins help him win the title to set up a heel version of The Shied faction, which would be the hottest thing that WWE could do. However, seeing is believing given Vince McMahon’s stubborn belief that Reigns is a new age babyface. No matter who comes out on top, this is a loaded four-way. I typically prefer singles matches in big show main events, but this is a rare exception in that this feels about as big as any match that WWE has to offer right now without giving away a WrestleMania main event.
Brock Lesnar retains the WWE Universal Championship.
Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship: The Mahal experiment needs to be adjusted at the very least. WWE should be embarrassed to have their fans booing a heel who claims they are doing so merely because of the color of his ethnicity. It’s baffling that the broadcast team members never defend the fans. For that matter, why hasn’t Shinsuke Nakamura pointed out the absurdity of that statement given his status as a popular foreign babyface? Why can’t Mahal just be a rich snob heel who happens to be Indian? There’s a lot of buzz about Nakamura winning the title on this show. Perhaps that will be the case, but I’ll stick with my original pick of Mahal holding the championship with the WWE tour of India approaching.
Jinder Mahal retains the WWE Championship.
John Cena vs. Baron Corbin: The word is that Corbin is in the doghouse and that’s why he dropped the Money in the Bank contract in embarrassing fashion on the Smackdown go-home show. With Cena advertised for Raw starting Monday, this will likely be a one and done feud barring some type of shakeup that leads to Corbin following him to the Raw brand. Either way, I suspect the Attitude Adjustment finish has a special meaning this time around.
John Cena wins.
Naomi vs. Natalya for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: The build has been all about Carmella possibly cashing in the Money in the Bank contract. My buddy Dave asked a good question – is there anything stopping Carmella from cashing in for the Raw Women’s Championship? I’m not sure if WWE ever bothered to clarify, but my guess is that Carmella sticks to the Smackdown Women’s Championship. I’m going with the champion to retain during the actual match and the Carmella tease being just that.
Naomi retains the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens for the U.S. Championship with Shane McMahon as special referee: As rough as the build to the Smackdown matches has been, they got it right with this match. The initial announcement of Shane as special referee did nothing for me, but they did a really nice job over the next two weeks of making his role feel more intriguing. I continue to assume that they are building to Owens vs. Shane, so I’m going with the champion retaining while Owens blames Shane for his loss or at least takes it out on him.
A.J. Styles retains the U.S. Championship.
Randy Orton vs. Rusev: The Randy Orton Hates Foreigners Tour continues with the “he doesn’t have anyone to work with, neither does he, so let’s put them together” match of the night. Orton feuds tend to drag on longer than a WWE Kickoff Show, so this is likely the first of several pay-per-view matches between them. Thus, I’ll go with Rusev to win somehow to set up the need for future matches. Will Orton turn heel at some point and go after Nakamura to continue his run against foreigners? Is he slowly morphing into the militia leader character he played on Shooter?
Big Cass vs. Big Show with Enzo Amore in a shark cage: Cass, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson broke the hand of Show in an injury angle on Monday. One has to assume that this was done to give Show an out for losing the match. I still have no idea what Enzo is doing in the shark cage. Perhaps we will understand their motivation coming out of the match, but it’s so strange to have the babyface in the cage.
Big Cass wins.
Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt: I applaud Raw creative for coming up with a reason for Balor to bring out his Demon persona. The bloodbath wasn’t perfect and ideally they would be at the blowoff stage of this feud so that the Demon’s arrival felt more natural, but at least there was some effort made. It’s hard to imagine Balor losing the match while appearing as the Demon.
Finn Balor wins.
Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks for the Raw Women’s Championship: This feels bigger than the originally advertised Bliss vs. Bayley match. Sasha has momentum coming into the show and while she may not have been the original pick to come out of SummerSlam as champion, this feels like a good spot for a title change. Granted, it’s just the first match of their feud so it’s possible they drag this out by having Bliss escape with help from Nia Jax or simply retaining via count-out or disqualification, but I’d go with a feel good finish.
Sasha Banks wins the Raw Women’s Championship.
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose for the Raw Tag Titles: This match falls behind only the four-way in terms of what I’m looking forward to most on the show. The storytelling with Rollins and Ambrose reuniting was top notch, and the Raw Tag Champions benefitted in the process (though it’s probably time to give up on The Bar team name that no one seems to be taking to). It’s also great that I don’t have a strong feeling in terms of the outcome of the match. A case can be made for the champs retaining and making Rollins and Ambrose chase, while another could be made for striking while the iron is hot with Rollins and Ambrose. Flip a coin. Heads.
Sheamus and Cesaro retain the Raw Tag Titles.
Akira Tozawa vs. Neville for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship (Kickoff Show): Two talented wrestlers who are bogged down by the atrocious booking of the cruiserweight division, including the bizarre decision to make Tozawa look like an undercard act by pairing him with Titus O’Neil. For Neville’s sake, here’s hoping he loses the match and then moves into a chase for a secondary championship on one of the main brands. Neville feuding with Styles over the U.S. Championship would be terrific, but I’m not holding my breath since that would leave the cruiserweights without a strong heel.
Akira Tozawa retains the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
New Day vs. The Usos for the Smackdown Tag Titles (Kickoff Show): The feud took a step back on the go-home show. After a couple weeks of intense brawling, New Day was back to doing New Day comedy. Fortunately, these teams work well together and this should be a good pre-show match. New Day just won the tag titles, so I’ll go with them retaining.
New Day retain the Smackdown Tag Team Championship.
Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, and Jason Jordan vs. The Miz, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel (Kickoff Show): A simple feel good Kickoff Show win for the babyface trio. If creative gets cute, the heels will go over and the babyfaces will get the win back on Raw, but my guess is they keep it simple.
Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, and Jason Jordan win.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Mike McMahon of PWTorch.com discussing his background and podcast work, plus a long chat regarding Impact Wrestling coming out of Slammiversary, including a breakdown of the notable additions to the roster, and more...