With a four hour running time, celebrity host Jon Stewart in attendance, a match involving superhero actor Stephen Amell and rare appearances from Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker, Summerslam 2015 has enjoyed one of the biggest build ups that the annual event has had in recent memory. It seems as though WWE has decided to go all in, promoting the show as on par with Wrestlemania.
Happily, the card has come together pretty nicely and there are plenty of matches that should deliver fun, entertaining spectacles. Or in lieu of match quality (seriously, how old is Taker now), there is definite intrigue as to how the outcome of the matches will shape Wrestlemania in eight months time which needs to find star attractions popular enough to fill out a 100,000 seater stadium.
Not only that, WWE’s much lauded developmental show NXT also has a sold out PPV the night before in Brooklyn. NXT has turned heads in the last eighteen months with its consistent output of quality matches and the arrival of an exciting new generation of talent. Typically, the wrestlers on NXT perform in front of a crowd of a few hundred on their weekly show at Full Sail University. Tonight in Brooklyn, they’ll be in front of 13,000 fans.
Here’s my predictions and thoughts for both shows. Its going to be a huge weekend of wrestling with this double bill of Summerslam and NXT: Takeover!
Finn Balor (c) vs Kevin Owens
NXT Championship, Ladder Match
A rematch for the championship belt between two of NXT’s biggest stars. Balor won his maiden WWE title by defeating Owens at the Beast From The East show in Tokyo, Japan a month ago. The show was like a homecoming of sorts for Balor who first made his name working in New Japan Pro Wrestling under the moniker Prince Devitt. Balor seems bound for stardom in the WWE with his unique look, crisp ringwork and likeable persona. He endeared himself to me no end during his Beast From the East hype video package which showed him building Lego to unwind before a big match.
After a trailblazing start to the year for Kevin Owens where he held the NXT Championship, won a bitter feud against his old rival Sami Zayn and enjoyed a debut PPV victory over John Cena on the main roster, the last couple of months have been a major set back for the Canadian veteran. Owens has lost his belt, been defeated decisively by Cena and he has lost the unstoppable aura that he enjoyed having. This match will be a big opportunity for him to halt his faltering fortunes.
On paper this should be the match of the night. Both guys have great in-ring chemistry and although this is Balor’s first ever ladder match (incredible considering how long he has wrestled), Owens is an old hand and I remember enjoying his brutal ‘Ladder Wars’ that he had with El Generico and the Briscoe Brothers in Ring of Honor.
This should be an outstanding match and I expect Finn Balor to retain. But only just.
Who Should Win: Finn Balor
Who Will Win: Finn Balor
Sasha Banks (c) vs Bayley
NXT Women’s Championship
I am absolutely torn on this one. Without doubt Sasha Banks is the breakout star of an incredibly talented women’s division on NXT and she has done the best job of raising the profile of the belt that she holds. That said, a loss here would almost certainly mean that her call up to the main roster is complete and this will possibly be the last that we see of her in NXT. In NXT, Banks had plenty of screen time, had the luxury of working fifteen minute matches and was one of the headline acts of the show. A full time move to Raw almost certainly means less screen time and uncertainty over how she will be booked.
On the other hand the irrepressible Bayley is one of my favourite wrestlers in NXT currently and this match looks to be the culmination of a year long storyline in which Bayley has continuously performed strongly but come up short when she has a chance to win the big one. After a brief feud with Emma where she was berated for being ‘too nice’, Bayley has uncovered a new-found confidence that has seen her pick up wins over Emma, Charlotte and Becky Lynch in recent weeks. Now she has one more hurdle to overcome to claim the title.
I am completely invested in seeing Bayley finally getting a championship victory but I understand it will likely come at the cost of ending Sasha’s run in NXT which bums me out to no end. I hope these two women absolutely tear the house down on Saturday night.
Who Should Win: Bayley
Who Will Win: Bayley
Jushin “Thunder” Lyger vs Tyler Breeze
The long awaited WWE debut for Japanese wrestling legend Jushin “Thunder” Lyger!
Lyger is appearing in this special exhibition match with Tyler Breeze after Prince Pretty boasted of dispatching another Japanese wrestler Hideo Itami and not having any worthy competitors for this show. Breeze has come a long way during his time in NXT and I thoroughly enjoy his modern day adaptation of “The Model” Rick Martel character. The alpaca fur coat, the selfie stick and the Zoolander quality ‘blue steel’ facial expressions…its all gold.
I must admit, I haven’t seen a Lyger match in years and I have absolutely no idea if he can still go. It’s crazy to think I was watching him wrestle the likes of Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit in NJPW in the early Nineties and he’s still going today. Crazier still, the commentators have been billing Lyger as a ‘high flyer’.
I believe out of courtesy, Lyger should go over here. But I expect Breeze to put in a good showing.
Who Should Win: Tyler Breeze
Who Will Win: Jushin Thunder Lyger
Samoa Joe vs Baron Corbin
I still can’t believe Samoa Joe finally made it to the WWE after all these years.
This is one of the most intriguing matches of the weekend for me. Not for the match quality which I expect to be pretty limited considering the participation of Baron Corbin. This is one of those matches where we find out just how big the plans are for these two wrestlers who are both currently making weekly appearances squashing Joe Nobodies but not really getting much traction beyond that. Corbin in particular has been defeating jobbers in under a minute for over a year now. Will they actually pull the trigger on him and have him make a push for the NXT Championship?
If he loses to Joe, I feel like NXT could jettison Corbin soon after and cut their losses. Unfortunately for Corbin there are plenty of more experienced, charismatic and exciting wrestlers on the roster that can fill the niche of being an unstoppable monster. Samoa Joe and Kevin Owens to name but a couple.
As for Joe, I’ve been curious as to how the company views his prospects. Ten years ago he was the hottest young talent in the industry. Nowadays, I wonder whether he has been too slow coming to WWE and his time has passed. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
Who Should Win: Samoa Joe
Who Will Win: Baron Corbin
Blake and Murphy (c) w/ Alexa Bliss vs The Vaudevillains
NXT Tag Team Championship
I’ll put my hand up and say I thought very little of Blake and Murphy when they first won the tag team titles and I presumed they were simply being placeholder champs before getting replaced by Enzo Amore and Big Cass. But the team continued to impress week in and week out and while Enzo and Cass have floundered, Blake and Murphy have begun to look like bonafide talent that are worthy of their spot.
Their stock was improved two months ago with the addition of Alexa Bliss as their manager. Bliss had a dramatic makeover in character, transforming from a babyfaced pixie into a ruthless heel who has antagonized challengers with her interference and jaw jacking. She was an integral part to the champs retaining their belts against the Vaudevillains when she distracted the challengers long enough for her team to win the match via a roll up pin.
The build up to this match suggests that the time has finally arrived for the Vaudevillains to get a run with the belts. They seemed destined to win the gold six months ago during the Tag Team Tournament where they reached the finals but they were unexpectedly defeated by the Lucha Dragons.
Today, they seem to have the measure of Blake and Murphy but have announced that they will bring someone with them to ringside to neutralize the threat of Alexa Bliss. Who will it be? One of the existing NXT women? A new wrestler on debut? We shall find out. Whoever it is, I expect the Villains to pick up the win and finally get a much deserved run with the gold.
Who Should Win: The Vaudevillains
Who Will Win: The Vaudevillains
Apollo Crews vs Tye Dillinger
Uhaa Nation, who made his name on the independent wrestling circuit makes his long awaited debut in NXT this week. He is being billed as Apollo Crews, one assumes an amalgamation of Apollo Creed and Terry Crews. I’m kind of sad he didn’t get to keep the ‘Uhaa Nation’ name if only because ‘Uhaa’ is a perfect chant for a crowd to get behind but regardless, Crews comes into the company with a weight of expectation and with so many big names getting called up to the main roster, this will be a chance for him to shine.
His first match will be against ‘Perfect Ten’ Tye Dillinger. It should be a good opportunity for Crews to showcase what he can do in front of a huge audience. Hope he doesn’t get stage fright.
Who Should Win: Apollo Crews
Who Will Win: Apollo Crews
Your host: Jon “The Jersey Brawler” Stewart
Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker
I’m not sure what we wanted for Brock Lesnar’s main event match at Summerslam but I don’t think a rematch with The Undertaker was it. The Undertaker has been a once a year attraction for the past two years and in his last two outings against Bray Wyatt and Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania he has begun to look like age has finally caught up with him. Lesnar on the other hand has been an absolute monster, laying on brutal beat downs on the likes of John Cena, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins with a barrage of suplexes that have laid out all who stood before him,
Which has everyone wondering. How is this match supposed to work? Lesnar has been working such an intense and physical style in the past two years and it seems extremely unlikely that the Undertaker would be able to keep up with his pace.
Regardless of how the match goes down, what will be equally interesting is the final outcome. As I mentioned earlier, next year’s Wrestlemania show will be held at the home of the Dallas Cowboys in a stadium with a 100,000+ capacity. Both of these wrestlers are expected to be an integral part of selling out the venue. One suspects that this will finally be The Undertaker’s retirement match. As for Lesnar, he has already feuded with the company’s biggest names – Triple H, John Cena and The Undertaker. So who’s left? The outcome of this match, and any possible interjection from a big name wrestler at its conclusion may give us an idea of whats to come in the months ahead.
Who Should Win: Brock Lesnar
Who Will Win: The Undertaker
John Cena (c) vs Seth Rollins (c)
World Heavyweight Championship, United States Title
If John Cena wins this match he will become one of the most decorated champions in the history of the industry tying Ric Flair’s record of sixteen World title wins. If anything, Flair’s record is a bit spotty because even though sixteen has become the accepted industry figure, a lot of the title runs involve untelevised wins and losses in Japan during the Eighties and early Nineties as well as a stripping of the belt on WCW Nitro and being awarded it back two weeks later. Cena’s record is a lot more clean cut.
If Cena is to break that record, he will need to defeat Seth Rollins who famously won the World Heavyweight Championship by cashing in his Money In The Bank contract at Wrestlemania this year. Rollins has since been booked like a modern day Honky Tonk Man, winning matches by the skin of his teeth and becoming ever more reliant on cheating and outside interference to retain the gold. I feel like he has more or less out-served his usefulness in his current reign.
Rollins’ luck appears to be out with this match and most people (myself included) suspect Cena picks up the win here. Cena has been the standard bearer for the company for over a decade and the evergreen Boston brawler seems to show no signs of stopping. As with the match before it, the interesting thing will be what they can find to do with Cena, a man who has beaten the entire roster several times over and with his current run holding the US title, he has already mowed down all the young, up and coming talent on Raw with his weekly Open Challenge matches. Who’s left as a credible challenger? And what’s next for Rollins after he gets bumped back into the rest of the pack?
Who Should Win: John Cena
Who Will Win: John Cena
Kevin Owens vs Cesaro
This match between two talented stars is widely tipped to be the match of the night if they are given enough time to shine. The extension of Summerslam to being a four hour show makes me hopeful that they’ll get their deserved fifteen minute match. Both of these guys are arguably stars that deserve to be positioned higher on the card than where they are but deviations from the conventional look of a WWE star (‘too fat’, ‘too Swiss’) have seemingly derailed those opportunities. Hopefully they can send a message to the kingmakers in the office by putting on a special match that wins over the crowd.
Who Should Win: Kevin Owens
Who Will Win: Cesaro
Ryback (c) vs Big Show vs The Miz
Intercontinental Championship Match
Remember when Daniel Bryan won the Intercontinental title at Wrestlemania and we all thought it was going to be the start of a long run with the belt where he has competitive, technical matches that harkened back to the days of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels? It seems so long ago now
This is probably a bit of a harsh thing to say but there are about 10-15 wrestlers in the midcard of the WWE who have been around for years that I would happily see move on because I’ve grown indifferent to them. For the next generation of wrestlers to have a chance to shine (Cesaro, Balor, Owens etc), I feel like we need to see the likes of Big Show, Kane and The Miz move on. These are guys that have been in thousands of matches.
My care factor for this match is virtually nil.
Who Should Win:
Who Will Win: Ryback
Randy Orton vs Sheamus
For some reason, Randy Orton and Sheamus, who are totally capable in their own right, seem to have a complete lack of chemistry with one another. Most famously they wrestled a match on a Raw following on from Wrestlemania where the crowd completely disengaged from what was going on and started chanting random names of wrestlers from twenty years ago. I don’t really understand why the WWE keep booking these two in matches together.
I’m guessing Orton wins here and then Sheamus goes on to cash in his Money In The Bank opportunity later in the night.
Who Should Win: Randy Orton
Who Will Win: Randy Orton
Adrian Neville and Stephen Amell vs The Cosmic Kings
This is one of the most anticipated matches involving a celebrity that I can recall. Stephen Amell, who plays the superhero Green Arrow on tv, is a legitimately athletic performer and by all accounts, he seems to be a fan of wrestling and have a decent grasp of how to put on a good show. Plus he’ll be in there with three solid wrestlers who are all very capable in their own right. The match also has the bitter sweet footnote of being dedicated to the late, great Dusty Rhodes, the father of Cody Rhodes.
This one should be a lot of fun.
Who Should Win: Neville and Stephen Amell
Who Will Win: Neville and Stephen Amell
Dolph Ziggler vs Rusev
Dolph Ziggler vs Rusev should be a fun piece of theatre. The match is a classic wrestling soap opera affair with accusations of stolen girlfriends and jealous exs being the primary motivation for this feud. Hilariously, the build up to their Summerslam match involved Rusev throwing a trout at his former love Lana.
I have absolutely no idea who will win this.
Who Should Win: Rusev
Who Will Win: Dolph Ziggler
The Shield vs The Wyatts
As if to sum up the lack of ideas that the current writing team have for these four wrestlers, they have been hastily put back together in partnerships that they broke from two years ago and placed in the exact same feud that they were in back in 2013. I guess if you can’t think of anything to do with these guys, you could certainly do worse than revisit their No Way Out match which was an absolute thriller.
One interesting wrinkle on this match is the prospect of either Dean Ambrose or Roman Reigns turning on the other and starting a run as a heel. It could be just the sort of thing to reinvigorate their stalled fortunes.
Who Should Win: The Shield
Who Will Win: The Wyatts
Team PCB vs The Bella vs Team BAD
Womens wrestling on the WWE main roster has been the drizzling shits for the past twelve months with the thoroughly unremarkable Bella Twins dominating the airtime. Meanwhile, four young women on NXT – Charlotte, Bayley, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks – were turning heads and stealing the show, putting on quality matches week in week out. A grassroots social media campaign called #GiveDivasAChance implored the company to book multiple womens wrestling matches on the show and give them more than five minutes of match time. This prompted Stephanie McMahon to propel the NXT women onto the main roster which got everyone really excited. But they were saddled into partnerships with some of the existing roster which kind of dampened that excitement. Who knows what happens next?
In short, I think fans are excited at the prospect of seeing the likes of Paige and Sasha Banks lock horns in quality matches on the main roster. But they need to be able to do it without the likes of the Bellas, Naomi and Tamina interjecting and stinking up the joint. Basically, the quicker the company can jettison the old crew and move onto the next generation, the better. Nikki Bella is currently closing in on a record breaking Divas title reign in what appears to be a move to spite retired wrestlers CM Punk and AJ Lee. It’s being done to the detriment of the entire division. The handover of the belt to someone who can actually wrestle and engage the crowd can’t come soon enough.
Who Should Win: PCB
Who Will Win: The Bellas
The Prime Time Players (c) vs The Lucha Dragons vs Los Matadores vs New Day
Tag Team Championship
There’s only one deserving team to walk out of this match as champs.
Who Should Win: New Day
Who Will Win: The Prime Time Players