WWE returns to the New York area this Sunday for its annual SummerSlam spectacular, the second biggest show of the year after WrestleMania. With 10 matches scheduled for the four-hour show, you can be sure that there will be plenty of action and surprises to keep you entertained.
There will also be a match where a WWE superstar takes on a DC Comics superhero, and beloved talk show host/comedian Jon Stewart will be hosting. So even if you don't normally dig wrestling, there just might be something for you to like here.
If you've been out of the wrestling loop and wondering what the buzz is about, or if you're still deciding whether it's worth the $9.99 to tune in on the WWE Network, then read on to find out what awaits.
If you ask any random person to name one WWE performer, there's a pretty good chance they'll mention The Undertaker. Having debuted in November 1990, he's stayed relevant with audiences by introducing new aspects to his character, achieving a longevity rarely found in the business. Beyond that he has also held one of the greatest accomplishments in wrestling history — The Streak. For 21 years, The Undertaker remained undefeated in all of his WrestleMania matches. This included fights against legends such as Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels and Jake "The Snake" Roberts. To put it plainly, The Streak was kind of a big deal.
That is, until Brock Lesnar entered the picture.
the Streak was a big deal ... until Brock Lesnar entered the picture
In the 13 years since "The Beast Incarnate" debuted, Undertaker has never defeated Lesnar in singles competition. When Undertaker challenged him to a match at WrestleMania 30, many assumed the end result would favor The Streak, no matter the accomplishments of his opponent that night. You could call it a case of hubris, but at the end of the night, Brock Lesnar ended the Undertaker's unparalleled winning streak.
The tally was suddenly 21-1, and Lesnar's advocate, Paul Heyman, hasn't let anyone forget it in the 16 months since the two competitors last faced off officially in a WWE ring. At last month's Battleground event, Lesnar faced off against Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and had the match in hand, until suddenly the lights in the arena went out. When they came back on, Brock stared in disbelief as "The Dead Man" stood across the ring from him. The Undertaker kicked Lesnar in the crotch, The Beast Incarnate fell to his knees, and the crowd went wild. The low blow telegraphed a message: This is, make no mistake about it, personal, a vendetta, a score that needs to be settled.
It picked up again the next day on Monday Night Raw when Lesnar confronted Undertaker, resulting in a pull-apart brawl between the two. The sense that these two couldn't be in the same building without going after each other added to the "big fight" feel the WWE is going for at SummerSlam this year. Both men are incensed, out to win in a decisive fashion, albeit for different reasons. The Undertaker wants redemption for his loss at WrestleMania 30 and retribution for the goading attitude of his opponent's boastful advocate. Lesnar wants revenge for The Undertaker costing him his championship opportunity at Battleground. And probably for that low blow.
Whatever happens on Sunday night, you can be certain we haven't seen the end of this conflict. There's an outside chance that Kane — or even Sting — could interfere in this match to stretch the story out until next year's WrestleMania 32. With only three days to go until we find out for sure, my money is on Taker picking up the win using any means necessary.
Seth Rollins is a jerk, a weasel and the most undeserving WWE World Heavyweight Champion in recent memory. He cheats often and relies on lackeys to get the job done. After betraying his old group, The Shield, in 2013 and winning the Money in the Bank ladder match later that year, Rollins has been generally insufferable, always reminding viewers and opponents alike that he's the future of WWE.
When he's on your television set, you want to see him get his comeuppance up so bad. For me, that's part of what makes him such a compelling character to watch. He thrives on your hate and somehow makes everything more exciting for it.
On the other side we have John Cena, a man who is a hero for millions of wrestling fans across the world. His mantra, "Never Give Up," is emphasized by his willingness to take on all challengers, no matter the odds. As United States champion, he's done exactly that, facing anyone who's interested in an ongoing series of open challenges every week on Raw.
He's emerged victorious every time. The champ is indeed, here.
Raising the stakes from previous encounters between these two, the SummerSlam match is a "title for title" bout, meaning that the winner will become both WWE United States champion and the World Heavyweight champion. In terms of what to expect here, John Cena doesn't have terrible matches very often, and he always performs better when faced with a stellar opponent. Seth Rollins matches that bill and then some, so you can expect a mixture of power moves, aerial assaults and a whole lot of action from these two on Sunday night.
the winner will become both WWE United States champion and the World Heavyweight champion
I don't expect this match to have a definitive finish; expect shenanigans by way of outside interference from Kane or this year's Money in the Bank contract holder, Sheamus. On the outside chance that he gets involved physically, Rollins' former chat show rival Jon Stewart might tip the balance. As the host of SummerSlam, he certainly has the right to make changes to the card, adding stipulations where previously none existed.
The question is: Will Seth Rollins manage to retain his title in an underhanded manner, or will John Cena power his way to his 16th world championship?
It's fair to say that WWE's Divas division has long been neglected by the writers and management of the company. There have been annual Diva Search contests, which seemed to focus more on visual appearance than than strong, powerful women who could perform at the top level of the industry. While many of those contest winners have gone on to learn the craft and hold the top prize of the division, the WWE Divas Championship, the writing staff often gives them the bare minimum of exposure on national television.
When the WWE opened a Performance Center at Full Sail University in July of 2013, the company promised that the next generation of stars would have every chance to make it to the top with state-of-the-art facilities and training. The result of this promise was the newest and most exciting brand of WWE, NXT — A smaller, no-frills promotion with an accompanying weekly show giving rising stars a place to develop their skills. NXT saw the debut of some of the most incredible women ever to step into the ring, such as Paige, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Bayley and Becky Lynch.
This new generation of women wrestlers does not fit in with the WWE Divas of the kind we'd seen in the past few years. They are strong, talented and openly challenging the perception of what it takes to be a wrestler in the modern era. At a time when Divas were often given fives minutes on Raw, NXT women were given 15-20 minutes to tell a story between the ropes. And fans loved it, with all of the above performers getting the kind of engaged reactions that women's matches have rarely seen in the WWE.
Since then, much of NXT's talent has appeared on Monday Night Raw, opposite the current Divas Champion Nikki Bella and the rest of the Divas division. The Divas revolution, as WWE has pitched it, has arrived.
This Sunday will see Paige, Charlotte and Becky Lynch take on the team of Nikki, Brie and Alicia Fox, and the team of Sasha Banks, Naomi and Tamina. It's a three-team elimination match, meaning that the first pinfall or submission will only knock out one of the teams, leaving the other two to duke it out. It's time for the women of NXT and the Divas of WWE to stand up and show everyone why they're worth your attention.
This match is weird. It's strange to explain, but please bear with me while I explain how chief antagonist, Stardust — the self-professed Prince of Dark Matter — feels about one of his opponents, Stephen Amell, who is … not a professional wrestler.
When I say Stephen Amell, I'm really talking about the character he portrays on television: DC Comics superhero Green Arrow. In the bizarre world of WWE, Stardust is unable to grasp that Amell is an actor simply playing a role on television. Instead, Stardust believes that Amell is actually the cover identity of Green Arrow. Stardust is so detached from the "reality" of WWE — never mind the real world — that he won't even acknowledge his own identity under the face paint as wrestler Cody Rhodes.
This saga of superheroes and super villains began on Memorial Day when Stardust hissed in Amell's face as the actor — as a spectator and fan — sat at ringside during Monday Night Raw. It didn't help matters when, weeks later, Amell made a "WWE style promo" at this year's San Diego Comic-Con as Green Arrow, an act that furthered The Prince of Dark Matter's paranoid, delusional suspicions. You can watch that great promo for yourself in the video above.
"My name is Oliver Queen, but you knew that.
Throughout the rest of July and August, the allure of this rivalry spread further into Hollywood, with Star Trek legend William Shatner and former Superman actor Brandon Routh getting involved with the feud on social media. Between them, Stardust and Amell had started an intergalactic war, one that escalated in another confrontation on Aug. 10's episode of Monday Night Raw. After being pushed by Stardust, Amell leveled his upcoming SummerSlam opponent with a spear and some stiff right hands. Watch it for yourself below.
While WWE Chief Operating Officer Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon were quick to admonish Amell for his reckless behavior — fans aren't allowed into the ring, you know — the actor suggested that he and the Cosmic One could face off officially at SummerSlam. Happy with the concession, Triple H announced that it would be Stephen Amell and the high-flying Neville — a recent NXT graduate — taking on Stardust and another insufferable bad guy, King Barrett, at the Brooklyn Center this weekend.
Amell has also teased that he'll be appearing in his Arrow costume at the event, and goodness only knows what Stardust will come dressed as. But since DC Comics seemingly has given this whole enterprise its full endorsement, you can probably expect a lot of spectacle. The whole situation surrounding these two is utterly bizarre. There's really no disputing that. And yet it's kind of perfect for WWE and fans of Arrow alike.
Last week, WWE announced that the former host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart, would return to television for his first post-Daily Show gig after ending his 16-year run on the show on Aug. 6. While many were surprised about Stewart's involvement with the world of professional wrestling, it's not the first time the star has made an impact on the landscape of WWE.
In early March this year, Stewart arrived on Monday Night Raw to confront Seth Rollins, the closest thing he has to a physical rival in the entertainment business, after Rollins had showed up to taunt him on The Daily Show. Stewart went back and forth with Rollins about how he doesn't have any respect.
In response, Rollins and his goons, acting as the poster boys for The Authority — the group of scripted villains who run the WWE — threatened Stewart. A distraction gave Stewart the chance to deliver a low blow to Rollins and escape the ring. Surely that embarrassment is something that the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion won't have forgotten. And, given Stewart's position as the host of SummerSlam this year, it's a safe assumption that they'll cross paths once more.
As always with Jon Stewart, he's a wonderful orator, and he's bound to be entertaining. If you're a fan of his work, there'll be something of value for you in these segments.
Ryback burst onto the scene in April 2012, quickly building up a reputation as one of the strongest performers in the company. With the ability to hoist three men onto his shoulders at one time, it wasn’t long before "The Big Guy" had his first crack at the WWE Championship. He failed in these initial efforts to capture the gold, but he finally landed singles success this year when he defeated five other competitors in an Elimination Chamber match to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
Now Ryback is the target of two former Intercontinental champions in the form of The Miz and The Big Show. The Miz fills the role of the cocky heel, cowardly until an opportunity to take advantage arises. And The Big Show? Well he’s just a bully, and if Ryback hates one thing, it's bullies. This isn’t going to be a technical masterpiece, but it’s sure going to be an entertaining distraction where you can take a breather before the next tentpole match on the card.
Dolph Ziggler has been in a weird position for the past year. A perennial fan-favorite who's always on the cusp of making it to the main event, Ziggler is instead often used as as enhancement talent to help other performers get to the next level. He might get opportunities to star in WWE-produced films and hold secondary titles, but he's rarely, if ever, had the chance to be the man at the top of the mountain.
That hasn't stopped him from being extremely passionate about his craft, and every time he steps into the ring, you can be guaranteed he'll make the beatdown he takes look very convincing. It's somewhat sad, then, that even as the good guy in this scenario, he's been given story beats that you'd expect from a villain.
I'm talking about his relationship with Lana, the former valet and girlfriend of the Bulgarian Brute, Rusev. After WrestleMania in which Rusev suffered his first loss in the WWE, Rusev subjected Lana to an abnormal amount of abusive behavior, even by WWE standards. After being humiliated one time too many, Lana decided to walk out on Rusev, eventually ending her on-screen relationship with him.
She was on the rebound, and Ziggler had no problem just cruising along and taking advantage of that, yet he’s meant to be someone the crowd roots for. It's hard to feel sorry for Rusev given the circumstances surrounding the breakup, but I'm not particularly compelled to cheer for Ziggler either. Or I wasn't — not until Rusev started stalking Lana, taking creep shots from around corners and staring uncomfortably at her from a distance. At that point it stopped being drama and became just plain creepy.
Since the split, Rusev has gone on to find a new companion in Summer Rae, and together they've done their darnedest to make Lana and Ziggler's lives more difficult. Sneak attacks? Of course there were sneak attacks, including one that led to Ziggler being "out with an injury" (read: filming a movie) for several weeks. Throwing dead fish at Lana? Check! Naming a gift puppy "Dog Ziggler"? Well, that's just cute to be honest, but the point remains: This feud is based on a jealous Rusev torturing his ex-partner, and Lana has had absolutely no agency of her own to stand against him without having Dolph at her side.
From that point of view, it's hard to get invested in this story, but you can be sure that even though the details are sketchy, the performers will do their best to entertain. I haven't seen Ziggler and Rusev have a bad physical exchange yet, and maybe Lana will bust out a move or two herself to put an end to this unfortunate, sorry affair.
One of the three tag team matches on the card will see the Prime Time Players defend their WWE Tag Team Championship against three other teams in what’s expected to be a brief, yet exciting showcase of both the high-flying and power styles of all teams involved. If you’re unfamiliar with any of these teams then I recommend you keep an eye on The New Day, specifically Xavier Woods.
Without taking away from the other participants, The New Day are in a league of their own as performers. Covering all bases from high-flying (Kofi Kingston), raw power moves (Big E) and ring psychology (Xavier Woods), the team started out as a group of friends who used the power of positivity to try and move up in the company. The way they were presented was super-lame, and the crowd turned on them, even though they were supposed to be the good guys.
Since then, The New Day has embraced the hate, becoming a trio that doesn’t recognize that they are actually the villains. You’ll likely see them reclaim the championship this Sunday in order to push their feud with the Prime Time Players further along. It’s a little disappointing to note that the other two teams involved in this match are simply there to fill space, as they’ve had little to no character development or prime television time before the last pay-per-view.
When teams are added to just be there, the end result really just writes itself.
Do you remember when 15-time World Champion John Cena was defeated by a wrestler making his debut on the main roster? If you were watching Elimination Chamber this past May, it's unlikely you forgot this incredible moment. Kevin Owens, in his first match for WWE proper, beat the top guy in the company without resorting to cheating.
That never happens, and that’s a positive sign of things to come for the 31 year-old former NXT Champion.
Owens' latest feud with Cesaro started when the "Swiss Superman" was facing Cena in a United States Championship open-challenge in June. Rather than let Cesaro win the championship, Owens interfered to cause a disqualification. His bravado in attempting to ensure that he's the one who takes Cena's United States Championship aside, Owens should be wary of Cesaro, a man who is arguably the strongest pound-for-pound athlete in the organisation today.
Owens isn’t a stranger to taking shortcuts, so you can expect this to get nasty real quick, even if it means he ends up on the losing end of this contest by way of disqualification. He’s just that type of guy.
Okay, there’s only two of the three established members of the Wyatt Family here, as Erick Rowan is sadly out with an injury until the fall. But don’t let that take away from the fact that two very creepy dudes are out to cause trouble for former Shield members Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. Bray Wyatt feels that Roman Reigns took his rightful place in the annual Money in the Bank ladder match. As for Dean Ambrose, it’s hard to place where exactly he fits into this feud, other than being there for a fight alongside his best friend.
It’s going to be a brawl, make no mistake, but the whole feud feels like it’s missing something. Maybe it will lead somewhere unexpected, such as Ambrose turning on his long-time buddy. I wouldn't be shocked to see some kind of miscommunication resulting in the heels winning, which could lead to a mini-feud between best friends Dean and Roman in the weeks ahead. It’s just wrestling 101, folks.
What can you really say about a match between two men who have faced off more times in their respective careers than seems possible? Well there’s the fact that Sheamus holds the Money in the Bank contract this year which entitles him to a WWE World Heavyweight Championship opportunity any time, any place. Or there’s the fact that Randy Orton, who played the heel in the previous encounters, is now a fan-favorite once again.
This is sure to be another physical, demanding match between the two, but as Sheamus has been on the losing end of matches recently, it’s possible that he’ll finally pick up a win on Sunday. For one thing, a rule-abiding Randy Orton isn’t an effective Randy Orton, and Sheamus will exploit that as best he can. He also has the Money in the Bank briefcase which doubles as a weapon. Coincidentally, that briefcase means that this match may not be the only time we see the Irishman at SummerSlam. Without a doubt he’ll be watching the main event between Cena and Rollins, waiting to pounce with his briefcase once again if the opportunity arises.
The four-hour SummerSlam extravaganza hosted by Jon Stewart takes place this Sunday, Aug. 23. A one-hour pre-show begins at 6 p.m. ET while the main show starts at 7 p.m. ET. It will be available on various pay-per-view services, as well as on the WWE Network streaming service.