Last night’s NXT Takeover: Brooklyn 4 event may not have been as solid top to bottom as this year’s prior NXT events, but once again the “developmental brand” set a high bar to challenge for tonight’s 30th Anniversary Summer Slam. 2 of the 4 NXT title matches changed hands last night, and as Summer Slam can serve as an opportunity for WWE to make short term tweaks to the title scene or even test out possible storylines ahead of the Road to Wrestlemania, I expect some big moments in this evening’s show.
Predicted winners in bold and defending champions noted with (c).
Andrade “Cien” Almas & Zelina Vega vs Rusev & Lana – I can’t see Almas and Vega taking the loss here simply because they both have so much damn upside. It’s hard to believe at this point that Rusev was in a title match just last month, but here he is on the pre-show. I guess that’s better than being at catering with Naomi and Asuka.
Cedric Alexander (c) vs Drew Gulak (WWE Cruiserweight Championship) – It seems like 205 Live, while still solid and very much worth watching, has again lost some of its steam. Alexander is spectacular, but smiling babyface champs can be boring and at least a heel champion like Gulak can have a JBL/Cena “you’re too young to beat me” type feud with Lio Rush. Truthfully, my feelings on the whole 205 Live scene can be summed up in 3 words: I miss Neville.
The B Team (c) vs The Revival (Raw Tag Team Championship) – Listen, I love The Revival. Their matches in NXT with DIY and American Alpha were incredible examples of how great tag team wrestling can be when it’s executed by guys committed to performing as a team. But they’re short. Like noticeably shorter than all of their opponents. While that may have been ok for Arn and Tully in Crockett, that’s not what Vince likes. The B Team aren’t big guys either, but what they are is a comedy act and we know that Vinny Mac loves the ha-ha’s as much as he loves chocolate ti…well, you know. The B Team won’t be champs for much longer, but they won’t lose here.
Finn Bàlor vs Constable Baron Corbin – This story has gone on too long and has gone nowhere in the process. It’s clear that Vince and creative feel like Bàlor is missing something now, despite feeling decidedly the opposite way about him 2 years ago when he was made the first Universal Champion. Likewise, Corbin has muddled around the midcard since failing on his MitB cash in a year ago. Thankfully, Corbin saw the writing on the wall (not to mention the hair in the sink sadly) and ditched what was quickly becoming a “skullet” for a much better look. Too bad it came with a Corporate Kane starter kit. Oh yeah: there’s a match here. Bàlor wins, but it wouldn’t shock me if the WWE Creative Match Generator 2000 continues to glitch and we inexplicably get another turn on the booking merry-go-round.
Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs The New Day (SD Live Tag Team Championship) – There have been some very positive things to come out of the former Wyatt Family’s repackaging as the Bludgeon Brothers. For starters, I like the Bludgeon’s outfits just fine. I’m also glad Luke Harper got to change his clothes and they gave him a clip to hide his thinning hair. I’m happy that Erick Rowan no longer has to dress in a janitor’s jumpsuit for work. However, the hammers are bad cosplay though and every time Corey Graves has to try and sell us on the idea that the hammers are actually heavy, I hear him die a little inside. For Corey’s sake: ditch the hammers. For our sake: put the titles back on The New Day.
Braun Strowman (MitB) vs Kevin Owens (Strowman’s Money in the Bank contract) – Kevin Owens has no momentum going into this match. He’s spent the better part of the summer running from the Monster Among Men, playing the chickenshit heel perfectly and getting beat down by Big Braun at every turn. For these reasons I was thisclose to picking Owens. Only in the strange world of WWE booking would this make sense, but I’m still not convinced that Owens won’t win the MitB away from Strowman. WWE has had several opportunities to give Braun a run with the title, but hasn’t yet pulled the trigger. With Lesnar’s time as the WWE’s unbeatable monster coming to a close, this seems like a “if not now?” moment, and a Braun cash-in seems to be the easiest way to test those waters, but more on all that later…
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs Jeff Hardy (United States Championship) –Sadly, reading this will probably take longer than their last title match and there hasn’t been much physicality between the two in the aftermath. Since then, creative has done little to set up an actual Nakamura/Hardy rivalry, instead focusing on pushing things toward Hardy/Orton. Maybe Orton interferes and costs Nakamura the title, adding a championship aspect to the Hardy/Orton angle, but I think in light of recent allegations, Orton should refrain from giving a hand to anyone. Nakamura retains because there’s no good reason to put the title on Jeff Hardy here and Nakamura as a heel is gold.
Dolph Ziggler (c) vs Seth Rollins (Intercontinental Championship) – Rollins brought Ambrose back on Monday Night Raw to even the odds against Ziggler and Drew McIntyre. Ziggler has been really good with McIntyre as his running mate, but they need to have a run with the tag titles to really solidify the latter-day Shawn and Diesel vibe and that can’t begin until Dolph loses the IC title. Besides, the newly jacked Dean Ambrose can’t complete his Super Saiyan transformation until he helps Rollins become champion, only to immediately turn on him by beating the crap out of his old Shield mate.
The Miz vs Daniel Bryan – Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this. On one hand, it appears that WWE is actually going to pay off a storyline that has been building for nearly a decade, something they rarely do. On the other, it’s been rushed in such a way that makes me wonder if Daniel Bryan is really not actually on his way to being All Out. Still, I can’t imagine that WWE would set up Bryan’s exit by giving fans the match they’ve been clamoring for. I always thought Miz and Bryan deserved a bigger stage (WRESTLEMANIA!) with some real stakes (WWE CHAMPIONSHIP!) and perhaps this is the beginning of the road and not the end. We can’t get there with Bryan winning this one, so I’m picking the Miz and hoping for the best.
Carmella (c) vs Charlotte Flair vs Becky Lynch (SD Live Women’s Championship) – I’ll go on record as saying that no one in WWE, man or woman, “gets” who exactly their character is more than Carmella. She knows that character needs to be loud, obnoxious, and generally unbearable to be successful and she absolutely NAILS it. She is the company’s most hatable heel; she’s the female Miz. It seemed like the Women’s division ultimate white-meat babyface, Becky Lynch, was going to get her chance to shine by beating her for the championship, but then WWE made a very WWE decision and added the returning Charlotte to the match. Now I can’t help but feel like it’s a near lock that Charlotte walks out champion and that makes me sad because Becky isn’t a heel (they tried that in NXT and it just didn’t work IMO) and that’s how I see this going. Becky needs the title for a stretch, not to end up in catering learning Japanese puns from Asuka.
Alexa Bliss (c) vs Ronda Rousey (Raw Women’s Championship) – Ronda was ringside at NXT for fellow Horsewomen and NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler’s somewhat surprising loss to Kairi Sane, which appears to free up Baszler to support Rousey. WWE also confirmed a match featuring Alexa Bliss and Trish Stratus for the inaugural Evolution PPV in October. Though it wouldn’t shock me if WWE found another way to keep the title on Bliss to pay it off with Rousey at Hell in a Cell in September, the amount of buzz a Rousey win would make in the mainstream media is too hard to ignore and they won’t.
AJ Styles (c) vs Samoa Joe (WWE World Heavyweight Championship) – I can’t help but assume this is the match that WWE wishes they would have gotten to book 10 years ago, when both had a bit more tread on their tires. That’s not to say both aren’t still great, because both men remain among the top 8 talents on the roster, but the end of the road is closer for both than the beginning and Joe has had some injuries that may have delayed his ascent in WWE. For me, this is another of those “if not now, when?” moments in regard to Samoa Joe’s championship opportunities in WWE. AJ Styles has proven to be an effective babyface champ and re-lighting the fire by having him chase an old nemesis in order to regain his lost championship would be a great way to stoke the AJ Styles fire further over the course of the fall season. It’s Joe’s time and I think he becomes king of SD Live’s mountain.
Brock Lesnar (c) vs Roman Reigns (WWE Universal Championship) – I can’t see Vince paying Brock Lesnar to take the Universal Championship to UFC, so this has to be Reigns. And then it immediately has to be Strowman with the cash-in. I’m not going to bash Roman beyond I think his gear is lame and his character is stale to me, and I don’t even think either of those things are Roman’s choice. I also am unsure if Strowman is necessarily fully-baked enough as a character to carry the company. What I am sure of is that adding a desperate edge to Roman by having him finally achieve victory over one monster only to lose to another is perhaps the best (and maybe only) way forward as a babyface (or at least non-heel) for Reigns in order to get Roman to become the universally cheered superstar WWE wants him to be. Reigns history with Strowman is far from decided (Roman did try to murder Braun afterall) and there is plenty of good meat on the bone to chew for both. Both men continuing to build their legacies together benefits the company and the performers best (see also: Bret/Shawn and Austin/Rock) and would be a great story to tell this fall/winter on the Road to Wrestlemania, so I’ll pick Reigns over Lesnar, but the show closes with a post cash-in Braun holding the Universal Championship high above a fallen Roman.
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