Posted August 20th, 2017 by 1Wrestling News Team

By Don “The Predictor” Murphy (with “Special Guest” Commentary by James “The Psychic” Gregoretti)

Before I begin, I would like to send heartfelt “get well soon” wishes to the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, who, as many of you know is battling some serious health issues. I had the honor of meeting Ric at an autograph session in New York in August of 1991, when I was 15 years old. Time has marched on and wrestling has evolved into the phenomenon that it is today, but Ric, in my opinion, is timeless and will always be the greatest of all time. As Ric says himself – “Diamonds are Forever.” Here’s to a speedy recovery champ – we’re all pulling for you.

Thirty years ago – the year was 1988. As I said in my last article, the WWF (at the time) was focusing solely on WrestleMania as its primary event. But, with the success of that franchise growing, Vince McMahon decided to branch out and create additional events, like the Survivor Series, which launched in 1987, in order to keep WrestleMania’s momentum going throughout the year. And so, on August 29, 1988, in front of a sold-out crowd in Madison Square Garden, SummerSlam was born. I had the pleasure of being at the inaugural event and have been to several over the years. While I won’t be at the Barclay Center Sunday night, when WWE presents the 30th anniversary of SummerSlam, the show will always hold a special place in my heart and is one that I always look forward to with excitement each year. This year, I will say that WWE has done quite the job in stacking the line-up. Thirteen matches – between the main card and the preview show – will be featured across the six-hour event. The workers might have a difficult time keeping the audience engaged and energized for that length of time, but being a New Yorker and having been a part of some hot New York crowds, I think we can handle it. And, it’s not like they’re not giving us quite a show, with no less than eight championship matches featured. What’s interesting to me, as I look up and down this card, is that many of these matches are difficult to predict, but I will, of course, do my best. And, keep a lookout in my breakdown of the Jinder Mahal-Shinsuke Nakamura match for the WWE Championship, as my cousin and main man, James “The Psychic” Gregoretti, gives his thoughts on the outcome of that match. Let’s see if we agree and let’s run down this massive card!

Main Event/WWE Universal Championship Fatal Four-Way Match: Brock Lesnar defends the WWE Universal Championship against Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe

Analysis: As you may know, I’m not a fan of multi-person matches for championships. I tend to be in the camp that thinks a more compelling story can be told when it’s one-on-one. But, when I’m wrong, I will admit it. This match has been built so well over the past year that we’re seeing multiple stories being told, and being told well. First, you have Brock Lesnar, who is surrounded by rumors of returning to UFC, while starting to gain momentum again after his program with Goldberg. Then, you have Braun Strowman, who, in my opinion, has the potential to be the next big box office attraction. He’s not there yet, but slowly but surely, they’re building to something special with him. You also have Samoa Joe, who has proven experience at the top of the card in the title picture. The nice thing about Joe is that the creative team did a great job protecting him in the loss to Lesnar last month. Finally, you have Roman Reigns, who will undoubtedly be the most unpopular person in the building Sunday night, but is well-documented as the star WWE is being built around these days. Also, among the four talents, you have feuds, such as Joe-Lesnar, Lesnar-Reigns and Reigns-Strowman that have been playing out over the last couple of years. You also have the anticipation of Lesnar and Strowman facing off for the first time. So, how do you pick a winner? I keep going back and forth and for full disclosure, I may change my mind by Sunday night, but I think Paul Heyman’s promise that he and Brock will leave WWE if Brock loses the title is the signal that Brock retains. I’ve heard the argument of WWE wanting a full-time defender of the championship, but I still believe that the ultimate payoff will be a Brock-Reigns showdown at WrestleMania, on Brock’s one-year anniversary of winning the title.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Brock Lesnar retains the WWE Universal Championship

WWE Championship Match: Jinder Mahal defends the WWE Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura

Analysis: You can probably tell by now that I love a good storyline. Unfortunately, this match hasn’t done a very good job in hooking me. Jinder has been built as the classic anti-American heel, while Nakamura really hasn’t been positioned as the patriotic defender of the United States. That being said, with the spectacle that is Nakamura, complete with an awesome entrance, I think we’ll get a solid effort and an above average match. In terms of the outcome, with WWE’s upcoming tour of India, it would make sense for Jinder to hold on to the title and be champion in front of his home crowd. But, given the events of this past Tuesday night, which I will get to shortly, I think creative is going in a different direction here and is positioning Nakamura to be the new face of the Smackdown brand.

As I noted, I pulled in some help for this breakdown from James “The Psychic” Gregoretti, who added: “The Nakamura-Cena match on Smackdown literally had me shaking. I did think that Cena would have won and faced Mahal, with Cena winning the title and breaking Ric Flair’s championship record. However, Nakamura winning the number one contender’s match was not a big surprise either. He was a big star in Japan, as well as NXT, winning the NXT championship two time. It was great to watch him climb the ladder on the main roster and finally get a shot at the WWE Championship. With Baron Corbin unsuccessfully cashing in the “Money in the Bank” contract on SmackDown, my initial prediction has changed. I thought Corbin would have saved cashing in the contract for SummerSlam, but with that no longer being the case, I think we’ll see Nakamura about to win, only to be thwarted by interference from the Singh Brothers, which will continue the program.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Shinskue Nakamura wins the WWE Championship

“The Psychic” Predicts: Jinder Mahal retains the WWE Championship, with outside interference from the Singh Brothers

Singles Match: John Cena meets Baron Corbin

Analysis: Like most, I was stunned Tuesday night when Baron Corbin unsuccessfully cashed in his “Money in the Bank” contract. And I, like many, initially felt that Corbin must be in the dog house and that his push was over. Then, I took a step back and now feel that it is far from over. Let’s face it, holding the WWE Championship based on a quick “Money in the Bank” cash-in doesn’t give you credibility. Credible wins do. And, at this stage in John Cena’s career, where he’s not part of the main roster all the time, I think we’ll see another example of John working to build the future of the company by putting Corbin over in this match. And, when you think about it, it makes sense. If my previous pick works out and Nakamura wins the championship, his feud with Corbin still exists, with Corbin also boasting a victory over him. So, I think there’s a bigger play here and should that pan out, I think it will be a much better direction than Corbin holding the title based on a fluke cash-in.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Baron Corbin defeats John Cena

WWE United States Championship Match: AJ Styles defends the WWE United States Championship against Kevin Owens (Shane McMahon is the special guest referee)

Analysis: This program stalled a bit last month, with a less than stellar match at Battleground. We know that they can do much more together and I think Sunday night, we’ll get that four-star match that we know they are capable of. I, for one, don’t think you need Shane McMahon as the referee to add any sizzle to this match, but it is a nice hook nonetheless. I really liked how they reminded the audience of Shane’s past efforts as a referee, combined with his issues with both Owens and Styles. There’ll be some great action here and some anticipation around waiting for Shane to get involved one way or the other. In the end, I think they’re building to a feud between Owens and Shane down the road, so I see Shane somehow costing Owens the match and possibly getting attacked and stretchered out after the match.

“The Predictor” Predicts: AJ Styles retains the WWE United States Championship

WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship Match: Naomi defends the WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship against Natalya

Analysis: I’m not sure how I feel about this match. I always felt that Natalya could be positioned better on the card than she is, but I’ll live with it, given the fact that last year, she was barely featured at all. Naomi is decent in the ring, but will undoubtedly rely on Natalya to carry the lion’s share of the match. I think the real story here is Carmella, as they are heavily teasing a “Money in the Bank” cash-in. Given that it’s Carmella’s hometown and they’ve already had one unsuccessful cash-in with Baron Corbin, I think this match will be a fairly short affair, solely built to have Carmella escape with the title. And, I like this move, as I’ve really enjoyed her progress over the past several months, including the evolution of James Ellsworth as a throwback to the cowardly heel manager of the 80’s. Moving forward, I do hope that they continue to find ways to keep Natalya relevant, as her experience and in-ring presence can lend so much to the brand.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Naomi defeats Natalya, with a successful “Money in the Bank” cash-in by Carmella, who will become the new Smackdown Women’s Champion

WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match: Alexa Bliss defends the WWE Raw Women’s Championship against Sasha Banks

Analysis: You never want to someone get injured, but in Bayley’s case, it may be a blessing in disguise. I wasn’t quite sure why they were going to go back to Bayley-Bliss after their program a couple of months back. And, with Bayley getting booed in Toronto, I think it was time for a reset. While Bliss has been one of WWE’s breakout stars over the past year, I don’t think she needs the title to stay relevant. She’ll be just fine, even in a loss. With Banks, I think you can give her the babyface victory, and slowly evolve her back to being a heel, where she’s more comfortable. This sets up a nice program leading to WrestleMania for when Bayley finally returns. They work so well together and I think it’s only logical that they bring their history to the big stage in April.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Sasha Banks wins the WWE Raw Women’s Championship

WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match: Sheamus and Cesaro defend the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship against Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins

Analysis: This match has been built so well. I truly enjoyed the slow build to the partial Shield reunion, with both Rollins and Ambrose struggling with their feelings and being conflicted over reuniting. And, I was worried that Sheamus and Cesaro wouldn’t be able to transition into a heel tag team, but I was happily proven wrong. I find myself really looking forward to seeing how this plays out. Eventually, I think we’ll see this lead to an Ambrose heel turn, which has the potential to be epic, but for SummerSlam, I think we’ll get the feel-good payoff with two-thirds of the Shield walking out of the Barclay Center with the tag team titles.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins win the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship

Singles Match: Bray Wyatt meets Finn Balor

Analysis: I feel like the creative team rushed to bring Balor’s “Demon” character into this match before the program fully developed. I get that they want to bring out the best entrances on the second biggest show of the year, but I think the “Demon” persona means more when the story is built in a way that the character’s emergence is logical and makes sense. I do like that Monday’s match provided a bit of a rationale, but I still feel like it was rushed. This match will be solid, but I feel like both characters, particularly Balor, are stuck in neutral. Unless a big angle with the two is in the works, I’m hoping Balor moves on to something bigger and better, as he has the potential to be much more than how he’s currently being positioned. With Wyatt, there’s simply no depth to the character anymore and a refresh is sorely needed. If you watch his promos, they’re pretty much the same no matter who he faces. The words are very abstract and don’t really apply to anything related to the actual match or his opponent. I wouldn’t mind seeing Wyatt reunite with Harper and Rowan to perhaps give the storyline some new direction.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Finn Balor defeats Bray Wyatt

Singles Match: Rusev meets Randy Orton

Analysis: There’s been very little storytelling in the build to this match. It’s almost as if this match was thrown together to get both on the show. With Orton, we’ll get the typical above average work rate, but Rusev needs a win – badly. He could be a top heel in the championship picture on Smackdown, but the only way that’s going to happen is by starting to stack up some wins. At this stage in his career, Orton isn’t impacted by wins and losses. That’s why I’m hoping we see some kind of elevation for Rusev, with a win over Orton and a boost higher up the card.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Rusev defeats Randy Orton

Singles Match: Big Cass meets the Big Show (Enzo Amore to be suspended above the ring in a shark cage)

Analysis: There’s a unique twist in this match, as typically the shark cage is used to prevent the heel from interfering, not the babyface. Similar to Randy Orton, the Big Show is immune to wins and losses, and it appears that they’re looking to do something with Cass. I really enjoyed his promo Monday night, as, for the first time, I felt that he was comfortable delivering a promo. I also liked his association with Gallows and Anderson in breaking the Big Show’s hand. It puts Cass with some experienced talent, while building in a plausible excuse for Show to lose. I don’t know how Enzo plays into the finish, or why he’s even there, but I’m fairly confident we see Cass go over, as his journey continues.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Big Cass defeats the Big Show

Pre-Show/WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match: The New Day defend the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship against the Usos

Analysis: Think back to two years ago. The New Day was arguably one of the hottest acts in the WWE. In 2017, it’s the same act, and while it’s still somewhat popular, it lacks depth and I’m wondering if it’s time for some kind of shakeup. They work well with the Usos, but I am of the old-school belief that I shouldn’t have to be conflicted over who to root for. The Usos have the potential to be great heels, but they haven’t been booked in a way where you want to hate them. I will say that the New Day-Usos match was the one bright spot on an otherwise lackluster Battleground show last month, so I expect that we’ll get more here. I am just hoping for some new direction for both teams coming out of the event.

“The Predictor” Predicts: The New Day retains the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship

Pre-Show/WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match: Akira Tozawa defends the WWE Cruiserweight Championship against Neville

Analysis: I was surprised that they had Tozawa win the title this past Monday on Raw, but when you stop to think about it, while Neville is one of the only good things about 205 Live, his act was getting a bit stale, while Tozawa’s is starting to catch on. I’m still not seeing the point of involving Titus O’Neill, but he’s not a big enough factor for me to care. I think we see Tozawa retain, as hopefully, the Cruiserweight brands starts to move in a new direction.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Akira Tozawa retains the WWE Cruiserweight Championship

Pre-Show/Six-Man Tag Team Match: Jason Jordan and the Hardy Boyz meet The Miz, Curtis Axel, and Bo Dallas

Analysis: Wow – how the mighty have fallen. The Intercontinental Champion, the subject of one of the summer’s biggest angles, and a tag team that were highlights at WrestleMania, are all on the pre-show. I’m really not sure what happened here as I had thought we’d get Jordan and Miz for the Intercontinental title. But, Jordan really hasn’t gained any traction since being revealed as Kurt Angle’s “son”, and Miz has been dragged down in his attempt to elevate Axel and Dallas. I’m hoping this is just a case of too much talent with not enough spots, as four of the six workers in this match can be given so much more to work with.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Jason Jordan and the Hardy Boyz defeat The Miz, Curtis Axel, and Bo Dallas
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