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It’s hard to ignore the card WWE has built heading into Sunday’s 2017 SummerSlam.
The company’s biggest event of the summer boasts far from a transitional card leading up to bigger events—this is it in many ways. The top titles feel up for grabs, legends are taking on budding stars in bouts that could go either way and even non-title matches feature contestants who can’t afford losses.
On paper, this card is WWE at its best. Fans could argue a guaranteed winner in either direction for the majority of the matches. The booking outcomes still need to match the journey traveled, but this is a card bursting at the seams to the point the pre-show is a major deal.
Here’s a look at predictions for each match on the card followed by some analysis of notable picks.
WWE SummerSlam 2017
(P) Jason Jordan & The Hardy Boyz vs. The Miz & The Miztourage
(P) Akira Tozawa (c) vs. Neville (Cruiserweight Championship)
(P) The New Day (c) vs. The Usos (SmackDown Tag Team Championships)
Big Show vs. Big Cass
Randy Orton vs. Rusev
John Cena vs. Baron Corbin
Sheamus & Cesaro (c) vs. Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins (Raw Tag Team Championships)
Naomi (c) vs. Natalya (SmackDown Women’s Championship)
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Sasha Banks (Raw Women’s Championship)
Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt
AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens (United States Championship)
Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE Championship)
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe vs. Braun Strowman (Fatal 4-Way, Universal Championship)
P = pre-show. Bold indicates predicted winner.
John Cena vs. Baron Corbin
It’s not often a wrestler’s career trajectory seems at stake on a pay-per-view card, yet it appears that is where we’re at with Baron Corbin.
Corbin had spun his wheels for a little while, changing up his entrance as he went, before embarrassingly losing the Money in the Bank briefcase. While his failed attempt to capture the WWE Championship maybe helps the prestige and randomness of cash-ins moving forward, it didn’t do Corbin many favors outside of a slight jolt of edge to his fast-developing rivalry with John Cena.
It’s 2017, though, and Cena still losing feels improbable. He’s done so more often recently, but this is Big Match John after all. He bowed out of the title picture and into this feud, and it’s hard to know whether he’s putting a young guy over on a massive stage or picking up a win before sprinting toward another championship push—on either brand.
In a broad sense, though, Cena doesn’t need this win, and it’s hard to predict him to come out on top. He’s Cena and can show up on either brand and demand pretty much demand whatever match he wants.
The same doesn’t apply for Corbin. If WWE is serious about his continuing to be a top presence, taking out Cena at a major event is a good way to go. This is a marquee match for him either way, but the snowball effect of losing the briefcase and then to Cena would be too much to overcome.
Look for Corbin to take out his aggression, perhaps playing dirty to get the win.
Prediction: Corbin wins.
Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt
Here’s a fitting matchup looking like a 50-50 affair.
Unlike the above, neither Finn Balor nor Bray Wyatt seems like he would take a major hit with a loss on a such a major stage. In fact, Wyatt has been losing left and right as of late, and Balor has been in transitional feuds for a while.
The bigger point, though, is neither guy will lose the mystique surrounding his character. Demon Balor, given its rarity, wouldn’t suffer in the same way the Wyatt character hasn’t—both guys have an incredible presence regardless of outcomes.
Still, this one should go to Balor. He’s the good guy of the feud, and if there’s a match on the card that feels like a middle portion of something much longer, it’s this one. Let the Demon get another win and then let the two work off each other to flesh out their characters even more in the coming months. That, or ascend the winner into the universal title picture.
SummerSlam is a good place to reintroduce the Demon and rebuild the hype lost after Balor’s unfortunate injury after winning the universal title at SummerSlam in 2016.
Prediction: Balor wins.
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe vs. Braun Strowman
It’s only fitting the card’s main event features an anything-can-happen situation.
Whoever gets this prediction right will look like a wrestling guru. Any scenario makes sense. Brock Lesnar retains. Roman Reigns gets the title and runs his yard. Samoa Joe completes his ascension to the top. Braun Strowman gets a passing-of-the-torch moment after clashing with Lensar.
So which is it?
It’s hard to think Lesnar and Paul Heyman came up with the lose-and-we-leave narrative without reason. A special piece of Raw like the Universal Championship only showing up with Lesnar every now and then can only happen for so long before the title loses some prestige. Keep in mind the UFC always seems to chase Lesnar.
A four-way showdown is a good way to protect Lesnar too. WWE has done it before—somebody else eats the pin so that he loses the title without losing directly.
But who takes the win? It almost feels too early to slap the title on Strowman, and he doesn’t necessarily need it to make his feuds downright amazing. As much as a small segment of fans might be tired of it, Reigns’ next title triumph might happen at a bigger event. Wishful thinking might have some hoping for a Shield reunion instead.
That leaves Samoa Joe. He’s had a rocket strapped to his back recently and deserved every bit of it. He was 100 percent believable as a guy who could take down Lesnar on his own—slapping him in the ring with three others as the only true villain and using his cunning to capitalize and steal the title seems like the direction this will go.
WWE is all about establishing top stars. Reigns and Lesnar are already there. Strowman, flipping-ambulances Strowman, doesn’t need a title. Joe’s arrival at the top hasn’t been as definable—until he hoists the Universal Championship on Sunday night.
Prediction: Samoa Joe wins.