The biggest party of the summer is upon us as WWE presents SummerSlam from Detroit’s Ford Field. Traditionally, the event plays second fiddle to only WrestleMania when it comes to Premium Live Events in the calendar year. With a card that sees the potential blow up of multiple feuds, this Saturday’s event promises to be no different.
But after three successive events outside mainland USA, the pressure for the American chapter of the WWE Universe to make themselves heard is well and truly on. As rival promotion AEW gears up for one of the biggest wrestling events in history, will WWE look to respond? Can the recent momentum and positive reviews continue? Here, Andy Spoors previews the biggest storylines heading into the event.
Seven Year Itch
There are few rivalries that can stay relevant in wrestling. Only the very best feuds manage to roll past a few years and even fewer claim legendary status of continuing for the better part of a decade. So it is perhaps curious that Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor has now rolled on for seven years since their now infamous encounter for the WWE Universal Championship.
It seems somewhat apropos that the pair would meet once more at SummerSlam after their encounter in 2016 at the same event. Following Rollin’s victory over Balor in London last month, the score stands at one win apiece for championship matches yet it feels like the pressure is heaped on Balor.
Seven years in the making feels like an odyssey of Stone Cold vs The Rock proportions, yet something has felt somewhat underwhelming. WWE’s introduction of the World Heavyweight Championship has been viewed by many as a secondary world title and the wrinkle of Balor’s Judgement Day stablemate, Damien Priest, as the Money In The Bank holder, has muddied the waters.
On one hand it makes the whole situation dangerous. However, it also makes the narrative about the potential implosion of the group, rather than the epic story of redemption between champion and challenger. After a fairly routine match inside the O2, the pair must be allowed to get out of neutral and hit their highest gear. Anything else would be a tragic waste of two of the most able and talented Superstars in the business.
In the era of social media, a match between Logan Paul and Ricochet just feels right. Both are capable of astonishing crowds with their athleticism. Both have been able to pull off almost superhuman manoeuvres. And both men can provide a moment that would stop the TikTok generation from doom-scrolling their way through the app.
Logan Paul has done nothing but impress since stepping into a WWE ring and although many would like to have seen him fail, even his most staunch detractors have been eating humble pie. Thrown into the Money In The Bank match, the WWE Universe suspected the company were intent on cashing in on Paul’s social media followers and he would be the one to walk away with a guaranteed championship shot.
Instead it would be a risky move gone wrong between himself and Ricochet that would get people talking. Setting up for a Spanish Fly from the ring ropes and through a table on the outside of the ring, a slip almost cost the pair dearly. Thankfully no-one was hurt, but an opportunity to turn the slip into a rivalry presented itself.
Back and forth promos have given both Superstars some much needed time on the mic, particularly for Ricochet, who has always been viewed as exciting in the ring but never granted a chance to get his teeth into a story.
At SummerSlam, expect at least one moment that will instantly hit social media and count the number of times the commentary team mentions the word “viral” throughout the match…
In a storyline that has dominated not just 2023 but the last three years, Roman Reigns and The Bloodline’s epic tale looks to potentially close another chapter at SummerSlam. Heralded in some quarters as one of the best wrestling stories in the industry’s steeped history, everyone involved has managed to add layer after layer of emotion into what is effectively a family drama.
Desperate to cling on to his place as head of the table, not just within the Anoa’i family but WWE in general, Reigns has become increasingly desperate and increasingly isolated. Sami Zayn was the first to wise up to the gaslighting antics of The Tribal Chief, before both Jimmy and Jey Uso (Roman’s real life cousins) left his side.
At Money In The Bank, Roman teamed up with his other cousin Solo Sikoa to take on his now estranged family members, The Usos. In front of a raucous crowd Jey Uso pinned his cousin to deal the champion’s first pinfall defeat in 1294 days. It was a moment that sent shockwaves through Twitter and catapulted deeper into a family dispute.
Ford Field will play host to a Tribal Combat match between Reigns and Jey Uso with everything on the line. Right now, it doesn’t feel as though Uso will be the one to break a record breaking championship reign. Many still carry a bitter taste that WWE didn’t pull the trigger with Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania 39. There are loud voices that doubt if Jey can carry the company’s top championship and be the face of the company moving forward.
Should he manage to defy the odds, regardless of picking up last month’s victory, the result would go down as one of the biggest upsets in WWE history. If the last three years have taught us anything, don’t bet against the Tribal Chief, even when he looks to be on the verge of defeat…
A Beast’s Nightmare
Another match, another rubber match. With both men holding a victory over the other this year, Cody Rhodes vs Brock Lesnar will look to end their bitter rivalry in Detroit. A broken arm, a bloodied face, The American Nightmare and The Beast Incarnate have torn each other apart.
Although the match is expected to be a slugfest and not exactly the stuff of wrestling purists’ dreams, it is what comes next that might excite the majority of wrestling fans. Since that crushing loss at WrestleMania in April, Rhodes has been waylaid with Lesnar (with a slight detour through Dirty Dom Mysterio) and speculation has been rampant of exactly what Cody can do next.
A win here would need to be convincing in order to push him back into the championship scene, but rumours have been circulating that a returning Superstar could grab the attention of the grandson of a plumber instead. It certainly feels like something has to happen at the end of this match to get fans talking and try once again to banish the memory of that Mania main event heartbreak.
Full SummerSlam Card
Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso (Tribal Combat)
Cody Rhodes vs. Brock Lesnar
World Heavyweight Champion Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins vs. Finn Bálor
WWE Women’s Champion Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Bianca Belair (Triple Threat Match)
Intercontinental Champion Gunther vs. Drew McIntyre
Logan Paul vs. Ricochet
Ronda Rousey vs. Shayna Baszler (MMA Rules)
SummerSlam Battle Royal presented by Slim Jim