Exactly one year ahead of this year’s SummerSlam, World Wrestling Entertainment marked a significant change in its presentation.
The pro wrestling giant shifted production of its television shows out of the mundane, dreary, and increasingly forgettable WWE Performance Centre, and into the “WWE ThunderDome.”
An immersive, television-friendly, hi-tech television production; the ThunderDome was an attempt to bring fans back into the arena during the pandemic, if only digitally.
One year later, WWE is ready to assert their transition back to normalcy.
The company is determined to permanently put the ThunderDome, and the pandemic era, it the rear-view mirror, in front of a capacity crowd this Saturday, August 21 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas at SummerSlam.
WWE returned to touring in front of live crowds last month, but SummerSlam will firmly entrench World Wrestling Entertainment back in the business of selling out arenas and stadiums.
The lineup of matches reflects that of a major event, with the main event no exception to that. While SummerSlam marks the anniversary of the ThunderDome, it also marks one year of in-ring dominance for the WWE Universal Champion.
Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (C) vs John Cena
This match is befitting of a WrestleMania main event. The biggest name in pro wrestling over the last 15 years going up against the best and most noteworthy inside WWE right now.
Since his return at SummerSlam last year, Roman Reigns has unquestionably been the hottest wrestler inside WWE, perhaps the world. His work both in and out of the ring has truly been exceptional, shedding any last doubts fans may have had surrounding his consistent placement at the top of the card in WWE.
In part due to his accomplishments, and in part because WWE is selling SummerSlam on the same level it would normally sell WrestleMania, Reigns has been rewarded with a championship main event match against John Cena.
While other matches still have a chance of stealing the show, there are no other matches that have a chance at stealing the headlines. This is as big a match as there has been in WWE since before the pandemic. With respect to Edge and Daniel Bryan, Reigns’ opponents at WrestleMania this year, they aren’t John Cena in terms of marketability.
The biggest match of Roman Reigns’ career took place earlier this year at WrestleMania, where he stacked Edge and Daniel Bryan on top of each other to retain his Universal Championship.
This match against John Cena at SummerSlam is the biggest match Roman Reigns has ever had, eclipsing his previously largest match earlier this year at WrestleMania against Edge and Daniel Bryan. And as Reigns continues to surpass his previous best-match, he’ll also continue to stack up wins against hall-of-famers and future hall-of-famers. This match will be no different.
Prediction: Roman Reigns
SmackDown Women’s Championship: Bianca Belair (C) vs Sasha Banks
How do you top a literal history-making match? That’s the question facing both Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks at SummerSlam.
Earlier this year, both wrestlers played part in a historic night as the first Black females to main event WrestleMania, with Belair standing tall at the end as the new SmackDown Women’s Champion.
Now, they look to one-up their previous endeavour. Belair told Sportsnet that, “this time it’s more personal. This time, the only thing that this match is about is the SmackDown Women’s Championship, and that’s what we can focus on.”
Since WrestleMania, Belair has been on a monumental rise, winning big match after big match. Her momentum doesn’t feel like it’s ready to stop any time soon, either.
Belair has mentioned her goal to eventually defeat each of the Four Horsewomen (Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Bayley), and that goal could potentially become realized by WrestleMania of next year, should Bianca hang on to the championship this weekend.
Next up would be Charlotte Flair, and then finally at WrestleMania of next year… Belair against a returning Becky Lynch.
“For me, that’s a dream booking,” says Belair. “I would love, love, love to get in the ring with Becky Lynch.”
Prediction: Bianca Belair
WWE Championship: Bobby Lashley (C) vs Goldberg
Please stop. Please, please, please stop.
Please stop providing 54-year-old Goldberg with main event-worthy matches. Bobby Lashley is providing wrestling fans with some of the best work of his career, and now he’ll be tasked with carrying what will almost assuredly be a sub-five-minute match against a pro wrestler who used to be cool… 20-years-ago.
This isn’t to say Goldberg shouldn’t have a place on the show. There is certainly a use for someone who carries the star power and crossover appeal with an older generation that Goldberg possesses. That place, though, is lower on the card in an attraction match, not in the WWE Championship match.
Please… please, please, please. Please stop.
Prediction: Bobby Lashley
Raw Women’s Championship: Nikki A.S.H (C) vs Charlotte Flair vs Rhea Ripley
Since capturing the Raw Women’s Championship in mid-July, Nikki A.S.H’s title reign has been branded with an underdog label, befitting of the 1980’s Miracle on Ice hockey team.
How is she here? How is she doing this? How can she compete against the stronger, more superior wrestlers for the top prize in women’s wrestling?
Nikki, Charlotte and Ripley have crossed paths every single week, sometimes multiple times per week, in the lead up to SummerSlam., and in most cases, Nikki has been on the losing end. There isn’t much left to show fans, other than this actual triple-threat match. Having said all that, Nikki’s underdog status bodes well in the triple threat, knowing that she can sneak out a victory over either Charlotte or Ripley without causing much damage to the two latter wrestlers.
Nikki is in the driver’s seat to pick up a surprise victory at SummerSlam, before dropping the title not far down the road in a singles match.
Prediction: Nikki A.S.H
Edge vs Seth Rollins
When he came out of retirement last January, Orangeville, Ont., native Edge made it known that he had a lengthy list of opponents he’d like to step into the ring with. Seth Rollins was near the top of that list.
Rollins is unquestionably one of the top wrestlers in WWE, therefore making him a natural opponent for one of the most respected in-ring performers in the history of WWE, Edge.
This is such a natural fit, in terms of wrestling ability. Rollins is near the peak of his in-ring prowess, while Edge has proven that he still has plenty to offer when it comes to grappling skills.
This is one of those matches where you can feel excited for if only because it was a match that was only possible to be fantasy booked just a few short years ago. Now it’s a reality.
• The Usos (C) def. Rey & Dominik Mysterio to retain SmackDown Tag Team Championship
• Randy Orton & Matt Riddle def. AJ Styles & Omos (C) to win Raw Tag Tam Championship
• Damian Priest def. Sheamus (C) to win United States Championship
• Drew McIntyre def. Jinder Mahal
• Alexa Bliss def. Eva Marie
Watch SummerSlam live this Saturday, August 21 live on the WWE Network in Canada. Follow all the action alongside Kevin Michie during Sportsnet’s live blog, with coverage beginning at 7:00 p.m. est and wrapping up at the conclusion of the event.