As a service to those fans who have a general interest in the WWE but haven’t watched many (or any) matches since WrestleMania, we’re happy to provide this FAQ as a guide to SummerSlam 2018.
Q. Hey, I’ve always wondered: Is it “SummerSlam” (all one word) or “Summer Slam” (two words)?
A. “SummerSlam,” much like “WrestleMania” and “SmackDown.” It’s the arbitrary combination of names thing that the WWE does for some intellectual property but not others. It’s not “RoyalRumble” or “SurvivorSeries.” It’s the 31st edition of the event and the 11th time that it has been held in the New York Metropolitan area. That includes multiple events in East Rutherford, New Jersey, which WrestleMania and the NFL have taught us is actually New York City’s sixth borough.
Q. Are The Rock, John Cena and The Undertaker going to be there?
A. No, because that level of part-time superstar is only showing up for Wrestlemania or a pay-per-view funded by the Saudi government. But don’t fret: It’s “The Biggest Party of the Summer” ™ and you’ll never guess who’s featured in the main ev—
A. Well, yeah.
A. While it feels as if these two have met at a Cena vs. Randy Orton (circa 2007-09) clip for the past three years, this will be only the fourth meeting between “The Beast Incarnate” and “Will Get Over Sometime Before The Sun Explodes.” Their first match was a classic: WrestleMania 31, with blood and an incredible Seth Rollins “Money In the Bank” cash-in to swoop in to win the WWE world title. They met again at WrestleMania 34 with Lesnar defending his Universal title, and the second match was the opposite of good, with the crowd chanting “this is awful” and Lesnar winning with multiple F-5s after about 16 minutes of stink.
They met again at “The Greatest Royal Rumble” in Saudi Arabia, where Lesnar again won an underwhelming match that at its climax saw Reigns spear Lesnar through the side of a steel cage with Reigns’ feet hitting first — only for a referee’s decision to go the opposite way as Lesnar retained his title again. After Reigns won a triple-threat match against Finn Balor and Drew McIntyre and then defeated Bobby Lashley on back-to-back editions of Raw in July, the re-re-rematch and another shot at the Universal title were set for SummerSlam.
Q. Is there a reason I should actually watch this match?
A. In theory, this time it’ll be different, as Lesnar is expected to leave the WWE after a 500-plus days title reign for a UFC comeback in pursuit of Daniel Cormier’s heavyweight championship. Would Brock “do the job” for Reigns as he exits? Or is it more likely that Reigns wins with some wild card, like a Paul Heyman turn on Lesnar (which has been teased, and then dispelled, so it’ll probably happen)? Or perhaps another “Money in the Bank” cash-in with Braun Strowman or Kevin Owens?
Q. Braun Strowman or Kevin Owens? Doesn’t Braun have the briefcase?
A. Their SummerSlam match carries a curious stipulation: If Owens wins, he also wins Strowman’s “MITB” briefcase and title match contract, which Strowman won earlier this year by throwing Owens off a giant ladder through a table. Owens was able to secure this match after Strowman stepped up his game and threw Owens off the top of a steel cage through a table at Extreme Rules, meaning Owens touched the floor first, because Strowman was still standing atop said cage (controversial cage match finishes being the WWE’s joie de vivre recently). In between, Strowman pushed a port-a-potty containing Owens off the stage on Raw. Owens got that blue toilet water all over him. It was pretty gross.
Q. Cool. So what’s the WWE championship match?
A. It’s AJ Styles defending against Samoa Joe. We know what you’re thinking, TNA fan from a decade ago: been there, done that. But Joe and Styles haven’t really renewed pleasantries in the WWE until recently, and they’ve put on some (ahem) phenomenal matches in the past. Of course, we said the same thing about Shinsuke Nakamura and Styles, and that feud was like watching an underground comic trying to get laughs on a network sitcom. Keep this in mind for the Styles vs. Joe match: AJ is the cover boy for the “WWE2K19” video game, which isn’t released until October; additionally, a rematch with Styles as champion was advertised locally in San Antonio for the WWE “Hell In A Cell” event in September.
Q. What’s Nakamura up to on this card?
A. He’s defending the United States championship against Jeff Hardy, whom he defeated in five seconds for the belt at Extreme Rules after a below-the-belt punch before the match. Hardy was then attacked by Randy Orton, who was returning from injury for roughly the 181st time in his WWE career. So expect some sort of three-way mess, one supposes.
Q. What about the Intercontinental title?
A. It’s around the waist of one Dolph Ziggler, whom you might remember from all of the matches that you immediately forgot afterward over the past decade. Like his 30-minute Iron Man match against Seth Rollins at Extreme Rules, for example, which managed to be both overwhelming and underwhelming, which is a neat trick. He won that match, and others in this feud, thanks to outside interference from Drew McIntyre, a.k.a. “The Scottish Terminator” a.k.a. WWE creative isn’t even trying with these nicknames anymore.
But wait! Rollins, in his rematch at SummerSlam, will be seconded by his old partner (and occasional frenemy) Dean Ambrose, whose body is steadily morphing into that of a seriously committed Triple H cosplayer at an alarming rate.
Q. Any other men’s titles on the line?
A. Sure, but you’ll have to watch the preshow for two of them. The delightful old-school brutality of The Revival tries to take the Raw tag team belts from the delightful new-school whimsy of “The B-Team” of Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. Please keep in mind that Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt, whom these two teams faced in the “go home” RAW this week in a triple threat, might yet get involved in this explosive affair. We know this because WWE.com rhetorically and oh-so-subtly asks, “Will former titleholders Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy play a role in this explosive affair?”
Cedric Alexander takes on Drew Gulak for the WWE cruiserweight title, but not on the main broadcast. Apparently 205 is the area code for the preshow.
Finally, on SummerSlam proper, we get The New Day vs. the champions, The Bludgeon Brothers, for the SmackDown belts. The Bludgeons won the tag titles at WrestleMania in a three-way that also involved The New Day, who won a SmackDown tag-team tournament for this shot at SummerSlam, including a final match against The Bar last week that was of a ridiculously high quality for a non-pay-per-view bout.
Q. Will Finn Balor wrestle at SummerSlam?
Q. Will he be dressed up like a demon with the face paint and everything
A. Hopefully, if only to draw a contrast to “Constable” Baron Corbin, who wrestles in a suit.
Q. Wait, the same Baron Corbin who had the greasy hair and used to wrestle in T-shirts with timber wolves on them?
A. Yeah, we don’t really get it either, but it’s nice to see someone honoring the legend of Irwin R. Schyster by wrestling in formal attire.
Q. Speaking of suits, The Miz has to be at SummerSlam, right?
A. Boy, is he ever. The Miz and Daniel Bryan finally meet after an incredibly long ramp up to their match that featured everything from in-ring attacks to post-show tirades to a fake baby. The last time they met on a pay-per-view was in 2010. One assumes this meeting will not be their last, provided Bryan’s contract status can (if it hasn’t already) be sussed out.
Q. Have you watched “Miz and Mrs.?” Is it better than fellow freshman reality series “Very Cavallari?”
A. Very much so, although the incidental comedic genius of Jay Cutler on the latter show makes it very close.
Q. OK, now that we’ve covered all of these matches, we can discuss the most compelling ones on the card — the women’s championships?
A. Now we’re talking. Carmella is the SmackDown women’s champion, having cashed in her “Money In The Bank” contract after 287 days (a WWE record) to take the belt off of Charlotte Flair. She went on to successfully defend that title against the phenom Asuka, thanks to interference from a since “fired” James Ellsworth. Ah, but here comes Becky Lynch on a winning streak to take on Carmella at SummerSlam. But wait! Here comes Lynch’s buddy Charlotte Flair to make it a three-way dance for the title, and in the process create some tension for the Irish lass.
Also, because “these ladies are friends but get catty over the title” is second only to “bullying” in WWE creative storylines for the women’s division. OK, there’s also “feud with Ronda Rousey.”
Q. Oh right! Ronda Rousey! We’ve waited to the end to talk about her.
A. That’s because she should be the last thing you see at SummerSlam, because let’s be honest: Rousey might be the greatest “talent imported from another sport” success story in the WWE since … Kurt Angle, maybe? She has met the hype and in many ways exceeded it. Here, she has an excellent foil in Raw women’s champion Alexa Bliss, one of the best heels in the company. Bliss won the belt by cashing in her “Money In The Bank” contract after interrupting Rousey’s first title match with Nia Jax.
They’ve been building to this for months. Rousey’s the heavy betting favorite, but to paraphrase podcasting’s own Bruce Prichard, is Rousey such a big star that she doesn’t need the belt for heat?
Q. Ah, but does the Raw belt need Ronda Rousey?
A. You just blew our minds.
Q. We just covered like a dozen matches and none of them involved Rusev.
He’s on the preshow, too, but at least he’s got a sense of humor about it:
I’m honored to share the #SummerSlam kickoff show with the cruiser weight title !
– Rusev (@RusevBUL) August 14, 2018
Greg Wyshynski is Senior NHL writer for ESPN and still remembers Ludvig Borga defeating Marty Jannetty at SummerSlam 1993.