Happy Monday, TJRWrestling faithful! The Biggest Party of the Summer is finally upon us. Welcome to the Week In Preview for World Wrestling Entertainment, August 13th 2018.
Raw (Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro NC)
Announced: The B-Team (c) vs The Revival vs Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt for the Raw Tag Team Championships. A contract signing for the upcoming Intercontinental Championship match between Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins. Also of significant note, Renee Young will join the announce desk for the night.
What to expect: Raw tonight can be very neatly divided into ‘stuff that’s on the SummerSlam card’ and ‘stuff that isn’t’. In the first category, Brock Lesnar is due to appear and we can expect his F-5 on Kurt Angle, his assault on Paul Heyman and a confrontation with Roman Reigns to all be on the agenda. The announced contract signing between Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins may play into the ongoing theme of Rollins having to cope with Drew McIntyre as Ziggler’s enforcer. Ronda Rousey might finally get to mess up Alexa Bliss before their match on Sunday. Braun Strowman’s ability to lose the Money in the Bank briefcase to Kevin Owens through countout or disqualification may again be touched on. Finn Balor and Baron Corbin will apparently be in separate matches tonight – no word on what those are at time of writing – ahead of their clash on Sunday.
Expected segments in the ‘stuff that isn’t’ category are surprisingly numerous, the announced match for the Tag Team Championships being chief among them. That match could end in a title change or some sort of shenanigans that sets up another match on Sunday. There are also programs involving Bobby Lashley and Elias (so far largely based around some goofy humor, which probably suits Elias better than Lashley), Mojo Rawley and Bobby Roode (who have wrestled each other once but, given this is Raw, will probably wrestle each other again), The Authors of Pain and Titus Worldwide (another full tag match between them is now due) and The Riott Squad – now back to full strength with leader Ruby Riott back from injury – continuing to clash with Sasha Banks and Bayley. Will any of these develop into SummerSlam matches?
Spotlight: Last week, when I took a weary look at the latest incarnation of a championship program between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar, one of the things I didn’t really touch on was the seeming twilight of Paul Heyman’s involvement (at least beyond noting that Lesnar might’ve been a more effective character during his recent WWE run if, every now and then, he hadn’t been reduced to bouncing around on the spot while Heyman talked). It’s something Heyman gave me no option but to go back and consider again, following his outstanding performance in last week’s sit-down interview with the newest member of Raw’s announce desk team, Renee Young.
The first and most obvious thing to note is that Heyman’s appearance in the interview last week rather telegraphs the fact that we’ll be seeing him pop up again in this feud. Technically it’s possible he was just selling the pass, further putting over Lesnar’s heartlessness on his way out of the role of advocate – it wouldn’t be the first time Heyman’s gone above and beyond to sell a story – but the likelihood is that he’ll be showing up on WWE television again imminently. Quite possibly that’ll be tonight. The ‘unaired’ section at the end of the interview that WWE then promptly aired via YouTube certainly (and deliberately) suggested that Heyman still has a role to play before this program is over.
Though it seems likely that Brock Lesnar will be stepping away from WWE programming after SummerSlam – if not permanently then at least semi-permanently, or at least for as long as it takes him to scratch his UFC itch again – it would be a shame to lose Paul Heyman for that time too; as we saw last week, he remains one of the company’s top on-screen actors and is capable of talking up and hyping competitors and matches beyond whatever Lesnar may or may not be involved with. The apparent split between Beast and advocate has possibly come at a good time and, whether it’s an alignment with Reigns or something else entirely, a new project for Heyman on WWE television would be very welcome. Last week’s interview segment showed how much we’d miss him if he steps away when Lesnar does.
SmackDown Live (Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville SC)
Announced: Aiden English vs Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas.
What to expect: Pro wrestling usually works best when it’s simple, so it’s not surprising that SmackDown Live – on a roll at the moment – only needs to be pretty straightforward this week. In the programs for the major singles championships, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe need to come face-to-face in some way (perhaps with a bit of physicality) after a couple of weeks of cutting promos in isolation. Some tension needs to be shown between Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair before both women challenge Carmella on Sunday. Meanwhile, in the Tag Team Championships program, The New Day need to have some form of confrontation with The Bludgeon Brothers, to move us away from the tag team tournament and towards Sunday’s match.
The biggest twist SmackDown could come up with this Tuesday is to find a way to insert Randy Orton into the United States Championship match already booked for Sunday, though even this looks more of a certainty than a ‘twist’; Orton is in too deep with challenger Jeff Hardy to not be formally added to the match. The announced match between Aiden English and Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas is a means to firming up the mixed tag match Almas and Zelina Vega have with Rusev and Lana, while keeping English’s recent failures at helping the latter pair firmly in the picture. Finally, one of WWE’s amazing video packages is pretty much all we need to see now for The Miz and Daniel Bryan. Hurry up and get us to Sunday!
Spotlight: SmackDown Live’s abbreviated tag team tournament came to an end last week with The New Day beating The Bar in an outstanding match that ran nearly 25 minutes. It’s hard to begrudge a tournament that runs over only three matches when all three are of such consistently high quality; there are far worse ways to spend three weeks in the tag division. It’s contributed to the reasons for SmackDown being a stronger show than Raw recently and is also a reminder that WWE’s occasional dalliance with strong weekly tag action on the main roster has been one of the most positive trends in the company over the last 12 to 18 months.
The next chapter comes on Sunday with The New Day attempting to dethrone The Bludgeon Brothers. Whatever the outcome of that match, the depth of the division on Tuesday nights has rarely been shown so vividly; it’s always been deep on paper, but it’s the showing it that matters most. The three unsuccessful teams from the tournament – The Bar, The Usos and SAnitY – all have strong cases to return to television as regular fixtures pretty quickly. If narratives could be found to justify them, there’s now no excuse not to have an amazing tag match of some sort every Tuesday. Heck, if Harper and Rowan retain on Sunday, I’d be happy just re-running the tournament again.
Harper and Rowan present something of a puzzle. The Bludgeon Brothers have been booked so strongly and without weakness since their repackaging that their fleeting presence in the division of late – though it may not help the relevance of the championships – has benefited the standard of competition. Turning up at every pay-per-view to make a routine, uneventful defense and then clearing the stage for the following month isn’t a positive role, but it has upsides. However, should The New Day find a way to win this Sunday, SmackDown Live would need to find a way to mix a ridiculously overpowered and previously bulletproof team into its pool of challengers while keeping the quality of competitive matches high. That might not be easy.
Also This Week
On 205 Live (Tuesday) this week, the main event is Cedric Alexander vs Jack Gallagher in a non-title match, with Brian Kendrick and Drew Gulak – Alexander’s challenger for the Cruiserweight Championship on Sunday – banned from ringside. Could this be Alexander’s last Tuesday night with the championship? Lio Rush vs Akira Tozawa is also booked.
Stacks of content announced for NXT (Wednesday), with The Street Profits vs The Mighty, Kairi Sane vs Aliyah and Tyler Bate vs Roderick Strong. Obviously that’s just the appetizer for this week’s action on the yellow brand, with one of the biggest events of the NXT calendar coming this weekend!
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 (Saturday) comes from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the night before SummerSlam. The card is as follows:
- NXT Championship: Tommaso Ciampa (c) vs Johnny Gargano (Last Man Standing)
- NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (c) vs Kairi Sane
- NXT Tag Team Championships: Undisputed ERA (c) vs Moustache Mountain
- NXT North American Championship: Adam Cole vs Ricochet
- EC3 vs Velveteen Dream
As good as the feud between Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano has been, the loss of Aleister Black from the NXT Championship match here – written out after surgery on a groin injury – is a shame as he was adding a fresh twist to their dynamic. That said, this is still one hell of a title program to be able to fall back on, while the Last Man Standing stipulation was originally Plan A for their meeting at TakeOver: Chicago the other month. It’ll be another strong main event, on another strong NXT card.
There’s not a single match on the card that looks weak, although perhaps the contest between EC3 and the Velveteen Dream will be relying more on the ample charisma of both men to get over, whereas the action across the rest of the undercard looks perhaps a little stronger on paper. The match for the NXT Tag Team Championships looks likely to be the strongest. Like NXT’s previous trips to Brooklyn, this looks like setting a high, high bar for SummerSlam to clear.
SummerSlam (Barclays Center, Brooklyn NY)
Announced: As always, the card is subject to change and additions during the week are likely. Official matches at time of writing are:
- Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs Roman Reigns
- WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs Samoa Joe
- Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss (c) vs Ronda Rousey
- Braun Strowman vs Kevin Owens (for Strowman’s Money in the Bank briefcase)
- Intercontinental Championship: Dolph Ziggler (c) vs Seth Rollins
- SmackDown Women’s Championship: Carmella (c) vs Charlotte Flair vs Becky Lynch
- Daniel Bryan vs The Miz
- United States Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs Jeff Hardy
- WWE Cruiserweight Championship Cedric Alexander (c) vs Drew Gulak
- Finn Balor vs Baron Corbin
- SmackDown Tag Team Championships: The Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs The New Day
- Rusev & Lana vs Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas & Zelina Vega (Kickoff show)
What to expect: Surely this’ll be WWE’s final attempt to make a Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns main event work? Braun Strowman’s briefcase being on the line in his match against Kevin Owens feels like a massive, deliberate chicane to try and make an obvious cash-in less of a foregone conclusion. I think the cash-in has to be planned here. Partly because even if Vince McMahon doesn’t understand it, the probable/likely reaction of a Brooklyn crowd to the main event necessitates measures to save it from itself, and partly because it allows a gentler way out of a harsh spotlight for both Reigns and Lesnar (assuming the latter needs to be afforded any protection for a possible future return). Strowman pins Owens, Reigns pins Lesnar, Strowman pins Reigns. That’s my pick.
Looking at the rest of the card, the best hopes for strong matches probably rest with two championship bouts – those for the WWE Championship and Intercontinental Championship – though this will require Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler being allowed to cut loose in the latter, while AJ Styles and Samoa Joe in the former aren’t repeating the template of Styles’ recent program with Shinsuke Nakamura. The real stand-out match in terms of storyline and build is Daniel Bryan vs The Miz, which has been handled well and is something of a draw in this card. There’s also a good chance of Ronda Rousey winning her first WWE championship here – although what kind of a reasonable-length match she can put on with Alexa Bliss is also something that’ll be interesting to see.
It’s possible that one or some of those additional programs I mentioned above in this week’s Raw preview will make the show too, likely the Kickoff if anywhere. It’s a pretty big show already though, so another long night for one of WWE’s ‘big four’ awaits us. Be sure to check in with John and the guys at the end of the week for the full TJRWrestling preview. It’s a long card to run down, so show them some love!
Three Burning Questions
Some of this week’s most pressing but least publicized talking points. Throw down your answers in the comments section as usual!
- Who do you think will emerge from SummerSlam as Universal Champion?
- What’s Aiden English’s deal?
- Which match at SummerSlam are you most looking forward to?
Until next time, strap in, enjoy the ride and remember to stick with TJRWrestling.net for your show recaps and analysis.