WWE returns to pay-per-view (PPV) tomorrow night (Sun., Aug. 18, 2013) live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, with its SummerSlam event starting at 7:00 p.m. ET with the free live streaming pre-show featuring Dean Ambrose vs. Rob Van Dam leading right on into the PPV main course at 8 p.m. ET.
And it's a fine line-up
John Cena and Daniel Bryan will duke it out for the WWE championship in the main event with Triple H presiding over the action as special guest referee. On top of that, we've got CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar, Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian in a world heavyweight championship match, Kane vs. Bray Wyatt in a "Ring of Fire" match, and much, much more.
Luckily for you Cagesiders, our staff of learned wrestling blowhards is here to help figure out just how the event is going to play out with predictions for each match on the card.
Let's get to it.
WWE SUMMERSLAM PREDICTIONS
John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan
The General: With Cena facing surgery and WWE having to deal with the fact that many of its fans now know that that's the case, it's possible we get a swerve of some sort. I'm thinking that could mean Cena goes over and Randy Orton doesn't cash in, which would be anticlimactic for sure but at least it would be unpredictable, and that's all too often a priority for WWE. The planned angle here could be moved to Raw the next night. Or, Cena loses then Orton cashes in. Or he wins then Orton cashes in. Or he wins and Orton cashes in on Raw. Or Bryan wins and Orton cashes in on Raw. Or Triple H, as special guest referee, screws everybody and joins Vince McMahon to form a new Corporation. Hell, I have no idea what's about to happen, folks. I'll say Bryan wins, goes into Raw as champion, then gets put through the ringer by the McMahon's before dropping the strap to Orton on a surprise cash-in during the main event. Pick: Bryan
Hulk Holland: Now that we know John Cena is having elbow surgery, the outcome of Sunday night points to Daniel Bryan, which could explain why Triple H is now the special guest referee. After all, "Aitch" likes Bryan and they don't want the champ to get pinned clean, so expect some tomfoolery that results in Cena doing the part-time job. That kind of finish may be too busy for an Orton run-in, unless Vince gets involved. God, this thing could get ugly, fast. Pick: Bryan
Keith Harris: Just because John Cena needs immediate elbow surgery, doesn't mean he'll necessarily lose this match, as Randy Orton could always successfully cash in his briefcase afterwards or the McMahon family could strip him of the belt and put it up for grabs in a tournament. However, that would be a complete waste of the momentum Daniel Bryan has built up in the past few months and miss a rare opportunity to make a new WWE headliner. Look for Bryan to get the big victory here, but I'd expect his joy to be short-lived and him to be screwed out of the title by a reunited McMahon family aiding their handpicked successor Orton the next night on Raw. They've so heavily teased that happening on the pay-per-view that it seems far too predictable that they'll actually shoot that angle at SummerSlam. Winner: Daniel Bryan
Sean Rueter: I'm a little worried about overbooking, and HHH's presence, but I'm more excited than worried. Mostly because I think we're going to get a hell of a match, but also because I think the show they want to be Mania Jr. is going to get a feel good ending. I'm sure there will be some tomfoolery, but I expect it to end with Vince thwarted and the man he least wants to see as champ being handed the belt. Monday night will probably bring a deranged Mr. McMahon, maybe some black clad operatives and a guy with a briefcase, but for one summer Los Angeles night, all will be right with the pro wrestling world. Pick: Daniel Bryan
Eric B. Stephen: More has been said and written about this match than perhaps any other match in recent memory. On one hand, you have Daniel Bryan, a favorite of "smarks" since his early days in the independent scene who has now become more universally over than just about anyone else on the roster. On the other, you have WWE's divisive golden boy, John Cena. At stake is more than just the WWE Championship. The winner of this match will effectively be the banner-carrier for WWE headed into the Autumn months. With the hot streak he has been on, and with the entirely of the WWE universe at his back, I really can't see Daniel Bryan losing this match. Whether he holds onto the title belt for the rest of the night is another matter entirely, what with Randy Orton lurking with his Money in the Bank briefcase ready to go... Winner: Bryan (for now...)
Kanenite: With surgery on the horizon it seems certain that Cena will lose the WWE Championship either at SummerSlam or the next night on Raw. Randy Orton doesn't even have a scheduled match on the show and so a successful cash-in seems too obvious to actually happen at SummerSlam. So which authority figure will help Bryan achieve a victory over Cena while avoiding an Orton cash-in? I think Vince McMahon is going to screw Cena over at SummerSlam while Bryan is knocked out and oblivious to Vince's shenanigans. And this will lead to an epic Cena versus Bryan rematch on Raw the next night, where a major heel turn will take place for either Bryan or Orton, thereby establishing the company's top heel for the remainder of 2013. Pick: Daniel Bryan
CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar
The General: I'm really hoping this lives up to its potential and comes through as a "Match of the Year" candidate. Lesnar isn't just the beefy brawler WWE has propped him up as since his return to the company last year. He's actually one hell of an athlete who can sell with the best of them. When he's on, he's one of the best, and with Punk as a dance partner, this could be great. Late betting has come in on Brock and plans have been rumored to have gone back and forth on a winner, so this one seems up in the air. I'll go with my gut and say Lesnar wins. Pick: Brock
Hulk Holland: If Brock Lesnar was sticking around, I might be inclined to think he takes this match as a way to extend their program. But he's not, which is a surprise to no one, so CM Punk will get his revenge on Paul Heyman and Co. and move on to another main or co-main event feud. Hey, maybe Daniel Bryan will turn heel against John Cena and we can see him fight Punk for the gold at Survivor Series. A man can dream, can't he? Pick: Punk
Keith Harris: This is a tough one to call, as Brock Lesnar has got the best of CM Punk in every confrontation they've had so far, which would suggest Punk going over here, but thinking ahead to WrestleMania 30, Lesnar is likely to be in the bigger match and so a victory here would keep him strong for the future. My gut feeling is this will be booked very much like Cena vs. Lesnar, with Punk managing to eke out the win despite taking a vicious beating, but Lesnar will be the one standing tall after all is said and done. Winner: CM Punk
Sean Rueter: Based on Punk's standing tall on Raw, how nice it would be for the Beast Incarnate to actually have a winning streak going, the need to have the feud with Heyman continue on into the fall, the numbers being against the Best in the World - especially since Curtis Axel has nothing else to do Sunday night...I don't think things go the Chicagoan's way. As DDP would say, though, that's a good thing. Punk is building a "really bad year" story ten times better than the one they tried to cobble together for Cena last year, and I think his third straight loss on a Big Four PPV could lead to a Rumble win and something special at WM30. Pick: Brock Lesnar
Eric B. Stephen: The breakup of former best friends CM Punk and Paul Heyman has gone about as poorly as a breakup can. Regardless of what he says, Heyman's jealousy is preventing him from envisioning Punk having the kind of success he enjoyed in 2012 without him. And to ensure that, he has his muscle, Brock Lesnar, there to stop Punk personally. WWE is calling this one "the Beast vs. the Best," but I'm going to have to agree with Lesnar on this one: "the Beast" IS "the best." Winner: Lesnar (and Heyman.)
Kanenite: Brock Lesnar is going to lose at WrestleMania 30 against either The Rock or The Undertaker. Therefore based on the rules of parity booking, Brock can't lose this match as well. Punk will probably gain a satisfying measure of physical revenge on Heyman only to fall victim to a devastating F5. Perhaps Punk will snap after the match and obliterate Brock with multiple weapon strikes, sending Brock home for a few months. Most people are focusing on the uncertain finish of the WWE Championship match, but I expect this match will steal the show and end up being Brock's most entertaining match since last year's battle with John Cena. Pick: Brock Lesnar
Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian
The General: Talk about a feud that no one cares about. Christian has posted multiple victories over Del Rio in singles matches throughout their brief program, not to mention gotten the best of him each and every time they've crossed paths. Even when "ADR" has tried launching sneak attacks, he's ended up lying on the mat selling a Killswitch. So what does it all mean? He retains and no one has any heat. Pick: Del Rio
Hulk Holland: I like Alberto Del Rio as a heel champion and I like Christian as a title contender. Unfortunately, I don't like them sharing the same ring. It's kind of like having a glass of Merlot with Cap'n Crunch in that some things just don't pair very well. Having said that, I can envision a scenario in which both men come out the victor, but in order for Christian to win, there would have to be a heel waiting to take his place, like Damien Sandow. Either way, this bout does nothing for me and I'm considering it a cool-down match unless proven otherwise.
Keith Harris: It's hard to believe the ratty Christian will ever get another World title run by Vince McMahon, even though he is still one of the best workers in the company, Alberto Del Rio continues to struggle despite being given every chance to get over and it would be a logical place for Ricardo Rodriguez to return and cost his former best buddy his big gold belt in revenge for being savagely kicked to the kerb. Christian just seems to be a placeholder challenger to keep Del Rio busy and make him look good on one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year. Winner: Alberto Del Rio
Sean Rueter: You'd have a hard time genetically engineering a bigger theoretical mark for this match, and I'm still not that interested. Probably because even with a wealth of history from which to build a really good story, they've lazily had Christian repeat a catch phrase that only got over two years ago because he was delivering it as a heel and given the match away for free a bunch of times. I thought that ADR might lose to give Sandow a face to cash in on, but I guess the blue briefcase is going to be a slow burn again this year. Maybe we'll get a double-turn, since the last one worked out so well for all involved. Pick: Alberto Del Rio
Eric B. Stephen: I may have to turn in my Christian fan-club card for talking like this, but I'm shocked that he is in this match. Yes, he's been on quite the win streak since returning from injury just a few months ago, but for a number of reasons, I thought his days at the top of the card were behind him. Still, he finds himself taking on Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Title at one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year. Unfortunately for Christian, I just don't see him overcoming Del Rio at this point. Winner: Del Rio.
Kanenite: There aren't too many reasons to believe that Christian will win this one. Both men are above average workers, yet this match still finds itself in hopeless need of a gimmick such as a ladder match. The most interesting thing about this match will be how Ricardo's involvement plays out. I think Ricardo is going to tease attacking Del Rio after a ref bump, only for Ricardo to turn around and nail Christian with the bucket or his shoe. Ricardo is desperate for Del Rio's approval and will use this as his opportunity to make up for his screw-up from a couple of weeks ago. Pick: Alberto Del Rio
Kane vs. Bray Wyatt
The General: With the news breaking earlier this week that Kane would be bailing sometime soon to go film the See No Evil sequel, it suddenly seems entirely possible that Wyatt wins the match before he and his buzzards set Kane on fire to write him off television for a while. It's possible Kane wins and then that happens, but that would make no sense. Actually, I can see the decision makers thinking Bray can lose so Kane can keep his heat while the family lights Kane up and they keep their heat so everyone wins. Ugh. That's probably going to happen. Pick: Kane
Hulk Holland: This is about as easy as it gets. You don't spend three months building up Bray Wyatt and his "family" just to have him lose his PPV debut at SummerSlam, because that would effectively kill his character and flush all that hype right down the toilet. Having said that, I expect Wyatt to win convincingly and it wouldn't surprise me if he and his cronies manage to leave with Kane as part of their stable. That's how cults work! Pick: Wyatt
Keith Harris: This is a complete no-brainer, as the WWE creative team aren't stupid enough to cut The Wyatt Family off at the knees by having their leader lose in his debut to a perennial midcarder that will be departing soon to shoot a crappy horror movie sequel. Expect Kane to suffer one of the biggest beatings in years and put over Bray Wyatt with an exclamation mark. Winner: Bray Wyatt
Sean Rueter: This could be okay (I mean, Bray is an army tank with a Ferrari engine...wait, forget I said that) but will probably just be brief. No matter, I hope it ends with a killer Wyatt promo and Kane being written off in a terrifying way. Pick: Bray Wyatt
Eric B. Stephen: I, like many others, am very excited to see Bray Wyatt in his main roster debut. And even though this "Ring of Fire" match isn't going to be the "light your opponent on fire Inferno Match" of years past, I think it will be a neat element nonetheless. Separated from his "family," Wyatt will be at the mercy of a very angry "big red monster" in Kane. Despite it being his element, Kane hasn't had the best of luck in matches involving fire, and I think Wyatt is just wily enough to win this thing. (Oh, and I could still see Kane ending up on fire...) Winner: Wyatt.
Kanenite: Bray Wyatt's character work is strong enough where he doesn't even have to win his debut match on WWE PPV. But with Kane taking time off to shoot a movie, it doesn't really make sense to have Kane get the win here. Bray's family will find a way to help him win, and then Kane is in for a world of trouble after this match is over. Pick: Bray Wyatt
Damien Sandow vs. Cody Rhodes
The General: The briefcase is not on the line so this match doesn't feel as special as it could. Then again, that could come later and if that's the plan, which it definitely should be, Rhodes should go over here before coming up short when it matters most. He gets his revenge but Sandow keeps the case. Pick: Rhodes
Hulk Holland: I'm under the impression that Damien Sandow is mixing it up with his former best friend as a way to keep him busy until they figure out when and where he's going to cash in his guaranteed title shot. If Creative was going to give Rhodes the briefcase, which is on the line in L.A., they would have done it at the Money in the Bank (MITB) ladder match when fan support was at its peak. Pick: Sandow
Keith Harris: Another easy pick, as WWE audiences have yet to warm up to the bland Cody Rhodes as a babyface, whilst Sandow continues to show great potential as a future main event heel. Rhodes would have been much better off if he had accepted Sandow's generous off to be the keeper of the case and continued to ride his coattails. Winner: Damien Sandow
Sean Rueter: Is the briefcase on the line? As far as I can tell, that'd be a no, which not only kind of telegraphs the result but sucks some drama out as well. Should be good anyway, and probably just act two in the story - Cody is pretty fun to cheer for, Damien is hella-fun to boo, they're both good workers and a loss would be the kind of thing that would get the ultra-proud Duke of Decency to actually hang his case above the ring in the next match. Pick: Cody Rhodes
Eric B. Stephen: I had to do a double take to make sure, but this is just a standard singles match between the two former best friends, no Money in the Briefcase on the line. Still, I expect Cody to take this match very seriously in his quest for revenge over Sandow, who cost him that Money in the Bank briefcase just one month ago. And Rhodes, I think, will get that revenge. Winner: Rhodes.
Kanenite: Cody's babyface turn seems to be a big flop right now, at least based on crowd reaction. Damien is going to cheat to beat Cody here by attacking him in the face with his briefcase, and Cody will be lucky to even find himself scheduled for a match on next month's PPV. Pick: Damien Sandow
Dolph Ziggler & Kaitlyn vs. Big E. Langston & AJ Lee
The General: While I recognize the talent here dictates the potential for a really fun match, I just don't care about the outcome. With Langston and Lee doing the job for Natalya and Great Khali on Raw, and Ziggler and Kaitlyn only watching from the back and getting all of two seconds of TV time, I don't know what to make of this. I assume AJ makes Kaitlyn tap to end their feud while Ziggler skates by with a loss that wasn't his own. Pick: Big E and Lee
Hulk Holland: How is it possible to build a case for Big E. Langston and AJ Lee when they just jobbed out to Great Khali and Natalya? And to make matters worse, Lee had to tap out twice because the ending was botched. With so many matches ending by way of "frustrated heel walks out," what happened on Monday Night RAW is puzzling. Expect Ziggy to sell hard but ultimately prevail via Kaitlyn pin. Oh, and AJ will scream and act like a psycho, prompting Big E. to finally kiss her. Pick: Ziggler & Kaitlyn
Keith Harris: It makes sense for the heels to win, as they're the more natural coupling, whilst the babyfaces have just been thrown together as they have mutual enemies. Winner: Big E. Langston & AJ Lee
Sean Rueter: And the match voted most likely to be scrapped due to time constraints is... The Divas belt is meaningless right now (the "Being on Total Divas" tournament is elsewhere on the show), poor freaking Dolph, and Big E's time will come. Those are all my thoughts on this one. Oh, a "winner"? Pick: Zigger & Kaitlyn
Eric B. Stephen: Kaitlyn hasn't had much success against AJ in recent months, losing both her title and her rematch for AJ's Divas title. Maybe having Dolph on her side will finally help get her over that hump? Or maybe not...AJ's got the powerhouse Big E on her side, may give her team the advantage. In this toss up, I'm coming down on the side of Kaitlyn's revenge and Dolph winning over his former "heavy." Winners: Kaitlyn and Ziggler.
Kanenite: Ziggler's face turn seems so forced and it is hard to be emotionally invested in his character at this point. Meanwhile AJ is the biggest star of this match, and this would be a great time to showcase Big E's talents as well. But just like Ziggler's tag match at WrestleMania 29, I don't see this one lasting much more than 5 minutes, and ultimately this match will help nobody. The babyfaces will win because there is nothing on the line here and they can at least give the audience a great "AJ is crazy" moment as she accidentally leads Big E into a Zig Zag for the finish. Pick: Ziggler and Kaitlyn
Natalya vs. Brie Bella
The General: When it comes to WWE and the Divas division, always go with the Bella. Pick: Brie
Hulk Holland: I suppose if you watch Total Divas (I don't), you might give a hoot about what happens here. I'm not sure I would, even if I did watch it. Having said that, Brie Bella will win so that viewers keep tuning in. After all, this is reality television, and viewers love evil hoes. Pick: Bella
Keith Harris: The ugly Diva duckling rarely gets to appear on pay-per-view, yet alone win, but as The Bellas have cattily made such a big issue of Natalya's looks, it seems time for the bullies to get their comeuppance. Winner: Natalya
Sean Rueter: If they ever care enough to put the Divas title in a Total Divas storyline, and I'm not convinced that they will, it'll probably end up on a Bella. But they have a little invested in the "Natty is the one who can actually wrestle" story now, too, and I think she might get to go over on PPV to further that. Pick: Natalya
Eric B. Stephen: So I guess this match is happening as well? And it's based on something going on with a new TV show I don't watch and some other stuff...I'm really struggling to work up any kind of enthusiasm here. I think Natalya is by far the better wrestler, so we'll just go with her. Winner: Natalya
Kanenite: Natalya would win this match if she was teaming with Maria Menounos. Maria Menounos has a career record of 3-0 and is so good at wrestling that she could very well find herself in a Streak vs Streak match against The Undertaker at a future WrestleMania event. But in a one-on-one contest Natalya is naturally the underdog because she is clearly the better wrestler. The Bella Twins are the real stars of Total Divas, so I expect them to get the star treatment here over Neidhart. Pick: Brie Bella
Dean Ambrose vs. Rob Van Dam
The General: I really don't know what to make of this match, mostly because WWE didn't really give us much of anything to sink our teeth into other than Van Dam earning the shot by winning a battle royal on Raw and then beating Ambrose as part of a six-man tag on SmackDown later in the week. And that was all during the go home week of programming. I guess I'll say Ambrose retains but I'm not really sure why. Pick: Ambrose
Hulk Holland: This is a great way to kick off the PPV and I can't imagine two guys who are better suited for one another. Ambrose is just the right guy to sell all those high-flying moves from Rob Van Dam and I even think they will give RVD the title. Not because he's been Extreme-ly awesome since his return (he has), but rather because it will send the crowd into a tizzy and eek out a few more fenceline buys. Pick: Van Dam
Keith Harris: Even though The Shield are clearly on the backburner, it's hard to see what benefit would be gained by WWE putting one of their secondary belts on a part time established star who doesn't need the boost of a title. Only way RVD wins is if it's a disqualification through interference by Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins, but that would be a cheap finish for a pay-per-view. Winner: Dean Ambrose
Sean Rueter: Can't wait to see Dean sell RVD's offense, but this kind of comes out of nowhere and is a little hard to get too excited for as a result. I also fully expect his fellow Hounds to help the champ retain while keeping Rob strong for a future program higher up the card. Pick: Dean Ambrose
Eric B. Stephen: I'm as surprised as anyone with the success RVD has had since returning to WWE last month at Money in the Bank. However, that success has him going up against Ambrose for the lowest (male) singles title on the WWE totem pole (the US title) on the pre-show. Still, it's better than what Ambrose's Shield mates are getting, which is to watch the show from backstage since they don't even have matches. While I think RVD will bring the offense and get the crowd into it, I don't see Ambrose losing his US title just yet.
Kanenite: Is it just me or is RVD one of the four most popular performers in the company right now? I think WWE will go with the hot hand and give RVD a disqualification victory here, setting up a potential championship rematch at Night of Champions. Pick: Rob Van Dam
Those are our predictions, Cagesiders. What are yours?