WWE returns to pay-per-view (PPV) -- if your cable provider is carrying the event, of course -- tomorrow night (Sun., Aug. 17, 2014) live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California with its SummerSlam event starting at 7:30 p.m. ET with a pre-show of some sort leading right on into the main course at 8 p.m. ET on the WWE Network.
Set for the card: John Cena defends the WWE world heavyweight championship against Brock Lesnar, Stephanie McMahon returns to the ring after over a decade away to take on Brie Bella, and 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 2014 PREDICTIONS
John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar (WWE world heavyweight championship)
The General: I wouldn't be at all surprised if the decision is made to put Cena over here. After all, they once brought back The Rock for a two-year program they wanted to use as a passing of the torch, so to speak. John Cena is the kind of star they've never stopped putting over and when you do that, you have to give him increasingly meaningful victories. Will they do that here? I'll say they won't because what would that say about Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania? Pick: Lesnar
Sean Rueter: While I would never be surprised to see the champ "never give up" and end a match with his hand raised, I have to believe that Vince McMahon's investment in Brock Lesnar - both in terms of money and in storyline currency of breaking The Streak - is too great for them to fall back on old reliable. Regardless though, they have sold me on this match. Not that I required too much. Their Extreme Rules match from a few years back was great (with the wrong ending) and I don't think two years will have degraded their skills appreciably (unlike other veterans on this card). Expect the proverbial slobberknocker, and a dominant if oft absent title holder on the other side of it. We can worry about the problems with that later. Pick: Lesnar
Hulk Holland: It doesn't make any sense to have Brock Lesnar beat The Undertaker at WrestleMania and snap the streak, just to come back and job to John Cena. For what? So Cena can move on to fight Randy Orton again? Giving Lesnar the strap allows for a huge babyface win later this year for Daniel Bryan or Roman Reigns and freshens up the stale main event scene. Pick: Lesnar.
Keith Harris: It would be stupid for Brock Lesnar to lose his first match back since breaking The Undertaker's WrestleMania streak. Doubly so to someone who has already beaten him before. Trebly so if that man is John Cena, who will gain nothing from such a victory other than the hate of hardcore fans for him being pushed down our throats harder than the price of the WWE Network. Moreover, it just seems the natural progression of Brock's second run in WWE is for him to reign supreme as champion again while Paul Heyman obnoxiously hypes him as the baddest man on the planet. Pick: Brock Lesnar.
The Lady J: I anticipate this match being brutal, and I can't wait. I don't particularly favor either of these individuals, though I lean more toward Brock Lesnar because he has my hero Paul Heyman in his corner. It's hard not to hate on both John Cena and the guy who conquered the Undertaker. But I, along with many others, have grown so weary of John Cena that we just want to see him get destroyed. I'm also particularly excited to see what kind of chaos/Paul Heyman promos accompany a Lesnar title reign. But if Cena wins, I hope Seth Rollins is ready with that briefcase. And that Dean Ambrose is too tired to stop him. Pick: Brock Lesnar
Cain A. Knight: This is the biggest match of the entire year and so expectations are as high as it gets. Their match at Extreme Rules 2012 was an instant classic and I've been anticipating the sequel ever since. Everyone knows that Brock Lesnar is winning this match, but then again, everyone also knew that Brock was going to beat Cena two years ago. The most interesting thing about this match will be whether or not Brock needs Heyman's help to win. Lesnar needed Heyman's assistance to defeat both Triple H and Punk in 2013, yet he cleanly conquered The Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania 30. Meanwhile John Cena never loses cleanly to heels in a match without stipulations. Lesnar needs to solidly kick John Cena's ass all on his own in this match to properly follow up on conquering the streak. But I don't think that WWE will book it quite like that. Pick: Brock Lesnar
Stephanie McMahon vs. Brie Bella
The General: I think these two are going to surprise a lot of people. Before her break from in-ring action, Brie had improved in a big way and while Stephanie is certainly no technician, I'm confident she'll have all the help she needs to put together a solid showing. My feeling is they'll get seven minutes to work a straight up match before seven minutes of wild overbooking. Whether or not that's a good or bad thing -- and there is such a thing as good overbooking, see: Austin vs. Dude Love at Over the Edge 1998 -- remains to be seen. It feels like the heel goes over here. Pick: Stephanie
Sean Rueter: If any match on this show should adhere to traditional, WWE "good overcomes evil" booking, it's this one. Throw in the fact that all involved should be focused on getting one good match out of these two, rather than a series of matches, and I see a Bella victory being one of the surer things at SummerSlam. The big questions for me are how good of a match can they pull off and/or how gimmicked will the match be to compensate for that? I don't know what the answer to those are, but I'm fairly confident in picking the winner. Pick: Brie
Hulk Holland: Brie Bella should probably win this because she is a wrestler and Stephanie McMahon is not. Unless there are some corporate shenanigans at play, which prevent Mrs. Bryan from sealing the deal, which actually sounds more likely. Nikki Bella heel turn? I could be down with that. Pick: McMahon.
Keith Harris: Brie is perfectly acceptable in her role as the feisty Mrs Bryan, but Stephanie is such a tremendous heel and is much more important to the bigger picture (onscreen and off) that increasing her heat and giving her more fodder to troll the crowd with should be of paramount importance. There's been rumours that Nikki is going to turn heel on her twin sister (think of the rating that feud will draw for Total Divas Season Four, Cagesiders) and this would be the perfect time to shoot that angle. Pick: Stephanie McMahon.
The Lady J: I still don't believe this match is actually going to happen. WWE is giving us way too much of a sneak peak into Stephanie's workout regime. And each woman has already put her finisher on the other one, so where would the match really go? We're getting worked. Steph's coming out to the ring in her heels and her dress and drop some kind of bomb on Brie. Pick: Stephanie McMahon ALWAYS WINS.
Cain A. Knight: This match is going to be a ton of fun, with plenty of shenanigans and run-ins. For a while I thought this match was really difficult to predict, as rumors of Nikki turning heel were spreading fast. But now that Brie has been embarrassed for two weeks in a row on TV, combined with Bryan's besmirched reputation as an alleged cheating husband, makes me think that Brie has to win at SummerSlam. They can always have Nikki turn on Raw or at the next PPV. Will Daniel Bryan show up to save the day at SummerSlam? I hope so! Pick: Brie Bella
Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns
The General: The winner of this match is inconsequential. This is a very big match for the progression of Roman Reigns, however. He's getting a rumored 20 minutes to tango with one of the biggest stars in the company on one of its biggest shows and he's almost surely going over. This may not be a "make or break" situation but it's definitely the biggest test of Roman's young career. Believe that. Pick: Reigns
Sean Rueter: The brakes were pumped on either this or Roman's entire push, as these two have been kept pretty far apart with Reigns even disappearing from television for a few weeks. I don't expect this match to break that mold. The Viper will get a decent match out this, but he's never been one to elevate lesser or greener talents. For all those reasons, this should be one of the least emphasized high profile matches in recent history. It'll be interesting to see if that lack of hype takes us into a feud with Triple H or more of a slow down for the Big Dog. My guess is that they stick with the former, as he gets better reactions from live audiences than from us internet types, and they're too invested already to back down. With both The Game and Kane free, look for them to get involved and help Orton win, leading to the next step in Roman's guided rise up the card. Pick: Randy Orton
Hulk Holland: Beating Roman Reigns means Randy Orton holds up his end of the bargain and gets his title shot -- as per Triple H -- and that means yet another match against John Cena or a heel vs. heel showdown opposite Brock Lesnar. Even worse, it kills any and all momentum for Reigns. All three scenarios are awful, but fortunately, none of them are happening. Pick: Reigns.
Keith Harris: This is a big night for Roman Reigns. Can he handle the pressure of his first ever singles match on pay-per-view? Will fans see through his inexperience? Will Orton be the ring general that masterfully hides Roman's weaknesses or will he instead put on a dull performance that hinders more than it helps? I'm sceptical that Reigns can carry his end of the bargain if this goes too long, but there's no doubt he's winning, as he's WWE's chosen one de jour and his character can't afford pointless defeats to Triple H's whiny lapdog. Pick: Roman Reigns.
The Lady J: I predict this match will contain: hair flipping, slamming of fists on the mat, sly side glances at the audience, at least one Superman Punch, at least one DDT, at least one RKO, at least one spear, and, if there is a higher power, exactly NO mic time for either of these guys. Pick: Roman Reigns
Cain A. Knight: Like many Randy Orton feuds, this one is a snoozer. Randy is going to apply headlocks for 10 to 15 minutes, and then Roman is going to hit his three moves of doom to finish this one off. By the way this will be Randy's sixth consecutive loss on PPV. Pick: Roman Reigns
Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (Lumberjack match)
The General: The fact that Ambrose is going off to film a movie at some point in the next month or so throws a wrinkle in this. Rollins going over in the first match always made sense to set up the second showdown in a larger setting and perhaps they can get there with a strong showing here that helps write Ambrose off TV. Either way, looking forward to this one. Pick: Rollins
Sean Rueter: FINALLY! If this match doesn't happen...expect me to complain about it A LOT come Monday. The stipulation is still a stretch, but hopefully is just to leave more interesting match types like steel cage open for future bouts. Like Reigns, I don't think it harms Ambrose to lose, as part of his character and appeal right now is in how he reacts to The Authority's attempts to screw him over. I sure do wish they'd get away from disqualifications and other protected finishes, but I have a feeling SummerSlam will be full of them - maybe including this one. Of course, if the Lunatic Fringe is headed to Hollywood soon, he could win clean-ish here when the case isn't on the line and be written off with a loss with a match with looser rules in the not-too-distant future. That sounds right. Pick: Dean Ambrose
Hulk Holland: If Seth Rollins loses, he still has the briefcase to fall back on, as well as his cronies in The Authority. Dean Ambrose has no such luxuries. A loss this weekend makes him a loner AND a loser. Not a good look, unless he plans on bolting for that new movie right after the show wraps. Pick: Ambrose.
Keith Harris: Well, at least there should be a match this month! Shame it's a lumberjack stipulation, as that gimmick often subtracts more than it adds, although it was probably chosen for storyline purposes. I think they'll want to put more heat on Rollins before Ambrose gets his big win, so I expect one of the Authority's lumberjack helpers to prevent Ambrose from getting revenge on The Shield turncoat just as he looks like he's going to get it. Pick: Seth Rollins.
The Lady J: First things first: please bring me all the #EXPLICITAMBROSEVIOLENCE in the land. Beyond that, I'm not quite sure how a Lumberjack Match is going to serve Dean Ambrose, as no one on the roster (except maybe Roman Reigns) has any reason to help him. But if we actually GET the match this time, I have no doubt it'll be a barn-burner. I'm also sure that this feud isn't even close to being over. Pick: Seth Rollins
Cain A. Knight: The only concern here is whether or not this match will receive enough time to have a chance to steal the show. I feel like the lumberjack stipulation was just thrown in there to get all of the "creative has nothing for you" guys like Stardust and RVD onto the show. It doesn't really matter who wins right now because this feud will hopefully continue through Hell In A Cell. Considering that Rollins was already booked to a major PPV win at Money In The Bank, I think it's Dean's turn to score the victory. Pick: Dean Ambrose
AJ Lee vs. Paige (Divas championship)
The General: I'm not sure this feud ends here. I'm also unsure playing hot potato with the Divas title is what they're planning, which means AJ is going to win here. Pick: AJ Lee
Sean Rueter: This must be some kind of mistake...I already picked the Divas match on the card. Pretty amazing, right? Last time around I complained about them booking this feud as face vs. face, so they fixed it by making it heel vs. heel. Or at least crazy vs. crazy. Whatevs, at least heel vs. heel lets them play to their strengths: Paige can be vicious and AJ can sell. As for a winner...all the right people still like Ms. Lee, she's still the most over female on the roster not named McMahon, and she should keep her precious butterfly belt. Pick: AJ Lee
Hulk Holland: While Paige probably needs the belt more than AJ Lee does, this program is working well the way it is. I wouldn't be surprised if Lee won, but then got her shit pushed in so that Paige can walk away laughing maniacally and more importantly, looking strong. Pick: Lee.
Keith Harris: After a shaky start, Paige is gaining confidence in her new role as AJ Lee's insincere frenemy, showing vast improvement on the microphone and as an all round character. However, these sort of psycho gimmicks rely on early defeats to plunge the loser even deeper into insanity. Hence, AJ beats Paige again here. Pick: AJ Lee
The Lady J: As happy as I am to have AJ back, and as lovely of a champion as Paige was while AJ was gone, I'm not really sure what the point of this match is, aside from giving us a solid women's match. Watching these two play monkey-in-the-middle with the Diva's Title is getting kind of old, and their talents would be better used helping to elevate other women (*cough NAOMI cough*). Whoever wins, I hope they move their respective stories to other ladies. Pick: AJ Lee
Cain A. Knight: This match died a painful death at Battleground, but Paige's turn and subsequent antics have quickly resurrected it. AJ Lee just suffered the absurd embarrassment of losing twice to Eva Marie in the same week, so I can't imagine that AJ will be losing this match as well. Pick: AJ Lee
Rusev vs. Jack Swagger (Flag match)
The General: I read a rumor that no one in WWE seems to know exactly what the rules of this match will be. That tickles me. I can't imagine Vince McMahon would want those Russians to win, though, at least not at SummerSlam. Pick: Swagger
Sean Rueter: Can I pick "No"? On the one hand you have a potential main eventer. On the other, a guy who's proven he's not one. That's enough for me, but according to Zeb Colter I'm not an American because I don't make my wife cook me dinner while I'm drinking beer on the back of my pick-up or something. It's the wrong call, but I've been convinced it's the one they'll make with Old Glory in the match. Pick: Jack Swagger
Hulk Holland: A loss for Jack Swagger is a loss for America and even worse, a win for Mother Russia. Unless Vince is trying to make a statement by burying the 50 stars and 13 bars (revenge for Linda?), putting Rusev over would put a damper on the mood of the "Universe." We need more feel-good moments these days, not less. Pick: Swagger
Keith Harris: The creative team can't seem to decide on what a flag match entails, which makes it hard to pick a winner. Capture the flag rules favour Swagger, as the monster Rusev can lose without getting pinned. If it's a normal match where the winner has his national anthem played, then Rusev should win decisively. I guess they'll do the former here and the latter at Night Of Champions. Pick: Jack Swagger
The Lady J: I think I'd rather sit through 100 hours of robot-arm Lana promos than witness these two do a color guard face off. Not only is the premise silly, but there seems to be no logical place to take either of these characters after this feud ends. Pick: A well-timed power outage saving me from having to watch this.
Cain A. Knight: I am so sick of Jack Swagger getting TV time, prominent spots on major PPVs, and wins over guys like Cesaro and Bo Dallas. This feud really has no business extending beyond Battleground and it just needs to go away. Nobody even knows what the rules of a Flag Match are right now. Is it capture the flag? Does the loser have to wave the winner's flag? Does the winner's national anthem get played after the match? The bottom line is that Rusev has to win this match because they haven't been building him up this entire time just to feed him to Jack F'N Swagger. Pick: Rusev
Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt
The General: I hate how little I'm interested in this match. Pick: Wyatt
Sean Rueter: I think we'll look back a little more fondly at this program from the future, but only a little. Even this Jericholic has to admit that something is a little off with Y2J's work rate, and Bray isn't quite Seth Rollins himself. I hope that with more time to plan they can deliver something impressive, but I worry that no Luke Harper or Erick Rowan from the jump will expose them even more. The Lady J sold me on a decisive win for Jericho being the exact thing that Wyatt's character needs, but that also made me remember that Creative has been clueless as to what they character has needed at almost every step of the way. Pick: Bray Wyatt
Hulk Holland: This is a pretty easy pick because the entire reason Jericho still competes is to help put over the young talent. Since his spot in the WWE Hall of Fame is safe, Y2J can afford to show up, do the job, go back on tour, and return when something interests him. And losing to Jericho would make Wyatt a joke at this point, since he was already turned away by Cena in his most recent feud. Pick: Wyatt.
Keith Harris: Bray Wyatt's not losing two in a row to a part timer who'll be gone again in a month. So far this feud hasn't done much for Wyatt, hopefully they'll turn it up a gear for the biggest show of the summer. Pick: Bray Wyatt
The Lady J: As much as I've enjoyed Bray Wyatt and his lunatic holy-roller persona in the past, he seems to be running out of material. His entire feud with Y2J is just a repeat of what he did with John Cena around WrestleMania and it's not any better the second time around. I still have hope, though, that something might set him off and we'll get the uncontrollably raging Bray Wyatt to rear it's head soon. Pick: Chris Jericho
Cain A. Knight: Like AJ and Paige, these two have to make up for an underwhelming match at Battleground. I like both performers but the story isn't very interesting. Bray Wyatt is extremely easy to tune out because he has just been saying the same thing over and over again for months. Wyatt really needs to do something disturbing and warped in this match to reinvigorate his character. There isn't any mystery as to who is winning this match; they just need to book it way better than Wyatt's last PPV win in that awful cage match. Pick: Bray Wyatt
The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler (Intercontinental championship)
The General: Ziggler is in a far better place than he was, say, three months ago but that doesn't mean he's in a better place than The Miz right now. Dolph is still treading water as the "Show Off" character who steals matches but never victories. Miz is the moneymaker. Pick: Miz
Sean Rueter: Hollywood Miz might be favorite character on the main shows right now. Just putting that out there. Cowardly mid-card heel is right where Miz should stay, and that's the best the Intercontinental belt can hope for right now. More than anyone else, getting taken advantage of makes Dolph more popular. The champ stays scared, the challenger stays screwed, and everybody wins. Pick: The Miz
Hulk Holland: I'm picking The Miz because he's a total douche with a movie role that needs to be shoved down our throats and WWE hates Dolph Ziggler. Besides, nobody cares about the Intercontinental strap, so it doesn't even matter who gets to wear it.
Keith Harris: Although WWE management seems to have eased up on the Ziggler hate that they'll happily book him on pay-per-views now in a featured role, there's no evidence that they've turned the corner on him that they'll put gold around his waist again. It's also too early to give up on The Miz's push after just one month back. Pick: The Miz
The Lady J: I love to hate the Miz, and can't complain about how much time Dolph Ziggler has been spending on my TV lately. I really enjoy the basis of this feud, too, with Miz as the guy who leaves to work on a movie and returns to claim the IC title while Dolph Ziggler toils away on the midcard only to have his title dreams dashed at Battleground by a part-timer. I'm hoping for delayed gratification so this story can keep unfolding. Pick: The Miz
Cain A. Knight: The Miz is sometimes a fun mid-card heel, but I am never in support of him getting a push because WWE already once made the mistake of pushing him all the way to the top. The risk of them repeating that mistake is too much to stomach. And really talented guys like Cesaro, Sheamus, Bo Dallas, Jey Uso, Cody, Big E, and Harper are doing nothing on this show while Miz is getting a solo match. That's just annoying. It's not a complete lock that Miz will win this one, but there is a pretty good chance that Dolph is mainly here to make Miz look great. Pick: The Miz
Those are our predictions, Cagesiders. What are yours?