As a service to fans who have a general interest in WWE but might not have watched a match in months, we’re happy to provide this FAQ as a guide to SummerSlam — which is without question the biggest wrestling pay-per-view to be held in Florida this weekend not named NXT TakeOver: XXX.
Is this going to be another WWE pay-per-view held in the Performance Center with virtually no spectators in the building?
Absolutely not. This is going to be a WWE pay-per-view held at the Amway Center in Orlando with spectators brought into the building virtually!
This week, the WWE is debuting the “ThunderDome,” which might conjure images of a postapocalyptic Tina Turner but is actually a massive collection of LED video boards that will broadcast live images of fans watching matches. Fans sign up for digital “seats” through the WWE’s website or social feeds, and they are “expected to participate and appear on his or her screen throughout the duration of the event.” In fact, “any extended absence from the screen may result in his or her WWE ThunderDome seat being reassigned to a replacement participant or otherwise discontinued.” So, no scrolling through TikTok during bathroom breaks, people.
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Randy Orton
Braun Strowman (c) vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt
Raw women’s championship
Sasha Banks (c) vs. Asuka
SmackDown women’s championship
Bayley (c) vs. Asuka
United States championship
Apollo Crews (c) vs. MVP
Raw tag team championships
The Street Profits (c) vs. Andrade & Angel Garza
Seth Rollins vs. Dominik Mysterio
Hair vs. Hair
Mandy Rose vs. Sonya Deville
Producer Kevin Dunn told Sports Illustrated that the ThunderDome will resemble the NBA’s virtual fan experience, but that instead of a flat board facing cameras, “We’ll have rows and rows and rows of fans,” with enhanced chants and cheering. It looks like Shaquille O’Neal’s surprise entrance in the third annual Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal suddenly has competition for best NBA/WWE crossover of all time.
That’s not all: The ThunderDome will include a state-of-the-art set, pyrotechnics, lasers, cutting-edge graphics and drone cameras, the last of which veers dangerously close to Matt Hardy’s intellectual property. Dunn said all of this adds up to entrances that will be “better than WrestleMania.” Failing that, at least they will be shorter.
By the way, the WWE said it now has a “residency” at the Orlando arena, where all of its televised matches will take place going forward. It’s just like Britney Spears’ residency at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, only with better choreography.
What’s the must-see match on the card?
This isn’t always the case for a major event — or Randy Orton matches, for that matter — but it has to be the WWE championship match between the champ, Drew McIntyre, and Orton. Stop me if you’ve heard a story like this before: Orton goes on a violent winning streak over stars such as Edge, Big Show and Christian; declares his intention to challenge for the belt; and totally defaults to “legend killer” status with attacks on a 71-year-old (Ric Flair) and a man with a 71-year-old’s hairline (Shawn Michaels), while dropping McIntyre, the champion, with a sneaky RKO-outta-nowhere as Raw signed off its last show leading into SummerSlam.
This type of buildup to a Randy Orton main event returns to the WWE every few years like a cicada, but it’s always effective in making him seem like a viable contender — and it makes us want to see McIntyre kick him in the face.
What about the Universal championship?
Our champion, Braun Strowman, defends against “The Fiend” version of Bray Wyatt, as both are involved in the WWE’s greatest love triangle involving a former women’s champion and a freakish monster since the Lita/Kane/Matt Hardy troika. Here, Alexa Bliss has been folded into the story opposite Strowman, her “Team Little Big” partner (remember the Mixed Match Challenge?). After Wyatt used a ghostly visage of Bliss to trick a secretly smitten Strowman, in an effort to drown him in the Wyatt Family Swamp, Bliss was attacked by The Fiend and then used as bait for Strowman. Then, when Strowman returned, Bliss was attacked by Strowman to lure The Friend to the ring.
In between, there were strong hints at some kind of burgeoning “Beauty and The Fiend” angle with Wyatt. You know what? Just watch this match. It’ll be weird and different. Sometimes, that’s all you need.
Anything else weird and different on the card?
Does a women’s hair vs. hair match count? We haven’t seen a woman put her hair on the line since Molly Holly did it to challenge Victoria for the women’s title at WrestleMania XX. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville are former friends who have been locked in a struggle for months. Deville attacked Rose recently and snipped off a lock of her hair. Wrestling feud rules dictate that the next step is a hair vs. hair match. While this would be the perfect spot for a Brutus Beefcake cameo, we assume that’s not a “WWE in 2020” decision. Anyway, congratulations to either Mandy or Sonya on her impending character refresh.
What about the other women’s matches?
Asuka is wrestling Sasha Banks for the Raw women’s championship and Bayley for the SmackDown women’s championship, in separate matches.
This sounds delightfully convoluted.
Oh, it is. At Extreme Rules last month, Raw champ Asuka attempted to spray Banks in the face with her green mist but hit the referee instead. Bayley, who is Sasha’s tag partner, hit Asuka from behind with the belt, took the referee’s shirt and counted a pin for Banks, and the two fled with the belt. On the next Raw, Stephanie McMahon made a rematch with a stipulation that the title could change hands via count-out or disqualification and — wouldn’t you know it? — Bayley beat up Asuka’s friend Kairi Sane backstage, a concerned Asuka left the ring and was counted out to lose the title. Later, Asuka beat Bayley to earn a chance to face Banks. Then on Friday, Asuka also earned the right to face Bayley at SummerSlam after winning a “three-brand battle royal” on SmackDown, which was created by McMahon to give everyone who hates Bayley a shot at facing her for the belt. Twice the Asuka, twice the fun, I say.
Obviously the women’s tag titles won’t be on the line, but what about the other tag belts?
The Street Profits will put the Raw tag team belts on the line against Andrade and Angel Garza. Now this is a great match on paper between two dynamic and charismatic teams. But that’s not selling WWE Network subscriptions, now, is it? You know what does? Poisoning! Someone poisoned Montez Ford’s red Solo cup drink. It turned out to be — dun, dun, duunnnnn — Zelina Vega, manager for Andrade and Garza.
We know this because the WWE has installed extra security cameras around the WWE Performance Center training facilitybecause a mysterious band of troublemakers called Retribution has been attacking people, vandalizing the ring, taking over the production van and wielding a chainsaw. Hopefully, this match ends with Ford and Garza recreating the “poison in my glass” scene between Vizzini and the Dread Pirate Roberts from “The Princess Bride.” Hey, the WWE is all about cinematic matches, now, right?
“Retribution”? Are we doing factions again?
While none of them is D-X, the Nation of Domination or even The Oddities, there are always a few factions kicking around the WWE. In addition to the as yet anonymous Retribution, there’s “The Hurt Business,” which features MVP, Shelton Benjamin and Bobby Lashley. They made their mark by crashing Shane McMahon’s underground fight club on Raw (don’t ask) and establishing dominance. It’ll be MVP against Apollo Crews for the United States title (that MVP paid for and subsequently lost) at SummerSlam. Kudos to Montel Vontavious Porter for rocking the “Black Panther”-inspired bodysuit at 46 years old.
OK, the setup for that match seems way too normal. Tell us there’s more weirdness on this card.
You mean like a son getting revenge for his father after someone ripped his eye out of its socket in a wrestling match?
Now we’re talking!
This is the actual setup for Dominik Mysterio, the 23-year-old son of lucha libre legend Rey Mysterio, taking on Seth Rollins at SummerSlam. At Extreme Rules, the elder Mysterio and Rollins had an “eye for an eye” match, in which the only way to win was to rip your opponent’s eye out. And while everyone was speculating how they’d get around this stipulation in the match, it turned out they wouldn’t — Rollins “ripped” Mysterio’s eye out. You could see the “eyeball” and everything. It was one of those moments that you’re embarrassed to tell your non-wrestling friends about, while at the same time knowing that it’s the kind of corny carny act that keeps you watching.
Anyway, the WWE released a statement on Rey Mysterio after that match that stated “medical experts were optimistic that if the optic nerve is not severed and there is not too much strain on the blood vessels and nerves that connect the eye to the rest of the head, there’s a chance Mysterio can maintain his vision.” Rey is now sporting an eyepatch sewn into his mask. He’ll be in attendance on Sunday.
His son is sporting welts from a kendo stick attack from Rollins and his “disciple” Murphy, as Rollins continues to do his Messiah complex thing. This is a Street Fight match, which is a great way to get around the fact that Dominik Mysterio is a novice, the need for kendo sticks to be involved and Rey Mysterio’s inevitable involvement in the finish. Maybe Rollins pulls out Rey’s other eye and he staggers around Amway Center like Darryl Hannah inside Michael Madsen’s trailer in “Kill Bill Vol. 2.”
So that’s the card for SummerSlam so far. Any other questions?
Yes, why is SummerSlam’s tagline “You’ll never see it coming?”
We’ll assume it’s a reference to the “Payback” pay-per-view that’s happening one week later — and the fact that you’ll never see all of SummerSlam’s potentially unsatisfying, open-ended finishes coming.
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