This year, perhaps more than most, the WWE is pushing SummerSlam hard. And while Wrestlemania is still the league’s premier pay-per-view event, it seems like SummerSlam will actually be more informative for viewers looking to get a sense of the league’s future. There are plenty of questions that need answering after the brand split between SmackDown and RAW, and even more were brought up when the WWE released the card.
Will Brock Lesnar’s Failed Drug Test Affect His Standing In The WWE?
The night of UFC 200, Brock Lesnar failed his second drug test, prompting discussion among fans of mixed martial arts as to the legitimacy of the man’s accomplishments. Now, the UFC chose not to fine Lesnar, but the WWE can be more capricious with the ‘punishments’ it assigns. Though this match is not for any specific championship, it should be very telling for the futures of both of these wrestlers. Since Lesnar is set to face Randy Orton in a match he is heavily favored to win, an upset victory for the Viper could be a sign that Lesnar’s star is fading.
What’s Next for The Club?
Though The Club, the team challenging The New Day for the Tag Team Championship is relatively new to the WWE, they’re by no means newcomers to professional wrestling. Earlier this year, the WWE poached the tag team of Gallows & Anderson from New Japan Pro Wrestling, and have already elected to give them a shot at a championship. It’s also telling that they’re paired against a team that, although ostensibly heels, have a massive fan following. The New Day is arguably the premier tag team group in the league right now (even wrestling without Big E, who was sidelined by an injury the last time The Club and The New Day met in the ring), and the fact that Gallows & Anderson have the chance to take the championship from them is a sign that the WWE has much more in store for them. It’s also worth noting that while The New Day will be wrestling without Big E, The Club will be wrestling without AJ Styles since he was drafted to SmackDown while Gallows & Anderson were drafted to RAW.
Will Seth Rollins Pass His Torch?
The Rollins/Balor match is full of intrigue for people looking towards the future of the WWE. The former NXT star Finn Balor, if he wins, will have a chance to really kickstart something big for his career besides his dominance at weekly events. In addition, a loss by Rollins might imply that after the brand split, RAW may focus more of its energies on Balor as the league’s de facto champion. A quick look at the match card shows that this isn’t the only match where a passing of the torch is possible– the card is full of mid-carders looking for big wins over established names, and it could be a sign that the WWE is willing to shake some things up at the top. For years, the WWE has been increasingly willing to give talented wrestlers with smaller followings a brand push through their investment in NXT and the speed with which NXT stars find themselves at the top of the card at weekly events and at pay-per-views.
Having said that, the view at the top has looked very similar for the past few years. John Cena, Triple H, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, and Roman Reigns — the super-superstars, if you will — have been static (unless they’ve been sidelined by injury). A loss by Rollins wouldn’t necessarily mean the WWE is shaking things up at this upper echelon, but his treatment by the WWE after the match could have some serious implications for the brand moving forward.
How Important is the Brand Split?
The highly-publicized Smackdown/RAW draft is behind us, but it remains to be seen just how exactly the split will affect goings-on during a major pay-per-view event. So far, looking at the match card, the WWE has seemed to take the brand split very seriously. With the exception of the Lesnar/Orton match, the rest of the matches break down along brand lines, with SmackDown wrestlers fighting SmackDown wrestlers and RAW wrestlers doing the same. This means that though we’ll be seeing familiar faces like John Cena, Sheamus, Roman Reigns, Sasha Banks, Cesaro, and The Miz during SummerSlam, the way they were matched up with each other when the match card was created was wildly different than in previous years.
For fans interested in the business side of the WWE, it will be illuminating to track match interruptions and other non-card events and actions to see how deeply the rivalry runs. If the brand split is truly something that the WWE is committing to, it should be obvious during SummerSlam and have massive repercussions for WWE events to come. Personally, I’m just hoping this leads to another SmackDown vs. RAW video game.