WWE's No. 2 annual spectacular, SummerSlam, will emanate live from Brooklyn, New York, on Sunday. The company's second-biggest pay-per-view, this year's event comes one month after the draft that split the company between Raw and SmackDown brands.
All of WWE's major titles are on the line Sunday, and the Raw brand will crown the first-ever universal champion (more on that later). So CBS Sports decided to give some of staffers a break from their usual roles to break down what you need to know -- and perhaps more importantly, what we're thinking -- entering Sunday's event.
Catch SummerSlam live on WWE Network and pay-per-view beginning at 7 p.m. ET
Here's who will be breaking down this event for you below.
Adam Silverstein, Editor: The owner and editor of the uber-successful Top Rope Newsletter (1996-2002) and a wrestling contributor for the Miami Herald those same years, Adam has been following sports entertainment for more than two decades. He's attended two WrestleManias (XXIV, XXVIII), covered countless live shows and interviewed some of the biggest names in the business, including Mick Foley and Dusty Rhodes. Adam ( @SilversteinAdam on Twitter) once did the head shake with D'Lo Brown.
Nick Kostos, Host: Ever since watching the Ultimate Warrior/Randy Savage career-ending match at WrestleMania VII, Nick has been entranced by the world of professional wrestling. He's attended three of the last four WrestleManias, believes Bret did indeed screw Bret, and considers Shawn Michaels to be the greatest of all time. And no, he will not accept an argument to the contrary. You can follow Nick on Twitter @TheKostos.
Denny Burkholder, Producer: An observer of pro wrestling since 1984 who has covered the industry for numerous outlets over the last two decades, Denny was in the audience when Randy Savage crushed Ricky Steamboat's throat with a ring bell in 1986. He regrets not doing more to stop the attack. Denny ( @DennyBurkholder on Twitter) was a writer for the short-lived ECW Magazine as well as a writer, editor and producer at WrestleLine.com. He is currently a voter for the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame.
Matt Snyder, Writer: Initially getting into wrestling during the first big boom in the 1980s, Matt was actually in attendance with his father and brother for the infamous Hulk Hogan screwjob in Market Square Arena (Indianapolis) that led to a tournament for the title in WrestleMania IV. After a sabbatical from watching the product, Matt got reintroduced to it in college and has passed his watching habits on to his young son. Find him on Twitter @MattSnyderCBS.
|Match (champion)||Title / Stipulation|
|Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton|
|Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor||Universal Championship|
|Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler||World Heavyweight Championship|
|John Cena vs. AJ Styles|
|Rusev (c) vs. Roman Reigns||United States Championship|
|Sasha Banks (c) vs. Charlotte||Women's Championship|
|The New Day (c) vs. Gallows & Anderson||Tag Team Championship|
|Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens|
|The Miz (c) vs. Apollo Crews||Intercontinental Championship|
|Cesaro vs. Sheamus||Match 1: Best-of-7 Series|
|Carmella, Becky Lynch & Naomi vs. Natalya, Alexa Bliss & TBA|
|Sami Zayn & Neville vs. The Dudley Boyz (Kickoff Show)|
|American Alpha, The Usos & The Hype Bros vs. Breezango, The Ascension & The Vaudevillains (Kickoff Show)|
Picks and Predictions
SummerSlam comes upon us this year just weeks after WWE decided to hold a draft and split its brand. What did you think of how the split was handled and the way things have gone since with SummerSlam now here?
Silverstein: At first, I was down on the idea of splitting the roster, but it definitely grew on me. The only issue I have now is the disparity of talent. Raw is a three-hour show and needs more bodies but consider the lack of young main-eventers on SmackDown. I was also pleased with how WWE booked both shows over the first two weeks but creative has recently fallen back into some of its bad habits.
Kostos: I've enjoyed the split. For me, it was a welcome change and injected some much-needed juice and excitement into the product. I think it's been a bit of a feeling out process since, and honestly, I haven't loved the build to SummerSlam. I understand that they're trying to shake things up, but I'm not in love with Finn Balor or Dolph Ziggler in championship matches.
Burkholder: I'm not a big fan of the roster split, though I understand why WWE did it. It creates opportunities for more talent to get on TV, but it also limits the creative options for the top guys on both brands. That said, nothing is ever set in stone in WWE. If there's a good reason for a talent to switch brands, they can easily book a reason for the change. So it's not the end of the world. Breathe easy, roster completists.
Snyder: Overall, I think they've done a fine job. Nothing outstanding, but I have no great complaints. I initially thought introducing a new belt would be dumb, but instead seeing the tag teams and women on SmackDown having nothing to fight for makes me realize they probably need to add belts, if anything. The two rosters are still getting their footing, but it's early. The roster is definitely deep enough to carry two separate shows.
Down on the card is the Intercontinental Championship between The Miz and Apollo Crews. WWE is obviously trying to get some fresh blood in the picture but do you think Crews is ready to take the belt?
Silverstein: I'm a fan of WWE putting new contenders in the title picture on both brands but there has legitimately been zero character development for Crews to this point. How the company would simply hand him its second-biggest title on a night filled with moments that will trump this match does not make sense to me. Prediction: The Miz retains
Kostos: The Miz has put together a nice run with the IC belt and having Maryse back has rejuvenated him, but ultimately, he doesn't need the title for his character to be over. Prediction: Crews wins the title
Burkholder: The best thing the Miz can do for Crews is force him to be more vicious. I want to see what happens when Crews gets angry or when he feels cheated and that smile disappears. That's what is holding Crews back at this point. I think Miz is enough of a veteran to provoke Crews into showing a dangerous side. Coupled with Maryse at ringside, it seems like a fight he should win. Prediction: The Miz retains the title
Snyder: I do think Crews takes this one. Hopefully he gets better character-wise than just "unbelievable wrestler who smiles a lot." But his in-ring ability has too much star power to not see how an IC title would help him. Prediction: Crews wins the title
It's no surprise Enzo Amore & Big Cass are featured on this card, and the duo of Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens seems to have been successful to this point. Does the build of the real tag team continue or does WWE give a win to the bigger solo names?
Silverstein: This is a sneaky match that may wind up being one of the two or three you remember coming out of SummerSlam. Though I would not be surprised if they give Jericho and Owens the win -- giving Enzo & Cass the opportunity to work for revenge over the next month -- it makes the most sense to have the most over tag team in WWE win in front of what amounts to a hometown crowd. Enzo & Cass have still never won any tag team championship. That's up next. Prediction: Enzo & Cass win
Kostos: I'd be surprised if Enzo & Cass lost. They need the win much more. It feels like creative had nothing to do with Owens and Jericho so they put them together in this feud. Owens and Jericho can go their separate ways after this match while Enzo & Cass can move into a program for the tag title. Prediction: Enzo & Cass win
Burkholder: This needs to be a hard-fought win for Enzo & Cass in Brooklyn, and they're in the ring with two top-notch workers who can help them deliver a good match despite their inexperience. Jericho and Owens are both elite talents and potential show-stealers, so this match could be one of the more entertaining things on the card. It will probably wind up coming down to a miscue by the heels. Prediction: Enzo & Cass win
Snyder: They've only made a few appearances, but JeriKO is one of the best things going on Raw. I absolutely love their mic work together. It really feels like this is a convenient marriage due to neither having a specific foe for SummerSlam in the sense that it's two stars putting over a still up-and-coming tag team. If I'm wrong and JeriKO gets an extended run, including possibly as tag champs, I'll be ecstatic. Prediction: Enzo & Cass win
The New Day is defending its tag team title against Gallows & Anderson ... but it'll be doing so without Big E. Does WWE have this primed for the long-running champs to finally drop their belt?
Silverstein: Nah. WWE has built this up for New Day to have no chance to retain but are they really going to lose the titles to a team that has been spending the last few weeks airing some of the worst vignettes in the company's history? Look for Big E to come to the aid of his teammates when all otherwise looks lost. WWE has taken what should be a strong tag team in Gallows & Anderson and make them a bad joke. Prediction: New Day retains the titles
Kostos: Gallows & Anderson will win and move onto a feud with Enzo and Cass for the belts. Prediction: Gallows & Anderson win the titles
Burkholder: Gallows & Anderson seem strangely emancipated since they've been allowed to branch out beyond the whole "big in Japan" gimmick, and it's helped keep them entertaining. I expect a lot of big crowd-pleasing payoff spots in this one -- when a heel spends this long gloating about causing a testicular injury, there is surely a major receipt coming from the babyface side -- but ultimately, they'll come away with the win. Prediction: Gallows & Anderson win the titles
Snyder: Yes, it's Gallows & Anderson time. Hopefully the "balls" storyline ends forever, too. Gallows & Anderson winning could transition into a program with Enzo & Cass nicely, by the way. They already have recent history. Prediction: Gallows & Anderson win the titles
Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte would be in the main event picture of a normal pay-per-view and still might be held for later in the night. Were you surprised to see Banks take the title on Raw and WWE not save her victory for SummerSlam?
Silverstein: Was I surprised? Yes, because while WWE let titles change hands on television, it hasn't done that much since the Monday Night Wars. That doesn't mean it was a bad thing. This should be one of the top three matches of the night, and it should culminate in The Boss keeping her strap. By the way, Dana Brooke adds nothing to Charlotte's gimmick. But I digress. Prediction: Sasha Banks retains the title
Kostos: I'm not surprised that Sasha won the title on Raw, because they needed a title change with "oomph" to put over the brand split. Sasha will win again at SummerSlam and receive a massive pop from the Brooklyn crowd. Don't be shocked if (and when) this match steals the show. Prediction: Sasha Banks retains the title
Burkholder: I've never subscribed to this rigid philosophy that every major title change has to happen on a pay-per-view or else it's a wasted moment. Did you see it happen? If yes, then it wasn't wasted. Why do you care which show you saw it on? It's different when a match is already announced, but generally, "saving" the good stuff for the special shows only teaches viewers that Raw and SmackDown can be ignored, because the good stuff never happens there. I wasn't surprised by Sasha's pre-SummerSlam win, nor do I have any issues with it. Prediction: Sasha Banks retains the title
Snyder: The timing of the title change is what made it so great. It seemed like another one of those tease jobs, but then she pulled it off. It was excellent. She obviously retains here, but this match will be one of the top three on the card. Give credit to Charlotte, by the way, for being an incredible heel. Few are booed as loudly as she is. Prediction: Sasha Banks retains the title
Roman Reigns burnt out in the world title picture -- and may have cost himself with his drug suspension. Now he's vying for the United States title Is this the right role for him and do you think he prevails over champion Rusev?
Silverstein: The hate for Reigns has always been misdirected -- it deserves to be aimed at creative for the way it booked him and tried to force him as the face of the company. Him getting knocked down a rung, particularly after his suspension, makes a lot of sense. What doesn't make sense is him taking this belt when he can serve as a major enhancement for Rusev and use the loss as fuel either in a comeback or heel turn. Prediction: Rusev retains the title
Kostos: I love this role for Reigns -- for now. It's obvious that he needs to turn heel. The reaction just isn't there. And you could put me in a program with Rusev and I'd get the "USA, USA!" reaction, so that doesn't count. The best thing would be for Rusev to go over and have Reigns turn heel. We'll see if WWE pulls the trigger. Prediction: Rusev retains the title
Burkholder: For many reasons, it was time for WWE to pull Reigns back from the main event picture for a few months. Don't fret; he'll be back. One feud with Rusev for the U.S. title does not a career make, and if he's not in the main event -- this time -- then there is no harm in him trying a different opponent. You'll swear you've seen this match before by the time it's over. Prediction: Roman Reigns wins the title
Snyder: The obvious answer here is that Rusev wins, but I'm going in a different direction. Prediction: See the universal title match below
John Cena and AJ Styles are fighting. Again. With no stipulation or anything special to the match. Their previous bouts have been great but are you tired of seeing the rivalry?
Silverstein: Cena-Styles is an exciting match, but I'm ready to move on from it. Just because Styles and Gallows & Anderson are on different shows doesn't mean the Club members can't pay their former teammate a visit during the match. Whether that's the finish or not, it's time for Cena to break his third-match winning streak and put someone over. Styles needs to be back in the title picture. Prediction: AJ Styles wins
Kostos: Definitely not tired of this rivalry because both men are consummate professionals and always put on great matches. As for the winner? John Cena will win. Why? Because John Cena always wins, especially in the blow-off of a feud. Plus, Styles is from TNA, so there's no shot he goes over the face of WWE in their final match of this current rivalry. Prediction: John Cena wins
Burkholder: Well, gee, when you put it that way ... the answer is no. No, I am not tired of seeing an entertaining rivalry that produces great matches and fun interviews. Also, there's only been one other one-on-one TV match (well, WWE Network) between Styles and Cena at this point. Tedium surely exists in pro wrestling. This is decidedly not it. And it could be a great opportunity to get The Club 2.0 going. Prediction: John Cena wins
Snyder: This is one I wish they would have saved. At least the one-on-one match. Instead, it looks like the same ol' "Cena jobs for hot new guy, but gets him back twice" routine. Just like he did with Owens, Rusev, Bray Wyatt, etc. Yes, I'm tired of it. Prediction: John Cena wins
The world heavyweight championship is billed third-to-last on the card, which is kind of incredible. Will Dean Ambrose continue being the standard-bearer for SmackDown or does Dolph Ziggler's push go full-circle?
Silverstein: Anyone who has read our WWE coverage over the last two years knows I've been pining for a legitimate Ziggler push. The brand split was great for guys like him. Unfortunately, I just don't see creative actually believing in him to carry the water for the brand. That's unfortunate because the guy is a major talent, but it won't be surprising. Prediction: Dean Ambrose retains the title
Kostos: I can't see Ambrose losing. I don't like the way this has been booked because I don't think Ziggler has a chance. Bray Wyatt will get involved and that will be your next world title program. Prediction: Dean Ambrose retains the title
Burkholder: It's really, really hard to buy into a chance that Ziggler might get another title run, only because of how he's been booked the past several years. This could be a great match, but I just don't think Ambrose drops the title here. Prediction: Dean Ambrose retains the title
Snyder: This is all Ambrose. I'm kind of sad they haven't turned Ziggler and instead it seems like it's Ambrose doing the "bad guy" things. Regardless. Prediction: Dean Ambrose retains the title
It's the opportunity you've been waiting for to defend or crush the "universal" championship. But besides the name, does WWE stick with Seth Rollins as it's premiere star or thrust Finn Balor into that role?
Silverstein: The name is awful, yes, but it has already somewhat grown on me. What I'm interested to see is what the belt looks like considering the world heavyweight and women's titles have a standard design. WWE is doing what it can to make this brand split work and that includes injecting fresh blood wherever possible. Rollins is young, talented and exciting, yes, but Balor is new and more than capable. It may only be a one-month run, but look for the Demon King to prevail. (On that note, WWE better stop using "demon" with Kane because those names are pretty damn confusing. I also hate that they wasted the main-roster debut of Balor's entrance on Raw.) Prediction: Finn Balor wins the vacant title
Kostos: Yes, "universal championship" is the worst name ever for a belt. That said, this match should be awesome. How does Rollins not win? I'd be stunned if Balor went over. Prediction: Seth Rollins wins the vacant title
Burkholder: The universal title had to happen. Both brands need a marquee champion. I wouldn't have named it that, though it does give me warm, fuzzy memories of the days of Steve "Dr. Death" Williams and One Man Gang. In the end, it's just a name. If not the champion, Rollins absolutely should be a frequent contender for that championship. They need to take their shot with Balor, too, but right now might be a bit too early. Prediction: Seth Rollins wins the vacant title
Snyder: Instead of just going back to "WWE" and "world heavyweight" titles, I'm not sure they could have picked a name that people would have complained about, so I'm fine with this. I do think this is going to be Rollins' match after an incredible performance by both. They'll make Balor look as impressive as possible, and I'm going to go out on a limb and guess they finally pull the plug on attempting to make Reigns a big-time face. He costs Balor the match, somehow, teams with Rollins and the two own both major Raw belts, running roughshod over the roster. Why? Roman says he realized Rollins was right all along. The fans are idiots. He did everything for them and they still booed him. So screw that, he dominates the show with is former brother by helping him beat the man (Balor) he kept him out of the title match. Could we get a Rusev turn out of this, too? What did he really do to Roman that was bad? Defend his wife after she got a face full of cake and had to listen to his insults? Wow, what a jerk. I'm probably going too far here. Prediction: Seth Rollins wins the vacant title
Brock Lensar vs. Randy Orton. What once may have seemed a strange booking has really developed over the last few weeks. Are you pumped to see the match and how do you see it going?
Silverstein: The RKO (and it originating from nowhere) is almost the perfect weapon to take down Lesnar, which is why Orton winning would be surprising yet believable. The question in any rare Lesnar loss, though, is whether WWE plans to continue using him or is ready to give him a few months off. Considering there's more than three months until Survivor Series and five until Royal Rumble, somehow I think this is one of those one-and-done Lesnar appearances with him not back on TV for another six to eight weeks. This should be an awesome match with some highlight spots and surprising RKOs. Ultimately, though, The Beast is The Beast for a reason. Prediction: Brock Lesnar wins
Kostos: The only way Lesnar loses is if Goldberg actually surprises, interferes and costs him the match. Otherwise, Lesnar beats Orton in a hard-fought, physical match that will see the Brooklyn crowd salute both men after the finish. Prediction: Brock Lesnar wins
Burkholder: You get what you pay for with Lesnar and Orton. There will be suplexes for days, an RKO outta nowhere, Paul Heyman's incredible performances at ringside. Lesnar is a straight-up spectacle at this point and Orton is a long-proven main-event-worthy competitor. This match will be just fine. Orton could really benefit from a strong showing in this one. Prediction: Brock Lesnar wins
Snyder: This question is well put. At first it was like, OK, cool, they've never had a match before, but what's behind it? The build has been outstanding and I can't wait. I feel like it's going to be Lesnar surviving an RKO-outta-nowhere to win. Because, well he's The Beast. Prediction: Brock Lesnar wins