DISCLAIMER – The Eternal Optimist, aka Dave Fenichel, is a worthless bag of d*cks with an annoyingly optimistic viewpoint on the world of wrestling. Join in on the conversation below or follow him on Twitter https://mobile.twitter.com/FFFightLeague You’ve been forewarned.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: What is the biggest shocker that you think will happen at Summerslam?
I can’t believe that Summerslam is less than two weeks away. It feels like it has snuck up on us more so in 2018 than in other recent years. Outside of addressing Daniel Bryan and The Miz, I haven’t done much to discuss the show. With that in mind, here’s where my head is at:
The Eternal Optimist Presents: Summerslam – Roman Reigns, A.J. Styles, Braun Strowman and Ronda Rousey Should All Lose, John Cena Should Sit This One Out, and More.
Roman Reigns Should Lose.
I love Roman Reigns. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns and on Twitter, Roman Reigns has had a top 15 career if he never were to wrestle another match. With that said, I don’t want to see him climb the mountain at Summerslam.
I don’t want to see Roman lose because the diehard booger eaters hate him. I don’t want to see Roman lose because of the lack of top heels waiting for him as challengers. I want to see him lose because the WWE has a chance to turn Roman Reigns into Tommy Dreamer.
Allow me to explain. I’m an old man – old enough to have been sitting in Bingo Halls during the heyday of ECW. One of my all-time favorite feuds was that between Tommy Dreamer and Raven. It wasn’t the hostility, the blood, the anger or the violence that drew me in and kept me invested from 1995 through 1997. It was one simple element to the story. Tommy Dreamer could NEVER beat Raven.
Seriously – not once. They would wrestle practically every week for a three-year period. Raven beat him every damn time. Defeating Raven became an epic quest for Dreamer. No matter how much success he had and how beloved he was, he was never able to make it happen.
The blow-off to the three-year saga was simply tremendous. Raven was leaving for WCW and his send-off was a “Loser Leaves Town” match against Dreamer at WrestlePalooza 1997. The drama was tremendous and when the referee finally counted Raven’s shoulders to the mat, the pop that ensued was earth-shattering.
Conventional wisdom tells me that there is very little chance that Lesnar walks out with the title at Summerslam. A clean Reigns victory or a Reigns victory with a Strowman cash-in are the two most likely outcomes. I hope that the WWE goes in another direction. Let Lesnar beat Reigns again, and let him beat him over and over again for the next couple of years. Brock Lesnar can become the Raven to Roman Reigns’ Tommy Dreamer.
Regardless of how “smart” the fanbase has become, there’s always room for traditionally strong storytelling. The WWE has an opportunity to make it happen with Reigns and Lesnar. I hope that they seize the opportunity. Roman Reigns isn’t currently a sympathetic figure. The WWE can begin to change that narrative in two weeks.
The critics will counter by stating that the interesting story to tell is a Reigns heel turn and alignment with Paul Heyman. It isn’t going to happen. Reigns is a tremendous merchandise mover and although our portion of the wrestling community isn’t a fan, the kids are still going nuts for him. If you don’t believe me, head to a live show and open your ears.
A.J. Styles Should Lose.
A.J. Styles is beloved. A.J. Styles is a great wrestler. If I had to choose matches from one wrestler that I could watch on repeat, A.J. Styles might just be that guy.
A.J. Styles doesn’t move the needle. There’s nothing wrong with that. He’s a safe choice for champion. If the WWE doesn’t have a better option, they can put the title on A.J. and know that they’re going to get 3 ½ to 4 ½ star matches on a weekly and monthly basis from him. But if the goal is to create new fans to tune in week after week, A.J. Styles isn’t the guy.
I don’t think Samoa Joe is the guy either. He’s another older wrestler and doesn’t have any mainstream or crossover appeal. However, it’s the right time of the year to take a chance. The time between Summerslam and The Royal Rumble is often a slower and the WWE isn’t desperate for a ratings bump.
Maybe Samoa Joe catches lightning in a bottle and captivates the masses. After all, Steve Austin was a guy who wore black tights and boots largely to apathy. If he doesn’t, a 2-3 month title run before dropping the title back to Styles doesn’t do anyone any harm. At the very least, it serves as a thank you for a grizzled veteran of the industry who has worked his ass off to get where he is.
Much like was the case with Jinder Mahal last year, it behooves the WWE to take risks. Make it happen.
Braun Strowman Should Lose.
I’ve seen my fellow columnists scoff at the Braun Strowman v Kevin Owens match and stipulation. I don’t understand their angst. The common worry is that Strowman needs to win the title as soon as possible or else he risks being “ruined forever”.
I guess the worry is that they’ll take away his contract. I don’t see the issue. In fact, I embrace that outcome. I’ll always laugh at the alarmists when they throw around a term like “ruined forever”. Triple H wasn’t “ruined forever” when he f*cked a corpse on national television – I think Braun Strowman will be FINE.
Here’s the deal. The entire idea that Braun Strowman needs a cash-in to be validated as a top superstar is simply not true. Braun Strowman is ALREADY a top superstar. He gets main event level reactions every time that he comes out. Entire shows are built around him being the focal point. He no longer needs the Money in the Bank briefcase for validation. He’s already there.
The WWE should treat Strowman the way that they have traditionally treated a fast-rising top superstar in the past – by building a program designed towards his coronation at Wrestlemania. For someone of his stature, a Money in the Bank cash-in doesn’t do him justice. It provides a great pop and equally great moment, but does nothing for him long-term. The lack of main event-ready heels on the roster is a problem, and short-sighted decision-making is rarely a good idea.
Kevin Owens, on the other hand, is a talented wrestler without any type of real direction. He could definitely use the briefcase to restart a career that is threatening to be stuck in neutral. I don’t even care what KO does once he gets the briefcase. It gives him purpose.
The WWE should absolutely have him beat Strowman and work towards building up a world title program for Braun at Wrestlemania. I don’t understand why this is hard to grasp for some of my colleagues.
Ronda Rousey Should Lose.
I feel the need to pump the brakes on a Ronda Rousey Title victory over Alexa Bliss. I’m hearing a lot of chatter on social media and the expectation seems to be that she’s going to win in a squash. I just don’t see it.
I’m a fan of Ronda Rousey. I think she’s been a breath of fresh air and far outperformed my expectations of her. This just doesn’t feel like the right stage for her to capture gold. Summerslam is a massive show that is generally considered to be the second biggest on the calendar after Wrestlemania. However, there’s a bigger show lurking for the women.
Evolution marks the first ever all Women’s Pay Per View, and it absolutely needs to be treated like the Wrestlemania of the Women’s Division. The WWE should be looking to put their best foot forward and try to make that show feel “special”. To me, a Ronda Rousey title victory goes a long way to doing exactly that.
Rousey smashing Alexa doesn’t feel special. It feels rushed. I think Summerslam is the perfect opportunity to turn Natalya heel. Rousey shouldn’t be losing cleanly and there isn’t any value in keeping a partnership between Rousey and Natalya going. Natalya is the perfect bridge opponent to help hone Rousey’s in-ring skills until Evolution hits. Ronda should NOT win the title at Summerslam.
Charlotte Flair’s Inclusion in the Smackdown Live Title Match Was the Right Call.
“GIVE BECKY A CHANCE!” – Every Internet Wrestling Fanboy On Twitter.
Look – I like Becky Lynch plenty. Maybe not as much as the creepy population of wrestling fans that I referenced above, but enough to want to see her with another run as Smackdown Women’s Champion. That run just isn’t and shouldn’t happen at Summerslam.
Ronda Rousey v Alexa Bliss is a big deal. It’s one of the marquee matches on the card. By default, The Summerslam Smackdown Women’s Title match is going to be playing second fiddle in the eye of the majority of the fan base.
With that in mind, there’s no reason for the WWE to burn something as worthwhile as a Becky Lynch title win when the focus just won’t be there. It would come off as an afterthought rather than the important and crowd-pleasing event that it deserves to be.
On the flip side, I don’t want Becky taking a clean loss here either. Her character has taken some hits and hasn’t been protected as well as she should have been over the past couple of years. The WWE has finally done a good job of building her back up. A clean loss will stifle some of her recent momentum.
The addition of Charlotte allows for Carmella to retain her title without Lynch coming off as a second-rate contender. I look forward to seeing how the storyline between the three women plays out over the next few months. Summerslam looks like the beginning – not the end of the story.
What’s Going On With The Mid-Card Titles?
Something is amiss when it comes to both the United States and Intercontinental Title matches at Summerslam. Both were announced yet neither makes any sense to happen as advertised.
I was surprised to see the WWE announce Shinsuke Nakamura v Jeff Hardy for the United States Title at Summerslam. Everything that we have seen on television suggests that the WWE is building to a Triple Threat Match with Randy Orton being inserted into the mix.
Orton’s character finally has some much-needed direction and it seems unlikely that the WWE will leave him on the outside looking in. I think that the announcement is likely smoke and mirrors and I expect Orton to be added to the match between now and Summerslam. Nonetheless, it’s a cause for concern. Orton isn’t being left off the card. If he’s not involved in Summerslam, what match does he get inserted into? The card is shaping up to be fantastic. The last thing I’d want is for Orton to screw up another match that I view as a blockbuster. Here’s to hoping that the WWE does the logical thing.
Then, there’s the Intercontinental Title Match. There is NO CHANCE that Seth Rollins faces Dolph Ziggler in a gimmick-free match in two weeks. The WWE isn’t going from a 30-minute Iron Man Match on an off-brand Pay Per View to a run of the mill one on one match at Summerslam. I see three options.
First, the WWE can insert others into the match. I hope this isn’t the path of their choosing. It would be lazy booking and turn a great feud into a clusterf*ck. With the remaining Raw wrestlers quickly being booked for matches and storylines, I don’t see this being a realistic option.
Second, this can become a TLC Match. If we’re looking at a 1 on 1 encounter, this is the best course of action to take. There are very few gimmicks that would feel like a bigger match than the Iron Man stipulation from last month, but TLC certainly fits the bill. On top of that, it’s the perfect gimmick to showcase both of their talents.
Lastly, the announcement of the match is just a red herring. McIntyre has been so heavily involved that I could EASILY see the WWE turning this into a tag match. Can any of you think of a partner for Rollins? I sure can. Ambrose is due to return any day now and there couldn’t be a more perfect spot for him.
Both mid-card title match announcements left me with questions that need answering. I look forward to the next two weeks of television to fill in the gaps.
John Cena Should Sit This One Out.
Last, but certainly not least, is the elephant in the room. We are less than two weeks away from Summerslam, and John Cena doesn’t have a match. Speculation has run wild on what his role might be, but there doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut answer.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a bigger John Cena fan than myself. He’s on my Mount Rushmore and I struggle to rank him any lower than the second greatest pro wrestler that ever lived. It pains me to say this, but I don’t think he belongs on the Summerslam card.
Summerslam is a deep show with plenty of matches that should be pleasing to anyone that tunes in. I can’t find an opponent for Cena that makes sense. Finn Balor and Cien Almas fit the bill of wrestlers that could use the John Cena rub. However, Cena has been booked so weakly over the past year that he needs a win. If the WWE was still looking to keep the Cena-brand strong going forward, he can’t be doing a job at Summerslam this year. There’s merit to running a real match between John Cena and The Undertaker. However, throwing that together on short notice and adding it to a card that doesn’t need the star power doesn’t do anyone any good. There’s always John Cena v. Hulk Hogan, but that’s a conversation for another day.
It was recently announced that John Cena would be appearing at a House Show in China on September 1st. Thus, it would appear that the WWE is heeding my advice and keeping him off of Summerslam altogether. That brings up a bigger question for me. Even the usual suspects of part-time wrestling tend to show up for Summerslam. If he isn’t being booked for the second biggest show of the year, are the days of John Cena being involved in any type of meaningful storyline over?
That’s a wrap kids. Tune in next week when I’ll surely attack another issue to piss most of you off. Thank you for reading. Sound off below!