After writing up some early card predictions for AEW All Out 2021, it dawned on me to think ahead about what WWE might have in store for SummerSlam 2021 in comparison.
While Hell in a Cell is coming up and WWE would never admit to this because of how bad it would sound, it’s clear this is not the prioritized event. Rather, it’s another show that’s going to happen before the real show that matters: Money in the Bank.
That’s the one that will have fans in attendance, so it’s a bigger deal. But the real real show that WWE is going to put even more stock into is SummerSlam.
My guess is Hell in a Cell will wrap up some loose threads, Money in the Bank will be sold primarily on the 2 titular gimmick matches and “isn’t it great the WWE Universe is back?” more than anything else, and SummerSlam is where the real effort will be focused.
So how can WWE make sure it isn’t a flop? In what ways can it truly become the so-called Biggest Party of the Summer?
Legitimate Marquee Matches with 3 Names in Particular
Most of the Superstars are incredibly talented, but few at the moment have true drawing power. As great as someone like Mustafa Ali is, I doubt putting him in a headlining match is going to boost the viewership drastically based on how little stock WWE has invested in him.
For SummerSlam to feel big, it’s going to need WrestleMania-level attractions. You can’t just do the fourth match between two Superstars, call it an “epic feud” and expect people to be excited. There has to be something fresh and/or unique about the card to garner some attention.
I think a lot of this event’s success depends on three particular names: Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Becky Lynch.
In particular, I’ll go so far as to say we have three matches that absolutely must happen.
Brock Lesnar has to fight Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship. The match has been far too long in the making to be another one of those things that just doesn’t happen (like The Four Horsewomen vs Four Horsewomen, Sting vs Undertaker, etc)
The Beast Incarnate will present the biggest challenge to The All Mighty’s title reign and I think Lashley needs to win and retain. However, even if Lesnar wins, it’ll still make the audience pop.
John Cena should be back in action ready to fight Roman Reigns. There’s no bigger match for Cena to have other than against The Tribal Chief, nor is there anyone on the roster who can meet Roman’s level to seem like a big enough opponent.
In that scenario, Reigns needs to win, obviously. This should probably be the main event, too.
When it comes to Becky Lynch, you’re going to want The Man back. She’ll have been out for around a year and a half and should be rarin’ to go. Of course, I can’t speak that into a guarantee, but I’d imagine she’s likely been training and could be itching to get back in the ring.
I don’t want to see Charlotte Flair beat Rhea Ripley for the title at Hell in a Cell or any time soon, but if either of them are champion, Lynch is the next contender. She’s the biggest draw you could get other than Ronda Rousey, and I doubt that’s happening any time soon.
Those three matches already make it seem like a big deal of an event, but it’s not just a matter of having the top look good and calling it a day.
The Supplemental Card Must Also Matter
All too often, WWE looks at a show and says something is “good enough” because it has one selling point. Whenever that happens, guess what everyone thinks about it: “Wow, that’s a 3-match card and the rest is pretty pointless.”
WWE needs to be more open, because even if they’re unintentional about their transparency, we can still see right through a lot of the b.s. It’s not as though 11th hour matches announced on the go-home shows and on The Bump prior to the event ever feel like they’re legitimately awe-inspiring. They just come off like last-minute “break glass in case of emergency” backup plans that nobody would get properly invested in.
The whole card has to look like it was set up to be a big event. Not just the top 3 matches.
- Do Sasha Banks in her rematch against Bianca Belair.
- RKBro should either be tag team champions or Matt Riddle vs. Randy Orton should definitely be on the card.
- If Daniel Bryan is still around, and if this New Japan Pro Wrestling deal is able to be worked out, wouldn’t it be great to get him against someone like Kazuchika Okada? People would go nuts!
- Book the best possible midcard and tag team title matches. Utilize your big names. Make sure The Usos are in the tag title hunt for SmackDown. Don’t have Humberto Carrillo fighting for the United States Championship if you’re sitting on Braun Strowman. Let’s see Cesaro fight for the Intercontinental Championship.
- Incorporate a “throw everyone in there” match of some sort. Do a battle royal or something. But actually make it have stakes instead of just awarding a trophy we’ll never see again.
Do Not Set Yourself Up for Failure
One of the most embarrassing elements of WrestleMania was the Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton match. After months of me saying “this feud isn’t going to pan out well and it’s going to be a waste of time”, I was right, unfortunately. WWE didn’t bother to do anything worth justifying months of stalling and it tarnished that entire show by how pointless it all was.
Don’t set yourself up for building expectations that you know you can’t deliver on. For that matter, stay away from The Fiend and Alexa Bliss and all that stuff entirely, since that seems to be a running theme with these characters, where it’s all sizzle and no steak.
Don’t have DQ endings on this show. It’ll just piss off the audience. You can’t approach SummerSlam being the best event and simultaneously try to position it as something that exists purely to set up the next show.
Likewise, don’t cannibalize the card by doing matches ahead of time that should happen on the pay-per-view itself. It boggles my mind how the Fatal 4-Way for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship was on the SmackDown before WrestleMania, rather than the card itself. Who the hell thought it was a better idea for Dominik and Rey Mysterio to win the titles a month later in front of nobody, just so they could have two matches for the women’s tag titles, wherein the contenders lost anyway and then won the titles several weeks down the line all the same, too?