SummerSlam 2017 will occur on August 20 for a third consecutive year at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Billed as “The Biggest Party of the Summer,” SummerSlam is one of WWE’s four annual major pay-per-view events. Vince McMahon’s original summertime extravaganza happened in August 1988 at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage teamed as The Mega Powers to defeat The Mega Bucks, consisting of the "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase and André the Giant, in that card’s marquee attraction.
Roughly 28 years after the inaugural show, a match pitting Brock Lesnar against Randy Orton headlined last summer’s affair. In extraordinarily controversial fashion, the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Lesnar badly bloodied the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Orton with a series of savage elbow shots to the head. Lesnar was declared the bout’s winner via TKO and Orton suffered a concussion and required several staples to close his gaping wound. The contest confused onlookers and left many wondering if Lesnar ditched the script and legitimately assaulted Orton. In fact, longtime professional wrestler Chris Jericho confronted Lesnar to receive answers as soon as the former UFC heavyweight champion returned to the backstage area. Vince McMahon and Triple H rushed to intervene before the two got into a brawl. While it’s difficult to know what actually transpired, the bloodbath provided the WWE with a tremendous amount of publicity.
It’s safe to presume that SummerSlam 2017 won’t be discussed nearly as much as its immediate predecessor was. Still, now stocked with a healthier roster, Vince McMahon's creative team can book a number of intriguing scraps. With that noted, this list will rank eight matches that WWE fans would like to see and seven that they wouldn’t.
13 Should Do: BAYLEY VS NIA JAX
As the old adage goes, “styles make fights.” Former Raw Women’s Champion Bayley is a lovable underdog who utterly cherishes the professional wrestling industry. Nia Jax has been presented as an unstoppable heel since debuting in the squared circle last July. Provided the hugger regains the belt from current titlist Alexa Bliss, a match placing the 5-foot-6, 120-pound Bayley against the 6-foot, 272-pound Jax would be intriguing. The 27-year-old Bayley is quick, nimble and relies on her stamina and athleticism to emerge victorious. In stark contrast to Bayley, the 33-year-old Jax is an absolute powerhouse who uses her size and strength to quickly decimate opponents.
If Vince McMahon’s creative team manages to devise a solid script, Bayley grappling with Jax would be the female equivalent of David versus Goliath.
14. Shouldn't: ROMAN REIGNS VS BROCK LESNAR
Brock Lesnar outclassed Roman Reigns throughout their championship bout at WrestleMania 31 in March 2015. Before the 6-foot-3, 285-pound Lesnar could finish the 6-foot-3, 265-pound Reigns, Seth Rollins cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase. Rollins’ shrewd maneuvering successfully altered the match’s outcome and he became the male soap opera’s new titleholder. Thankfully, the feud between the 39-year-old Lesnar and the 32-year-old Reigns essentially ended after that evening’s twist in Santa Clara, California.
More than two years later, a rematch between Lesnar and Reigns remains an extremely unappealing option. The “Beast Incarnate” is a part-time performer and “The Big Dog” is a loathed babyface who the WWE Universe would reject as its champ. Moreover, booking Lesnar against Reigns would prove that Vince McMahon’s creative team is completely unimaginative.
13. Should: JOHN CENA VS SAMI ZAYN
The polarizing John Cena is arguably the biggest star in WWE history. Even if currently a part-time worker, Cena won’t miss one of the four annual major pay-per-view events and he will wrestle at SummerSlam. With few attractive options on SmackDown LIVE’s roster, WWE’s suits should arrange for Cena to meet aimless long-shot Sami Zayn. The 6-foot-1, 250-pound Cena is a stellar athlete and entertainer and the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Zayn remains a badly misused talent. The 40-year-old Cena and the 32-year-old Zayn would energize the crowd and give onlookers a memorable outing. If the future hall of famer won, kids would be thrilled. Conversely, if the Canadian grappler shocked Cena, Zayn would finally have a signature victory and his character would have purpose. Regardless of the result, Zayn is a rare opponent who makes sense for an irregular, 18-year veteran like Cena.
12 Shouldn't: GALLOWS AND ANDERSON VS ENZO AND CASS
The Hardy Boyz defeated Cesaro and Sheamus, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson and Enzo Amore and Big Cass in a Fatal 4-Way Elimination Ladder Match to earn the Raw Tag Team Championship at WrestleMania 33. The 6-foot-8, 290-pound Gallows and the 6-foot, 215-pound Anderson have been hideously mishandled by Vince McMahon’s executives since premiering in April 2016. Meanwhile, although wildly popular, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Amore and the 7-foot-1, 285-pound Cass have inexplicably become glorified jobbers. The two tandems rarely emerge victorious and both teams are seemingly directionless. Granted, strictly because of Amore’s skills on the microphone, the audience would initially show interest in this bout. However, the fans in Gotham would quickly grow tiresome and vacate their seats for the nearest concession stand.
11 Should: BROCK LESNAR VS FINN BALOR
Competing as the “Demon King,” Finn Balor pinned Seth Rollins at SummerSlam 2016 to capture the inaugural WWE Universal Championship. Regrettably, the notoriously reckless Rollins executed a running powerbomb to a ringside barricade that caused the 35-year-old Balor to suffer a labrum tear in his right shoulder. Balor was forced to relinquish the title the next evening on Raw. Hence, Balor never actually lost the belt and he deserves a match against WWE Universal champion Brock Lesnar. The crowd at the Barclays Center would be electric as the undersized, 5-foot-11, 190-pound Balor battled the massive, 6-foot-3, 285-pound Lesnar. Sacrificing four inches and 95 pounds, Balor could only win if he performed as his ominous alter ego. The “Demon King” versus the “Beast Incarnate” would be fantastically entertaining.
10 Shouldn't: RUSEV VS JINDER MAHAL
Rusev and Jinder Mahal formed an alliance in December 2016 and fought as a team for a few months on Raw. Predictably, tensions eventually arose between the 6-foot, 305-pound Rusev and the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Mahal and the duo split following an incident at Fastlane in March. Shortly after WrestleMania 33, Vince McMahon ordered a roster shakeup and both the 32-year-old Rusev and the 30-year-old Mahal were sent to SmackDown LIVE.
McMahon’s creative team seems determined to make Mahal a big star and giving him the title proves it. Meanwhile, despite being blessed with phenomenal strength and athletic abilities, Rusev has been made into a purposeless character. Accordingly, many fans would like to see the “Bulgarian Brute” turn face. Regardless of Rusev’s fate, a bout matching Lana’s man against Mahal would be a complete snoozefest.
9 Should: BRAUN STROWMAN VS SETH ROLLINS
The feuds pitting Braun Strowman against Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins versus Samoa Joe will eventually conclude. When that day mercifully arrives, the 6-foot-8, 385-pound Strowman and the 6-foot-1, 217-pound Rollins will need fresh rivals. Therefore, WWE’s hierarchy should script Strowman and Rollins to become bitter adversaries. Carelessness notwithstanding, the 30-year-old Rollins is widely considered to be one of the industry’s premier in-ring showmen. Meanwhile, WWE executives have masterfully developed the 33-year-old Strowman into an indomitable villain. Now a staunch babyface, “The Architect” is a gifted grappler in the squared circle and an engaging voice on the microphone. Somewhat similarly, Strowman is incredibly acrobatic for a man his size. From all potential standpoints, Strowman and Rollins would make for intriguing enemies this summer in Brooklyn.
8 Shouldn't: DEAN AMBROSE VS THE MIZ
A 36-year-old ex-reality television star, The Miz has matured into one of the business’s preeminent heels. Conversely, Dean Ambrose has become one of wrestling’s most beloved, yet rebellious, babyfaces. From afar, especially considering they’ve both hosted talk show segments, a scrap matching the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Miz and the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Ambrose would be ideal during the dog days of August. However, The Miz and the 31-year-old Ambrose have been skirmishing for a prolonged period and the two competitors need a new angle. In fact, Maryse’s husband and “The Lunatic Fringe” fought on the SmackDown LIVE brand and they’ve continued battling since moving to Raw in April’s roster shakeup. The promotion’s writers should concoct fresh storylines and find alternative foes for both combatants.
7 Should: KEVIN OWENS VS A.J. STYLES
Kevin Owens and A.J. Styles are two of the most skilled grapplers to earn WWE paychecks this decade. The 6-foot, 265-pound Owens is in the midst of his second reign as United States Champion on SmackDown Live. Meanwhile, the 5-foot-11, 218-pound Styles hasn’t held a belt since losing at Elimination Chamber in February. In addition to their in-ring excellence, the 33-year-old Owens and the 40-year-old Styles both thrive on the microphone and deliver outstanding promos. Furthermore, while Owens is a superb villain, fans unwaveringly adore Styles and he can easily play a hero.
The entire WWE creative team should receive a pink slip if the menacing Canadian and "The Phenomenal One" don’t battle this summer in New York City’s most populous borough. Their match at Backlash should be the first in a series of matches that concludes at SummerSlam.
6 Shouldn't: JACK GALLAGHER VS NEVILLE
WWE Cruiserweight Champion Neville has morphed into a genuine badass and loathable villain. Contrariwise, Jack Gallagher has been terribly developed as a proper, friendly Englishman. The 5-foot-8, 165-pound Gallagher and the 5-foot-8, 195-pound Neville have both exhibited tremendous prowess in the squared circle. Still, this rivalry lacks any oomph whatsoever and Brooklynite’s will quickly crash if this match occurs. While many fans dislike the cruiserweight division altogether, Vince McMahon’s brain trust are going to schedule a 205-pound or less match for SummerSlam’s main card. Considering its inevitability, writers would be wise to disband Enzo and Cass and transition the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Amore into a cruiserweight. While Enzo’s transition is underway, continue to depict Neville as an unbeatable force. Then, at “The Biggest Party of the Summer,” book the 30-year-old Neville to face the 30-year-old Enzo in what would be a truly captivating match.
5 Should: BROCK LESNAR VS BRAUN STROWMAN
Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman are two of the most physically imposing athletes to ever enter the squared circle. A UFC heavyweight champion from yesteryear, the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Lesnar is legitimately one of the world’s most dangerous individuals. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-8, 385-pound Strowman won the NAS US Amateur National Championship in November 2011 and, approximately five months later, the Arnold Amateur Strongman Championship in March 2012. On two separate occasions, the 39-year-old Lesnar and the 33-year-old Strowman have stared each other down before "The Monster Among Men" retreated. Beyond their forceful natures, Lesnar and Strowman are also fleet-footed and acrobatic performers. A contest between Lesnar and Strowman would electrify fans and qualify as a candidate for the PWI Match of the Year. Albeit an obvious bout to secure, Lesnar and Strowman should clash in the ring.
4 Shouldn't: THE BIG SHOW VS SHAQUILLE O’NEAL
The Big Show was expected to fight Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal at WrestleMania 33. However, reportedly due to O’Neal’s massive weight gain, plans for the match were nixed. The 7-foot-1 “Shaq Diesel,” who works with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson as a NBA analyst on TNT, is rumored to currently tip the scales at in excess of 400 pounds. In an interview with ESPN’s Matt Wilansky, the 6-foot-11, 385-pound Big Show bashed the 45-year-old O’Neal and blamed him for their bout’s cancellation.
"It's on Shaq," the 45-year-old Big Show, born Paul Wight Jr., said.
"Maybe he doesn't want to put on spandex and show the entire world that Shaquille O'Neal, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, looks like Jabba the Hutt.”
Hopefully, “Jabba the Hutt” doesn’t crash diet and he stays away from Brooklyn this summer.
3 Should: BRAY WYATT VS FINN BALOR
Bray Wyatt has the most engaging gimmick since Jake "The Snake" Roberts’ character in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The 29-year-old Wyatt, a standout football player and freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestler in high school, is Irwin R. Schyster’s son. In the opposing corner, the 35-year-old Balor has been a budding superstar in Vince McMahon’s promotion since premiering in July 2016. The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Wyatt and the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Balor both have dark, borderline sinister, personas and would be natural foes. Plus, Wyatt and Balor are advanced competitors in the squared circle. A tussle between “The Eater of Worlds” and the “Demon King” would instantly become an in-ring classic. McMahon’s creative team should immediately book this bout for Brooklyn.
2 Shouldn't: RANDY ORTON VS JOHN CENA
As the longtime saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt.” Randy Orton and John Cena have faced each other more times than Paige has partaken in adult relations. There is absolutely zero reason for the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Orton to again face the 6-foot-1, 250-pound Cena. The 40-year-old Cena is currently a part-time worker who is determined to make an impact in Hollywood as a movie star. Unlike Cena, when not suspended for abusing performance-enhancing drugs, “The Viper” remains a full-time star in WWE. The 37-year-old Orton just concluded yet another championship run. While Orton’s dominance continues, Cena trumped AJ Styles at January’s Royal Rumble to tie Ric Flair’s record for 16 title reigns. History notwithstanding, another conflict between Orton and Flair would be illogical.
1 Should: SAMOA JOE VS BRAY WYATT
Since debuting on the main roster in January 2017, Samoa Joe has been written as a menacing destroyer. However, the 6-foot-2, 280-pound Samoa Joe has also been cast as a corporate man working as Triple H’s muscle. If any professional wrestling character is unsuited to work as a lackey, it’s Bray Wyatt. The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Wyatt answers to nobody, including Triple H, and spooks everybody. Hence, this rivalry would be fresh and completely logical. Moreover, the 38-year-old "Samoan Submission Machine" and the 29-year-old “Eater of Worlds” are polished in-ring professionals.
In all aspects, with or without a belt at stake, this is a fight that would captivate the WWE Universe. A match pitting Samoa Joe against Bray Wyatt would almost single-handedly make SummerSlam 2017 an unforgettable event.