The last time I checked, there were 13 matches on the SummerSlam card in Brooklyn. (As of right now, that doesn’t include another Bobby Roode vs. Mojo Rawley barnburner, but you never know.) If you watched Raw this week, you might think Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal title is the biggest storyline heading into the WWE Network special -- I lost count of the advertisements hyping the matchup while tuning in this week -- but if you watched Smackdown Live this week, you might think The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan is the biggest storyline heading into the WWE Network special. The latter is the correct answer, while the former is being dishonestly presented as the most highly anticipated match of the summer. Nobody asked for another go-around of Reigns vs. Lesnar; everybody has asked, for months and months, for Daniel Bryan to finally get his hands on The Miz.
This company just can’t seem to get out of its own way, though. They really, really want you to want Reigns to be the one who finally dethrones the never-present WWE Universal champion. You can understand the company’s perspective here -- they have invested years and years into making this rivalry one of the biggest in the company’s history. (They both beat The Undertaker at WrestleMania!) They don’t want Seth Rollins, they don’t want AJ Styles, they don’t want Dean Ambrose, they don’t want Braun Strowman, no, this company wants you to want Roman Reigns. Instead, on the go-home show for Raw this week, Lesnar made a surprise return, the fans popped, and, much to the dismay of those in the back, made it known they wanted Lesnar to take out Reigns one more time. It was a disaster.
They don’t have to Reigns vs. Lesnar last, and they shouldn’t. They have options. Unlike past years, the hottest feud in the company isn’t a title match. It’s not Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss, or Styles vs. Samoa Joe, or Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler, no, it’s Bryan vs. The Miz. On the go-home show for Smackdown Live this week, the company went above-and-beyond in showcasing just how personal and important this match is for both competitors. Their animosity towards one another feels genuine, and they both need this win. Reigns doesn’t need to beat Lesnar because nothing changes if Reigns beats Lesnar. If The Miz beats Bryan, everything changes. He’ll have that forever. He’ll move up a level on the WWE totem pole. Beating Bryan means everything for The Miz, it also means everything for Bryan.
Bryan, since his return, has feuded with Big Cass, and, umm, The Bludgeon Brothers? Sure, he’s had matches with Styles, Jeff Hardy, Shelton Benjamin, etc., but nobody is going to remember that. Nobody is going to remember that brief Team Hell No return. Nobody is going to remember that the company paired him with Big Cass in his return program after not wrestling for three years. No, what they’ll remember is how this Sunday goes for Bryan. If Bryan takes down The Miz, he’s back, he can move on to bigger and better things, he can finally say he shut up The Miz. As important as this match is for The Miz, it’s just as important for Bryan.
Put it on last, you cowards.
Here are some other things I’m interested in for this Sunday’s nine-and-a-half-hour show.
Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship has been good, but nobody really cares. You can make the case the crowd is more interested in the Lana and Rusev vs. Zelina Vega and Andrade “Cien” Almas feud heading into Sunday. To be clear, it’s through no fault of their own. Joe, to his credit, has been sensational on the mic since this feud began. Everything the company has asked, he has delivered. You know this match is going to be good, but you also know Joe isn’t winning the belt. Maybe this indifference comes from Styles’ infrequent appearances on Smackdown Live, or maybe it’s just that there are bigger things going on right now -- like The Miz vs. Bryan. Either way, this feud has been solid. Sometimes, though, fans just don’t connect. It happens.
I have no idea how Carmella vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Live Women’s title is going to go. You can sell me on all three deserving the victory and title here. For Carmella, she has tapped out to both already, sure, but she’s been exemplary on the mic in recent months, this week being no exception, and if you weren’t going to have her drop it to the best wrestler on the brand in Asuka, is it really a good idea to have her drop it to Flair or Lynch? Still, it may take another year or more for Lynch to get back into the title fold, do you waste this opportunity? If you put it on Flair, then what? Another heel turn and a long blood feud with Lynch? This match should excel in the psychology department, at the very least. It does feel like Flair is winning, though, right?
Finn Balor is facing Baron Corbin, again, and it’s time for my guy to consider heading back to Japan. How did we get here?
Braun Strowman should lose the Money in the Bank briefcase to Kevin Owens. Strowman, from an on-screen perspective, is a very stupid character. He lied about cashing on Lesnar the first time he had the chance, he doesn’t understand that even if Owens runs away with the briefcase he’s still Mr. MITB, and the list goes on. He’s still over, though, which makes this match so interesting. For Owens, he spent the early part of the summer being tormented by the Hands Guy, but now, he’s had the upper hand. In a match like this, doesn’t it make more sense for this feud to end with Owens outsmarting Strowman once and for all because the character of Kevin Owens *should* outsmart the character of Strowman? Owens has it all -- he can talk, he can wrestle, he can sell, he can do everything required of a top guy in professional wrestling. If the plan is still for Reigns and Lesnar to go on last, the company has options. They could have Strowman cash-in on Lesnar after another stunning victory, or they could have Owens steal Reigns’ moment after defeating Lesnar to the cheers of everyone in attendance and watching it at home. How this match goes is important and it should be interesting to see if the winner plays a role in the main event. Let’s hope so.