By Keith Elliot Greenberg
Since the first SummerSlam in 1988, WWE’s yearly spectacular heralds the beginning of new rivalries, the resolution to long-simmering conflicts, and cliffhangers that continue into the next night on Monday Night Raw (seen on USA on Mondays at 8/7c), as well as SmackDown Live (broadcast on USA on Tuesdays at 8/7c).
Thousands of fans from all over the world will converge on the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Sunday, August 11 for SummerSlam, and many will remain in town for the next two nights, boosting the intensity level of the live broadcasts. While every member of the WWE Universe has a favorite Superstar, or is enthralled by a specific matchup, the following SummerSlam 2019 matchups rank among the most exciting:
Brock Lesnar (WWE Universal Champion) Vs. Seth Rollins
“I ain’t dead yet.”
The words uttered by Seth Rollins astounded even some of his most loyal supporters, following a beating at the hands of WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar that many found difficult to watch.
Lesnar, a former MMA champ -- in addition to an NCAA Division I Heavyweight kingpin and seven-time WWE titlist -- lived up to his nickname “The Beast” as he stormed the ring while Rollins was tangling with Dolph Ziggler on the July 29 edition of Raw. Unprepared for the attack, “The Architect” sustained a chain of shattering F5s and required medical assistance. But when Rollins was placed in an ambulance, Lesnar pulled him out and continued the mauling.
Yet, Rollins has vowed to soldier on to SummerSlam, and is convinced he can wrest away the championship. This seems like wishful thinking until one considers Rollins’ past. Despite their size difference, it was Rollins who separated Lesnar from the gold on two previous occasions -- the most recent one at WrestleMania 35 in April. By this point, it’s a given that Rollins can endure punishment. But can he find the right moment to surprise Lesnar and once again become the “Beast Slayer?”
Dolph Ziggler Vs. Goldberg
This may be WWE’s biggest surprise of the year.
When WWE absorbed WCW in 2001, Goldberg appeared to be finished with sports-entertainment. But in 2016, he roared back into WWE, dealing Brock Lesnar a rare loss -- in one minute and 26 seconds. After defeating Kevin Owens for the WWE Universal Championship in 2017, Goldberg was inducted to the WWF Hall of Fame a year later.
He last saw action in June when he battled The Undertaker at the Super ShowDown pay-per-view in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Fans were largely convinced that this was the last time they’d see him battle between the ropes -- and it might have been, had Dolph Ziggler been able to keep his mouth shut.
But for the last several weeks, Ziggler appeared on WWE broadcasts denigrating the stars of the past. In one confrontation on SmackDown Live, “The Showoff” even zapped the great Shawn Michaels with the Heartbreak Kid's old finisher, Sweet Chin Music. Unable to abide by the disrespect shown to the legends who paved the way, Goldberg voluntarily stepped forward, asking himself the question he often pondered during his long-ago winning streak: “Who’s next?”
In Goldberg's mind, the answer is Dolph Ziggler.
Bayley (WWE SmackDown Women’s Champion) Vs. Ember Moon
She may not be as nice as you think.
Since she arrived in WWE in 2016, Bayley has been known as “a hugger,” greeting fans with warm embraces. While the sentiment appeared sincere, it sometimes seemed that others mistook Bayley’s kindness for weakness.
Over the past few months, she’s exhibited another side. In May, for instance, she rocked WWE by winning the “Money in the Bank” ladder match, grabbing the briefcase containing a contract that would guarantee Bayley a title shot at the time of her choosing. Later that night, as Becky Lynch was being attacked by Lacey Evans and Charlotte Flair, Bayley came running to the rescue. Then, with the threat eliminated, Bayley stunned the crowd by cashing in her contract and pinning a vulnerable Lynch for her WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship.
Two months later, Bayley announced that she'd chosen her regular tag team partner, Ember Moon, as her challenger at SummerSlam. But the notion of a strictly scientific contest was obliterated on the July 30 episode of SmackDown Live when -- following a loss to Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville -- Bayley punished her partner with a Bayley-to-Belly suplex.
If Bayley were planning a more aggressive approach at SummerSlam, she may have shown her hand too soon. Moon now goes into the big event knowing what to expect, and may counter Bayley’s bellicosity with a strategy befitting of a war goddess.
Charlotte Flair Vs. Trish Stratus
Few athletes have accomplished as much as Trish Stratus, a seven-time women’s champion in WWE who was “Diva of the Decade” in the 2000s and a 2013 Hall of Famer.
Earlier this summer, she’d been enjoying time at the beach with her two children, never realizing that the she’d soon be back on the front lines. Frustrated over not securing a spot on the SummerSlam card, Charlotte Flair -- who has held both the WWE Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championships four times apiece -- vowed to demonstrate that she was the “greatest female Superstar of all-time.” But she needed to prove it at someone else’s expense.
That’s when she targeted Stratus, denigrating her career and daring her to agree to a SummerSlam match. Trish instantly accepted. In this battle of generations, Flair is certain that she’s has the advantage. But Stratus says that much of what the WWE women's roster knows today came from her era -- and she’s still capable of schooling her smug competitor.
Kevin Owens Vs. Shane McMahon
Two summers ago, these two tore each other apart at WWE’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. According to both Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon, nothing was resolved. In fact, the potency of their rivalry was only beginning.
Now, Shane McMahon hopes to put an end to it in the most definitive way. And he says Owens will only have himself to blame. Tired of hearing Owens complain about McMahon using his clout to monopolize air time, Shane-O-Mac attempted to ban his enemy from SmackDown Live. Owens ignored the order, attacking McMahon whenever his attention seemed to be diverted elsewhere. Finally, Shane agreed to wrestle Owens at SummerSlam under one condition: if Owens loses, he leaves WWE.
Although McMahon believes that he has the edge -- particularly because his ally, Drew McIntyre, regularly interferes in his matches – Owens is certain that Shane’s overconfidence is a liability. He plans to not only triumph, but continue tormenting McMahon each week for years to come.
Are you ready for an EPIC SummerSlam? Be sure to watch on WWE Network this Sunday!
Keith Elliot Greenberg is the co-author of the autobiographies of WWE Hall of Famers Ric Flair, Freddie Blassie and Superstar Billy Graham, as well as the third edition of the WWE Encyclopedia of Sports Entertainment.