- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
As a service to fans who have a general interest in WWE but might not have watched a match in months, we’re happy to provide this FAQ as a guide to SummerSlam at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday, July 30. (8 p.m., Peacock)
What’s happening with WWE these days?
It’s impossible to talk about SummerSlam without acknowledging that this is the first WWE Premium Live Event (formerly known as pay-per-views) of the post-Vince McMahon era. The 76-year-old chairman and CEO announced his retirement on July 22. His daughter Stephanie is the new chairwoman and co-CEO with Nick Khan, who was serving as WWE president.
The announcement came after Vince McMahon had already stepped away from his roles with the company following a Wall Street Journal report that the WWE board was investigating a secret $3 million settlement given by McMahon to a former WWE paralegal.
To say everything about WWE changes without Vince McMahon in the big chair would be underselling on an Ultimate Warrior match level.
So … now what? How does it impact SummerSlam?
McMahon has been the WWE since the 1980s. Everything you see, hear, smell and touch had his sign-off. Now, that’s done. The process for creating weekly television and premium events will change now that Paul “Triple H” Levesque is overseeing the WWE’s creative direction. The kinds of wrestlers who get promoted and pushed will change.
Much of this is long-term change. As for SummerSlam, given the timing of this development, there wouldn’t seem to be a lot of deviation from the previously established plans. But it was curious to see a highly anticipated SummerSlam match between Seth “Freakin'” Rollins and Riddle scrapped this week because Riddle suffered “a brachial plexus injury” during an attack on RAW. We imagine it was diagnosed by a Dr. Kay Fabe …
As for whether Vince’s departure will be acknowledged in storylines, we already have our answer: Roman Reigns earned gasps from the Madison Square Garden crowd during Monday Night RAW by informing Theory, McMahon’s protégé, that “your daddy’s not here anymore.”
Well, gasps and the “Who’s your daddy?” chants that followed. Well done, New York.
What’s Theory up to at SummerSlam?
He’s trying to get his U.S. championship back from the powerful hands of Bobby Lashley, who defeated him at Money In The Bank in a match that saw Theory attempt to close the circles on his Apple Watch by running away from Lashley for a good portion of it. If nothing else, their feud had the greatest official description from the WWE we’ve ever read: “A burgeoning rivalry built out of showing off their muscles and squirting baby oil into each other’s eyes.” (Savage vs. Steamboat, eat your heart out.)
But the real intrigue isn’t whether Theory can get back the U.S. gold, but if he’ll follow through with his vow to cash in his Money In The Bank contract against either Roman Reigns or Brock Lesnar … but probably Roman Reigns.
Roman Reigns is wrestling Brock Lesnar again? Are we stuck in a time loop?
Yes, and instead of “I Got You, Babe,” it’s that awesome guitar lick from Brock’s theme song that plays whenever the alarm clock goes off in the morning.
Reigns and Lesnar met at WrestleMania in 2015 and at SummerSlam in 2017 and at WrestleMania in 2018 and at SummerSlam in 2018 and at Greatest Royal Rumble in 2018 and at Crown Jewel in 2021 and WrestleMania — where Reigns defeated Lesnar to become the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion — and Crown Jewel in 2022. But while there have been as many Roman vs. Brock matches as there have been actors playing Batman on film (look it up!), this edition is being billed as the last meeting ever between the two.
Much like character deaths in comic books, we don’t believe the finality of “the last” anything in wrestling.
The match is also a Last Man Standing match, which means the winner will no doubt be nice and power-drained for that aforementioned Money In The Bank cash-in, should it occur. Intrigue!
What about the women’s singles titles?
Speaking of running things back again: Hey, it’s another edition of Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch for Belair’s RAW women’s championship! Please recall how at last year’s SummerSlam Lynch returned as “Big Time Becks” and defeated Belair in 26 seconds for her title. They met in a huge grudge match at WrestleMania 38, where Belair’s victory sent Lynch emotionally spiraling.
The fans are getting more behind Lynch, who continues to look like Hayley Williams cos-playing as Pris from “Blade Runner” because of the challenges she’s facing climbing back up the mountain. Becks fought through a Triple Threat Match at Hell in a Cell and a grueling Money In The Bank ladder match en route to this return engagement, falling just short in both. In fact, the winner of that ladder match is featured in the other huge women’s singles match: Liv Morgan.
Liv Morgan is a singles champion?
Yes indeed, and for the first time. Better known for her tag-teaming as the Riott Squad and with Rhea Ripley, Morgan climbed the ladder to win the Money In The Bank case and then cashed in that same night against a diminished Ronda Rousey, whose ankle had been worked over in a victory over Natalya. Game recognize game, so Rousey hugged her after the match. The rematch comes equipped with Rousey’s baggage: The fans remain decidedly mixed on her, while Morgan has made Ronda’s dedication to wrestling part of her trash talk. Is this the start of a Morgan singles run or was her win just a brief, memorable sideshow during Rousey’s reign?
Speaking of brief, memorable sideshows: Pat McAfee is wrestling again.
What has compelled McAfee to leave the announcer’s table this time?
It’s Happy Corbin.
Well, that makes sense. Happy Corbin is very punchable.
Exactly. Really, anything to get McAfee in the ring works for us. The former NFL player-turned-sports talk radio phenomenon-turned-SmackDown announcer put in great work in NXT and was one of the true highlights of WrestleMania 38 for his match against Theory that would lead into the last “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon moment ever, as it turns out.
That match happened because McMahon invited McAfee to wrestle at ‘Mania during a radio show appearance. This match is happening because McAfee challenged Corbin to a bout at SummerSlam and Corbin responded with a rather brutal and shocking attack on McAfee after Money In The Bank went off the air that the WWE repeated on SmackDown, because they’ve never met a good bit they couldn’t subsequently water down. Anyway, McAfee rules so this should be a good one. He’s in that increasingly growing category of “non-wrestlers who become legit wrestling attractions” … like WWE superstar Logan Paul.
Logan Paul is officially with the WWE?
The social media influencer and noted film critic signed a multi-event deal with WWE in June. He made his in-ring debut at WrestleMania 38, and like McAfee, his performance was one of the weekend’s highlights. He was attacked by The Miz after their WrestleMania tag match and declared he wanted a rematch at SummerSlam. The Miz, meanwhile, enlisted the help of Ciampa to attack Paul. Hmm … if only there was a free agent wrestler Paul could add to his corner to watch his back, who also has significant history with Ciampa and a fan in the person overseeing the WWE’s creative direction.
What about the tag team division?
The undisputed WWE tag team champions The Usos have a rematch from Money In The Bank against The Street Profits, with the gimmick being that the Profits lost that match when the referee missed Montez Ford’s shoulder coming off the mat before the three-count. This should be more high-flying fun between two good teams with a special attraction: guest referee J-E-Double-F J-A-Double R-E-Double-T himself, Jeff Jarrett. It’s a busy weekend for Double-J, as he’s also participating in Ric Flair’s “final” match the following night in Nashville.
Meanwhile, Rey and Dominik Mysterio face Finn Bálor and Damian Priest of The Judgment Day, in which the Mysterios seek revenge for a heinous attack on Rey during his 20th anniversary celebration. It’s a no-disqualification match so Edge can run in and spear The Judgment Day, probably.
Umm … where are half the people whom I recognize?
There are more than a few big names missing from the current SummerSlam card, including one current champion: Gunther, who holds the Intercontinental title. Other significant names on the outside looking in at the Nashville stadium event include AJ Styles, Drew McIntyre, Shinsuke Nakamura, Omos, Sami Zayn, Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, The New Day, Alpha Academy, The Viking Raiders, Alexa Bliss, Asuka, Carmella and both Ezekiel and Elias. Kevin Owens, Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes are also off the card due to recent injuries.
What intrigues you the most about SummerSlam 2022?
As always, our eyes are open to surprises. Superstar returns that are expected (Edge) or unexpected (John Cena) or really, really unexpected (Bray Wyatt). Shocking title changes — how many people would claim McMahon is still running creative if Theory cashed in to win the WWE championship? With his match against Riddle scrapped, one assumes Rollins has to be on this card somewhere, right?
All of this is unknown, but that might be the WWE’s greatest selling point at this moment. We’ve never had a SummerSlam without Vince McMahon. Or a Survivor Series. Or a WrestleMania. We were in our fifth decade of having one singular creative force — for better or worse — as the final say in what did or did not happen in the biggest wrestling brand in the world. No one’s quite sure what the WWE looks like with that filter removed. But this weekend could be our first glimpse.
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