I'll never forget the inspirational video package that accompanied Luger's audacious jaunt to the big match, soundtracked by an in-house song called "I'll Be Your Hero". Hearing it now makes me think of Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero" from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, which was as good a third movie of a franchise could possibly be, and then some. If Turner were WWE Champion in 1993, Luger'd probably have fallen short against her as well.
And how appropriate - 25 years after Luger's cosmetic heroics went up in smoke, WWE's forcing yet another Lesnar vs. Reigns sequel in this "franchise", and despite a slight increase in fan warmth toward Reigns (due to the story implementation of Lesnar's general indifference), he's still far from the "hero" that WWE yearns for him to be. WWE could've given him the Lex Express and the star-spangled paint job, and there'd still be a beach ball party scheduled for 10:45 EST on Sunday night.
And since I like to tie in WWE pay-per-views with classic movies, these are my SummerSlam match predictions, shunted into the Thunderdome where two sides enter, and one leaves with my endorsement.
Check out Team Cultaholic's SummerSlam predictions in the video below as they take on the WrestleT***s!
10. Finn Balor Vs. Baron Corbin
"I don't know anything about methane."
"You can shovel s**t, can't you?"
Strap yourselves in because I'm going to shoot from the hip here, brothers, but I personally feel more thought gets put into the lunches served in federal prisons than what's gone into Balor's main roster run to date. At this point, marketing a "Many Faces of Finn Balor" gag shirt of the same smile plastered over six disparate moods would be the most effort WWE's put into the obviously-popular Balor.
The repetitive, anodyne nature of the Balor/Corbin feud has been stretched to nearly two months, and it's basically Balor's turn to win since Corbin got him last time in a Raw match. Balor's continued punishment seems to be, "You get to win, but you have to sell Corbin's half-nelson chinlock three times in one match." That's a fair trade, right?
9. The Bludgeon Brothers Vs. The New Day
"Do you know who I was? Nobody. Except on the day after, I was still alive. This nobody had a chance to be somebody."
It's almost incomprehensible today that just four short years ago, Kofi Kingston was directionless, Big E was a veritable mute, and Xavier Woods was as fleshed out character-wise as a moldy block of cheese. Their rise to different avenues of fame and greatness is staggering and demonstrates what's possible when you're around at the exact moment WWE opens their eyes and gives you the ball.
While Brooklyn wouldn't be the worst choice of venue for Big E to replace "four" with "five" in his pre-match sermon, I don't see Harper and Rowan dropping the belts here. They got to take down a reformed Team Hell No last month, and WWE seems content to stockpile meaningful wins for a reinforced monster duo. Harper and Rowan also get consideration for the whole, "We found direction eventually, and all we had to do was last a while," list as well. They may not have their own cereal, but at least the hammers are nice.
WINNER: Bludgeon Brothers.
8. Braun Strowman Vs. Kevin Owens
"But how the world turns. One day, cock of the walk. Next, a feather duster."
It's been quite a sticking point for many fans, the idea that Owens has turned into this colossal bozo ever since he drew Strowman's ire headed into Money in the Bank. The badass Kevin Steen that altered the lives of others has endured enough perpetual humiliations to qualify him as an honorary Cleveland Brown at this point, and while Strowman's popularity hasn't waned due to his sustained targeting of KO, I feel Owens' portrayal is disheartening to a number of disgruntled fans who continue to watch anyway. Some people like what's happening though, so good for them as well!
While they've teased the idea that Owens is cunning enough to trick Strowman into getting himself DQ'ed or counted out (both manners in which the MITB briefcase can be lost), that's all it seems to be: teases. Strowman will prove too smart to fall for Owens' shenanigans, and brutalize him one more time. And depending on how early the match takes place on the show, fans might be dropping their beach balls and craning their necks toward the entrance way come main event time.
7. Shinsuke Nakamura Vs. Jeff Hardy
"Remember where you are - this is Thunderdome, and death is listening, and will take the first man that screams."
Every pay-per-view since WrestleMania has seen Nakamura throw a malevolent strike at the brood plums of his poor opponent, and SummerSlam will probably be no different. I should clarify that I mean "every *WWE* pay-per-view", but for all I know, Nakamura might have showed up at Slammiversary with a comped ticket, and kicked the parking valet in the giblets. Sometimes these things go unreported.
The match almost has to be longer than their Extreme Rules hiccup, and, as I personally witnessed at a house show last month here in southern New Jersey, the two can have a damn good match together. I feel this is Nakamura's to win, mostly because this current US title run feels like a combination of character rehab/apology tour to all the fans that got their hopes up for Nakamura on the main stage. And this time, a stronger win for Nakamura would be more satisfying.
6. Daniel Bryan Vs. The Miz
"Who are you?"
"We're the waiting ones."
Hard to believe that almost two full years have passed since the night Miz went absolutely ham on Bryan during the most memorable Talking Smack in history, as scores of paying fans who watched the footage on WWE Network came to respect Miz's intensity and energy, even if they couldn't have cared less about him beforehand. With Bryan's forced retirement, we all assumed the match was never to be - but now we get it.
Most are anticipating Miz taking round one, but I'm gonna go against the grain and say that Bryan lands the first shot. That way, if/when Miz wins the WWE Championship later, Bryan has a more substantial claim for seeking a title match, having defeated Miz cleanly. Then the chase ensues, which could be creatively and emotionally satisfying if handled with care. WrestleMania 35 is seven months away, and that's a really long time, but I'm sure we're all along for the ride with this feud.
5. Dolph Ziggler Vs. Seth Rollins
"It's a class job. One mistake, and it'll blow the crap out of this place! Literally."
Has it almost been five weeks since the city of Pittsburgh conspired with a running clock to sabotage a potentially-fun match? Something as simple as using a timer on the Titantron in order to aid fan awareness ended up backfiring spectacularly, and it was just unnecessary. But that was then, this is now, and we've got Drew McIntyre and Dean Ambrose patrolling ringside. And time isn't important - it's a four-hour main card, after all.
Picking a winner here is tricky because the involvement of Ambrose would seem to indicate that he'd neutralize McIntyre. But with Ambrose back, it's hard to see Rollins continuing in the IC title picture, whether champion or challenger. Ambrose as the sidekick to a belt-toting Rollins would feel strange, but I've seen stranger. I'm going to roll with an Ambrose shock heel turn on Rollins, allowing Ziggler to keep the belt, thus moving onto a new opponent. Balor, maybe?
4. Carmella Vs. Becky Lynch Vs. Charlotte
"What happened to two?!"
The decision to wedge Charlotte into what was once your bog standard singles match didn't make many people happy, particularly those who feel that Becky's been unjustly overshadowed.
A triple threat match seems to be a rather unlikely spot for a title change, since the story seems to call for Charlotte and Becky to valiantly cancel each other out. This allows Carmella to steal the win and continue her run of screaming, applying restholds, and applying restholds while screaming. She'll drop the belt in a singles match at a later date, perhaps to our Becky.
3. Alexa Bliss Vs. Ronda Rousey
"I've got skills, I could trade them."
When it comes to an ideal Women's Championship match, you'll find no better combination than these two. Most would agree as far as Rousey's concerned, seeing as she's a genuine phenom that has picked up the nuances and details of wrestling 101 faster than almost anyone else. But Bliss would earn scorn if you were to say she was skilled, and that's why she's perfect for this match: she's contemptible, and she's far more successful than the woman wrestler that you love most. So you want Rousey to kick her ass, and you want Bliss to deserve said ass-kicking. It's a match made in heaven.
I think WWE needs Rousey to enter Evolution with the belt, making a victory here a no-brainer. It would double as a feelgood moment for Rousey to dedicate the win to Natalya and the entire Neidhart clan, since there's little doubt that her sentiment would be genuine. Rousey wins the belt - she almost has to.
2. AJ Styles Vs. Samoa Joe
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls...dyin' time's here."
I have rich memories of Styles and Joe's clashes in TNA, particularly their 2005-06 battles within the X Division when Joe was a human steamroller, and Styles was one of the few that could plausibly hang tough against the Samoan's sustained assaults. It's the, "If they give them time, then it's a Match of the Year candidate" showcase, and high hopes are aplenty that Styles and Joe can make it precipitate snowflakes in August.
While many are hopeful for Joe to reign as a World Champion once more (which would make him the only man to hold the WWE, TNA, *and* ROH World Championships), Styles is likely to reign a little while longer. Think it was Jack who pointed out that Styles may hold the gold until after WWE 2K19 (which he's the cover boy of) is released in October, and perhaps he'll even pass the one year mark with the belt come November. That said, I'll take a Joe victory, but by DQ, due to the personal nature of the feud. Sets up something for Hell in a Cell, easily.
WINNER: Joe (no title change)
1. Brock Lesnar Vs. Roman Reigns
"Remember: no matter where you go, there you are."
The Lesnar Universal title run staggers into Sunday, as does Reigns' polarizing push as the unquestioned (in theory) hero over all the land. We've read this book before, but WWE hopes that we'll stay tuned for the riveted-on bonus chapters since they potentially could provide the satisfaction that many feel has been lacking. Something has to give in order to finally connect with the vocal crowds (who still might not give a s**t anyway - beware the beach balls).
I don't see Reigns losing this time, but the only question is the aftermath - does Strowman (or even Owens) try to cash in? Does Reigns, assuming he wins, stand tall in yet another "crowning moment" that likely does not take? SummerSlam is going to be most remembered for however the show ends, no matter what delivers in the undercard. But I have to think Reigns takes it here. If not here, then when and how?