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WWE SummerSlam: Brock Lesnar faces his biggest challenge as Demon Balor returns to try and match Bray Wyatt

A look ahead to the Raw side of SummerSlam

Matty Paddock
Saturday 19 August 2017 12:57 BST
Brock Lesnar could lose his title even if he isn't pinned
Brock Lesnar could lose his title even if he isn't pinned (WWE)

WWE’s Raw stars have laid out their stall for SummerSlam this coming weekend with Brock Lesnar set to defend his Universal Championship in a mammoth main event.

SummerSlam is one of just a few annual events held by WWE to feature both the Raw and Smackdown rosters together, and the red brand has done all it can to ensure they live up to their end of the bargain of putting on a spectacle to remember on Sunday night.

Lesnar’s latest defence of the Universal Championship could possibly be his last for a while, too.

The former UFC star works a part time schedule for the company and has threatened in this latest storyline to leave should be dethroned at SummerSlam, out of protest in part to being made to put his gold on the line against three other combatants in Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman. Lesnar wouldn’t have to be involved in the decisive end to the match to lose the championship – so a lengthy absence following that kind of ‘loss’ seems the perfect way to keep his monstrous reputation in tact while he takes off for a while.

If that does indeed prove to be the case – and it’s far from certain – the matter then becomes a question of just who WWE decides to crown as a new champion for now. Lesnar and Reigns are still rumoured to be on course for a WrestleMania event next year so the prospect of Joe or Strowman taking the title seems more likely.

One thing’s for sure, Sunday’s match probably won’t be a long one. This foursome have produced some great television over the last few weeks by essentially just battering one another – as four big, powerful athletes it works well enough.

Another highlight for Raw’s portion of SummerSlam is the reuniting, albeit a little tenuously, of former Shield teammates Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. A partnership between the two has been heavily teased in recent weeks and this week’s episode of Raw saw it confirmed that they will in fact pair up to take on the Raw tag team champions in Cesaro and Sheamus. It seems inevitable that, sooner or later, the combustible pairing of Rollins and Ambrose will become unlikely champions – is SummerSlam a little too soon?

A year after winning the Universal championship on a bittersweet night at SummerSlam 2016, Finn Balor is set to go head to head with Bray Wyatt in Brooklyn this weekend. Balor won the gold twelve months ago but was forced to vacate it immediately after a legitimate injury sustained in the process kept him on the shelf for the better part of the next nine months. The programme with Wyatt has probably been Balor’s best since his return and, to further whet the appetite, it was even confirmed on Raw this week that his hugely popular demon persona will make its return at the weekend. It’s an entrance usually worth paying for on its own.

Finn Balor will return in his Demon persona to try and get the better of Bray Wyatt (WWE)

Big Cass has gone it alone in WWE after distancing himself from former partner Enzo. At SummerSlam he faces Big Show in a match that sees Enzo suspended above the ring in a shark cage. This probably needs to be where WWE draws a line under Enzo and Cass on screen. If Cass is to make it big then he’ll need to truly move on to something new, while Enzo’s energy and popularity will see him do well enough in whatever follows for him. As for SummerSlam – it’s only right that Cass is left standing tall at the end but it won’t be plain sailing against the veteran giant.

The Raw women’s championship is also on the line at SummerSlam. A win for Sasha Banks against Nia Jaxx this week puts her in the spotlight on Sunday as she goes up against Alexa Bliss. An unfortunate injury to previous challenger Bayley has unwittingly set us up for the possibility of a fascinating story here; could Banks go on to claim the gold having stepped in at the expense of her good friend? If so, it’d be a great opportunity for a bitter Bayley to come back and claim a measure of revenge – quite whether WWE is prepared to do that given the her huge popularity with the younger members of their fan base remains to be seen. Either way, it sets things up nicely for SummerSlam.

Alexa Bliss defends her Raw Women's Championship against Sasha Banks (WWE)

That’s not the final Raw title being defended at the weekend. Akira Tozawa sprang a huge surprise in winning the Cruiserweight championship on this week’s episode of Raw. The scheduled match with previous champ Neville at SummerSlam still goes ahead with the roles of champ and challenger now reversed – after losing the gold following a record reign of almost 200 days, Brit Neville will be hungry for revenge as he bids for an immediate return to championship glory.

SummerSlam is recognised as second only to WrestleMania in terms of WWE events during the year – there’s no surprise that this stacked card has that marquee-event feel to it. Raw has done its bit to get us ready – it’s now over to Smackdown Live to see what they have in store…

WWE Summerslam is live this Sunday as a four-hour special from Brooklyn, New York. Watch live on WWE Network – head to for more details.

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