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5 Aug 2023

Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39

Roman Reigns is nearing the three-year mark as WWE world champion. (Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty ... [+] Images)

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WWE SummerSlam 2023, headlined by Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso and Cody Rhodes vs. Brock Lesnar, is—on paper—shaping up to be a pay-per-view for the ages.

Emanating from Ford Field in Detroit, SummerSlam is expected to feature a crowd of nearly 50,000 fans and set the record for the biggest non-WrestleMania live gate ever in the US. With WWE on such a massive hot streak with a tremendous on-screen product, strong ticket sales and impressive TV viewership, that should come as no surprise.

WWE is firing on all cylinders just in time for one of its biggest events of the year, and SummerSlam should set the tone for a stellar slate of marquee events later this fall. Of course, that depends upon how well this show is booked.

Here are five smart booking decisions WWE must make at SummerSlam 2023.

The last time WWE did a major sponsored match was at Royal Rumble when the company earned a nice payday with a “Pitch Black” Match sponsored by Mountain Dew. One half of that bout? LA Knight, who was quickly defeated by Bray Wyatt.

Now, Knight—one of WWE’s hottest stars—finds himself as the key star in the SummerSlam Battle Royal, sponsored by Slim Jim in the biggest sponsorship deal in company history, and this sure feels like the right time to strap the proverbial rocket to the fast-rising, fast-talking star. Knight, after all, is reportedly in line for a massive push after SummerSlam, with WWE dropping the ball when Knight failed to win the Money in the Bank briefcase or WWE’s recent tournament for a United States title match against Theory.

With no Money in the Bank victory or US title match, Knight winning the SummerSlam Battle Royal is the next best thing and a potential marquee victory that could propel him to even more success post-SummerSlam.

At some point, WWE will have to take the Intercontinental Championship off Gunther and elevate him to world title contention—just not yet.

“The Ring General” is now the third-longest reigning Intercontinental Champion in WWE history and is just a handful of weeks away from overtaking The Honky Tonky Man for the coveted No. 1 spot. WWE reportedly is looking to “rewrite” its record books by breaking long-running championship reign records, which explains why Roman Reigns has held the Universal title for more than 1,000 days.

Gunther’s dominant reign as Raw’s midcard champion has been one of the best IC title reigns in decades, and though Drew McIntyre may very well be the man who ultimately dethrones Gunther, that shouldn’t happen until Gunther breaks Honky Tonk Man’s record first.

Ronda Rousey is reportedly on her way out of WWE, which is why her feud with longtime real-life friend Shayna Baszler came together so hastily. If Rousey was sticking around WWE for the long haul, there’s little doubt that she’d dismantle Baszler at SummerSlam.

But Rousey’s once dominant WWE character has lost a ton of steam in recent years, and she’s simply nowhere near the star she once was. Baszler hasn’t been booked well on the main roster, either, but if WWE wants to give her even a puncher’s chance of becoming a top star again, she must beat Rousey at SummerSlam.

Rousey has brought little—if any—excitement to WWE during this reign, so having her lose to Baszler via tapout in an MMA Rules match is the way to go. That would give Baszler the distinct honor, and bragging rights, of being the first woman in WWE to tap out Rousey.

SmackDown viewership has skyrocketed in recent months thanks in large part to the greatness of Reigns, the Usos and The Bloodline saga. SummerSlam will mark one of the most pivotal moments of this narrative when Jey Uso battles Reigns in Tribal Combat, with both the Undisputed Universal title and the position as The Bloodline’s “Tribal Chief” on the line.

A recent Bloodline segment on SmackDown topped three million viewers, a rare achievement for any pro wrestling show this day and age. That, of course, demonstrates that fan interest in this story beyween Jey and Reigns remains at an all-time high, and that means that their rivalry must continue.

The best way to keep it going isn’t to have Jey win or lose clean. Instead, Reigns should win dirty to add more fuel to this sizzling fire and lead to further matches between the two while continuing the greatness of one of the best pro wrestling storylines ever.

Cody Rhodes may have defeated Dominik Mysterio at Money in the Bank, but his last three major matches—against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania and against Brock Lesnar at Backlash and Night of Champions—resulted two losses and a fluke win.

The point is, Rhodes needs to beat Lesnar at SummerSlam in a way that leaves no doubt that he’s ready to make his way back into world title contention or that he’s ready to move on from Lesnar. With the stars tied at 1-1 in their previous two matches, this is the rubber match that the babyface must win.

Lesnar, a true part-timer, is likely going to disappear anyway, so WWE might as well have him do the honors on his way out. There is no better way for him to do that than by losing to Rhodes clean as a whistle in Detroit.