What do you think will be the biggest surprise of the night?
Daniel DeMarco: If SummerSlam finishes before Monday.
But really, I expect one big upset victory will take that prize. There is potential in either Lesnar-Orton or Rollins-Bálor. The favorites in both matches are obvious, but both have that peculiar feel of upset. Orton’s win would be the bigger surprise, because it is pretty well-known that WWE is saving a big win over Lesnar one day for someone to get a major boost ala Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak giving Lesnar such a huge boost. But Bálor wining the Raw title just a month into his main roster debut would be pretty big too; over one of WWE’s biggest stars to boot.
Jason Hall: I can honestly see Finn Bálor winning. I think there’s a chance he could win the Universal Championship, even though I think it’s more likely Rollins wins. The best thing possible would be to do a double turn with Bálor getting an assistance from Anderson and Gallows. That way we can finally get babyface Rollins and a Bullet Club reunion.
Speaking of The Club, I can honestly see them beating New Day. It’s been a year and New Day is bigger than its titles. The Club could use the rub and that will set up a heel-face feud with Enzo and Cass.
Joseph Nardone: New Day losing the gold. Not that it would be incredibly shocking, as it feels setup for Gallows and Anderson to walk away with the belts, but the absurd run New Day has had finally coming to an end would still feel like a surprise to some degree.
Other than that, I can’t see a ton of truly shocking moments happening. Maybe a few matches end with victors we did not see coming, but I don’t expect any sort of earth-shattering deal where a random huge thing comes to fruition.
Although, I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see Triple H come out to attack Seth Rollings – for god knows what reason – which would allow not only Finn Bálor to win the title, but Rollins to turn face and feud with Hunter away from it.
Travis Wakeman: I want to make a bold prediction by saying that Goldberg will interfere in the Lesnar-Orton match, but I don’t think that will happen. Instead, I see the biggest surprise coming in the six-woman tag team match where the suspended Eva Marie will need to be replaced. There are so many options here, so hopefully WWE doesn’t go with someone like Summer Rae. Former wrestlers like Victoria and Melina have been rumored to be coming back in recent weeks, but I’ll say that Nikki Bella comes back to team with Alexa Bliss and Natalya for this match.
Riley Kontek: I think the biggest surprise of the night will be Randy Orton defeating Brock Lesnar. That is a huge assertion, so allow me to explain. Orton is coming back and is white hot right now. Lesnar has the cloud of a failed PED test following him around after his UFC fight with Mark Hunt. They’ve already referenced that, so when you combine that and Orton’s awesome return to WWE, I think Orton walks away the winner. Also, I will go out on a limb and say The Club and Apollo Crews become the new champions in surprising moves.
After a few weeks to mull it over, do you think the US title feud was meant more for Rusev or Roman?
DD: Oh, it’s completely for Roman Reigns. Not a doubt about it. It’s just the latest chapter in WWE’s “epic” to get Reigns over as a massive star; to finally win the crowd over with him. It has been kind of working. But in reality, this is just a lull period before WWE attempts to put Reigns back in the world title picture at some point, and it will fail massively again. I like Reigns. I enjoyed him as champion, and I enjoyed his matches, but WWE screwed this one up beyond repair a long time ago. But Vince McMahon will go to his grave with this mission.
JH: I think the fact that Roman is playing a more patriotic character is a way for the audience to be more sympathetic. I believe this feud is definitely more about Roman than Rusev. But I still don’t see Reigns dropping to the United States Championship after spending most of 2016 holding or chasing the title.
JN: It is meant more for Roman, but Rusev has turned it into more about him due to his sheer brilliance. Obviously, however, a lot of this depends on the outcome on Sunday.
I still believe that this is going to be a feud which lasts a substantial amount of time, which probably means this feud is about both men and the title, but as of right now I still think the original plan was to make Roman look great – then Rusev just kind of stole the show.
TW: I think it was meant more for Roman Reigns, since there wasn’t really much to do with him now that he’s outside the main event picture. I feel WWE wanted to choose as tough an opponent as it could for him, while still keeping him relevant by putting him in a title feud. I’ve always disliked when a former multi-time world champion is suddenly competing for the United States or Intercontinental title and have always felt that it was because they didn’t know what else to do with that Superstar. That said, I feel Rusev actually wins the match on Sunday and that will only make him all the more stronger going forward.
RK: It was meant more for Roman Reigns, who is in reset mode since his awful main event run and suspension. The WWE still sees money and main event future for Reigns, so the best way to keep him relevant until his return is to feud for a midcard title. If he captures the title, I think it’s the wrong choice, though. Rusev is one of the best characters on TV right now. However, I would not be shocked to see WWE take the title and put it on their tarnished golden boy.
Between Bálor and Ziggler, who stands a better chance to win?
DD: Finn Bálor.
He’s the new toy. He’s the major NXT star. He’s the one with the unique, over gimmick. WWE unrolled the red carpet on Raw, debuting Demon Bálor for millions of viewers. With everything considered, a win for Bálor does not seem so far-fetched. It is not as if WWE has been pushing Seth Rollins like before his injury. He does not seem like the golden child anymore. This whole feud, Rollins has been positioned as a stage to lift Bálor. I don’t know, don’t be too surprised if Bálor is Raw’s first new champion.
JH: I’d say Bálor. I think I’m still picturing Ziggler as the guy whose spent the majority of the last three years jobbing. But that’s all the more reason I want to see him win. I think Rollins is more likely to receive a push from WWE than Ambrose, but it just seems more likely for Bálor to win a new title than Ziggler winning any world title. The fact that Bálor was picked fifth and Ziggler was selected 24th should say it all.
JN: Man, I can see a scenario where both win (in fact, that is what I think will happen). But since our producer of this question will not allow a “both” answer, I am going to go with Finn Bálor. After all, the Demon King is going to debut at SummerSlam and him not winning in his first appearance would immediately bury the gimmick.
For Ziggler, while I still think he will win, a loss wouldn’t shock a soul trotting about the planet. It just wouldn’t. So, basically, we are weighing the options for the normally buried Ziggler vs the debut of a character that can long lasting power, and it isn’t even all that hard to choose.
Demon King for president.
TW: Bálor, easily. I give Ziggler basically no chance to win and almost consider Bálor to be the favorite in the Universal title match. Though Seth Rollins could definitely come away with the victory, there is certainly a good chance that Bálor goes down in history as the first ever Universal Champion. Because of that, I would give Bálor about a 50 percent chance to win while I’d only give Ziggler somewhere between a 5 and 10 percent chance to defeat Dean Ambrose.
RK: Bálor, for sure. Although Dolph Ziggler’s resurgence has been great, he’s not going to be the title holder on SmackDown, especially given this “New Era” mentality. Dean Ambrose is the guy on SmackDown, for now. On the other end, Bálor is the new guy in town that WWE is clearly behind. While I do think Seth Rollins will walk away the winner on the Raw brand, Bálor’s quick rise into the main event scene could be capped off with his first world title win on the main roster. Expect the former Shield members to win, but Bálor has the much better chance in comparison to Ziggler.