As WWE heads toward its self-proclaimed “biggest party of the summer,” “SummerSlam,” there’s one match that stands tall above the card as the true main event attraction: Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton.
While “Battleground” was technically the first pay per view to be part of the “Raw” and “Smackdown” brand extension, “SummerSlam” is the first to adhere to its rules. Both shows will be presenting their own matches at “SummerSlam,” with only one contest mixing the two shows — Lesnar vs. Orton. That makes it, in some ways, the most important bout on the show.
After all, with this being a “Raw” vs. “Smackdown” match, the winning side will surely get bragging rights — sort of like the short-lived pay per view called “Bragging Rights,” which pitted “Raw and “Smackdown” against each other during the last brand extension. There’s one side of this particular battle that definitely needs a win over the other, though.
Randy Orton needs to beat Brock Lesnar fair and square.
Following the draft that saw “Raw and “Smackdown” picking wrestlers, it was clear that the former ended up with the superior roster. It being a three-hour show, compared to “Smackdown’s” two, led to far more draft picks and a stronger overall selection. Now it’s time to balance things out a bit.
Lesnar is not a regular WWE Superstar. He wrestles a limited number of dates per year and makes appearances arround those dates, rather than appearing every single week. After “SummerSlam” it’s entirely possible he’ll disappear until the “Royal Rumble” in January. Still, “Raw” won’t be hurting without him.
Meanwhile, Orton is a meaningful part of the new “Smackdown” and will be there every single week. Fresh off of recovering from injury, Orton is likely going to be a major player on Tuesday nights and with his new fan-friendly persona, could have one of the best times of his career yet.
And while he may seem like a strong superstar now, a win over Lesnar at “SummerSlam” will make him one of the most valuable players on that roster.
Since returning in 2013, Lesnar has only lost 6 of his matches, while winning 16 and having a long reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. His advocate Paul Heyman often praises Lesnar as a once-in-a-lifetime athlete and WWE has treated him as such, with a number of high-profile wins — including infamously breaking The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at “WrestleMania 30.”
Giving Orton the win would be a monumental way to kickstart “Smackdown’s” brand and, honestly, it wouldn’t really do much to damage Lesnar or “Raw.” Should Brock go away after “SummerSlam,” only to return in a few months, he will be able to take on a fresh opponent with little regard to what happened in the past.
Orton, on the other hand, could milk his win for all its worth, parlaying it into a shot at the WWE Championship and perhaps helping lead “Smackdown” into the new year.
Meanwhile, the upsides of “Lesnar” winning are few. “Raw” already has the bigger — and better quality — roster, so bragging rights wouldn’t do much. And what does Lesnar gain from beating Orton? He’s already beaten many of the company’s top names since his 2013 return — including John Cena, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, The Undertaker and Triple H.
There’s little left for Lesnar to prove and even less that will give him a bigger profile in the WWE universe. That is until he becomes “Raw’s” WWE Universal Champion. That can come next year, though.
In the meantime, let’s focus on Orton and building “Smackdown” up.
“WWE SummerSlam” airs Sunday, Aug. 21, on the WWE network.