One of the major differences between the hardcore fan and a casual member of the WWE Universe is that the casual fan accepts the product for what is presented and reacts accordingly. The hardcore fan invests more time and research, often reading backstage news to discover future plans or outcomes for top storylines before they are unveiled on television.
And often times, due to any different number of circumstances, the WWE may alter direction from their original blueprints. SummerSlam is a perfect example of things changing a number of times up until the few weeks leading up to the show. At one point or another, top matches penciled-in for the biggest party of the summer included Roman Reigns vs. John Cena, Triple H vs. Shane McMahon, and Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt.
As you know, none of those matches took place. A second (or perhaps third, fourth, etc.) version also had Reigns facing Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship. A failed drug test dropped Reigns from the main event picture, Randy Orton recovered in time to face Lesnar leaving Wyatt off of SummerSlam entirely, Triple H vetoed the idea of facing his brother-in-law and Cena had too much unfinished business in a money feud with AJ Styles. And then there was the arrival of Finn Balor.
Balor’s memorable debut, and long-awaited promotion to the main roster, included a fatal four-way win over Kevin Owens, Cesaro, and Rusev, followed by a clean singles victory over Reigns in the main event of that night’s RAW, securing his spot in a SummerSlam showdown with Seth Rollins to determine the first-ever WWE Universal Champion.
As we all saw unfold, it’s a title Balor would capture in captivating fashion, only to relinquish it 24 hours later due to a shoulder injury he suffered at the hands of Rollins during their SummerSlam bout. Despite handing over the title and undergoing surgery that will keep him out of action for no less than four months, Vince McMahon made the decision to put the rocket blasters on Balor and push him straight to the top immediately. But that wasn’t always the plan.
According to Wrestling Inc., Balor’s call-up during the brand extension draft went as scheduled, but original plans called for his first feud to come against Chris Jericho, with their first of potentially a series of matches coming on the SummerSlam stage. One thought was that since AJ Styles succeeded tremendously in his first significant WWE program with Jericho, Balor would get the same type of rub.
However, as we all saw play out, casual and hardcore fans alike, Balor bypassed any intermediary feuds and went straight to the top. Roman Reigns’ punishment opened the door for a new full-time top babyface and Vince and Triple H pinpointed Balor as his replacement. Balor did get to wrestle Jericho on several occasions before SummerSlam during the WWE live event tour in what was originally planned as their warm-up for an eventual angle on TV, but a last-minute call was made to skip it for now.
Ironically, Jericho brought up Balor during his post-SummerSlam podcast this week but, unfortunately, failed to address his backstage altercation with Brock Lesnar. Hopefully, there’s another day for that, but as for Balor, Jericho said he is a “genuine, humble guy” and he’s pulling for him to return and “kick some ass, as reported by 411 Mania.
He also hoped he would return in time for WrestleMania and added the following.
“He’s got it all. He didn’t lose the title. He has this amazing new character that we don’t know anything about and then he goes out for 6 months with an injury.”
It’s always interesting to go back and try and re-script a card, especially one like SummerSlam, had a match been booked as originally planned. Roman Reigns would have faced Rollins had he not violated the Wellness Policy. Jericho ended up teaming with Kevin Owens, but if Y2J was paired with Balor, would K-O’s rivalry with Sami Zayn culminated at SummerSlam instead of Battleground? Enzo & Cass surely would have been kept on the card, but it’d have been interesting to see against who.
[Image via WWE]