With WrestleMania now in the rear-view mirror, the next major pay-per-view on the WWE schedule is SummerSlam. Granted, there are still six pay-per-views before the big summertime show, but it won't be until SummerSlam that we see a dual-branded event with the card being made up of superstars from both RAW and SmackDown Live. When the brand split was brought back, the company's goal was to have cross-promotional matches on all of the "big four" pay-per-views.
They were successful in that plan during the 2016 editions of SummerSlam and Survivor Series, and the Royal Rumble match makes it easy to accomplish. But outside of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, every match/storyline at WrestleMania was brand-exclusive. One of the six shows before SummerSlam will be Money In The Bank, a popular event that many thought could be cross-promotional this year, but will be exclusive to SmackDown.
The cross-branded action at Survivor Series, of course, came during the traditional elimination match between Team RAW and Team SmackDown. So the lone inter-promotional singles match since the brand extension came in the main event of SummerSlam between Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton. Their showdown, which was billed as 15 years in the making, ended in controversy and was designed to plant seeds for a WrestleMania feud between Lesnar and Shane McMahon.
As we would come to find out, Goldberg would return to the WWE in the interim, and his extension through the beginning of April scrapped any Shane-Lesnar plans. Brock went from his TKO victory over Orton at SummerSlam to a shocking loss to the returning Goldberg at Survivor Series. Goldberg would also eliminate The Beast during the Royal Rumble match, seemingly getting the upper hand at every turn until dropping his Universal Championship to Brock this past Sunday.
Lesnar and Paul Heyman were on RAW on Monday to celebrate their conquering of Goldberg, but also to look ahead to the next challenge. And despite teases, both directly and indirectly with Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns, we reported earlier in the week that Brock is not scheduled to defend his title at the upcoming Payback pay-per-view.
That will leave the main event slot open for the April 30 show and another pay-per-view without the brand's top title appearing, similar to Lesnar's last reign. Next week's 'SuperStar Shakeup' casts a cloud of uncertainty over much of the company's creative plans, as Vince and his team have been known to make many last-minute changes. The plan as of now, more than four months away from SummerSlam, is to have AJ Styles move over to RAW and Roman Reigns face Braun Strowman at Payback, presumably in the main event spot.
It's unclear who Styles will work with right away once he comes over to the flagship show, but WWE officials have penciled-in Braun Strowman as Brock Lesnar's first challenger for the Universal Championship. As noted, Lesnar did not work several pay-per-views the last time he was the champion, so if he skips the next three RAW-only events, then he'll be defending the title against Strowman at SummerSlam.
If officials sense any hint of backlash at that idea, they don't necessarily have to scrap it altogether, but they'll be afforded the opportunity to slide it down the SummerSlam card. As mentioned, SummerSlam is a dual-branded show, so they'll have the luxury of relying on the WWE Championship match to headline if they feel Strowman-Lesnar isn't worthy of the spot.
If Lesnar does work a show(s) before SummerSlam, he'll still be expected to face Strowman, but that would then take Braun out of the championship picture for SummerSlam. Instead, AJ Styles could be used instead, and that pairing would, no question, be an unequivocal main event that fans would certainly get behind.
Unless things change, we do know that SummerSlam will not feature a match between Lesnar and Roman Reigns. That bout is being planned for next year's WrestleMania, as of now, with Brock expected to carry the title into that event. Regardless if Lesnar faces Strowman or Styles at SummerSlam, he's going to be champion eight months later at WrestleMania 34. He could always drop it to one of them but then would regain it later in the year or early 2018.
[Featured Image by WWE]