SummerSlam week has finally arrived, with the WWE set to take over Brooklyn's Barclays Center for four days of festivities.
The supershow card, featuring stars from both Raw and SmackDown, features the culmination of several key rivalries and, in all likelihood, will plant the seeds for several storylines that won't play out entirely until next year's WrestleMania.
With that in mind, we're breaking down every match on the SummerSlam card, with a particular focus on the two major titles on each show -- the Universal championship, Raw women's championship, WWE championship and SmackDown women's championship.
Because Bayley was pulled out of the Raw women's championship match because of a shoulder injury, the Raw women's championship match was the last of the major title matches to get locked in. Even though the showdown between champion Alexa Bliss and Sasha Banks wasn't finally determined until six days before SummerSlam, there's a fair bit of history and plenty of animosity in play.
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Banks and Bliss had their first NXT matches about a year apart (with Bliss actually teaming up with Banks and Emma in her very first NXT match in September 2013), but their paths to the top of the food chain on Monday Night Raw couldn't have been more different.
For Banks, it was a slow steady grind as she trained for four years in Massachusetts and worked her way up via the independents in the Northeast before signing her WWE contract. Bliss was a cheerleader in college and got involved in competitive bodybuilding before walking into the WWE Performance Center in May 2013. She had her first televised NXT match one year later.
Bliss faced Banks in four short matches on NXT TV between May and December 2014, with Bliss taking the first and losing the next three before pulling off a count-out win in early 2015 to get a shot at Banks' title. Banks got the final laugh in NXT in their last face-to-face for more than a year and a half. In July 2015, Banks debuted alongside Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair on Monday Night Raw; when the rosters were split between Raw and SmackDown in July 2016, Banks went to Raw and won the women's title the following week, while Bliss was called up to the SmackDown roster.
They found parallel success, as Banks became a three-time Raw women's champion during an epic rivalry with Flair. On the SmackDown side, Bliss became No. 1 contender by September and ultimately became SmackDown women's champion by beating Lynch in a tables match at TLC in December. She'd win the title a second time in February.
The first time Bliss and Banks crossed paths on the roster was at the Survivor Series on opposite sides, with the Raw team winning but Bliss making it deeper into the match than Banks. They wouldn't see each other again until just after WrestleMania 33, when the Superstar Shakeup moved Bliss to Raw and directly in Banks' line of fire. In Bliss' first match on Raw, she won a Fatal 4-Way that included Banks to become No. 1 contender to Bayley's Raw women's championship.
Two weeks later, in late April, Bliss defeated Bayley to become the first woman ever to win both the Raw and SmackDown women's championships. She's held the title and served as a sneering, domineering champion ever since. Bliss, Nia Jax, Banks and Bayley have been the focus of the Raw women's division for the better part of the past four months, and Bliss' manipulation of the interpersonal dynamics has been crucial in her maintaining her title.
Bliss dominated her rematch against Bayley in a Kendo stick-on-a-pole match, got others to do her dirty work to spoil Nia Jax's shot at the title just two minutes into their match, and then walked away from a title match against Banks at Great Balls of Fire to keep her title via count-out. She's also tried to further a split between Banks and Bayley, pushing successfully for them to face off for the right at a shot for her title.
Bayley defeated Bliss and Banks in consecutive weeks, setting up her title shot, but an in-match shoulder injury sidelined her for SummerSlam, opening up an opportunity for Banks to slide into the Raw women's championship match at SummerSlam. After Banks and Jax won their respective triple-threat matches, Banks beat Jax on Raw just a few days ago, bringing us to present day.
Triple H's thoughts
Note: Interview conducted prior to Banks winning the No. 1 contender spot.
"I can very distinctly remembering meeting Alexa for the very first time at a tryout and to see her now -- where she's at, and to see that rise [come] very quickly."
"I put her with a tag team to help her develop some personality down there, and she was improving and improving and improving. When the draft happened, she was the girl that I was going to go, 'She's my next mega project that I really wanted to dig into' and have her become that next Sasha Banks or Charlotte or Bayley or whatever that is. The ask was to call her up as well. I knew she had all he ability, I was just hopeful that she wouldn't get lost in the shuffle and guzzled up while she was trying to figure it out, but she didn't. She's a smart girl, an unbelievably hard worker and that's the key. She's all in on this, and that's why she's gotten so good, so fast."
How Alexa Bliss benefits from a win
Bliss' star is still on the rise, and her in-ring work continues to improve alongside an already stellar command of the microphone. She plays the master manipulator to great effect, but when she has to dip into her bag of tricks to pull out a win in the ring, she's proving she can do that too.
If Bliss walks away with the victory at SummerSlam, there's likely to be an inescapable date with Nia Jax in the near future no matter how buddy-buddy they've gotten of late. While Banks and Bayley have pulled of wins over Jax in the past few months, it's something that's yet escaped Bliss in her career and could serve as another major test. There's also been rumors of more personnel moves, be it another small draft or some call-ups -- and if Asuka is in play, that could very quickly become Bliss' next foe.
How Sasha Banks benefits from a win
Fans have long been predicting the destruction of the foes-turned-friends relationship between Banks and Bayley, and if Banks is successful, those bells will toll once again. Bayley's long-term prognosis is still a bit up in the air, but if Banks steps into her title shot and goes on to beat Bliss, there'll be some tension in the situation.
As good as Banks has been at playing the underdog, she made her name in NXT as a big-time baddie as "The Boss" and could once again thrive if pushed to that point by a returning Bayley. A rematch with Bliss would obviously be in play as well, giving Bayley a little extra time to heal up.
A women's championship has changed hands five times at SummerSlam, but never in consecutive years. Last year at this event, Flair defeated Banks to win her second women's championship. (Joey Koontz, ESPN Stats & Info)