SummerSlam week has finally arrived, with the WWE set to take over Brooklyn's Barclays Center for four days of festivities. The supershow card, showcasing 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.
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In mid-April, following the Superstar Shakeup, SmackDown was left to rebuild its women's division after losing longtime champ Alexa Bliss to Monday Night Raw.
On the surface, it seemed Tuesday night's show would not suffer from a dearth of star power as it acquired Charlotte Flair, the most dominant woman in the WWE. Surprisingly, as the weeks went by, Flair went through a subtle character metamorphosis and became part of an alliance with current champ Naomi and Becky Lynch.
After a few mostly disappointing attempts to lift the less-than-stellar heel trio, the contenders were thrown into a Fatal Five-Way elimination match at Battleground late last month, with Natalya coming out on top.
With little direct conflict between Natalya and Naomi, the overall heat has felt somewhat forced. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the upcoming encounter is the unknown -- will Money in the Bank winner Carmella play a role in the outcome and walk away from SummerSlam as the champ?
Whatever your thoughts are on Natalya, she has played the heel role well in recent weeks, though it's curious how she was scarcely a presence last week on SmackDown as Naomi faced Carmella. While the anticipation has been underwhelming, Natalya has a villain-like vibe that will make this encounter a classic -- and hopefully compelling -- battle for the belt.
Triple H's thoughts
"This is the classic 'flash versus the old-school wrestler.' Hart is family-trained in 'the dungeon' -- a classic technician -- versus Naomi, who brings this eclectic, aerial style, and is, in some ways, one of the best athletes we have in the WWE. But I think a lot of people look at her and see a lot of flash. That's an unfair assessment.
"It's going to be a fun one to see because almost everyone that Natalya faces is better when they leave the ring. Certain talent that you get in the ring have a certain way of having people rise to you in that skill level, and she's that way. I expect this to be a really good match."
How Naomi benefits from a win
It took time for Naomi to reach the apex of the women's division on SmackDown, but she has proved she is a worthy titleholder since winning at WrestleMania. She brings energy and excitement into the ring and her performances are never dull. You'd like to see her hold onto the title longer to establish bona fide heat with someone more high profile, whether that's Lynch or Flair, before succumbing at a marquee event -- ideally, one of the "big four." To date, Naomi has not had an extended feud with anyone, which is pretty rare -- and disappointing -- for a champion in this business.
How Natalya benefits from a win
Her family pedigree aside, outside of a brief stint as Divas champ seven years ago, Natalya has largely failed to make the leap from mid-card staple to featured attraction. It's hard to say exactly what the WWE has in store for her on the creative front, but giving her a one-on-one match at SummerSlam speaks to the organization's belief that she could be something more, even if she suffers a loss here in the short term.
Still, a win, while surprising, would give SmackDown a legit top-end women's heel, something the show does not have at the moment. It would open up more permutations in the overall field. For months, SmackDown has tried to conceal its overall lack of depth in the women's division by adding stipulations like Fatal Five-Ways. Natalya is a veteran performer, who despite not being the most obvious choice to make the Jinder Mahal-like leap to the elite circle, would add a welcome new dimension in this so-called land of opportunity.
SummerSlam will be the 12th overall one-on-one meeting between Naomi and Natalya, but the first to occur at a pay-per-view event. Naomi won seven of the first 11 meetings, most recently defeating Natalya at SmackDown Live on Nov. 8, 2016. (Joey Koontz, ESPN Stats & Information)