Lapsed fan's guide to SummerSlam 2023: Get ready for 'Tribal Combat' in Detroit

Stephen A. is eyeing Paul Heyman's job in the WWE (1:04)

Stephen A. Smith has fun with WWE's Paul Heyman on the set of "First Take," claiming he is targeting Heyman's job. (1:04)

As a service to fans who have a general interest in WWE but might not have watched a match in months, we're happy to provide this FAQ as a guide to SummerSlam at Ford Field in Detroit on Saturday.

Is Roman Reigns still the undisputed universal champion, Tribal Chief, Head of the Table, leader of The Bloodline, the apple of Paul Heyman's eye and the focal point of everything that is the modern-day WWE?

Yes ... but he could lose everything at this premium live event when he faces his cousin "Main Event" Jey Uso in the first-ever "Tribal Combat" match.

What exactly is a "Tribal Combat" match? Is that like when T'Challa fought Killmonger in "Black Panther"? Are Roman and Jey going to try and throw each other over a giant waterfall?

Not exactly, and not just because waterfalls aren't prevalent in downtown Detroit. The match itself is "no count-out or disqualification," because how else would Solo Sikoa impact the finish? The only way to win is by pinfall or submission, and therein lies some of the intrigue in what seems like a rather lopsided main event on paper. Jey Uso became the first person to pin Roman Reigns since December 2019 when he and Jimmy Uso defeated Roman and Sikoa in a "Bloodline Civil War" tag team match at July's Money in the Bank event.

When you can measure Roman's pinfall losses as "a pandemic ago," you know it's been a while.

The Bloodline had a civil war, too? Are they just liberally borrowing from the Marvel cinematic universe now?

You mean like how the MCU borrowed Bautista for "Guardians of the Galaxy"? Turnabout is fair play, Feige!

(Besides, everyone knows Roman Reigns is canonically part of the F&FCU: Fast & Furious cinematic universe. Mateo Hobbs spinoff when?)

The Bloodline has been one of the most enthralling and triumphant angles in recent pro wrestling history, focused on the Anoa'i family: Roman and his cousins, The Usos and Sikoa. Former WCW boss Eric Bischoff has said that The Bloodline was "better" than the legendary nWo "in terms of a storyline." But every great faction reaches its inflection point. The nWo eventually split into "Hollywood" and "Wolfpac" factions, ostensibly to sell more T-shirts. The Bloodline divided into two factions too, ostensibly so Roman Reigns could have an opponent in a meaningful match.

The seeds for the split have been planted for months now. Sikoa almost delivered a Samoan Spike to Jey at Backlash. After being egged on by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn on "Smackdown," Jimmy said, "When it comes to the Day Ones, I am the tribal chief." Roman's music hit almost immediately, for he was unpleased.

Everything boiled over at Night of Champions in Saudi Arabia, where Reigns and Sikoa took on Owens and Zayn for the WWE tag team belts. The Usos made a run-in to help their stablemates but ended up super-kicking Sikoa by mistake. Reigns confronted Jey, pushing him around before Jimmy laid out The Head of the Table with a kick to the head. As Jey protested, Jimmy kicked Roman again.

Begun, the Bloodline civil war had.

Jey continued to side with Reigns before eventually joining Jimmy in super-kicking the champ. The disrespect to the Tribal Chief led to a tag match between the fractured Bloodline members at Money in the Bank that saw Jey score a pin on Roman.

The Usos put Reigns' Tribal Chief status on trial in "Tribal Court" on SmackDown. We can officially add "Tribal Court" to the "procedural events on wrestling shows that inevitably end in a brawl," along with contract signings and weddings. The segment was another reminder of how incredible Reigns has become in captivating a crowd, going from rage to tears to a low blow on Jey Uso that had the force of a sledgehammer breaking through a kitchen cabinet on a home makeover show.

This set up Jey vs. Roman for ... all of it. The undisputed unified title he's held for over 1,000 days and that seat at the head of the table. And lurking in the background is Sikoa, feeling the same kind of casual disrespect from Reigns as the Usos experienced, including Reigns laughing at the notion that Solo could be the Tribal Chief.

This angle has been playing out for over two years and remains scorching hot, partly thanks to the mystery over who will eventually unseat Reigns. Remember when we were all convinced it would be Cody Rhodes?

What's up with Cody at SummerSlam?

Wrestling Brock Lesnar, for a third time in five months, in the "rubber match" of their still ill-defined feud. Did we ever find out why Brock wanted to destroy Cody in the first place? Is it the neck tattoo? The striking resemblance to Homelander from "The Boys"?

Lesnar was supposed to be Rhodes's tag team partner on the RAW after WrestleMania but chose violence instead, attacking Cody. That led to a match at Backlash, which Rhodes won; which led to a rematch at Night of Champions, in which Lesnar made Cody tap with a kimura lock on his "broken arm," which led to this match at SummerSlam.

In theory, Rhodes gets the win here and then moves back into the championship picture, a tier more befitting a man with an extensive new Peacock documentary about him. But that's one of the glorious things about Cody Rhodes: You never know how many losses he'll take or how much pain he'll endure before it's time for the American Nightmare to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and "finish the story," whether it's against either world champion.

Wait, there's another world champion besides Roman Reigns?

So, you know how it's generally good for weekly televised wrestling shows to have their champion defend his championship on those shows? The WWE faced a twofold problem with Roman Reigns: He unified the titles typically defended on RAW and Smackdown and, as WWE executive Triple H noted in April, isn't contractually compelled to defend them that often.

So rather than having their money-printing juggernaut champion take an "L" and drop one of the belts, the WWE decided to invent an entirely new belt, which is a bit like Nathan's holding a second hot-dog eating contest on July 5 and never inviting Joey Chestnut.

The WWE world heavyweight championship title was unveiled in April. Whatever program didn't draft Reigns, the other show would have this belt as its primary gold.

The WWE held a tournament for this consolation pri ... I mean, tremendously prestigious new belt. Seth "Freakin'" Rollins defeated A.J. Styles at "Night of Champions" to become its first holder and takes it into Summer "Freakin'" Slam (an actual T-shirt, people) to face The Judgment Day's Finn Bálor.

Rollins defeated Bálor in the semifinals of the aforementioned championship tournament and then again at Money in the Bank. Speaking of which: The extra layer of intrigue here is with Damian Priest, aka "Señor Money in the Bank," whose ability to cash in his contract for an impromptu title match has created some tension with his stablemate Bálor.

What if Finn wins but immediately loses to Priest? Is the WWE big enough for Civil Wars between two factions?

What about the WWE women's championship?

Asuka, the current champion, is in a triple-threat match against Charlotte Flair and Bianca Belair. The problem here isn't the assemblage of talent, which is considerable. The problem is that the match sort of feels like a thing that's happening to get to the next things that'll happen: Belair and Flair escalating their ongoing feud and Asuka turning her attention to Bayley and Iyo Sky, who has the women's championship Money in the Bank briefcase at the ready.

Anyway, it's Charlotte Flair sans championship wrestling in a match for one. As always, prepare yourself accordingly. But if I'm being honest, I'm more interested in the other women's match between Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler.

Wait, Rousey vs. Baszler? Aren't they, like, best friends?

Exactly, which is why this feud -- as brief as it's been -- has sizzle. Baszler turned on Rousey at July's Money In The Bank, walking out on her partner during a tag team title match against Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez. The ensuing weeks revealed a storyline that winked at Rousey's tenure in the WWE without breaking kayfabe. That Ronda was handed prominent matches and promotion while Baszler simmered in the background. That Rousey allowed Baszler to live in her house only so she'd have a sparring partner to beat up. That sort of thing.

The resentment of a longtime partner living in a superstar's shadow is a tried and true wrestling trope, and it works here. There have also been multiple reports that Rousey could be leaving WWE to return to the combat world. In any case, expect a hard-hitting match, as this one will be competed under "MMA rules." But if it's hard-hitting you want, then obviously you want Gunther.

Who will Gunther be chopping until their chest looks like crushed tomatoes at SummerSlam?

The current Intercontinental Champion -- and "Ring General" of Imperium, the WWE's faction made of people you'd typically find Indiana Jones punching in the face -- will be facing Drew McIntyre in Detroit. Thanks to that slobber-knocker of a triple-threat match with Sheamus at WrestleMania 39, we know what these two rather large individuals are capable of. They've also given Gunther a little adversity as of late, almost taking a loss to Chad Gable in a special challenge match -- so he'll be extra salty. Pure, uncut brutality in this match. Or the opposite of the spot-fest that should be Logan Paul vs. Ricochet.

How has Logan Paul done as a heel?

Like any creature in its natural habitat, he's thrived. The guy is a heat magnet and the kind of troll only the internet could birth. Witness the lead-up to this match, wherein Paul gleefully noted that Ricochet would have the added embarrassment of having to hear his fiancée, WWE ring announcer Samantha Irvin, declare Logan Paul the winner of their SummerSlam match. Oh, that was nasty.

But Logan Paul also brings the kind of athleticism that draws begrudging respect from fans and Ricochet himself -- remember that awesome double-jump spot the two had at the Royal Rumble? Expect outrageous stunts and shameless attempts to go viral, the coin of the realm for a YouTube influencer-turned-actually-pretty-great wrestler.

Hey, aren't we missing some familiar names on this card?

Hey, it's a deep roster, and it's not like SummerSlam is a two-night premium live event -- at least not yet! But don't worry, the WWE got you: The SummerSlam Battle Royal Presented By Slim Jim will feature many of those names in an over-the-top-rope battle for supremacy ... but primarily, it will feature LA Knight.

It's not hyperbole to say that outside of The Bloodline soap opera, nothing in the WWE has been hotter than LA Knight's rise up the card. For the uninitiated: LA Knight is a 40-year-old wrestler who had a cup of coffee with WWE before finding work on the indie scene, Impact Wrestling and the NWA. He returned to NXT in 2021 as LA Knight. He hit the main roster in 2022 with a "Knight Model Management" male modeling agency gimmick, briefly changing his name to Max Dupri.

After that ran its course, he reverted to LA Knight and ... well, a completely unexpected thing started to happen. Knight's mic work had always been an explosive cocktail of The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, a mixture of "Attitude Era" humor and catchphrases ready for crowds to repeat. Despite him not winning matches or being anywhere near a championship, live WWE crowds seized on Knight's promos, especially his Pavlovian "yeah!" that punctuates his lines.

That popularity has translated into dollars: Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics reported that Knight had sold more T-shirts than anyone in July and had three of the top six best-selling shirts for the WWE.

It's a reminder that this is one of the only mediums in entertainment where a live audience can influence the direction of the product. The WWE didn't come into 2023 thinking LA Knight would be one of their most compelling wrestlers. Who could have predicted that the same Roman Reigns that fans rejected apathetically just six years ago would become the driving force behind the best wrestling angle of the last 25 years -- and the most compelling reason to watch this year's SummerSlam?

It's the beauty of wrestling. Enjoy the show!