After an INCREDIBLE Summer Slam last month (one of my favorite Summer Slam events ever), the first Night of Champions in the WWE Network era has a lot to live up to! Every WWE title will be on the line and the matches have the possibility of being an incredible event. There are big things afoot, but hit the jump to see my predictions for the event!
Before we get to this week’s picks, let’s get serious for a moment. If you are reading this, chances are, you have the WWE Network. If that is the case, are you watching NXT? If not, what is wrong with you? While I’m really enjoying the main roster and I love all aspects of the Network, the best wrestling I’m watching today is the young up-and-comers on the developmental roster. Every week they put on an incredible show with awesome talent. Last week was their third big special, Takeover 2, and it was a really great show. The Fatal 4-Way for the NXT Championship was top notch, with all four competitors putting together something incredible. I’d also strongly recommend you check out the first Takeover special from earlier this summer, which features my current pick for match of the year between Ric Flair’s daughter Charlotte and Natalya for the vacant NXT Women’s Title.
ROMAN REIGNS vs SETH ROLLINS
I had originally picked Roman Reigns to win this match and wrote my thoughts on the match about a week ago, but after Reigns picked up the big win against Rollins on this past Monday’s Raw, I am going to change my pick. With Seth Rollins currently holding the Money in the Bank contract, making him a perpetual #1 contender, it is important for him not to lose too much momentum over the course of the next year (unless they want another Damien Sandow situation on their hands). Rollins and Dean Ambrose tore the house down at Summer Slam with their lumberjack match, so I’m curious to see how the most exciting performer in the WWE today will follow it up here against Reigns. Their match on Monday was pretty solid, but I feel like we need something special to bump this up to a “pay per view-level” match. I am guessing that part of that will include the return of Dean Ambrose, who wraps up filming his first movie this week. I suspect we’ll have a less-than-cordial Shield reunion, which spells good things for the fans, with Rollins picking up a win by less-than-ethical means.
Prediction: SETH ROLLINS
CHRIS JERICHO vs RANDY ORTON
Let’s be honest with ourselves, time is running out on Chris Jericho’s current run with WWE, as I’m sure he’ll be back on the road with Fozzy pretty soon. He has had an exciting run with Bray Wyatt, which culminated in an awesome steel cage match recently on Raw. This mini-feud with Randy Orton seems a little rushed, but the quality of the match we’ll see from these two men is more than makes up for the fact that this is likely to be the farewell match for Y2J. Jericho hasn’t lost a step despite his short stints with the company over the last several years and Orton remains one of the most gifted men on the roster. The two will have a very psychologically sound battle here for sure, with Orton squeaking out a win. If this is Jericho’s last match before his next hiatus, I suspect that Orton will unleash the brutality post-match to “injure” Jericho and facilitate his exit. This should be a “classic” style match with a lot of heat and solid wrestling leading to a big fierce win for Orton. I look forward to it, as this could easily be the match of the night.
Prediction: RANDY ORTON
MARK HENRY vs RUSEV
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Mark Henry since his debut for the WWE back in the 90s. For every step forward he takes, I feel like he takes several steps back. His matches are never terribly exciting thanks to his limited cache of moves, but he is full of personality that always makes him entertaining (for my money, his faux-retirement promo with John Cena last year is one of the best things I’ve ever seen on Raw). I feel that he is a good opponent to make Rusev look unstoppable, which is still a key to the character this early in his career—I still think we’ll eventually see an extended program between Rusev and Cena after the Bulgarian Brute runs through the rest of the roster. Unfortunately, I don’t see this being a very well executed match. It’ll be hard hitting and brutal, but will be considerably slower and more plodding than Rusev’s recent PPV matches with Big E (remember him?) and Jack Swagger. That being said, I feel that they have done a pretty good job with this feud by showing Henry as the first opponent that Rusev actually has a reason to fear. That did a great job of building tension here, though I see Rusev picking up a dirty win, leading to another confrontation between these two next month before Rusev moves on to crush his next opponent.
NIKKI BELLA vs AJ LEE vs PAIGE ©
I really thought that AJ and Paige had a solid match at Summer Slam, despite being a relatively short battle. When their feud continued the next night, I was pretty psyched to see their next go-round. Unfortunately, the Bella Twins’ feud was merged into this match and my interest dropped. Brie’s match against Stephanie McMahon at Summer Slam was a huge surprise to me, but it was the Billion Dollar Princess that carried the match (seriously, Steph looked awesome out there). The Bella Twins are not the most athletically gifted women on the roster and I’m not sure that the much more talented AJ and Paige can carry Nikki in this match. I’m sure that E!’s Total Divas was a major force behind this match, so I suspect that one of the twins will win. I’ll go with Nikki, but I’d much rather that Paige or AJ win then immediately feud with Charlotte from NXT (Ric Flair’s daughter and current NXT Women’s Champion), who is rumored to make the jump to the main roster soon. I’ll set my expectations low here and, hopefully, I’ll be as surprised here as I was during the Bella/McMahon battle last month.
Prediction: NIKKI BELLA
CESARO vs SHEAMUS ©
United States Championship
Finally—a match for the United State Championship! I’ve been complaining a lot about how the title has been largely absent from big events and that it really doesn’t matter at this point that Sheamus is the champion. He gets very little promo time and hasn’t done much to defend it, which really degrades the championship (which, I believe should be used as a stepping stone for the lower-tier talent, not as something to placate World Championship level talent). Hopefully this battle will turn things around for the belt. This should be a rough, physical match. Both men have had great matches and they have good chemistry, so this could be an entertaining brawl. I want to see Cesaro come out on top here because he needs a boost after losing most of his major matches all summer. That being said, I don’t see Sheamus giving up the title just yet. My guess? Sheamus starts his winning sequence, but is derailed by an ultra-violent Cesaro, who ends up disqualified. Sheamus escapes with the title, but Cesaro looks like a bonafide badass.
THE MIZ vs DOLPH ZIGGLER ©
I am really torn on this match. As most of you know, Dolph Ziggler is easily in my Top 5 members of the current roster and therefore I am incredibly happy with the fact that he is getting some recognition as the Intercontinental Champion. On the flipside, the current persona of the Miz is easily the best work he has done and as a smug heel, he is top notch—something that works even better when he can dangle a title just out of the babyface’s reach. I was surprised when Miz dropped the belt so quickly and I feel that they could get more mileage out of this feud by having Miz as the champion. But on the flipside, taking the belt from Ziggler will be detrimental to his current push, which is the last thing I want to see. I’m going to narrowly anticipate Ziggler winning here, perhaps by count out or disqualification so that Miz isn’t beaten clean (therefore setting up a rematch next month). Miz will somehow walk out on top of the situation, but Ziggler won’t lose the belt. The bigger question to me, however, is how Damien Sandow/Mizdow fits into the situation. Sandow has been the highlight of this feud and while I hate seeing him playing second fiddle to another wrestler, I’ve really enjoyed how he factors into this.
Prediction: DOLPH ZIGGLER
GOLDDUST and STARDUST vs JIMMY USO and JEY USO ©
WWE Tag Team Championship
The Usos have been fun champions and the crowd eats up their antics, but I feel like their run has been rather stale. I think the biggest issue is their inability to piece together solid promos, so there is only so much that can be done to make their feuds with other teams exciting. The Dust Brothers, on the other hand, are incredibly interesting, great on the mic, and are totally awesome as bizarre, sadistic heels. If the Usos drop the belts here, I think fans will follow them on a chase to regain the belts for a few months, which will be carried heavily by Golddust and Stardust’s strong personalities. The bizarre ones should win the titles here and will fully turn heel in the process—I expect dirty deeds and a really creepy performance from Cody and Dustin in this match. This could also steal the show on the pay-per-view as all four men have been fantastic in the ring this year. This should be fun and I’m looking forward to the aftermath where the now-champion Rhodes boys at their bizarre and most sadistic. This is the most awesome they have been and these are two wrestlers that I’ve always enjoyed.
Prediction: THE DUST BROTHERS
JOHN CENA vs BROCK LESNAR ©
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
I could not be happier with how they have booked Brock Lesnar as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. By keeping him off TV for the most part, it makes him all the more important. It reminds me of my younger days when you’d only see the champ every few months. Plus, when you have Paul Heyman, you don’t need to see Lesnar every week. And let’s be honest, Heyman is delivering the absolute best promos of his career. I’ve always felt that he is the best manager in the history of the business, but these last few weeks have really solidified it. He has even brought out the best in Cena. Cena’s verbal sparring with Heyman has me incredibly excited about this match—something I haven’t felt about Cena in a very long time. As for the match, I don’t think we’ll need the complete beatdown that Lesnar delivered at SummerSlam, but I can’t imagine that we’ll see full on Super Cena this weekend. Lesnar will remain a full-on monster here and even though Cena will probably make a strong comeback, Lesnar will ultimately run over him and won’t stop running over everyone in the roster until they develop a credible opponent for him. I honestly hope this won’t happen until Wrestlemania.
Prediction: BROCK LESNAR
What are your thoughts? Share them here or tweet them to me at @RyanSchrodt!