By Matt Straub
A month ago, WWE ruined SummerSlam with ridiculous finishes to what could have been really good matches. Now, heading into Night of Champions, WWE might need crazy finishes to save a pay-per-view which, on paper, seems incredibly easy to predict.
Any result which seems easy to predict is scary for a prognosticator, especially in wrestling, where the outcome can be changed with nothing more than a pen. The big matches on this card, however, only make sense going one way. Of course, WWE isn’t always known for making sense (see SummerSlam), so anything can happen.
Let’s look at why Night of Champions seems so easy to call and what has to happen for the show to be good and for the company to be positioned well for the future.
Neville & Lucha Dragons vs. Cosmic Wasteland
Thankfully this is the kick-off match, as this isn’t worthy of a pay-per-view. Neville seems to be getting a small push, so I can’t imagine him losing this match. Stardust, meanwhile, continues to wonder what happened to his career while the Ascension must be wondering what they had to do to get a tag team push. Not that I’m a big fan of the LOD ripoff gimmick, but I don’t get why you give them a big intro and then drop them immediately.
Matt’s Prediction: Neville and company fly to the win.
Brad Prediction: I have two tought-processes coming into this PPV. 1) Matt is right, every single match is easy to predict, which potentially makes for one boring event. 2) With easy picks, it means me and Matt are going to agree a lot in this column ... that is something neither of us ever thought would ever happen. Thanks, Night of Champions! Also, there's the fact the NFL is back and with the WWE running what looks like a sub-par PPV against a Sunday Night Football game is another recipe for little viewership. The WWE obviously isn't going to stop doing PPVs this fall, but they have to be interesting. This one isn't. For the kickoff match, even less people will watch, and little will be missed. There will be several high spots in this match, however, with Neville and the Luchas having the ability to make people go "wow." Stardust and the Ascension, which I haven't seen in months, don't have that ability. Either way, Neville is winning every match since bursting onto the WWE scene and that won't stop here.
The New Day vs. The Dudley Boyz
This is a big match between two of the more over tag teams in recent memory. The outcome hinges almost entirely on what the WWE has planned for the Dudleys. The New Day is to the point where it can stay over while chasing the title, but won’t drop the belts if the Dudleys are in the company for a quick shot. If they’re going to be around for an extended period, they’ll win the belts eventually, either tonight or next month after getting screwed tonight.
Matt’s Prediction: Either scenario laid out above works better if the New Day wins tonight, likely by cheating.
Brad''s Prediction: Proving yet again a wide majority of wrestling fans still long for the Attitude Era, where wrestling had it best stretch ever (the Austin-Rock-D-X, Mick Foley era, for those that might not remember), it was the Dudley Boyz that got the biggest reaction, by far, when they returned the night after SummerSlam. Just by showing up in the arena, the Dudleys were in the top echelon of "over" wrestlers. Just incredible. Unfortunately, I agree with Matt exactly on this match. If the Dudleys signed a contract for "x" number of appearances, then they are likely here to put over the New Day even more than they already are. In fact, I don't believe the WWE saw what they had with New Day before SummerSlam, and decided to bring in the Dudleys to help them out. Turns out, New Day was extremely over with the Brooklyn fans and then the entire WWE Universe. The New Day has become one of the more interesting segments of any part of Raw, Smackdown or a PPV. So, in some way that makes both teams look good and strong, the New Day keeps the belts. (I will add I did lay out how the WWE could make the tag team division must-watch again several months ago, and they have done it, so good for the WWE for reading my analysis.)
Rusev vs. Dolph Ziggler
How do you take a feud between two decent characters who can either look great in the ring (Ziggler) or pull off a capable match (Rusev) and turn it into something stupid we wish would end immediately? Make it about a couple of blondes who can’t wrestle. This time Lana is out with an injury, which means you can be almost sure she’ll show up late in the match, but to help who? The good news is this match can’t end worse than last month, where they did a double-countout on PPV. In 2015. If you can ignore the childish storyline, the actual match should be OK.
Matt’s Prediction: Ziggler gets revenge and gets Lana back, while I figure out how to get back in the time machine so I’m not in 1990 anymore.
Brad's Prediction: Rusev deserves better than this sophomoric stuff. Ziggler fits right in as the jerk who's trying to steal everyone's girlfriend, so in many ways this is perfect for him. Nobody cares who actually wins this match, although most will care about the cat-fight that is sure to happen, which of course means WWE fans are just a bunch of horndogs. If there is no winner, like SummerSlam, the WWE should just stop with this stupid feud immediately. Anyway, I'm going opposite Straub on this one, as Rusev could use a push to bigger and better things. Ziggler will be happy with two blondes in his corner.
Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose & Mystery Partner
vs. The Wyatt Family
Brad hit on a great point a few months ago where he suggested bolstering the tag division by having singles wrestlers get together and form big teams. Reuniting the Shield isn’t exactly that idea, but it has worked. Reuniting the Wyatt family might have also been the best way to restart Bray Wyatt’s career. At the very least, it has given everyone involved something interesting to do, which was the point. The Shield 2.0 has lost a couple of partners for this match already, providing a somewhat interesting aspect for this one. The talk of Ambrose turning on Reigns seems to have died down since people seem to like him with Reigns, but it’s always possible he could tonight when he and the mystery partner beat up Reigns. The good news is I have no idea who wins this one, which makes for an interesting match.
Matt’s Prediction: The Wyatts because Bray desperately, desperately needs a big win.
Brad's Prediction: Everyone knows I believe Bray Wyatt should be part of the main event picture, as opposed to the guy who loses every PPV match. The WWE has really ruined something great with the Wyatt character. But at least he's back in the spotlight here, with a brand new member of the Wyatt family and taking on the lamer than lame Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. I know Ambrose is over with the crowd, but I don't know why. His rebound off the ropes move, which everyone loves, is just a slow, plodding, everyone sees it coming, do nothing spot. It's boring, just like Ambrose. Reigns ... don't get me started. The guy represents everything that is wrong with wrestling. The mystery partner is always good for a guessing game, but typically disappoints. I still remember being at the first WCW Nitro show in Nassau Coliseum in Long Island and Sting was tag team champions alone and was going to pick his partner that night. We were all hoping it would have been the Utlimate Warrior, his former partner when both were starting out. Instead, he made Kevin Nash the choice, which everyone let out a collective yawn when his name was announced. Expect the same tonight. The Wyatt family is going to lose, as they always do nowadays. Too bad.
Nikki Bella vs. Charlotte for WWE Divas title
This one seems easy. Nikki got her run as longest-reigning Divas champion Monday, making Charlotte’s win tonight seem like a bigger deal (and throwing shade at AJ Lee in the process). Ric Flair will be in the house to celebrate with his daughter, as they started to on Monday (which by the way was an interesting way to make the match important tonight). It will also mark the first time in a year the Divas champion could wrestle.
Matt’s Prediction: Charlotte wins and kickstarts the Revolution with a great feud with Sasha.
Brad's Prediction: Charlotte isn't the best wrestler of the new group of women in the WWE, but her connection to Ric Flair makes her the face of the new Revolution, and she'll win the world title. The best part is the Bellas and everyone else who wasn't part of the new influx of women who can actually wrestle can take a backseat now. I don't even think John Cena could stop that now.
Kevin Owens vs. Ryback for the Intercontinental title
This one has been brewing for a while. Ryback’s promo Monday night was solid, but did nothing to make this outcome seem any less obvious. Owens needs this win to continue his rebuild, and I think he makes the belt interesting again.
Matt’s Prediction: Owens easily, which makes me worry. The last two picks seems way too easy.
Brad's Prediction: Matt loves Ryback more than he loves milk shakes, and to a lesser extent, breathing, so only he would say his promo was solid. Ryback might be worse than Roman Reigns when it comes to ruining wrestling, as he's only getting pushed because he's big. Ryback is so dense he calls himself "the big guy." Hey, Ryback, it's wrestling, everybody is a big guy. And you're not even the biggest. Oh well. Kevin Owens is so good in the ring and what he does in his actions away from it, makes him a perfect main eventer in the near future. He can settle for the IC belt for now before rising to the top very soon.
John Cena vs. Seth Rollins for the U.S. title
Setting up Rollins to wrestle twice in one night is different, which is good. It also doesn’t make sense to keep both titles on Rollins. It makes less sense to give Sting the big belt. For strictly money reasons, it makes sense for WWE to keep Cena strong. Put them all together and you have what seems like an easy solution. This card is going to either be incredibly predictable or very well done with lots of surprise outcomes and potential swerves. Knowing WWE, I’ll guess predictable.
Matt’s Prediction: This match is early on the card and Cena wins.
Brad's Prediction: Now, the WWE isn't asking Seth Rollins to carry one lesser opponent (Cena), but two (Sting). Welcome to the world of a great wrestler going against guys who are either way too old (Sting) or way too over with the backstage decisdion-makers (Cena). It's easy to see how this pair of matches is going to go ... Rollins will lose the US title to Cena and then beat Sting to keep his world title later in the night. That's what probably will happen. What should happen is Rollins beats both Cena and Sting tonight, establishes himself as a true main event wrestler, one the fans can finally get behind, whether they cheer or boo him. He can give up the US belt the next night on Raw and then we all get an enjoyable tournament to crown a new champion, which hopefully will be anyone but Cena. But you and I both know Cena will force his way into another title reign. It's the reason why most of us hate the guy. He's easily the most selfish wrestler perhaps of all time, and that's saying something.
Sting vs. Seth Rollins
for the WWE World heavyweight title
I grew up on Sting. He’s one of my favorite wrestlers of all time. He was one of Flair’s best adversaries and took WCW from the NWA days into a period of huge growth. He was part of the best buildup to a match of all time, when a wrestling company showed a rare bit of patience and set Hogan-Sting up right. With all that said, he has no business in this match. Numbers are down lately, and I hate to say it, but I agree with those who say it’s because of Sting. No one watched him in TNA and his WCW heyday was a long time ago now. His one match in WWE, while entertaining as heck, was a loss. So why is he getting a title shot? Because he stole a statue? Rollins is going to drop the belt soon I think, but not to someone who makes the Undertaker’s schedule seem busy who no one under the age of 35 cares about.
Matt’s Prediction: Rollins rolls.
Brad's Prediction: Sting missed his opportunity to become a true wrestling legend by not joining the WWE earlier, because he was flat-out scared he would fail. Say whatever he wants about believing he would be buried, Sting didn't have the confidence in his own abilities to take the chance. If you're great, you're going to be great, no matter what company you're part of. He can be the best wrestler of all-time in WCW, but that doesn't mean a hill of beans, especially considering that organization failed with him at or near the top of the company. There was many backstage reasons why that company failed, but Sting deserves blame too. He, after all, was always in the main even picture. Now that Sting is beyond done and beyond old, he's finally taking the chance on the WWE, because he finally came to the realization he messed up. But he can't turn back the clock and make himself great anymore. He's old, slow, and can't hold himself on the mic. He was hidden in WCW, but you can't hide in the WWE, and that's likely why he never made the jump. He knew he couldn't hang in the different world of WWE. Rollins should win this match easily, but of course, I could see the WWE giving Sting the belt. That would be embarrassing, but the WWE couldn't care less about that. Still, if Rollins loses the US title, I don't believe he'll lose both. So, Rollins is my pick to win, but I wouldn't be surprised if Sting got his WWE world title run.