WWE returns to pay-per-view (PPV) tomorrow night (Sun., Oct. 6, 2013) live from the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York, with its Battleground event starting at 7:30 p.m. ET with the free live streaming pre-show featuring Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien Sandow leading right on into the PPV main course at 8 p.m. ET.
The line-up leaves much to be desired.
Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan will duke it out for the WWE championship in the main event for the second show in a row. On top of that, we've got CM Punk vs. Ryback with Paul Heyman lurking in the corner, Alberto Del Rio vs. Rob Van Dam in a world heavyweight championship match, and much, much more.
Luckily for you Cagesiders, our staff of learned wrestling blowhards is here to help figure out just how the event is going to play out with predictions for each match on the card.
Let's get to it.
WWE BATTLEGROUND PREDICTIONS
Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan
The General: It really sucks that WWE has set a precedent for screwing Bryan out of the title. Because even if he wins here, it won't feel nearly as good as it should, what with our being trained to expect that he'll be forced to give up the belt for some stupid reason. It just feels like this was always building towards Bryan getting the belt and being given the chance to run with it but that payoff won't ever really happen. John Cena will be back soon and WrestleMania season is just around the corner and Bryan will likely end up an odd man out. This makes me sad. Pick: Orton
Hulk Holland: Daniel Bryan will get outnumbered or screwed over in some fashion or another and will either be assisted by the Rhodes brothers or Big Show, who could show up unexpectedly and start laying fools out. Even if he doesn't, you kind of have to give Bryan the title at this point. He won it at SummerSlam but lost it to Orton, then won it at Night of Champions but lost it on Monday Night RAW when he was stripped due to a fast count. Three strikes and you're out with the fans so give the face the strap and go from there. Pick: Daniel Bryan
Sean Rueter: With no other feud in place for either man and another show to get ready for in just a few weeks, the one thing that is for sure about this match is that the combatants' program will continue. The question for me is, can they come up with a novel way to screw The Beard? Probably something involving his fiancé being placed in jeopardy by The Regime, distracting our hero and allowing Orton to win clean-ishly to make their Hell in a Cell match more of a rubber match. Pick: Randy Orton
Kanenite: I really hope that the rumors of an indecisive ending are false, but once again this seems like a feud that will ultimately be settled inside Hell In A Cell. I also think that WWE wants to spend the next three weeks saying the word "abeyance" as many times as possible. Considering Randy Orton's vicious streak of late, I think he could get himself disqualified here, only for Triple H to get involved and say that a championship cannot be awarded to Bryan via DQ. Pick: Daniel Bryan
Alberto Del Rio vs. Rob Van Dam
The General: RVD's contract status seems to make this an easy call but Del Rio is floundering as world heavyweight champion and the SmackDown brand has been relying on Bryan and Orton to work double duty to carry it. It's really something when the world title isn't just secondary to the WWE title, it's secondary to being secondary. The quick infusion of life should come in the form of RVD winning the belt here before Damien Sandow cashes the Money in the Bank briefcase in to take the strap after the Hardcore Rules match gets out of hand. Pick: Van Dam
Hulk Holland: Rob Van Dam is due for a vacation, which ordinarily would have me leaning toward Alberto Del Rio, who has been underwhelming as champion. But RVD is still over and giving him the title would be a great reward for the fans, just as it would resurrect the heat for Damien Sandow if he cashes in the Money in the Bank briefcase. It's the ultimate solution. You get the title off Del Rio, send Van Dam off on a high note and give Sandow a boost right out of the gate. Pick: Rob Van Dam, then Damien Sandow
Sean Rueter: If I keep guessing that Ricardo will turn on RVD, does that mean I will eventually be right, or am I jinxing it? It'd be cool if wealth was still part of ADR's gimmick and, after minutes of the ECW veteran going hardcore on the champ, he manages to bribe Rodriguez into helping him. Instead, it will probably be an above average match that very few people care about. Pick: Alberto Del Rio
Kanenite: It sounds like RVD is going to be off TV soon thanks to contract issues, so I would be shocked if he actually wins here. And if RVD really is leaving for a while, this could be the only time remaining for Ricardo to finally turn on him. Pick: Alberto Del Rio
CM Punk vs. Ryback
The General: Remember when John Cena said he had a bad year and he actually didn't? Well, Punk is actually having a bad year. Like, really bad, both kayfabe and reality. He's hurt badly and while he's danced with "The Big Guy" before, I can't imagine this doesn't get some added stipulation at the last minute to help it along. Should be a shit show either way. Pick: Ryback
Hulk Holland: It's hard to imagine CM Punk losing three straight pay-per-view matches, since he already lost to Brock Lesnar atSummerSlam and then to Paul Heyman at Night of Champions. Still, I think it's the safer booking decision, as Ryback is just starting to hit his stride as the new "Paul Heyman Guy" as opposed to Punk, who's just kinda going through the motions at this point. That's not his fault, rather the plight of a superstar who's in between championship programs. Pick: Ryback
Sean Rueter: Hmmm...on the one hand, I think that Punk's no good, very bad year should continue until he gets a BIG win over the Heyman Family at an A-level PPV. On the other, I've got heels winning lots of matches on this card. In the end, they're too invested in the worst year of The Best in the World's career and Ryback's latest push to allow for anything like a clean win from the Chicagoan here. If they need to amp up the feel good factor, they can have Punk get his hands on Heyman for a while mid or post-match. Pick: Ryback
Kanenite: This match is less exciting than Punk's match at Night of Champions because there is no tease of Heyman getting destroyed this time. It seems that they are just filling time until something more important happens later in the month at Hell In A Cell. I think Punk will win this one, while Heyman and Ryback will end up blaming this loss on the incompetence of Curtis Axel. Pick: CM Punk
AJ Lee vs. Brie Bella
The General: Can you believe Daniel Bryan is so over that Brie Bella turned babyface just because she's about to marry him? Winning the title would make for a good story on Total Divas but I don't think that show needs the pro wrestling part to be successful, so I doubt they do the title change. Pick: AJ
Hulk Holland: In words I never thought I would type, I'm a fan of Brie Bella, which kinda snuck up on me after following her exploits onTotal Divas (#BrieMode). Regrettably, I can't imagine her going over on AJ Lee with Nikki coming back, unless her sister is there to help her win the title. The WWE app also has Lee's arch rival Kaitlyn returning, so there could be some sort of clusterfuck at the end of the match that results in the upset. But that's nothing more than speculation, so I'm going to play it safe here. Pick: AJ Lee
Sean Rueter: I guess I'm a big AJ mark, because of all the matches on this card, this is the one that gets me thinking "if so-and-so wins, I riot". Thankfully, I think the powers-that-be are as high on Ms. Lee as I am. And, while she's improved in the ring and is less annoying than her sister, Brie is now involved in a highly rated reality show and the WWE championship angle, so she doesn't need the butterfly. Pick: AJ Lee
Kanenite: So are The Bella Twins suddenly babyfaces now? I can see the title changing hands here because AJ is running out of fresh opponents. This could also be Brie's chance to end the night in the ring as co-champions with her lover Daniel Bryan. Pick: Brie Bella
Rhodes brothers vs. The Shield
The General: The Rhodes brothers are working for WWE so they can hopefully work for WWE. That's what's happening here. I'm guessing they win because they have to in order to stick around but I'm also thinking they tease dissension here for the first time so we can get around to Cody and Goldust feuding with each other. Pick: Rhodes brothers
Hulk Holland: Man, this is going to be the best match on the card and it's sad that one team has to lose. But since Cody has already wrapped up his wedding and honeymoon, it's time to come back and he couldn't have done it at a better time. He and his brother Dustin are over huge as faces and beating The Shield gets them back on the roster and avenges their dad's recentRAW knockout. Pick: Rhodes Brothers
Sean Rueter: Let's see - the belts aren't on the line, three characters who have proven their usefulness over the last couple of months will "never" work for the company again if the brothers lose - I think I've found my feel good moment on the show. HHH probably reverses the decision Monday night (maybe due to Big Show-ference? I think this may be where he gets inserted into Battleground), but it's a testament to the talent of the men involved and the quality of the storytelling that I'm really looking forward to this even though I think they've telegraphed most of the beats. Pick: Rhodes brothers
Kanenite: This match has a ton of emotion behind it and so it has a high chance to steal the show. After getting beaten down or embarrassed week after week, it is finally time for the Rhodes family to get their revenge and earn their employment. I think The Big Show could get involved here and "accidentally" knock out one of The Shield members. Pick: Cody Rhodes and Goldust
Curtis Axel vs. R-Truth
The General: Good god, who cares? Pick: Truth
Hulk Holland: If it was anyone other than R-Truth, I would pick against Curtis Axel, who could be the most uncharismatic champion in all of WWE. Look at the kind of promos AJ Lee has been turning in and for all his tedium, Alberto Del Rio still has the "it" factor. Axel doesn't, but that's not a good enough reason to give R-Truth the strap. WWE isn't that desperate. Neither are the fans. Yet. Pick: Curtis Axel
Sean Rueter: I like watching Axel wrestle and, having just watched Bo Dallas grow into a non-conventional gimmick on NXT, I want to see Curtis get a chance to develop his dofus of the Heyman Guys character some more. Also, R-Truth shouldn't be holding any gold in 2013...even a meaningless prop like the IC strap. Pick: Axel
Kanenite: Axel's stock has plummeted, but there is very little chance that he loses his championship to R-Truth, who seems to just be an opponent selected at random. Pick: Curtis Axel
Bray Wyatt vs. Kofi Kingston
The General: I'm not quite sure I understand why this match is even happening. Bray had a good enough reason to go after Kane, but Kofi? The cryptic promos are cool when they have a purpose but when we're getting into mid-card purgatory it's far less exciting. Pick: Wyatt
Hulk Holland: WWE has big plans for Bray Wyatt and his family, which is why he's booked so strong on RAW and Smackdown. What those big plans entail remains to be seen, but he sure as shit isn't going to be pinned by Kofi Kingston on a major pay-per-view. Kingston will get to showcase some creativity and a few signature moves but ultimately, he's just a bridge for Wyatt to cross on his way to Hell in a Cell. Pick: Bray Wyatt
Sean Rueter: This one is kind of weird. Kofi seemed to be getting a bit of a mid-card push, but I don't think there's any way they give Wyatt a PPV loss already. I just hope they don't overbook the crap out of it like his SummerSlam match, but I do figure Luke Harper and Erick Rowan will interject themselves in some way. Pick: Wyatt
Kanenite: Bray Wyatt is still feasting on victories over all the mid-carders, and I hear that Wildcat tastes especially delicious during this time of the year. Pick: Bray Wyatt
Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien Sandow
The General: Considering my prediction that Sandow cashes in the briefcase later, I would assume he gets beat here because WWE wants everyone to think he's as weak as he could possibly be before cashing in to win the heavyweight title. No, that doesn't make a lot of sense, on any level, but shocking is shocking and I guess that's what they're going for. Pick: Ziggler
Hulk Holland: Poor Ziggler. Sandow is on the pre-show for no other reason than to give him an excuse to be in Buffalo on the same card that has World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio fighting Rob Van Dam. Since Sandow is a heel, there would be little-to-no heat by cashing it on Del Rio. But robbing a face like RVD of the belt? True, we just saw that finish atSummerSlam, but half this card is a repeat from Night of Champions, so there's no point in playing the "unique" angle. Hit your spots, Mr. Ziggler, then roll over and do the job like a good boy. Pick: Damien Sandow
Sean Rueter: The curse of the blue briefcase vs. the latest "they're burying Ziggy" rumor! I've never put much credence in the latter while I don't know how anyone can argue that the former isn't a real thing. Plus, Dolph taking a beating and then winning with an inspiring comeback seems like just the way to get the Buffalo crowd hyped so they can crush their dreams with a bunch of heels retaining titles the rest of the night. Pick: Ziggler
Kanenite: A pre-show match with absolutely no backstory probably means that the babyface is going to win. I think I spent more time typing that sentence than WWE spent booking this match. Pick: Dolph Ziggler
Those are our predictions, Cagesiders. What are yours?