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WWE Night of Champions match card preview: Rob Van Dam vs. Alberto Del Rio

Dude. Rob Van Dam is totally coming for Alberto Del Rio's belt, er, championship. Can the Essence of Excellence retain with that traitorous chihuahua Ricardo Rodriguez now in his opponent's corner? We'll find out tonight on PPV.

World Heavyweight Championship

Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Rob Van Dam

Multiple wins over the World Heavyweight Champion (WHC) in non-title affairs have earned RVD a shot at ADR. While both men are talented ring workers, much of the intrigue in their showdown centers around a guy who used to wear a tuxedo who now wears an airbrushed t-shirt...Del Rio's former and Van Dam's current personal ring announcer, Ricardo Rodriguez.

The Road to Night of Champions

The Essence of Excellence is well into his second run with the Big Gold Belt Title (quick aside, adhering to the "it's not a belt, it's a championship title" edict by changing the nickname of the legendary prop carried by the likes of Ric Flair and HHH is one of the most unintentionally hilarious things I've seen in a long time). Despite having held the strap for almost all of 2013, Del Rio is still searching for the respect of most hardcore fans. The powers-that-be seem to think that having him face and defeat veteran Superstars may be the way to earn him that respect.

Part of the set-up for his programs with former champions like Christian and now Van Dam included his losing to those men in bouts where the title isn't on the line. While that does serve to make his competition look a little better, those guys are already former champs and shouldn't need to be built at the expense of the Rio Deal. Or the belt that he carries, which has been systematically diminished over the last several years of second-hand status.

Van Dam has transformed his own reputation, tarnished by his sleepwalking through a run with TNA over the last couple of years, with his performances since his comeback to WWE at Money in the Bank. Clearly rejuvenated by being back with the preeminent pro wrestling company in the world, The Whole F'n Show has been hardily re-embraced by the fans and fits right into an upper-card program like this one.

The wild card in the mix, and what takes what could feel like a one-off supercard match and gives it some personal stakes, is Ricardo Rodriguez. After months of speculation (before and after the former lucha star's temporary face turn earlier this year) that he would be split from Del Rio, it finally happened when he returned from a wellness suspension. Having miscalculated and cost the champ one of his non-title match-ups with Van Dam, Alberto decimated his former mejor amigo. The beating served as Rodriguez pink slip, but he wasn't unemployed for long and has been much more effective as an assistant to his new boss, RVD.

Partnership with Van Dam is an odd fit that doesn't seem to be doing much for either man, though. With Ricardo and his former employer both apparently lessened by their split, many are asking if there might not be a way to reunite them - or if perhaps that has been the plan all along?

What's at stake?

Del Rio is striving for legacy by attrition. While many enjoy his in-ring efforts and some are entertained by his fundamentally sound if generic character work, he has not really connected with American audiences. Wonky booking can be pointed to early in his WWE career, but Creative is trying to address that now with a long reign with the WHC. It doesn't seem to be changing many minds, but at least it isn't sending the message that he's not worthy of his status on the card.

His opponent could become one of the few to hold the ECW, WWE and WHC belts with a victory at Night of Champions. While that's the kind of accolade that the powers-that-be would probably like to give a popular character whom they've recently brought back in to the fold, Van Dam's rumored schedule may make it difficult from a storytelling perspective.

And then there is the matter of Rodriguez. Often called the "most over" part of Del Rio's act, does the company have faith in his ability to make it as a babyface manager without RVD? Or could he return to villainy and ensure that his former boss' run with the Big Gold Belt (screw your rules, WWE!) continues?

Find out, when the match comes to you via PPV from Detroit! And CSS will be with you every step of the way with predictions, results and reactions - so keep it right here at!

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