WWE returns to pay-per-view (PPV) -- if your cable provider is carrying the event, of course -- tomorrow night (Sun., July 20, 2014) live from the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Florida, with its Battleground event starting at 7:30 p.m. ET with the pre-show featuring the Funkadactyls exploding leading right on into the main course at 8 p.m. ET on the WWE Network.
Set for the card: A Fatal 4-Way for the WWE world heavyweight championship, the first Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins singles match, and 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 2014 PREDICTIONS
John Cena vs. Randy Orton vs. Kane vs. Roman Reigns
The General: I'm not one of these people who needs suspense to enjoy, well, anything. I've read studies that suggest spoilers do not, in fact, ruin potential enjoyment of a show but actually enhance it. I don't feel any better or worse about this match knowing John Cena is going to win, but I am interested to see how exactly they write Roman Reigns. He is the heir apparent and they've booked him unbelievably well so far. Now, he has to lose. How they get there will be key. Pick: Cena
Sean Rueter: While they've done an admirable job of creating some doubt - could they crown Reigns? might Brock Lesnar show up for the PPV? would Cena vs. Lesnar be enough of a main event draw if without the title? would that mean an Authority guy would be champ? - I still think they'll go the predictable route. And I don't blame them. With so much riding on Network numbers, and with their last major event having been dedicated to minting a guy that they haven't been able to use for the last several months, I'd put almost all of my eggs in a proven basket like John Cena, too. The greatest champ of the modern era vs. a legitimate UFC champ for the belts at SummerSlam. It makes too much sense to not do it. Pick: John Cena
Hulk Holland: All we've heard since Daniel Bryan got injured was how Brock Lesnar was going to be battling John Cena at SummerSlam. I have a hard time imagining that bout happening without the title because then why would "The Beast Incarnate" -- who made his championship intentions clear earlier this year -- even bother? Pick: John Cena.
Keith Harris: Posters and advertising have already leaked out that the main event of SummerSlam will be Cena vs. Lesnar II, so the only question left to answer is whether it will be a WWE title match? With WWE teasing Lesnar getting a title shot for many months now and being The Authority's "Plan C" that points to The Champ is here to stay till the biggest show of the summer. Pick: John Cena.
Intercontinental championship battle royal
The General: There's a real fear that Cesaro will win with the idea that it will help keep him hot while he's without Paul Heyman. That would be a terrible idea. The Intercontinental title itself is not going to elevate or enhance anyone on its own; it has to be with the right guy. From looking at the list of 20 entrants, I'm only seeing two who could do anything of note here: Sheamus and Bo Dallas. If they go with Sheamus, it would hopefully be to unify the Intercontinental and U.S. titles. Bo, meanwhile, would be unbearably awesome if he actually had a belt to go with his schtick. I'll go with that, especially considering they've pushed his undefeated streak so hard. Pick: BOLIEVE
Sean Rueter: Wouldn't be surprised to see any of the following walk out with the belt - Miz, Del Rio, Big E, Ziggler, Cesaro, Dallas or Sheamus. Despite how poorly they've handled him since 'Mania, and my own fears about what happens to guys who carry the white leather strap, the only aspect of Cesaro's character that the powers-that-be seem to agree on is that he's a guy who wins battle royals. And, hey, he's already losing all he time anyway, now it will just be in "non-title" matches. Pick: Cesaro
Hulk Holland: I can't think of a better way to get Bo Dallas to the next level than by giving him the gold. It makes perfect sense, because when you Bolieve in yourself, amazing things happen. Well, considering what a flop the "serious" Bo Dallas was last year, it's hard to dispute those claims. Pick: Bo Dallas.
Keith Harris: I think WWE have cooled off Cesaro so much to prepare him for the title win (the erroneous theory that all will be forgotten when someone wins a secondary piece of tin), that they'll call an audible and put the belt on someone who hasn't been damaged so far, Bo Dallas. It would also serve to keep his unbeaten streak strictly intact and handcuff the WWE creative team into booking an Intercontinental Champion that actually wins all his matches for once. Bo-lieve it, Cagesiders! Pick: Bo Dallas.
The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family
The General: Here we have the dark horse pick for "Match of the Night" thanks to the 2-out-of-3 Falls stipulation that WWE actually manages to keep in its back pocket more often than not. Not overplaying your hand makes it far more effective when you break out the big guns. Wait. Mixed up my metaphors. Whatever, this is going to be an awesome match. As far as a winner, ask yourself this: Who would The Usos move on to with a victory? Rybaxel? Pfft. Pick: Wyatt Family
Sean Rueter: What we all thought was going to happen last time needs to happen this time. The stipulation can protect the champs a bit, but the Family needs a win and a nice dominant run with the belts (and they need to do something with the Dust Brothers, who are doing nothing but gathering Dust waiting for heel champs since even Creative realized no one wants to see them beat Rybaxel any more). The twins will get one fall, and might even get cheated for another, but it's time for them to drop the belts. Pick: The Wyatt Family
Hulk Holland: The Wyatts won't win the titles because then The Usos will try to win them back and not even Creative wants to see this dopey feud continue. Pick: The Usos.
Keith Harris: With there being no other heel challengers left for The Usos to beat, whereas The Wyatt Family have obvious opposition from the even more bizarre duo of Goldust and Stardust, as well as rematches with the Samoan twins, the time seems right for a title switch here. Pick: The Wyatt Family.
Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins
The General: The clear pick for "Match of the Night", this should be a fun first encounter. But make no mistake, this is the first in a long series that will undoubtedly raise the stakes each time out. That means you shouldn't expect them to break out the heavy artillery just yet. And because the thrill is in the chase, Ambrose will be left wanting by the time all is said and done. Pick: Rollins
Sean Rueter: Each guy has a kayfabe injury to use as an excuse and the whole wrestling world is planning on this feud continuing to SummerSlam and beyond...which means they can go whichever way they want with the outcome of this. Neither guy needs to win, but I think the fan's connection to Seth is a little more tenuous right now. As long as Dean remains a bad ass in defeat, he's only going to continue his ascent to the main event regardless of a win or loss at Battleground. Throw in the assumption of traditional WWE booking and a babyface win in the end, and I'll go with the traitor to earn a victory this month. Next month, he'll most likely lose the match...and possibly that shiny briefcase he likes to carry around. Pick: Seth Rollins
Hulk Holland: I honestly don't care who wins because it's going to be an amazing bout, but since Seth Rollins can lose and still keep the briefcase, it wouldn't surprise me to see him do something cheap to get disqualified or counted out, or get "saved" by someone from the authority. Pick: Dean Ambrose.
Keith Harris: With all the betrayals, screwjobs, losses and beatings Dean Ambrose has recently faced at the hands of Seth Rollins and The Authority, the time doesn't seem right for him to crash to defeat again. At the house shows, Ambrose has been winning by disqualification when Rollins gets frustrated and bashes him in the head with his Money In The Bank briefcase. I think they'll use the same finish here, so they can build to a bigger rematch at SummerSlam. Pick: Dean Ambrose.
Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt
The General: We're almost certainly going to get three matches in this feud and if we know anything about Chris Jericho it's that he only comes back to help put over guys he thinks he can help put over. He, like so many of us, is a big fan of Bray Wyatt, so he's back to help him recover from the John Cena program. The story is simple: Jericho said he would "save us", and he didn't. He didn't save us at all. Now, Bray seeks to make Chris pay for this while proving that on top of his being unable to save us, Jericho can't even save himself. He will succeed where Jericho failed. Pick: Wyatt
Sean Rueter: This one makes my head spin. Bray is winning the feud, that's pretty clear. Jericho doesn't come back to not put over young guys. The veteran should win one match of what will either be a pair or trilogy of contests. If they're only doing two and Y2J will face someone else at Night of Champions, he has to win this one. If it's a triple-dip, I'd probably have him win the second course, especially since it will be on the bigger stage in Los Angeles (and given that that show should end with a heel raising the WWE Championship belt above his head). I'm guessing this all ends in September with Wyatt writing the first Undisputed champ off of WWE programming much like Randy Orton did a few years back, and that party should get started with a win for The Eater of Worlds. Pick: Bray Wyatt
Hulk Holland: Chris Jericho's job as the veteran is to put Bray Wyatt over and make him look good in the process. And Sister Abigail's brother could use the rub, after John Cena left him curbside like a piece of trash. The only question for me is whether or not Harper and Rowan intervene. Pick: Bray Wyatt.
Keith Harris: Clearly, Jericho's role in this feud is to put over Wyatt strongly, as he's only back for a few months, but it's likely to be a three match program where they'll split the first two bouts. Thus, either man could win this match, but I think Wyatt will get the nod and pick up the victory thanks to interference from Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Pick: Bray Wyatt.
AJ Lee vs. Paige
The General: It's too early for this match, especially now that they found a real angle for it outside of "surprise, let's have a title match" and the surprised wrestler drops the title. I would rather they continue building to that moment when all the insincerity falls away and these two badass women get all badass on each other. Alas, here we are, and I have no clue what's going to happen. That's not necessarily a good thing. Pick: AJ
Sean Rueter: If it weren't for matrimonial leave, I don't think AJ would have ever dropped the belt. They certainly didn't seem to have a plan for Paige's title reign. Now, with everyone waiting for the Anti-Diva to go full heel, she's much more interesting than she ever was as a grateful babyface. Or my markdom for Lee is blinding me to the fact that they just don't want to let fans for cheer for the champ. Even if The Brit doesn't turn, she's still better off now then she was as a generic belt holder. I think even her backstage supporters see that. Pick: AJ Lee
Hulk Holland: It's too soon to give Paige the title back, otherwise there would have been no point in even taking it off her. However, I think we will see her turn mega-heel here and elevate AJ Lee to bona fide babyface. It's better that way. Pick: AJ Lee.
Keith Harris: Although Paige is a superior technician to AJ Lee, she can't match her charisma, presence and verbal skills. Thus, the belt should be kept on Lee until Paige develops her character further. Pick: AJ Lee.
Rusev vs. Jack Swagger
The General: People on our Twitter have been asking if recent world events will cause WWE to move away from this angle. I highly doubt it. Pick: Rusev
Sean Rueter: They can't piss away the Bulgarian's momentum for Jack freaking Swagger, can they? Don't answer that. They shouldn't, and I'm going to stick with that. Pick: Rusev
Hulk Holland: It's hard to imagine a lifeless dud like Jack Swagger going over against a hot prospect like Rusev, but what are they going to do, have America lose? I'm sure whatever finish they've concocted, Rusev will look strong in defeat and fans will get the USA! chant they are just dying to yell. Pick: Jack Swagger.
Keith Harris: Despite Jack Swagger's recent babyface turn getting over to a degree that must have shocked even the most optimistic minds in WWE's creative brain trust, I highly doubt that he'll be rewarded with a victory here, as Rusev has much bigger Red, White and Blue fishes to fry in the future and he needs to be kept undefeated until he faces the Americans at the top of WWE's food chain. However, this will likely be a much more competitive match than originally anticipated and Rusev may even need Lana's help to slay his Real American foe. Pick: Rusev.
Cameron vs. Naomi
The General: Total Divas will save Cameron but that's all that's saving her. Naomi has the potential to one day be a fully fleshed out pro wrestling character who can actually work a match. Were it not for Eva Marie, Cameron would be the resident awkward female with zero athleticism. Pick: Naomi
Sean Rueter: Long-term, Naomi has more upside as a wrestler. I'm not sure that has any bearing on their first one-on-one encounter on a PPV pre-show, but I'll make my call based on it even if I'm not sure WWE will do the same. Pick: Naomi
Hulk Holland: Naomi will win because unlike the mannequin she's facing, Mrs. Uso actually has a future as WWE Divas champion and will probably go after AJ Lee again now that Aksana is fired. Pick: Naomi.
Keith Harris: If you were booking based on athleticism and in-ring ability, then Naomi would win hands down every time. But in a company where the director Kevin Dunn only cares about big boobs and psycho witches, then you'd have to favor the model who can't work a lick getting the nod. Pick: Cameron.
Those are our predictions, Cagesiders. What are yours?