What a difference a year makes. Last year, Night of Champions emanated from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois. At that event, home-town boy CM Punk (you may have heard of him) was beaten by The Big Show in around 5 minutes in one of the clearest ‘status quo’ moments of Punk’s career to date and a piece of booking which is widely renowned as a bit spit in the face of Punk. This year, the Allstate Arena hosted Punk’s greatest triumph and what was the closest thing i’ve seen to date to a perfect PPV, Money in the Bank. Since then, and before, Punk has been the hottest thing in wrestling, and this Sunday may well be the most crucial night of the current storyline, as some fans have become frustrated with the direction of the angle. But more on that later. A lot of fresh PPV faces this month at a time where championships generally have been growing in importance and prestige. If this trend continues, Night of Champions could be a great night and another part of what is becoming a vintage year of PPVs. With that in mind, a lot of my picks are based on the prestige of the championship on the line.
Match 1) United States Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler (c) vs Jack Swagger vs Alex Riley vs John Morrison
The situation surrounding this match is rather complicated. The real ‘feud’ here is between Ziggler and Swagger and it is based on jealousy and testosterone-fueled competition surrounding Vickie Guerrero’s professional affections. These two bucks have been at it for weeks now, and really, Morrison and Riley were just wedged in here to give us a bit of variety of stipulations for the night. It seems to me that the favourite for this match with the other critics is Jack Swagger, and that is certainly possible; in fact, this is probably the hardest match to call on the card. Ziggler and Swagger are great wrestlers, and Morrison is very athletic and unique. It is just Riley that lets the side down in the ring as he is greener than his faux-Irish entrance movie that plays him to the ring. Him aside, this has the potential to be a fast-paced spectacular with some coll, unique spots. As for the winner though, I don’t think, like other people, that Morrison and Riley are there just as furniture, I think one of them will win the title, and leave Swagger and the newly title-less Ziggler to either feud without distraction, or joining Vickie’s stable in harmony, and possibly as a tag team. So that whittles it down to Morrison and Riley. A month or two ago, I would have picked Riley, but it seems to me that WWE are, rightly, losing a bit of faith in Riley. Morrison is in hot water too post Melina’s firing, but I think they still, ultimately, view him as a future star and a US title reign would be a good way to stabilise his career without giving him too much. If they’re going to feud, either Ziggler or Swagger will cost the other match, if they are to team, it’ll probably be more clean.
Winner: John Morrison
Match 2) Intercontinental Championship Match: Cody Rhodes (c) vs Ted DiBiase
This match has the potential to be absolutely great, given all of the deep history between these two. My frustration here is that these two were split up too soon and so the pay off wont be quite as satisfying. Nonetheless, these two have very similar styles, and that could make for a great match, and hopefully, a good performance for DiBiase in one of the biggest matches of his career. Though they’ve split too early, I think the amount of history between the two means that this wont be a blow-off match. Usually that would mean DiBiase could go over, but given that Rhodes only recently won the Intercontinental Championship, and has been highlighting it’s prestige, it staying with him for some time makes sense. If it were me, I would have Rhodes defend, with the use of his mask and/or paper bag distraction, and then at Survivor Series have Team Rhodes vs Team DiBiase, with DiBiase over to earn another title shot, with DiBiase winning at the next PPV.
Winner: Cody Rhodes
Match 3) Tag Team Championship Match: AirBoom (Kofi Kingston & Evan Bourne) vs The Awesome Truth (The Miz & R-Truth)
There’s been a lot of talk recently about the renewal of the tag team division in WWE, and rightfully so; within a month it has gone from stagnation to freshness. The new champions, AirBoom have a terrible name and are only growing (though quickly) in chemistry. Despite this, a lot of people seem to think, perhaps wisely, that the sheer profile of R-Truth and especially The Miz, make them favourites here, but I would argue that Miz is probably a little above the tag titles and that winning them would undermine drastically The Awesome Truth’s claims of conspiracy. Given that the tag division is currently being strengthened, it makes sense to create some strong champions, and so I see the champions retaining. Trouble in Paradise followed by AirBourne to Truth. Hopefully the signing of Claudio Castagnoli (Antonio Cesaro) and, probably, Chris Hero, will provide the first real challengers to AirBoom, and the eventual ones to take their titles and give real credibility to the division.
Match 4) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Randy Orton (c) vs Mark Henry
Mark Henry has been on fire, has been hugely impressive, and has been having the most successful and entertaining time of his career. In the wake of this devestation, he has been anointed by everyone on TV at least, and many fans, as the next World Heavyweight Champion, but when? If Henry were to win, the World title will have changed hands on every PPV for three PPVs running. For that reason, I would have liked to have seen Henry continue to feud with Sheamus for a while (they were great together) and have Orton give some shots to some other heels that could benefit (Wade Barrett being a prime candidate) in the mean time. Nonetheless, here we are, and I think for the good of the title, Orton has to retain, for now at least, with Henry getting another shot, and possibly winning, down the line. Imagine him vs Daniel Bryan for the World Title at WrestleMania! So, how can Henry lose without losing credibility? Well many people foresee Kane and/or Big Show returning to scupper Mark Henry, and that seems credible enough to me. Either that, or a bit more unexpected, Henry gets too violent and gets DQ’d.
Winner: Randy Orton
Match 5) Divas Championship Match: Kelly Kelly (c) vs Beth Phoenix
A lot of people were surprised and upset when ‘Diva of Doom’ Beth Phoenix didn’t win the Divas title at Summerslam, and I understand why because the very idea of the ‘Divas of Doom’ caught the righteous interest of many fans who agreed with what Beth and Natalya had to say about the Divas division. I think the reason for that was Kelly being positioned as a top babyface diva by giving her reign more legitimacy, but it seems to me that there would be no point in booking Beth in a rematch only to lose again. I don’t think it will be a squash because of the damage that would do to Kelly, and not only that, a decently timed divas match will itself go some way to helping the division. The home-town girl will win the title and, perhaps, become a Diva of Salvation.
Winner: Beth Phoenix
Match 6) WWE Championship Match: Alberto Del Rio (c) vs John Cena
I’ve been very critical of the build for this match; how it has been boring, and how it has taken interest away from the real main story: CM Punk and HHH. This is also the easiest match to predict. Del Rio won the title at Summerslam, and is the next guy being pushed right to the top; put simply, there is no chance he is losing this match. For those reasons, to me, this is the least interesting match on the card. Del Rio over, but how? Because Cena wont be losing clean (or at least not spotlessly clean). How Cena loses will determine how entertaining this match is. It may well be simple interference from Ricardo Rodriguez, or some independent piece of villainy (holding the tights etc), which would be acceptable, but not all that interesting. If it were up to me, I would have have the outcome of this match somehow relate to the outcome of the main event. I wont go in to fantasy booking too much, but I will say I would like to see WWE ‘higher-ups’ protect Del Rio; I think he would fit very well as someone WWE would want as their champion, and would want to protect as their champion, an idea which would also fit in to how he won the title at Summerslam.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
Match 7) CM Punk vs Triple H
This is a crucial match, for the wrestlers, for the PPV, and for the company. Punk has been excellent for months, and HHH has, for the most part, been nearly up to his level too. A lot of people, however, feel a lot of fire has been lost from the Punk story and that is why this match is so important; it needs some answers and twists instead of more layers of admittedly interesting confusion. I have every faith that Punk will be determined to do something satisyfing though, because that is quite simply the person he is. Storyline expectations add anticipation to this match, but even more, the first ever match up of Punk and the legendary HHH, who hasn’t wrestled since WrestleMania, is something I am really looking forward to. Something about Punk’s technical, strong style against HHH’s sophisticated powerhouse style against each other seems very attractive to me, and given the sheer skill and experience of these two, I am expecting something special. It seemed to me at the time that when the stip of HHH having to resign if he loses almost sealed the fate of Punk here because, unless there is a big swerve coming, I would be surprised if Trips were relieved of his duty as COO so early. So the question then becomes, if HHH is to win, how will he win, because he surely wont be beating ‘the Voice of the Voiceless’ clean. I’m again not going to produce some fantasy booking, but as long as it’s something that progresses the story in an interesting and engaging way, in the vein of Punk looking like the powerful agitator against the ‘status quo’, it’ll be great. Again, if it links to the means of Del Rio keeping the WWE Championship, it will be even better!
Winner: Triple H