Just as the title suggests, WWE Night of Champions is the biggest night of the year for all the stars wearing gold around their waists right now. But it is also a chance for new blood, or new-old blood, to get back in the title chase.
The top three matches on the show promise to deliver great thrills and lead to the next big wave of storylines as we approach Survivor Series in November and Royal Rumble in January.
SummerSlam was the big payoff of the summer, so Night of Champions will set the tone for the fall. Here are our predictions for what will happen in the biggest matches at the WWE's annual title extravaganza.
CM Punk vs. John Cena for WWE Championship
The main event will finally feature the WWE championship the first time that's happened since December. John Cena has been out of the title picture for virtually all of 2012 prior to SummerSlam, which has to be some sort of record.
However, this is CM Punk's year and, more specifically, this is his moment. The heel turn is complete, the alliance with Paul Heyman was an excellent change of pace and the start of something potentially good.
For WWE to build Punk up as the heel champion who is demanding respect, then have him lose his first match after the full turn makes no sense.
WWE might decide to put the title on Cena just for a brief ratings bump, but for long-term drama, a Punk win is the smart way to go.
Prediction: Punk retains
Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio for World Championship
Another pay-per-view, another title match for Alberto Del Rio.
Despite being somewhat in WWE's good graces, Del Rio is approaching that Dolph Ziggler territory: he is talented and put in good spots but is never actually going to be made to look strong.
The fact that Sheamus has been given a long, sustained push is a good thing, though I am not entirely sure his upside is as high as the push would indicate.
Sheamus' friendship with Triple H has obviously kept him on top a lot longer than he otherwise would have been, though I will say that he is often the best part of SmackDown. Taking the title off him now, against someone he has dominated for months, would be foolish.
Prediction: Sheamus retains
Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler
The only match on the card that isn't a title match has the most potential to steal the show. Orton and Ziggler have never had a bad match, and when you put them on pay-per-view for 12-15 minutes, this could easily turn out to be the best match on the card.
Everything in my gut tells me to go with Orton. WWE, when faced with the decision, will almost always go with Orton in a spot like this.
However, for reasons I can't fully explain right now, Ziggler will be the pick. He has to start building momentum so that people actually care when he does cash in the Money In the Bank briefcase.
Ziggler did get a win over Chris Jericho on Raw, though that came one night after he was beaten clean at SummerSlam. Call it naive, call it hope, call it whatever you want, but Ziggler should be the one to go over.
Prediction: Ziggler wins via pinfall
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