It's been six weeks since the last WWE pay-per-view. If you'll recall, Night of Champions ended with a draw between CM Punk and John Cena. Then Cena needed surgery on his right arm, so instead of the big blowoff match between the two top guys, we're getting CM Punk vs. Ryback in the main event.
There are six advertised matches on the card with one of them being added during SmackDown this week. It was the divas match. There's a possibility that Antonio Cesaro vs. Justin Gabriel for the United States Title could be added to the show, but it's not confirmed as of yet.
There's no pre-show match. Instead, the pre-show is being hyped as John Cena delivering a promo about the storyline involving him with former Raw GM AJ Lee and their alleged "affair" that ended up costing her the GM job. I guess it's better to do that on the pre-show than during the actual pay-per-view.
Intercontinental Championship: Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz
The IC Title is back to being a hot potato title. Cody Rhodes had a really good run with it that started last year. Then Big Show won. Then Cody got it back. Christian won it from Cody and then Miz won it from Christian. Now Kofi Kingston has the title again, which isn't a new or fresh thing, but it gets him out of the tag division where he's been for the last couple of years or so.
I think Miz was given the IC Title to give him some momentum after being booked poorly earlier in the year and I think it worked because his performances have been strong of late. With that said, I don't think he will win back the IC Title. He's above it.
Keep the title on Kingston, who hopefully adds more to his character. I've written many times that Miz should turn face and Kingston should turn heel. I don't know if either is likely, but it would freshen up both of them.
As for the match, they'll probably get 10-15 minutes and if they are the first match on the show, then it will be a good way to start the pay-per-view off with a fast-paced match. Kingston wins clean with the Trouble in Paradise.
Winner: Kofi Kingston
Divas Championship: Eve vs. Kaitlyn vs. Layla
My interest is very low concerning this storyline. I don't really care about who attacked Kaitlyn. If you watch Raw or SmackDown, you don't even know why you should cheer for Kaitlyn except for the fact that she smiles all the time and faces off against heels when she's in a match.
I understand the idea behind "pushing a newer girl" and that's fine, but she is like Eve was a few years ago. It takes time to develop. It would be better if Natalya was in this spot. Of course it would be. But I guess they'd rather not use women that are the most skilled in the ring.
The best move is to just keep the title on Eve. Kaitlyn barely gets a reaction from the crowd. Layla just isn't as good as a babyface as she was as a heel. Keep the gold (or silver/pink concoction, as it were) on Eve because then she can have a feud with AJ Lee, who will probably be wrestling more often in the near future.
Randy Orton vs. Alberto Del Rio
It's a pretty simple story featuring two guys in the upper midcard level that are fighting to get back to the main event slot that they've been a part of in the past.
Now that Orton is done filming 12 Rounds Reloaded (just finished this past week) he'll go back to being on both Raw and SmackDown instead of just SmackDown.
I'm hopeful that he turns heel in the near future, because he has said he wants to be in that role and frankly, he tries harder as a heel. I think his in-ring work has improved in his two years as a face, though, so I'm mixed about it.
This match should get 10-15 minutes. I expect it to be a physical match, too, because they've built up the rivalry well, which means the crowd should be into it.
I'd expect Orton to win the feud. Does that mean a win here or do they extend it by having another match at Survivor Series? I think this feud is going more than one PPV, so I'll pick Del Rio to win here with some creative finish.
Perhaps Orton is distracted by Ricardo Rodriguez and that leads to a cheap victory by Del Rio. I doubt it will be clean if Del Rio wins.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
WWE Tag Team Championships: Team Hell No (Kane and Daniel Bryan) vs. Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes & Damien Sandow)
This should be a lot of fun. Daniel Bryan's my favorite performer in the company while Rhodes and Sandow are probably in the top 10 too. While Kane isn't necessarily a favorite of mine, I like him in the tag team role more than as a singles performer.
The rivalry has been built well with the Rhodes Scholars working as a well-oiled machine while Kane/Bryan spend a lot of the time arguing. The crowd will be loud for this because the Kane/Bryan act draws as much of a reaction as anything in WWE these days. They are definitely a bright spot.
The Rhodes Scholars are an entertaining duo as well, so no matter what WWE does here, I will support it. It's really a "can't lose" situation and that's a sign of good booking, which is nice to see in WWE's tag division.
As far as a prediction goes, I think the champs retain. Of course, Kane & Bryan are the type of dysfunctional tag champs that can lose at any time and nobody would be surprised by it.
I just think it's too soon to move the titles off them because they just won them at Night of Champions and having short title reigns doesn't really help anybody. I can definitely see Rhodes/Sandow winning the titles before the end of the year. I don't think it's going to happen here.
Winners: Kane & Daniel Bryan
World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus vs. Big Show
It's a fresh matchup. They have used the last six weeks to create this new rivalry and have featured it a great deal on both Raw & SmackDown on the road to Hell in a Cell. I don't mind a match where the babyface champion actually shows weakness for a change and has possibly met his match in a dominating heel challenger like Big Show.
It's actually a shame that this one isn't inside Hell in a Cell, but I would imagine that they add some kind of stipulation to it like a street fight because it will be better if they can brawl around a bit.
I think Sheamus will keep his title. Big Show's at the point of his career where he can sniff major championships and be put in main-event level matches, but there's no reason to put either of the major titles on him. He's in his 40s now. He's not going to light the world on fire as a champion. Sheamus should beat him and I think he will.
They should get about 15 minutes of in-ring time. I think anything more than that is too much for a Big Show match. His match with Cena at No Way Out went about 20 minutes and I felt like falling asleep at various points. He's not a guy that should be in really long matches. Ten minutes is probably too short, so I'd expect it around 15 minutes in length.
Will Big Show kick out of the Brogue Kick of Sheamus? Doubt it. They have spent months building that move up as deadly, and I don't think Big Show is the guy to kick out of it. Sheamus wins clean.
Is that it? No. I think after the match is over we'll see the return of Mark Henry. Sheamus will celebrate his win, and Mark Henry will show up and attack the World Champion with the World's Strongest Slam.
Cue Dolph Ziggler with the Money in the Bank briefcase. I think he'll cash it in, hit the Zig Zag on the dazed Sheamus and win the World Heavyweight Title.
The Henry/Sheamus feud never really ended in the summer of 2011 (their SummerSlam matchup ended with a countout). I think they had something there and with Henry due back for a return, it would be the right time for him to make his presence known once again.
Winner and New World Heavyweight Champion: Dolph Ziggler
Did you see how good Ziggler vs. Bryan was on Raw? Let's see it for the World Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania 29 after a long title reign for heel champion Ziggler and with Bryan having a lot of momentum as a babyface. Come on, WWE. Don't let me down.
Hell in a Cell for the WWE Championship: CM Punk vs. Ryback
It seems like the fantasy bookers are out in full force for this matchup. Between emails, Twitter and Facebook, I've read all kinds of possibilities. Here are a few:
- They can have the cage break and Punk leaves the building with the title so that way they protect both guys.
- The match could end due to excessive blood loss by one of the competitors.
- John Cena could interfere somehow to accidentally cost Ryback the match. Again, that's based on the idea that they get out of the cage somehow (which has been done before), so there are a lot of scenarios to think about.
- Brock Lesnar could show up to help CM Punk retain. We'll get back to that one.
I've picked against CM Punk many times in the past few months. I even did it last month. How am I supposed to know Cena needed arm surgery? I just didn't think WWE would give him a 300-plus day WWE Title reign because it's such a rare thing for them to do.
I'm not against the long title reign by any means. It's been a lot of fun. His heel turn has definitely helped because his arrogance takes over and it has made people hate him even though a few months ago they were cheering him. Of course, he gets some cheers and always will, but generally speaking the heel turn is working.
The match quality will be interesting because Punk is notorious for not only working long matches, but for never tiring during them. He said himself in this interview on SLAM Wrestling that he's a "marathon runner" type of wrestler and he's absolutely right.
While Ryback isn't a rookie (he's been in the WWE system for over seven years) by any means, he's not used to wrestling in long matches on a regular basis. I wonder if he'll tire if this match goes 20 minutes. I assume he'll be fine because they have worked together on house shows the last few weekends, so there has to be some familiarity there now.
I don't know how it's going to end and I'm absolutely fine with not knowing that. What I know is this: The CM Punk vs. The Rock match is one of the few "money" matches left. They need to do it. It would be huge for both guys and the company.
Moving the title off Punk now and putting the title back on him before the end of the year was something I thought they might do even last month with Cena. I think it's too late now and would be too forced. Just keep it on Punk until the Royal Rumble.
How do you book the finish? Beats me. I know that's not the answer people want. I could sit here and guess, but just like you I have no idea what's going to happen. What Vince McMahon has on his mind on Friday at 8 p.m. could change by Sunday at 8 p.m. It could even change at Sunday at 10 p.m. right before the match is about to begin.
Ryback obviously has the undefeated streak going. The thing is, WWE is not coming out and saying how many wins he has. They just say he's undefeated. They are not trying to drive the point home. When Goldberg did the streak in WCW in the late 1990s they made a point to mention the numbers when he was out there. Of course, the numbers were largely made up, but at least the effort was there.
While I fully expect WWE to protect Ryback, keeping him undefeated is not something they are pushing hard. It's something for the fans to talk about maybe. But it's not a determining factor in the booking. I think with him it's more of a case of "do we want to beat him and if so how do we do that?" That kind of thing.
If I were booking it, I would have them break through the cage. You can either do it like the Michaels/Undertaker match in 1997 when a camera guy got hurt so they had to open the door and when that happened Michaels got out to escape. Or you can do the Edge/Undertaker 2008 spot where Edge gave Undertaker a spear that broke the cage open. The point is that there are ways to do it.
Once outside the cage, that's when the interference can happen. I think the Brock Lesnar scenario is very possible. He's a Paul Heyman guy just like CM Punk is. He "quit" the company, but we all know he's due back and it makes storyline sense. Plus it would lead to a huge Ryback vs. Lesnar match down the line, possibly at WrestleMania 29. There are a lot of scenarios that can happen. I think that one makes the most sense.
My prediction is that CM Punk leaves Hell in a Cell as the WWE Champion. I don't think it will be a clean victory. It will be very controversial. They will do everything they can to protect Ryback to make him look strong, because he has a big role in the company going forward.
I think Punk has to keep this title reign going strong until the Royal Rumble, at which point I would feel comfortable predicting a loss for him. Not before that. Keep the WWE Championship on Punk. It's the right thing to do.
Winner: CM Punk
I think from a booking perspective, the main event will be very interesting. The possibility of Dolph Ziggler using his Money in the Bank briefcase is also interesting. I have a feeling that we'll be talking about both of those things after the show is over. That's what you want out of a pay-per-view.
Creating buzz is important. With ratings on a downward trend, you know that WWE is well aware of that too.
John Canton is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can read more of his work at his website TJRWrestling.com along with his talented staff of writers. He also writes a lot about the NFL at TJRSports.com, so check him out there as well! You can follow John on Twitter @johnreport too.