WWE Night of Champions 2013: Stars Who Will Deliver Strong Performances
More is at stake at Night of Champions than WWE gold.
In victory or defeat, WWE Superstars have a shot at stealing the show, forcing our attention onto themselves and, in some cases, reinvigorating their own momentum. The prominent story will be Daniel Bryan's struggle against the suddenly despotic Triple H, but a number of other wrestlers will shine at the pay-per-view.
The snake in his way, the tag-team champions and a man supposedly in the twilight of his career are among those who will be the talk of Night of Champions.
The safest bet for a show-stealing performance is CM Punk.
Arrange the top three matches of 2013 any way you want; Punk is a part of all three. Punk's match against John Cena on WWE Raw in February, his clash with The Undertaker at WrestleMania and his war against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam show off his versatility and his ability to churn out classics.
He goes up against Curtis Axel and Paul Heyman in a handicap match burning with emotion.
After Heyman broke a kendo stick on his chest while screaming, "You were everything to me!" this is sure to be a dramatic meeting. Expect Punk to get his revenge and to shine in the process. Stellar performances have been his M.O. all year.
The bigger question mark is Axel.
In the center of a storm of animosity, the Intercontinental champ has the heat of the spotlight on him. His biggest moment so far has been winning that title at Payback. Night of Champions offers him a shot at working the best match of his career.
With our eyes focused on Daniel Bryan's fight against oppression and his journey back to championship glory, we can't forget about the man he's chasing.
Great performances aplenty helped Bryan's popularity reach its current height, and he'll no doubt motor around the ring come Night of Champions. It's going to be The Viper's night this time around, though.
Bryan's going to get his big moment eventually, overcoming the odds and avenging the injustice he has suffered as of late, but it won't happen this soon.
Orton is set up to be his torturer, the RKO-wielding villain who denies him the WWE title for now. The WWE champ thrives as the predator and will do so come Sept. 15.
Orton's recent resume may have been overshadowed by Bryan's rise, but his work against Christian on Monday’s WWE Raw, his battles with Bryan earlier this year and his performance in the All-Star Money in the Bank ladder match prove he's on a roll. Expect that to continue at Night of Champions.
It's not official yet, but Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins look to be taking on Mark Henry and Big Show with the tag-team championships on the line.
This would not only be The Shield's biggest challenge to date, but a shot for the duo to once again be the talk of the WWE. Backstage heat reportedly punched a few holes in their momentum.
At one point, The Shield was pounding The Undertaker into the ground on WWE SmackDown and then found themselves relegated to the pre-show of Money in the Bank and without an official match at SummerSlam.
Now they find themselves with a chance to force WWE to keep them on its higher rungs.
In separate six-man action, The Shield have already given us a preview of what they can do opposite Big Show and Henry. Expect The Hounds of Justice to swarm around, fly at and crash into the two giants.
Fresh off slashing at the Total Divas cast with a promo that impressed the pipe-bomb aficionado CM Punk, AJ Lee likely defends her Divas title against one of those ladies.
The anger boiling over in that performance will translate into compelling in-ring work. Whomever WWE chooses to face her will bring animosity by the barrel. That means we'll see a story heading into that bout.
The last time AJ went into a match with this much momentum and the power of a story to aid her, she nailed it.
She and Kaitlyn were among the most talked-about wrestlers after the inaugural Payback pay-per-view. Regardless of her challenger, expect AJ to bring her melange of explosiveness and instability to get the Divas title match a ton of attention.
Rob Van Dam
Should he continue on his current path of excellence, Rob Van Dam's new nickname is going to be "The Ageless One."
Van Dam's underwhelming TNA run and his age raised doubts about how good his WWE return could be, but he's exceeded expectations. Against everyone from Darren Young to Chris Jericho, Van Dam has shown that he is just as dazzling, just as exciting in the ring as he was in his prime.
Whether or not he takes the World Heavyweight Championship away from Alberto Del Rio at Night of Champions, the smart money is on him wowing the crowd.
Fans got a taste of what their matchup will look like when Van Dam earned a win over Del Rio on Monday's WWE Raw. Expect the same entertaining blend of speed, kicks and high-flying only with higher stakes.