With WWE's Judgement Day PPV set to take place on Sunday night, here’s a look at what I expect to go down.
CM Punk vs Umaga
Since CM Punk’s Money in the Bank win at WM 25, his second consecutive triumph in the match, he has again been the victim of some up and down booking just as he was following last year’s success.
A defeat at Backlash to Kane, was followed by a decisive win over the World Heavyweight Champion Edge in a non-title match on his first official appearance on Smackdown following the draft lottery.
After Punk had put Edge down with the Go-to-sleep for a decisive win, just as he had promised to before the match, he attempted to cash in his briefcase and take advantage of the fallen champion.
Umaga, presumably under instruction from Edge’s wife, Vicky, the General Manager of Raw, intervened though and beat down Punk before the second match could be started.
The following week, following another non-title match between CM Punk and Edge which Punk again won when Edge deliberately got himself counted out, Umaga again arrived through the crowd to assault Punk and set up this subsequent Judgement Day showdown.
Whilst Punk has been booked impressively against Edge since becoming an official part of the Smackdown roster, you’re never quite sure how he’s going to fare but with Judgement Day taking place in his hometown of Chicago, there is a pretty big possibility that he could cash in the briefcase and end the night as champion.
Despite that chance, I would be surprised if Umaga’s return to PPV ended in defeat as a lack of big credible heels on the brand mean that the Samoan Bulldozer is likely to be built up as the next opponent for the returning Undertaker.
Umaga to win en route to an eventual feud with the Undertaker but Punk to cash in case at the end of the night and leave as champion.
Rey Mysterio (C) vs Chris Jericho
I’ve been a little disappointed with how Chris Jericho has been booked on Smackdown thus far.
Although he’s been featured strongly as far as screen time goes, he has already lost a No. 1 contender fatal four-way match albeit by disqualification after hitting Rey with a chair to begin this feud, before being pinned by Jeff Hardy in an exciting Smackdown main event last week.
Jericho was WWE’s shining star throughout 2008 and his thanks for that was a joke match against three ageing legends whose best days are behind them (Ok Steamboat proved he still had it but that wasn’t a given when the match was first booked) at WM before being knocked out with one punch by a Hollywood actor.
Despite that, his mic work as a heel has continued to be impressive and his ring work solid as usual and I expect him to be given more of a chance to shine further down the line.
Rey Mysterio on the other hand has been on a solid push as of late and is being presented as a big star on Smackdown to take advantage of its huge Latino market.
His IC title win at WM over the now-retired JBL has been followed up by some impressive in-ring performances which culminated in an outstanding back-and-forth encounter at the end of the number one contender fatal four-way match which ended with Rey being pinned by the enigmatic Jeff Hardy but still coming out looking strong.
Although I would like to see Jericho start to rack up some big wins, I can’t see the benefit of him winning the IC title having held it so many times already.
Therefore I expect Rey to retain in a possible match of the night contender, possibly by disqualification but maybe by sneaking a fluky pin which keeps Jericho strong for his eventual main event programmes whilst Rey heads into a programme against possibly Dolph Ziggler or Shelton Benjamin.
ECW Championship Match
Christian (C) vs Jack Swagger
This one is arguably the hardest match of the bunch to call.
Whilst Christian has been impressive ever since he debuted on ECW, is the most popular wrestler on the brand and brings the ECW championship instant credibility, he has been booked so far as being inferior to Swagger who has continued to grow into the huge star that many in WWE expect him to become.
Tommy Dreamer’s presence in this feud and his public vow to retire if he doesn’t win the title before his contract expires in June, complicates matters further as one would expect him to face a heel champion in his chase for the belt.
I expect Christian to retain with interference from Dreamer in retaliation to Swagger interrupting his ECW title shot on last week’s show ultimately leading to a triple threat before Dreamer’s contract expiry date in which Dreamer wins the title.
John Cena vs Big Show
Following Big Show costing John Cena the WWE title at Backlash with a vicious attack in which he chokeslammed Cena from the stage through a spotlight, many had expected Cena to be out for some time.
Instead he has shown up on Raw each week clearly less than 100 per cent and as a result has been left laying by both the Big Show and The Miz who has been calling out Cena in an attempt to take advantage of the injured former WWE champion and make his mark on Raw.
With the exception of WM, Cena hasn’t been booked quite as strongly as he has been in previous years, possibly to make him more sympathetic as a babyface as opposed to the superman character who overcame all odds, that he was being booked as previously.
With Big Show receiving a huge push as of late which has included a clean win over the Undertaker in his last official Smackdown match and a virtual squash win over Rey Mysterio, he appears destined to stay in the main event for the foreseeable future so would appear to be able to benefit more than Cena would from a big win here.
Where Cena is involved though, you never know.
With Cena set to take time off to film another movie, I expect Big Show to not only win the match but to also destroy Cena and put him out of action for a few months setting up a big grudge match when Cena eventually returns.
Batista vs Randy Orton (C)
Batista’s return to Raw to seek retribution for the punt from Orton which put the animal on the shelf for months causing him to miss WM 25, has not gone smoothly thus far with his temper costing not only himself but others huge problems as well.
His lack of self control effectively cost HHH the title at Backlash before it then forced both Shane and himself to take part in one on three handicap matches against Legacy.
He got a little payback this week when assaulting both Dibiase and Rhodes to delay their entry into the handicap match before then holding them off and giving Orton a going-over with a steel-chair to place himself in a positive position heading into Judgement Day.
Orton’s rise into the biggest heel in the company however looks likely to be supported by a lengthy title run so a defeat in his first defence of the title doesn’t fit the script.
The expected return of HHH also makes it seem unlikely that Orton will lose the title with scores to be settled in that rivalry and in fact HHH could exact revenge on Batista for costing him the title by returning the favour.
Orton to retain the title with possible interference from HHH costing Batista the match leading to a HHH/Batista feud while Orton heads on to a new challenger.
World Heavyweight Championship
Jeff Hardy vs Edge (C)
Jeff Hardy has continued to shine on Smackdown despite a clunky feud with his older brother Matt in which he suffered defeat twice before winning their final encounter at Backlash.
Since then, Jeff has gone on to win a number one contender fatal four-way cracker against Kane, Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio before scoring a huge pinfall victory over Chris Jericho last week.
His popularity, his always impressive in-ring performances and his chemistry with Edge should guarantee a great match which he could feasibly win. His precarious contract situation however, in which he seems unwilling to sign a contract extension, makes it less likely that he will win the ‘big one’ for a second time.
Edge meanwhile regained the title in typically ‘opportunistic’ fashion, taking advantage of Big Show’s interference to win a last man standing match with John Cena at Backlash. He has since been one-upped by Mr Money in the Bank CM Punk and goes into this title match in a virtual underdog role.
His reputation as an opportunistic champion however means that you can never count Edge out but with the intangible of CM Punk’s briefcase and Judgement Day taking place in his hometown, there is a very good chance that Edge could suffer another short term reign.
Not sure how they will get there but CM Punk to cash in his briefcase and win the title in his hometown officially beginning a championship programme with Edge.
Possible late additions to the card
US Title Fatal Four Way Match
MVP (C) vs William Regal vs Matt Hardy vs Kofi Kingston
John Morrison vs Shelton Benjamin