This Sunday night, World Wrestling Entertainment presents Battleground, live from the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York.
The main event features a rematch from September's Night of Champions as Daniel Bryan takes on Randy Orton, this time for the vacant WWE Championship.
Alberto Del Rio will defend his World Heavyweight Championship in a Hardcore match against Rob Van Dam.
The Rhodes brothers will have the opportunity to win back their jobs but will have to go through the dominant tag team champions, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns of The Shield.
Finally, CM Punk will once again have the opportunity to gain a measure of revenge on Paul Heyman as he takes on new Heyman guy, Ryback.
With only three weeks between Battleground and Hell in a Cell, it is safe to say that the outcomes of this Sunday's matches will have an impact, small or large, on WWE's next pay-per-view offering.
With that in mind, here are the smart finishes for this Sunday's show.
WWE Kickoff Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien Sandow
The only match on Sunday's card without any real effect on anything else going on in today's WWE, Dolph Ziggler and Damien Sandow should deliver a crowd-pleasing match to get the evening's festivities off on the right foot.
Sandow seemingly has not won a match since winning the Money in the Bank briefcase, while Ziggler has been a featured player in the overarching angle involving Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton and Triple H.
While Ziggler may no longer be in line for the main event push so many thought was finally coming his way earlier this year, he is still in a much better position to leave Battleground with a victory under his proverbial belt than Sandow, who is directionless at this point.
Ziggler wins a hard-fought contest after catching Sandow with the Zig Zag.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns
One of the most interesting and entertaining angles WWE has produced this year revolves around Cody Rhodes, his unjust firing and his family's attempts to get his job back.
This Sunday, Cody and brother Dustin have the opportunity to regain employment with WWE, but to do so they will have to defeat the dominant tag team champions Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, whose outstanding team work has allowed them to retain the titles and, along with Dean Ambrose, defeat some of the top stars in the industry.
As announced by WWE.com, the tag team gold will not be on the line in the match, putting all of the pressure squarely on the shoulders of the second-generation brothers to come out of Buffalo with a victory.
On Raw, Rhodes patriarch Dusty revealed that he will be in his sons' corner for the big match, and one should expect that United States champion Dean Ambrose will accompany his stablemates to the ring as well. This should create an interesting dynamic outside of the squared circle, a dynamic that could very well play into the closing moments of the contest.
Expect a hot crowd to support what should be a very good tag team bout. Both Rhodes brothers have their fair share of experience in tag team wrestling, while Rollins and Reigns have been nothing short of spectacular since debuting on the main roster just under a year ago.
The payoff to the Rhodes angle will ultimately result in the reinstatement of Cody to the main roster. Goldust delivered enough solid work in his match with Randy Orton a few weeks earlier to earn a spot on the main roster, which is lacking in star power thanks to injuries to John Cena and Sheamus.
Cody and Goldust should get the win at Battleground, signaling their return to Raw and providing two more adversaries for Triple H and Stephanie McMahon to manipulate and have fun with.
The youngest Rhodes should pick up the pinfall win following the Disaster Kick to Rollins, perhaps setting up a title match between the two teams three weeks later.
Winners: Cody Rhodes and Goldust
Divas Championship Match: Brie Bella vs. AJ Lee
Monday afternoon, it was announced by WWE.com that Brie Bella will challenge AJ Lee for the Divas title at Battleground. The announcement comes on the heels of Bella's win over Lee in a 10-woman tag match on last week's Raw.
With all of the attention being given to the cast of Total Divas, AJ has continued to be one of the most popular and over performers on WWE television.
A new wrinkle was added Monday to what should have been just another Divas title match.
Brie's real-life engagement to Daniel Bryan was played up on television and incorporated into the top angle in the promotion. She was at ringside as Randy Orton violently attacked her fiancee and has been the target of several Orton threats over the last two weeks.
While her involvement in that angle will likely have nothing to do with her title match against AJ, it has instantly elevated the twin's presence on WWE programming and makes her a far bigger threat to the Divas title than she would have been as just the star of a reality show.
It is the second consecutive month that Brie has challenged for the title, and what appears to be a face turn would be capped off nicely with a title win.
Unfortunately for her, AJ has proven herself as a versatile performer for WWE. Over the last two years, she has been featured heavily on Raw and SmackDown and is a big merchandise-mover for the company.
It is a bit early to end her reign at this point.
The booking of the challenger will be paramount to continue her progression as a babyface. She should put up a tremendous fight, coming close to winning the title on several occasions before the interference of her sister Nikki, Eva Marie and Tamina ends up providing a distraction that AJ takes advantage of to retain her title.
A rematch between the two at Hell in a Cell, in which Brie insists that she goes to the ring alone, would continue the rivalry while setting the stage for a Bella Twins breakup and on-screen feud.
Winner: AJ Lee
Hardcore Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Rob Van Dam vs. Alberto Del Rio
The match between Rob Van Dam and Alberto Del Rio at September's Night of Champions event ended inconclusively, a disqualification securing the victory for the challenger.
One month later, Van Dam will have his second crack at the title, this time in a match type with which he is all too familiar.
In a Hardcore bout, the Superstars will attempt to overcome a lack of hype and build by delivering a show-stealing match that revisits Van Dam's days in ECW and his early WWE stint as Hardcore champion.
Del Rio has performed admirably in the few chances he has had to compete in similar bouts. His Last Man Standing matches against John Cena at Vengeance in 2011 and against The Big Show at this past January's Royal Rumble were both contenders for match-of-the-night honors.
Outside of the Money in the Bank match in which he made his return to the promotion, Van Dam has not had the opportunity to show today's fans, many of them too young to remember his heyday with the company some 12 years ago, what he is capable of in specialty matches.
Expect an outstanding match that continues Del Rio's string of quality pay-per-view matches. RVD will deliver his finest performance since returning in July, and fans will be talking about their contest come Monday morning.
Common sense would say Van Dam wins the match and the title Sunday night, but WWE seems so invested in Del Rio at this point that they likely see more value in him as champion than anyone else.
With questions surrounding the challenger's contract status, a missed high-risk spot from Van Dam should set up a pinfall win for Del Rio in what will be his hardest-fought title defense of the year.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
CM Punk vs. Ryback
The hardest match to book on the entire Battleground card, CM Punk will take on Ryback in a match that stems from the latter's attack on Punk, which set up Paul Heyman's win over his former friend at last month's Night of Champions.
Both Punk and Ryback have abysmal pay-per-view records in 2013 as they head into Sunday's show. In fact, each has won only one of their matches on major WWE events this year.
Ironically, both wins came over Chris Jericho.
As one of the top two stars in the industry, Punk is essentially bulletproof. He is a made man in the eyes of the fans and can withstand any loss. He has won enough big matches and evolved enough as a performer to the point that he can keep himself over despite numerous jobs.
Ryback, on the other hand, finds himself straddling a fine line. Another major loss on pay-per-view, despite his association with Heyman, could seriously damage him in the eyes of the fans. After all, he spent months involved in a one-sided feud with John Cena, then suddenly found himself the subject of meaningless (though often amusing) backstage segments.
After dominating competition in 2012 en route to a main event push, Ryback became meaningless.
Now, with one of the most gifted talkers in the history of the industry as his agent, the big guy has a second chance at achieving a sustained main event push.
How the company books the match will go a long way in determining Ryback's success in his new role.
Punk should carry the match. One of the best workers on the planet, he has delivered outstanding matches this year despite injuries that have piled up over the last few months.
Ryback, when paired with a great worker, has delivered in his few opportunities at the top of the card and has a solid chemistry with Punk dating back to their matches last fall.
A clean win by either man essentially ends the rivalry. With that said, the match should end via disqualification.
Ryback, Heyman and Intercontinental champion Curtis Axel should work together to assault Punk and leave the Best in the World lying as payback for the cane attack on Raw.
This allows the rivalry to continue into Hell in a Cell, where Punk will get Ryback one-on-one inside the steel structure. A reversal in roles, with Ryback as the dominating heel and Punk as the scrappy babyface, should result in that match being far better than last year's disappointment.
Winner: CM Punk, via disqualification
WWE Championship Match: Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton
At Night of Champions in September, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton delivered a solid main event match that ended with Bryan defeating Orton off of a fast count by referee Scott Armstrong. The company opted to deliver a straight-up wrestling match that did not feature any outside interference and really failed to play up the angle that had surrounded the two competitors leading into the event.
With many fans considering Battleground to be a a filler pay-per-view, expect the company and its performers to go all-out to deliver a satisfying main event that will create buzz for Monday's Raw.
At play in the match is not only Bryan's and Orton's intense rivalry, but also the determination by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon not to allow the bearded one to become the WWE champion and, as a result, the face of the company. There is also The Shield, always a threat to interject in matters involving the COO and his best interests.
Then there are the Superstars who came to Bryan's aid a few weeks back, making themselves targets of Triple H and Stephanie, not to mention Brie Bella, who found herself involved in the angle during Monday's Raw.
There are plenty of external forces that make the outcome of the match unpredictable.
Typical WWE booking suggests that, since Orton was left standing on Raw, Bryan will take the title Sunday night. Going that route, however, would result in another title win for Bryan that would likely be overturned by management.
There are only so many times fans can be presented with the opportunity to finally see the good guy go over only to have the prize ripped away from them, before those fans turn on the product.
Cox Cable even had to refund costumers who purchased Night of Champions for similar reasons.
Bryan and Orton have outstanding chemistry, so the in-ring action between the two should be solid at worst. What goes on around the match will determine just how much momentum the angle has behind it heading into Raw the next night and whether it can be sustained for yet another pay-per-view.
The "B+ goat-faced troll," as Triple H calls him, should be in control of the match late only to have interference by any number of outside forces cost him the championship.
Orton wins the title, setting up the final clash between he and Bryan inside Hell in a Cell on October 27, perhaps on the orders of Vince McMahon, who has not been seen on television since before SummerSlam.
Winner: Randy Orton
Battleground is an unnecessary pay-per-view offering from WWE that will ultimately hurt the buyrate of the other, more popular and eventful October show Hell in a Cell. With that said, there is potential for solid angle advancement and one or two surprises that will have fans talking about the show the next day.
The wrestling will be good, as has been the case for most of the year, but the success of the show will be based on its booking.
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