WWE Battleground Predictions: Match-by-Match Breakdown
This Sunday, World Wrestling Entertainment rolls into the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y. for the first of two October pay-per-view events.
In the main event, Daniel Bryan will once again attempt to achieve WWE Championship glory as he takes on Randy Orton for the vacant title.
Current World Heavyweight champion Alberto Del Rio will face the toughest challenge of his entire title reign as he meets "Mr. PPV" Rob Van Dam in a Hardcore Rules match.
The Rhodes family will look to put weeks of torment at the hands of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon behind them when brothers Cody Rhodes and Goldust meet The Shield's Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins.
The latter team's WWE Tag Team titles are not on the line but employment for the Rhodes family is.
CM Punk will look to gain a measure of revenge against Ryback, who speared him through a table at Night of Champions, leading to Paul Heyman's pinfall win over the man he once called friend.
With those four matches on the card, and several other supporting them on the undercard, Battleground is shaping up to be an eventful PPV.
Who will leave Buffalo with wins under their belt?
Find out after the jump as I break down all of the matches and predict every winner.
WWE Kickoff Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien Sandow
Sunday's festivities will kick off with the holder of the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank briefcase, Damien Sandow, taking on WWE's resident show off, Dolph Ziggler.
There has been zero build to the match and neither man's win-loss record has been spectacular in recent weeks.
Luckily for one of them, somebody has to win.
Sandow has been absolutely directionless since his angle with Cody Rhodes ended at SummerSlam in August. Though Superstars such as Daniel Bryan and CM Punk lost their fair share of matches in between winning the briefcase and cashing it in, neither was on as lengthy a losing streak as Sandow is now.
Ziggler, on the other hand, has suffered a series of losses, but all have come as a part of the top storyline in WWE. One of the talents to stand up to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon and suffer their wrath as a result, he has been far more meaningful to the television product than his Battleground opponent.
Both men are above-average workers who should provide an entertaining start to the show.
Expect Sandow to set up his finishing neckbreaker, the Terminus, by working over Ziggler's head and neck.
Ziggler has been especially strong as the babyface who takes a beating but makes the sudden comeback, bringing fans to their feet and creating a hot finish to the match
Sandow could use the win before it is too late for fans to consider him a legitimate threat, but Ziggler has a higher upside and is actually involved in something resembling an angle.
Official Prediction: Dolph Ziggler escapes the Terminus and delivers the Zig Zag to pick up the win in an evenly contested match.
Intercontinental Championship Match: R-Truth vs. Curtis Axel
To say that Curtis Axel was outclassed in his brief rivalry with CM Punk, which culminated at last month's Night of Champions, would be an understatement.
No one really bought him as being a threat to the former WWE champion and as a result, the otherwise hot angle involving Punk and Paul Heyman suffered a bit of a setback. Now, with Ryback in the picture, Axel is free to continue growing as a performer and a champion.
After a loss to R-Truth on Monday's Raw, Axel will be forced to defend his Intercontinental title against him this Sunday night.
Truth's victory over Axel seemingly came from out of nowhere. Yes, he was one of the Superstars who rushed to the ring to help Daniel Bryan two weeks ago on Raw. Yes, he was one of the Superstars involved in the 11-on-3 Handicap Elimination match a week ago.
But prior to that, he had been a punching bag for Bray Wyatt and little else.
Now, thanks to one victory, he is suddenly in title contention.
Axel has not been a particularly outstanding champion, but Truth has not been relevant in over a year, despite remaining relatively over with the WWE Universe.
With little history between the two or any real reason to care, it may be very difficult for both champion and challenger to get the fans inside the First Niagara Center invested in the action.
With that in mind, Axel typically delivers solid performances when given the opportunity to appear on pay-per-view events. Truth, more often than not, is hit or miss depending on who he is in the ring with.
Axel should do just enough to make the match entertaining, but the match will likely be more comparable to a really good Monday Night Raw match than one worthy of a spot on a pay-per-view event.
Official Prediction: Curtis Axel retains the Intercontinental Championship, defeating R-Truth in a match where the outcome was never really in doubt.
Non-Title Match: Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins
On the September 2 edition of Raw, Cody Rhodes made the mistake of telling COO Triple H that what is best for business is Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Championship.
Triple H booked Rhodes to face Orton later in the evening's broadcast with the added stipulation that the young star would lose his job if he lost the match.
With enormous pressure on him to succeed just days from his wedding, Rhodes delivered a fine performance. Unfortunately, a missed Disaster Kick was answered with an RKO. Orton would win the match, and Rhodes was out of a job.
Attempts by Cody's brother Dustin (under his Goldust moniker) and his father, Dusty, to get Triple H to reconsider his decision proved futile. Goldust fell just shy of defeating Orton, while Dusty was knocked out by Big Show on the orders of Stephanie McMahon.
On the September 23 episode of Raw, Cody and Goldust hopped the guard rail and assaulted The Shield before being led away by security.
This past Monday on Raw, the entire Rhodes clan confronted Triple H and Stephanie and were informed that they have one last opportunity for not only Cody to regain his job but also for Goldust to earn a roster spot.
All they have to do is defeat the WWE Tag Team champions, The Shield's Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, this Sunday at Battleground.
If they do not, not only will Cody and Goldust be out of a job, so too will be family patriarch Dusty.
Reigns and Rollins have been among the in-ring MVPs for WWE this year. Their matches, often times also involving United States champion Dean Ambrose, have stolen their fair share of Raws, SmackDowns and pay-per-views.
At a time when wrestlers are focused on high spots, Cody and Goldust are very much old school. They are solid, believable workers focused on in-ring psychology and only doing things that make sense in the context of the match and the story they are telling.
The announcement earlier this week that the WWE Tag Team Championship would not be on the line in the match seemingly points to Cody and Goldust winning the match, and employment, but the creative team is known for throwing curveballs at its fans to keep them guessing.
While the outcome of the match is somewhat unpredictable, what is not is the quality of match fans will be treated to when these four immensely talented individuals take to the ring this weekend.
Official Prediction: Cody Rhodes and Goldust defeat Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns to win jobs with WWE, only to continue to be toyed with and manipulated the following night on Raw.
Hardcore Match for the World Heavyweight Title: Rob Van Dam vs. Alberto Del Rio
At Night of Champions, the threat of Rob Van Dam dethroning Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship was very real. So real, in fact, that Del Rio had to resort to getting himself disqualified by refusing to break his Crossarm Breaker when Van Dam grabbed onto the ropes.
The rivalry continued in the weeks that followed, and it was announced by COO Triple H that Del Rio would not only defend his title against Van Dam, he would do it in a Hardcore match.
RVD has a long and storied history in Hardcore matches. One of the biggest stars in ECW history, he made a name for himself because of the way he integrated his high-risk offense with the extreme style the promotion was recognized for.
Del Rio, conversely, has been very impressive in the gimmick-heavy matches he has been a part of. Furthermore, the way he has increased the intensity and aggressiveness throughout his latest heel turn should lend itself to a violent match type.
Champion and challenger exhibited solid chemistry with one another in their match at last month's pay-per-view despite appearing disjointed early.
Del Rio has been world champion for all but 69 days this year. One of the handful of Superstars that can be counted on to deliver from an in-ring standpoint, he has been a workhorse for WWE this year, and his lengthy run as champion is deserved.
Van Dam is one of the most popular stars on the roster and has worked hard since returning to the company. His matches with Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose and Del Rio have been above average in terms of quality, and he remains over with the audience simply by existing.
Del Rio has proven apt at swinging chairs and breaking tables, but Sunday will be the RVD show.
In his first opportunity to show a new generation of fans what he is capable of under hardcore rules, Van Dam will deliver his finest performance in years.
Official Prediction: Rob Van Dam wins his first World Heavyweight Championship and immediately freshens up an otherwise stale and stagnant title picture.
Divas Championship Match: Brie Bella vs. AJ Lee
At last month's Night of Champions, AJ Lee defeated Total Divas stars Naomi, Natalya and Brie Bella in a Fatal 4-Way match to retain the Divas title.
On the September 23 edition of Raw, Bella scored an upset win over AJ, earning her a shot at the championship this Sunday night.
AJ's matches with Kaitlyn this past summer showed how talented an in-ring worker she is. She has thrived in the more controlled confines of singles competition. The aforementioned four-way match was not her finest showing, but she and Bella have the chance to make up for that disappointing performance at Battleground.
Speaking of Bella, she had a solid match with Alicia Fox on Monday's Raw and, by show's end, she found herself interjected in the top angle in World Wrestling Entertainment.
Her real-life engagement to Daniel Bryan was exploited in order to add even more heat to the story. With potential for further involvement in the angle, it should be interesting to see whether or not WWE gives her a championship run to further increase her star power.
Bella's involvement in that story should not affect the outcome of the Divas title match.
There is still plenty of untapped potential for the Divas division with AJ as its champion. The fact that she is the most well-rounded female performer in the promotion, and its most over competitor, helps support the idea that she should retain the title Sunday night.
Official Prediction: AJ Lee defeats Brie Bella with the Black Widow to retain the Divas Championship.
CM Punk vs. Ryback
The CM Punk-Paul Heyman feud was desperately in need of a legitimate threat to Punk. Leading into the Handicap Elimination match at September's Night of Champions, it became clear that Curtis Axel was not believable as a legitimate opposition to the Best in the World.
Enter Ryback, who speared Punk through a table and revealed an association with Heyman.
The big guy's involvement in the angle brought him back to relevance after a few months of doing nothing of significance. His injection into this angle also revisits a rivalry between he and Punk that was never really settled earlier this year and sets up Punk as the scrappy underdog whose back is against the wall, a role he filled with much success during his angle with Brock Lesnar leading into SummerSlam.
In two pay-per-view matches in 2012 and a TLC match on Raw earlier this year, Punk and Ryback have exhibited chemistry with one another but never really clicked as opponents because of the dynamic between them.
Punk was the smaller heel running from the monstrous face and taking every shortcut in an attempt to escape with a victory. The story, as a result, was a good one, but the matches were never as great as they could have been.
Now, with the roles reversed and Punk already proving that he can get a great match out of a larger opponent by bumping around the ring for them and fighting from underneath, the potential for far better bouts between the two is significantly higher than during their first series.
Punk is one of the most gifted workers of this generation. Ryback is a freakish athlete who is better than he gets credit for being. If anyone can help the musclebound monster to a great pay-per-view showing, it is Punk.
Official Prediction: Ryback pins CM Punk after some sort of interference by Paul Heyman, and maybe even Curtis Axel, setting up a rematch at Hell in a Cell.
WWE Championship Match: Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton
For the second consecutive pay-per-view, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton will clash over the WWE Championship in the main event.
COO Triple H, wife Stephanie, Orton and The Shield have done everything in their power to keep Bryan away from the title over the last two months and have succeeded in doing so.
Monday night, Orton once again channeled his inner Apex Predator, viciously beating Bryan down in front of his fiancee, Brie Bella. With the violent side of Orton returning just in time for Sunday's championship clash and management stopping at nothing to assure that the "goat-face troll" does not become the "face of WWE," the odds are against the talented ring technician.
But the odds have been against Bryan from day one.
No one could have expected that someone as small in stature could succeed in WWE. Sure, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit had been stars for McMahon's company, but they were more the exception than the rule.
Even if he made it onto the roster and managed to stick around for a while, he would never achieve anything past a certain level. He would, maybe, be Intercontinental champion or United States champion. Maybe he would reach World Heavyweight Championship status if a series of injuries depleted the roster.
But WWE champion? Arguably the most popular wrestler in the industry?
Now Bryan will be expected to overcome the odds one more time in order to once again hoist the WWE title overhead while thousands of fans chant "YES!" in unison.
Those questioning what quality of match Bryan and Orton are capable of should look no further than their No Disqualification match from Raw a few months back. They delivered a hard-hitting, stiff, entertaining bought that saw Bryan win cleanly with a kendo stick-aided Yes Lock.
Their match last month at Night of Champions was a solid one that was actually hurt by the lack of interference by Triple H or The Shield.
With Battleground setting up October 27's Hell in a Cell show, the finish of Sunday's title bout will have to keep fans intrigued and invested enough to warrant them paying another $45 for that event.
Official Prediction: Randy Orton defeats Daniel Bryan to win the WWE Championship after Triple H, The Shield and the Rhodes family interferes in a finish reminiscent of those seen in Attitude Era main events.