With just over 24 hours until WWE presents Battleground from the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y., the hype machine for the first of two October pay-per-view productions is in full effect.
The vacant WWE Championship will be on the line in the main event of the show as Daniel Bryan takes on Randy Orton. Bryan has been the hottest star in the industry for the better part of four months, but it is Orton whose success in past October events may very well rear its head again this weekend.
One of the forefathers of the Attitude Era will make his return to WWE pay-per-view when Goldust teams with brother Cody Rhodes to take on The Shield's Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. The Tag Team champions have yet to lose on a WWE PPV, and their ability to continue their winning ways will dictate whether one of the company's most beloved and successful characters will return to the active roster.
Alberto Del Rio will defend his World Heavyweight Championship against Rob Van Dam in a Hardcore match. The match type seems to work to Van Dam's advantages, but the champion's history in violent and extreme gimmick matches may surprise fans.
Ryback returns to high-profile pay-per-view action when he meets CM Punk in the continuation of Punk's outstanding angle with Paul Heyman. Both competitors are in need of a big win to boost their pay-per-view win-loss records, but is one need it more than the other?
With so much attention being heaped on Brie Bella after her inclusion in the top angle in the company on this past Monday's Raw, Divas champion AJ Lee has become an afterthought. Even more of an afterthought? Second-generation Diva Tamina Snuka, who has become almost like a bodyguard to the champion.
With only hours to go until the big show, here are a five things every fan should know about WWE Battleground.
Sunday night at Battleground, Randy Orton will square off with Daniel Bryan for the vacant WWE Championship.
A look back at the history books confirms that The Viper typically excels at October pay-per-view events.
Throughout his career, Orton has defeated some of the biggest stars the professional wrestling business has ever produced. The month of October is no exception. Industry giants such as Ric Flair, The Undertaker, John Cena, Shawn Michaels and Triple H have fallen to the Apex Predator, leading to a favorable 8-5 win-loss record.
Two of his five losses came as a result of a disqualification. At 2007's Cyber Sunday, he got himself intentionally disqualified in a match with Shawn Michaels, delivering a low blow to the Showstopper and assuring that he would leave with his WWE title intact.
Three years later, Orton would again lose by disqualification, this time when John Cena interfered in his match with Wade Barrett, attacking the Nexus leader and bringing the contest to a premature end.
Most impressively is the fact that in eight of his appearances at October extravaganzas, Orton has been either WWE or World Heavyweight champion or competed in matches for one of those championships.
Orton will continue that trend Sunday night at Battleground.
He and Daniel Bryan met at Night of Champions back in September when Bryan got the better of him.
After brutal assaults on The Miz and Bryan over the last few weeks, it is clear that the violent and ruthless Orton has returned, making Bryan's attempt to defeat The Viper for a second consecutive month far more difficult.
As if Orton's championship and pay-per-view success in October was not already a tough obstacle to overcome.
At the 1995 In Your House IV event (October 22), an enigmatic newcomer made his debut for the then-World Wrestling Federation. His face painted gold and his intentions not clear at the time, Goldust stepped in a Vince McMahon-owned ring for the very first time and scored a convincing victory over legendary tag team star Marty Jannetty.
From that point on, Goldust would become one of the most controversial Superstars to ever grace a WWE ring. His blatant homosexual overtones helped him play mind games with some of the top stars in the industry.
The character shoved sex in the audience's collective face and provided the framework for the Attitude Era despite never quite getting the credit he deserved for the new direction the industry would take.
By 1997, Goldust would become a babyface, and over the course of the two years that followed, he would switch back and forth from hero to villain. He would leave the promotion in 1999, and after sticking with Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling until its demise in 2001, he would return to the company that made the golden one an internationally known star.
In 2002, Goldust teamed with Booker T to create one of the funniest, most unique and entertaining tag teams in company history. They would win the World Tag Team Championship on Raw one time, but they were so over with the audience that they really did not need the belts.
The charismatic performer would leave and return to the company on several occasions throughout the 2000s and was always welcomed with open arms by the WWE Universe, which appreciated his penchant for entertaining.
Most recently, Goldust returned to WWE programming in support of his brother Cody Rhodes. After Cody was unjustly fired, Goldust attempted to win his sibling his job back in a match with Randy Orton.
He put up a valiant fight, but in the end, the RKO proved to be the downfall of yet another Rhodes family member.
This Sunday, Goldust not only has the opportunity at redemption for Cody, he has a shot at redemption for himself. Written off as a washed-up has-been, he proved critics wrong in his match with Orton.
A win at Battleground would earn him a job with WWE and instigate a triumphant return for the Bizarre One.
Expect to see his very best Sunday night.
Much has been made of Brie Bella and her appearance in the main event angle to close out this past Monday's Raw.
Some believe that to justify her new push, and to add a new element to the Total Divas reality show, Brie will capture the Divas Championship and bring an end to the emotionally unstable AJ Lee's four-month title reign.
But there is one aspect of the bout that has been ignored that will likely play a far bigger role in the match than any other.
Since the September 27 edition of SmackDown, Tamina Snuka has seconded the Divas champion in a role not dissimilar to a bodyguard. She has stayed silent and has expressed no emotion, choosing to stand by AJ's side in the New Jersey native's crusade to defeat every member of the Total Divas cast.
This Sunday, AJ takes on a Brie Bella that has been surging in recent weeks. Bella has picked up several big wins in the weeks between Night of Champions and Battleground and would seem like the perfect choice to dethrone AJ.
With Tamina lurking around ringside, her one job to assure that AJ leaves Buffalo with the Divas title still in her possession, there may be no wave of momentum or winning streak strong enough for Bella to secure her second reign as Divas champion.
Everyone knows about Rob Van Dam's history in Hardcore matches and the success he has found in those matches. He created a legacy for himself in Extreme Championship Wrestling while finding new and exciting ways to utilize steel chairs and tables.
He carried that success over to World Wrestling Entertainment, where he became a four-time WWE Hardcore champion and won several other titles, including the WWE, Intercontinental and Tag Team titles in specialty contests such as Ladder and TLC matches.
Sunday night at Battleground, he will showcase his abilities in the hardcore environment once again as he challenges Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship.
As the title bout approaches, however, Del Rio's history in violent matches has seemingly gone unrecognized.
Two months after making his WWE debut, Del Rio challenged for the World Heavyweight Championship in a Fatal 4-Way Tables, Ladders and Chairs match at the December 2010 TLC pay-per-view.
Several months later, in April of 2011, he fought Christian in a ladder match for the same title.
Del Rio would lose both of those matches but would make up for them at October 2011's Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. In a wild, chaotic Hell in a Cell main event against WWE champion John Cena and CM Punk, Del Rio captured the title by dethroning two of the top stars in the industry.
He would retain the WWE title a few weeks later, defeating Cena in a Last Man Standing match.
Since then, Del Rio has competed in several specialty matches that have tested his will to win and his ability to absorb punishment.
More importantly, the Mexican Superstar has won, and retained, major heavyweight titles in those matches.
There have been few Superstars as successful as Del Rio in 2013. Outside of a 69-day run by Dolph Ziggler, Del Rio has reigned as World Heavyweight champion for the entire year.
He has delivered outstanding matches and has beaten highly talented individuals.
Van Dam may be more experienced in Hardcore matches, but Del Rio has found greater success.
2013 has not been kind to Ryback as far as pay-per-view victories go. To be fair, it has not been kind to his Battleground opponent, CM Punk, either.
As opponents at this Sunday's event, they are a combined 2-11 in pay-per-views this year, each man winning exactly one match each.
Coincidentally, both of those wins came over Chris Jericho.
While it would seem that CM Punk, one of the biggest stars in the industry, needs a pay-per-view win to stay relevant, that is far from the case.
Punk has reached a level of stardom in World Wrestling Entertainment where he is bulletproof. No long losing streak or questionable booking decision could hurt him in the eyes of the fans because he has already been established as a top-two babyface in the industry.
The fact that Punk is a talented talker helps offset any loss or incredulous angle advancement that may plague him.
Ryback, on the other hand, is still at the point in his career where wins and solid storytelling are essential in his development as a top talent.
Entering 2013, Ryback appeared to be the next big star in the industry. Matches with Punk throughout the fall, as well as a TLC Match of the Year candidate against The Shield in December, had fans talking about his potential to join the Best in the World, John Cena and Randy Orton in the upper echelon of WWE talent.
Then he suddenly, and inexplicably, lost to Mark Henry at WrestleMania 29.
For week's, it seemed as if the whole purpose of the angle between he and Henry was for Ryback to defeat the dominant former World champion on the grandest stage the business had to offer, in what would be one of the more memorable moments of the show.
Instead, he lost the match and would turn heel the following night by attacking John Cena, much to the delight of the New Jersey crowd.
The angle with Cena resulted in some solid promo work from Ryback, but no one actually believed he was a threat to the WWE title. After it wrapped up, with Cena predictably winning a Three Stages of Hell match at Payback, Ryback became lost in the shuffle.
He did nothing for most of the summer and was lucky to have defeated Chris Jericho at Money in the Bank in a match that meant little to everyone involved.
Relevant again, thanks to his association with Paul Heyman and a revival of his feud with Punk, a pay-per-view win at Battleground is of the utmost importance for Ryback.
If he is to be considered legitimate competition to Punk and a contender to either the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship, he needs to get back to his winning ways and show some of the intensity and dominance that made management take notice of him in the first place.
If he does not, beginning at Sunday night's show, it will be yet another missed opportunity for the big guy.