By DC @TheNotFakeDC
Brock Lesnar vs. Brawn Strowman (Universal Championship)
Brawn Strowman is the hottest thing going in WWE today, and Sunday he finally gets the opportunity to capitalize on his monster push with a 1-on-1 match with the Beast Incarnate Brock Lesnar. The two proved at Summer Slam that when they get together, fans can’t look away. Hopefully this one lives up to the hype and the match is given time to tell the brutal story they’re capable of. With both men essentially running the same gimmick (huge, indestructible tweener who only cares about carnage), only one can stand tall and claim to be Raw’s Monster/Beast Among Men.
Prediction: While I don’t have full faith in WWE to do the right thing, Strowman winning here makes sense. Cash in while the guy is on top of his game and get the Universal strap back on Raw. I mean WCW was probably not expecting to give Goldberg the title, but the fans told them otherwise. Maybe the ultimate story isn’t Reigns conquering Lesnar, but finally conquering Strowman at Wrestlemania? Besides, Lesnar has plenty of other potential mini feuds that don’t need to involve him holding WWE’s top prize.
John Cena vs. Roman Reigns
John Cena and Roman Reigns started this feud seemingly out of thin air, with Cena showing up on Raw to call out Reigns for the egregious crime of being…well, Roman Reigns. Since then the two have engaged in some memorable and not so memorable verbal back-and-forths with Cena gaining the upper hand in most of them. The rivalry has served to elevate Cena’s status with the skeptical smark crowd, while highlighting the complaints against Reigns by the same community; essentially that on the mic Reigns can’t hang with the big dogs just yet.
Despite the overdone verbal joust sessions, WWE has done well to basically keep these two separated until their big match this Sunday (which you can’t say about pretty much any other two marquee competitors on the roster).
Prediction: Cena is at the stage of his career where he can take the loss. Reigns needs to look good for what I assume is his eventual ride back to the top of the Universal Title mountain. With Cena leaving again to wage his battle to destroy the evil powers of the Decepticons, what point is there in having him escape with a win? I don’t think WWE creative sees Reigns’ character as nuanced enough to actually learn and self-reflect from a loss like this, so might as well prove to the fans that this truly is “his yard” now.
Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins vs. The Bar (Raw Tag Titles)
While I understand that WWE can’t reasonably advance very story further in a meaningful way each week, there’s stagnant and then there’s this Ambrollins/Shesaro feud. I’m pretty sure WWE rolled out every possible iteration of matches between these four over the last month or so, save the Judy Rollins on a pole match. Would it have killed them to at least develop the relationship between Rollins and Ambrose a little bit? Fortunately all four superstars can go in the ring, so this could have been worse. And hopefully after Sunday, all in involved can move out of this holding pattern.
Prediction: Ambrose and Rollins win and we finally start to see the next act in their story. Not sure what this means for Cesaro and Sheamus’ future plans though.
The Miz vs. Jason Jordan (Intercontinental Championship)
The story I think they’re telling with Jason Jordan (does WWE even know?) is that Jason Jordan is a likable, talented young chap who is getting a chance to shine because of his father’s status as GM of Raw. Eventually this nepotism will start to get out of hand (if it hasn’t already) and Mr. Jordan will gradually turn into a spoiled, whining heel. The Miz meanwhile has entered some hallowed territory as the third-longest reigning (combined) IC champ of all time, passing the likes of Razor Ramon, Tito Santana, and The Honky Tonk Man in the last month. Conceivably Miz could enter the no. 1 slot all-time if he can hold onto the belt into February.
Prediction: The Miz retains as Jordan will need to win any gold through nepotism/cheating and not from a match he entered fair and square (by winning Monday’s six-pack challenge).
Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks vs. Emma vs. Bayley (Raw Women’s Championship)
After a brief nine-day stay with The Boss, the Raw Women’s Championship is back over the shoulder of the woman who’s held the strap for most of the spring and summer, Alexa Bliss. Sunday finds the two aforementioned women tangling with Nia Jax, Emma (yes, Emma) and apparently now Bayley too (talk about wasting a big return). With Asuka waiting in the wings, it will be interesting to see what direction this goes. The Empress of Tomorrow will likely have a stop gap feud or two (see Shinsuke Nakamura’s push) before being thrust into the main event scene. Rumors have her first major feud with Emma, so it’s not likely that the former Emmalina comes away with the gold.
Is the story going forward the fractured relationship between real-life friends Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax? Do we get another chapter in the never-ending Bayley-Sasha story? More importantly, who is going to do the job and help usher in the Asuka era a few months from now?
Prediction: Bliss retains, perhaps owing to some seemingly-inadvertent heel move from Bayley. Feuds have to continue, in case the rumored Four Horsewomen vs. Four Horsewomen feud fizzles out, so its not time just yet for Bayley and Sasha to reunite with Charlotte and Becky Lynch.
Neville vs. Enzo Amore (Cruiserweight Championship)
I have surprisingly loved this feud, if nothing more than for Neville’s mockery of the Realest Guy In the Room (how am I doing?). Yes, Enzo is an easy target to ridicule, but Neville dancing like a chicken and yelling “How you doing?” in his thick English accent is some high quality trolling. Wrestling-wise, it’s clear this won’t be the match of the night, despite Neville’s best efforts, but at least there’s some nuance to this story, with Enzo admitting to not being in the same class as The Man Gravity Forgot and resorting to anything he can (even low blows) to gain the upper hand.
Prediction: Enzo wins in a stunner, using some form of dirty tricks to further push him to the dark side. Will we see a full-on heel Enzo after tonight? Perhaps.
Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt
You would think a match between one of the most gifted wrestlers and one of the most gifted talkers on the roster would produce some memorable moments, but this rivalry has been really pointless. I’m not sure why they were feuding per se, but Balor beat Wyatt at Summer Slam under the “demon” persona, which could have (should have) ended this feud. However, here we are a month later and now Bray Wyatt wants a fair match with a non-painted fella (in fairness, I suppose all that paint can make Balor a bit slippery…probably why he fought Goldust as regular, gold-suited Dustin Rhodes).
Prediction: Does anyone take Bray Wyatt seriously anymore? Let Finn have a clear win to this feud and Bray can go back to feuding with Kane or reform the Wyatt family or something else as meaningless as his promos.