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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: Night of Champions Preview and Go-Home Raw Review
By The Doc
Sep 11, 2013 - 7:38:29 AM

A week ago, I stated that Daniel Bryan should come away from the last Raw before Night of Champions with some momentum. He did just that. It was not a breathtaking segment to end Monday's Raw, but it was effective in putting over that it is possible for Bryan to overcome the odds. Though I believe it virtually stamps the guarantee that Randy Orton will retain the WWE Championship on Sunday - and let's be honest in pointing out that the odds were already stacked in his favor - I believe that the WWE made the right call to have Bryan gain a slight measure of revenge in advance of his title rematch. You see, I'm not a fan of our instant gratification society, but I still live amongst it and cannot always escape its reach. I'm enjoying The Establishment angle tremendously, but even I was beginning to think it was overkill to leave Bryan lying with Orton's foot on his chest every week. I thought it would hurt the potential for Night of Champions to achieve its two primary objections - a decent buyrate and a huge reaction during its main-event - if they had Bryan flat on his back to end a fourth consecutive Raw. Instead, the broader audience got what it needed to view the underdog as a conceivable threat to thwart the "power trip."

I am pretty much over the popular, internet-driven idea that Triple H is a miser who enjoys politically backstabbing his peers. That is one of the reasons why I have yet to object to any of the words used to describe Daniel Bryan over the course of his 8 week rise to main-event prominence. Yet, I will admit that, after last night, I remember why I used to hate Triple H so much. It was funny; Bryan is not one of "my guys." I like him and respect him and am aggressively rooting for his cause to be a top 3 WWE star for this era (as evidenced by my near weekly discussion of his push). Edge, however, is absolutely one of my guys. Eleven years ago, I finished watching one of his awesome 2002 series of matches with Kurt Angle, called my buddy, Sac, and said, "Edge is my new favorite wrestler." I very heavily invested in Edge's headlining success years ago, much the same way that I had in HBK's rise in 1996. So, when Trips lit into Edge about not being a draw, I felt that old "Game Hater" mentality rising from the pits of my stomach, traveling up toward my vocal chords. I nearly yelled something at the TV when he questioned Edge's Hall of Fame credentials. A moment later, I had calmed myself, but if I was not completely locked into the Bryan vs. Establishment saga before Raw, I am absolutely certain that they've got me hooked now.

My anticipation for the Bryan vs. Orton match on Sunday, on a scale of 1-10, is a NINE. For some reason, I feel the need to defend Randy Orton in this column as I did ten years ago when the internet was tearing him apart. I have seen people say that he cannot sell, to which I reply, "What matches have you been watching since 2004?" If there was one thing that Orton was good at even while green, it was his facial expressions and his selling. When he's booked to be the Terminator as a babyface, then his selling suffers. Let's not be prisoners of the moment, though. Throughout his career, Orton has been one of the best at non-verbal communication. Be it as a cocky jackass or a deranged psychopath, Orton's looks and tics set him apart from the majority of his peers. I have seen people call him boring, to which I reply, "What's boring about a dramatic wrestling match?" In the past ten years, only two people immediately come to mind as being capable of putting together consistently better series of false finishes in their matches - Edge and CM Punk. Orton is a closer. A closer is a guy with a knack for ratcheting up the excitement in his matches during the climax. We have seen it in matches with Cody Rhodes and Goldust in the last two weeks - Orton is one of the WWE's top closers. His ability to cap off a match is the reason that, in my opinion, you can comb through the lists of the most prominent match raters on the 'net and find very few Orton PPV matches that did not reach the minimal critical achievement of "3-stars" despite being almost exclusively in the mid-card since he lost to Mark Henry at 2011's Hell in a Cell. How is it that I'm still having to defend Orton all these years later? People's memories are particularly short these days, perhaps?

Of this I am supremely confident: Sunday's match between Orton and Bryan will know few rivals come year's end. They could have a 4-star match in their sleep, if you ask me. I would be beyond shocked if we weren't discussing Orton vs. Bryan three months from now in the MOTY discussions. I'm not saying that I'm expecting something that can best the Taker-Punk, Punk-Brock, Bryan-Cena triad expected to be the final trio in the conversation for 2013, but I do think that Bryan vs. Orton is going to be a helluva match that I wouldn't miss. When everyone was clamoring for Bryan vs. Cena earlier this year, I was eying Bryan vs. Orton. The top four workers in the WWE today are, in no particular order, Punk, Bryan, Cena, and Orton. Any combination of those active roster members should be memorable.

Final Prediction: Orton defeats Bryan via shenanigans-pinfall in a 25-minute borderline classic.

Just as it was a month ago, the Night of Champions buyrate is going to be interesting. It could be a real victory for Bryan and Punk if they can draw something anywhere comparable to last year's (featuring Cena vs. Punk - #1 and #2 in the business today). This is not a strong card, on paper. It has two very well hyped matches, with the other being CM Punk vs. Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel, but it's not a card that looks to be a homerun event. I think it'll be a miracle if this show doesn't do one of the worst buyrates of the year (maybe even of the last two years). That stated, miracles happen all the time. The WWE has set up the selling point for Sunday to be Bryan trying to overcome the odds and CM Punk finally getting his hands on Heyman. The latter will happen and then they'll retool to figure out the next chapter of the rivalry moving to the PPV just three short weeks later (and then the one three short weeks after that). Wouldn't it be wild to see the Summerslam buyrate come back as strong as last year's very strong number? It would be huge for Bryan and Punk if back-to-back buyrates came back comparable to last year's.

Final Prediction on Punk-Heyman/Axel: Don't sleep on this match. Expect it to be one of the better told stories of the year and for it to be a "stand up out of your chair and applaud" kind of effort from Punk and Heyman, especially. I'll have a hard time rating it, most likely, as it won't fit the usual criterion for my scale. I expect, however, to thoroughly enjoy the ride.

Alberto Del Rio is a three-star match waiting to happen. He has piled up 3-star efforts over the last three years and I appreciate him (more than most) because of it. I think that streak may be in jeopardy on Sunday against Rob Van Dam. God Bless RVD, but I have not been into his return. He looked horrible at Money in the Bank. He has not been as sloppy since the second half of his lengthy Raw match with Chris Jericho soon after MITB, but my interest in him fell apart with his performance in Philadelphia two months ago. He's got a chance to win me back at N.O.C., but years of his reckless style have made him show his age in the ring. He looks like one of those guys that came back for Raw 1000 last year - in decent shape for an aging wrestler, but still a shell of what he used to be. If I had to wager, I'd bet my money on Del Rio carrying RVD to yet another 3-star World title match. It's just what he does.

Final Prediction: I'm not feeling the Ricardo-RVD combo, so I'm going to say that Ricardo turns on RVD, realigns in the short-term with ADR so we can have a modern day version of Million Dollar Man against Virgil later this fall.

Cheers to the first openly gay wrestler on the active WWE roster. I have not yet mentioned Darren Young in this column, but wish to show him my support at this time. I wrote a piece earlier in the year about tolerance, the subject of which was the very topic that Darren has made famous (a wrestler "coming out"). Now, he's getting a push on TV and I expect him and the horribly underrated Titus O'Neill to win the tag team turmoil on the pre-show and lose to The Shield on the main card. Welcome to 2013, haters. The world is not black and white, anymore. Let go of the hate.

I also expect Dean Ambrose to retain the US title against Dolph Ziggler. I'm not particularly thrilled with what either of them are doing right now. Ambrose, if The Shield had maintained its earlier year trajectory, could have been flirting with the main-event by now. As things have gone, he's just another guy who wrestles every week like Dolph Ziggler. Dolph is one of my guys. I so very much wish that they would let him loose at the top of the card, but he's apparently still got some dues to pay. I'm frustrated for him. Hopefully, they go out there and tear it up for 10-minutes, producing a borderline (if not an outright) 3-star match that would seriously boost the critical profile of this show.

Final Predictions: The Shield members will all win.

The Diva's Championship match started off with a bang but has quietly wilted back to the usual, every week women's blah-ness. AJ on stage ripping the other girls a new one was fascinating television, but the booking since that point has rendered even her considerable presence relatively meaningless. I think that one of the girls should have been chosen to face AJ rather than three. Nattie would have been the ideal selection to continue the rebuilding process of the women's division reputation. Alas, we're in for the unknown. A motivated group could produce something solid. It wouldn't shock me to see it be awful.

Final Prediction: Poor AJ loses the title to someone with an ounce of the talent. I'll understand it, but I won't like it.


QUESTION OF THE DAY: Is Bryan's struggle to regain the title and Punk's likely revenge enough for you to watch Night of Champions?

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6PM Tonight, myself and Super Chrisss go in-depth about the direction that CM Punk is headed and our thoughts on Night of Champions and beyond.

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