By Chuck Carroll
John Cena vs. Roman Reigns. Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman. Just as WWE is hyping, No Mercy is serving up two WrestleMania-worthy matches Sunday night. The double-billing is unusual for this time of year, as historically the pay-per-views between SummerSlam and Survivor Series (sometimes all the way to Royal Rumble) have seemingly just been cobbled together for the sake of having a show. During this stretch, WWE is usually playing long ball and setting up for the Royal Rumble and ultimately WrestleMania. This year, however, although WWE may be playing long ball again, they’re also focusing on their short game with mega-matches.
Is it that they’re refusing to cower to the almighty NFL for viewers this season? Perhaps, but it also provides incentives for viewers to order the WWE Network and bolster subscriber levels while ensuring current subscribers get their $9.99 worth.
No Mercy will also feature the in-ring return of Bayley who has been sidelined since late July with a separated shoulder. She reappeared this past Monday on RAW in her hometown of San Jose, California to be put on the card. The former RAW Women’s Champion will have a chance to ascend back to the top of the division in a fatal 5-way match for the title.
We’ll also see a SummerSlam rematch between Finn Bálor and Bray Wyatt, as well as Enzo Amore going after the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
For the first time in forever, I was the pick leader on the last show. At SummerSlam, I accurately prognosticated eight of 12 matches while Scott Fishman and Aaron Oster each got seven correct. All of this pales in comparison to a guy who turned a $3.36 wager into a $45,600 windfall with a flawless bet sheet. The Wrestling Observer is now reporting several online betting sites are now contemplating removing pro wrestling altogether.
Based on percentages, Aaron maintains his overall lead for the year with Scott in second place and me trailing behind.
Universal Championship Match
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman
Chuck: I must say that I’m torn here. I really expect that Brock Lesnar will be the Universal Champion at SummerSlam. However, that doesn’t preclude WWE from doing a title change or two beforehand. My concern is that WWE has a history of building up these monsters and then abruptly killing their momentum (see: Ryback). My suspicion is that Lesnar keeps the gold for now, while Strowman continues destroying everything in site on Monday nights. Pick: Brock Lesnar
Scott: I think there is room for another chapter with Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman. I believe the “Monster Among Men” will be getting a run with the gold. I just don’t think it will be on this night. With John Cena and Roman Reigns on the same card, I can see WWE going with an inconclusive finish of some sort. Expecting lots of carnage in this one. Perhaps, a stepping stone to a TLC match at the pay-per-view of the same name. Pick: Brock Lesnar
Aaron: This is a classic head vs. heart debate. In my heart, I believe Braun Strowman should be champion. They have caught lightning in a bottle to the point where Braun Strowman is the single most captivating person in wrestling right now. There is no reason for him not to be champion. However, my head says that Brock Lesnar is Brock Lesnar, no matter how hot anyone else is, and he’s not losing until WrestleMania. I’m almost hoping at this point that Lesnar gets himself DQ’d if Strowman isn’t going to win the title. Strowman taking a pin wouldn’t destroy him, but it would be wrong. So here’s hoping that my head is wrong. Pick: Brock Lesnar
John Cena vs. Roman Reigns
Chuck: WWE has allowed backstage politics to spill over into the ring, and it’s been fun to have real-life intertwined with wrestling fiction. To the point, like him or hate him, Roman Reigns is the future of WWE. The big knock on him has been his sub-par mic skills, but he’s taken great strides since verbally sparring with John Cena. Cena is again headed off to do other projects, but I don’t think that necessarily means he’ll lose here. Having him continue to “bury talent” extends this feud to another day… even if it’s not anytime soon. FYI, Cena is not advertised for RAW the next night. Pick: John Cena
Scott: This is another match I assume would happen again down the line. If Roman Reigns loses here, it adds more intrigue and reason for there be another match. He would want to prove that he can get that elusive victory over the franchise player. Reigns wants the torch to be passed, but Cena isn’t ready to relinquish it. Maybe we get an Undertaker sighting as a follow-up from WrestleMania? Pick: John Cena
Aaron: This match could easily go either way, simply because losses don’t matter to either of them. For Cena? He pretends they don’t happen and then cuts a promo about how you’re not a man until you lose to him. For Reigns? He’ll just win in the future, and maybe could even have a redemption angle out of it. While the redemption angle is a strong possibility, Cena’s schedule is what tips this towards Roman Reigns in my mind. We don’t know if he’ll be here through the fall, and, if not, what’s the point in him winning? Thus, I’ll give this one to Reigns. Pick: Roman Reigns
RAW Women’s Championship Fatal 5-Way Match
Alexa Bliss (c) vs Sasha Banks vs. Bayley vs. Nia Jax vs. Emma
Chuck: I’m half wondering whether we don’t see the first sighting of Asuka here. It wouldn’t surprise me one way or the other. When she does arrive, there is a strong likelihood she’ll immediately be thrust into the title picture. After all, the championship is what cemented her legacy in NXT. It would make sense that she goes against the best woman on the roster, and right now that’s the current champ. Pick: Alexa Bliss
Scott: I really don’t want to see another women’s title change, so I’m picking Alexa Bliss. All the same WWE could easily go in the Bayley direction with a frustrated Sasha Banks angry they would input her in the match at the last minute. However, with Nia Jax getting the singles win on RAW, it could make the argument that she would get a one-on-one match at the next PPV. Pick: Alexa Bliss
Aaron: Rushing Bayley back adds an interesting wrinkle to this match. They have to have something big planned for her on Sunday, right? Otherwise, what’s the point of putting her in the match? It doesn’t have to be a win, but there needs to be a big moment. However, I don’t think it’s a win. To me, the question becomes if it’s time for Nia or not. With Asuka looming, the Nia-Asuka title match seems like the logical destination. But does Nia need to win here for that to happen? I don’t think so. Alexa wins through some chicanery, with Nia winning sometime later in the fall. Pick: Alexa Bliss
RAW Tag Team Championship Match
Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose (c) vs Cesaro & Sheamus
Chuck: I don’t see any splintering coming yet between the two members of The SHIELD. So, my money is on them retaining the titles. Interference from Gallows and Anderson is a strong possibility. Pick: Rollins & Ambrose
Scott: I think there is still juice in Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins as a tag team. And I don’t like to see a championship play hot potato, so I’ll go with the champs. With the Hardy Boyz and Gallows and Anderson in the wings, a big TLC match would be fun at that event. Pick: Rollins & Ambrose
Aaron: This is another tricky one because to me, the finish doesn’t matter. I fully expect the tag titles to be on the line next month between these two teams, the Good Brothers and the Hardyz in a TLC match. Thus it really doesn’t matter who the belts are on. However, I don’t think they put the titles on Ambrose and Rollins just to have them drop it a month later, so I’ll say they retain here. Pick: Rollins & Ambrose
>>MORE: From the world of Pro Wrestling
Finn Bálor vs. Bray Wyatt
Chuck: Demon or not, you have to like Finn Bálor in this match. Do you really need to extend the feud to a third pay-per-view? As much as I’ve enjoyed their battles, a rubber match doesn’t seem necessary here. Thus, the Bálor Club will go home happy. Pick: Finn Bálor
Scott: I can see Bray Wyatt getting his victory back and maybe doing it with some sort of shenanigans. It’s a long shot, but I think it would be interesting if it were Goldust. Someone who has seen the Wyatt light. WWE also likes PPV-match trilogies. So a win for Wyatt gives reason for another match. Pick: Bray Wyatt
Aaron: The big feud leads to…. a standard singles match? Didn’t we see this match on RAW before SummerSlam? I don’t really get it. I actually think a loss here would be rather damaging to Finn Bálor. Yes, “The Demon” has always been portrayed as more powerful. But a loss would make it seem like Finn Bálor without the paint is weak, and raise the question why he doesn’t just always wear the paint. So he should win this, fully establishing that he doesn’t need the paint to win. Pick: Finn Bálor
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match
Neville (c) vs. Enzo Amore
Chuck: Enzo is perilously close to jumping the shark. As was the concern when he was thrust into the singles picture, his gimmick is growing tiresome without Big Cass. However, WWE’s goal is to elevate viewership of the slumping cruiserweight division and 205 Live. For the time, Enzo remains popular enough to accomplish that if given the gold. Pick: Enzo Amore
Scott: It’s really a flip of the coin when it comes to the Cruiserweight Championship. I, for one, wanted Tozawa to keep the title if they were going to dethrone Neville and give it a go with the Titus Worldwide member, but instead it was a short reign. Pick: Neville
Aaron: I have no idea what they’re doing with Enzo. Presumably he’s on 205 Live to give it a boost since he sells shirts and people care about him. Yet, since moving to 205 Live, they’ve slowly been stripping away everything that makes him likable. He cheats, to the point that faces are calling him out on TV. He’s been put in positions where guys just run him down constantly. And when he does cut promos, they’ve been getting annoying enough that he’s starting to lose crowd response. Quite frankly, the most logical finish with this new character is for Enzo to get intentionally DQ’d as he low blows Neville in front of the ref. Neville wins this. Pick: Neville
Intercontinental Championship Match
The Miz (c) vs. Jason Jordan
Chuck: The storyline with Jason Jordan being the illegitimate son of Kurt Angle isn’t panning out quite as well as WWE had hoped. But that hasn’t slowed Jordan’s push, and he’s surpassed every in-ring expectation. Despite losing, he had phenomenal showings in successive weeks in matches with John Cena and Roman Reigns. Nonetheless, the Miztourage gets involved here and costs the General Manager’s son a win. Oh, it’s true. It’s damn true. Pick: The Miz
Scott: After weeks of putting up a fight and coming up short, the tide started to turn on RAW. If WWE is really going forward with the Jordan push, this is a prime opportunity to do that. The Miz has elevated the Intercontinental Championship so well that a victory over him would mean something. Pick: Jason Jordan
Aaron: Standard wrestling logic would say that Jason Jordan shouldn’t win here, that he should get screwed over and get his rematch at TLC. However, nothing about Jason Jordan has been standard. They’ve just put him into situations without doing the work to back it up, so there’s a part of me that wonders if they’ll skip a few steps here as well. I’ll trust that they wouldn’t rush him into this though, as him winning the IC title would get a pretty bad reaction on Sunday night. Pick: The Miz
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.