The post-draft New Era gets its unofficial start on Sunday, as WWE invades Washington, D.C. for its fourth annual Battleground pay-per-view. The card features three matches with superstars from competing brands, a triple-threat match for the heavyweight title, and the promise of Sasha Banks' mystery partner. Perhaps most importantly, with three titles on the line, Battleground should give us a hint at how Raw and SmackDown will stack up against each other going forward. The event starts at 8:00 p.m. ET and you can catch all the action on the WWE network. (Betting odds courtesy of Bovada.lv as of 12:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, shortly before bets were closed for the day.)
Becky Lynch (+200) v. Natalya (-300)
The Lasskicker is going to be the top women's face for SmackDown, so she'll get the win tonight to get back on track after a series of setbacks and betrayals. That won't end the feud, however; expect Natalya to react violently to defeat, attacking Lynch after the match and setting the stage for one more fight between the two at SummerSlam. Prediction: Lynch defeats Natalya, suffers a beatdown afterward.
Sami Zayn (-200) v. Kevin Owens (+150)
With Zayn and Owens both on Raw after the draft, these two superstars really could fight until the heat death of the universe. This match, however, should be the last time they face each other without a title of some sort on the line. As the face, Zayn's clearly the favorite to go over cleanly, but that's kind of boring. It'd be way more interesting for Owens to get the win, followed by a mid-ring handshake between the two in a display of respect and mutual admiration that leads to a brief Zayn-KO tag team program. It's not going to happen, of course. That won't stop us from dreaming. Prediction: Owens defeats Zayn.
Rusev (-1000) v. Zack Ryder (+500) for the United States Championship
Rusev is an unstoppable menace. The title looks good on him. And assuming he gets the win here, he'll have plenty of competition for the strap on Raw. On the other hand, given that this looks like a fairly straightforward card, it's tempting to pick Ryder to pull off a huge upset here in the lone swerve of the night. But WWE loves a good monster, and Rusev plays the part well. He'll get the win here after a close call. Prediction: Rusev retains his US title.
The Miz (-300) v. Darren Young (+200) for the Intercontinental Championship
It's hard to imagine WWE putting both of its midcard championships on one show, so either both Ryder and Young will win, or the champs will retain. Seems simple enough. The Darren Young/Bob Backlund video packages have been pretty fun (for the most part), but Miz's starpower is obviously much, much higher than that of his challenger. Miz should survive a scare at Battleground, unless WWE decides to start its New Era with two underdog midcard champions -- which would admittedly be pretty awesome, if they're booked right going forward. Prediction: Miz retains his Intercontinental title.
The New Day (+250) v. The Wyatt Family (-400)
This match goes one of two ways. Either Xavier Woods exorcises his demons and New Day emerges victorious because they're actually sticking together as a tag team moving forward, or Bray Wyatt destroys everything in his path to start a monster singles push on SmackDown. Knowing WWE, then, they'll find a way to mash the two outcomes together. New Day will get the win through a team effort to take down Wyatt, who will turn on his former Family members for letting him down in the end. Prediction: New Day defeats The Wyatt Family, Bray Wyatt unleashes his anger.
Sasha Banks & Mystery Partner v. Charlotte & Dana Brooke
The "mystery partner" stipulation means there's no betting line on this one, which is too bad. The Boss is going to emerge victorious; you can take that one to the bank. The only question is whom her mystery partner will be. The two obvious answers are Bayley and Nikki Bella, although the latter might not quite be back to in-ring shape yet. There's also the outside chance we'll see someone like Nia Jax, who was drafted alongside Banks to Raw, or Paige, or even Summer Rae, who was featured with Banks in a possible red-herring of a promo released by WWE this week. Prediction: Bayley is the partner, Banks gets the win -- and a championship match at SummerSlam.
John Cena & Enzo and Cass (-300) v. The Club (+200)
This match should quickly devolve into what it actually is: A singles rematch between Cena and AJ Styles, plus a blossoming tag-team feud between Enzo and Cass and The Club. The obvious answer is to give Cena a win over Styles, and Cena's squad will likely emerge victorious. Things won't play out that simply, however. WWE can add intrigue to both feuds moving forward by having Styles take out Cena with a concentrated assault during the match, which distracts Styles from his partners getting beat by Enzo and Cass in the ring. Prediction: Cena & Enzo and Cass get the win thanks to E&C, but Styles stands triumphant over Cena at the same time.
Dean Ambrose (-400) v. Seth Rollins (+250) v. Roman Reigns (+525) for the WWE championship
The biggest surprise of the night would be a clean finish to the triple threat match. Any sort of shenanigans -- say, a double-pin by Rollins and Ambrose on Reigns -- would give WWE reason to bring back the big gold belt and have a heavyweight championship for each brand. But it's also hard to see the reasoning behind Ambrose cashing in his Money in the Bank contract at the last PPV, only to have him lose the strap a month later. Ambrose will come away with the championship at Battleground, but Rollins will likely claim some right to the title as well, setting the stage for he and Reigns to feud over a new belt starting at SummerSlam. Prediction: Reigns takes the pin from both Ambrose and Rollins, Ambrose retains, Raw brings back the big gold belt.