One month after the title was unveiled, WWE is ready to crown its inaugural world heavyweight champion.
Seth Rollins and AJ Styles will face off in the title tournament finals at Night of Champions on Saturday. The pay-per-view is being held in Saudi Arabia as part of WWE's long-term business agreement with the Saudi government.
Establishing a new championship in pro wrestling is always difficult. But it’s especially hard when the new champion is supposed to be on the same level as Roman Reigns. Reigns is currently in the midst of the most dominant title reign in modern WWE history. In his 1,000 days as universal champion, Reigns has been presented as the clear-cut top star in WWE. When no one else is even close to Reigns, how do you introduce a new title without it being perceived as secondary? It’s not possible. You just have to allow the world heavyweight championship to earn its credibility over time.
That starts with making a strong first impression at Night of Champions. WWE couldn’t have picked a much better match than Rollins vs. Styles to decide the first world heavyweight champion. It’s basically guaranteed to be an incredible match. Both Rollins and Styles are established stars who have been capable world champions in the past. Most importantly, neither has lost to Reigns recently. Though it was by disqualification, Rollins actually beat Reigns in their last meeting. Styles hasn’t faced Reigns one-on-one in a televised match since 2016. The title may inevitably be seen as secondary right now, but it’s vital that fans don’t perceive it as a consolation prize. The first champion couldn’t be someone who Reigns has defeated during his title run.
The winner of Rollins vs. Styles will become Raw’s world champion, while Reigns will remain the top champion on SmackDown. It’s a wise decision to once again have a world champion for each brand. With Reigns dominating the main-event scene, it’s been hard for anyone else to truly ascend up the card. It’s easier to build new stars when there are more opportunities to break into the upper echelon.
Rollins vs. Styles is part of a triple main event at Night of Champions. Reigns will be in action at the PPV—but he isn’t defending his undisputed WWE universal championship. Reigns is instead challenging for tag team gold, teaming up with Solo Sikoa against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
A rematch between Cody Rhodes and Brock Lesnar rounds out Saturday’s triple main event. After escaping with a win at Backlash, Rhodes is looking to defeat Lesnar for the second time in less than a month.
Night of Champions will stream live on Peacock starting at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday. Here’s a full rundown of the card, along with predictions for each match.
Seth Rollins vs. AJ Styles for the world heavyweight championship
The 45-year-old Styles has been one of the best wrestlers in the world for more than two decades now. Recently recovered from a broken ankle, it would be really cool to see him have one more world title run while he’s still capable of performing at an elite level. But this is a match that Rollins has to win. He presents the best possible contrast to Reigns. As former Shield stablemates, their careers have always been intertwined. Rollins and Reigns have been pushed as two of the biggest stars in WWE since the night they debuted. Reigns may have become the unquestioned top dog, but Rollins has the opportunity to make this new title his own. With Reigns now working a limited schedule, Rollins can establish the new world heavyweight championship as a workhorse title, consistently defending it in great matches.
Prediction: Seth Rollins wins
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs. Roman Reigns and Solo Sikoa for the undisputed WWE tag team titles
This is a fascinating matchup with a lot of implications for the Bloodline story. If Reigns and Sikoa manage to win, we’re eventually going to end up getting a tag team title match between them and The Usos. It would be one of the biggest matches that WWE could put on right now. If Reigns and Sikoa lose, it could accelerate the Bloodline breakup and potentially put Reigns and Sikoa on opposite sides.
There’s been one constant in WWE over the past three years: It’s never smart to bet against Roman Reigns. Will WWE really be able to resist the urge to give Reigns even more gold? It’s definitely a possibility that Reigns and Sikoa win this match, but it would be disappointing to see Owens and Zayn lose the tag team titles so soon after WrestleMania. It would cheapen the moment where they were able to conquer The Bloodline and become tag team champions. Plus, having Reigns in the tag team division wouldn’t be the best use of him. He doesn’t wrestle enough to split his time between defending different championships.
Prediction: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn retain
Cody Rhodes vs. Brock Lesnar
In the story line, Rhodes enters this match with a possibly broken arm. The angle where Lesnar attacked and injured Rhodes on Monday’s Raw added a ton of intrigue to this matchup. Winning or losing isn’t the biggest thing to Rhodes anymore. It’s fighting through adversity and standing up to Lesnar. This should be similar to when Rhodes wrestled inside Hell in a Cell with a torn pectoral muscle last year—it’s just not a legitimate injury this time.
WWE probably won’t let Lesnar be beaten twice within such a short time period. The injury angle means Rhodes can lose Saturday without it really hurting him.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar wins
Bianca Belair vs. Asuka for the Raw women’s championship
Following their match at WrestleMania, Bianca Belair and Asuka are set to run things back at Night of Champions. It seemed like there was a chance Belair’s yearlong reign as champion would come to an end at WrestleMania, but she defeated Asuka to retain. If Asuka isn’t going to win the title Saturday, doing this match again is a questionable decision. Asuka has a special aura, but it’s hard to protect that if she’s consistently losing big matches. We saw last year how Bayley was hurt by repeatedly losing PPV matches to Belair. It would be a mistake if Asuka follows the same trend.
Still, it’s hard to see Belair’s title reign ending here. If Asuka was going to win, it should have been at WrestleMania when she had more momentum. Belair will likely still be champion heading into Money in the Bank and SummerSlam.
Prediction: Bianca Belair retains
Rhea Ripley vs. Natalya for the SmackDown women’s championship
This is just a stopgap title defense for Rhea Ripley, giving her a spot on the card and what should be a relatively easy win. Natalya is a solid veteran, but there’s absolutely zero chance she wins the championship from Ripley.
Prediction: Rhea Ripley retains
Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus
Heel Trish Stratus has been such a great addition to WWE programming. She betrayed Becky Lynch last month, attacking Lynch and Lita and costing them the women’s tag team titles. Stratus is a true WWE legend who helped carry the women’s division through difficult times. It’s always fun to see her come back and mix it up with a new generation of stars.
Night of Champions is just the first chapter in Lynch and Stratus’s feud. The best way to get to Chapter 2 is with a Stratus victory.
Prediction: Trish Stratus wins
Gunther vs. Mustafa Ali for the intercontinental title
Gunther matches are always fantastic, and this could steal the show if it’s given enough time. It’s a perfect matchup between a dominant hard-hitting heel and an underdog challenger. Mustafa Ali is at his best when he’s in that underdog babyface role. He’s someone who the fans just naturally like and want to root for. The annoying heel character he’s been playing does nothing to accentuate Ali’s strengths. Hopefully he’ll return to being a full-fledged babyface after Night of Champions.
Unless Gunther is immediately moving into the world title picture, his reign as intercontinental champion should continue. But even in a losing effort, this is a chance for Ali to put in a strong performance that elevates him.
Prediction: Gunther retains