With the Draft out of the way and SummerSlam looming, it’s time for the WWE to put on a stop-gap pay-per-view event: Battleground. Bloated with video packages and matches that just didn’t need to happen, Battleground seems far more important than it actually is.
While it follows the same pattern as every other event, the moment that Darren Young and The Miz came out to fight in the latter half of the show, it hit me that everyone is right: WWE’s product is getting too long and it’s a detriment to their shows.
However, Battleground proved to be not your typical stop-gap, in that it gave us one of the best matches that WWE have presented this year and further cemented that they might actually be paying attention to the audience that they’re currently smothering.
The pre-show match between The Usos and Breezango was nothing more than a small preview of what the next few months of Smackdown Live’s tag division is going to look like. It wasn’t an abysmal match, but it lacked any flair and was simply another time filler.
There was a hot minute during the entrances of the women’s tag match between Charlotte and Dana Brooke vs Sasha Banks and her mystery partner, that I was positive the crowd were going to turn on this match if Sasha’s mystery partner didn’t turn out to be Bayley. While I’m positive that Banks and Flair could have put on an excellent match with Dana Brooke in tow, the partner had to be Bayley to make this work for the audience. Luckily, it happened to be what everyone wanted and the tense feeling of having the first actual match of the show being soured lifted.
The problem with introducing Bayley to the mixture, was that the actual feud of Sasha vs Charlotte was lost in the hype for the guest from NXT. Another issue was Dana Brooke still being in the ring, as she’s leagues below in quality of wrestling in comparison to the three others, leading to a bit of a snoozefest when she was beating down on Bayley.
It wasn’t that they couldn’t carry her to a good match, but it’s very obvious that Brooke isn’t ready for this type of high profile match just yet and I’m confused as to why WWE are high on her. In fact, as Bayley slid between the bottom rope to knock Dana out, the match suddenly became far more lively for the finish.
Banks hit Flair with a back stabber and lead into The Bank Statement, as Charlotte tapped out.
The match was fine and I’m hoping this leads to the eventual dropping the belt to Sasha, which with everyone out of the way, should be a far better match.
That all said, it was fantastic to see Bayley on the big stage and an actual positive note in the hug between the two, instead of the usual backstabbing that happens in every WWE women’s match.
I missed Luke Harper in The New Day vs The Wyatt Family match. Braun Strowman and Erick Rowan just aren’t at the level of the other two Wyatt members, leaving a majority of the match yearning for denim superkicks and more Bray.
The New Day came out, cutting a promo that made it seem like Woods was over his fear of Wyatt and I think The New Day are the only members in the WWE to still sell The Wyatts in the way they’re supposed to be sold. They’re monsters, you need to give it all you have and conquer the fear. While a lot of the match was Erick Rowan and Stroman beating on Kofi Kingston, once they’d moved past it and switched over to Big E, things got a lot better.
Bray looked to be in top shape and he’s always a joy to see work. He honestly doesn’t get enough TV time actually wrestling and every time he does it’s sublime, especially when working with The New Day, who are all good at what they do too.
It mostly lead to Xavier Woods getting over his fear of Wyatt, unleashing an excellent comeback and taking out the whole family in one fell swoop. It’s also great to see Woods wrestle too, as he’s this excellent little gem that also doesn’t get enough time actually doing stuff.
Though, it’s a real dampener when you see Big E once again throwing himself in a way that is downright dangerous. He landed on his head after flying through the ropes, instead of taking the bump with his shoulder, which is also idiotic to the core.
While the payoff of Woods’ comeback felt a little lacklustre due to the rushed nature of the feud because of the Draft (The Wyatts have been split as Bray is now on Smackdown, away from The New Day on RAW), it was Wyatt who put Woods out of commission with a Sister Abigail and a pin. A much needed win for Bray, which hopefully with the smaller roster to contend with, finally gets his due.
You know how I mentioned beforehand, that these shows are a little too full these days? That’s what you get with a match between United States Champion Rusev and Zack Ryder. This match went absolutely nowhere, with no further pay off down the road if the Brand Split is supposed to be believed and served neither of the two any favours.
It served Rusev no favours as he still mills around with the belt and no one to legit feud with, like an aimless monster bumping into things in the dark. Then there’s poor Ryder, who almost toppled the Bulgarian Brute’s Accolade hold before being crushed in another position, having to be saved by none other than… Mojo Rawley. What ensued was this blithering idiot barking in the ring and absolutely buried before he’s even properly started as Rusev simply rolled out and left.
I can’t believe fan jumped in the ring and nobody stopped him ! I need a challenge it’s just too easy. #WWEBattleground
— Rusev MACHKA (@RusevBUL) July 25, 2016
This is who Zack Ryder is now permanently stuck with for the rest of his career. I don’t wish that on anyone.
However, after the umpteenth time of seeing the video package recapping Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, we were treat to the match of the night.
After a slow start, Zayn went for the springboard moonsault, slipped and fell straight onto the apron with his shoulder. What would have put an end to a large portion of the match for some, actually lead to an incredible caveat to the match. You know why? Because Zayn sold it and Owens worked it over. They shifted the whole match to revolve around Zayn’s arm for a bit and it was wonderful to actually see, you know, logic being applied in the whacky world of WWE.
The moment they started countering each other and leading to the finish, I fell in love all over again. Just as it was about to finish, Owens with the pin, Zayn placed his foot on the ropes and this small, tiny gesture erupted the whole room. They’re even good when pinning each other.
Zayn ploughed through Owens with a Helluva Kick, looked down and saw his friend passed out in his chest. He did it again and got the three count.
An outstanding match that shouldn’t ever have been followed with something less than The Club vs John Cena, Enzo and Cass. But instead, we got a very standard match between Becky Lynch and Natalya. While the crowd were sort of into it, this was the dead spot.
There were a lot of submission attempts and Natty trying her best to work with this sudden switch to a heel role, but the whole thing felt a little empty and the women felt wasted in such a position. Lynch desperately needs a win at some point though, as she’s slowly being drained of any star power she has, as it was quite noticeable when the crowd died on its arse here.
Speaking of dying, The Miz vs Darren Young for The Intercontinental Championship was absolute trash. I already don’t like The Miz as a character or wrestler and Darren Young is still clearly very green. It was nice to see Bob Backlund actually be useful, but the match just devolved into a disqualification and again, we’ll see no pay off because of the Draft as this can’t continue on RAW tonight.
JBL mentioned that The Miz was an “A-list celebrity” and turning out hit after hit, in a match that felt like a WWE Movie.
Battleground gained momentum again as Enzo and Cass proceeded to deliver a near 10 minute promo. Never will someone like Enzo Amore grace the microphone again, as he consistently proves that he’s by far and away, the best in the business on that thing.
The match proceeded to be similar to most of the match ups we’ve seen with The Club, Enzo and Cass or John Cena. Styles can drag a good match out of a stone, as he proceeded to put both Enzo and Cass far and above their quality of match.
Gallows and Anderson are fantastic. The Japanese work they’ve done in the past is nothing short of phenomenal and they’re legit funny guys on the microphone. However, because their role is relegated to side pieces of AJ in the WWE, they feel nothing more than jobbers to the other three. They lack any of the menace they had in New Japan, but more importantly, most of their personality.
There was a moment where Cena used Enzo as a weapon, but sort of messed up and left Gallows slightly confused for a second. What I assume was supposed to be a move similar to Enzo and Cass’ finisher, was more of passing over a human body to Gallows and screwing it up. As everything devolved into a brawl, it felt sloppy in a way that actually looked like a bit of a fight, rather than scripted sequences being pulled off with less than a stellar quality expected out the two teams.
Cena pinned Styles, which felt right and now we can get the big payoff at Summerslam.
There was a Talk is Jericho segment, as Randy Orton made his return as a very obvious babyface. It felt weird, almost as if he was handed Seth Rollins’ lines from a few weeks back and Rollins got Orton’s. It dragged, as Orton shouldn’t speak for so long and they burned the “RKO out of nowhere” line at the stake, as it was incredibly obvious this is how the segment would end.
Finally, all three ex-members of The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns) went up against each other in a Triple Threat for Ambrose’s WWE Title. Reigns got booed on his return and whenever he was involved, little pangs of despair reached down into my heart whenever he’d play the comeback game.
Another slow starter, once the match started moving and leaving Reigns out the picture it really picked up. It wasn’t the best these three have done by a long shot, but the tension of where the WWE Belt will go and who would win it was actually enough to keep me hooked.
See, Dean is the champion they need at the minute. He’s liked by everyone and he’s actually excellent in the babyface champion role. He brings his own to it, proving on last week’s RAW that he can cut one heck of a promo when he needs to get serious and he’s so damn good in the ring. Rollins will have his time again, but for now, his chase for a championship is more than enough for now.
There was an excellent moment where Dean and Seth powerbombed Roman through the announce table, just to get him out the way proper.
The lead to the finish was tense. You’re constantly wondering if WWE have learnt that Roman is very clearly not “The Guy” right now, if they clocked on in the thirty days he was out. As he reversed Seth’s pedigree and delivered that fateful spear, I was convinced that they’d cocked it up entirely.
But, as with the Bayley reveal earlier on in the night, they’ve paid attention. Dean his Roman with the Dirty Deeds DDT and pinned him clean in the centre of the ring.
The pop was huge and maybe now, this will have it sink into the WWE forever, that Dean is their guy right now.
Battleground wasn’t fantastic, but in the string of good, solid PPVs that the WWE are putting on, it fits snugly in there. It’ll be interesting to see how they cope when September hits and we have two a month, but that’s so far away. Just bask in the consistency the company are displaying right now and hope it doesn’t go away.