WWE Battleground had shaped up to be an incredibly exciting evening, even for a C-list PPV. The night would witness a number of established stars counterpointed with the rising talent of the day, with a number of feuds that had been garnering impressive reception from the live audiences. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins’s heated confrontation, the international collision between Jack Swagger and Rusev, and the highly-anticipated crowning of a new Intercontinental Champion in a 20-man battle royal. This is without mentioning the main event, a Fatal Four-Way pitting WWE World Heavyweight Champion John Cena against two key members of the Authority, Randy Orton and Kane, and the wildcard in the explosive and heavily popular Roman Reigns.
With all these intangibles, it is disappointing to be writing a recap that holds such a negative connotations. Perhaps my expectations had been risen to an unnaturally high degree for a PPV the significance of Battleground, and thus its failings can be written off as par for such a minimally important event. That being said, this PPV had the ability to be one of the most surprisingly awesome nights in 2014, and the fact that it fell so far short of this can’t be seen as anything other than an anticlimax.
A combination of poor booking, uneventful matches and a subdued crowd in Tampa, Florida made for a night that will soon be forgotten. Therefore, it would be most fruitful to examine the five matches that failed to live up to the haughty expectations prior to the show, and then to end by giving due credit to one match that certainly did leave an excellent impression.
Match #5 – Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose
It’s difficult to truly assess this match, as the match never officially took place. In a heated backstage altercation, COO Triple H decided that Ambrose had proven too reckless to keep in the building, and proceeded to have him thrown out by security. Thus, when Rollins made his entrance to the ring, he cut a promo stating that Ambrose had allowed his temper to get the better of him again, and had thus forfeited the match.
This was extremely disappointing for fans in attendance and those watching at home. Rollins and Ambrose, since their time together in the Shield, have proven that they can consistently produce show-stealing matches. Furthermore, the story in which Rollins betrayed his Shield brethren to join the Authority and win the Money in the Bank briefcase has been compelling television, Ambrose an itch that the powers-that-be cannot permanently scratch. So, after all the abuse Ambrose had recently taken at the hands of Rollins, Randy Orton and Kane, to see his opportunity to lay into his rival in the ring ended prematurely was extremely disappointing.
The reason why this match is lowest on this list is two-fold. One, the fierce confrontation that followed Rollins’ victory between the sell-out and Ambrose did evoke an impassioned response from the crowd, even if as a spot it appeared more appropriate for an episode of RAW. The anger on Triple H’s face demonstrated his desire to protect his prized investment, and the battle ensured both were able to expose the explosiveness they can bring out of each other. Secondly, these persistent injustices towards Ambrose will give him more and more empathy from the audience, and ensure the reaction for their undoubted Summerslam confrontation is as strong as possible. This is a double-edged sword however, as this non-contest puts a great deal of pressure for the pair to deliver in the biggest party of the Summer.
Match #4 – Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal
I am not one of these Miz-haters that suggest that he is never going to get over with the WWE Universe. As a heel he is effective, and those that have been quick to lament his return and disparage his latest gimmick will eventually recognise that he understands the business a great deal more than “smart” fans think. So, him winning the Intercontinental Championship is not the reason that I found this match disappointing. It just appeared as though little was actually achieved during the match until the Miz won the title.
Firstly, Miz spent shy of one minute in the ring, which while for years has been an effective heel strategy, appeared very cliche for the supposed new face of sports and entertainment. It doesn’t really add a great deal of suspense when the crowd see him crouching at ringside – they’re not stupid enough to forget he’s there, so the result becomes far more predictable.
Furthermore, Rob Van Dam’s absence detracted from the excitement in-ring, and leads to my next point. Bo Dallas, who anybody has read my recent articles knows I highly regard, eliminated Sin Cara and Titus O’Neil and finished in the top four. Sounds great, but without a marquee elimination, it lessens the memory of Dallas’s feat. In the same vein, a shock moment like Heath Slater eliminating Antonio Cesaro, which elicited a great response. Then he was immediately kicked out of the ring by Sheamus, not even giving him the opportunity to bask in his accomplishment. Thus, the result of the battle royal didn’t disappoint me, but the process to get there did.
Match #3 – Cameron vs. Naomi
My issues with the Divas division in its current state is a list a mile long, and it seems to grow longer with every match. On the whole though, their continued disappointment either is a result of forgettable matches or poor creative direction. This match was an example of the latter. In Naomi, they have a competitor that is incredibly athletic and a well-versed high-flier. Her match against Paige for the Divas Championship at Money in the Bank demonstrated that she is potentially a future champion, and she is getting better after every match.
Then there is Cameron. I am one of the few that remembers the Tough Enough season of 2011, and saw Cameron as the first eliminated, demonstrating both a lack of ability and wrestling knowledge. Three years on, and very little evidence has been put forward to illustrate she has changed one iota. She’s a good dancer, and would certainly make a great heel valet, but as a wrestler I can’t take her seriously. This isn’t a case of Trish Stratus starting with few skills and becoming one of the greatest of all time. Cameron has been with WWE since 2011, and at her current improvement rate she will be tolerable in the ring by 2019. Her move-set consists of slaps, slamming her opponent’s head to the mat, hair-pulling and rest holds. Moreover, I have yet to see her employ much in the way of a finishing move other than by rolling up her opponent, which was how this match ended.
Giving Cameron the victory is the equivalent of Dolph Ziggler losing to Colin Delaney. Those that suggest Cameron is worth pushing as she has the “personality” her partner is lacking can then look forward to a roster of Cameron and Eva Marie, as the likes of Natalya, Tamina Snuka and Emma plummet down the card into obscurity. In all of Cameron’s “matches” against Paige prior this feud she looked competitive exactly 2.87% of the time, and so for her to get any victory over Naomi, even by nefarious means, is entirely unbelievable.
Match #2 – Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt
The following words I am about to write I never believed would ever come to fruition. Chris Jericho is an all-time legend, and one of the most talented, knowledgeable, funny and entertaining superstars to have ever graced any wrestling ring. He is one of my wrestling heroes, and I personally class him as one of the five greatest I have ever witnessed. But, against Bray Wyatt, another match that was highly anticipated since their confrontation on June 30th, the penny dropped – Jericho may not have “it” any more. That match was laboured, slow and boring, with Wyatt carrying the brunt of the action, and the crowd losing interest with every passing second.
Wyatt carries a fair amount of the blame for this abomination, as he appeared restrained in his mannerisms, and was lumbering from one power-move/clothesline and rest hold to the next. It was uninspired, unoriginal, and to call it dull would be a gross understatement. This was less of the classics he has had with the likes of Daniel Bryan and John Cena, and more a hark back to his debut against Kane almost a year ago. Maybe something about the summertime affects his mind. But Jericho, a man who has always been able to carry any match to at least an acceptable standard, played his part in taking a damaged plane and pushing down on the joystick for good measure. If any younger superstar employed some of the moves he was using at the moment, crowds would be telling them to go back to the 1980’s where they belong. While he still carries some of the signature moves we know and love, they all take a few more seconds to apply, and even his codebreaker was looking less explosive.
The worst part of this match however was the finish. Yes, Wyatt is no longer undefeated, but at this point only John Cena had pinned The Eater of Worlds. Therefore a victory over him would still be recognised as quite a feat. Therefore, either Wyatt should have won this match, or if Jericho had to win it should be DQ or count-out. Wyatt went down after one codebreaker – one. Losses like this will cause Wyatt to lose his mystique, and whilst these results would be understandable against a Roman Reigns or Daniel Bryan, Jericho does not need this. At least he was saved the ultimate case of bad booking by not being forced to submit to the Walls of Jericho, but it does not hide the fact this was a bad match with a worse ending.
Match #1 – AJ Lee vs. Paige
The Divas division looked like it finally had a feud that could return to the days of Trish Stratus vs. Lita or Mickie James vs. Lay-Cool. This looked to be a slow-burner, as after Lee quickly restored herself to the top at the young anti-diva’s expense on June 30, instead of being at each others throats, they behaved like best friends. This was an interesting direction, and one that could bear fruit if given the correct direction. The more important facet for real wrestling fans was that these were two women that truly wanted from a young age to become wrestlers. They had a passion for the business, and a compendium of great performances behind them. As the reviewer of NXT, I see that the future looks bright for the divas division with the likes of Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Alexa Bliss and Bayley all showing solid in-ring potential. And this feud looked like the Genesis for this Renaissance of women’s wrestling. Maybe I wished too much for my own good.
The outset of the match already had my blood boiling, as the imaginative Tampa crowd decided to bring out the CM Punk chants. You know, because Lee is his wife, and he used to wrestle for WWE. It really detracts from her performances (through no fault of her own) if the audience does not accept that no matter how hard they chant in her matches, Punk is not coming back anytime soon, so get over it. However, an unhelpful crowd was not the only thing that caused this match to be decidedly underwhelming. Both Divas almost certainly recognise how they are perceived by wrestling fans, as the heirs-apparent to Trish and Lita, and thus this match suffered as they both tried to hard to reach that level immediately, and they are not quite ready yet.
The match had numerous failed spots and botches, and every big move that was attempted was directed by Paige quite openly saying “Ready?” at each juncture. Paige was in control for the vast majority of the match, and the crowd seemed to lose interest very quickly. It’s not that Paige did her job as the “heel” badly, it’s just a flow of a match building to a crescendo at the end never really seemed to be established. The pair appeared to be struggling to work out an effective harmony, which is why instead of the big spots coming together naturally, they had to be very obviously coordinated, so the match lost its naturalness. I feel for the best results, these two need ignore the pressure to become the next Trish and Lita, and concentrate on becoming the first and only Paige and AJ. Of course, it would help if fans could let go of preconceptions and other unconnected superstars to concentrate on what they are producing. This feud still has life in it, but a great deal will have to change for these two to reach the heights that this match-up could reach for years to come.
Diamond In The Rough – The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family
Battleground was not all doom and gloom, but to find the best of the card you had to look right at the bottom of the main card, where two teams with unparalleled chemistry mixed it up one more time. Following their classic at Money in the Bank, the Usos and the Wyatt Family’s battle over the tag team titles looked to be reaching a natural climax at Battleground. Harper and Rowan, the powerhouse followers of Bray Wyatt, have in recent months placed themselves almost as the true stars of the faction. Wyatt’s words may have the whole world in his hands, but in the ring his brethren have more consistently produced greatness. Alongside the synchronous pairing of the Uso brothers, their matches have been getting rave reviews, and so a two-out-of-three falls match appeared to be a sure-fire recipe for success. It was that and so much more.
The match was almost entirely controlled by the bigger, stronger Wyatt family, whilst the Usos offence was limited to sharp flurries, kicks and flying through the air. A great touch was the hot tag by the Usos which was then immediately countered with a boot by Harper for the first pinfall. The Usos were able to respond with a roll-up, and then the action reached its zenith. Counters, kicks, powerbombs, clotheslines, breaking the pins at the last second, it was an unbelievable and gripping encounter which had the crowd buzzing from start to finish. When Erick Rowan kicked out of a patented Uso splash from the top rope, it seemed a surety that the titles were heading to the swamps. But, following a double kick to the skull of Harper, both Usos simultaneously splashed onto the big man, bringing the 1-2-3. Once again the titles alluded the Wyatts, showing the company’s confidence in the Usos as long-term champions, and the ability of this feud to continue to Summerslam. The Wyatt Family will one day be champions, as their ability merits it. This just allows us to enjoy more matches between these two in the future, which certainly isn’t a bad thing.
The tag team division maybe a lot thinner than it used to be, but with teams like these, the WWE is able to deceive fans into thinking it is the best it has been since the early 2000’s. It is a shame that this was the start of the main show, as whilst these four were great, it meant that Battleground was only going to be downhill from there.