Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton Wrestled to a No Contest for the Vacant WWE Title
Bryan and Orton have frequently worked great matches over the last several months, dating back to Bryan’s “weak link” paranoia at the end of his tag team run with Kane. Even so, their lengthy matchup at Battleground was the best work they have done together in spite of an unsatisfying conclusion. The start of the match was delayed for about five minutes for a power outage, but the wrestlers overcame the confusion to get the fans refocused on the match.
They took turns slowly wearing one another down early in the match- Bryan with an Indian Leglock and Orton with his customary stomps. Orton hit the first of many creative spots when he crotched Bryan on the top rope to block a superplex and clotheslined him back into the ring. Bryan skinned the cat to prevent falling to the floor and whipped Orton to the outside with a hurricanrana. Orton took advantage of the environment as he hurled Bryan into the ring steps, the Spanish announce table, the barricade, the ring post, and the ring apron. After a long series of traded uppercuts and a backslide by Bryan, Orton suplexed Bryan from the ring onto the floor for a huge bump reminiscent of a young Dynamite Kid. Bryan rebounded when he avoided a powerbomb onto the announce table and nailed a big splash from the top rope to Orton on the floor. Back in the ring, he delivered a series of kicks to Orton’s chest, but Orton caught the last one and countered into a T-bone suplex. Orton hit a big DDT and started mocking Bryan with a “Yes” chant as he set up for the RKO. Bryan avoided the RKO, though, and put Orton in a submission hold.
Before Orton could tap out, Big Show ran to the ring and pulled the referee out of the ring. Bryan yelled at him, but Big Show knocked Bryan out. Brad Maddox- left in charge of the show when The Authority had to leave for a mysterious emergency meeting- brought the supposedly-fired Scott Armstrong to the ring to count, but Big Show knocked him out, as well. Orton yelled at Big Show until Big Show finally landed a third KO punch on Orton. While I am tired of inconclusive finishes, at least this one clearly leads to the upcoming Hell in a Cell PPV that will prevent interference like that which ended this match. Additionally, unlike the Night of Champions finish, this ending did not feel like a stall tactic, but a way to enhance the angle.
Cody Rhodes and Goldust def. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns to Earn WWE Contracts
All three members of the Rhodes family gave succinct pre-match interviews that put over the importance of their family and established the stakes for the most anticipated match on the card. Rhodes started fast and Goldust helped him double team Rollins. The Shield went to the outside to regroup, and all six men faced off with Dusty Rhodes threatening their opponents with his belt. Back in the ring, Rhodes hit a nice moonsault and Goldust followed it with a spinning cross body of his own that earned him a big pop. Reigns and Rollins slowly wore down Goldust until he earned a hot tag to his brother. Rhodes hit a missile dropkick and a spinning Alabama Slam on Rollins for a two count. He followed it with a muscle buster that might have ended the match if Reigns didn’t break up the count. The action spilled to the outside, and when Dean Ambrose went after Dusty, the American Dream whipped him with his belt and a bionic elbow. Rollins tried to take advantage with a rollup, but Rhodes rebounded with a huge Cross-Rhodes to win the match and get his job back. It was a chill-inducing finish that brought the house down. The locker room had a feel for the importance of the moment since several of the wrestlers came to celebrate on the ramp with the Rhodes family. After this emotional high point in the middle of the show, it was clear that the rest of the PPV was icing on the cake.
CM Punk def. Ryback
Punk did his best to tell a compelling story with Ryack, and Ryback worked to make the match flow, but Ryback’s inexperience and technical limitations made the match merely decent. Ryback tried to keep the pace slow with lots of reverse chinlocks, stomps, and clotheslines to ground Punk. Punk delivered a series of forearms to get out of a chinlock and set up for a GTS, but Paul Heyman grabbed a microphone and taunted Punk to distract him. Ryback hit a powerbomb for a two count and set up for a second powerbomb that Punk escaped. Punk hit the Macho Elbow and tried the GTS again, but Ryback countered into a powerslam. With Punk caught in the ropes, Ryback repeatedly clubbed him until just before the referee reached a five count. Heyman retrieved a Kendo stick and threatened Punk with it. The referee reprimanded Heyman, and Punk used the distraction to kick Ryback low and pin him. Punk did not get his hands on Heyman, so their rivalry will continue.
Alberto Del Rio (c) def. Rob Van Dam in a Hardcore Rules Match to Retain the World Heavyweight Title
This show-opening match took advantage of its stipulations from the very beginning. Van Dam and Del Rio traded shots with chairs, trash cans, and ladders that quickly dialed the match up a notch. As the two wrestlers wore each other out with the weapons, Del Rio eventually tried to hit Van Dam with a trash can off the top rope, which Van Dam countered with a dropkick. Van Dam followed it with a split-legged moonsault onto a ladder on Del Rio for a near fall. Van Dam missed Rolling Thunder on the ladder and Del Rio responded with a Cross-Armbreaker. Ricardo Rodriguez ran in and broke up the hold with a bucket. Del Rio threatened Rodriguez, who tried to play nice with his former boss until he kicked him in the stomach. Del Rio threw Rodriguez to the floor, but the delay gave Van Dam a chance to recover. He hit Del Rio with a baseball slide with a ladder and followed it with a Five Star Frogsplash onto the ladder. Both wrestlers were injured enough that Van Dam was not able to immediately go for a pin. As they made their way back into the ring, Van Dam missed a Van Terminator. Del Rio wrapped a chair around Van Dam’s arm and repeatedly jumped on it to set up his Cross-Armbreaker. The move finally made Van Dam tap out to give Del Rio the clean win and put another feather in his cap as a hard working champion.
Bray Wyatt def. Kofi Kingston
Even though Wyatt didn’t do anything crazy, he and Kingston worked the most surprisingly good match of the night. It started with a slow pace after the Rhodes high point and steadily built to an exciting and well-executed finish. Early on, Kingston was stuck in the ropes in a corner and Wyatt hit a big splash that looked painful. Kingston tried a splash from the apron that Wyatt was able to catch and turn into a powerslam. Kingston continued to fight back and hit a crucifix and a flurry of kicks that led to the Boom Drop. Wyatt ducked Trouble in Paradise and came off the ropes with a huge running cross body. He leaned back in the corner and came after Kingston in a creepy crabwalk. As Wyatt conferred with his family outside the ring, Kingston hit a leaping flip to all three of them. He followed with a leaping cross-body for a near fall. The pace picked up and Wyatt reversed the SOS into Sister Abigail’s Kiss. It was a high impact finish to a well-built match. After the conclusion, Wyatt said that he would eliminate all of the false idols of purity, like Kingston. I suspect that these two will work together at least a few more times. After this match, I am excited to see it.
Curtis Axel (c) def. R-Truth to Retain the Intercontinental Title
Axel won a match in which he executed almost no offense and seemed to frustrate Paul Heyman. Truth dominated most of the match in and out of the ring. A series of kicks by Truth got him three near falls. Axel suddenly hit a sloppy version of his finisher to win the match without any rally to build up to it. Unless the match was supposed to plant seeds of discontent between Axel and Heyman, it is hard to understand why Axel was booked to look so weak.
AJ Lee (c) def. Brie Bella to Retain the Divas Title
AJ and Brie did not get much time for their match, and they came up with a decent narrative about AJ using Tamina Snuka to her advantage. Brie was very aggressive and controlled the early part of the match. AJ retreated out of the ring and hid behind Tamina. AJ then slammed Brie into the ring post and worked on her arm while she yelled that she was the superior wrestler. Brie rallied with a dropkick and looked like she might win the match until Tamina started to choke her sister outside the ring. The distraction allowed AJ to roll Brie up for the three count and the win.
The Real Americans def. Santino Marella and the Great Khali
This match appeared on the card seemingly exclusively to give Cesaro a chance to do the Cesaro Swing on Khali. Not only did he do the move, it was the finisher that earned his team a quick victory.
Dolph Ziggler def. Damian Sandow
Ziggler got the crowd fired up with a good performance on the pre-show and earned some legitimacy back after a rough stretch. He controlled the early part of the match with a nice dropkick and the Heart Stopper elbows. Sandow put together some offense including a series of knees to the face with his knee pad pulled down. Soon after, Sandow tweaked his unprotected knee, which gave Ziggler the opportunity to hit the Zig Zag and win the match.