7/20/14 Battleground Review: WWE Focuses on Wrestling Over Storylines

 

Depending on what one wants to see in a wrestling show, I can see how opinions of WWE’s Battleground PPV would diverge wildly. On one hand, the storylines stayed in a holding pattern until SummerSlam and some of the most exciting stars on the roster had to cool their heels. On the other hand, there were several matches that ranged from very good to excellent in parts of the card that no one expected. I came away from the show satisfied with the investment of time and looking forward to the next month of WWE, but I acknowledge that my opinion is weighted toward the quality of the in-ring performances.

John Cena def. Roman Reigns, Randy Orton, and Kane in a Fatal Fourway Match to Retain the WWE World Title

Grade: B-

Many fans online complained about Battleground as a whole and I can’t help but think that their opinions were colored by a less-than-stellar main event. Since Brock Lesnar’s imminent return is the worst kept secret in wrestling, a Cena win was all but assured. Even so, I think there were small things that could have made this match a bit better than it was. Kane and Orton started out dominant as they stayed united, but eventually came to blows with one another. Kane then helped Reigns and Cena deliver a triple superplex on Orton. Reigns put the prone Orton in a half Boston Crab and Cena locked his other half into a crossface. When Cena isolated Orton, he put him in an STF that nearly forced a submission. Reigns came from outside the ring to hold Orton’s hand and prevent him from tapping out. Reigns and Cena fought one-on-one for a while with Reigns holding the upper hand as he answered an attempted Five Knuckle Shufle with a Superman Punch. Reigns repeatedly came close to pins, only to have them broken up at the last second. Finally, the four wrestlers hit a procession of finishers that Cena conclude with an AA to Orton on top of a downed Kane. He pinned Kane for the three count and the win. The fans wanted to see Reigns win, and while I understand the reasons for keeping the title away from him for now, I think the match would have made more sense if Orton and Kane teamed up to cost him the victory. That finish would have also led to more tension between Reigns and The Authority going forward.

The Usos def. The Wyatt Family in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match to Retain the Tag Team Titles

Grade: A

The clear match of the night was one that very few saw coming. The tag match opened the show and set a standard so high that no one else was able to meet it throughout the night. The Wyatts got the first fall when Jey reached Jimmy for a hot tag and Luke Harper met him immediately with a big boot. Jimmy evened things up quickly when Jimmy rolled Harper up to reach the sudden death final fall. From that point, the action picked up significantly. Each Uso hit a splash to the outside and Jimmy ran along the barricade for a splash, Jeff Hardy-style. Harper rallied back after he kicked out from a corkscrew moonsault with a big boot to the floor and a suicide dive. They exchanged near falls with a superkick to Harper and a sit-down powerbomb by Harper to Jimmy Uso. Erick Rowan finally got more involved when he missed a splash and kicked out of a Superfly Splash. He climbed to the top turnbuckle to meet both Usos and superplexed both of them at the same time. Harper and Jimmy exchanged superkicks and Harper delivered his discus clothesline finisher, but Jey came in to save the pin. The Usos hit double superkicks then a double Superfly Splash to finally win the match. It built to a fever pitch by the end with lots of drama and innovative offense. It is hard to put together a much better tag match than that.

Seth Rollins def. Dean Ambrose by Forfeit

Grade: D

Despite one of WWE’s all-time great video highlight packages to promote Rollins-Ambrose, their non-match was the big letdown of the show for me. Ambrose jumped Rollins backstage before their match and HHH and him thrown out of the building. When Rollins came to the ring to accept his forfeit win, Ambrose jumped him again and found himself removed from the building again. Rollins finally left the arena (before he could use his Money in the Bank Briefcase as a “Plan B”) and Ambrose popped out of the trunk of his rental car for round three. I like the focus on the emotional intensity of the feud. I also understand the motive of holding their big match for SummerSlam. I even accept that WWE might have had to work around the knee injury Rollins appeared to suffer on Raw last week. I just felt like this series of vignettes was a poor way to use two of the hottest wrestlers on the roster since none of the brawls were memorable.

The Miz won the Intercontinental Title Battle Royal

Grade: B+

One of the highlights of the Battle Royal for me came during Great Khali’s entrance, when a friend noted that he looks like an alien from Men in Black that is awkwardly controlled by a smaller alien inside. As the jobbers steadily fell to the floor, Cesaro found himself at odds with Kofi Kingston and Big E once again. He gave Big E a belly-to-belly to the floor and tried to knock Kingston out, but Big E caught Kingston on his shoulders. After they fought on the apron, Cesaro eliminated Kingston, but Heath Slater came in from behind to throw Cesaro out. Once Slater was thrown out, only Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus, and Bo Dallas were left in the ring. Ziggler dropkicked both, which knocked Dallas to the floor. Ziggler and Sheamus worked an exciting back-and-forth as the final two and Ziggler avoided the floor on several close calls. The fought on the apron and Ziggler finally superkicked Sheamus to the floor. It looked like he had won, but Miz had slid under the bottom rope and returned to the ring to eliminate Ziggler and win the match. For the first time since he was WWE Champion, Miz has a gimmick that is getting legitimate heat as the chicken heel who is protecting his “moneymaker” face. Fans of all types desperately want him to lose, which means his gimmick is working.

AJ Lee def. Paige to Retain the Divas Title

Grade: B

Clad in a new shirt that looks like an exact replica of the internal skeleton CM Punk shirt from his first title reign, AJ started the match with Paige with a chain of pinning combinations. Paige was in control with particularly aggressive offense until AJ hit a tornado DDT for a two count. Paige responded with a sunset flip from the top turnbuckle and showed her frustration when she only got a two count. AJ countered an attempted side slam with the Black Widow, but Paige was able to turn it into a cover to escape- the first instance I recall of anyone foiling the move. She rallied back with a Paige Turner that got a two count. When she set up for the PTO, AJ blocked it and hit a shining wizard to win the match. It was a very solid match that showed a more intense side of Paige that needs to continue to come out as she becomes more heelish. The match was stuck in the spot right after Rollins vs. Ambrose was declared a forfeit, which might help explain the lukewarm fan response.

Chris Jericho def. Bray Wyatt

Grade: B

Wyatt and Jericho went back and forth early in the match until Jericho took out all three members of the Wyatt Family outside the ring from the top rope. Harper and Rowan remained consistently involved until the referee sent them backstage for their interference. Wyatt showed some new offense with a gutbuster and a cool backbreaker off of the top turnbuckle. Wyatt stayed in control and looked like a dangerous, dominant heel, but Jericho continually kicked out to earn fan support for his resilience. When Wyatt set up for Sister Abigail’s Kiss, Jericho countered into a Walls of Jericho attempt. Wyatt was able to block the submission hold, but Jericho quickly followed it with a Codebreaker for a surprise win. I liked the match and I see why Jericho would win the first encounter to set up a rematch on the bigger stage at SummerSlam. I also think they will do even better if they get more time to build a match at that show.

Rusev def. Jack Swagger by Countout

Grade: C+

Swagger put up more of a fight than most against Rusev and even earned a two count with a Swagger Bomb. Rusev tried a side kick, but Swagger caught his leg to put him in an extended Patriot Lock. Rusev was able to reach the ropes and roll outside to recover. Swagger met him outside and reapplied the Patriot Lock, but Rusev rolled forward to force Swagger into the ring post. Rusev barely made it to his feet and rolled back into the ring at a count of nine while Swagger remained out of it on the floor for the countout. After the bell, Rusev put Swagger in the Accolade to accentuate his win. A double-countout finish seemed like it would have made far more sense under the circumstances. Still, I enjoyed Swagger’s positive run in the match.

Adam Rose def. Fandango

Grade: D

The first pre-show match was a total waste of time. Fandango was distracted by Summer Rae and Layla dancing with Rose’s Exotic Express. Rose pummeled him and delivered a Party Foul for an easy win.

Cameron def. Naomi

Grade: D+

This match would have been fine for Raw, but was disappointing for a PPV, even on the pre-show. Naomi dominated the match until Cameron rolled her up and held her tights for a pin. If Cameron is so limited as a wrestler that she can’t have a legitimate match, the solution is to keep her off of TV rather than to book around her shortcomings so clumsily.