UNITY BEFORE DIVISION
By Sam Jones
Emanating from Washington, DC
Announcers: Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, John “Bradshaw” Layfield
CHARLOTTE (C) & DANA BROOKE vs. SASHA BANKS AND BAYLEY
THE WYATT FAMILY vs. THE NEW DAY
UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP- RUSEV (C) vs. ZACK RYDER
SAMI ZAYN vs. KEVIN OWENS
NATALYA vs. BECKY LYNCH
INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP- THE MIZ (C)/w MARYSE vs. DARREN YOUNG/w BOB BACKLUND
JOHN CENA, ENZO AMORE, AND BIG CASS vs. THE CLUB
THE HIGHLIGHT REEL/w SPECIAL GUEST RANDY ORTON
WWE CHAMPIONSHIP – DEAN AMBROSE (C) vs. SETH ROLLINS vs. ROMAN REIGNS
MATCH SPOILERS INCLUDED
With the WWE Draft behind us, and the shiny new RAW and Smackdown Live (WWE is very insistent on the ”Live” bit, for some reason) rosters in the world’s collective rear-view mirror, the genesis of the Brand Split is on the horizon, and Battleground is the final time we’ll see a lot of the match-ups on the card. Question is, was it a ringing endorsement for the New Era? Or was it a grim omen of things to come?
On the whole, Battleground provided a great deal of entertainment in more than a few matches on its card. The theme of the night seemed to be “crowd-pleasing”, which could certainly be applied to many of the decisions made in various matches: having the show kick off with the reveal of the incredibly over Bayley as Sasha’s mystery partner was a brilliant way to get the crowd fired up for the rest of the show, and the tag match proved to be a fun, if overly quick, opener for the show. Beyond that, there were a number of good to great matches on display: The Wyatts and New Day delivered with a solid match with interesting psychology, marred only by a scary-looking botch on Big E’s part. The main event and Cena’s, Enzo’s, and Cass’s battle with The Club delivered as well. Hell, the 6-man tag was a classic if only for Enzo Amore’s insanely great promo beforehand.
And in the case of the main event, the heavy focus on the fact that the title was only going to end up one brand throughout helped make the match feel like there was a lot at stake, even if they’ll likely just introduce a world title to whichever show doesn’t get the WWWE Championship. But the real show-stealer was what was Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens’ final clash: Zayn and Owens may be two of the best performers in WWE right now, and every time those two lock up it’s a guaranteed instant classic: while there was another scary-looking botch here by Zayn, he recovered from it well and went on to put on the match of the night with his long-time friend-turned-bitter rival, and what could be the crown jewel of the matches in their fantastic feud. I know the joke with them is that they’re gonna fight forever, but goddamn man, I would be okay with that, given how great this match was.
Of course, it wasn’t all crowd-pleasing goodness, and Battleground fell down in more than a few places: both the secondary title matches felt distinctly underwhelming. In the case of the U.S title, it was mostly down to Zack Ryder’s unfortunate position as something of a glorified jobber: while he put on a great show against Rusev, it was never in doubt that he wasn’t winning, and the extreme predictability of the result harmed the match as a whole. Newly-minted draftee Mojo Rawley coming out to make the save for a helpless Ryder post-match didn’t do a whole lot to elevate the match either. As for the IC title: while I respect the attempt here to drag Darren Young up the card, there was something distinctly baffling about this match as a whole, which was a slow, plodding affair that no-one was all that into. The screwy, unsatisfying no-contest finish did the match no favors either: if the goal of this whole exercise was to get Darren Young over, why not take a risk and give him the belt? Natalya and Becky Lynch’s clash proved to be underwhelming as well: while it was a solid, well-worked match, the passion and interest just wasn’t there, and it wasn’t helped by having Natalya go over Lynch needlessly, via Becky tapping out no less: she deserves far better than this. Also, while we’re on the subject of the women’s division: why hasn’t Charlotte been defending her championship? I know they’re going for Banks/Charlotte at SummerSlam, but they could at least throw Charlotte a filler feud until then: the same goes for the New Day and the tag titles, which were also conspicuously not defended. Finally, the Highlight Reel segment with Randy Orton generated mixed feelings. While it was fun, and Orton actually likeable and remotely interesting for once, it was also fairly stock-standard in terms of its beats: this could have easily been a RAW or Smackdown segment, but instead they chose to throw 10-15 to this instead of another match on the card, which I would call a missed opportunity.
As far as touting the dawn of the new Era and the Brand Split, Battleground sends kind of a peculiar message: basically every match on this card featured wrestlers on opposing rosters, and some cases, features teams who aren’t even going to be on the same brand, most notably (and frustratingly) The Club and the Wyatts, whose split seems entirely arbitrary, and kind of harmed the stakes of those matches.
Still, it was, for the most, loaded up with matches that ranged from solid, to great, to amazing, and did not fail to deliver on the quality of the action on display throughout the show. While there were a handful of snoozer matches, the sheer quality of everything else around them meant that they did little to drag down the overall entertainment factor of the show as a whole. I don’t know if this show will necessarily be the standard going forward, but as standards go, this wouldn’t be a bad one to abide by. In other words: it was pretty good, give it a look.