July 20, 2014
Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, FL
Kicking off the second half of the WWE PPV calendar this past Sunday was the second Battleground event. Last year the PPV was one of the worst two shows of the year, so there was nowhere to go but up. While this years event was clearly a transitional one to get us to SummerSlam next month just by looking at the card, there were a lot of matches that I felt had potential heading in. Would they deliver? Read on and find out!
I should point out that after having no problems at all at Payback and Money in the Bank, I was unable to rely on the WWE Network for this event. I ended up ordering the PPV instead due to the constant freezing and non-loading I had been experiencing the past few days. Its not as big a deal as it might seem, as whilst still more than the $9.99 a month price tag, PPVs here are significantly cheaper than in the U.S. It turned out that the issue was with my iOS system rather than the actual Network after doing some troubleshooting since.
Anyway, due to these dramas I missed most of the pre-show. Adam Rose defeated Fandango in a very quick bonus match added earlier in the day, which saw Summer Rae & Layla partying with the Exotic Express. Also on the pre-show, Cameron defeated Naomi in the explosion of the Funkadactyls.
Moving on to the actual show, the opening video package focused on the fatal four way main event. It was centered around the Authority wanting the title off Cena and ended with mention of Plan B, followed by a shot of Seth Rollins with his Money in the Bank contract. We then got the opening pyro. The announcers were the usual team of Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler & John Bradshaw Layfield.
WWE Tag Team Championship – 2 out of 3 Falls Match:
The Usos (c) vs Luke Harper & Erick Rowan
My pick heading in: Luke Harper & Erick Rowan
Winners: The Usos winning 2-1 with a double Uso Splash on Luke Harper to win the third fall at 19:22.
Talk about kicking off a show the right way! Definitely the smart choice to open the show. Every time these teams face off it seems like magic happens. After a very good match last month, these guys raised the bar and being given almost twenty minutes put on one of the greatest tag team title matches in PPV history. Of course, this time the match was 2 out of 3 falls, ensuring that the winners tonight would be victorious with a degree of finality. As a result I went in expecting this to be the feud ender. As is usual in these type of matches, the heel team scored the first fall, with Luke Harper covering Jimmy Uso after a boot to the face around five minutes in. With the champions now having to fight back, they would even things up at around the ten minute mark courtesy of Jay rolling Harper up. To that point the match had been solid, but once the third fall started, things really kicked into a higher gear. Everything worked here, and the double superplex from Rowan was insane! I know the last few minutes of the match I was on the edge of my seat, especially after Erick Rowan kicked out of an Uso splash. I was shocked – and this was coming from someone who thought the challengers were a sure fire pick to win! From there the match continued with some great action leading to the double splash to give the win to the reigning champions. The crowd were hot for this whole thing and rightfully so. It was an excellent performance from two teams with amazing chemistry. Its one of the best PPV matches of the year thus far. Its good to see how far the tag division has come again after a few years ago where it struggled to even get a mention on a show. I was very surprised with the result here. I felt like Harper & Rowan would leave with the gold with the Usos getting their rematch on Raw. This really seemed like a feud ending match, and I thought that Harper & Rowan might have been moving on to Stardust & Goldust instead. The Usos are still the champions though. The moment they won I had a feeling we would see NXT Tag Team Champions, the Ascension, the following night to kick off a new rivalry over the gold. That didn’t happen, but the Usos weren’t on the show, so there’s still time for that unless they are saving it for Night of Champions. As far as this match goes, it was excellent.
My Grade: ****1/2
We then got a video package for the Dean Ambrose/Seth Rollins match, which the announcers said was coming up next. After the package, Tom Phillips was standing by with Seth Rollins. He basically said he was going to deal with Ambrose and then set his sights on the winner of the WWE title main event. Before he could finish however, he was jumped by Dean Ambrose and the two men brawled before being separated by agents (Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble sightings!) and Triple H. Triple H yelled at security to eject Ambrose from the building. We found out a few matches later that the Rollins/Ambrose match had been cancelled. If this were all we got, I would have felt cheated. We would see more later in the night however.
WWE Diva’s Championship:
AJ Lee (c) vs Paige
My pick heading in: AJ Lee
Winner: AJ Lee by pinfall following a Shining Wizard at 7:14.
Our next match was actually one of the ones I was most looking forward to of the night. I’d been predicting since AJ’s Mania hiatus that she’d eventually be back to feud with Paige, but nobody was happier than me to see her return the night after Money in the Bank to reclaim her championship. Since the title change, the two women have had an interesting little rivalry going, with Paige claiming to respect AJ and buddying around with her in the weeks heading into this show. It was clear that a heel turn was coming for her with her fan support waning throughout her title reign, coupled with the fact that AJ is one of the few current divas that gets a genuine crowd reaction on a consistent basis. I had pretty good expectations for this match as both women are solid in the ring, and the fans had been given a reason to invest in the match due to the feud heading in. We actually got pretty loud dueling chants of “Lets go AJ/Lets go Paige”. When is the last time you heard that in a Divas match? It goes to show that if the time is invested to give the fans a reason to care about the title, they will – especially with these two going at it. The match was good, and definitely Paige’s best since being called up to the main roster. With more time it would have been even better. Paige worked quite physically in this one, taking the heel role and yelling at AJ throughout the match. She even managed to fight out of the Black Widow for what I believe was the first time. AJ would come out on top in the end though, hitting the Shining Wizard to retain her title. After the match, Paige respectfully left the ring, so we didn’t get the expected heel turn just yet. That would come the following night on Raw, as Paige would sneak attack the champion after a tag team victory. There’s definitely a rematch ahead for these women, likely at SummerSlam. I look forward to seeing what they do there with Paige fully in the heel role. This was just the warm up.
My Grade: **1/2
Next, we went backstage to Randy Orton, who was seeking out Kane. The Demon came up behind him and told Orton he made a mistake by double crossing him on Raw. Orton apologized for his actions, but wanted Kane to do the same. Kane refused to, which got Orton talking about the need to bring the title back to the Authority. Kane assured him that the next champion was standing right there. It was a basic segment to show that Orton & Kane would work together in the main event whilst also teasing some heel dissension.
Back in the arena, we checked in with the Kick Off Panel hosted by Renee Young, which was the same as last month – Alex Riley, Booker T & Christian. Christian and Riley both picked Roman Reigns to win the main event, whilst Booker went with Orton.
Jack Swagger w/Zeb Colter vs Rusev w/Lana
My pick heading in: Rusev
Winner: Rusev via countout at 9;57.
Our next match saw the newly turned face, Jack Swagger, taking on the undefeated Rusev for the honor of the United States. If you told me at the start of the year that Jack Swagger was going to be an over face I would never have believed you. I remember thinking he would return as a face early last year when Cesaro was doing the whole “no American can beat me” thing before he came back for his World title feud with Del Rio instead, but I truly thought the ship for a Swagger face turn had long since sailed. Yet here we are, and its working! I do think Zeb has to be given a lot of credit for it though as he is brilliant on the mic. Lana has also grown on me as a performer as I mentioned last month, and I enjoy the way she is being portrayed as having a short fuse and telling the crowd to shut up during her prematch speech. Its an easy way to get extra heat on her and Rusev. As far as the match goes, it was a tricky one to book. Rusev obviously wasn’t losing here as it would have made his monster push all for nothing, but a loss for Swagger would have killed his new-found direction out of the gate. In that sense the count out was fine, especially as this feud is likely to continue. I thought Rusev might be moving on to Big Show for SummerSlam, but he was nowhere to be seen on Raw, so we’ll probably see a rematch between these guys instead. The match here was fairly slow, but as I said, it was more about continuing the storyline. It was Rusev’s most competitive match yet, with Swagger actually getting him in the Patriot Lock before being taken out on the floor to give Rusev the victory. After the match, Rusev rolled Swagger into the ring and put him in the Accolade. The match was basic, but its nice to see Rusev in an actual feud now rather than just squashing jobbers.
My Grade: *3/4
We then went backstage for a quick vignette with Goldust & Stardust. It was the usual stuff for them, which is fine. I do wonder what lies ahead for them with the tag titles still on the Usos though.
At this point, Seth Rollins made his way out to the ring. He mentioned that Dean Ambrose had been ejected from the building, and therefore he wanted to be declared the winner of the match via forfeit. Justin Roberts made the announcement and the referee raised Rollins’ hand. Again, when Rollins walked off and they went back to the announcers I was upset. Just seconds later however, Dean Ambrose appeared out of nowhere and jumped Rollins with the crowd going insane. What followed was an excellent brawl out into the crowd and back to ringside. Ambrose slammed Rollins onto the announce table before security and agents came out to separate the two men. Ambrose broke through them and continued to go after Rollins however, which brought Triple H in to shove him off his Plan B. I had a feeling Ambrose was going to deck Triple H there, which would have made the crowd go even wilder, but instead it was Rollins that jumped Ambrose. The wild brawl continued until a whole heap of security finally got them apart. Once Ambrose was carried away screaming, Triple H rose Rollins hand. It was an excellent segment that really added to the tension for when these guys face off at SummerSlam. Now, this is where my rant against fan negativity starts. Of course, the fact that the actual match didn’t take place had some people shouting out bait and switch and all that crap. Now, if we got the earlier backstage segment and that was all, I’d completely agree with them. The fact is, we got a segment of the show in the arena (so those in attendance saw it as well!), exclusively dedicated to these guys brawling with each other, and it was awesome. Lets face it, we knew this match if it occurred was going to end in a schmozz, so what’s the difference between that and what we got here? I guarantee you that if the exact same thing played out with a bell ringing at the start of the brawl and the match getting thrown out with a double count out or something people would be saying this was booked perfectly for what it had to achieve. But no, because the match didn’t technically take place, lets shit all over it. This was a really good segment and I was perfectly fine with the way this was done. Save the big match for SummerSlam. Rant over.
We then got a video package looking at the Jericho/Wyatt feud. That match was coming up next.
Chris Jericho vs Bray Wyatt w/Luke Harper & Erick Rowan
My pick heading in: Bray Wyatt
Winner: Chris Jericho by pinfall following the Codebreaker at 15:01.
I don’t think there’s anybody on the roster this year that I have been more consistently wrong about as far as match predictions go than Bray Wyatt. It feels that way anyway. Chris Jericho has come back to elevate Wyatt, and while I have no doubt that Wyatt will be winning the feud, the fact that Jericho won here really surprised me. I get the fact that he had just returned and all that, but it still seems like a head-scratcher to me, as Jericho rarely gets the win in big matches these days. He’s the veteran there that makes people look better by working with them. Anyway, this was another match that I was pretty excited for heading in as they had a pretty good match on NXT last year and Wyatt has improved a lot since then. Harper & Rowan were ejected from ringside early on after Jericho dove onto all three Wyatt Family members from the top. I thought they might have been involved in a DQ finish for this one, but I understand not wanting to have two matches end in a schmozz, and Rollins/Ambrose needed that lack of resolution more than this one. The match was fairly slow paced in the early going, with Wyatt in control for most of it, so the crowd didn’t really get into this until later in the match when Jericho began trading offense with Bray. There was a spot where Jericho rolled Wyatt up in the corner which saw Wyatt hit his head on the ropes which would have been painful, but the match continued. After some more back and forth, Jericho countered Sister Abigail and dished out the Codebreaker for the shocking win shortly after. Even JBL mentioned it was an upset despite Jericho’s credentials. After the match, Jericho celebrated with his father and son at ringside. If this was just any match, this would have been considered decent, but it was underwhelming considering the two guys going at it here. I expected a better match between these two and I hope that comes in the inevitable rematch at SummerSlam. It was a solid match, but something seemed off here. We’ve seen they are capable of more together as evidenced by their NXT encounter. Jericho winning doesn’t make much sense to me, but Wyatt shrugged it off the following night claiming he would win the war. Normally that wouldn’t be a good thing, but a character like Wyatt can get away with saying one loss doesn’t matter due to it being in line with his maniacal character. He wins the rematch next month, no question.
My Grade: ***
We then cut backstage to Seth Rollins, who was leaving the arena with security for protection. In the parking lot, Rollins told them he was fine so they left. With Rollins all alone, Ambrose emerged from the trunk of a car and another brawl kicked in around the vehicle. Rollins eventually got in and drove off, leaving Ambrose to stare off into the night. Another solid segment to further this rivalry. I love everything about this feud at the moment and think its doing wonders for both men. The eventual match at SummerSlam is going to be amazing. Of course, the question now was what would happen with the WWE title now that Dean Ambrose had thwarted Plan B?
The next match was the battle royal for the vacant Intercontinental Championship. After the participants all made their way to the ring, the former champion, Bad News Barrett made his way out onto the stage. He said he had some Bad News, with it being that whoever won the title would have to deal with him once he returned to action. He went backstage afterward.
WWE Intercontinental Championship – Battle Royal:
My pick heading in: The Miz
Winner: The Miz, last eliminating Dolph Ziggler at 14:11.
Other participants (in order of elimination): Xavier Woods, Zack Ryder, Great Khali, Sin Cara, R-Truth, Curtis Axel, Damien Sandow, Diego, Ryback, Titus O’Neil, Alberto Del Rio, Big E, Kofi Kingston, Cesaro, Heath Slater, Bo Dallas, Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler
First off, Rob Van Dam was supposed to be in this, but apparently had a minor injury, which us why there were 19 guys in this. There were two men that I felt had a chance of winning this thing – the Miz and Bo Dallas. I had Cesaro and Sheamus as outside picks, but Cesaro appears to be in a holding pattern at the moment and whilst they have played up Sheamus wanting to unify the IC and US titles in recent weeks, I didn’t really think it would happen. Once Bad News Barrett didn’t stay at ringside for the duration of the match I felt Dallas wasn’t winning. For some reason I could see him winning and cutting a condescending Bo-Lieve promo afterwards before being knocked out by Barrett. That did not happen though, and I wasn’t surprised Miz was victorious here, as he’s actually been pretty enjoyable now that he’s back in the heel role with the “watch the face” persona. But more on the ending later. I didn’t expect much from this match going in, figuring it would just be your standard battle royal, but like the one at Mania, this actually had a few fun moments mixed in. As usual, the first few minutes saw the guys that had no chance getting tossed, including everyone ganging up on Khali like always. I will say I was surprised to see Heath Slater survive that first round of eliminations. I liked the fact that Ziggler eliminated Del Rio, simply due to all the times Del Rio has bested him in the past to my disdain. Kofi Kingston was difficult to eliminate, with him getting on Big E’s shoulders on the outside before touching the floor after being thrown out first, but he was ultimately dumped by Cesaro after a bit of a struggle. You know when you have a battle royal now you are going to get something with Kingston avoiding an elimination, but the bar was set so high in his past antics that this one didn’t really do it for me. He’s done the shoulder spot quite a few times in the past after all. Anyway, Cesaro was proud of himself for finally eliminating Kingston and gloated over his success, which led to Heath Slater catching him off guard and knocking him to the floor. Slater’s reaction was hilarious, and as a long time fan of the guy, it was a funny moment. It’s not like a surprise elimination like that hurts Cesaro after all. Miz exited the match earlier on by going under the rope following a Zig Zag and hid under the ring from there. It was funny to hear Lawler chastise him for it later on despite him doing the same thing back in the day. Once Dallas was eliminated, it came down to Sheamus and Ziggler, with Miz still in the match but nowhere to be seen. At this point I thought Sheamus would toss Ziggler only to get eliminated by Miz. That’s kind of what happened – except Ziggler eliminated Sheamus first instead! Seeing how poorly Ziggler has been booked for the past year, that really caught me off guard. The crowd popped big time as well thinking Ziggler had won. I guess that might be why Ziggler was in there last, as if Sheamus had tossed him first, Miz might have got cheered for eliminating Sheamus. Anyway, Miz surprised Ziggler right away by coming out of hiding and throwing him over to win the title. The crowd weren’t happy, but that was the desired reaction It makes sense that we are getting a Miz/Ziggler feud going forward. They had a really fun match on Raw the next night, with Ziggler getting the non-title win. It feels like a fresh feud too as I don’t think its been done before. They’ve always been on the same side, be it face or heel, in the past. Sheamus seems to be in limbo at the moment. I wonder who will be next for him. Miz was a decent choice for this one, as he’s definitely looked better since coming back.
My Grade: ***
Up next we went to a video package for the main event.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship:
John Cena (c) vs Roman Reigns vs Randy Orton vs Kane
My pick heading in: John Cena
Winner: John Cena by pinfall, covering Kane at 18:15.
Our main event was a fatal four way for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, which had a fairly predictable outcome. That’s not a bad thing, as like Money in the Bank, the decision to have Cena win made sense here. I should point out that Cena had both title belts with him here, so him handing the World title to Flair the previous week on Raw did not mark the retirement of that championship. I didn’t really have high expectations for this match, as it really seemed like a way to get through this month to SummerSlam. Orton and Kane had no chance at winning here and Reigns is winning the title at WrestleMania next year. Cena on the other hand is the transitional champion set to drop the title to Brock next month. That all said, the match was decent, but not really at the level of what you want for a PPV main event. It was the worst of the main events this year in my view, but it wasn’t a bad match. Its just a matter of us having seen much better ones before. Reigns got the biggest pop as expected, whilst Kane got no response at all when he was introduced. I’m glad this PPV is likely the end for him as a main event title contender. He’s seemed out of place since after Extreme Rules. The action started out fast paced with the guys pairing off to go at it. Kane and Orton worked together for the most part before coming to blows whilst we also got the cool moment where Cena and Reigns got to briefly face off. At one point Lawler mentioned on commentary that Kane was an afterthought. It may have been the smartest thing he has said in years. The end sequence of the match saw plenty of finishers and broken up near falls which got the crowd into it, but it was missing something to make it a truly solid main event. I think it could have been a bit better if they brought some weapons into play – a fatal four way is no DQ after all. Towards the end of the match, Reigns got a strong showing as he cleaned house with a series of spears, but Orton ended up hitting with an RKO which sent him to the floor. Cena followed up with an AA to Orton on top of the already downed Kane (courtesy of a Reigns spear). The champ then covered Kane to retain his title. It was a better match than I expected it to be, but it was still really just there. Obviously Cena is moving on to Lesnar from here which I am very excited for.
My Grade: ***1/4
Three Stars of the Night:
1. The Usos – These guys have re-energized the tag team division with their awesome rivalry with Harper & Rowan, and tonight we got an epic blow off to their rivalry. Its rare you see a tag title match get around 20 minutes and they delivered big time.
2. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan – Pretty much the same reason as the above. I thought they would leave this PPV with the tag titles, but its not like a loss hurts them here. I think we see new contenders for the Usos going forward, but this was an excellent culmination of a rivalry.
3. Dean Ambrose – This guy is on fire these days with the crowd behind him and the brawl with Seth Rollins around ringside was really well done. I think it’s so funny how in the days of the Shield we thought Ambrose would be a better heel while Rollins was a better face. They have definitely proved us wrong with their work in their current roles.
Battleground 2014 was a decent PPV that could have been better if the main event was stronger. The main purpose of this show was to set the stage for SummerSlam, and for the most part (with the exception of the Wyatt/Jericho match), the booking made sense to get us to what is looking like a pretty strong card next month. That’s not to say there wasn’t some quality action on this show though. The match of the night was the opener and its right up there in the list of the best PPV matches this year. Its also one of the best WWE Tag Team Championship matches in history. Just excellent stuff there. The Rollins/Ambrose stuff was excellent as well, particularly the in-ring segment which took the place of the actual match. Once you get over the fact that a bell didn’t ring you can’t question that it was perfect for what the feud was calling for heading into their big match next month. I thought the battle royal was a lot of fun with some memorable spots, and I was glad to see the crowd into a solid diva’s title match that could have been better with some more time. As I said, Jericho/Wyatt was disappointing simply due to the guys involved and what we know they are capable of, but as any other match it was still solid. In terms of expectations it was the weakest point of the show. The main event was fine for what it was in setting up the big picture going forward.
As we all know by now, the following night on Raw (an excellent show by the way), John Cena will be defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam against Brock Lesnar. Its been pretty clear since Brock ended the streak at WrestleMania XXX that he would be getting the title at some point and I think next month that takes place in the Staples Center. I expect Lesnar will hold that title through to WrestleMania XXXI. He ended that streak for a reason – this is a long reign coming. I’m particularly interested in seeing what his schedule will be like appearance wise until then, as he hasn’t worked many PPVs since returning in 2012. I think as long as he defends the title at every PPV and makes the occasional Raw appearance it will be fine. He doesn’t need to be on every week. He makes everything more exciting when he is around.
As for the man that will likely be the one to take the title from Lesnar next year, what lies ahead for Roman Reigns? Coming off the following night’s show it looks like Randy Orton will be his SummerSlam opponent. It’s a match to give Reigns a PPV singles win over a top guy before moving on to Triple H. I can see him facing the COO at Night of Champions and a rematch at Hell in a Cell down the line. They can put him in some kind of survivor match at Survivor Series and then we are close to Rumble time, but that’s getting way ahead of ourselves for now. I do think after SummerSlam, main event wise we are back on the long term plan after Bryan’s injury scrambled everything up.
At the moment it looks like the following matches could be lying ahead for the biggest PPV of the summer:
- John Cena vs Brock Lesnar
- Roman Reigns vs Randy Orton
- Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins
- Chris Jericho vs Bray Wyatt
- Brie Bella vs Stephanie McMahon
- AJ Lee vs Paige
Add in a possible Miz/Ziggler match and something with the tag titles and that seems like a pretty exciting card to me. We’ll probably get a continuation of Swagger/Rusev as well unless that happens on TV.
Battleground was a decent show with some up and downs but towards the bottom of this year’s events overall. Definitely better than last year’s outing however.
FINAL GRADE: 7 out of 10
2014 PPV Rankings thus far:
- WrestleMania XXX (9.5)
- Payback (7.5)
- Money in the Bank (7)
- Elimination Chamber (7)
- Battleground (7)
- Extreme Rules (7)
- Royal Rumble (6)
Be sure to check out our Battleground Live Blog and Reaction podcast for complete coverage!