Five days removed from the historic WWE Draft and frankly it’s only confused matters more. Cruiserweights are on Raw, away from Daniel Bryan’s control. Women are stretched across both shows with the Women’s Championship only on Raw, as are the tag teams. I think you’ll notice a theme here where Raw pretty much has everything and Smackdown has bugger all. The only thing that Smackdown really does have (currently) is the WWE Championship.
Tonight at Battleground, it’s the last outing for many teams and storylines. The Club and Wyatt Family (in this incarnation) will be split up following the event. Rusev/Ryder, Miz/Young, New Day/Wyatts and Ambrose/Rollins are all rivalries that will be forced to a close after Battleground is done and dusted. So let’s get to it.
As always, I don’t really cover the Kick-off show but go watch Breezango defeat Roman Reigns’ cousins. It made me a very happy man and makes me think WWE are listening to my pleas.
Kicking off the show tonight was the tag match pitting Charlotte and Dana Brooke vs. Sasha Banks and a partner of her choosing. All week the rumours ran rampant of who Sasha’s partner would be. Nikki Bella has resumed training after her neck injury recently. Could it be one of the newest draft selections like Nia Jax? Maybe a one night return for a legend like Lita? But it wasn’t any of those women, it was the one and only BAYLEY! Finally the huggable one makes her first appearance on the main roster to an absolutely ridiculous, thunderous ovation that I don’t think I’ve ever heard for any woman ever. Safe to say, it was the right choice.
The match was quite good, but tonight wasn’t about the match itself. It was about providing Battleground with a huge, feel good moment to start off the show. Something that in the years to come we’ll think back to Battleground 2016 and remember it as the show where Bayley made her main roster debut. Sasha Banks gets the win for her team, forcing Charlotte to submit to the Bank Statement. Sasha has made the Women’s Champion tap out!
Sasha and Bayley hug after the match, while grown men and women try to pretend they weren’t at all misty eyed. You were and you know you were, it’s okay.
The first of our two six-man tag matches is next with The Wyatt Family vs. The New Day. This story started off so well and just went so strange in the middle. With Xavier being susceptible to Bray Wyatt’s powers, it added a different layer to any other rivalry The Wyatt Family have been in. Then the fight in the compound happened and it’s just best that we all forget that aspect of the rivalry. Xavier was able to face his fear and fight the entire Wyatt Family, but ultimately fell to Sister Abigail.
Definitely the right choice of winner here, New Day will still be together as Tag Champions and The Wyatt Family needed to look strong as they go their separate ways. It’s do or die for Bray on Smackdown now, he’s been floating in WWE for three years and has only come out on top about twenty five percent of the time. If he can’t be a major threat on his separate brand, then it might be it. Meanwhile, Braun Strowman is going to be a deer in the headlights alone on Raw. He’s inexperienced and awful in the ring, I can’t see this going well for him. New Day, keep doing what you’re doing.
Zack Ryder vs. Rusev for the United States Championship is next and this is only happening because Ryder scored the win in that awful Team USA vs. The World thing on the Fourth of July. Zack Ryder said in an interview that his father believes he can win the title tonight, his mother doesn’t think so though. Which is the most hilariously sad thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Zack Ryder’s mother should write inspirational posters.
Ryder had little to no momentum going into this match which makes it no surprise that Rusev retained the championship. Following the match, Ryder’s team mate in NXT and recent Smackdown draft pick Mojo Rawley, runs down to the ring to protect Zack. Mojo and Rusev stare down and Rusev walks away. This would be a good way to build up a match between the two, but they’re on different brands now so it’s sort of pointless. No-one cares about Mojo Rawley too, so that doesn’t help.
WWE said that this is their final encounter, but we all know that they will fight forever, Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn is up next. Even though the in-ring content of what Zayn and Owens have been doing the last month or so has been great, the story aspect has felt pretty stagnant. Even more bafflingly, if they had been promoting this as the final battle between the two, why did they keep them on the same show following the draft?
I don’t think I’m overstating this, but this may be my favourite match between these two and is another Match of the Year candidate. Everything from the messed up moonsault from Sami Zayn that legit terrified me, the stiff slaps from Kevin Owens and yelling “Why won’t you stay down!?” and of course that finishing sequence where Sami finds the killer instinct to deliver two straight Helluva Kicks to finally (and decisively) defeat Kevin Owens.
Wow, that was… That was amazing. Anyone got a cigarette?
Heading back to the women’s division now with Natalya vs. Becky Lynch. Sadly this was used as a cool down match to allow the audience to recover from the epic match that had just occurred. That being said the match was fine, it was a good showing from both women with Natalya scoring the win with a Sharpshooter. There’s not a lot to say here, Becky is scheduled to be the top face of the women’s division on Smackdown so I expect Becky to get her win back in the near future.
This is where things are going to get weird and considering Bob Backlund is involved, it’s hardly a surprise. Darren Young (w/ Bob Backlund) vs. The Miz (w/ Maryse) for the Instercontinental Championship. The match was pretty bland for the most part, which is unfortunate because this Young/Backlund partnership is so insane that it might just work but outings like this won’t help it. The finish to this match was so crazy I can barely comprehend it. Let’s see if I can get this right.
Maryse slaps Backlund, who totally oversells it and falls down. Maryse then sits on the floor and pretends that Backlund pushed her and gets Miz to go after Bob. Bob starts ripping off his shirt (he’s sixty six years old remember) but it gets caught because he forgets he’s wearing suspenders. So now it just looks like Miz has pushed over a crazed man in a half-naked straight jacket. Darren Young comes over and applies something similar to a Crossface Chicken-wing but not quite and the match gets thrown out.
I have no words.
Moving on to the next chapter of what is essentially all about John Cena vs. AJ Styles, but it’s The Club vs. John Cena, Enzo & Cass. Before we get to the match, Enzo cut what was probably the promo of his career. It’s unfathomable that one man can contain that much charisma, he’s an enigma. Enzo gives us all some good advice. “Never make eye contact with someone when eating a Banana”. It’s solid advice no matter who you are. You could see John Cena having the time of his life watching Enzo & Cass do their thing.
Cena gets the win for his team with an AA off the second rope to AJ Styles. This match was really good and the best part is that it didn’t damage anyone in the process. Enzo & Cass look like absolute stars just from the pre-match promo alone. It took a massive move to do away with Styles and it’s only a tag match loss anyway. The Club weren’t involved in the decision and John Cena is still John Cena. Big ups for this match.
Time to slow it way down before the main event. Chris Jericho is hosting another edition of The Highlight Reel with his special guest, the returning Randy Orton. I know Orton hasn’t been on TV in almost a year, but this segment went so long, like ridiculously long. This is well over fifteen minutes of just two men talking and Randy Orton is boring as hell at the best of times. Honestly, you can skip the first 12 minutes of this because it’s just filler.
Orton takes a shot at Lesnar’s drug test failures in UFC and Jericho is still at the top of his game in regards to his character work. Jericho’s teasing of Orton with when he’s going to strike with an RKO was definitely the highlight of the segment, you could see Orton biting his lip so he wouldn’t laugh. Randy eventually does hit an RKO on Jericho and celebrates. Long live this incarnation of Chris Jericho.
This main event is almost four years in the making. We all wanted this match, we just didn’t really want it at Battleground. But nevertheless this is the match we asked for and whether we get it now or 6 months from now, it’s all the same match. The Shield Triple Threat for the WWE Championship, Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns. For some reason all four authority figures are at ringside, they have no need to be there, but they are. Roman Reigns has served his suspension, he’s back and to no-ones surprise, Reigns didn’t exactly receive a heroes welcome home.
This match was essentially “The Shield’s Greatest Hits” as they recreated moves and important moments through their history such as their signature double team Powerbomb and Seth hitting Ambrose and Reigns with steel chairs. All with Michael Cole screaming “Shades of _____” to really hammer that point home until we’re blue in the face. That might sound overly critical, but I did really enjoy this match.
In the end it’s Dean Ambrose who hits Dirty Deeds on Reigns to score the win and retain the championship. The WWE Championship is staying on Smackdown so Shane McMahon, Daniel Bryan and the rest of the Smackdown locker room come to the ring to celebrate to bring Battleground to a close.
Did The Shield Triple Threat live up to the hype? I think it did, it would have felt a little more important if it were on SummerSlam instead, but I think the mechanics of the match would have stayed the exact same anyway so it’s sort of a moot point. Dean Ambrose was definitely the correct choice to win as it finally validates his WWE Championship reign as not circumstantial, but truly earned and deserved. To be fair though, if Reigns had walked out as champion, the building may have been burned to the ground. Also another talking point is that it’s the second pay per view in a row with Roman Reigns pinned clean.
As for the rest of the show, the positives far out weigh the negatives. The Wyatt Family looking strong as they go their separate ways, Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens putting on a Match of the Year candidate, The Club vs. Cena, Enzo & Cass hit all the right points with Enzo looking like a total star, the main event delivered with the right result and of course, BAYLEY!
The only real negatives I can think of is WWE’s insistence on making Mojo Rawley and The Hype Bros a thing despite it never even working in NXT beforehand. Then of course there was the absolutely bizarre ending to an already disappointing Intercontinental Championship match. Overall, a very enjoyable show!
Final Rating: 8/10