Battleground featured some fantastic matches, including a Match of the Year candidate, but it also had some disappointments, as the WWE sacrificed match quality for storyline developments.
The pay-per-view started off with the match for the tag titles, which simply was one of the best two vs. two tag matches in quite a while.
I've raved about the chemistry between the Usos and the Wyatts for basically their entire feud, and they stepped up their game even further in the two-out-of-three falls match. It was near-perfect tag work, and a match that didn't devolve into a spotfest. There were only one or two truly ridiculous spots (a double superplex from Rowan to both Usos for example), and the near falls, which sometimes can get out of control, were kept relatively under control.
It was truly a great example of what the tag division can be. In my mind, it was even better than the incredibly good Rhodes Brothers/Shield match from last year's Battleground. The Usos, in a bit of a surprise, retained after a double splash to Harper.
This match, and this feud, has given the tag division a huge bump, and if this is the end of the feud, it could go down as the best series of tag matches in about a decade for the WWE.
While the show opened with a Match of the Year candidate, the main event was somewhat forgettable. It devolved rather quickly into the wrestlers simply taking turns hitting their signature moves, with very little flow to it.
It wasn't bad by any stretch, but with the exception of one sequence where Reigns hit his running dropkick to all three opponents, there wasn't anything to really write home to. Cena, as expected, won, and while some people were expecting or hoping Brock Lesnar to come out, that did not happen.
The match did what it was supposed to, however, which was set up SummerSlam. Cena needed to win to carry the belt into SummerSlam, and so this match felt like a simple precursor to next month. And that feeling was one that was felt over a good chunk of the pay-per-view.
Many matches felt somewhat subpar as they were used to extend a feud to SummerSlam, instead of focusing on the present. It's not a terrible strategy, especially for a SummerSlam that is considered to be so important to the company. However, it would've been nice to see a little bit more of a balance, to make Battleground still seem important while setting up SummerSlam.
The tag match will ensure that Battleground 2014 will go down as at least a decent pay-per-view, but it's one that on paper seemed like it could have been more.
The Rest Of Battleground
** The Miz won the Intercontinental title in the 20-man battle royal. While some complain, I see absolutely no problem with this, as the new tweak to his gimmick has the potential to truly get over with the fans. However, I'm not the biggest fan of the way he did it. It looked like Dolph Ziggler had it won, but Miz was hiding out at ringside and came in and threw Ziggler out by surprise. The “roll under the ropes and hide outside” thing has gotten played out. What used to be a truly surprising move now is common, and has become expected. But this result sets up what should be a pretty decent Miz/Ziggler feud over the title.
** Twitter exploded as Lana gave one of the most politically loaded wrestling promos since Sgt. Slaughter became an Iraqi Sympathizer during the Gulf War.
In my preview column, I wrote that it would be interesting to see what direction the WWE goes with Rusev and Lana after the Malaysian Air incident. What I didn't expect was for the WWE to have Lana not just continue her pro-Putin speeches, but use the airline as part of it. She blamed America for propaganda against Putin, alluding to the incident without actually saying it, and went on to run down America's role in the Middle East.
The WWE is walking a dangerous line. If done properly, Lana and Rusev are on pace to become the biggest heels in a long time. If they push it too far, they are going to get some severe blowback, both from fans and from the mainstream, and may be forced to completely pull the plug.
During the match, Jack Swagger put up a great fight, and looked to have Rusev beat at several points, but Rusev ended up winning via countout as he knocked out Swagger on the outside. After the match, he dragged Swagger back into the ring to lock the Accolade on him.
This feud will clearly continue, and it will be fascinating to see the WWE try to walk the line between heat and going too far.
** The match between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins didn't actually happen, though the feud did continue. Early in the night, Seth Rollins was cutting an interview backstage when Ambrose attacked him. After the two were separated, Ambrose was thrown out of the building. Rollins came out, demanding to be announced winner by forfeit, which he was. Ambrose apparently made his way back into the building, as he attacked Rollins as he was going back up the ramp. Again the two were separated, and Ambrose was pulled away by security. Rollins tried to leave, but again was ambushed in the parking lot. This feud feels somewhat old school, as the two will feud for several months before getting their one-on-one confrontation at Summerslam. An interesting note to some people is that because Rollins came out and demanded to be announced as the winner, sportsbooks did credit that as a win for Rollins if you bet on the match.
** Bray Wyatt and Chris Jericho had a somewhat disappointing match. It may have simply been built up too much in fans' minds, but it felt somewhat clunky, as if the two didn't have much chemistry. Jericho ended up winning cleanly, catching Wyatt with a codebreaker. Wyatt is clearly going over in this feud, but I'm a little surprised that Jericho won cleanly. While normally you would have the guy who is going over lose at first, Jericho isn't someone that needs to go 50/50 in a feud. However, it's not a disaster as some people have made it out to be. Wyatt will almost certainly get the win back at Summerslam, and maybe even another in September.
** Paige vs. AJ also somewhat disappointed. They were trying to tell some sort of story during the match with Paige, but they didn't develop or explain what that story was at all. Throughout the match, as she was physically dominating, she kept telling AJ to basically keep fighting. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be her trying to prove that she could win against a non-surprised AJ or what, but they did a terrible job of telling the story. It didn't help that the commentators were barely paying attention during the match (more on that later). AJ ended up winning with a Shining Wizard. I assume this feud will continue as well.
** The commentators were at an all-time low Sunday night. Early in the show, particularly during the Divas match, they were sniping at each other, and at one point it sounded like they were getting legitimately heated with each other. Cole got so exasperated with his partners as the night progressed that he resorted to pointing out their pronunciation mistakes. JBL had a major botch during the battle royal as he pointed out The Miz hiding at ringside. The WWE really needs to take a step back and look if this crew is working out.
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