With SummerSlam looming, WWE quietly has put together one of the stronger cards for a small pay-per-view event in recent memory with Sunday's Battleground.
While it seems like many of these feuds and matches were built to set up SummerSlam, there’s no reason why they couldn’t shine Sunday and also build for August. There are four matches — Usos vs. Harper and Rowan, Bray Wyatt vs. Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins, and AJ vs. Paige — that have the potential to be show-stealers. The others are, at worst, average pay-per-view matches. The one match likely to be a bit of a clunker, Cameron vs. Naomi, was put on the preshow. All in all, Battleground has the potential to be a truly memorable show.
Preshow: Cameron vs. Naomi
There’s not much to say about this match. Naomi actually has looked pretty strong the past few weeks, and I assume this breakup will allow Naomi to really get a singles push. Meanwhile, without the Funkadactyls gimmick, Cameron may find herself struggling for TV time, particularly if WWE starts to call up some more of the Divas from NXT. I can’t see this becoming a long-term feud, and so it’s a safe bet that the Diva with more potential will win.
Jack Swagger vs. Rusev
This match is interesting for one big reason or, more precisely, one big question: How is WWE going to react to the Malaysian Airlines crash when it comes to Lana and Rusev? Russia and Vladimir Putin are major hot-button issues right now, and praise for him, even from a heel, could reflect badly on the company. We’ve seen issues hot enough that WWE has needed to pull the plug — just look at Muhammad Hassan after the London bombings. So it’s not inconceivable that WWE would get somewhat gun-shy with Rusev after Thursday.
However, while I do expect some aspects of his gimmick to change, I don’t expect them to pull the plug altogether. I think there’s a way to tone down the pro-Russia aspect of his gimmick while still keeping the anti-American and generic "foreign monster" part of it. And because of that, I don’t think he will lose on Sunday. Both wrestlers are going to be ones to keep an eye on after Battleground, though, as we don’t know whether Swagger will continue as a face or revert back to heel after this feud.
The Usos vs. Harper and Rowan for the WWE Tag Team Titles in a two-out-of-three falls match
These two teams have had some fantastic matches over the past few months, and if this is going to be the end of the feud, it's a shame. It’s impressive how much chemistry these teams have had with each other, and it has shown in the matches, with each match building on the previous one. And despite feuding for the better part of three months, they haven’t felt stale at all. While I didn’t feel quite right about a title change last month, I think now might be the right time. The Wyatts are starting to regroup, and giving Harper and Rowan a run with the titles could lend some credibility to the group. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a long run with the belts, but any run could give them an extra push. My main concern with Harper and Rowan winning was that the Usos were really the only face tag team, but if Goldust and Stardust get a push, there could be a feud there as well. So if they’re going to pull the trigger on Harper and Rowan, now feels like the right time.
Winner: Harper and Rowan
Bray Wyatt vs. Chris Jericho
This feud has been pretty good so far, and I don’t expect to end it here. Under normal circumstances, I could see Jericho getting the win. However, there are a couple of factors in play here. For one, Wyatt hasn’t won cleanly at a pay-per-view since February, at Elimination Chamber. Unlike others, I don’t believe Cena “buried” Wyatt. Quite the opposite: I think that feud actually elevated Wyatt somewhat. But they can’t have the guy losing forever if they want him to remain credible. There’s also the fact that Jericho really doesn’t need to go 50-50 with Wyatt. He hasn’t had a meaningful win in years, and because he’s Chris Jericho, he still retains his status. So this feud shouldn’t be viewed through a standard storyline lens. I think Wyatt wins, and it wouldn’t shock me if he won somewhat cleanly.
Winner: Bray Wyatt
AJ vs. Paige for the WWE Divas Title
Here’s another feud that I can’t see ending here, or at least I hope it won’t. Since Paige came out after WrestleMania, and even before for some fans, people have been waiting for this match. After AJ debuted, I threw out the idea of the two just passing the title back and forth through the fall. I still think that would be an interesting idea, and maybe they’ll get to it down the line. I think this match will be more about storyline than a simple match, though. Paige is a natural heel. You’ve seen it come out now and then during her main roster run, and it really came out in some of the vicious moves she used in the match against AJ. A face doesn’t unleash those head butts like Paige does. So I think this is the match that solidifies her as a heel. Granted, you could combine my previous idea with her turning heel and have her cheat to win. But I think the simpler move is to have her be disqualified and unleash a vicious assault on AJ. It continues the feud and allows Paige to unleash her more dangerous side.
Battle Royal for the Intercontinental Title
I think there are three contenders in this match. The first is a bit of a long shot: The Miz. WWE seems to want to push him, especially with "The Marine 4" coming out in the near future. His new character tweak has potential, and allows Miz to truly bring out the arrogant side that got him over in the first place. A run with the IC title could help him regain some credibility. But, as I said, him winning feels like a long shot at this point, though it wouldn’t shock me to see him get a run soon.
Which brings me to the two favorites. The outcome will come down simply to what WWE wants to do with the belt. If it wants to leave the basic structure in place, Cesaro likely will win. WWE has struggled in giving him something to do since WrestleMania, and while I don’t think it necessarily wanted to give him the belt, it's in danger of dropping him back to irrelevancy. A title win, while maybe not the best thing for him, would at least buy some time while WWE figures out what to do with him. (And also maybe set up a Barrett-Cesaro feud down the line, which could be great.)
However, Sheamus is the big question mark in the match. Could WWE want to unify the titles? Since it ended the separate rosters, it has seemed to be a bit redundant to have two midcard titles that are supposedly equal. The one plus is that there have been two mid-card belts to go after, thus giving more mid-carders the opportunity to be in high-profile matches. But for the most part, at least one belt usually has gone ignored. Unifying the titles could serve to elevate the mid-card. The creative team would have to start dedicating more time to mid-card feuds that don’t revolve around the belt if it did so, but it could make the show more balanced. Sheamus' unifying the belts could end up being the best thing for WWE, but do they want to pull the trigger on it? I think yes.
Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose
This match has the potential to be the best of the night on a card that features a number of strong matches. It also might be the toughest to pick. The storyline is basic, but the passion both put into it makes it shine. Like many of the feuds on this card, I expect it to extend into SummerSlam. The easiest way to do it with the revenge storyline is for Seth Rollins to win and Dean Ambrose to continue on his quest for revenge against Rollins. However, with Ambrose’s “Lunatic Fringe” character, and his hatred for Ambrose, having him win and still go after Rollins could be a good way to build up that character even more. So it truly could go either way. However, when in doubt, go with the simpler solution. Ambrose loses here, but likely gets the win back at SummerSlam.
Winner: Seth Rollins
John Cena vs. Randy Orton vs. Kane vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Title
John Cena is going to win this match. That much is certain. WWE isn't going to put the belt on him at Money In The Bank just to have him lose it to people who were in the match with him three weeks later. The only question is whether he walks out with the belt. Paul Heyman alluded to his “Plan C” on WWE RAW, which of course is Brock Lesnar.
WWE is trying desperately to get people to buy the Network, especially with people now needing to renew their subscriptions. The best way to do that is to make the shows that are on the Network, pay-per-views included, memorable. If Brock Lesnar shows up as a surprise and wins the title, the perception that all pay-per-views are must-watch could start to build. Generally, you don’t want to have surprises on pay-per-views because you want to advertise as much as possible for them. However, under this new model, surprises may become the norm, as individual buyrates aren’t as important as subscription rates. Personally, I think they’ll wait for Lesnar, especially since we don’t know his contract situation right now. But it wouldn’t shock me if he showed up either.
Winner: John CenaCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun