The July pay-per-view for WWE is typically a forgotten one. Usually taking place between Money in the Bank and Summerslam, it functions primarily as a way to move things toward the second biggest show on the WWE schedule. However, due to the draft and a roster shakeup, "Battleground" ended up being one of the most compelling shows of the year.
From the beginning of the build toward the card, this show seemed to be a little bit more special. Announcing the Shield triple-threat right off the bat helped. The card that developed looked good on paper and may have exceeded expectations. The Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn match was easily the match of the night, and may end up being the WWE match of the year. However, we also got great showings from both six-man tag matches, and the Shield triple-threat was good as well. Of the eight matches on the main card, only two, at most, could really be labeled as duds.
While the matches were great, the moments may prove to be the defining points of the show. We started off with the women's tag match, and Bayley making her WWE main roster debut to team with Sasha Banks. The crowd, which wasn't going to accept anyone besides Bayley coming through that curtain, exploded when her music hit. That set the tone for the big moments throughout the night.
Another NXT star debuted as Mojo Rawley came out to defend Zack Ryder. While his debut may not have been the same elsewhere, he received a big hometown pop from the crowd in Washington, D.C. Seeing John Cena not just recognize Enzo Amore's mic skills, but basically bow before them, is something that's not going to be soon forgotten. Randy Orton's return may not have been exactly what people wanted, but his “No enhancements needed” shot at Brock Lesnar is going to be talked about for weeks to come.
All of it led to the Shield triple-threat in the main event. Shockingly, the match went off without any shenanigans, despite all the authority figures being at ringside. Roman Reigns was booed louder than anyone else on the roster, and the boos continued every time he got in any offense. While he didn't portray a heel, it seemed like they almost started to get into the crowd reaction. Eventually Ambrose and Rollins started double-teaming Reigns after Reigns started to string together some power moves. They even teamed up to powerbomb him through the announce table.
At the end, Reigns speared Rollins, but Ambrose was there to pull Reigns off and drop him with a Dirty Deeds, getting a clean pin on Reigns just days after cleanly pinning Rollins on Smackdown. The entire Smackdown locker room emptied out and celebrated with Ambrose, as he will keep the title on Smackdown.
"Battleground" has set the stage for the beginning of the new brand extension. We have Ambrose as the champion, some fresh blood, and some new feuds that need to be started. WWE provided a great start to this new era, now they just have to capitalize.
The rest of "Battleground":
-As mentioned above, the match of the night was clearly Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. The two put everything into the match. It seemed at one point, after Sami had botched a moonsault to the outside, that the match might be in jeopardy due to an injury. However, the two soldiered on, and even brought the mistake into the match. The two know each other so well, and it showed. They brought in sequences we had seen before as wrestling fans; however, not all of it was from their WWE or NXT encounters. They brought some flashbacks to their Ring of Honor days, including Sami hitting a brainbuster (or BRAINBUSTAAAHHH) on the apron. The storytelling was truly beautiful during the match. At one point Owens basically begged Sami to stay down, but Sami didn't, and finally, after multiple half-and-half suplexes and two Helluva Kicks, Sami ended up the victor. Will this actually be the end? Well, we'll see. But if it is, it goes out on a high note.
-John Cena, Enzo and Cass beat The Club as Cena pinned AJ Styles after a Super-AA. The match was almost secondary to the opening promo though. Enzo was in rare form, and Cena was more than happy to be the straight man to Enzo's antics. Cena didn't talk at all, but his mannerisms as the promo stretched on really added to everything. I don't want to say it was a passing of the torch moment from one great orator to another, because Enzo still has a ways to go, but the acknowledgment from Cena was a big thing.
-The oddest match of the night was the Intercontinental Title match. The match was slow, though that was almost expected, as The Miz wrestles a more old-school style, and Darren Young is trying to pattern himself after Bob Backlund. However, that wasn't what made it on. Instead, the finish was rather baffling. After Backlund prevented Miz from leaving up the ramp, Maryse came over and slapped Backlund. Then, as Miz was pulled back into the ring by Young, Maryse fell down, pretending that Backlund hit her. That caused Miz to once again leave the ring and shove Backlund. Young came out, put the Chickenwing on Miz, and then the ref called for the bell. There was no announcement of what the actual result was, but according to WWE.com, it was a double DQ. Nothing that happened should have drawn a DQ, so that was an odd finish that I presume will continue the feud.
-Zack Ryder was unsuccessful in his attempt to win back the U.S. title. However, the important bit happened after the match was over. Rusev continued the assault on Ryder, which brought out Mojo Rawley. Rusev stared at Rawley, and then eventually backed down and left the ring. Ryder and Rawley are on a different brand from Rusev, so I'm not sure if the feud will continue, or if it was just a way to introduce Mojo to the crowd. Either way, it was good of WWE to debut him where they knew he'd get a pop near his hometown and just seven miles from where he played college football at the University of Maryland.
-The Wyatt Family beat The New Day in what may be the final match for this iteration of the Wyatts, as Braun Strowman was separated from the rest in the draft. This match, like so many others, featured some great storytelling. The best moment came when Xavier Woods and Bray Wyatt got to face off with each other. It seemed like Xavier would succumb to Bray's influence, but instead he started teeing off on each of the Wyatt members. It wasn't enough though, and Bray would eventually catch him with a Sister Abigail.
-Bayley debuted, but it was Sasha who picked up the pin against Charlotte, which should segway directly into the title match at Summerslam. It will be interesting to see exactly how they handle Bayley now. She wasn't drafted, so it seems like she'll stay away from the main roster for a little while longer. However, if there was anyone who doubted what sort of reception she'd get from the main crowd, that doubt is gone.
-Breezango beat The Usos in the preshow match.
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