WWE BattleGround – July 24th 2016
Verizon Centre: Washington DC.
Coming off the back of a highly disappointing draft, not to mention years of product dilution, it is safe to say that expectations for BattleGround were exceedingly low. However sometimes when you go into a show with the a negative outlook expecting nothing particularly special, it becomes easier for one’s expectations to not only be met, but to be thoroughly surpassed. That is exactly what happened with BattleGround, which on paper appeared to be just another WWE B PPV, and yet by the end of the night people were lauding it as the best WWE show of the year. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn put on a blow-away performance and stole the show, however the two trios matches and the main event were also very fun matches and the opener with the debut of Bayley got the show off to a hot start. The big news from the show is that the WWE title is remaining on SmackDown, as Dean Ambrose pinned Roman Reigns clean to retain the title in the main event. The only issue was the fact that once again they went over the three hour mark for no reason whatsoever and the show would have been much better if either the US or IC title match were on the pre-show and if the Highlight reel with Randy Orton had about five minutes cut.
Renee Young, Booker T, Jerry Lawler & Corey Graves were on the panel. Lita was missing, which may have been a red herring to make fans think she was Sasha Banks’ mystery parter. Mick Foley & Daniel Bryan did the social media lounge gimmick and put over RAW & SmackDown. Breezango hilariously beat the Usos in a nothing 5:30 match after Tyler Breeze countered a Superfly Splash and pinned one of the Usos with an Inside Cradle.
Charlotte (WWE Women’s Champion) & Dana Brooke vs. Sasha Banks & Bayley. – Sasha & Bayley over in 7:25. Most of the crowd seemed to know Bayley was the mystery partner, however they still lost their minds when she came out, wacky inflatable arm flailing tube men and all. Match was good, sloppy in places, but the fans were into everything. Sasha landed an ugly diving Rana off the ropes on Charlotte, who nearly landed on her head. Heels got the heat on Sasha and Bayley ran wild off the hot tag. Dana tripped Bayley from the outside and the heels got some heat on Bayley briefly. Sasha made a comeback, but Charlotte cut her off with Natural Selection and Bayley broke up the pin. Finish saw Bayley take out Dana on the floor and Sasha countered the Figure Eight to apply the Banks Statement for the submission. – Vince McMahon’s avatar JBL made it clear that Bayley’s appearance was a one-time deal and she had not been drafted to either show. Considering Charlotte pinned Sasha on RAW, this was 100% the correct finish to set up a title match at SummerSlam. (***).
New Day: Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods (WWE Tag Team Champions) vs. The Wyatt Family: Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman. – Wyatts over in 8:56. Fun little match with a good story, although it was weird they put the Wyatts over with Bray & Rowan on SmackDown and New Day remaining on RAW. Story was Xavier being scared of Bray, however he overcame his fear at the end and made a big comeback on Bray, although he ended up getting pinned with Sister Abigail after conquering his fear. Match felt a little rushed; they got the heat on Kofi then it pretty much broke down into everyone hitting moves. Once again, Big E nearly killed himself and landed on his head performing his Spear through the ropes. (*** ½).
US Championship: Rusev (C) w/Lana vs. Zack Ryder. – Rusev retained in 7:01. Ryder came out in some gaudy USA-themed attire. Crowd didn’t really care all that much about the match and the best thing about it for 6 minutes was Lana’s outfit. It picked up towards the end, as Ryder hit a Missile Dropkick off the barricade on the floor and followed up with the Ruff Ryder. He went for an Elbow off the top, but Rusev got his knees up and snapped him in half with the Accolade fore the win. Rusev stomped Ryder afterwards and Mojo Rawley ran down to make the save. Mojo yelled like a crazy man and Rusev backed down. (** ½).
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn. – Zayn over in 19:15. Match of the night by a mile and a potential WWE MOTY aslo. Owens took the early stages and got some heat. Sami came back and landed a Michinoku Driver. Owens tried a Powerbomb on the apron, but Sami escaped and tried an Arabian Press Monnsault however he came right down on the apron on his head and shoulder. It actually played into the match, as Sami continued to sell his arm, the announcers actually mentioned his shoulder surgery and Owens worked over the arm after the spot. Match went into another gear at 12:15 when Sami hit a Brainbuster on the apron (!!!) and Owens just avoided being counted-out. They did the Frye/Takayama spot and the crowd went crazy. Sami went for his ring post DDT but Owens caught him with a Superkick in mid-air then smashed him with a Cannonball while he was still caught in the turnbuckle. Owens hit a Frogsplash for a near-fall then Sami threw big Half-and-Half Suplex for another near-fall that received a standing ovation. Owens hit the Pop-up Powerbomb but Sami barely got his foot on the bottom rope. Finish saw Sami land some more Exploders and he delivered to Yakuza kicks to get the pin. – They pushed this as the blow-off match between the two and they certainly worked it like it was the final encounter for the time being. It is bizarre that Owens & Sami are on the same brand if their feud is over, but obviously they can go back to it whenever they want. Match was really outstanding and it almost felt like a super-heated G1 match. (**** ½).
Natalya vs. Becky Lynch. – Natalya over in 9:00. This was pretty much the death spot, as nothing could follow Owens/Zayn. Crowd were dead. After weeks off attacking each other at every opportunity, Nattie & Becky proceeded to trade holds and roll-ups early on. Finish saw them do the old ref break in the corner which allowed Nattie to land a cheap shot and she won with the Sharpshooter. (**).
IC Championship: The Miz (C) w/Maryse vs. Darren Young w/Bob Backlund. – No Contest at 8:41. Crowd were dead for this as well. Finish was an absolute mess and built to nothing because Miz & Young are on different brands. Maryse slapped Backlund, who took an absurdly comical bump. Maryse then fell on her ass for some reason and sat on the ground while Backlund ripped his shirt off. Miz got out of the ring and shoved Backlund for another comedy bump. Young then got out of the ring and put Miz in the Cross-face Chicken Wing and the ref called for the bell. No announcement was made and Young held the Chicken Wing for ages until a bunch of refs ran down to break it up. Afterwards, Young starred at his hands like crazy Mr. Backlund from 1994. This was horrid. (DUD).
The Club: AJ Styles, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows vs. John Cena, Enzo Amore & Big Cass – Cena, Enzo & Cass over in 14:30. Enzo cut a typically great promo beforehand and worked the crowd into a frenzy. Match was good, however there wasn’t much of a structure to it. All that happened was the Club got the heat on Enzo forever then he made the hot tag to Cena, who ran wild, and they did a protracted parade of big moves and near-falls, but the crowd were into it and it was entertaining to watch. Cena & Styles were the legal men, however everybody was in the ring hitting moves and the ref just stood by like a goof. Some of the big spots included Anderson giving Cena a Spinebuster on the announcer’s table, Enzo hit Anderson with the Deep Impact DDT off the steps on the floor and the Club hit the Magic Killer on Big Cass. Finish saw Cena & Styles battle on the ropes and Cena hit a Super AA to get the pin on Styles. – The announcers played up the idea that the Club were “expanding” with the draft and not splitting up. Clearly, we’re getting another Cena/Styles match at SummerSlam because Big Match John needs his singles win back. (*** ½).
Randy Orton returned and was on Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel. They talked and bantered forever and Orton eventually hit Jericho with an RKO. They hyped up the Orton/Lesnar match at SummerSlam and the key line from Orton was, “No enhancement needed,” which Jericho said he would probably get in trouble for. The irony of Randy Orton mocking another man for failing a drug test is almost poetic.
WWE Championship: Dean Ambrose (C) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns – Ambrose retained in 18:06. All the GMs and Commissioners were out at ringside. Reigns, who did in fact look noticeably bigger, was absolutely despised and there was a thunderous, “Roman sucks” chant. Match was good, but for a while it was just a basic three-way. Things picked up when Ambrose & Rollins double teamed Reigns and they gave him the old Shield Powerbomb through the announce table. Rollins then pulled out a chair and nailed Ambrose in the back which was a nice callback to when Rollins turned on the Shield. The action improved greatly while Reigns was resting and Ambrose & Rollins worked together. Reigns eventually came back and Powerbombed both men then he kicked out of a Pedigree from Rollins. Finish saw Reigns hit Rollins with a Superman Punch and a Spear, but Ambrose gave Reigns the Dirty Deeds DDT and pinned him clean in the middle. Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan ran around ringside celebrating and the entire SmackDown locker room emptied to join in the party, including the Usos – Roman Reigns‘ cousins. – It was a pleasant surprise to get a decisive clean winner here considering all the speculation surrounding what they are going to do for the creation of the second World title. It is too early to tell if Vince has finally given up on Reigns; he did do the clean job, however he also worked the match as a total babyface and did in fact have the match won before Ambrose came in at the end. If I had to guess, I would say they will probably pull back on Reigns for the time being and get over the idea that he is “serving his punishment,” which they will no doubt try and turn into yet another redemption story at some point in the future. (*** ½).