Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Battleground 2014 preview

Battleground 2014 is very obviously a show that's designed to do little more than kill time. In practical terms it will function as a break between the point where the build for SummerSlam hasn't started and the point where it has. Because that's how WWE works. Monthly supershows are what they've done for so long that they don't know how to do anything else.

Not that it's necessarily a bad thing. I mean, just because it's only there to fill time before a more important event doesn't mean it can't or won't feature anything of merit. In fact it looks like a pretty good card. Peculiar main event aside there are a number of matches that could prove worthwhile and memorable.

First of all there's the Chris Jericho versus Bray Wyatt match. This is obviously a comedown for 'The Eater of Worlds' after his rivalry with top boy and current world champ John Cena. But that's actually a good thing. Wyatt v Cena had outstayed its welcome and their matches, while not bad, were never exactly extraordinary. In 'Y2J' Wyatt has someone he can beat cleanly and convincingly in an exciting match. And it's a win that will probably mean something given Jericho's (inexplicable) immense popularity.

But is that what will happen? Will the pair have an exhilarating match that ends with 'The Highlight of the Night' staring at the lights? I'm reasonably sure that's the outcome we'll get. I'm less convinced it'll be a great match. It could be: when Jericho's on he can be great and Wyatt is gradually proving himself a reliable hand. Plus he’s nothing if not charismatic and compelling to watch. I suspect the match will veer towards the basic and that their rematch (probably happening at SummerSlam) will be better.

The other two members of Wyatt's family are also involved in a promising match. For the second pay-per-view in a row Luke Harper and Erick Rowan will challenge the Usos for the tag team championship. And I'll say right now that I think we'll get a title change.

At last month's Money in the Bank the Wyatt Family unsuccessfully challenged for the tag team titles. The teams met again on a subsequent episode of RAW and that time the Wyatts came out on top. It's classic WWE booking, challengers defeating champions in a non-title situation to gain a title match. It's a fine approach in moderation but WWE use it all the time and it now means nothing. It's particularly disappointing to see it used in this feud because the rivalry originally span off of the Cena v Wyatt programme. It feels like a step backwards.

This match will be fought under two-out-of-three falls rules. That's a stipulation usually reserved for more technical rivalries. Harper and Rowan are not the archetypal two-out-of-three style guys. For that matter neither are Jimmy and Jey. But it's a stipulation that can be used to ratchet up drama fairly easily and creates a number of different storyline options for the match. The four men could surprise us and steal the show.

If given enough time and freedom Paige v AJ Lee could be really good. With so many members of the roster in a battle royal I think they'll get the time but I don't think they'll get the freedom.

The thing with this match is that it's happened twice before and each time was really short and saw the Divas title change hands. In addition to that the last month has seen the pair in a hit-and-miss shades of grey heel-face dynamic. An official change in attitude from Paige seems certain and will be a good thing when it comes. This match will either play host to it or very clearly set it up for the near future and as such is likely to be more driven by storyline than anything else. That could lead to a better match, and probably would in a different company. Here it just feels like Paige and AJ are going to have too many tasks to perform to have the barnstormer of a match they deserve to have.

The result could go either way. I'm picking AJ to win as it would play nicely into Paige’s heel turn.

One match I don't think stands any chance of being anything but below average is the battle royal. The closing moments will probably be good and there'll probably be some exciting spots mixed into the body of the bout (hey, Kofi Kingston's in there so he'll be avoiding elimination in some thoroughly amazing fashion that makes Michael Cole mark out) but that aside it'll be a tough watch. That's the battle royal tradition.

I'd be happy with Sheamus winning to unify the Intercontinental and United States titles (more on that here), or Ziggler, Cesaro, Dallas or Fandango winning because they're all enjoyable. I wouldn't be shocked by a Rusev victory considering the way he's been used over the last few months. He’s not officially announced but he could be a last minute addition easily enough. I'll pick Cesaro because it feels like the time's right to move him up another notch.

The pre-show contest between former Funkadactyls teammates Cameron and Naomi is almost certainly going to be a train wreck. Cameron was becoming increasingly dispassionate about her career as a Funkadactyl, as evidenced by her application of lip gloss during a recent tag match, and Naomi got fed up with her and they had what was known in ECW as a cat fight. I’ll pick Naomi to win because why not?

Rusev v Jack Swagger could be a great hoss fight. There are a few things working against the pair, specifically Swagger being new to playing face and Rusev not having worked anything that’s not a squash of some sort since being called up, but I don’t think these are insurmountable obstacles. Besides, people seem really into babyface Swaggs and really not into heel Russian invader Rusev. But even if it’s the greatest thing on the show there’s not much doubt as to who’ll win. ‘The Raging Russian’ will go over to continue building him for his inevitable feud with Cena.

The clash of the former Shield pals is one match I'm confident will be as good as it sounds. Rollins and Ambrose are rightfully talked about as men who will headline WWE events for years to come. Each has their own strengths which made them very good teammates. Complementing one another's strengths as opponents will require different approaches from both but I'm sure they'll be up to the task.

What's nice about this match is that it hasn't been rushed. Rollins betrayed 'The Hounds of Justice' two months ago and this will be the first televised singles encounter he's had with either of them. It's been refreshing to see WWE putting Rollins and Ambrose against one another in brawls and multi-man matches instead of sticking them in a one-on-one match at the first opportunity. If only they could should such restraint more often their shows would be far more bearable.

The question of who'll win is a tough one. I'm expecting them to wrestle again at SummerSlam and possibly Night of Champions too. A rematch would seem more logical if the heel's cheated to win the first encounter. That would let the babyface even the score in match two before the pair agree to settle things once and for all in a stipulated feud-ender. That means Rollins wins here, unless their involvement in Money in the Bank counts as the first. But I don’t think it does. I’ll predict a Rollins win, possibly with assistance from Kane, Triple H, and-or Orton.

Two of those guys, Orton and Kane, are involved in the evening's main event. I'd really enjoy Ambrose v Rollins being the penultimate match, Orty and 'The Big Red Machine' interfering, and Cena and Reigns (the other two main event participants, for the record) coming out to even the odds, allowing the show to flow straight into the final match. Sadly I don't think it'll happen. It's a bit too ECW for modern day WWE. A pity. It would give the event a different vibe and make it memorable.

The four-way main event is an oddity on an otherwise promising show. It features Cena and Orton in the same match for the second month in a row, half a year after they finished their most recent (tedious) rivalry. It also features Kane in yet another WWE title match years after he should have been dropped as a contender. For that matter it's a little concerning that Roman Reigns, the man expected to be the next big star, was simply placed in the match by Triple H. It would have made far more sense to have Reigns battle for a fair shot. Y'know, like Daniel Bryan and countless other wrestling good guys have done? As the babyface opposed to the heel authority figures it doesn’t really make sense for Reigns to simply be handed championship matches.

Cena's in this match to kill a show before facing Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. Orton and Reigns are in there to set up their singles match at SummerSlam (which has already been sufficiently set up with months of feuding, but whatevs). Kane's in there to play a part in setting up Orton v Reigns and to keep him relevant should Daniel Bryan miraculously be ready to return to action at 'The Hottest Show of the Summer' (spoiler: he won't be) or possibly to set up a triple threat opposite Orton and Reigns (which would be uninspired considering the three of them are in a four-way here. It'll probably be a plodding match that takes an age to get going and the outcome doesn't seem to be in any doubt. Cena will win.

I want to be blown away by Battleground. There's enough on the show for that to happen. It will be dependent on whether or not the relative lack of storyline’s translate to a greater emphasis on match quality. The show could be a case of nobody really trying too hard, looking passed Battleground to the more important SummerSlam. I hope that doesn't happen. After a run of frustratingly muddled special events WWE needs something excellent. Battleground could be it.

Predictions summary:
John Cena to retain the WWE championship
Seth Rollins to defeat Dean Ambrose
Bray Wyatt to defeat Chris Jericho
AJ Lee to defeat Paige
The Wyatt Family to defeat the Usos
Rusev to defeat Jack Swagger
Cesaro to win the Intercontinental championship battle royal
Naomi to defeat Cameron

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