Monday, 21 July 2014

Battleground 2014 review

Battleground had it pretty easy. Most people were and are looking past it and the more significant SummerSlam pay-per-view in August do the pressure was off. It just needed to be a fun show with a handful of enjoyable matches. But, unfortunately, fun is a concept WWE struggles with.

The show started with the traditional video package. It focused on John Cena winning the WWE championship at Money in the Bank and his defence in a fatal four-way match that would headline Battleground. Towards the beginning the words "As one man rises" were shown on the screen. It made me think that "Always rising" would be a suitably vague bit of positivity for a new Cena slogan. Anyone reading this form WWE’s T-shirt division is welcome to that idea. The video was nicely put together, as you'd expect.

This is what wrestling's all about, basically.
The opener was, for the second month in a row, for the WWE tag team titles. Champions Jimmy and Jey Uso defended against the Wyatt Family's Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. The Usos got a decent enough reaction but it was nothing compared to the Wyatt boys. They were given a raucous good guy reaction. Things got better for the official babyfaces as they managed to get their name chanted in the opening minutes as Jey was isolated in the ring. The pair would’ve been in real trouble if even a mauling at the hands of the slovenly challengers couldn’t rally fans to their cause.

The Wyatts got the first fall with a Harper big boot to Jimmy, just after Jimmy had tagged in. It was pretty sudden and really didn't make any sense. Jey had been isolated for a few minutes before Jimmy tagged in and got pinned so it would've made more sense for him to be pinned. The second fall was just as sudden, Jimmy tagging in and rolling up Harper after the beardy lad had charged chest first into a turnbuckle.

That the first two falls were raced through so quickly was disappointing. It made the stipulation pointless, as though the four men couldn't wait to get things evened up for a regular match. The opportunity to tell a different sort of story or create a sense that the Wyatts had a massive advantage over the champions was thrown away.

Thankfully the third fall saw the match improve. The teams spilled out to ringside so the Usos could do some dives over the top rope and off the crowd barrier. None of that, or the top rope dives back in the ring, was enough to keep Harper (the wise choice for main Wyatt worker) down for a three count. He retaliated with a suicide dive of his own. Jey super kicked him from outside the ring and Jimmy immediately rolled him up for a convincing false finish. Seconds later there was another when Jimmy survived a Harper power bomb. The best was saved till last though: Jimmy rolled out from under a Rowan splash and crotched Harper on the top rope before tagging his brother, who immediately hit a splash on Rowan. The crowd lost it when ol’ red beard survived.

Rowan blasted both champions with a double suplex from the central rope. Moments later Harper no sold a super kick and flattened Jey with a rolling elbow. Both Wyatt lads were laid out with double super kicks and Harper received a double splash before he was pinned. The two-out-of-three stip could have been put to far better use had the big moments of the third fall been spaced out across the first two.

It's nice to see WWE sticking with the Usos as champions. As much as I’d like to see Harper and Rowan get the titles they'll end up meaning more the longer the Usos hold onto them. For that matter so will the Usos themselves. WWE seem to want to turn them into the go-to tag team. There are worse things going on in the company. It’s a good move.

A bland Seth Rollins backstage interview was interrupted by Dean Ambrose. The two former Shield boys brawled briefly before Triple H showed up and ordered Ambrose ejected from the building. Even a something as simple as pummeling a bad guy improves in quality thanks to Ambrose’s maniacal babyface mode.

Michael Cole channelled his inner-Tony Schiavone as he desperately tried to make out he didn't know what would happen in place of the planned Ambrose v Rollins second match. It is not one of his strengths, although in fairness Schiavone had genuine anarchy to play off in WCW. Cole should’ve tried starting a sentence or two with “Fans…” as the great man himself did.

Can these two make that title mean something?
AJ Lee and Paige were sent out for their match, allegedly a last minute call because of Ambrose’s building ban. Their entrances were accompanied by recaps of the two title changes they've shared, Paige beating AJ the night after WrestleMania and AJ regaining the strap the night after Money in the Bank. Their frenemies storyline was also alluded to. JBL trampled all over that by loudly announcing he doesn’t believe they’re friends, blissfully missing the point of the entire thing.

The match bucked the trend set by their first two by lasted more than two minutes and competitive. Paige controlled the early moments before taking a headscissors from the champion. Outside the ring 'The Anti-Diva' took a mild and heelish shortcut when she rammed AJ into the barricade. After a sloppy sunset bomb back in the ring Paige sold irritation, either at her inability to beat Lee or Lee's lack of fight.

AJ applied the Black Widow. Paige countered out and hit a Paige Turner but AJ kicked out, prompting more frustrated glances. A PTO attempt turned into a series of covers culminating with Paige taking a Shining Wizard. That put her down for the three count. AJ celebrated in the ring as Paige skulked backstage. It was a good match that the audience was invested in. If the two ever get twenty minutes they could produce something great.

Backstage Randy Orton wandered into a red-lit corridor and chatted to Kane. 'The Viper' wanted 'The Big Red Machine's' help winning the title in the main event. Kane implied he wasn’t interested and that he wanted the strap for himself.

Out in the crowd Renee Young was with Booker T, Christian and 'The Analyst' Alex Riley (yep, that’s his official nickname now, apparently). A-Ry and Christian picked Reigns to win the main event. Booker went with Orton, after dropping a WCW politicking reference. This segment almost certainly existed to illustrate that Booker is superior to everyone else who gets wheeled out for the expert panel segments.

Match three was the hotly anticipated hoss fight between Rusev and Jack Swagger. Lana and Rusev got incredible heat with their pre-match promo knocking America's foreign policy and (as usual) extolling the virtues of Russia and Vladimir Putin. They finished up by promising Rusev would crush J-Swagg. Colter tried to cut a promo of his own before the match but got a slap from Lana.

Fans of slobberknockers would not have been disappointed with this match. Both men got a go at pasting the other and they exchanged the initiative a few times. They never let it get stale by keeping one guy in control too long. Rusev won via countdown. That could sound depressing but it really wasn't. Swagger had applied the ankle lock in the ring, Rusev being trapped for quite some time and selling effectively before he finally managed to grab the ropes. Swaggs applied it again outside and Rusev sent him into a turnbuckle, KOing ‘The All American American’. It was an effective sequence that worked because of Rusev's selling and Swagger's rampant, cheap heat popularity. After the match 'Putin's Powerhouse' trapped Swagger in The Accolade to loud boos. A rematch is coming our way which will see Rusev get the decisive win. I’m looking forward to it.

In the back Stardust and Goldust stood in front of a black backdrop with some golden lights on it. They talked about Guardians of the Galaxy (sort of) and then Stardust blew star stickers at the camera. No context was provided for why this happened. It was just a way of getting the pair on to the show. Apparently putting them in the battle royal wasn’t an option. It was more important to have Diego and The (Not So) Great Khali involved.

Back in the arena Seth Rollins walked out to the ring to accept a victory via forfeit. Justin Roberts made the announcement and Rollins posed on a turnbuckle. Then he got attacked by 'The Lunatic Fringe'. JBL and 'King's' idea of putting this over was to discuss how security personnel would be fired for allowing Ambrose back inside. The former pals had a wild brawl that saw around a dozen assorted referees and agents dispatched to the ring to keep them apart. It took the presence of Triple H and a pair of handcuffs to get Ambrose backstage, carried by agents including Finlay and Bill DeMott. It was an incredibly effective segment that should serve to make people even more desperate to see Ambrose get his revenge on the cowardly Rollins.

The run sheet (fans…) got back on course with Bray Wyatt versus Chris Jericho. 'Y2J' had to contend with interference from Harper and Rowan until the referee sent them backstage a few minutes in. Bray looked concerned at the loss of his boys and immediately knocked Jericho off the ring apron into the ring barrier to take control. There were a few instances of sloppiness in the sequence that followed, confirming Jericho was having one of his famed off nights. It was to be expected. He does his best work against guys he's familiar with.

Wyatt countered the Lionsault, blasted him with a Yuranagi suplex and steamrolled into him in a corner. Stealing one from the ROH play book he busted out a DDT on the apron. Michael Cole even made the obligatory "hardest part of the ring" comment. 'The Highlight of the Night' countered Sister Abigail into a Walls of Jericho attempt. When that didn't pan out he switched to the Codebreaker, which earned him a surprising pinfall win.

That wasn't the result I’d expected or wanted. JBL referred to it as an upset but it’s more accurate to describe it as poor booking. Jericho gained nothing from the victory. All it did was make Wyatt's bigger wins over the last nine months, I'm thinking specifically of his clean win over Daniel Bryan at Royal Rumble, his six man wins over The Shield, and his shady victory over Cena, look like flukes instead of examples of Wyatt being a talented competitor who should be taken seriously.

I hope security grabbed the briefcase. It's made from solid gold.
We then went back to Seth Rollins one final time. He was leaving the arena with a couple of security fellas who didn’t look like they’d stand a chance against a crazed Dean Ambrose. That Rollins was leaving made no sense at all. It had been made painfully clear that The Authority's plan was for Rollins to cash in his MITB contract should Cena retain or Reigns win. Ambrose leapt out of a car boot and the pair had another scuffle. Rollins ended up driving off leaving Ambrose to seethe.

Every member of the Intercontinental title battle royal was treated to a televised entrance, which ate up an obscene amount of time. That could have been avoided. Guys could have entered during the parking lot fight, leaving the big names to receive fuller entrances. It did at least allow us to gauge popularity. Cesaro, Bo Dallas, Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus got the loudest reactions.

Bad News Barrett came out before the bell to say that he'd beat whoever won and regain the title. The fans cheered that, even after BNB had knocked Florida as a retirement home.

The match was a perfectly adequate battle royal. There as a well-received standoff between Sheamus and Ryback a few minutes in, which proved that there’s still a chance WWE could change their minds and make something out of ‘The Big Guy’. Kofi Kingston got two “crazy method of avoiding elimination” spots. The first saw him sunset flip over Cesaro as Cesaro was stood on the apron, then skin the cat and roll back into the ring over Cesaro. The second saw him launched from the ring only to land on Big E’s shoulders. Cesaro then suplexed him off E back into the ring.

The match (seemingly) came down to Sheamus, Bo Dallas and Dolph Ziggler. Bo was the first of them to go. His eviction from the ring earned boos. 'The Show Off' was a little overzealous in his desire to put on an exciting exchange, moving so frantically that some basic moves were botched. That aside the pair had a fun tussle that ended with Ziggler super kicking Shaymo off the apron. But that didn't earn Ziggler the championship: Miz was still in the match and slipped back in to toss Zigs over the top rope.

Yep, Miz won the Intercontinental championship over Cesaro, Bo Dallas or Dolph Ziggler. So much for my wish that WWE will rebuild its mid-card division as a thriving pit of great matches where the IC strap is the be-all-and-end-all. Another complaint about the battle royal was that it didn't feature El Torito. Chaotic multi-man matches like these are exactly the sort of time he should be deployed: you get all the fun of his character without him taking a spot from someone else.

That left only the main event. Kane and Randy Orton were met with indifference. The most notable thing about Kane’s entrance was that his mask and wig were crooked. The most notable thing about Orton’s entrance was his blue trunks. Where were they when Bluetista needed some colour coordination, Randy? Reigns' entrance was not met with the booming home state ovation WWE probably would've liked. He was cheered though, so that was good. Cena got his traditional mixed reception.

Early on the match was about ‘The Devil’s Favourite Demon’ working with Randy Orton. They would split up to incapacitate a babyface then join up to double team the other. This was designed to play off the established storyline allegiance and, more importantly, keep us waiting for a Cena versus Reigns segment. The inevitable spot where Orton and Kane started bickering and then fighting got the flat response it deserved.

When it came the reigns and Cena showdown failed to sparkle. They traded punches before Reigns dropped Cena with a Samoan drop. Cena sidestepped a Superman punch and gave Reigns a belly-to-back suplex. Reigns was on his feet and blasting him with a spear before Cena could hit a Five Knuckle Shuffle. Kane made the save.

Reigns went on a rampage, giving each of his three foes the running drop kick before spearing Orton through a crowd barrier. Back in the ring Kane tried to choke slam him but Reigns powered out and speared him. Cena broke the cover and AAed Kane. Reigns broke up that cover before he and Cena went back to trading punches. That barely got going before Cena slapped Reigns with a random AA. Kane was once again on break up duty for that.

No belt for you.
Cena and Reigns both took choke slams. ‘The Big Red Monster’ decided to pin Reigns but didn’t get three (as if a choke slam is going to put anyone in a WWE championship match down these days). Reigns escaped a Tombstone piledriver attempt and speared Kane. Orton broke up the cover and stung Reigns with an RKO. Cena appeared before Orty could do anything like try a cover, giving him an AA onto Kane to keep hold of the championship.

After a slow start the main event turned out to be satisfying. From the first Cena and Reigns confrontation onwards it failed to slow down. But there was nothing special about it and all felt very familiar, not good when new boy Reigns was involved. There were also far too many pin break ups. It is okay for people to kick out of moves under their own steam you know, WWE.

Battleground was a decent show that could, and probably should, have been better. It started out strong with a compelling, if flawed, tag title match, and the Divas match, Rusev v Swagger and the Ambrose and Rollins brawl all doing what they needed to. Sadly it fell apart in the second half. Wyatt v Jericho suffered from a Jericho off night and the resultant sloppiness while the battle royal was poorly placed and featured a flat winner. Battleground’s destiny is to be forgotten. Sadly, everyone involved embraced that instead of trying to fight it.

No comments:

Post a Comment