Produced By: WWE
Date: July 20 2014
Location: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida, USA
Some supercards feel inconsequential beforehand. It doesn’t mean that they will suck, nor that they won’t provide entertainment. It means that in the grand scheme of things, they have little significance. There’s usually at least one show a year with this vibe to it, whereby you could skip the show and not miss a beat, as far as following the storylines is concerned.
Battleground 2014 had that feeling beforehand. The main event was fresh, yet it also felt familiar, and the result seemed like a foregone conclusion. Not only was John Cena (Big Match John, don’t forget) defending the WWE Title against former titleholder Randy Orton, the past-his-prime Kane and the not-yet-ready-for-the-title Roman Reigns, but heavy rumours stemming from a leaked PPV poster online suggested that Cena would be defending the gold against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. This show would be the last chance for WWE to pull a swerve and divert from that path, but was it really feasible? Meanwhile, with the exception of Bray Wyatt vs. Chris Jericho, nothing else truly stood out beforehand as being something that you hadn’t seen regularly on Raw or SmackDown. Rollins vs. Ambrose and AJ vs. Paige sounded intriguing, but the show still felt like a preview to SummerSlam during its build-up.
So, how did it turn out? Did Battleground manage to exceed expectations, or did it prove to be as missable as we feared? More importantly, did WWE pull out any surprises on the night to avoid the feeling that this was a filler show before SummerSlam? Let’s take a closer look …
Before the PPV began, we had the Battleground Kick-Off show which consisted of two basic matches: Adam Rose defeating Fandango, and Cameron surprisingly beating Naomi. The Rose gimmick is fun, but it’s hard to see how it can advance up the card; by being outsmarted by Summer Rae and Layla so often, Fandango’s prospects definitely look gloomy. As for the former Funkadactyls: the more athletic and likeable of the two, Naomi, could be an important part of the Divas division given time, but despite winning here, Cameron doesn’t exactly provide one with the same optimism about her future. Anyone who has watched Total Divas will know that she’s not exactly the most likeable woman on the roster, and now that the Funkadactyl gimmick is history, it isn’t difficult to envision that she has passed her peak in WWE.
The opening match of the PPV pitted The Usos against the Wyatt Family members Erick Rowan and Luke Harper. This was for the WWE Tag Team Titles, and it would be contested under Two Out Of Three Falls rules. After their enjoyable match at Money In The Bank, the hope was that the two teams would provide similar excitement in this extended rematch. Happily, they went one better by not only having their best match to date, but arguably the best match that either team has ever had; as a matter of fact, this ended up stealing the show.
There were plenty of big moves and close calls between the standard and logical tag team wrestling, built around the powerful domination by Rowan and Harper, the falls themselves, and the energetic and high-flying comeback moves by Jimmy and Jey. Harper got the first fall with a big boot to the face of Jimmy Uso. Jey managed to catch Harper with a roll-up to even things up at 1-1. Then, we were treated to a smorgasbord of great offence by all involved, from a Harper suicide dive to a Jimmy Uso corkscrew to a great near-fall off a Jey splash to Rowan. The contrast in styles provided us with moves and spots which you don’t always see in WWE tag team bouts, and the crowd was completely immersed by the topnotch doubles action on display. In the end, both Usos hit both Wyatt members with superkicks and followed up with stereo splashes for the victory. A great start to the show, in the best WWE tag team match in years. The Wyatts were only enhanced despite their loss, and The Usos are having a career year as they are heading up what is turning into a vibrant and exciting tag team division.
We were supposed to be getting Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose next. Supposed being the key word. Instead, a backstage attack by Ambrose on Rollins led to Triple H having Dean thrown out of the arena. More on this later.
The next match to actually make the ring was AJ Lee vs. Paige for the Divas Title. This was set up by two brief matches on the April 7 and June 30 episodes of Raw where Paige debuted to end AJ’s long Divas Title reign, and AJ’s return to dethrone Paige and reclaim the crown. Unlike AJ vs. Kaitlyn in 2013, where the matches were a lot better than expected, AJ vs. Paige was actually expected to be really good once they had a proper match, and so it proved here at Battleground, as the two impressed in what was Paige’s biggest match to date, even though she was back in the challenger role.
After Paige escaped the Black Widow submission and AJ kicked out of the Paige Turner (which was executed a lot better here than the bungled PT which saw Paige beat AJ the night after WrestleMania XXX), Paige locked in the PTO but after finding a way out of it, AJ connected with a Shining Wizard to win the match and retain the title. This was one of those matches where the result was both hard to predict and hard to book. AJ losing the title so soon into her second reign after having such a long first reign wouldn’t have made sense, but to keep Paige strong (especially after her unexpected and probably premature heel turn) she couldn’t just lose cleanly. Yet, that’s the route WWE went down. One would assume that this feud will continue, given the lack of true competition for AJ besides Paige right now, but couldn’t a roll-up finish have been used here to make Paige look like more of a threat when the two meet again? It wasn’t a pull-your-hair-out decision, but while AJ winning was sound, having Paige lose decisively to AJ twice within a month doesn’t exactly bode well going forward for the lady who was meant to change the face of the Divas division.
One person who did benefit from a turn was Jack Swagger, now an All-American, erm, American babyface defending the country’s honour for the right reasons against Rusev. Given how WWE is building Rusev up, a Swagger win seemed unlikely, but due to him only recently turning, surely this was not the time or place for Swagger to be crushed, to quote Rusev’s manager Lana. Therefore, WWE gave this match a feud-extending finish which we perhaps should have got in the previous match, as Rusev levelled Swagger with a kick into the post at ringside, and won the match by countout. No doubt, these two will meet again, probably at SummerSlam, where it’s likely that Rusev will get the big victory he needs to move up the card, while it’s hoped that new babyface Swagger won’t be harmed too much by that particular result, when it happens.
Sadly, though, while this was watchable enough, nobody will remember this match for the action, but instead for a tasteless pre-match promo. In the low point of the show, as part of Rusev and Lana’s pro-Russia rhetoric, Lana appeared to make reference to the Malaysian Airlines disaster when she said that Russia, and namely Russian leader Vladimir Putin, were “being blamed for recent world events”. No, Lana didn’t directly refer to the airline tragedy, but realistically what else could WWE have had Lana referring to? WWE put out a statement denying that the two were linked, but let’s be honest, it doesn’t require one much effort to read between the lines here. The promo would have been sufficient without this remark, and anybody with sense could have predicted an undesirably negative backlash to the line beforehand. WWE’s denial of wrongdoing unfortunately suggests that there will be more bad taste promo content to come in future, and as an aside, this situation doesn’t boost WWE’s chances of successfully launching the WWE Network in those parts of the world which were affected or potentially involved in the disaster.
If the production of the show was starting to feel a bit dodgy, then the next segment didn’t help matters. Seth Rollins came out and declared himself the winner of his scheduled match with Dean Ambrose since Ambrose, having been ejected, could no longer compete. Of course, that was the cue for Ambrose to come out and beat up Rollins, before the two were eventually separated by road agents and Triple H. There was no match.
Remember how I said that WWE was effectively using Battleground solely to promote SummerSlam? That was most relevant to this piece of business, to quote Jim Ross. By not having the match here, fans should be excited to see the two ex-Shield members finally collide at SummerSlam. The downside was that we didn’t get what was probably the second biggest match on the card for reasons which I don’t think were entirely justifiable within the confines of the storyline. WWE should have had them start the match, brawl everywhere for 5-10 minutes and then have it stopped in the exact same fashion, giving us a rematch at SummerSlam. By blatantly not giving us an advertised bout here, and not due to injury or another unforeseeable situation, WWE reduced fan interest in the show, and will have made some fans question whether advertised matches will be delivered in future. Which they mostly will, of course; but while the logic was reasonable behind this situation, by simply having the match degenerate into the brawl, rather than having a brawl instead of a match, fans would have been more satisfied by what they got. At this point on the show, we’d had one great match, an eagerly-anticipated match removed from the show, another match with a questionable finish, and the other match had a bad taste promo line. Not so good, WWE.
Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt made sense on paper. After Wyatt lost his feud with John Cena, he needed to decisively win his next rivalry, and the veteran Y2J, who is happy to put over fresh young talent (hell, he lost to Fandango at WrestleMania 29), seemed an ideal candidate. Jericho knows how to get the best out of his opponents and his feuds, and he can always be relied upon to deliver a good or great match depending on who he is sharing the ring with. So, a key win over a big name in what promised to be an exciting match; win-win, or win-win-win or Wyatt.
So you can imagine the surprise when Wyatt, erm, didn’t win: after a smooth match with some nice sequences, as well as interference from Harper and Rowan, Wyatt unexpectedly succumbed to an out-of-nowhere Codebreaker. When the three count hit, my phone started banging itself on the table due to the online uproar from the IWC (Internet Wrestling Community). Okay, I’m exaggerating (obviously), but this was still a weird result; this was a must-win match for Bray, to the extent that barely anyone expected Y2J to come out on top. Which is probably why he did win, because few were anticipating it. It looks like the feud is not over, and no doubt Wyatt will win the rematch, but whilst one can understand Wyatt losing to John Cena, and of course there’s no shame losing to Chris Jericho, this was a setback for the Eater Of Worlds, and his future prospects could now rest on how he performs when the two next lock up. (Incidentally, Jericho also beat Wyatt on NXT in 2013, so perhaps Y2J has Bray’s number … or something like that.)
After Ambrose ambushed Rollins once more in the car park (come to think of it, this whole situation should have been played out over the course of an episode of Raw; it would definitely have worked there), we had the Battle Royal for the Intercontinental Title, vacated after an injury to previous titleholder Bad News Barrett (who came out pre-match to deliver some “Bad News” about him planning to reclaim the title upon his return). Since the match largely consisted of also-rans, I’ll skip ahead to the key moments, which saw Kofi Kingston once again pull off an unlikely escape from elimination with the unexpected assistance of Cesaro (followed by Cesaro humorously yet impressively suplexing Kofi back into the ring from Big E’s shoulders outside the ring), Heath Slater surprisingly eliminate Cesaro (so much for him being built up to face Brock Lesnar), and after some iffy exchanges, Dolph Ziggler seemed to eliminate Sheamus to triumph, only for The Miz (who we were led to believe had been eliminated even though he hadn’t) to run back in and dump Dolph out to win the whole thing.
Despite some cool moments, this match was a bit “meh”, largely due to the outcome. Miz recently underwent a character transformation into a Hollywood superstar/wannabe, so him winning here on the back of a fresh push makes sense. However, Miz has held the IC gold several times before, and not one of his reigns was particularly memorable. Unless Miz has something hidden which will change people’s perceptions of him forever, chances are that this reign will be equally uneventful. Of greater use for the title would have been crowning the recently under-utilised Cesaro as IC Champ, or Dolph Ziggler after a year of largely treading water. I was about to suggest Sheamus could have won, and then he could have been both Intercontinental Champion and United States Champion (thus allowing him to unofficially unify the titles), but since Sheamus’ US Title wasn’t mentioned here, which suggests it is currently irrelevant, that probably would have been a missed opportunity. For Dolph, the ending sequence suggests that he will get a crack at Miz’s title and could dethrone him then, but on the night Miz winning was another moment where you felt that WWE had missed the mark.
And so we come to the main event. As mentioned earlier, a leaked PPV poster for SummerSlam, which was actually leaked before Money In The Bank in June, revealed a John Cena-Brock Lesnar WWE Title match. Therefore, Cena’s MITB win was a foregone conclusion, as was his likely win here over Randy Orton and Kane and the now-solo Roman Reigns. In fairness to WWE, once Daniel Bryan was injured, and considering that most anticipated a Brock Lesnar WWE Title challenge (and likely win) ever since he ended The Undertaker’s Streak at WrestleMania XXX, they had to cast somebody worthy in that role who could carry the gold and successfully headline SummerSlam against the Beast Incarnate. As noted earlier, Reigns isn’t quite ready for that treatment yet, and a rush-job would be wrong for somebody who could one day be the face of WWE (no pun intended). Orton has been there before, and whilst Orton vs. Lesnar sounds fresh, it would require a sudden babyface turn which doesn’t seem right at this point. Kane still has it, but making Kane WWE Champion in 2014 wouldn’t be a good idea. The other candidates who weren’t in this match have all received poor booking in recent times or simply aren’t ready. When you break it down, only John Cena could have been utilised in this role. So, it’s no wonder that Cena won at MITB, and therefore nobody should have been surprised if Cena won here, even if the SummerSlam poster hadn’t been leaked.
What was for WWE to control, though, was how Cena survived Battleground with the title. The Fatal Four Way scenario would have been a cool Raw main event, but for a major PPV, it was only fair. For the reasons stated above, nobody bar Cena realistically had a chance of winning, and while the match itself was entertaining, its biggest spots (such as Cena and Reigns powerbombing Kane who was suplexing Orton from the top rope) were a little too familiar. The Cena-Reigns square-offs were interesting, which bodes well for Roman should the two meet one-on-one in the future. Reigns looked strong, and his performance was the highlight of the match. Crowd reactions to the big man were encouraging too, but this wasn’t to be his night. Tension between Authority members Orton and Kane continued to escalate here, and perhaps a feud between the two is on the horizon. In the end, Reigns tasted an RKO, only for Orton to receive an Attitude Adjustment onto Kane, allowing Cena to pin Kane and retain the title.
No, there were no swerves; Cena does what Cena often does, and that’s win. As noted, there really wasn’t any other route WWE could have gone down, but an upset win for Kane followed by Cena winning back the title on Raw was one option. It was a tricky situation because you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t; keeping the title on Cena makes it predictable, but having the title change hands again (possibly twice, in the scenario I suggested) means that whomever has the gold is even less likely to win when Brock Lesnar gets his shot at SummerSlam. And, remember, Cena vs. Lesnar wasn’t the original plan for SummerSlam; Daniel Bryan vs. Lesnar was. I just wish WWE had given us a memorable main event or at least an intriguing first-time clash to cover Battleground, as opposed to a match which was definitely enjoyable, but looked like being filler beforehand and ultimately, that’s what it proved to be – not unlike the show as a whole.
So, in the end, Battleground 2014 really was just another PPV. With the exception of the frenetic and exciting opener, nothing on the show truly left a lasting impression. There were some good performances but questionable booking decisions, some very questionable promo content, unwanted predictability with the result of the main event and unwanted unpredictability with results elsewhere on the card left one feeling like it wasn’t exactly WWE’s best effort. Although the backlash to Royal Rumble 2014 was greater than to this event, I personally felt that Battleground was the weakest show of the year so far, simply because the card was unexceptional. Try and see the Tag Team Title match if you can, and some of the action elsewhere was fun to watch, but otherwise if you didn’t watch Battleground live, then you probably did a good thing to save your money until (the hopefully superior) SummerSlam takes place next month.
Overall Rating: 6/10 – Reasonable