Sunday night, something terrible happened, and, surprisingly, I’m not referring about something that happened on Game of Thrones. I’m referring to the WWE event — can we stop calling these shows pay-per-views now, since, well, that’s not what they are anymore? — that took place in Philadelphia called Battleground. This show was appropriately named, as it was a battle between of sorts between giving the fans something good and giving them something that made them want to re-watch the Red Wedding to lighten the mood. The WWE creative team chose the latter, which, if you’ve been watching Smackdown Live in recent weeks, isn’t all that surprising but it is disappointing.
Here’s what I took from this disastrous of a PPV:
I already miss The Usos as Smackdown Live tag team champions.
I get it, and the crowd wanted it to happen. Also, if you already came away from this show thinking you just watched the worst wrestling show of the year, imagine if the creative team elected to keep the titles on the Usos in a schmoz finish to kick off this show. The Usos defeating the New Day clean wouldn’t have gone over well, either, so, really, they had to put the straps on the New Day. That doesn’t mean I have to like it, though. Unlike the Jinder Mahal’s of the world, the Usos deserved a solid run with the titles. After playing the same characters for what felt like a decade, the duo was able to flip the script with ease and immediately become one of the best heel tag teams in the company. Now, I’m not sure where they go from here, as this feud is likely (and should be) finished, but the company has once again found themselves in a precarious situation with a limited number of tag teams once again on the main roster. It seems like they’re destined to get lost in the shuffle, feuding off-and-on with Mojo Rawley and Zack Ryder until the next Superstar Shakeup. They deserved better.
It’s impossible to get excited about a Naomi vs. Natalya match for the Smackdown Live women’s title at Summerslam.
That feels like a Judgement Day title match, which is fine in May, but it’s not something you do at the second-biggest show of the year. Natalya, even at thirty-five, is a solid worker at this stage in her career, but Naomi needed a big-time opponent at Summerslam after spinning her wheels against Lana in recent weeks. She’s not going to get it, though. Since the brand-split, the Smackdown Live creative team has done an exceptional job handling the women’s division, but that’s no longer the case. The Lana-Naomi feud bombed, Charlotte Flair is still trying to work as a babyface, and the roster suddenly just feels…thin. I think Lana or Tamina just broke up another pin in another elimination match while I was writing this.
I don’t even want to talk about Jinder Mahal. I really don’t, but we have to.
This farce of a championship run continued after Mahal defeated Randy Orton — at least, I think he did, but it was hard to tell watching from home — in another stinker to finally end his disastrous feud with the Viper. And he did it with the help of a returning Great Khali. It shouldn’t be that surprising that the company is double-downing on the Mahal WWE Champion run, because to pull the plug now and reset would be admitting failure. That’s something they’ve never been fond of doing, and, instead, elect to give the impression that what is clearly not working clearly is. Where do they go with their JBL 2.0 from here? A Summerslam WWE title match against John Cena? With AJ Styles losing the United State title back to Kevin Owens does he get put back in the main event to take the title off Mahal? Who knows? More importantly, though, who cares?
The Rusev and John Cena flag match was exactly what you expected.
Rusev is a solid talent, and Cena is only going to be around so much longer, so why do this match? If you’re going to revisit the Cena vs. Rusev rivalry why not just let them work an actual wrestling match that fans can get into? This match felt outdated, something you’d expect to see on a TLC show in 2011, except the WWE World Heavyweight title would be on the line. This was lazy. This was a waste of two, above-average wrestlers who should be doing more on the Land Of Opportunity show, not fighting over flag placements.
AJ Styles and Kevin Owens stole the show.
I’m not sure putting on the best match on the worst show of the year matters, but it was. While the women’s No. 1 contenders match was riddled with psychology errors, Styles and Owens told a story that, for the most part, worked. This match even had Owens toss Styles like a ragdoll into the referee like it was nothing at one point in this match. This match was brutal, and Styles vs. Owens feels played out, but it felt like a main event match. It felt out of place on the middle of the show. The crowd was firmly behind the Phenomenal One, while nobody in attendance wanted to see Owens steal the title back. Again, why aren’t these two feuding over the WWE title? But, because we couldn’t have any nice things on this show, the finish fell flat and nobody understood what had happened. What a show.