Pruett's Pause: WWE Battleground 2015 - Undertaker returns and my enthusiasm drops, Owens taps out to Cena, an odd combination of solid action and poor decision making, and more!
By Will Pruett
The Undertaker is back. After a one night only appearance at WrestleMania 31, Undertaker made his second appearance since The Streak was broken. This appearance wasn't a match highlighting his greatest hits like the Bray Wyatt one, it was an attack attempting to avenge the loss of The Streak a year and a half ago. In the middle of the Seth Rollins WWE Championship defense against Brock Lesnar, the lights went out, Undertaker came in, Rollins was raptured, and Undertaker viciously attacked Lesnar. There was a lot to process in this moment.
First, we have to look at Undertaker's behavior. His facial expressions, mannerisms and sadistic tendencies indicated he'd be an antagonist in this return. When you think about it, he is halting the action of Brock Lesnar regaining the WWE Championship and distracting him. He is keeping WWE's current key protagonist, Brock Lesnar, from moving forward. If one were to watch this silently, as I did on my first viewing, they'd see this clear as day.
Of course, crowd noise plays a huge part in wrestling. When I watched this show with the sound on (and not backstage at work), I saw the crowd greet Undertaker as a conquering hero. Everything he did, from the low blow, to the silly over-exaggerated evil faces, to the multiple Tombstone Piledrivers, was supposed to be evil. All of these things were cheered by the fans, too excited to see a legend to boo him. Some fans were even bowing to Undertaker as he destroyed Lesnar.
How is WWE going to get fans to boo Undertaker? How is this going to work? He's obviously the antagonist here, but it has been over 11 years since Undertaker has played this role. In this time, WWE has told fans to revere him as the most important legend in WWE. He is seen as the last of the old guard. He is seen as the most important figure in WWE history in many ways. The narrative has convinced fans never to dislike him, so even when he does something deplorable like this, they cheer him.
It seems like Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker is the direction for SummerSlam coming out of this show and this troubles me even more. We've seen a New York crowd turn on Lesnar in the past. We know New York crowds love Undertaker. This calls into question the entire idea of breaking The Streak. If Undertaker defeats Lesnar at SummerSlam, what was the point? It seemed like Lesnar was being used to eventually pass the credibility of breaking The Streak onto someone else (making them the one who defeated the one in twenty-one and one). Presumably, this was meant to be Roman Reigns. Lesnar can't help anyone if he just loses to Undertaker in his first pinfall loss since beating Undertaker. This is a strange situation.
WWE seems to have put themselves in a no-win situation. They created a huge main event for SummerSlam, but they also crested a match neither man should lose. They also deliver a sub-par main event with a dissatisfying non-finish for Battleground.
This is a strange time in WWE booking. Many of these choices seem reactionary. Many of these choices seem weak. Many of these choices seem like WWE is frightened to tell new stories with new talent.
And now some random thoughts:
- Kevin Owens tapping out to John Cena at the end of another good (but not as good as their prior encounters) match was another weak choice to me. I know how John Cena feuds tend to work. He loses one match, then wins the next two or three. Look at Rusev and Bray Wyatt as examples. These feuds don't really help talent. They're established as main event players because they can hang with Cena, but they are also established as definitively below Cena. This is a running theme in WWE booking. Owens is better off than he was before his debut, but worse off than he would have been if he had never had the second and third matches with Cena. If you look at Owens' presentation over the last month, it's clear WWE isn't exactly priming him for anything big. This may be another case of talent making a big debut and fizzling instead of WWE capitalizing on their momentum.
- Owens can be rescued and follow up is key, but I have said this about all of these Cena feuds and the follow up always proves to be weak.
- There is so much more to say about Undertaker. His hair is completely ridiculous. I'm sure he wants to have long hair when he retires (I assume) at WrestleMania, but the look he has now is weak.
- This was the first WWE Network live special since the "Divas Revolution" and the presentation of these women left a lot to be desired. The factions, who were predetermined by an authority figure, each had to pick a woman to have a match. Becky Lynch delivered a promo about how the match will be good. Sasha and Charlotte worked the match. Brie Bella worked with them. The match itself wasn't bad and the commentary team tried to take it seriously. These are positive attributes. The overall feud doesn't exactly excite me. I still believe the time on this special would have been better spent introducing the three new women as characters instead of having a match.
- As I said on Twitter yesterday concerning this story, characters matter far more than in- ring action matters in wrestling. Establish who these women are. Charlotte and Sasha Banks could have their standard well-rehearsed very good match and be greeted by silence on Raw tonight. Let fans invest in them as people, then they will invest in the action.
- Sheamus and Randy Orton had a good match. It didn't excite me. I'm going to copy and paste this every time they wrestle.
- Primetime Players vs. New Day was really fun. I'd love to see these teams on a house show when they get a little more time.
- Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt was decent. There were some convoluted spots, but they (in an unintentional way) represented the feud in general. Reigns continues to have solid matches with mixed crowd support. It is weird to see him constantly losing, as fans won't be encouraged to cheer a proven loser. Reigns' journey is one of the strangest in wrestling today. WWE could do far more to help him, but they tell fairly weak stories. Both of these men have suffered from weak and inconsistent story telling.
- The Miz is a decent heel promo.
This show was fairly weak and it shouldn't have been. The card looked good going in, but WWE got in their own way by telling stories with little to no logic involved. Fans care about continuity. Fans care about character consistency. WWE insults all of their fans when they decide not to honor those things. SummerSlam looks like a lot of great pieces are going to be amassed for a big, but bad, show. WWE's storytelling left a bad taste in my mouth with this one and it was easily the weakest network special since the Royal Rumble.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? If they aren't super annoying thoughts, hit me up with them! Check the Twitter twitter.com/itswilltime or email me at email@example.com.
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