By Jason Powell
WWE Battleground Hits
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn: The show stealing match of the night. This was the best of the Owens vs. Zayn matches on the main roster by far. It was so good that I have a hard time believing that it’s their last match even if WWE went into the match actually intending for for that to be the case. That said, I would still like to see one of these guys traded to Smackdown. Owens could really shine as one of the Tuesday night’s brand’s top stars. Granted, the guy shines in whatever he does, but I believe he’s more be positioned as a top wrestler on Smackdown. Either way, this was a tremendous match and this is one of those rare times when I won’t complain if WWE finds a way out of their stipulation by going back to this match.
Randy Orton and Chris Jericho: This was the best talkshow segment in years. I went into this with mild expectations, but the two veterans really made this click. Jericho did his finest work in the host role by getting agitated and then pushing buttons in a way that made fans want to see him take the RKO. I love the way they dragged it out. You knew the RKO was coming, but you didn’t know when, and the fans were begging for it by the time Orton performed his signature move. Meanwhile, Orton made the right call of returning as a more traditional babyface. He was likable and engaging. Everyone is talking about the “no enhancements needed” line, but I actually thought his setup line about how it takes 15-20 suplexes to go to Suplex City, yet only one RKO to go to Viperville was great. This segment filled a lot of time, yet it never got boring. More importantly, it did a very nice job of setting up the Orton vs. Brock Lesnar match.
Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE Championship: A strong main event with an outcome that never felt predictable. I’m still not buying Ambrose as a long term champion. Obviously, he will gain credibility with each major title defense, but his title defenses don’t feel like major events at the moment. In fairness, both of his matches with Rollins felt overshadowed by the WWE Draft, and this match did not get the build it needed due in part to Roman’s suspension. Bearded and bulkier Reigns got the same reaction he was getting prior to the suspension. It will be very interesting to see what comes next for him. Was the suspension the face saving out that Vince McMahon needs to call an audible? Will they just pick up where they left off with Reigns? Finally, the Rollins act is losing momentum. As good as Seth is, it feels like we’ve seen this all before, and he’s paying the price for creative bringing him back in the sniveling heel role rather than shaking things up and playing into the emotion of him returning from a major knee injury.
John Cena, Enzo Amore, and Big Cass vs. AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson: Enzo’s pre-match mic work was a blast. I felt bad when Big Cass had to follow that. Cena staying quiet made him the smartest guy in the ring. There’s nothing he could have said before Enzo spoke that anyone would have remembered, and there was simply no following Enzo on this night. The match itself was entertaining, though I didn’t care for the outcome. I have no problem with the babyfaces going over, but I thought one of the benefits of going with a six-man tag was that they could avoid having Styles lose. At this point, both men have pinfall victories over one another and we’re heading into the usual rubber match we get from Cena’s bigger feuds. I thought the hook for Cena fans would have been that Cena is finally going to get Styles in a singles match without any help from The Club, but now we’ve already seen him pin Styles while Anderson and Gallows were present. I was also surprised that we didn’t get any indication that The Club is bothered by being drafted to different brands. I guess they are saving that for Raw.
Bayley and Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte and Dana Brooke: A crowd pleasing opener with the fans getting their way with Bayley being the mystery partner. A number of fans grumbled going in about Bayley being the latest thing to overshadow Sasha. Bayley is the least of Sasha’s issues. The real problem is that WWE kept Sasha off television for so long when they could have been establishing her persona for casual WWE viewers who don’t watch NXT. One can only hope they pull this off before what appears to be a SummerSlam showdown title match with Charlotte.
New Day vs. The Wyatt Family: A good match with a solid payoff to the story of Xavier Woods being afraid of Bray Wyatt. I like the way his character finally conquered his fear, and I really like that Wyatt was still victorious. I am a bit fearful of where this is going. The Wyatt Family are being split with Bray and Erick Rowan moving to Smackdown, but the Wyatts winning this match seems to put them in line for a tag title shot. I hope it’s simply forgotten tonight and they go their separate ways because I have no desire to see WWE blowing off the rules of the split. Then again, we don’t even know what the rules are when it comes to champions. If the world champions float between brands, then perhaps we could still get New Day vs. Wyatt and Rowan without making a joke of the split right out of the gate.
Tyler Breeze and Fandango vs. The Usos: A surprisingly straight forward match with a nice finish. I mistakenly assumed this would be more comedy silliness like we saw last month with the sunburn silliness, but they actually played it straight with Breeze and Fandango and gave them a big win. Here’s hoping they ditch the bad team name and make these two the serious heel team they can be.
WWE Battleground Misses
Brand Loyalty: WWE laid it on a little thick last night by making the main event seem like it was more about which brand would end up with the WWE Championship than it was about which man would win the title. It’s one thing for Seth to kiss up to Stephanie by making it seem like he’s doing for her, but it would have been nice to have seen him talk about how it’s all for him when he thought he was off camera. Ambrose should have wanted to win the title for himself and to prove something to his former Shield mates. Jake Barnett wisely pointed out in our Dot Net Members’ audio review that things became truly ridiculous when the Usos came out and hoisted up Ambrose on their shoulders. Why would they celebrate the man who just beat the cousin they’ve been teaming with? Why do they care that he is bringing a singles title to Smackdown that they will probably never compete for?
The Miz vs. Darren Young for the IC Title: A flat match with a strange finish. I was trying to figure out the official ruling 15-20 minutes after the match and the WWE website team clearly had no clue either since they hadn’t listed the result yet. Is it just me or did the Miz and Maryse tribute to Eyes Wide Shut get a better reaction from fans than the actual film received from moviegoers?
Rusev vs. Zack Ryder for the U.S. Title: I never bought into the idea of Ryder beating Rusev for the title to begin with, but then it seemed like there was no chance when Ryder’s NXT tag partner Mojo Rawley was drafted to the same brand. The highlight of Rawley’s debut was Rusev deadpanning his hyperactive antics.
Natalya vs. Becky Lynch: I felt bad for both women for having to follow the Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens match. This felt like an old fashioned Divas buffer match despite the fact that the work of the women was solid. I’m cool with Natalya going over in that Lynch needs a rival on Smackdown, and a win over Natalya would have essentially ended their program.