7/23 Powell’s WWE Battleground Live Review: Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton in a Punjabi Prison match for the WWE Championship, AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens for the U.S. Championship, John Cena vs. Rusev in a flag match

By Jason Powell

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WWE Battleground 2017 
Aired live on WWE Network and pay-per-view
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Wells Fargo Center

A “these colors” video package opened the show and focussed mostly on the Punjabi Prison match and the flag match… Tom Phillips, JBL, and Byron Saxton were on commentary. Phillips said the night is about honor, legacy, and pride. He hyped up the Punjabi Prison match as the structure was shown hanging above the ring…

New Day made their entrance and got in on the patriotic theme by wearing U.S. flag themed gear. As they played to the crowd, the broadcast team checked in from their desk and then introduced the German (Sprockets!) and Spanish broadcast teams. The Usos made their entrance while ring announcer Greg Hamilton introduced them…

1. Jimmy and Jey Uso vs. Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods for the Smackdown Tag Titles. Kingston connected with a kick on Jey to start and then tagged in Woods for some double team moves that led to a two count. Jimmy reached in and grabbed Woods, allowing his brother to take offensive control. The Usos isolated Woods. Kofi took a hot tag at 5:15 and worked over Jimmy and also played to the crowd.

At 6:00, Kingston tagged in Woods and then climbed up top and dove onto both Usos with his trust fall, but they caught him and slammed him at ringside. The Usos also took out Woods, who came back with a near fall at 7:10. Woods was tossed into a Samoan drop for another two count. At 9:10, Woods leapt off the top rope toward Jimmy, but legal man Jey superkicked him on the way down and covered him for a two count. Jimmy applied a submission hold, but Woods reached the ropes to break it at 11:00.

Kingston returned to his corner for the first time since being powerbombed at ringside and just in time to take a tag. Kingston and Woods teamed up for Midnight Hour on Jimmy for another two count. Jimmy caught Kingston with a superkick, then tagged his brother, who hit a top rope splash for another near fall. The Usos set up for double top rope moves, but Woods pushed one down and Kingston avoided a splash by Jimmy. Kingston hit Trouble in Paradise, then Woods followed up with a long distance top rope elbow for the win. Phillips said New Day are the first team to ever be Raw and Smackdown Tag Champions…

New Day defeated The Usos in 13:50 to win the Smackdown Tag Titles.

Powell’s POV: A good match with both teams kicking out of a lot of big moves. The crowd was fairly quiet early, but they definitely warmed up to the match even though it was more of a “this is awesome” style of reaction than having a strong preference for one team over the other. I’m surprised they didn’t wait until SummerSlam to go with the title change.

A WWE Network commercial aired… A shot aired of A.J. Styles warming up backstage… The broadcast team spoke at ringside and narrated highlights of Baron Corbin attacking Shinsuke Nakamura at Money in the Bank…

2. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin. Nakamura performed his full entrance and was then greeted with “Nakamura” chants before Corbin made his entrance. JBL said Nakamura and Corbin are two of the best strikers today. Phillips pointed out that Nakamura was unbeaten in singles action since joining Smackdown. Corbin took an early powder at ringside. Nakamura motioned for him to come in. Nakamura went to ringside, so Corbin reentered the ring to avoid him.

Corbin took offensive control and applied a bearhug at 2:50. The fans chanted for Nakamura again. Nakamura broke the hold with elbows to the side of Corbin’s head and then went for a triangle, but Corbin avoided it and picked up Nakamura, who landed on his feet and ate a bit boot from Corbin, who covered him for a two count. Corbin reapplied the bearhug. Nakamura broke free. Corbin went for a chokeslam, but Nakamura tumbled to the mat from an odd exchange with the broadcast team saying that Nakamura must have hit Corbin on the way down.

Nakamura became the aggressor and performed a couple of high knees to the midsection of Corbin, who was positioned over the top rope in a corner. At 8:30, Nakamura avoided a charging Corbin, who slid under the ropes and returned to the ring to throw a lariat that turned Nakamura inside out. Corbin went for a suplex, but Nakamura caught him with a knee to the side of the head. Nakamura threw more knees.

Nakamura went for his finisher at 10:00, but Corbin countered into a Deep Six slam for a near fall. Corbin and Nakamura traded punches and misses. Corbin grabbed Nakamura by the throat, but Nakamura countered with a Backstabber and followed up with a spinning kick. Nakamura dropped a leg to the back of Corbin’s head.

Nakamura went to the corner and set up for his finisher again, but Corbin remained down. Nakamura picked up Corbin, who kicked him below the belt for the DQ. Corbin smiled as he was down on the mat, then grabbed his MITB briefcase and started to leave before returning to the ring and hitting Nakamura with it. Corbin put Nakamura down with End of Days…

Shinsuke Nakamura beat Baron Corbin by DQ in 12:25.

Powell’s POV: An unsatisfying finish made a little better with Corbin’s post match attack. The post match attack was better for heat on Corbin, whereas the match finish was the type of finish that causes most fans to be upset with the company rather than the wrestler. Here’s hoping this feud continues on Smackdown and they’re not bringing this back for SummerSlam, as that would mean that the wait for Styles vs. Nakamura will continue.

After some advertising, a shot aired of Kevin Owens backstage while the broadcast team hyped his match with AJ Styles for later in the show. The broadcast team set up a video package on the five-way elimination match…

3. Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Tamina vs. Lana in a five-way elimination match for a shot at the Smackdown Women’s Championship at SummerSlam. Naomi sat in on commentary and said she’d like to face anyone other than Lana because she already beat her twice. Lana and Tamina worked as a team early and took turns taking shots at Charlotte while everyone else sold at ringside. Lynch returned to the ring and joined Charlotte in performing double exploder suplexes.

Charlotte and Lynch cleared the ring and then squared off. Charlotte performed a neckbreaker.. Natalya returned to the ring and hit Charlotte with a dropkick. Natalya applied a Sharpshooter on Charlotte, but Lana broke it up and tried to steal a pin, but Charlotte kicked out. The broadcast team said Lana was trying to steal the glory. Lynch caught Lana in the Disarmer, but Tamina broke it up. Lynch applied the hold on Tamina, who tapped out for the first elimination.

Lynch applied the her finisher on Lana seconds later, and Lana tapped out to be eliminated. Natalya rolled up Lynch and held her tights to eliminate her seconds later. Charlotte struck Natalya from behind and covered her for a two count. Charlotte went for a Figure Four, but Natalya countered into a cross arm breaker attempt. Charlotte powered her up for a powerbomb for another two count.

Charlotte performed a moonsault, but Natalya put her knees up. Natalya rolled her into the corner so that her head hit the bottom turnbuckle and then pinned her clean. After the match, Naomi entered the ring and offered Natalya a handshake. Natalya glared at her and then walked away…

Natalya won a five-way elimination match in roughly 11:00 to earn a Smackdown Women’s Championship match at SummerSlam.

Powell’s POV: It’s nice to see that Natalya will be featured prominently on a SummerSlam event. She obviously deserves it. The negative is that it feels like Charlotte belongs in the women’s championship match at SummerSlam. Instead, they continue to hold off on her getting a title shot. I assume there’s a storyline reason for holding off on Charlotte getting a title shot. I assumed they held off this long with the plan of having her challenge at SummerSlam, but apparently that’s not the plan.

A video package set up the U.S. Championship match…

4. AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens for the U.S. Championship. Hamilton delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Styles was the early aggressor. Owens avoided a charging Styles at ringside, then picked him up and crotched him on the ring post. Owens rolled Styles back inside the ring, performed a senton, and covered him for a two count.

At 7:00, Styles performed his series of strikes. Owens ducked a strike and then DDT’d Styles for a two count. Styles connected with his strikes and a clothesline. At 10:10, Styles performed a fireman’s carry neckbreaker for a two count. At 10:45, Styles performed a springboard 450, but Owens put his knees up and covered Styles for a two count. Owens followed up with a cannonball and another two count, then showed frustration over not getting the pin.

At 12:50, Styles caught Owens in a Torture Rack and then spun him into a powerbomb for a two count. Owens appeared to have some blood on the tip of his nose. Styles went to the ropes, but Owens cut him off. A short time later, Styles set up for his Phenomenal Forearm finisher, but Owens rolled to ringside and tripped him up.

At 15:45, Styles set up for a Styles Clash. Owens powered up Styles onto his shoulders and tossed him at the referee. Ref bump!!! Styles checked on the ref and then walked into a superkick. Owens went for his Popup Powerbomb finisher, but Styles avoided it an applied the Calf Crusher. Owens rolled into a crossface as the referee started to recover. Styles rolled out and applied a crossface of his own. Owens bridged into a pin and the referee made the three count as Styles held the hold. Owens’s music played and he was named the winner…

Kevin Owens beat AJ Styles in 17:50 to win the U.S. Championship.

Powell’s POV: A weird finish. You’d think the match would have ended when Owens intentionally threw Styles at the referee, but the same ref woke up and counted the pin. AJ’s shoulders were not down initially, but the ref didn’t start his count until they were down, so I believe the finish was executed well. So now apparently we’re getting Styles vs. Nakamura without a title in play assuming we get the match at SummerSlam?

Backstage, The Singh Brothers told Jinder Mahal that they won’t have the honor and privilege of standing next to him due to the Punjabi Prison structure. Jinder told them not to worry and said he alone would punish Orton. However, he said he would not be alone when he celebrates with 1.3 billion people in India who consider him the greatest champion of all time…

The broadcast team set up a flag match video package…

5. John Cena vs. Rusev in a Flag Match. Hamilton explained the rules of the match, noting that the flag must be taken to the stage and placed on the country’s pedestal. Rusev was out first and then they showed broadcast team members from a bunch of countries that don’t give a shit about USA vs. Bulgaria. Cema walked out and gave his wristband to a kid, then grabbed the American flag and held it by his side while he saluted.

Rusev made the first play for a flag, but Cena grabbed him by the back of the head and bulldogged him off the ropes. Cena went for his flag, but Rusev performed the Electric Chair drop. Rusev dominated the next couple of minutes, but Cena stopped him from grabbing the Bulgarian flag. Rusev came right back with a DDT. The crowd didn’t react, so Rusev played to them a bit and got some minor heat.

Cena came back and performed the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but Rusev avoided the Attitude Adjustment and instead hit a spinebuster. Rusev tossed Cena to ringside and then made a slow play for his flag. Cena cut him off. Cena leapt off the top rope and into an awkward looking powerbomb from Rusev, who then climbed the ropes and pulled his flag down.

Cena came back and put Rusev down with an AA. Cena climbed the ropes to grab his flag, but Rusev caught him in powerbomb position. Cena countered into an STF. Rusev tapped out while the broadcast team explained that there are no submissions or pins in a flag match. With Rusev out, Cena climbed the ropes and pulled down the American flag. Once Cena got down, Rusev caught him with a kick at 11:35.

Rusev tried to head toward the stage, but Cena cut him off at ringside and ran him into the ring steps. Cena returned to the ring and picked up the American flag and made the slow march toward the stage. Rusev hit Cena from behind. Rusev tried to walk past Cena with his flag, but Cena grabbed his leg. Both men fought to the stage, but neither man had a flag. Cena dove off a pedestal toward Rusev, who caught him and performed a fallaway slam on the stage.

Rusev sat up and asked where his flag was. Rusev grabbed two tables and set them up side by side next to the American podium. Rusev slammed Cena’s head onto the podium. Rusev brought Cena to the top of the podium and tried to give him an AA, but Cena blocked it and shoved Rusev off the podium. Cena picked up the flag, but Rusev blocked him and they traded clotheslines.

Cena grabbed the flag and crawled toward his podium. Rusev picked up the stand that Cena needed to plant the flag in and used it as a weapon. Rusev applied the Accolade on Cena on the stage. Rusev walked down the ramp and grabbed the Bulgarian flag while Cena could be seen rolling behind the Bulgarian podium. Rusev went to plant the flag, but Cena blocked him with his hands.

Cena went for an AA on the podium, but Rusev blocked it. Rusev applied the Accolade, but Cena powered up and then walked up his podium and gave Rusev an AA through the tables for the biggest pop of the match. Cena picked up the American flag and planted it to win the match. Cena stood on the stage and saluted the flag afterward…

John Cena beat Rusev in 21:10.

Powell’s POV: Good effort from both men, but the idea of a flag match in 2017 was really sappy and it was hard to get past that. Here’s hoping this is the end of the feud because it’s not doing anything for either man and there’s no reason to have a rematch at SummerSlam.

A SummerSlam commercial aired… The broadcast team hyped SummerSlam tickets for next month’s show…

The latest Fashion Files segment aired. They were still in X Files mode. While Tyler Breeze and Fandango were hugging, the Ascension entered the room and said that it was them all along. Breeze said it was a letdown, but series finales are usually a letdown. Fandango showed them the head of Tully his toy horse. The Ascension claimed they destroyed it initially, then freaked out when they actually saw it, so Fandango gave them the boot.

Breeze asked if it wasn’t them then who was it. The lights went out and Breeze was attacked. Fandango had a flashlight and then he was struck from behind. Both men were down on the ground. Fandango was dragged away. A graphic said the truth is still out there…

Powell’s POV: For Fandango’s sake, I hope this doesn’t end up like that beatdown scene on FX’s Snowfall the other night.

6. Mike Kanellis (w/Maria Kanellis) vs. Sami Zayn. The broadcast team recapped the finish of the first meeting on Smackdown. Sami set up for an early dive to ringside, but Maria pulled Mike away. Maria barked at Sami then Mike hit Sami with a cheap shot punch. At 2:45, Mike blew Maria a kiss. She blew it back. Mike caught it and punched Zayn with the same hand. Funny.

Mike performed a big boot on Zayn and covered him for two, then got pissed when he didn’t get the three count. Mike punched Zayn a few times, then performed another PDA with Maria. Zayn made his comeback and tossed Mike to the floor. Zayn followed up with a running flip dive while Maria was on the other side of the ring. Zayn rolled Mike back inside the ring and then performed a cross body block off the top rope for a two count at 5:50.

Zayn performed a tornado DDT and set up for an exploder suplex, but Maria entered the ring and stood in his way. The referee ordered Maria to ringside. Mike hoisted up Zayn for a move, but Sami shoved him off and then performed the exploder suplex and a Helluva Kick for the clean win…

Sami Zayn pinned Mike Kanellis in 7:15.

Powell’s POV: I didn’t expect that finish if only because I thought they would keep Mike unbeaten a bit longer. I don’t think there was any real damage done, though, and I assume this feud will continue.

An ad aired for “Pure Country, Pure Heart” with Shawn Michaels and Willie Nelson… Kevin Owens, Natalya, and the winner of the Punjabi Prison match will be the guests on Talking Smack with Renee Young and Jerry Lawler…

The broadcast team discussed the Punjabi Prison match. JBL said there’s a reason that it’s only the third time the match has been held (the first two sucked) and said wrestlers who enter do not come out the same. The prison structure lowered as music played and then a video package set up the WWE Championship match…

Jinder Mahal made his entrance minus the Singh Brothers. They had a pop-box with the Indian broadcast team speaking about Jinder and 1.3 billion people (and other things in their language). Orton made his entrance to what seemed like a very mild reaction.

7. Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton in a Punjabi Prison match for the WWE Championship. JBL noted that he called the first two Punjabi Prison matches (poor guy). Once Orton was in the ring, the outer structure was lowered. There were no LED cases for the ring posts all night due to the structure. Hamilton stood at ringside and delivered the introductions and rules of the match.

Jinder called for a door to be opened. A clock graphic with a Punjabi Prison tyle bars around it appeared on the screen for the 60-second countdown. Orton came closest to exiting the first cage, but Mahal stopped him. The door was closed. Mahal performed an armbreaker on Orton and targeted the right arm of Orton.

Jinder continued to work over Orton’s arm and then called for the second door to open. Orton came back with a fallaway slam. The door closed after 60 seconds with neither man escaping the first cage. Orton tried to run Mahal into the cage, but Mahal jumped up and tried to climb over the first structure, but Orton pulled him down. Orton went for a hanging DDT, but Orton escaped it and tossed Mahal into the structure. The fans were silent.

The third door opened and closed with neither man exiting, meaning there’s only one door remaining. Phillips explained that if the fourth door closes, then the wrestlers have to go over the first structure, then escape the second structure by going over the top of it as well. Both men ended up on their knees. Orton looked to the bored crowd and then performed a powerslam and a hanging DDT at 11:30.

Orton called for the final door to open. Orton set up for the RKO as Phillips talked about it being brilliant strategy if Orton could pull it off. Jinder cut him off with a high knee. Jinder went for his finisher, but Orton came back with an RKO. Suddenly, the Singh Brothers appeared, presumably from underneath the ring, and pulled Mahal out of the first structure. The door closed just as Orton crawled to it.

The Singh Brothers tried to revive Mahal. Orton climbed the inner structure as Mahal started to climb the outer structure. Orton made it to the top and stretched his legs to reach the second structure, just as Undertaker did in the first version of the match. Orton knocked Mahal off, but the Singh Brothers pulled him down.

Mahal started to climb the structure while the Singh Brothers tried to hold Orton down. Orton worked over both Singh Brothers and then pulled Mahal back to ringside. Orton fought with the brothers again, then Mahal hit him with a kendo stick that he pulled out from underneath the ring. Mahal grabbed Orton for his finisher, but Orton backed him into the cage a few times to break it.

Orton pulled out another kendo stick and struck Mahal with it repeatedly. Orton struck one of the Singhs with the stick, then took another shot at Jinder, and threw it to the ground. Orton bent down and the cameras got a shot of the marks on his back from Jinder’s cane shots. Orton sold left arm pain and started to climb the structure. One of the Singh Brothers climbed through one of the squares in the cages and climbed up the structure to slow down Orton at 20:00.

Orton eventually punched the Singh brother off the structure and through one of the broadcast tables for the first big pop of the match. Jinder climbed the structure and met Orton. They traded punches and then ended up back at ringside. Orton performed a hanging DDT on Mahal. Orton struck the remaining Singh brother with a chair, then jabbed it into the gut of Mahal before slamming it over his back.

At 25:15, Orton started to climb the outer structure. The remaining Singh recovered and followed him up, but Orton kicked him down. Music played and Great Khali made his entrance. Orton, who was bleeding from the arm, climbed to the top of the structure. Khali arrived at ringside and shook the structure. Orton ended up back inside the structure. Khali grabbed Orton by the throat. Mahal climbed the structure and stopped to watch Khali choke Orton, then climbed over and down the structure for the win. After the match, Mahal and Khali celebrated with the title belt at ringside…

Jinder Mahal beat Randy Orton in a Punjabi Prison match in 27:40 to retain the WWE Championship.

Powell’s POV: The effort was there and this was the better of the three Punjabi Prison matches, but that’s not saying much. Comically, Khali choking Orton through the cage was visual proof that either guy could have climbed through the big cage squares at any time. Here’s hoping this match will be retired permanently. They had all the bells and whistles and the only thing the fans seemed to care about was one of the Singh brothers taking the huge table bump. Overall, this was a weak show. There’s some real booking damage on the Smackdown side. It seems like the most popular acts are stuck in secondary programs and they keep putting off the matches that fans want to see. I’ve never heard a Philadelphia crowd as quiet as they were tonight and it wasn’t just during the main event. On the bright side, at least we have Great Khali back on WWE television. Hey, wait… Anyway, I’ll have more to say in tonight’s member exclusive audio review.

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