The Suicida Appraisal: WWE Battleground

photoI’ve described WWE Battleground as possibly the “weakest PPV of 2014 so far” and I think I owe you an explanation as to what I mean by that. I don’t mean to say that it was a bad show, in fact there was plenty that I enjoyed, but overall I took very little away from Battleground beyond the fact that this show just existed for its own sake. In the wider picture of WWE in the summer of 2014, this is as “B-Show” as it got for me. As I said however, there was some content I greatly enjoyed, so without going into the minutiae of the PPV itself & it’s order of events (for that please check out Jon Sullivan’s excellent PPV rundown here ,) here is what I liked & disliked about WWE Battleground 2014.

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The Usos’ title defence against Luke Harper & Erik Rowan was one of the matches I was eager to see and I was not disappointed in the slightest, the more these two teams work together, the better they seem to get. The 2/3 falls stipulation worked wonders, giving the Usos the opportunity to come from behind & retain their belts & oh my word, Harper & Rowan just get better & better, neatly carving out their own identity away from their messiah Bray Wyatt. Harper is a superlative worker, with grace & poise belying his massive frame, and to his credit Erik Rowan is starting to put several pieces together & is just about starting to come into his own. His double superplex on both Usos from the top rope was a thing of stunning brilliance that made my jaw drop, and Rowan is starting to develop a monstrous streak, barely containable by Harper, which is far more entertaining to me than being “the one with the beard & sheep mask”. This was the match of the show by a clear mile and is a strong candidate to be on my year-end best of list. My one complaint: maybe this would’ve been the best opportunity for a Harper/Rowan title win setting up a final match between them at Summerslam. I can see this feud continuing regardless, but it would have been easier for me to me to keep a similar level of interest in the feud.

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I’m assuming that the leg injury that Seth Rollins suffered prior to Battleground was more severe than we’d hoped and precluded his ability to have a worthy match with Dean Ambrose, but instead we got a series of vignettes & segments that told a wonderful story of Dean being a massive thorn in the side of the Authority & its plans for Seth. Constantly attacking Seth with the fervour of a rabid dog, seemingly with no regard for his or anyone else’s personal safety is a great character trait for Dean that could serve him well as both a face & heel going forward, and his “slasher movie” inspired hiding in the trunk of Seth’s car had me grinning from ear to ear. No real match then, but still plenty of momentum going forward.

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It’s rare for me to say with complete conviction that a match had what I consider “the wrong result” but Chris Jericho vs Bray Wyatt was one of those instances. Bray needed something good going on after his loss to John Cena, and for a time this match with Jericho looked to be it, the opening video package was spectacular, and the match itself was something I really enjoyed. Some may call it slow, I would defend it as “deliberate” as I thought it would build to a big finish. Sadly, a codebreaker from nowhere and a clean pin to give Jericho the win wasn’t exactly the big finish I was hoping for and like with the Usos & Harper & Rowan, this feud has been robbed of a lot of heat for me if it is going forward till SummerSlam. I still love the Wyatt character, but I am frequently left less & less enthused by his mounting losses.

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The Battle Royal’s outcome was left in little doubt for me as soon as I saw Miz being sent out of the ring without being eliminated, and while I’m no fan of the Miz, his very unpopular win was very funny to see unfold on twitter, and the intentionally annoying “Hollywood Miz” gimmick is doing it’s job. At last Miz is in a meaningful role where he has the ability to thrive. Also in the battle royal, whilst there was a lot of “filler” both in its participants & it’s content, some genuine moments of fun were to be had: Kofi’s antics at avoiding elimination were impressive as always, Heath Slater eliminating Cesaro made me mark out more than a “rational” 32-year-old man perhaps should. And the action between Sheamus & Dolph Ziggler was very entertaining, if a little worrying at times as some actions went very wrong. That said, I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more between them. As with most battle royals, the match picked up in its mid to closing moments, but before that it fell into the usual trap of not being particularly entertaining, but built to a decent crescendo.

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Fandango & Adam Rose had a match where Adam Rose was a bystander in his own PPV appearance, playing observer to the ongoing Fandango/Layla/Summer Rae story, this was announced very late & served very little purpose, poor Rose is becoming irrelevant before obtaining any real relevancy on the main roster and that’s a real shame.

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My slight feeling that Battleground was a pit stop on the road to SummerSlam is best illustrated by the Naomi vs Cameron match from the kick off preshow. Clearly someone sees something in Cameron that I can’t & feel the need to give her a cheap outfit assisted roll up pin to presumably keep this feud alive possibly until August. I’m of the opinion that Naomi would be better served away from Cameron & possibly be knocking on the door of the diva’s title scene. The match was fine, but sadly of little consequence.

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Speaking of the Diva’s title. Paige challenging AJ fell oddly flat in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. I think because I’d made my mind up that Paige would go ballistic & turn heel on AJ in this show, that it didn’t occur may have clouded my judgment, but even without that, this didn’t quite live up to my expectations given just who was in the ring, hopefully this feud will continue & we get some kind of satisfying outcome.

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I’m not a fan of multiple man matches that don’t have some kind of crazy gimmick attached such as Money in the Bank so I wasn’t that into the main event. As much as I like or at least respect everyone in there, the WWE formula of having 2 entrants wrestle for a while before either one or more gets replaced and then repeat the process. John Cena retaining the World Championship was possibly the right result on the night, but everyone at least got a chance to shine, and the finish was fun with John hurling Randy Orton onto Kane with the Attitude Adjustment prior to pinning “The Devil’s favourite demon”. Of greater concern to me was Roman Reigns, who despite a strong showing did have little moments of un coordination that must be ironed out if he’s to flourish as WWE’s newest top babyface star. This wasn’t a bad match at all, but my dislike of this match type curtailed my enjoyment of it.

And now we come to the elephant in the room…

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As I write this, the international community is in outrage over the alleged shooting down of a Malaysian airlines passenger plane near the Russian/Ukraine border by Russian government endorsed separatists with the loss of over 300 innocent lives. With the tragedy still raw & with anger mounting, I feel that WWE was being incredibly insensitive by allowing Lana to appear on Battleground & as part of her pro-Russian rhetoric include a reference to “recent current events” in such a cartoonish manner. WWE is no stranger to this, it’s exploitation of the 1st Gulf War in 1991 was equally distasteful, and just as unwelcome by me. To use the very real deaths of non combatants as a method of garnering “cheap heat” from an audience already invested in the storyline is indefensible, and only served from turning me off completely from a match I was initially looking forward too. Whole some may be able to brush this aside as “wrestling being wrestling” I cannot, and I feel a great sense of frustration about that, on several levels.

Chiefly, I’m frustrated with myself that I couldn’t let that particular comment slide by & just enjoy the Jack Swagger a Rusev match, which I did watch again where much of my anger did subside but even so, the match was a bit of a disappointment, with Rusev in particular being robbed of much of his aura, instead winning on a fluke.

Secondly, I’m incredibly disappointed that someone within WWE thought that referencing the tragedy was a good idea, as it really soured my feelings on Battleground over all. It would’ve been possible to dial back the Lana/Rusev routine & still garner heat without resorting to this. It may have been one line in a promo, but it was enough to completely ruin a segment I was greatly looking forward to, and lowered my opinion of the entire Rusev angle if this continues.

Aside from all that, Battleground was a good show, let down by some questionable decisions here & there, with only the tag title match and the Ambrose/Rollins saga living long in my memory. It was still somewhat entertaining, but after a String of PPV events I loved, this was a minor let down, hopefully SummerSlam won’t continue this trend & build upon what transpired on this show.

Martin Dixon.

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