With Hell in a Cell coming up in just a couple weeks and Survivor Series after that, there was reason to believe that Sunday's Battleground pay-per-view would be little more than a throwaway event. While there was certainly some solid in-ring action throughout the night, that theory was proven true through senseless booking.
It was fairly obvious how some of the matches would play out lower on the card, but the upper-tier bouts weren't handled particularly well. WWE will have a chance to rectify that come Hell in a Cell, but that won't make the viewers who either bought the pay-per-view or attended it in person feel much better.
Here is some further analysis of the bizarre booking decisions that prevented Battleground from being the best show it could possibly be.
Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton No Contest
The rationale behind the Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton Battleground match is somewhat obvious, as the creative team wanted to carry things over to Hell in a Cell, but they upset a lot of people in the process. WWE stopped short of guaranteeing a new WWE champion would be crowned by the end of the night, but most fans went in expecting that to be the case. Instead, the WWE Universe was left without a proper conclusion as the show went off the air.
From an in-ring perspective, Bryan and Orton were excellent. Their Battleground match surpassed the bout they had at Night of Champions, and the crowd was very much into it. With that in mind, the match deserved a sensible ending. That didn't happen, though, due to Big Show's interference. Big Show pulled the official out of the ring when Bryan had the Yes Lock applied to Orton, and he proceeded to knock Bryan out as well.
Referee Scott Armstrong then came to the ring to make the count for Orton. Had the match ended in that manner with Orton hoisting the title, it would have been more than satisfactory. The booking became convoluted, however, as Big Show then knocked out both Armstrong and Orton. The show went off the air with Bryan and Orton incapacitated and with the WWE Championship still vacated. Not only did Big Show's actions make little sense, but it's very much in poor taste to end a pay-per-view with such an indecisive finish.
Triple H's Absence
Another booking decision that directly impacted the main event was the angle that Triple H and Stephanie McMahon had to leave the pay-per-view early. Raw general manager Brad Maddox told SmackDown general manager Vickie Guerrero that Triple H left him in charge of the show, which is a bit strange considering the fact that Triple H never showed much confidence in Maddox as an authority figure before. Also, with so much hanging in the balance with regard to the Bryan vs. Orton match, Triple H leaving is tough to explain.
Triple H has been talking about "what's best for business" ever since SummerSlam, and leaving Battleground is in direct conflict with that school of thought. Triple H has done everything in his power to keep the title away from Bryan, so why would he risk the possibility of Bryan winning at Battleground? The writers were clearly looking for an easy way to explain the messy ending by leaving a bewildered Maddox in charge, but it's still tough to defend.
After Big Show decided to go rogue for whatever reason, there was nothing that could be done to restore order. Triple H certainly could have sorted things out by threatening to fire Big Show on the spot.
WWE seems likely to play up the angle at Hell in a Cell that somebody must leave as the new WWE champion, but Battleground shouldn't have been a casualty to fuel that stipulation. There could have still been a rematch at Hell in a Cell had Orton won unfairly, but instead, the fans were sent home puzzled.
CM Punk Defeats Ryback
One match that fell well below expectations was the bout between CM Punk and Ryback. While the battles between Punk and Ryback last year weren't particularly good, there was hope that things would be different this time around since their roles were reversed and Ryback has had time to improve as an in-ring performer. Even so, there wasn't much rhythm to the match, and the two combatants didn't have great chemistry. Aside from that, the finish didn't do the match any favors, either.
Paul Heyman was about to hit an incapacitated Punk with a kendo stick when the referee's back was turned, but the official saw Heyman just in time. Punk then kicked Ryback below the belt while the referee was addressing Heyman, which allowed Punk to win the match.
While there is nothing wrong with an edgy face like Punk using heel tactics to win sometimes, he shouldn't have won in the first place. Punk took it to Ryback, as seen in this photo courtesy of WWE's Instagram account, and that should have been enough.
It's true that Punk had already lost matches to Brock Lesnar and Heyman leading up to Battleground, but another loss wouldn't have damaged Punk in the least. Ryback, on the other hand, has never been able to beat Punk, and his pay-per-view record is abysmal. Many fans were lukewarm about his partnership with Heyman, and losing his first match as a Heyman guy won't help matters. A rematch seems inevitable after the dirty finish, but Ryback should have been the one to prevail at Battleground.
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