While the WWE Battleground 2014 spotlight is aimed at the Fatal 4-Way for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, a grudge match, a meeting of mammoths and a clash between two smooth-tongued stars have the best shot of eclipsing the main event.
Bray Wyatt vs. Chris Jericho, Jack Swagger vs. Rusev and Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins each have the talent and buildup necessary to steal the show come July 20.
John Cena's title defense may not be the match that ends up making headlines the day after the event. Battleground features a trio of contests with the potential to provide the most thrills and be what fans talk about in the weeks following the pay-per-view.
As good as Paige vs. AJ Lee could be, there hasn't been enough buildup for it. Champion and challenger exchanging pleasantries isn't the way to inject momentum into a feud.
Perhaps WWE is waiting until SummerSlam to truly milk the dramatic potential of this collision.
The Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal will benefit from its various subplots and stars such as Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler. The format, though, makes it less likely to steal the show. Non-Royal Rumble Battle Royals are generally not great matches, often because they're too crowded early on.
The Usos and The Wyatt Family snatched away the audience's attention at Money in the Bank.
Even with a 2-out-of-3 Falls stipulation, which should prove a valuable addition, this tag team title match is not anticipated as much as it should be. That's thanks to WWE doing nothing with this story. Pitting the two teams in rematches again and again doesn't count as storytelling.
The following matches have more animosity and spark thanks to more buildup and hype.
Bray Wyatt vs. Chris Jericho
While fans have seen The Wyatt Family and The Usos lock horns several times, this is a fresh matchup pitting the present versus the future. A former WWE champ and WrestleMania headliner meets a man who could soon match those achievements.
The contrast of veteran and up-and-comer, fan favorite against dark beast and speed versus power makes this a compelling bout.
It's unclear what Wyatt's motives for attacking Jericho are, but it appears that he's angry with Jericho for being a false prophet. An angry Wyatt should equal Jericho, leading to the Eater of Worlds being especially destructive and shouting at his foe mid-match.
That promises to create some lasting images throughout.
Jericho's blend of mat wrestling and high-flying moves is similar to what Daniel Bryan brings to the ring. Wyatt's match with Bryan at this year's Royal Rumble was tremendous, earning four stars from Dave Meltzer in his Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t ProFightDB.com).
There's a chance this clash is of similar quality.
Stealing the show is a big part of Jericho's track record anyway. His days in WCW's cruiserweight division, his WrestleMania XIX match against Shawn Michaels and, more recently, his work against CM Punk at last year's Payback are all evidence of how well he can captivate a crowd regardless of his spot on the card.
Should he add to his resume with another attention-grabbing performance, Wyatt and the fans tuning in to Battleground will be the beneficiaries.
Jack Swagger vs. Rusev
If WWE gives this match enough time, it will be each man's magnum opus as well as the best match of the night.
Both Swagger and Rusev are most adept at being human battering rams who splinter everything in front of them. Pitting them against each other is going to create a symphony of brute force.
Big E tested Rusev some in his last two pay-per-view matches. Swagger promises to do more than that.
WWE has built up Swagger as capable of standing up to The Bulgarian Brute. Don't expect another one-sided Rusev beatdown but a collision more akin to two rhinos smashing into each other on the savanna.
There is a healthy amount of energy heading into this as well.
The simple America-versus-Russia dynamic has had fans roaring for a man who was just recently a villain. On Monday's Raw, their brawl inspired the fans in Richmond, Virginia, to leave their feet and cheer.
Count on more of that when they enter their first official matchup.
It will be a novel one in that they haven't wrestled before, but their previous confrontations have shown off an electricity that's created when they meet.
If WWE is serious about pushing Rusev, it would be wise to have him win a grueling, hard-fought battle against his toughest opponent to date. If that happens and this isn't another truncated story on Rusev's resume, this has an excellent shot of stealing the show.
Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins
Two potential megastars and former teammates meet in a match soaked in bad blood.
WWE has done a fantastic job of keeping the animosity between Rollins and Ambrose at a high level. They have attacked, distracted or degraded each other in some way each week. On Monday's Raw, Rollins joined Kane and Randy Orton in mauling Ambrose backstage.
Add that act to Rollins and Kane cheating Ambrose out of his chance at the Money in the Bank briefcase, their various brawls and, of course, Rollins breaking up The Shield by swinging away with a steel chair. Ambrose will be enraged from bell to bell.
The lead-up to their first singles match against each other has been brimming with suspense.
Fans have waited for the defiant hero to crush the traitor he once called friend. That anticipation will aid this in being one of Battleground's best offerings.
Ambrose and Rollins have a lot at stake outside of their current storyline as well. This will be one of their most high-profile matches as singles competitors. It will serve as a proving ground for whether they can cut it as solo acts.
Greatness here forces WWE to pay even more attention to them. That is more than enough inspiration for both men to pour themselves on the mat in the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Sunday.
Expect them to do just that. A smart bettor would wager on this bout being the one that is what Battleground will be known for in years to come.
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