WWE's second annual Battleground pay-per-view event can be summed up in one word...well, maybe more of a guttural utterance: Ugh.
If you skipped the show, you're probably wondering how this happened. Yes, it was clearly a lame-duck show with SummerSlam plans firmly in place, but it was a lame-duck show that had a bunch of matches that looked really good to great on paper, plus a new champion would be crowned and at least one other title changed seemed likely.
The show itself started well enough with The Usos vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. After a slow (ostensibly by design) first two falls consisting of the Wyatt Family getting the heat, they had a tremendous run of near-falls leading to the surprise finish of The Usos retaining the titles. While it really goes without saying that it was an excellent match with these two teams, they really outdid themselves this time. It wouldn't shock me if this leads to a TLC match or something similar at SummerSlam.
The show quickly fell off a cliff when Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins was cancelled by Triple H after Ambrose initiated a backstage brawl between the two. I saw some people on Twitter holding out hope that it would be added back, but there's no babyface authority figure to combat Triple H, so it wasn't. They did come back for a few cool brawls, including Ambrose popping out of a car trunk to attack Rollins, but it was a gigantic disappointment.
Here's the problem: Whoever in WWE realized it was too soon to do the match was right. They should have held it off until SummerSlam from the beginning, but the fact is that they advertised it for Battleground. If they did a match that was thrown out after it quickly broke down into a brawl, that would have worked better. Just make the initial brawl longer, structure it more like a match and revisit it all night like they did anyway. It would've heated up the feud more instead of coming off as a ripoff.
I guess this will happen more often in the future: If it's a TV show that happens to be part of a $10/month subscription service and not a $55 pay-per-view event, then you can cancel advertised matches like it's an episode of Raw. Just because it's more justifiable in theory than it would have been five months ago (even if it's not actually justifiable) doesn't mean we have to like it, though.
It came off like this was a late decision in putting the show together, like the card was already timed out when the call was made. From that point on, every other match and segment felt like it ran longer than it should have. On an otherwise good show, that would be one thing, but the timing changes took a mediocre to bad show and made it painful.
It got worse with Rusev vs. Jack Swagger. Leading up to the show, it was highly anticipated as a good style matchup because both have had really good power matches with Big E. The storyline was fun, too, and it caught fire like nobody could have expected. Here, it was disappointing all around. Lana's promo about current events deflated the crowd, and it was hard to get them back, which they did, but it took time. In the ring, they didn't click as well as expected, and the count-out finish fell terribly flat. Obviously, it was too early for the "real" match here, too.
With hindsight, they should have turned this into some kind of gimmick show, maybe adding something like a King of the Ring tournament. The long-term storylines for SummerSlam and Night of Champions have promise, but they didn't want to rock the boat, and we got a show that was stuck in a holding pattern. Even the pleasant surprise of The Usos retaining their titles was kind of disappointing in the greater context of a show where nothing happened.
Well, actually, something happened. The one thing guaranteed to happen: We have a new WWE Intercontinental Champion. Cesaro, who went a losing streak like most soon-to-be champions were...was eliminated before the final four, by Heath Slater of all people. His back-and-forth with Kofi Kingston was the highlight of the match, but in the end, what stood out was that the winner and new champion is The Miz. Yes, that Miz.
I get why they did it. The execution was terrible, though. He hid outside of the ring to ambush the ostensible winner and eliminate him, which is really, really overdone in WWE battle royals. To make matters worse, when the "final two" of Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler pointed at ringside, it was when the camera showed Miz in the spot they were pointing at. At first I thought "Oh, that was clever," but they were pointing at the belt. Like Kane in this year's Royal Rumble, the cameraman showed him when he wasn't supposed to.
It went a long way in making a thrown-together, throwaway show feel even more inconsequential. The finish to the main event did the same thing. If you've seen John Cena in a Triple Threat or Fatal 4-Way Match...well, ever, and he won, they used that finish tonight. He broke up a pin, hit the Attitude Adjustment dropping one guy onto another and scored the fall. If you've seen it once, you've seen it a million times. When you saw it, you knew it was the finish, but not in a good way.
Even if the show was filler, it didn't do a good job at being filler. The show should have gotten us pumped for SummerSlam, but it didn't. If I wanted to watch three hours of hit-or-miss WWE wrestling with terrible time management, I'd watch Raw.
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