Isolated in a vacuum, Battleground would look like a solid PPV. The majority of the matches on the card earned the title of “PPV quality” and, based on their reactions, the Tampa crowd was certainly entertained by what they saw.
However, the WWE doesn’t exist in a vacuum. This is a product that has the longest weekly nationally televised episodic show in history. It now streams 24/7 on its own network for $9.99/month, something we’ve been constantly reminded of every five minutes of WWE programming.
In fact, the huge promotional push for the WWE Network appeared to be driving the programming of RAW. In recent episodes, there has been very little change week to week, but the network was pushed harder than any wrestler or story. The WWE has stated that they need one million subscribers to break even and their only released numbers sit below 700,000 and the belief is that they are declining so that push isn’t too surprising.
With that in mind, it seemed only logical that the build of those mediocre and repetitive RAWs pointed towards Battleground as a selling point for the WWE Network. The WWE would get new subscriptions off their free week promotion, sell the crowd with Battleground, and lock fans in for SummerSlam, their biggest PPV event of the quarter, and beyond.
Instead, we witnessed another holding pattern episode of RAW.
And that judgement isn’t even taking the fatal four-way WWE World Heavyweight Championship main event into consideration. John Cena retaining the title might have been one of the more telegraphed results of all time. Rumors have been circulating for some time that Cena would face Brock Lesnar in the main event at SummerSlam and, to remove any doubt, a promotional video of that very match leaked this past week.
While the result was never in question, the way the match ended might as well have been a middle finger to the WWE Universe. As if we haven’t been subjected to enough repetitive programming, we witnessed John Cena Attitude Adjusting Randy Orton on top of a prone Kane to win the match–an exact replica of his Money in the Bank win just past last month.
I can handle sticking with an obvious result for the sake of working towards a major SummerSlam main event. Getting there by pretending I don’t remember events from a month ago is insulting.
Then again, perhaps they feel this way because even as of last week’s RAW, no one but Bray Wyatt could figure out why he set his sights on Chris Jericho despite stating his motivations rather clearly. The problem was that the announce team and even Chris Jericho himself forgot the “Save Us” vignettes from seven years ago that Bray referenced. In fact, I felt rather certain that the WWE would refuse to connect dots until I saw the promotional video that preceded their match that connected the dots.
I can only assume the WWE relied on fans only having short terms memories based on the result of that match as well. Once again, Bray Wyatt can’t win a match that matters. He has transitioned from a monster that put Kane on the shelf in his debut, to a guy that can only win by freaking John Cena out with a demon-child.
We are now at the point in which it is hard to believe that anyone is really kayfabe terrified of Bray anymore. He can cut the lights, have eerie entrances, and get the crowd to sing “He’s Got the Whole Word in His Hands” as if he has control of them, but when push comes to shove, he can be defeated, easily.
I could almost forgive the neutering of Bray’s character if the same logic didn’t extend to the rest of his family. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan put together, by far, the match of the night against the Usos, but they too lost once again when it mattered. Sure, the Usos more or less had to throw the kitchen sink at Harper and Rowan, but the end result is no different than it was before the night began: the entire Wyatt family can’t win when all the chips are down.
Make no mistake, that two out of three falls match was great; however, it had all the makings of the big payoff. I fear that, despite that, the match will be repackaged for SummerSlam anyways and it will be a struggle for me to get into the rivalry again after watching their match at Battleground.
Repackaging and waiting for SummerSlam seemed to be a running theme for the rest of the show as well. Rusev and Jack Swagger had no payoff. While Rusev technically won via count-out, the result was basically a non-finish. The crowd was incredibly hot for this match and everyone was anxiously awaiting to see how it would end, but the WWE basically pulled a “wait until next
week month” as if it was just another match on RAW.
The Divas Championship found itself in a similar situation. While all signs pointed to a Paige heel turn, her match against A.J. Lee offered no payoff and no further progression. On top of that, the match felt slow, disjointed and had all the signs of A.J. still working out some ring rust and still not being completely familiar/comfortable with Paige in-ring.
The match not living up to expectations at a technical level wasn’t the biggest sin. Out of nowhere, Paige, whose entire title run was built on her surviving her opponent’s offense and scarping out a victory, found herself on the powerhouse end and A.J. taking Paige’s underdog role. That doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense for the longest reigning Divas Champion ever; however, it could have all been forgiven if Paige snapped and went through with the heel turn after A.J. squeaked by with a win.
But it didn’t happen. Wait until the next PPV that actually matters!™
To top off the RAW feel of this PPV, Seth Rollins’ match with Dean Ambrose transformed into a series of backstage assaults coupled with an in-ring promo that also resulted in an assault. Despite reports that Rollins didn’t suffer a knee injury on last week’s RAW, cancelling the match and having a series of more controlled melees gave the impression that the WWE was protecting Rollins. Regardless of whether Rollins was being protected or if the segments were all a work, the constant repetition of the Ambrose assaults felt like filler that would allow the WWE to claim they had a three hour event.
Speaking of filler, Goldust and Stardust made yet another appearance to do yet another backstage promo. You know, just like the ones they’ve been doing every week on RAW once WWE creative got tired of booking the duo into repeated matches with Rybaxel. Couldn’t they at least been put into the battle royal in lieu of R-Truth and Xavier Woods?
The only change from the status quo all night was in the one match in which the WWE had their hands forced to make one. With Wade Barrett injured, the WWE had to vacate the title and crown a new champion. The Miz snaked his way into a title win, but after seeing an entire night that felt like a repackaged RAW, I couldn’t bring myself to give Miz any heat. Even Dolph Ziggler couldn’t bring himself to any righteous anger after he was screwed out of the Intercontenintal Championship, sitting on the outside with a “welp, whatever” look on his face that perfectly summed up the entire evening.
There is no sugar-coating it–Battleground was an absolute failure. I cannot possibly see how this show convinced anyone that their $9.99/month would be well spent on the WWE Network. Further, if the goal was to promote and get fans excited for SummerSlam, it failed on that end too.
All we saw was the same show that we’ve seen for the past month. It’s time to turn the page and move on.
Assorted Battleground thoughts:
- Two pre-show matches were a nice touch. Hilariously enough, there was more story progression in Adam Rose v. Fandango and Naomi v. Cameron than the entire PPV combined.
- Fandango finally got slapped in the face for being a complete jerk that I’ve been begging for. I guess I did get a payoff!
- Dump JBL and let King go heel announcer again because calling JBL “closed minded” while also saying “Will those girls dance with anybody?!” and “All women secretly despise each other” is a level of misogyny that I just can’t handle from a babyface. It’s not great as a heel either, but at least there is a kayfabe justification for it and a face can take them to task.
- I’m interested to see where Cameron’s new character goes. Calling back to her Funkadactyl entrance but mixing it with a level of Tyler Breeze self-absorption was great.
- Kudos to the crowd for ignoring the one idiot that wanted to chant “CM Punk” during the divas pre-show match and chanted “Na-o-mi” instead. See, crowds can get into women’s wrestling. It is possible.
- As disappointed as I was in the finish when viewed against the whole show, the Wyatts/Usos match was incredible and the only match of the show that truly worked me. I counted four finish teases that each had me convinced the match was over. I can never begrudge what these four did in-ring ever.
- The video package for the Ambrose/Rollins match that never happened was simply fantastic.
- The announce team took a huge dump on the Paige/A.J. match. I know it wasn’t that great, but they aren’t helping matters. I know I sound like a broken record by this point, but it is awful that this keeps happening.
- Paige being the first to break out of the Black Widow submission was great, but it made the out-of-nowhere Shining Wizard finish stick out like a sore thumb in comparison.
- It was at this point in the PPV that I realized all stories were going nowhere and I got incredibly concerned.
- I’m cool with using the pre-show panel and promos for a cooldown instead of sacrificing matches, but it seemed to last forever.
- I thought the WWE would bypass any reference to the Malaysian Airlines tragedy with Lana/Rusev, but they didn’t. I’m not sure what was worse: the fact that it was too soon or the fact they took the chance and didn’t go all-in on it. Lana only referenced it as “American propaganda” regarding certain “current events”.
- Lana, please define “war mongoling” for me.
- JBL needs to learn how buildings work: “The building will blow off this roof” doesn’t make any sense. Good thing you’re being paid to talk.
- At this point my show notes are now filled with anger, four-letter words, and notes of “this is going on too long”. I lost all hope by this point.
- As much as I love Heath Slater getting a quick victory tease, the fact that he eliminated Cesaro is not removing any fears that he’s in the dog house right now.
- The dynamic of Kane protecting Orton throughout the first half of the fatal four-way was great; however, if the two were really colluding, wouldn’t it have made more sense to toss Cena and Reigns out of the ring and then have Kane lay down for Orton? I feel like that spot should’ve happened at least once.
- Prediction for RAW: we get the same show we’ve gotten for the past month, but with an added Brock Lesnar appearance.
Tags: A.J. Lee Adam Rose Bray Wyatt Cameron Cesaro Chris Jericho Dean Ambrose Dolph Ziggler Erick Rowan Fandango Goldust Heath Slater Jack Swagger JBL Jerry Lawler John Cena Kane Lana Luke Harper Namoi Paige Randy Orton Roman Reigns Rusev Seth Rollins Stardust The Miz The Usos The Wyatt Family Wade Barrett WWE WWE Battleground 2014