The Pointlessness of Battleground: Your Fantasy WWE Preview
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The Road to WrestleMania begins at the Royal Rumble in January and ends at the Super Bowl of Wrestling, WrestleMania, at the beginning of April (or end of March). It’s the most important time of the year for WWE and the biggest money making opportunity for them. It is why they released the WWE Network in February, right in the heart of the season. They knew the most subscribers would come during this period (even if the numbers aren’t nearly what they were hoping for). After ‘Mania there is the annual down period, where WWE tries a few new things, has a whole bunch of boring rematches, before traditionally revving things back up for Summerslam. After Summerslam, we get another down period again, a WAY too long period that essentially extends to the rest of the year, before picking it back up in early January to start the build for the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania.
In the most perfect of worlds, WWE would set their two subscription periods for the WWE Network around their two biggest events. However, since the events only take place four months apart, if you bought the WWE network right before WrestleMania with the required six month subscription, you are rewarded with both WrestleMania and Summerslam. In this six month model, WWE doesn’t have the responsibility to really load up the down periods. They have you hooked. Come September, it will be their responsibility to give you something worth buying again, in order to renew your subscription. Until then, they can give you the most predictable, uninteresting, mind numbingly dumb storylines you can handle. Monday Night Raw during this down period does everything it can to make you go watch 24: Live Another Day just to hear how many times Jack Bauer can say damn it.
This brings us to the latest pay per view (a term that in short order will be archaic with the invention of the network) when WWE presents Battleground this Sunday. Much like the Battleground equivalent on the Road to WrestleMania in February, Elimination Chamber, the event sits as an unnecessary predictable speed bump between the two bigger events of the period. For Battleground, it’s in between the fan favorite Money in the Bank and Summerslam, while the Elimination Chamber sits in between the fan favorite Royal Rumble and WrestleMania.
With WWE saving their “big” matches for Summerslam and the invention of the network all but completely eliminating pay per views, what is the point of even having Battleground take place? Is it because we are all so used to the PPV-a-month model that we have been programmed with for two decades now? Is it because they have an interesting story to tell? The answer is the same answer to any question that you can ask of Vince McMahon. The answer is money. Battleground is another gate for the company to get, another way of potentially getting more network subscribers, and another way to possibly getting more sponsors for Summerslam.
Last year’s Battleground event took place in October and was the second lowest grossing pay per view in the last 17 years for the company. There is no grand idea concept like say Money in the Bank, Hell in a Cell, or Elmination Chamber, and the name Battleground pretty much sucks (although it is better than the PPV it replaced, Over the Limit that I think had some NASCAR themed undertones? Maybe?) The event was moved to July after WWE smartly eliminated their entirely pointless second October PPV offering and pushed up Money in the Bank, realizing it was the summer version of the Royal Rumble. If WWE’s “creative” booking is going to be stupidly predictable, let’s at least win some money off of them, via Kountermove.
The main event is John Cena defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Kane, Randy Orton, and Roman Reigns. If this sounds unoriginal to you, that’s probably because four of these wrestlers were in the main event last month fighting for the championship. In the case of Kane, he is currently a hired gun for ‘The Authority’. Of course Kane has been both a face and a heel so many times over the last 20 years, that at this point in his career, the fact that he gets any reaction at all is a credit to the performer. He should not be fighting for the championship in 2014 because it’s simply unbelievable that he has any chance of winning. The character is stale and the truth is that no matter what the company does to try and build him up, the audience will never see him as a serious adversary to dethroning their heroes. He is just an auxiliary piece.
Speaking of stale naturally leads me to Randy Orton. Both Orton and Cena have been on top of WWE for over a decade and it’s felt like way longer. Orton has been peripherally in the WWE Championship scene since losing the championship at ‘Mania to the still injured Daniel Bryan. Orton and Cena have wrestled each other a legitimate thousand times since both ascending to the top of the company around the same time and seeing them in the main event in 2014 is just a nod to the lack of ability of WWE to develop new main event talent over the last decade. Orton just finished off his 12th World Title reign and for Summerlsam he has a different Reign in his future.
Roman Reigns is the new “it” guy in WWE. Ticketed to superstardom, the company basically said screw the slow burn and has pushed him hard over the past several months. Reigns is the prospective next main event level talent for WWE and he is the odds on favorite to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 31 next year, most likely defeating Brock Lesnar. That’s if WWE can hold off that long. With the network subscription renewal date coming up and the injury to Daniel Bryan not clearing up as fast as the company would like, Reigns very well could be hot shotted to the championship spot far sooner than WrestleMania. Despite facing Randy Orton in numerous multi man matches over the past couple of months, they have held off on a major singles match between the two; that will take place at Summerslam and not for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
At Summerslam the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Main Event will be between the challenge Brock Lesnar and the retaining champion John Cena. How am I so positive Cena will retain at Battleground? Does this poster work for you? Or what about this promotional video? John Cena is always a lock to win; however this lock is now air tight. Roman Reigns will get his moment. The big match for Reigns with Cena, Lesnar and Triple H will happen in due time. But for now, for the immediate future, WWE will continue to play it safe, because they have no reason not to. Cena will 1000% retain at Battleground and go on to fight Lesnar in the main event at Summerslam. Predictable enough for you? Boring enough for you? It doesn’t matter and WWE doesn’t care. They already have your money.
The undercard to Battleground is a bit more intriguing than the main event. Not intriguing enough to make me buy the pay per view if I did not already have the network, but intriguing enough to watch after The Leftovers and Masters of Sex on Sunday night. Seth Rollins, fresh after (predictably) winning the MITB briefcase last month, takes on his arch rival Dean Ambrose. Logic states that no major feud ends at a B PPV event, which is exactly what Battleground is. One way or another, Rollins comes out of this on top before having a major blow off with Ambrose at Summerslam, in which Ambrose will probably win. But for now, the most heated rivalry in the company will continue through Battleground.
In an effort to provide full disclosure, Chris Jericho is probably my favorite wrestler of all time. I watched him growing up and was/am incredibly entertained by him. Although the frequent comebacks and constant losses dilute the Jericho of my childhood, I still love watching him perform. For this reason, the match I am most looking forward to watching on Sunday is Jericho’s against new smark favorite, Bray Wyatt. Jericho is back through September and his job is simply to put over Wyatt. While conventional logic says this feud blows off at Summerslam, with Bray getting over then, I still believe Bray wins now. Jericho couldn’t care less about wins and losses, so picking up a win now in their first encounter will help elevate him to Jericho’s level, making the rematch even more important.
The other members of the Wyatt Family, Erik Rowan and Luke Harper, will again do battle with Jimmy and Jey Uso for the Tag Team Championships. This is a rematch from last month’s MITB and was the show stealer. At Battleground, they’ll probably again open the show and this time have an even larger opportunity to steal it, as they are wrestling in a 2 out of 3 falls match, meaning the winners have to defeat their opponents twice. I think this match is probably a toss up and the feud probably continues. If the Usos win, I expect The Ascension to be called up from NXT to feud with them going into Summerlsam, since the Usos have defeated everyone else on the roster. If the Wyatts win, this is yet another feud that continues on to Summerslam.
In a 1980s Cold War throwback, the undefeated Rusev takes on former jobber Jack Swagger. Swagger is a former World Heavyweight Champion that came back with manager Zeb Colter, as a conservative tea party supporting wrestler. After a DUI completely halted his major push, Swagger was the lesser of a tag team with Cesaro for a while and since has been low level heel. However, for the first time in his career, Swagger has been turned into a good guy, with his tea party views being marginalized and the fact that he is a Real American being the priority. It’s Swagger the American hero against the Bulgarian Brute that supports Russia, Rusev. The lead up to this feud has actually been interesting, as the fans love to support their country. Also, Colter’s “We The People” catchphrase is one of the best in wrestling right now. Rusev will win, but you guessed it, this feud can easily continue through Summerslam. Rusev just isn’t losing his first match to Jack Swagger of all people. Although Swagger does have a super hot wife.
On Friday Night Smackdown last month, Swagger inadvertently injured reigning Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett. Barrett wound up separating his shoulder, causing him to have major surgery and forfeit the championship. That championship will now be at stake in the Battleground Battle Royal. Yes, it’s as stupid of an idea as it sounds. Essentially, 20 mid card wrestlers will fight for the title, with only a few having a chance to win. Sheamus is currently the United States Champion and if they choose to unify those titles, much like they did the WWE/World Titles back in December, then he is a solid pick. If they want to unify the titles at a more important event (say, you know Summerslam in a month), Sheamus is prospectively feuding with the returning Miz. The Miz can win the Intercontinental Title at Battleground and fight Sheamus at Summerlsam for both titles. Dolph Ziggler and Fandango have been feuding for no apparent reason, but since both have been featured on TV they could win too. The logical pick would be Cesaro who has been feuding with/losing to constantly, Kofi Kingston and Big E. As much momentum as Cesaro had earlier this year, it has seemed to drop a bit and with Brock Lesnar due back as soon as next week, WWE may have taken away Cesaro’s mouth piece in Paul Heyman. We presumed we were getting Cesaro vs. Lesnar at some point, but now I’m not so sure. If I had to pick a winner, it would be Cesaro because I want to believe WWE is not stupid enough to give up on him already. But, sentimentally I am going to pick Bo Dallas. Because I…BO-LIEVE! Bo Dallas is basically WWE’s heel version of Tim Tebow, an incredibly entertaining suck up who also is the real life brother of Bray Wyatt. He tells his opponents to keep bolieving and they could win next time. That they shouldn’t ever give up. And he takes a victory lap after every match he wins. He’s 15 and Bo! Hopefully he’s the next Intercontinental Champion too.
The Divas Championship is on the line between current champion, and wife of CM Punk (which I’m contractually obligated to say every time I mention her) AJ Lee. Lee takes on the woman who originally defeated her for the title the day after WrestleMania and former champion, Paige (inexplicably provided no last name). This feud has been pretty entertaining ever since Lee returned to TV following a long hiatus. Paige was never truly given the opportunity to get over with the fans as a face after beating Lee. Despite being naturally very likeable, Paige has been the worst thing you possibly can be: boring. The moment Lee came back, AJ was portrayed as the babyface and has essentially lit a fire under Paige. WWE has successfully developed AJ’s character over the past few years more than any of the other divas combined. Paring up a face AJ with a heel Paige will make for some really interesting battles. In the first of their PPV contests, AJ will retain, allowing Paige to fully turn heel and setting up an awesome rematch at…SUMMERSLAM!
The pre-show match is between former partners Cameron and Naomi. The only reason they are fighting is as a storyline for the “reality” show Total Divas. I’ll say Naomi wins. Cool? Cool.
Battleground will try to be the final big event to help you order the WWE Network before Summerlsam comes around. The event will set up a predictable Summerslam, which will feature matches we saw coming, rematches we don’t want to see, and a main event WWE thinks we desperately want but will cause us to simply yawn in frustration. The question isn’t whether Battleground will be a success; the question is whether there is even a point for it taking place?
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