REQUESTING FLYBY: Battleground 2014 Review
Jul 21, 2014 - 5:46:43 AM
Battleground 2014 Review
Well, after an excellent go home Raw on Monday night, I went out on a limb in my Battleground preview column by suggesting that Battleground 2014 had the opportunity to be the sleeper hit of the year. Due to some questionable booking and a flat main event, it didn’t quite reach those levels, but nevertheless, it was an enjoyable pay-per-view in all with some excellent action, particularly in the midcard, where a combination of hungry young wrestlers looking to make their mark and comparative veterans looking for a way back into the spotlight is making life outside the main event more relevant than it seems to have been in years. That is definitely a positive to hang your hat on.
The Usos defeated The Wyatt Family 2 falls to 1 in a 2 out of 3 falls match to retain the WWE Tag Team Championships
This was the obvious choice for hot opener, and it certainly did not disappoint. My only concerns for this one heading in were whether they would get enough time to make 2 out of 3 falls really work and whether they could have another minor classic like the one at Money in the Bank without endlessly recycling the same spots. I think we can safely say they managed to circumvent those worries, though on first watch I think I do marginally prefer their first pay-per-view outing from three weeks ago.
The Usos predictably got the early shine, but the power of the Wyatts soon asserted itself, with Luke Harper flinging Jey Uso out of the ring with poisonous disdain. When Rowan entered the fray, the action perhaps got a bit rest hold heavy for a curtain jerker, but his command of character made even the use of the chin lock an impressive visual. Jey, for his part, took his face in peril beating manfully and sold convincingly for the big men. The early going had quite a classic 1980s structure to it in that sense, with a noticeably slower pace than at Money in the Bank, where the action was frayed and frenetic throughout. Here, they started slow, with the champs thrown off their game, and built to a crescendo of equality and near falls towards the end of the third fall. I loved how Jimmy got the hot tag only for his momentum to be completely stopped cold by the big boot of Harper for the first fall. Great spot that. I also loved that Jey wasn’t even on the apron as the second fall started, selling the beating he had taken at the hands of Rowan and Harper in the first act of the contest. Great command of psychology shown there.
The contrast between the power moves of the Wyatts and the quickness of the Usos became ever more apparent during the second fall, as the big men continued to maul their quicker opponents with power moves until Uso dexterity finally paid dividends with a quick roll up to even the scores. I loved the intent behind the Luke Harper chops and slingshot into the bottom rope, and the flurry of Jimmy Uso where he seemed to be everywhere at once; I particularly loved his running barricade spot, top rope cross body near fall and X Pac-like educated feet. Harper though, was not to be outdone, and his use of the suicide dive never fails to amaze me. From there, we got a dizzying amount of near falls, and some spots recycled from their last bout...but what does that matter really, when they were performed with such gusto? The leaping super kick by Jey into the roll up by Jimmy was a fantastic combination, the sit out powerbomb of Harper is badass and Rowan kicking out of the first splash was great for showing both the resilience of the man and the disbelief of the Uso concerned. I think we’ll probably still be talking about Rowan’s double superplex of the twins at the end of the year- it was truly impressive- and the slick flow of the end of the match was all the more impressive when you consider how many hard bumps these guys were taking.
The final double splash to win the match was perhaps a little bit botched (not sure what splashing someone’s legs is really meant to do to incapacitate them in kayfabe?) but I think we can forgive that. A text book curtain jerker for the second PPV in a row. The interesting thing now will be where the tag straps go from here. Will the Wyatts get another shot having been beaten clean twice in a row? That wouldn’t make too much sense, however much a third match might rule in the ring. Perhaps the Dust Brothers will be thrust into the title scene now; the vignette that occurred later certainly illustrated that the company is behind the Stardust gimmick. But damn, I really thought tonight was the Wyatts’ time. Surprising result, but good news for The Usos, whose hard work and dedication in really getting themselves over last year has certainly paid off.
FLYBY RATING: ***½
Seth Rollins defeated Dean Ambrose by forfeit
Well wasn’t this a gigantic troll by the ‘E? I’m still not sure what to think to be honest. As all of you will know by now, I was foremost amongst Shield marks on the LOP Columns Section staff, and I was looking forward to this contest more than any other. On the other hand, you will also know from my work alongside Maz on ATTITUDE that I am a mark from that era and can’t help but love it when stuff like this goes down on a modern day pay-per-view. First we got a brilliant video package that got us hyped and teased us with the prospect of a modern classic. All those clips of Seth Rollins extolling the companionship and achievements only to betray the group were brilliantly chosen and they were followed by a very decent smarmy heel promo by The Architect backstage, whereupon he was assaulted by an irate Ambrose. Now, you might have thought at this point that they would merely brawl to the ring, but instead, Triple H arrived to have the Lunatic Fringe thrown out of the building. My mind immediately went to all the times that Steve Austin was banned from an arena only to show up in some sort of giant vehicle and raise hell.
In the event, there was no giant vehicle, but when Rollins came out to the ring to get his arm raised for the forfeit victory, cutting a heel-Jericho-esque promo in the process, Ambrose appeared from nowhere to battle his arch enemy all around the ringside area. It was very Attitude Era and a lot of fun, with Jamie Noble, Joey Mercury, Bill De Mott and many other wrestlers turned road agents arriving with security to separate the two. By the time Dean ambushed his former brother in the parking lot with a tire iron, the link to the past and the July 1997 Triple H vs. Mankind post-match brawl around and outside the arena at Canadian Stampede was complete. Rollins finally managed to drive away (lots of cars in WWE storylines recently!) but of course, this feud is far from over.
While it was certainly disappointing not to see the match, particularly having paid my £15, the fact that it didn’t happen keeps anticipation for Summerslam high and assuages the fears of those who loudly stated that too many big matches were being blown ahead of the second biggest show of the year. One thing is for sure, Ambrose and Rollins are currently in the process of crafting a potential feud of the year.
FLYBY RATING: N/A
AJ Lee defeated Paige by pinfall to retain the Divas Championship
Depending on how minutes this bout received, it had the opportunity either to be a breath of fresh air or the best women’s match in a long time. In the event, limited time meant it was merely the former, but more is surely to come. I liked the small touches of storytelling at the start; Paige applauding her opponent to the ring, the ROH handshake as the bell rang. Thankfully, the idiots in the crowd stopped chanting “CM Punk” fairly quickly, and the two divas were allowed to get on with the business of impressing with their ring work. Paige put her height and power advantage to good use from a kayfabe perspective, and the extra aggression compared to her previous matches on pay-per-view was a welcome sight; it’s always good to see someone stomping mudholes like Steve Austin. There was a super DDT counter to all this power by AJ, but Paiges power and aggression soon put her in command again, and there was some hard hitting stuff on the outside too. All of the action being in her favour worked comparatively well psychologically speaking as AJ clamped on the Black Widow submission in a brilliant counter. The Englishwoman sold this beautifully for a considerable length of time before breaking the hold and hitting the Paige Turner for an excellent near fall. Miss Lee then narrowly avoided the PTO submission before hitting a shining wizard for the pinfall victory. If I’m honest, the balance of the offense was probably too much in the favour of Hell in Boots, but I suppose the purpose there is to facilitate the eventual heel turn, as resentment at dominating the two most recent matches but not getting the win sets in. Let’s hope they get a bit more time at Summerslam.
FLYBY RATING: **¼
Rusev (with Lana) defeated Jack Swagger (with Zeb Colter) by count out
If you listened to The Right Side Of The Pond’s Battleground Preview this weekend (and if not, why not, damn it!) you’ll know that we were unsure quite how this one was going to go given events in the real world. We wondered if it would mean a quick Swagger win and a quick disappearing act for Rusev, or perhaps the two men wrestling without their respective mouthpieces cutting promos. Option C was for WWE to actually run with the controversial cheap heat, and astoundingly from where I’m sitting, that’s exactly what they did. When Lana took the mic, my immediate reaction was fairly much that of the corrupt city mayor in ‘The Wire’- “shiiiiiiiit!” The referencing of American conspiracy theories and cover ups, calling the live crowd hypocrites and unveiling the enormous Putin photograph on the Titantron, all of these things indicated extremely ballsy writing. I’m not sure really how to feel about them going so near the knuckle on this one, but kudos to them for not doing a panic re-write of storylines. Certainly, the promo got nuclear heat, and add to that the fact that Zeb had barely begun his pro-America speech when Lana slapped the taste out of his mouth and you had an explosive backdrop to the actual wrestling, which was pretty damned good, actually.
The sheer size and quickness of the two men was extremely impressive to witness, and they went at each other with good pace and intensity, showing awareness of how to work the bout based on the build. Swagger continually tried to pick the ankle, playing on the angle from the go home show, whereas Rusev worked in some impressive strikes and kicks, taking in some Sambo stylings. I liked the fact that The Real American was allowed to show such resilience and fortitude in the face of the Bulgarian Brute’s all out assault, and when he once again turned the big superkick into the Patriot Lock, the crowd popped like crazy. I loved how Rusev actually struggled in the submission for a gruelling length of time before making it to the bottom rope, and indeed the way Swagger doggedly pursued him to the outside to slap it on once again. The count out finish, after The All American American went into the post, was quite a smart move really, preserving Rusev’s streak while also keeping Swagger reasonable strong, since he did not submit and was not pinned. Something tells me this may be building to a Hogan association at Summerslam and Swags getting the big patriotic win. Now, if only the Swagger Soaring Eagle would come back…
FLYBY RATING: ***
Chris Jericho defeated Bray Wyatt by pinfall
Another excellent video package from the WWE production team presaged this contest. I love that Wyatt used the “Save Us Y2J” stuff from 2007 as the basis for his motivation for the feud. The black eye of Bray certainly added to his creepy visual, and Jericho’s veteran smarts only allowed him the early advantage for so long, as the deranged cult leader hit one of those explosive clotheslines to cut off any sort of babyface shine. Everything Wyatt does looks different to the way other wrestlers do things. That uniqueness is going to serve him well as his career develops, as it’s unlikely that he’ll ever resort to just running through his spots the way some jaded main event stars seem to. The structure of the match settled into Bray Wyatt using his power to cut off any Jericho flurries of offense, and the removal of his henchmen barely slowed him down once his initial rage at the decision had subsided.
There were some excellent spots in the match, such as the DDT on the apron or the reversal of Sister Abigail into an attempted Walls of Jericho, but nowhere did those spots seem out of place or shoehorned in. It was quite an understated match in many ways, one that did not insist on itself the way the Cena ones did. The Codebreaker “outta nowhere” finish made sense in the context of the feud and the rematch for Summerslam, where one would imagine that Wyatt will go over and the match itself will probably go a little but more out of its way to be spectacular. This one certainly wasn’t that- it was quite safe really- but it was worked well, with good psychology and a sensible storyline.
FLYBY RATING: ***
The Miz won a 20 Man Battle Royal to win the vacant Intercontinental Title
I really felt that, in common with the other two over the prominent over the top rope battle royals this year, that this one was very well presented indeed and proved the enduring appeal of the genre. It was good to see everyone get an entrance and better still to hear Barrett issue a “Bad News” warning for whoever was to win. It’ll be intriguing to see BNB come back in a few months to elbow his way back into that IC Title picture. The match began with the traditional “target the biggest man in the match” spot, and then the various jabronis- Woods, Ryder, Truth, Axel, Khali himself- were swiftly tossed to the curb. The contest then essentially became a duel between a decent handful of good midcard hands. Ryback and Sheamus’ staredown was a throwback to the 2013 Rumble and they had a nice little exchange before the Irishman got the better of it by Brogue Kicking the Big Guy out of contention. Titus got a nice shine in his home state (where he was unsurprisingly over) before a sneaky (and hilarious) Bo Dallas got him from behind. Kofi worked his usual battle royal spot magic, piggy backing on Big E, almost eliminating Cesaro from that position, battling his way back into the ring and competing further before Swiss Death finally got rid of him with a badass vertical suplex. I’d like to see a Kingston/Langston tag team actually. They could do some excellent work in that division and it would season Big E nicely. Slater getting rid of Cesaro was a huge upset and perhaps yet another indication that WWE are cooling on the Swiss athlete’s push for the moment...search me why that is. Losing streak stories never end well, for the most part...Ziggler was unquestionably the man of the match on this occasion, working magic with Del Rio, avoiding elimination with balletic athleticism and putting on a corker of a match within a match with the Celtic Warrior, one reminiscent of Shawn Michaels and Davey Boy Smith from Royal Rumble ‘95, before Miz, who had been lying low in a Jerry Lawler/Edge kind of way, crept back in to take the gold. Hopefully Ziggles and Mizanin will have a nice midcard feud over the belt now. Could be a decent hot opener for Summerslam. The Moneymaker vs. The Show Off, it has a decent ring to it. Really fun stuff, in all.
FLYBY RATING: ***
John Cena defeated Kane, Randy Orton and Roman Reigns in a Fatal Fourway to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Well, I was optimistic going into this that despite the humdrum build and near poisonous disdain for the match among the IWC in general, the four men involved could come up with something entertaining.
I was completely wrong. It was a stinker.
This match represented to me everything that is wrong with the so-called “WWE Style” particularly as it pertains to main events. With four men in the ring together, the early story of Kane and Orton working together despite their differences melted away, and what resulted was a spotty, botchy mess, just four men hitting signatures and finishes with no regard for psychology whatsoever. The pace at the beginning was too slow, the pace at the end too fast. Cena and Reigns attempted the same embarrassing babyface staredown three times, and only once did it get anything like a reaction. We got that awful turnbuckle “powerbomb two men” spot that always looks dreadful, we got some very telegraphed reversals of submissions (which provoked the dreaded “boring” chant) and we got Reigns hitting his signature moves crisply as he usually does.
I saw a lot of wacky fantasy booking from various people in the day or so preceding the match, but anyone that thought this ended in anything but a clean Cena win was kidding themselves really. I can sort of forgive WWE booking a filler title match to allow time for Lesnar’s return, but when it was worked in such a flat, uninventive way, it actually becomes unforgivable. There’s always a chance it’ll look better the second time around, but from where I was sitting, that was the worst WWE main event since Rock/Cena II at Wrestemania XXIX (remember that the Orton/Cena match from the Rumble was not in the main event slot).
FLYBY RATING: **
Well dear readers, at least we now get to move on from this awkward period of booking to what appears in theory to be a stacked Summerslam card for the second year in a row. The next few weeks should be very interesting indeed. As it happens, Battleground was not even close to being the sleeper hit of the year, but it was a pay-per-view where the midcard stepped up and delivered, and that is something promising for future shows. The unification of the world titles has allowed WWE to create meaningful stories below the main event level again, and it is paying off big time. So props to the writers, to Rusev, Swagger, Lana, Zeb, The Usos, Harper and Rowan, and the participants of the battle royal for putting it all out there for us, the viewers on pay-per-view.
OVERALL FLYBY RATING: ***
So what did you make of Battleground? Whether you agree or disagree, make sure to say so in the comments below, or you can always shoot me a tweet:
I will be back on Thursday alongside Mazza for a very special and very sad Owen Hart tribute in ATTITUDE! Over The Edge ‘99, but until then, this is Maverick, requesting flyby!