WWE Battleground this weekend felt in many ways like a send-off for the status quo at WWE and a preview of what is to come as a result of the recent brand split. The show placed a heavy emphasis on the competition between the Raw and SmackDown brands, and we are sure to see this friendly (or otherwise) rivalry intensify leading up to SummerSlam in Brooklyn, New York on Aug. 21. We’ve updated our predictions with full WWE Battleground results below.
This Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Pacific, World Wrestling Entertainment presents it’s third installment of the Battleground pay-per-view, taking place just five days after WWE held it’s brand extension draft and split the company across two shows once again. Fan Contributor Ryan Aday and I offer up our thoughts in this Battleground preview, as we dive into the lineup and see what’s in store for us on Sunday.
Headlining the show is the match that has been on the mind of all wrestling fans lately, as all three former members of The Shield compete in a triple threat match for the WWE Championship. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns have all had success as singles competitors ever since Rollins betrayed the rest of the group in 2014. Now the three men battle it out for the WWE’s biggest prize in the night’s main event.
The night also features two other title defenses, as both The Miz and Rusev are forced to defend against two men who have done nothing but lose to other competitors for the past few months and are now getting their opportunities in the spotlight once again. With two women’s bouts and two six-man tag team matches also on the card, the night looks like it ought to be a stellar show — at least on paper — with several storyline-starting opportunities presenting themselves to kick off WWE’s brand extension in the right way.
Becky Lynch vs. Natalya
In the first of two women’s matches on the card, the Irish Lass Kicker faces the Queen of Harts in a match that pits former friends against each other, after Natalya betrayed Lynch after Money in the Bank.
Becky was one of the four women who revolutionized wrestling in NXT, and Natalya has been a model example for other members of the WWE roster — both male and female — to follow for several years. For all intents and purposes, their styles of wrestling go very well together, but the way the match has been put together just doesn’t make as much sense as WWE would like you to believe.
The two interacted for barely two months after Natalya’s return in May, and Natalya’s attack on Lynch and subsequent heel turn came after the two were defeated at WWE’s Money in the Bank event last month. They’ve had one match together, hardly any true friendship-esque interactions at all, and now we are expected to believe the two were best friends, and now, bitter rivals. It’s an ugly story, and a rivalry that, hopefully, will dissipate as one of the most forgetful in recent memory.
Jacob Anderson: Becky Lynch. She’s not had a good push recently after being unable to capture the WWE Women’s Championship months ago. She needs this win to look strong again.
Ryan Aday: Becky Lynch. It probably won’t be clean and will lead to one more match at SummerSlam. Natalya just doesn’t inspire any excitement.
Results: Natalya defeated Becky Lynch after making her tap out from the Sharpshooter.
United States Champion Rusev vs. Zack Ryder
For those unfamiliar with Ryder’s championship history, let’s put it this way: the man is incapable of holding onto WWE gold for over 24 hours at a time. He won the United States championship at the end of 2011 and lost it the next night on Monday Night RAW. Most recently, he won the Intercontinental Championship in a seven-man ladder match at WrestleMania in a shocking upset, but lost the title in the exact same fashion. Having him get another title push like this begs the question: If he wins, will WWE force him to give up the belt just as quickly as his previous championship runs?
With Rusev as the current champion, however, the question becomes whether Ryder can even walk out with the belt at all. Looking at all of the opponents Rusev has snapped like twigs in the past, including the likes of Mark Henry and The Big Show, it makes little sense for Ryder, the smaller of the two and the obvious underdog of the contest, to best Rusev, who has proven to be a very solid champion in his own right. Now that the man has settled back into his role as a vicious heel champion, it’s very likely that, unless somebody more popular comes along in the future, Ryder may not be claiming any gold again on Sunday.
Jacob Anderson: Rusev. I did call Ryder to win at WrestleMania, but this is going to be another example of Rusev making short work out of yet another opponent. And Ryder hasn’t looked especially strong recently, so Rusev is the smart guess.
Ryan Aday: Rusev. A glorified squash match that will set Rusev up for a run with a top RAW star. Maybe Kevin Owens?!?
Results: Rusev defeated Zack Ryder via submission after making him tap out from the Accolade. After the match, Ryder’s tag team partner from NXT, Mojo Rawley, ran to the ring to defend his former tag team partner. Could we see the Hype Bros. reunite on the new SmackDown?
Intercontinental Champion The Miz vs. Darren Young
With his meteoric rise up the midcard and into the championship picture, Darren Young looks to capture his first singles championship in WWE from The Self-Proclaimed A-Lister.
Several weeks ago, video segments of Young speaking with WWE Hall of Famer Bob Backlund aired on both RAW and SmackDown, with Backlund making promises to “Make Darren Young Great Again,” a nod to another man’s recent bid for power. This begs the question of when Darren Young was ever great to begin with.
Then, Young won a battle royal from out of nowhere to become the Number One Contender for the Intercontinental Championship, and has shot up into the picture for The Miz’s championship before most people realized what had happened. This brief but interesting feud has shed light on what Darren is capable of doing as a singles competitor, both on the mic and in the ring, and has generally made him look stronger than he did as a tag team champion once upon a time. The Miz’s promos and heel character have only strengthened the story between the two, and have made it very plausible that the Intercontinental Championship could be changing hands on Sunday.
Jacob Anderson: The Miz. While this is a more believable title change than Ryder over Rusev, and Young has looked very strong in recent weeks, WWE’s recent brand split has one midcard championship on each show. If both men were on the same show, this would be Darren’s night.
Ryan Aday: Darren Young by DQ. Belt stays with Miz and IC Title becomes top Smackdown prize. Some Backlund/Maryse tomfoolery seems probable.
Results: The match ended in a double disqualification (boo!) when The Miz pushed Bob Backlund outside the ring and Darren Young seemingly snapped and came to Backlund’s defense by locking The Miz in a submission hold that he wouldn’t release. Since the two competitors are going to different shows, we most likely won’t see a rematch, but hopefully we will see more of this type of intensity from Young. It could provide him with some much-needed identity and personality as a singles competitor.
Sasha Banks and a partner to be named vs. Charlotte and Dana Brooke
The story between the three women has been very solid. Charlotte is branching out as her own character after having dumped her father Ric Flair a few months back, Dana Brooke is finally coming into her own role as a heel, and Sasha is back on WWE television to the delight of the fans. Overall, the idea of giving Sasha a partner in this bout to overcome the thus-far one-sided conflict is a good story element…but the true mystery lies in just who it is.
Popular opinion points to Bayley. The last of the Four Horsewomen of NXT, the only one that wasn’t called up to the main roster with the other three, and one of the many NXT Superstars that was suspected to get called up in the WWE Draft that was notably absent. Many see her lack of a call-up as a means to keep her involvement in the match a secret and have her debut be just as meaningful.
If it isn’t Bayley, then one of the other three women called up from NXT in the draft is just as eligible to emerge as Bank’s opponent, with Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss, and Carmella all getting drafted this past week. Whoever it is, it will be their main roster debut and should set them on the path to WWE Superstardom.
Jacob Anderson: Sasha and her partner. No matter who it is, this match serves as the platform to launch their careers on the main roster. Whether it be Bayley or any of the other three, you can’t bury a newly debuting talent in their first match.
Ryan Aday: Sasha and her partner. Most likely it’s Bayley but regardless, Brooke takes the pin and sets up Sasha vs Charlotte at SummerSlam.
Result: Sasha Banks was joined by Bayley, and the two defeated Charlotte and Dana Brooke when Banks made Charlotte tap out from the Bank Statement.
The New Day vs. The Wyatt Family
The WWE Tag Team Champions find themselves not defending their titles, but fending off the Buzzards themselves in the first of the night’s 6-man tag team matches.
The New Day has had plenty of non-title matches on big shows in the past, but this one has to ring up as one of the strangest in recent memory. The New Day and the Wyatt Family are two complete opposites from one another: their gimmicks, wrestling styles, and personalities just don’t add up together. While that may seem like the perfect formula for a feud, you have to admit that seeing three men who preach the power of positivity and crack jokes every week going up against three burly men with huge beards and preach the message of darkness just seems like a strange combination.
Add two other factors into the mix as well: Xavier Woods’ strange reaction towards anything to do with the Wyatt Family and the fact that Bray Wyatt and Erick Rowan have been drafted to the opposite show of the tag champs. If WWE was intending to have the Wyatts in a storyline with a potential Woods crossover, they wouldn’t have put the New Day on RAW and the New Face of Fear on SmackDown. While this may make for a wonderful match from a performance standpoint, having it continue past Battleground just doesn’t seem to make sense.
Jacob Anderson: The Wyatt Family. This is the last time all three active members will be on the same show due to the draft, and this may be their last hurrah as a team. Plus, with Woods obviously terrified of Bray, any slip from him could cost The New Day the match anyway.
Ryan Aday: Wyatt Family. If this were for the belts I would lean to New Day but the fact that it’s not means the Wyatts win and New Day keeps belts. Wyatt looks strong setting him up as main event guy on Smackdown.
Results: The Wyatts defeated The New Day when Bray Wyatt pinned Xavier Woods after finishing him off with a Sister Abigail.
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
First off, it won’t be. These two create such incredible chemistry in matches together, and if WWE thinks that preventing them from fighting one another is going to draw in more sales and attention, they are dead wrong. Both Zayn and Owens are phenomenal without each other as single competitors, but all you need to do is put the two in the same ring and you’ll have huge roars from the crowd in no time. A feud that fans have watched boil up from NXT, seeing it on the main roster just makes it even more incredible to watch.
Also, these two can be credited as being most of the reason why NXT is such a popular show to watch nowadays, and even though they had been wrestling for years before ever signing with WWE, Owens and Zayn are explosive in the ring and guaranteed to be the show-stealing performance of the night.
Jacob Anderson: Sami Zayn. He’s got to win one eventually, and his clashes with Owens in the past have all resulted in losses. There’s a difference between a stomp and a good rivalry.
Ryan Aday: Sami Zayn, Because he has to win one…right? If he loses it’s not a feud.
Results: In what many will consider the match of the night, Sami Zayn emerged victorious after a series of near-falls and false finishes. Ultimately, it took two Helluva Kicks in a row from Zayn to keep Kevin Owens down for good. While this was billed as the final match between these two competitors, and they both certainly left it all out there in the ring, fans are definitely left wanting more, hoping that Zayn and Owens do indeed “fight forever.”
John Cena, Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady vs. The Club
Give WWE credit where it is due: they know how to properly continue a rivalry. Fans around the world are probably used to seeing feuds between big superstars sometimes take three months, and subsequently, three pay-per-view matches, in order to see it come to a close. But WWE threw a curveball when Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson began assisting Styles in beating down Cena. Enzo and Cass also get a well-deserved boost by teaming them with Cena.
This can still very well be seen as a continuation of the Cena/Styles storyline rather than a new one due to the complicated finish to the match the two had at Money in the Bank. This match serves two purposes. It gives Enzo and Cass something to do since they aren’t involved in the tag team title picture at the moment. It also builds momentum for Cena and Styles to meet again at SummerSlam next month. Overall, this looks like it can be a very interesting contest indeed, especially since Styles has been cut off from his teammates as a result of the WWE Draft.
Jacob Anderson: The Club. This is a bold idea, but if A.J. can get a clean pin over Cena rather than a screwy one, that can light a fire under Cena and hype their suspected match at SummerSlam even more.
Ryan Aday: Cena, Enzo, and Cass. I predict that The Club implodes, but are reunited by the recently drafted Finn Bálor. This creates a dominant RAW stable and allows A.J. Styles to be a top fan favorite on SmackDown.
Results: If matches were fought and won based solely on the in-ring promos delivered beforehand, then Enzo Amore, Colin Cassady, and John Cena could have called it a night early. Amore delivered one of the most scathing yet hilarious promos in recent memory. Fortunately, they were able to back that talk up with their in-ring performance, and the three defeated The Club via pinfall after Cena delivered an Attitude Adjustment to A.J. Styles off the top rope. These particular rivalries will have to continue on separate shows, as the two tag teams are headed to Raw, and Cena and Styles are headed to SmackDown.
WWE Champion Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns
A match that has been over two years in the making, The Lunatic Fringe looks to defend his WWE Championship against the Architect and The Big Dog in a triple threat match.
When Seth Rollins disbanded The Shield back in 2014, it was a shock heard round the world. While there have been altercations between the three men at separate times, with both Reigns and Ambrose having pay-per-view main event matches with Rollins in the past, matches that involve all three men at the same time have been few and far between. Fans have been clamoring to see this Shield Triple Threat match since they split up.
The finish to this match is, on some level, dependent on the brands that each of the three men were drafted to. Ambrose, the current champion, has been drafted to SmackDown, and Rollins and Reigns have been drafted to RAW, but the chances of WWE allowing their main championship to stay off of their flagship show, RAW, doesn’t quite make sense. Rumors have been floating around that WWE’s intention is to bring back the World Heavyweight Championship as a SmackDown-exclusive title due to the main title no longer being known as the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
The outcome of the bout should shed some more light on what the WWE championship picture looks like going forward. If Ambrose wins, then it could mean that the WWE Championship will float between shows rather than being exclusive to just RAW or SmackDown. But if Rollins or Reigns win the belt, then the chances of another world title created for SmackDown go up considerably. As the details surrounding different divisions and championships are still a little unclear due to the brand split, WWE will be looking to make the most of this opportunity to either clear up the rumors or leave us all in suspense.
Jacob Anderson: Roman Reigns, via pinning Dean Ambrose, but only if he returns as a heel. We don’t want to see a babyface Roman Reigns anymore, especially not with the WWE’ s top prize.
Ryan Aday: Seth Rollins wins to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Ambrose takes the pin. Rollins and Reigns feud at RAW and will be the main event at SummerSlam.
Results: Dean Ambrose retained his title by delivering a Dirty Deeds and then pinning a distracted Reigns who was in the process of pinning Rollins at the time. While the in-ring action was top-notch, the most interesting thing about the match may have been the babyface/heel dynamic between the three men. It was clear that the crowd was against Reigns the entire night, and any time he managed to drum up some offense he was immediately met with a chorus of boos. However, Ambrose and Rollins are both seemingly fan favorites. Since they are headed to different shows, it is easy to picture the Reigns/Rollins rivalry continuing on Raw, while Ambrose heads to SmackDown in search of an opponent for SummerSlam.