The promos for WWE Battleground featured the Smackdown superstars with their faces covered in warpaint. Well, whoever booked this dismal show should be wearing clown makeup. Seriously, this was by far the worst Pay-Per-View event in recent memory. If you didn’t see it, go out of your way to avoid doing so. If you did, well, maybe you’ll want to cover your face as well… in shame and regret.
The unfortunate main event of this debacle of a show was a Punjabi Prison Match for the WWE Championship, pitting champion Jinder Mahal against the sleep-inducing Randy Orton. The announcers explained the convoluted rules of the match, which is to say, “Fire Russo.” The first half of the match saw them trying to keep each other from escaping through one of the doors of the inner cage before it was permanently closed. Effectively, this meant that after some boring stuff, they did more boring stuff with a little more urgency, since each door could only be opened for a minute before it was locked. After what seemed like an eternity of them doing nothing interesting, they finally started to throw each other into the “steel-reinforced bamboo” walls of the cage. Which was good, if only because the loud crashes this made might have woken up some of the fans sitting up front. Things finally got less boring when there was only one door left open. It looked like Orton was going to escape the inner cage after he hit an RKO, but Mahal’s prone body was between him and the doorway. The Singh Brothers made their way to the ring, and with seconds to spare, they pulled Jinder out of the inner cage, leaving Randy to sit there and watch as the door shut just before he could follow. Mahal then tried to climb out of the outer cage, but was caught by Orton who scrambled up and over the inner cage wall, and leaped to the inside wall of the outer cage. On the floor, between the walls of the cages, Orton had to deal with a 3-on-1 assault. In a great visual, Samir slipped through the bars of the outer cage and climbed up the outside, to try to grab Randy who was climbing up and over. Orton punched him through the bars until Samir finally fell, crashing through the announce table after about a 15-foot drop – this was awesome and easily the highlight of the match. As Randy was climbing the cage with victory at hand, Mahal’s music blasted and out came the Great Khali’s music. The former world champion Frankensteined his way to the cage, and as Orton was going over the top, Khali shook the cage walls, causing Orton to tumble back onto the inside of the wall. Khali climbed up halfway, reached through the bars into the cage, and grabbed Orton by the throat. Orton was unable to escape the clamp, and he could only watch as Mahal climbed up and over the cage and down to the floor to end the match and continue his title reign. The best things about this match were the Singh Brothers, the appearance by Khali, and the fact that it was so difficult to see this abomination because of the ridiculously-blocked sightlines due to the double wooden walls construct. A terrible way to end a terrible show.
WWE BAD-dleground – Full Recap
Because misery loves company, two of us are tag-teaming this review. Bob Kapur’s comments will be in normal font, while Matthew Asher’s comments will be in fancy italics.
Kickoff Match: Aiden English vs. Tye Dillinger
English was able to complete his acapella ring introduction to the dismay of the crowd. English had some neat character-building notes here, including fine-art-inspired tights and a tribute of sorts to the original Hunter Hearst Helmsley blueblood persona with a deep bow after knocking Dillinger to the mat. English took control after some hard stomps and kicks, but that changed after Dillinger nailed him with a well-timed dropkick as English went for an aerial assault and followed that up with a stellar Spinebuster. After escaping a TEN punch attempt in the corner, English hit a twisting Full Nelson Front Slam for the win.
Winner: Aiden English
Match rating: 7/10
They showed an interview from earlier with Jinder Mahal, during which he spoke entirely in Punjabi. He said he selected the Punjabi Prison match to prove his dominance and so that he could use that environment to end Randy Orton’s career.
The New Day are Smackdown tag champs.
Match One: New Day vs. The Usos (c) – Smackdown Tag Team Championship
Xavier and Kofi wrestled this one, and it was explained this was to throw off the Usos’ game plan, since they were expecting Big E in this one. This was a good battle of speed vs. strength, with Kofi particularly impressive with his high-flying offense. A beautiful spot saw the Usos catch Kofi who tried for a flying reverse dive from the top turnbuckle to the floor, and then hit him with a hard double powerbomb off the floor – ouch! Later, they hit a nice assisted Samoan Drop combo on Woods for a 2-count. A great sequence saw Woods going for a flying tightrope leap, but the intended Uso rolled out of the ring, and the other caught Woods with a surprise superkick, knocking him out of the air – beautiful. Later, the Usos hit a good superkick-Superfly combo, but Kofi shockingly kicked out. The crowd’s “This is awesome” chant, that came after this moment, was truly deserved at this point. The Usos then crashed and burned on a double Superfly attempt. Right after that, Kofi hit Trouble in Paradise, and Woods followed that up with a Tightrope Elbow for the pin and the championship.
Without a doubt, the match of the night. So glad Xavier Woods remembered to bring his worker’s boots for this one. Great spot of him eating a superkick when going off the top rope for the Tightrope Elbow because when he goes for it later to win the match, I was thinking he was going to eat another superkick. Such a shame no other match comes close to this one tonight.
Winners and new Smackdown Tag Team Champions: The New Day
Match rating: 8/10
Shinsuke Nakamura and Baron Corbin face off.
Match Two: Baron Corbin vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
So Corbin has the fun job of once again trying to defeat ‘Nak. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the coward isn’t nearly as into ‘Nak’s entrance as it was a few months ago. Oh well. Here’s to a Kinshasha to ‘Nak’s temple before/after this match. Great job of ‘Nak to goad Corbin from the beginning of the match. Baron does a good job of neutralizing ‘Naks legs by going for a bearhug and working on other limbs that are not ‘Nak’s legs.Shinsuke escapes the submission and the two combatants start throwing haymakers. Corbin escapes being thrown into a corner and drops ‘Nak with a clothesline. The match is once again even as both men are exhausted. Baron interrupts a Kinshasa attempt and turns it into a Deep Six but can’t get a three-count. ‘Nak hits a head kick, but doesn’t go for a cover. I don’t know why. He pulls up Corbin, but Baron goes for a blatant groin shot. The ref easily sees this and calls for the disqualification win. After the match, Corbin low-blowed Nakamura again, this time with his Money in the Bank briefcase, and then hit End of Days to add insult to injury.
Definitely a letdown. What does Corbin have to gain win a win/loss via nutshot? Makes him look weak in my mind. I know that WWE typically has their MiTB winners lose a ton of matches before cashing in to get the WWE title(s) but this is dumb. Corbin could have lost and he would have looked fine, but after the cheapshot, he loses his momentum.
I’m not so upset about Corbin losing this way, but more with the pairing of him with Nakamura in the first place. Corbin’s slow and plodding style doesn’t gel with Nakamura’s, and led to the worst match Nakamura has had in WWE, and maybe ever. Corbin has more stars tattooed on his body than this match deserves.
Winner: Shinshuke Nakamura.
Match Rating: 4/10
Natalya ignores the hand of Smackdown Women’s champion Naomi.
Match Three: Lana vs. Tamina vs. Natalya vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair – Elimination Match for the number one contendership to the Smackdown Womens Championship
Before the match, Naomi came to the ring to join the commentary team. It looks like she’s slightly toned down her entrance. Good. I wasn’t a big fan of her cosplaying as Finn Balor’s Demon.
Lana doesn’t have the in-ring experience as any of the other women in the ring – or Naomi, who joined the commentary team for this one – but, by God, she looked amazing. Honestly, that outfit was worthy of the Attitude Era. The early story here was her teaming up with Tamina who saved her from elimination several times. Some bizarre thinking here, when Lana broke up a Natalya Sharpshooter on Charlotte – this is an elimination match, not a a one-fall match, so why interrupt it? After a while, it’s like somebody threw a switch, and we had a series of eliminations in very short order. In less than a minute, Becky submitted both Tamina and Lana with the Disarmer, before getting rolled up out of nowhere by Natalya. Natalya and Charlotte battled it out for a bit, including a great moment where Natalyia went for an arm submission, couldn’t get it, and Charlotte lifted her up via the British Bulldog against HBK for their IC title match on Saturday Night Main Event. Seriously, watch that match, it’s one of my favourites. Charlotte went for a moonsault attempt, but Natalya got her knees up, and Charlotte crashed hard. After that, she was easy pickings for a rolling whip into the turnbuckles and a pin. After the match, Naomi entered the ring to congratulate Natalya, but the number one contender wouldn’t accept a handshake, choosing instead to leave the ring.
The falls went a little too quickly for me, but I’m glad Nattie gets a chance at the title. I don’t think she’s actually won a title (the Divas title) since appearing in WWE proper and if she gets the strap then, I’m looking forward to her reign.
I’m looking forward to seeing more of Lana. Not more matches necessarily, just more of Lana.
Winner: Natalya Match rating: 6/10
Match Four: Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles (c) – for the US Championship
This one started off with a lengthy feeling-out process, with AJ frustrating Owens with fancy moves. On the floor, though, Owens evened things up with a nasty whip to the barricade. This weakened AJ enough, leading to an extended beatdown in the ring, and the first extended headlock for the night, with Owens grounding AJ for several minutes. AJ finally mustered enough strength to mount a comeback with a big discus clothesline. Things picked up after that, with AJ trying several times to hit a atomic drop facebuster, and a couple of other big moves. But his momentum stopped when he went for a springboard somersault splash, but ate knees for his trouble. Owens followed that up with big cannonball for 2. An Owens superplex attempt was blocked, and reversed into a Torture Rack powerbomb by Styles. Owens played possum as AJ climbed the rope for another air attack, and tried again for a superplex, but AJ slid through, leading to a neat sequence of moves that ended up with AJ’s arm being smashed onto the ring apron, weakening it. The damage to his arm prevented him from hitting a Styles Clash, and instead, Owens picked him up, and in a great-looking spot, Owens threw Styles onto the referee, knocking him out. Styles fought back and was able to lock in a Calf Crusher, but the ref was still down. The two exchanged submission holds but the referee was too dazed to do anything – though, not that it mattered, since neither one was tapping out during any of this. Finally, after a series of reversals, it looked like both of their shoulders were down. The referee made the count, and awarded the match and the title to Owens. This was a really disappointing match, given what these guys are capable of doing – and the terrible finish was the bitter icing on a stale cake.
i agree. I was expecting much more out of these two men. To have it end this way was a major disappointment. AJ’s too smart to simply get pinned while he’s trying to submit his opponent.
Winner and new US Champion: Kevin Owens
Match rating: 4/10
Backstage, the Singh Brothers told Jinder that they wouldn’t be able to be there to watch his back during the PUnjabi Prison match, because they won’t be able to enter the cage.
Around this time, Matthew started experiencing technical difficulties, so his comments end. Or else he wised up and stopped watching this dog of a show. If so, well played.
Could it have ended any other way but John Cena with Old Glory?
Match Five: Rusev vs. John Cena – Flag Match
This gimmick is so old-school, I was half expecting to hear Gorilla Monsoon on commentary. Though there was a twist to the traditional Flag Match rules, in that for this one, the match wouldn’t end when someone simply grabbed their flag from the pole on the corner post. To win this one, they had to then take the flag to the top of the entrance ramp where there was a pair of podiums, one decorated in the colours of each man’s country, and the flag had to be planted in the flag stand on top of the podium. Early on, Rusev kept trying to climb up and get his flag early on, but Cena kept thwarting his attempts. Every time he did, Rusev would flatten Cena with a power move and try again. Later, rinse, repeat. Rusev was the first to get his flag down from the pole, but before he could leave the ring with it, Cena got up and flattened him with the Attitude Adjustment. Cena then got his flag, but Rusev clobbered him with a superkick. Meanwhile, the flags that these guys respected so much that they were fighting for the honor of waving theirs in full glory were dropping on the floor repeatedly. Ironic much? The battle eventually made its way to the entrance ramp near the podiums. Cena tried to launch himself off the US podium, but Rusev caught him and overhead slammed him on the ramp. Instead of grabbing his flag, Rusev instead got some tables, setting them up near the US podium. This earned an “ECW” chant? Seriously? Just setting up tables? Note to the WWE Universe: unless and until someone actually goes through a table, calm down with the “ECW” chants. After some more fighting, Cena lifted Rusev into a Fireman’s Carry, climbed up the US podium with Rusev on his shoulders, and dropped Rusev off the podium through the tables. With Rusev down and out, Cena getting the US flag and planting it on the podium was merely academic.
Winner: John Cena
Match rating: 6/10
Sami Zayn wonders what to do with a problem like Maria.
Next came a new edition of the Fashion Files, starring Breezango. They acknowledged this would be the culmination of their case. Immediately, the Ascension showed up and admitted it was all them that destroyed their little horse, and it was all for the heck of it. But Breezango pointed out that it couldn’t be them, because they weren’t in the building at that time. They speculated as to who it could be, and suddenly the lights in their office went out. When they turned back on, Breeze was unconscious. They went off and on again, and this time, Fandango was laid out as well. Fandango was dragged away by the unknown assailant, and the mystery continues.
Match Six: Mike Kanellis w/ Maria vs. Sami Zayn
Yeah, because they really needed a cool-down match after the Breezango vignette. Within a minute, Kanellis bailed out of the ring. Sami went for a flying dive, but Maria pulled her man out of the line of fire and Sami balked. This led to him getting waffled on the outside, and the beating continued in the ring. The commentary team tried to hard-sell the “love” gimmick that Maria and Mike are doing, and the fact that they had to work so hard at it makes it seem that they realize how little legs it really has. #Overcompensation. In the meantime, Sami fought back, and hit some offense, including finally hitting (barely) a flying somersault dive. He tried to end things with an Exploder into the corner, but Maria got into the ring and Sami balked again. Once she left, he did it, though, and followed it up with a Helluva Kick to get the win. Doesn’t say much for Kanellis by losing so cleanly in his first PPV match.
Winner: Sami Zayn
Match rating: 4/10
This is what the Punjabi Prison looked like.
Match 7: Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal (c) – For the WWE Championship
Winner and still WWE Champion: Jinder Mahal
Match rating: 1/10 (3 points each for the Singh Brothers and Khali, with 4 points deducted for each of Orton and Mahal).
Overall Show Rating: 4/10