By Matt Straub and Brad Carroll
WWE is experimenting with some new names for PPVs lately, and judging by the card we’re getting Sunday, WWE should call Sunday’s event in Philadelphia “Enough is Enough.” WWE Battleground is full of matches we’ve seen before, angles no one could possibly want and empty seats. I can’t remember the last time the WWE this openly pushed ticket availability so close to a PPV. Looking at the lineup, I can understand why fans aren’t rushing to fill the building Sunday.
The card is the largest in a while, but it isn’t any good. This is a shame, because this show is a really important one, as it will help set up nearly half of the card for SummerSlam, one of the biggest shows of the year. What does this show have to offer? Can it be a pleasant surprise? Let’s put it this way: By far the most interesting thing to happen in the build to this show has been Shane McMahon’s helicopter crashing, and that wasn’t part of the script. If nothing else, there’s lots to make fun of and complain about, so let’s get to the preview.
Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English (Kickoff Show)
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: In what will be a recurring theme for this show, the kickoff match features one we’ve seen before. As will also be the case throughout this preview, this is a match we don’t need to see again. Dillinger wins and hopefully we can move on quickly to something better, even though there isn’t much of it here.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: The problem with SmackDown is they only focus on the championship picture and thus forget about everything else. Tye Dillinger is a perfect example. Since he’s not fighting for a title, he’s been completely forgotten about by the SmackDown writers. Sure, it’s great he’s getting a PPV match here, but does anyone really care? No, because there has been no character development at all. And the same goes for Aiden English, although they actually have tried a bit with him, which is strange. So, all the matches that don’t involve an A-lister will suffer. They’ve already botched Shinsuke Nakamura so far as well, because he’s not in a title picture, so there’s no reason to treat him as anything more than a mid-carder. That’s sad. SmackDown has only two hours, true, with Raw having three, but remember during the Attitude Era, where Stone Cold and the Rock ruled wrestling, that show was just two hours as well. And there was storylines up and down the show that made the entire thing interesting. This type match, with all we know, would never even make it on an episode of Raw back then. But here we are. It’s not Dillinger’s or English’s fault, but rather WWE’s. But you all knew that already. Dillinger wins here, but nobody will care nor tune in early to watch.
Breezango calls out their attacker
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: One of the biggest cases of déjà vu Sunday will occur when Breezango comes to the ring to announce they’ve determined the identity of the team which attacked Tyler and broke his toy horse. The only thing dumber than the sentence is the lack of originality in this storyline. Remember the last time Breezeango came to the ring on a PPV to meet their mystery foes who had ruined their office? What was that, two years ago? Oh, no, that’s right, it was last month. At Money in the Bank in June, the Ascension revealed themselves to be the attackers in an impromptu match which made the WWE, as Enzo would say, zero dimes since they didn’t advertise it ahead of time. This means no one signed up for the network to see it. I’m not sure anyone would have anyway, but why cost yourself even $10? With the exception of big returns at the Royal Rumble, there’s nothing dumber in wrestling than unannounced matches. Though this storyline isn’t far behind. I have no idea who the opponents will be and I couldn’t care less. Breezeango wins. I’m pretty sure I’ve used that Enzo line before, but for a card so full of recycled matches, recycled jokes actually work.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: I thought the Enzo dimes line by Straub was brilliant, until he remembered he recycled the joke, which just ruins everything. Even when Straub scores, he quickly calls off the goal himself, allowing for a giant letdown. Thanks, Straub. Anyway, I started out as a huge fan when Breezango stepped into the title picture and then took off popularity-wise with their Fashion Files segments, but recently the segments are doing nothing for me. They probably have jumped the shark already, although many seem to still like what they are doing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great they are trying something different and are getting on TV every week doing it, but the segments are dragging now. Maybe I’m just too old now to notice the hilarity. But Straub’s right in that they just did this and it ended up being something stupid. The same happens here, although hopefully the reveal is something bigger than the Ascension. It probably will be the Hype Bros., cause what else are they doing?
Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Tamina vs. Lana (Five-Way Elimination Match to determine Naomi's opponent at SummerSlam)
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: Speaking of things we’ve seen before, it’s the women’s division of Smackdown Live being thrown together in one match! Everyone here but Lana was in the Money in the Bank match, which makes sense because you need six or seven for that concept to work, but also means we literally just saw this match. At least there are good wrestlers getting the chance to shine, which will get us through the boredom of such recent history repeating. My picks have been awful lately and I’m sure I’ll get this wrong, but it doesn’t matter since the only thing the winner here gets is a good view of Carmella winning the belt by cashing in at SummerSlam in Brooklyn. I’ll go with Becky, because, well, why not?
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: Here’s what I don’t understand about the SmackDown women’s division, why in the world would they have this match and completely ignore the champion (Naomi) and Ms. Money in the Bank (Carmella)? I get they want to set up a challenger for Naomi, and Carmella doesn’t need to win this match cause he’s already got the briefcase, but those two should be involved in the show. That’s nothing against the five women who are involved, but it’s just awkward, especially since Naomi has rarely defended her title since becoming champion. (They stripped her of the title before for less of a break defending the belt now). It’s obvious this match should be won by either Charlotte or Becky Lynch, and that is the way the WWE should go. Since Becky beat Charlotte clean on SmackDown this past week, I’m going with Charlotte to go over big here and then will beat Naomi at SummerSlam, which would be long overdue anyway. Charlotte could have feuds then with Naomi, Carmella if she cashes in and wins, and then ultimately Becky Lynch, which should be great.
Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: Even the new matchups on this PPV are terrible. I don’t mean that as a knock on Sami, but if WWE cares at all about its investment, then Sami has zero chance to win here. Much like WWE did with Cass on Raw, they have to put over the guy they’ve put so much stock in lately. Kanellis might be terrible, and his gimmick worse, but there’s been too much put into it to kill his push now. Of course, WWE has randomly decided to stop pushes before, but I just don’t see it here.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: The love gimmick is pretty terrible and I can’t imagine anyone investing any amount of energy into either booing or cheering the couple. Sami Zayn, of course, is being thrown to the wolves again, as Straub isn’t wrong, WWE is not going to have Kanellis lose just yet. But just like on SmackDown, Kanellis will get a cheap win so Zayn is sort of protected in losing. Although at this point with Zayn, does it really matter anymore, as he’s lost so many times already? Oh well.
United States Champion AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: The two best workers and talkers Smackdown has to offer facing off for the second belt seems like a waste, but it actually reminds me of the old days of wrestling when the big title was for the characters and the second belt featured the best wrestling. I love having these two together, and the build for this feud has actually been pretty good. There have been many theories thrown around to explain Styles winning the belt before the PPV match even happens, but I’m thinking it’s an easier way to keep the feud going without hurting either guy. Styles has a win already, Owens wins Sunday, and they get to fight again either at SummerSlam or sooner for the rubber match. Everyone knows Owens lost but no one saw it, so in the odd world of wrestling and its fans, it doesn’t hurt him as much as it helps Styles to have the belt. Owens wins Sunday while Styles is protected by his previous win, and they can go again and continue to build this. Or maybe I’m giving WWE too much credit and they just wanted people to go to house shows. Either way, give me Owens tonight in a good one, and give me these two fighting any day of the week. There’s a lot of talk about WWE setting up another feud for Styles for Brooklyn, but I don’t think there’s enough time to build something new which is major PPV worthy, so I think this one goes one more month.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: Speaking of guys the SmackDown writers have botched since coming over from Raw, there is Kevin Owens, who has taken so many losses since moving to Tuesdays he has zero momentum anymore. He did get to pin Styles on Tuesday in a tag match, but that might have been his first victory in as far back as I can remember. Owens getting that victory, though, typically points to Styles winning this match at Battleground, although who knows anymore with how WWE operates. This is one of those weird matches where both guys should win and deserve to win at the same time, as Owens and Styles should be fighting over the WWE championship rather than the US belt. But either way, expectations of course will be high for a great match, and the pair should deliver. Owens needs the win a little bit more, as he’s a completely different attraction with a title as he is without one. I’ll go with Owens for that reason, even though Styles winning wouldn’t be a bad thing. Straub’s right, though, this feud should continue, as both Styles and Owens need a big-time match for SummerSlam.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: There isn’t a more obvious or more important bit of booking on Sunday’s show than this match. Nakamura has to win if he’s going to save any momentum from what was a huge introductory push. WWE has an ability to make guys seem like stars right off the hop only to make them feel like average Joes in a matter of weeks, and Nakamura is dangerously close to that territory. A loss here locks him into the midcard for a while, if not permanently. It’s fitting that he debuted against Dolph Ziggler, since he’s heading closer to being known as the “next Dolph Ziggler” every week. Much of Nakamura’s problems are WWE’s fault, but he needs to take some blame for his own subpar work as well. He hasn’t been bad by any stretch, but he hasn’t been this amazing wrestler those who have followed him for years led those of us who focus on the big leagues to believe. However we got here, he simply needs to win Sunday. WWE can use some foresight for a title match down the line if they have Corbin cash in his Money in the Bank contract and win the belt at some point, then have Nakamura demand the first shot since he has a win over Corbin. Then again, what are the odds of WWE thinking that far ahead? And will they realize they don’t have to worry about keeping Corbin strong since they can put him in a title match at will in a believable way? In a well-booked company, Nakamura wins, then does a placeholder program before fighting Corbin for the belt and going into Wrestlemania as champion for his huge match with Styles, which by then would be well-hyped. This is WWE, however, so let’s just get him through Sunday with a win, first.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: Straub makes the case for Nakamura having to win this match, but the same can be written for Corbin, who just won the Money in the Bank briefcase and needs to be built up to a believable champion. The only way to do that is to win, so it wouldn’t shock if he did beat Nakamura Sunday, as he soon will be WWE champion. Of course, Corbin beating Nakamura is ridiculous, but this isn’t reality TV, it’s the WWE, where in-ring ability only takes you so far. But, yes, the WWE needs to protect their big investment in Nakamura as well, who as Straub mentions, would be the perfect opponent for AJ Styles at next year’s WrestleMania with the world title on the line. If you think otherwise, just look back to the Money in the Bank match where Styles and Nakamura went head-to-head and the crowd lost their minds. There’s still so much time between now and WrestleMania it’s not worth thinking about just yet. Nakamura and Corbin could both use the win, but Corbin doesn’t need to cash in any time soon, while Nakamura will look completely weak with a loss. Nakamura wins.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos vs. The New Day
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: I know it’s the easiest way to extend feuds, but you shouldn’t ever have a non-finish on a PPV, which is exactly what we got the last time these two fought. When the Usos walked out on that match you knew they’d fight New Day again, even before the teams had a rap battle which was supposed to make me watch this match. (It didn’t work, if you were wondering.) New Day wins to give WWE a reason to have them fight again next month, largely because there’s nothing else for either team to do. It felt like the tag team ranks were picking up not long ago, but those days seem already gone. The New Day is occasionally funny and the break they had was the best thing for them. The heel Usos are still the Usos, which means I couldn’t be less interested. Still, WWE needs this feud, so New Day wins.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: In the SmackDown tag team division there is the Usos and the New Day … and that’s pretty much it. There’s no way they are going to end this feud before SummerSlam and that has to mean the New Day will win the titles. Then they start eliminating tag team challengers, wherever they are, one by one as they embark on another long streak, although it will be far less interesting this time around.
John Cena vs. Rusev (Flag Match)
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: I mean, really? Do I need to break this one down for you? If you’ve ever seen a wrestling show you know darn well what happens here. Cena wins, then beats another foreign character for the title in New York in the summer like he’s Lex Luger saving America from Yokozuna 25 years ago (though Luger never actually won the belt, they still celebrated like he did). I won’t waste any more space on this, I’ll just cede the floor to Brad so he can rant and give us some funny lines about Cena. My rant will come when he breaks Ric Flair’s record for title wins. For now, you’re up my friend.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: Here’s a swerve Straub never saw coming: Thank God John Cena is back on SmackDown. Really, seriously, I swear. SmackDown has become so boring a show, with just a handful of guys and gals people want to actually see, that the “fresh face” of Cena coming back to the show full time has injected some much-needed juice to the show. Sure, Cena is still terrible at everything he does, but at least he brings some energy. Now, I won’t be spinning around my living room going insane for Cena when his music hits Sunday, which is what Straub will be doing, but I will be interested. Yes, they shouldn’t have brought this feud back, as they already did Cena vs. Rusev a bunch already, including a pay-off match at WrestleMania that Cena predictably won. It doesn’t hurt Cena at all, as he’ll likely defend America’s honor, but for Rusev, man, they brought him back to some fanfare and will undoubtedly bury him yet again to Cena. Where does he go from here? Who knows. WWE has botched Rusev, a true talent, since that WrestleMania loss to Cena.
WWE Champion Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton (Punjabi Prison Match)
Straub’s Breakdown and Pick: The more I think about advanced booking, the more I wonder if Mahal’s title run, which will continue after Sunday, was entirely to give Cena someone hateable to beat at SummerSlam. There will be extra mainstream media attention because they’ll be in New York, and the old-school match between the American “hero” and Mahal’s character is an easy sell for casual fans, especially the rapidly-leaving older crowd. I can’t see any other scenario playing out. In the meantime, we have a Punjabi Prison match, which is like the Elimination Chamber with overly-complicated rules and bamboo sides which make watching the match difficult. The cameras in the ring work on the Network, but it must be awful to see live. Of course, any match with Jinder is terrible to see through any method, but we only have two more title matches left in his reign. Orton is going to take a tumble down the card after losing this feud so badly, but he doesn’t need wins at this stage. What we all need is a new title picture. Things are so bad Cena’s return almost seems refreshing. Ok, that’s not true, I just wanted to see if I could get Brad to rant again. I’m the point guard here, I just set him up to dunk the ball.
Carroll’s Breakdown and Pick: Of course Straub would liken himself to the quick, athletic, multi-faceted point guard here and me to the lumbering, slow, big guy who can only dunk and not make a shot outside three feet center. Thanks Straub. If I wanted to dunk on Straub I could always just bring up his man love tri-fecta of Cena, Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe, but everyone already knows his weird fascination with that trio. But I digress. I ducked out on wrestling during the time they held two of these Punjabi Prison matches in the past, so I’m actually excited to see one play out, even though the two guys inside I really couldn’t care less about. Randy Orton is so played out as a character if he left the company tomorrow I wouldn’t blink an eye. Jinder Mahal has slowly grown into a major player, no matter his limited skill set and lackluster promos, and is one push the WWE has done a great job with. Mahal never deserved it, but WWE has built him into a believable champion, as if you started watching wrestling this week, you wouldn’t think twice about Mahal being champion. You would accept it with no questions asked. If and when Jinder wins this match it is an interesting question as to who would be next to challenge him. Cena, Straub pointed out, makes complete sense. And he would be the perfect guy to beat Jinder at SummerSlam. Besides him, though, who would be the choice as a SummerSlam opponent? If Styles beats Owens it could be a title for title match, with Styles repping America. But that’s not likely. They aren’t going to throw Shinsuke Nakamura in the mix, although it would be very interesting. (And it would be great to hear USA chants). It won’t be Kevin Owens. So it looks like Cena’s the man. Too bad for Jinder, as he’ll have to lose that match and then after getting beat again in a rematch, he’ll be back to the mid-card.