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Monday, May 22nd 2017.
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WWE Battleground 2016

by Scrooge McSuck

WWE Battleground 2016

- Live from the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Michael Cole, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, and Byron Saxton are at ringside to call all the action and make countless drinking game clichés, unless otherwise noted. The "Expert Panel" consists of Renee Young and whatever the hell she's wearing, Hall of Famer's Booker T and Jerry "The King" Lawler, and the new voice of Monday Night Raw, Corey Graves.

The Usos vs. Breezango:

(Jimmy & Jey Uso vs. Tyler Breeze & Fandango)
Kickoff Match. Both teams were selected to Smackdown Live, so maybe this will lead to something else down the line. Just when you think the tank has emptied for Fandango, they find new ways to keep him around, whether it's being reinvented as a salsa dancer or the pretentious companion of a narcissistic jerk. You can tell they're rushed for time, starting the match with less than 15-minutes before the proper start time. Jey gets to play Uso-in-Peril. He hits both Breeze and Fandango with twisting enziguiris before making the hot tag. Lots of back and forth action that could've stood for some enforcing from the referee. Breeze saves Fandango from a Doomsday Device-like situation, but Jimmy hits both with a flying body press. Jimmy with a Super-Kick on Breeze. Fandango tries stopping his climb to the top rope, so Jey hits him with a sweet tope suicida. Jimmy comes off the top with a splash, but Breeze gets the knees up and cradles for three at 5:29. That was surprisingly clean for Breezango. *1/2 Started off as nothing but they went hard for the last few minutes.

Sasha Banks & a Mystery Partner vs. Charlotte & Dana Brooke:

I don't get the whole "Banks needs backup" storyline to pad things out until SummerSlam, but I'm always up for a mystery partner as long as it delivers the goods, and the mystery partner in question is... Bayley. Well, so much for shooting down that rumor. I'm guessing this is a one-and-done before they pretend two months down the line that tonight didn't happen. Charlotte and Dana attack before the bell to ruin the fun. Watching Sasha break character at the arrival of Bayley is one of those things that doesn't translate well. Sasha with the first spectacularly blown spot of the night, a flying hurricanrana that saw Sasha spike herself. Crowd doesn't boo her, of course. Dana with nothing but kicks and a chin-lock. Bayley with a false hot tag, and now, for reasons unknown, my stream (at this point I'm using a PS4) is just crippling, with constant buffering and weird jump cuts. Sasha ends up getting the real hot tag, Bayley takes out Dana on the floor, and the Bank Statement forces Charlotte to tap out at 8:00. By the match conclusion, I had already switched to my laptop for the remainder of the night. No rating since I couldn't fairly judge it, but I'm fine with the Bayley surprise and somehow not having her upstage Sasha.

The New Day vs. The Wyatt Family:

(Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods vs. Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan, and Braun Strowman):
Non-Title Match, obviously. Should be interesting to see what direction they take with Strowman on Raw and Wyatt and Rowan on Smackdown. The New Day remind us they are now the longest reigning Tag Team Champions in WWE History. That would be the lineage that began with Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle, not the version held by Demolition, with one of their reigns spanning something like 450 or so days. Woods insists on starting with Strowman, but then Wyatt tags in and he freezes in place, so it's Kofi starting, instead. He spends the first few minutes taking a beating from the Wyatts. Big E. comes in hot with a pair of belly-to-belly suplexes and a big splash on Rowan. Kofi takes Strowman out with a somersault plancha. Wyatt goes for Sister Abigail, but Woods makes the save. After a short tease, Woods finally unleashes a flurry of offense on Wyatt. Big E. takes out Rowan with the spear through the ropes, and again, lands awkwardly on his head on the follow-through. That's two straight matches with a spot that could've lead to serious injury. Wyatt pops up with the Spider-Walk, momentarily surprising Woods. He charges at Wyatt anyway, but Wyatt counters with Sister Abigail for the victory at 9:00. *1/2 It was nice to see Xavier finally get a bit of retribution on the Wyatt Family, but I feel like constantly jobbing them on PPV to teams that ARE BEING BROKEN UP makes about as much sense as you could imagine.

WWE United States Championship Match:
Rusev © (w/ Lana) vs. Zack Ryder:

The finish to this will telegraph the finish of the Intercontinental Title Match, with both matches featuring Superstars from different brands. If Rusev retains, then Miz will retain, and if Ryder wins the US Title, then Young wins the IC Title. Ryder's attire tonight appears to be partially inspired by the various red-white-and-blue outfits of Sting, Randy Savage, and the Ultimate Warrior. He's totally jobbing now. Ryder leads Rusev around for a game of cat-and-mouse. He misses a missile dropkick, allowing Rusev to control with some good old fashioned ground-and-pound. Nice of WWE to make Lana appear to be a complete afterthought, barely being caught on camera from as far away as possible. Ryder mounts a comeback with a neck breaker and the Broski Boot for two. Ryder with a missile dropkick off the security barricade. He connects with the Rough Ryder, but the El-Bro drop is met with a knee. Rusev with a Super-Kick to the back of the head. He slaps on the Accolade, Ryder teases escaping the hold, but Rusev pulls back for the super-leverage version, and Ryder is forced to tap out at 6:00. Rusev continues to attack, so Mojo Rawley makes the save by making weird noises in Rusev's face. Rusev's response on Twitter was perfect, accusing Rawley of being a stupid fan. *1/2 Too short to mean anything, but the action was fine for the time allotted.

Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens:

It's time for the absolute last meeting between these two... did I mention they were drafted to Monday Night Raw? I'm setting the over/under at 6 weeks for when they are put in the same match again. With the hype video produced, you would think this was the Main Event of WrestleMania, but it's just third from the top on a lame duck "Network Special." It's a blood feud, and thankfully they don't start it with a collar-elbow lockup. Zayn immediately goes for the Helluva Kick, but Owens bails. They slug it out and the floor and send each other into the surrounding barricades. Back in the ring, they crisscross and Zayn with a jumping heel kick for two. Owens crotches Zayn across the ropes and hits a Cannonball for two. Running senton. Snap mare and he goes to a chin-lock after teasing a big kick. Zayn fights free and connects with a Michinoku Driver for two. Owens to the floor. Zayn escapes a Powerbomb attempt and blows a springboard moonsault in the THIRD scary moment of the night. Crowd again is generously not chanting anything negative. Back in the ring and the Blue Thunder Bomb gets two. Owens comes back with a Super-Kick and locks in the Crossface. Zayn with an Exploder Suplex into the corner, but Owens avoids the Helluva Kick again. They fight on the apron until Zayn connects with a brutal brain buster. Owens sells it like death, but makes it back in at the count of 9.

They get into another slugfest as the crowd is doing dueling chants. Zayn sets up for the Turnbuckle Tornado DDT, but Owens counters with a Super-Kick. Owens with a cannonball to the head, followed by a Frog Splash for another two count. Crowd chants "fight forever", and at this point, it feels only natural they fight until both men are unconscious. Zayn counters a Powerbomb with a Tornado DDT. Helluva Kick is countered, as well as a Pop-Up Powerbomb attempt. Zayn with an Exploder Suplex, Owens pops up, and Zayn with another for a two count. Zayn goes for a leap frog, but Owens counters it Pop-Up Powerbomb style for two. Owens slaps Zayn around, but it only infuriates him. Zayn with another comeback, hitting a pair of Exploders into the turnbuckle. He nails Owens with the Helluva Kick, catches him on the way down, positions him back in the corner, and hits another Helluva Kick to finally get the three count at 18:00. ****1/2 Helluva Match. Take away the awkward botch early in the match and you have two performers busting their asses to put on as epic a match as you'll ever see on the undercard of a WWE show.

Becky Lynch vs. Natalya:

You have to feel sorry for anyone who has to follow that last match, and in this case, its two Women who actually have a feud that has been built up for about six weeks. Should've put the Intercontinental Title Match here, if you ask me. For such a bitter rivalry, I'm a bit surprised they start it out with a lockup. Becky with a series of takedowns. Becky with an arm drag and one-legged dropkick to send Natalya to the floor. Natalya takes control by trapping Becky in the ring apron skirt and going to work on the leg. Natalya constant camera mugging and smug behavior is actually a nice character refresher for someone who was really a bland babyface who was just a decent worker. Becky fights out of a spinning toe hold and connects with an enziguri. She gives Natalya a bitch slap and Exploder Suplex for two. Becky blocks the Discus Clothesline and counters the Sharpshooter. Natalya counters the Disarm-Her. She eventually hooks on the Sharpshooter, but Becky makes it to the ropes. Becky with a missile dropkick for two. Natalya cheap shots the knee while the referee forces a break in the corner, and the Sharpshooter eventually makes Becky tap out at 9:00. I would've put money on Becky going over here. **1/4 Good match, but again, tough act to follow.

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match:
The Miz © (w/ Maryse) vs. Darren Young (w/ Bob Backlund):

Yes, this is actually taking place on a standard Pay-Per-View/Network Special. The Miz and Maryse come out wearing fancy-dress/masquerade masks, so of course JBL screams random Hollywood references to try and sound hip. Usually I don't address these ridiculous comments, but this was so bad, I wanted to mute the television. They fight over a takedown until Young gets a roll-up for two. He slaps on a side headlock and rips off Luke Harper's Gator-Roll. Crisscross and Young with a swinging neck breaker for two. Maryse with a distraction, allowing Miz to knock him off the apron and to the floor. Miz with a chin-lock and some trash talking to Backlund, which to this point, has been the highlight of the match. They spend a good 30-40 seconds fighting over a back slide while nobody cares. Young comes back with a belly-to-belly suplex and a back suplex on the apron. It was only two matches ago we got a good apron spot. This wasn't a good one. Miz escapes a Chicken-Wing attempt and tries taking a walk, but Backlund cuts him off. Maryse gives Backlund a slap, Backlund snaps, Maryse falls down claiming he hit her, Miz comes to her rescue, and Young comes to Backlund's rescue, and the bell rings at 8:00 without the announcement of what the hell the decision was. Young by DQ? Count-Out? Miz by DQ? Eh, who cares. DUD The work was barely on the verge of OK, but then that finish really knocked everything it might've had going for it off the table.

John Cena, Enzo, and Big Cass vs. The Club (A.J. Styles, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson):

We're going to run long again, based on what's left on the format sheet and how long each segment will likely get. Enzo gets plenty of pre-match promo time, which typically means he's going to do the job. The crowd loves Enzo and Cass so much, they almost cheer for John Cena more than usual. Enzo wants Styles to start as the crowd chants "Soccer Mom" at him. Enzo and Cass control early, working over Anderson and Gallows, including a rocket-launch plancha spot. Enzo ends up getting worked over in the corner to the surprise of nobody. Styles gets knocked off the ropes and Gallows meets the post, but Anderson cuts off a tag with a running high knee. Cena eventually gets the hot tag, hitting Styles with shoulder tackles, a back suplex, and the five-knuckle shuffle. Styles counters the AA with a Pele Kick. Enzo breaks up a Styles Clash attempt with a DDT. Anderson with a Spinebuster, Big Cass with a Fall Away Slam, and Gallows with the Baldo Bomb. Both teams with a moment of miscommunication, the worst being Styles hitting Gallows with the Phenomenal Forearm. Cena with the Attitude Adjustment for two. Anderson gives Cena a spinebuster on the announcers table, then Enzo takes out Anderson with a Tornado DDT. Back inside, the Styles Clash on Cena gets two thanks to Cass. Gallows and Anderson give Cass the Magic Killer, and now Enzo wants to fight them both. He suckers Anderson into charging the ring post and Styles gets crotched along the turnbuckle. Cena climbs up with him, shrugs off his attempts to fight free, and finishes with the Super-Sized Attitude Adjustment at 14:00. **1/2 Fun match, but this was one of those "let's have fun" house show Main Events where there's less emphasis on structure and just a lot of stuff going on.

- Chris Jericho's Highlight Reel with Randy Orton. They go back and forth with Orton showing off his lame babyface personality. He does get a good dig on Brock Lesnar and performance enhancers, so there's the highlight of the segment. After countless efforts to poke the Bear, Jericho finally gets suckered into an RKO Out of Nowhere™ and for this, we have to run 20 minutes over scheduled.

WWE Championship Match:
Dean Ambrose © vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins:

I take it back: the recap video makes THIS feel like the Main Event of the Century. I guess they were better off cutting out the parts about Reigns being suspended for 30-days and everything else just running a treadmill for four weeks until it was show-time. Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon come out on behalf of Raw, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan for Smackdown, and both locker rooms are watching backstage. Ambrose and Reigns play ping-pong with Rollins in between sneaking roll ups on each other. Reigns and Ambrose trade blows, with the crowd firmly behind Ambrose. Reigns hits Rollins from out of nowhere™ with the Drive-By, and Ambrose nails them both with a top rope plancha. Rollins gets dumped into the timekeepers table and Ambrose with a dive from the announcers table. Ambrose with a missile dropkick, bulldog, and flying elbow on Reigns for two. Rollins with a Frog Splash for two. Reigns counters the Pedigree and goes crazy with Superman Punches. Cool spot sees Reigns hit Rollins with the punch and then Ambrose springing off the ropes to hit Reigns with the clothesline. They get into a 3-way slugfest until Reigns becomes the main target. Ambrose hits him with tope suicida and Rollins adds a somersault plancha. They give Reigns a double-team Powerbomb through a table, and Rollins quickly produces a chair to stab Ambrose in the back with. Then a shot to Reigns for the hell of it. Ambrose counters a Buckle Bomb with a hurricanrana. Rollins with a Super-Plex and Falcon Arrow for two. Reigns comes back to life with Powerbombs. Rollins with the Pedigree for two. Reigns nails him in the corner with another Superman Punch and hits the Spear, but Ambrose comes back to life and hits Reigns with Dirty Deeds to retain at 19:00, sending the Smackdown roster into a celebratory frenzy. ***3/4 WWE sure know show to produce good triple threat matches lately. I'm usually not too keen on them, but I had high expectations for this and it mostly delivered. Ambrose going over was the right move to keep Smackdown from looking too devalued, and now we get to wait and see what the solution is for Raw when it comes to a headlining Championship.

Final Thoughts: With two outstanding matches with clean finishes, you can't consider it anything but a successful evening. There were a few questionable decisions, like putting the Wyatt Family over New Day after dominating the majority of the feud (and breaking up via the draft), and of course the second-rate botch-job from the ending of the Intercontinental Title Match that just falls square on the heads of all involved, from the people at ringside to those giving orders from the production truck. We're officially in a "New Era" of the WWE (so does that mean the Reality Era is over already?), and it should be interesting to see where things go on Raw and Smackdown.

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