Sunday’s Battleground was a much better show than it had any business being. A B-PPV the month before Summerslam, going into it all I was hoping was for a concrete title picture going into the almost-biggest show of the year. We got a helluva lot more than that.
Brawl For All
If you missed it, Battleground closed with the return of The Undertaker, in a rare appearance outside of WrestleMania season, to confront Brock Lesnar during his WWE World Heavyweight Championship rematch against Seth Rollins. He didn’t say anything or offer any kind of reasoning for his attack; just gong, low blow, a chokeslam and a couple of Tombstone Piledrivers and he was outta there. This left us coming out of Battleground with more questions than answers: is he exacting revenge for Brock breaking The Streak in 2014? If so, why did he wait so long? Is he coming for Brock for breaking his brother Kane’s ankle? Does he have any vested interest in the outcome of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match he just ruined?
It was a huge surprise (that would have been even bigger if it hadn’t been spoiled days before…stupid internet), and one that instantly gave Summerslam a compelling main story. Last night on Raw, The Undertaker opened the show with a promo explaining (sort of) the attack: Streaks are made to be broken, but Lesnar and his advocate Paul Heyman just couldn’t put it to rest and even 15 months later still brag about the accomplishment to this day. Kind of a weak start, considering it’s been well over a year since The Streak was broken, and we’ve already seen Undertaker since, when he returned at this year’s WrestleMania to defeat Bray Wyatt. ‘Taker even subtly nullified the importance of his match against Bray when he said last night that Battleground was his ‘true resurrection.’
If I’m being totally honest, Undertaker’s promo was pretty boring. He was seemingly doing his best Christian Bale Batman impression, and mostly spoke in platitudes. The cool thing was that you could hear a pin drop in that arena while Undertaker was speaking, and not in a “the crowd wasn’t into it” way; it’s more of a the crowd was SO into it that they didn’t want to miss a word. There are few performers who can command a room like The Undertaker.
Later in the night, Heyman cut a promo accepting Undertaker’s challenge and continued poking the Deadman by repeating over and over that his client, Brock Lesnar, ended The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania. The Deadman appeared in the ring, which of course prompted The Beast to come save his advocate.
And from that point forward, it was on.
Before this segment, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon held an emergency locker room meeting, ordering every Superstar to do everything they can to keep Lesnar and Undertaker separated from one another, lest their Summerslam main event be in jeopardy. So once the two started resorting to fisticuffs, the entire locker room emptied and tried their damndest to keep the two apart. They really sold it as a major clash; the entire roster couldn’t keep them apart, and as soon as Lesnar’s music hit the commentators just noped the hell outta there. It was definitely one of the more exciting segments in some time—as I’ve said before, any segment Brock Lesnar is in just feel instantly more important and credible, and obviously the same can be said about the Demon from Death Valley.
The little things really helped this along, as well, especially ‘Taker and Brock showing how great they are as performers. “I’m gonna kill you!” “You’re gonna have to!” — so good. Also, Paul Heyman’s face when the gong hit was a thing of beauty, and kudos to the camera crew for capturing it perfectly.
I do have some issues with the angle, like why it took Undertaker 15 months to do anything about it. At least a little explanation like he didn’t think he had it in him but once he was able to take out Bray Wyatt, he felt he had enough in the tank to avenge the loss. I also think it’s very strange that they didn’t use Lesnar breaking Kane’s ankle as even an offhand mention.
This was a huge way to kick off Raw. Summerslam should be a lot of fun. Plus, it frees up the WWE Championship scene for something new and fresh…
Never Give Up (The Quest For the World Title)
…or not. Man, was hearing Cena’s music interrupt Rollins’ promo deflating. Having Brock move into a program with Undertaker was exciting not just for the prospect of that match, but because it left the Championship scene wide open for something else. They wouldn’t rehash the Rollins/Orton feud from Mania, and John Cena is in another championship scene, so he’s out…right? Apparently not. Cena came out and not only seemingly pried the door open for being placed in the World Championship scene, but he delievered another one of his promos that serve as an absolute burial of his sparring partner.
I like John Cena. A lot. I think he’s a fantastic wrestler, and few men could have carried the company on their shoulders through the ups and downs for as long as he has. From 2007-2011, he was basically all they had. And now that the company seems to be finding its footing for the first time in a while with the new wave of NXT talent, Cena’s position as an elder gatekeeper and midcard champion is perfect. He’s a mic master and knows how to get even the most hostile of crowds eating out of the palm of his hand by the end of a promo, and he’s also a criminally underrated wrestler.
What I don’t like about John Cena, though, is the type of promo he delivered on Seth Rollins last night. He essentially buried Rollins’ position at the top and said (literally, I believe) that every minute Rollins had the belt was another minute he made the title look worthless. It instantly reminded me of when Punk was champion, and Cena delievered the line “for 300 days you’ve been WWE Champion, and for 300 days that Championship has been irrelevant.” That isn’t how you build a credible opponent, John. You know this. We know this. It’s sort of accomplishing the exact opposite of what we all thought the point of him being US Champion is. Instead of bringing the US Championship up to prominence, he’s seemingly dragging the WWE Championship down to its level.
I was just so discouraged by this segment, and in the end I don’t even really know what to make of it. It made Rollins look more insignificant than ever while at the same time inserting Cena into his second championship picture. Or is he? The segment, in addition to running down the World Champion, was so vague and inconclusive that it’s hard to know what the Summerslam title match is going to be.
Blech, what a bad segment.
The Rest of the Card
- It still feels weird saying this, but one of the other major stories from last night was that of the resurgent Divas division. If it weren’t for the return of a true legend I’d say the women stole the show yet again Sunday at Battleground in an excellent triple threat match between members of each of the newly minted femme factions. Last night saw not one but two Divas matches (!)—Charlotte vs. Brie Bella and Sasha Banks/Naomi vs. Becky Lynch/Paige. Charlotte/Brie was decent, though I thought it was a little strange to have that be the first Divas match after Battleground since those two were involved in the decision in the triple threat match Sunday, and it was even stranger when the finish last night was exactly the same—Brie tapping out to the Figure Eight. The tag match was considerably better, though. Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Paige on my TV screen on a Monday night? Yes please, for the rest of my life. The crowd seems to agree too–this is the third time the Divas have gotten huge reactions in non-smark cities. The pop for Paige’s hot tag was huge!
- I wonder what AJ Lee thinks of this Divas renaissance. Interestingly, her relationship with the Divas division mirrors her husband CM Punk’s relationship with the men’s roster: largely responsible for inciting change for the better, but not there quite long enough to really revel in the fruits of their labor. AJ would be an excellent addition to the current roster, but without her it may not even exist.
- I don’t know why Los Matadores still exist. They are both very talented, but Primo and Epico were perfectly fine personas. Dressing up like rejected Ninja Turtles villains and parading around with a little person in a bull costume just devalues all of their great in ring work. I’m realy glad that the New Day still seems to be a cohesive unit, even after losing their rematch at Battleground. WWE tends to jump the gun with breakups these days.
- I’m really into Harper re-joining forces with Bray Wyatt. It just feels right. Rumor is the whole family was supposed to reform, but alas, Rowan is hurt. We’ll see what happens when he returns. Wyatt and Reigns had a hell of a match at Battleground. I’m really glad that Reigns is over and it seems that the awkwardness of his build to Mania is now over. He was never bad, he just wasn’t Daniel Bryan. But now that everything’s ended up the way it did, it makes no sense to hate on Roman anymore. His character has been driven, serious, and badass, and he and Wyatt actually have pretty good chemistry together.
- The 6 man tag main event was fun, if inconsequential. It was a good showcase for everyone to “get their s--t in”, and everyone’s s--t is varied enough that it made it a lot of fun. The faces get the win after Sheamus and Owens both strand Rusev, and that’s after all the drama he has going on between his ex and his current fling who he’s dressing up exactly like Lana (which is hilarious, and hot, to be honest). The triple finisher—The Attitude Adjustment into a Cesaro Swing into a catapult RKO was a great ending to a match. I’m not sure where it leaves any of their storylines going into Summerslam, but that’s okay; sometimes it’s nice to decompress with good, fun rasslin’ after a night heavy on one story.
- No Stardust? No Neville? No Ziggler?
The brawl between Lesnar and ‘Taker was a thrill, but the Cena/Rollins segment left a bad taste in my mouth and not a lot else of consequence happened. After a hot PPV, with only one leg to stand on, this Raw was a bit of a letdown.