Written by: Scrooge McSuck from DaWrestlingsite.com
– I usually try to open each recap on a neutral, or positive note, unless something truly deserves ridicule before we even begin the show. I honestly felt that WWE television was becoming must-watch on a week to week basis for the first time in a while, to the point I eagerly awaited to see what happened on Smackdown of all shows. Unfortunately, it seems like the last couple of weeks of television have been such a bore, with little development going on to further the few major angles. On top of that, we have a more serious problem: Night of Champions was only three weeks ago. WWE has another PPV, Hell in a Cell, scheduled for the end of October. That means Battleground gets to be a sacrificial lamb, as anyone with half a brain should expect some bullshit finishes to stretch things out a few more weeks to a PPV that has a chance of breaking 150,000 buys. I originally had a hard time buying that Battleground was actually going to be a name for a “new” PPV, and I guess the WWE creative staff felt the same way, having to go WCW on us and throw together 4 or 5 random undercard matches days before the PPV just to fill out the card.
– Originally broadcasted live, on Pay-Per-View, on October 6th, 2013, from the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY. Michael Cole, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and JBL are at ringside to call all of the action, unless otherwise noted. Josh Mathews is joined by the Miz, Titus O’Neil, and Tensai as part of the “Expert Panel.”
Kick-Off Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien Sandow:
Before we get to the match, I would formally like to acknowledge that I retract my defense of Ziggler’s quasi-face-turn at Payback. Instead of going anywhere meaningful with the double turn of him and Alberto Del Rio, he’s doing nothing, getting punished for it, and wrestling on the Kick-Off Match while the Great Khali gets a PPV spot. Sandow, the World Heavyweight Title Briefcase Winner, has been losing on almost every show he’s been featured on, and most recently doing jobs to Justin Gabriel at house shows. Yes, HE’S LOSING, EVERY NIGHT, TO JUSTIN GABRIEL. HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO CARE ABOUT HIM CASHING IN WHEN HE’S LOSING TO JOBBERS?! Sorry for all the Caps, but god damn, sometimes WWE makes zero fucking sense. Hell, this might be the longest pre-match rant for a Kick-off Match in the history of WWE recapping. We start with them exchanging headlocks. Ziggler takes control with his signature dropkick and the ten elbow drops (uncomfortably called the Heart Stopper by JBL). He misses a charge and ends up on the floor as we take a break. Sandow controls with the usual (chinlocks, leg sweep) while Ziggler gets a few desperation near falls. Sandow eats another dropkick coming off the top, opening the door for Ziggler’s comeback. Sandow avoids the Zig-Zag and snaps Ziggler back for a two count. The Honor Roll neckbreaker gets two. Ziggler with the Fame-Asser, but surprisingly only gets two. Sandow removes his knee pad to work Ziggler over, but ends up buckling the knee and rolled up for two. Ziggler kicks the leg, hits the Zig-Zag, and covers for three at 10:03. ** Perfectly acceptable wrestling. Was going at a pedestrian pace until the near falls at the end.
World Heavyweight Championship; Hardcore Rules Match:
Alberto Del Rio © vs. Rob Van Dam (w/ Ricardo Rodriguez):
Oh, lovely, the World Heavyweight Title opens the show, again. I guess comparing it to the status of the IC Title from about 20 years ago makes sense more and more as the days pass. These two went to a bullshit finish at Night of Champions, because dammit, we needed to milk RVD’s inevitable loss an extra month for the three people willing to buy a $45 PPV to see Rob Van Dam. Poor, brainless, saps. I’m shocked and amazed this angle didn’t end up with Ricardo Rodriguez turning heel and just playing RVD as a sap.
It doesn’t take long for the match to escalate into a plunder-match, as RVD hits a slingshot DDT onto a chair roughly 45-seconds in. Del Rio survives and comes back with the Back Stabber, but it’s too soon to be anything but a two count. RVD controls with his Kindergarten gymnastics until bringing a Ladder into the match. I said it years ago and I’ll say it again: Why must a hardcore match need the added element of a fucking Ladder?! RVD misses the target on a monkey flip and Del Rio connects with the enziguri for two. RVD knocks back a trash can into Del Rio’s face and hits a split-leg moonsault across the ladder for a two count. Rolling Thunder misses and RVD lays himself across the Ladder, instead. Del Rio with the Cross Armbreaker, but Ricardo comes in and bops Del Rio with a bucket! Now THAT was awesome. Del Rio lets him get a couple of more shots in before putting him in his place. Real nice of RVD to play dead for this entire exchange. A contrived spot ends with a 2 1/2 Star Splash off the apron, across the Ladder resting across Del Rio’s chest. Again, the same three people chant “this is awesome”. RVD goes for the Van Terminator, but Del Rio rolls out of the way. Del Rio superkicks the arm against the chair, wraps the chair around the arm, and applies the Cross Armbreaker for the tap out at 16:06. Well, that came out of nowhere. **1/2 Typical “Hardcore Rules” Match. They really didn’t do much in terms of psychology (like the non-existing arm work until the last minute), and it’s the same tired RVD spots I’ve seen countless times over a decade ago. This shitty Buffalo crowd better not chant “this is awesome” at any other mediocre (at best) matches, or I might have to start watching WWE television on mute.
Santino Marella & The Great Khali (w/ Hornswoggle) vs. The Real Americans (w/ Zeb Colter):
Yeah, what the hell is this doing on PPV? The answer: The show is running short on content, so this match gets tossed on randomly. I could’ve (or would’ve) suggested more Los Matadores, but I guess seeing Cesaro do the Giant Swing is more than enough to make an argument for this. Santino and Swagger start, doing little of note. Santino’s intentional failure at a nip-up is the highlight of the match, so far. There’s a mild “We The People” chant, which might make the WWE creative staff think that Swagger is over. the Cobra comes out, but Swagger hides on the floor. Hornswoggle has his own Cobra, but Swagger rips it off and tears him apart. Watching this match reminds me of WrestleMania VI’s Tag Title Match: a mediocre worker is doing all the work while a near-crippled Giant stands on the apron, doing nothing. Khali gets the hot tag as the crowd chants for something other than this match. Poor Cesaro is better off wrestling an invisible Bear. It’s just as believable. HASSAN-CHOP gets two. Cesaro clips the knee, swings Khali around for a good 15-seconds, and covers for three at 7:11 to the biggest pop of the night (so far). 1/2* That’s all for Cesaro giving Khali the Giant Swing. Other than that, a completely worthless filler match (that ended up on the following episode of Raw, too).
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match:
Curtis Axel © (w/ Paul Heyman) vs. R-Truth:
I guess R-Truth earned this shot by doing two-minute jobs to Alberto Del Rio and Ryback on consecutive episodes of Smackdown. The way Michael Cole talks about R-Truth, he might be ripping off Christian’s storyline from a few months ago. It’s weird to think it was 14 years ago that WWE Magazine spotlighted him (known as K-Krush) as the future of wrestling. Truth dominates the early moments, using clubberin’ offense as his main form of attack. Hip toss into a cover only gets two. Axel over-sells a clothesline to the floor, and again I’d like to mention, there’s nothing wrong with him using certain spots in his matches. Truth’s aggressive game plan goes against him finally, as Axel knocks him back into the security wall, then slams him against it for extra effect. Axel lays him out with a dropkick for a two count, then slaps on a chinlock. Truth escapes and hits the jumping heel kick, followed by a pair of clotheslines. axel avoids the Scissors Kick, but gets rolled up for two. R-Truth with near falls with the Scissors Kick and front drop suplex. He misses something in the corner, Axel drops him across the top turnbuckle, and finishes with the twisting face-buster at 7:41. ** This felt like something that would be considered a good match on Superstars or a passable secondary match on Main Event, not a Championship Match on a PPV.
WWE Diva’s Championship Match:
A.J. Lee (w/ Tamina) vs. Brie Bella (w/ Nikki Bella):
So, remember that A.J. promo that was considered pretty awesome for being a worked shoot on the Divas and Total Divas E! Network show? I guess that was supposed to make her more of a heel AND TURN THE BELLA TWINS FACE, because suddenly, as of last week, they were acting as babyfaces. Surprised me, because they reacted to A.J. like the stuck up heels they were born to play, not faces we were supposed to feel bad for. I guess this newfound relationship between A.J. and Tamina is inspired by Shawn Michaels and Diesel from the early 90’s. Do I have to make a joke about that, or is reading the previous sentence enough and I can go on to my next tidbit? Anyway, the match is typical underwhelming Divas Match when a non-wrestling “Diva” is involved. Brie looks to have things under control until Tamina randomly attacks Nikki, creating enough of a distraction for A.J. to roll her up and retain at the 6:30 mark. Sorry for the lack of detail, but come on, it’s A.J. vs. a Bella Twin. The match was * on a generous scale. Apparently A.J. suffered a concussion during the match, which probably means she’ll lose the title soon to give her time to recover.
Cody Rhodes & Goldust (w/ Dusty Rhodes) vs. Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns (w/ Dean Ambrose):
Yes, this is the match I was looking forward to the most. It’s featured excellent work in the ring, outstanding promos courtesy of the American Dream, and has just been a compelling enough story to maintain interest. The Shield still hold the Tag Team Championship, but this is non-title. Cody and Goldust are fighting for more than a Championship: Pride (and employment, of course). Who in their right mind would ever thought they would hear Dusty Rhodes’ ridiculous theme music on WWE television in 2013?! I’m actually disappointed we don’t get to see Goldust’s signature entrance, but them coming out as a family is the right move.
The Rhodes’ dominate early, forcing a Shield retreat and strategy session. They tease going for Dusty, but he rips off his belt and the Rhodes Family stand tall. Cody takes a beating, complete with Ambrose trash talking at ringside and Cody taking a swipe at him for it. Anyone else notice the Shield keep their belts at their corner of the ring, rather than the timekeeper table? Cody with a moonsault from out of nowhere on Rollins and the (first) hot tag to Goldust. He works in his signature uppercut and comes off the top with a twisting cross body for two. He misses another body press and ends up on the floor, getting his shot at face-in-peril. Goldust battles back, plants Rollins with a snap powerslam, and tags out to Cody. Missile dropkick to Rollins, followed by a wheel-barrel boot to the junk and the Alabama Slam (stolen from Hardcore Holly) for two. Muscle Buster gets two. Disaster Kick on Reigns, followed by a clothesline, sending him to the floor. Ambrose gets in Dusty’s face again, and takes a belt shot and a bionic elbow for old times sakes. Reigns goes for the old man next, but Goldust makes the save. Cody with the Cross Rhodes on Rollins, and that’s enough for the three count at 13:56. ***1/2 Solid formula match amplified by a hot crowd and a really fun finish. WWE could’ve gone the obvious, cheap route where Cody or Goldust turns to earn themselves a contract, but this was a far more satisfying finish. Post-match, the babyfaces of the WWE roster (along with legends like Mike Rotunda, Arn Anderson, Finlay and others) come out to celebrate with them.
Kofi Kingston vs. Bray Wyatt (w/ Harper & Rowan):
More filler, and another instance where I officially retract my feelings regarding a subject or situation: Until Wyatt shows serious improvement in his in-ring work, I give up on the Wyatt Family. His promo work is outstanding (for this era, of course), but watching him in the ring is such a bore. Rowan and Harper aren’t any better, but their physical presence and relatively short matches doesn’t require much. Because we hold Bray Wyatt in a higher regard than them, we expect more, and haven’t gotten it, yet.
Kofi controls early with quick hits, but a trip to the top ends with him being crotched along the turnbuckle, and Wyatt brings him down with an avalanche. When Wyatt controls, he doesn’t have much high impact offense, so going from punching to chinlocks leaves the crowd sitting on their hands. Kofi counters a back suplex with leverage to land on top for a near fall. Kofi tries a slingshot off the ropes, but gets planted with a powerslam. Kofi with an odd looking crucifix takedown, but he’s too hurt to capitalize. Kofi with a jumping clothesline and Boom Drop, but Wyatt ducks Trouble in Paradise and comes off the ropes with what I can best say as an elbow with the full force of a 300 pound man behind it. Wyatt does his weird corner pose, then CRAB WALKS to “creep” Kofi out. Kofi sends Wyatt to the floor and lands on all three of them with a somersault plancha. Kofi to the top with a body press for two. Wyatt blocks the S.O.S. and counters with Sister Abigail, and that’s good enough for the three count at 8:18. ** Started off slowly and had a decent finish. At least it was better than Wyatt’s PPV debut against Kane, but honestly, it would be near impossible to be worse than that. Post-match, Harper and Rowan punish Kofi some more, just for the hell of it.
CM Punk vs. Ryback (w/ Paul Heyman):
It was a year ago when Ryback was suddenly thrust into a position to be a Main Eventer, going up against then-WWE Champion CM Punk. Since then, I think Ryback has won one PPV match, and spent most of the summer bullying people around, so the irony in him having a problem with Punk for being a bully to Heyman is just deliciously lame. Punk and Heyman have been carrying this angle with their promos, but damn if the matches have been a bit boring outside of the SummerSlam classic with Brock Lesnar. Axel is a decent worker, but he’s not anywhere near the level of a CM Punk and Ryback? Yeah, I don’t even need to say anything about that.
Ryback over-powers Punk, igniting “Goldberg” chants from fans who mostly probably weren’t around for Goldberg’s prime (a.k.a 1998). Punk attacks the legs, sending Ryback to the floor, acing like a wuss. Heyman’s pep talk sends him into another Punk assault, with the same result: on the floor, playing the role of Punk’s bitch. Punk sends him to the post and comes off the top with a body press for a two count. Ryback takes Punk down with a powerslam and throws him ribs first into the ring post. Release belly-to-belly suplex and a leg drop gets two. Ryback’s methodical pace is certainly making it hard for me to stay focused. Ryback meets the post, opening the door for Punk’s comeback, which consists entirely of kicks. He takes Ryback down with a swinging neck breaker and calls for GTS, but suddenly Paul Heyman gets on the microphone to taunt Punk to tell him that he literally pinned Punk with both hands behind his back. Ryback with a Powerbomb, but it only gets two. Ryback with repeated covers, but Punk stays alive. Punk counters another Powerbomb with a roundhouse kick to barely made contact. Punk with a knee to the face, followed by a clothesline. He goes to the top for his terrible Macho Man Elbow, but it only gets two. Ryback fights out of the GTS and counters with a powerslam. Heyman pulls out a kendo stick, but the referee sees it. Punk low blows Ryback during the distraction, and gets the three count at 14:47. CM Punk, the babyface of the angle, HAS TO KICK A MAN IN THE BALLS TO WIN? I’m sorry, but the finishes to these matches with Punk and Heyman’s Guys have been ridiculously bad. First, the malicious beating Punk gives Heyman at Night of Champions before Ryback makes the save, and now he has to kick him in the balls to get the winning cover? **1/2 Match was technically all right, but putting Ryback out their to control a good chunk of that 15-minutes exposed his inability to carry a match past “boring.”
– Power disruptions are fun. Remember In Your House: Beware of Dog? Well, this time it only lasts for a few minutes. Oddly, it took place during the video package hyping the following match between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton. Is this a sign that the power went out in the brains of everyone who put together the finish? Well, let’s find out…
WWE Championship Match:
Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton:
Winner gets the Vacated Title, or as we’ve heard countless times over the last few weeks, “held in abeyance”, which sounds like one of those buzz words stupid people use to sound smart. Daniel Bryan has actually been allowed more time standing tall to end WWE programming than how we built up Night of Champions, but anyone that expects anything but a shit finish tonight needs to stop watching WWE and sit in the corner and think about what a terrible job their parents did raising them.
Daniel Bryan grabs a headlock, and Orton is forced to tap out… just kidding, that would’ve actually been a better finish to the PPV. At least it would’ve crowned a WWE Champion and not ripped off the paying audience for the second time in three weeks. You know what’s weird? Hearing Michael Cole praise Daniel Bryan, considering he spent a good year or two bad-mouthing Bryan every second he could for every possible (and imaginary) reason. To no surprise, it’s a well worked match. The chain wrestling leads us into Bryan working in his signature kicks that target the entire body. He even busts out an Native-American Deathlock for old times sake. Orton ends up crotching Bryan along the top rope and levels him with a clothesline to take control. He gets near falls with his signature powerslam and suplex across the top rope. Bryan sends Orton to the floor with a skin-the-cat head-scissors, then follows with a suicide dive. Bryan continues to bring the pain until he jumps into a Powerbomb. Orton turns him over with a Boston crab, a move you don’t see him do every day. He applies it nearly as bas as the Rock does a Sharpshooter. Bryan finds his way through the legs to counter, but can’t quite grab the Yes-Lock.
Bryan follows Orton to the floor, but this time it’s him that gets introduced to the nearby furniture. Orton drops him across the security wall with a back suplex, and gets a near fall back in the ring. They exchange blows on the top rope until Orton brings him down with a Super-Plex for another two count. They exchange uppercuts, with Bryan gaining the upper-hand. Orton goes low, but another uppercut is countered with a back slide for two. Roundhouse kick gets two. Orton rolls to the apron, and brings Bryan to the floor with a suplex. They tease a spot on the Spanish Announcers Table, but it goes unbroken. Bryan makes up for it with a body press from the top to the arena floor. He rolls Orton back in, and comes off the top with the diving headbutt for two. Bryan with FOUR running dropkicks in the corner, followed by the basement dropkick to cap it off. Bryan with the kicks, but this time Orton counters with a T-Bone Suplex. Rope-assisted DDT connects, and it’s time for the RKO. Bryan blocks, but gets rolled up for two. He counters that with the Yes-Lock! Here comes the Big Show, and let the bullshit rain down. He pulls the referee out of the ring, then KO punches Bryan with obvious reluctance. Brad Maddox brings out Scott Armstrong, and Big Show knocks him out, too. Then Randy Orton. PPV over. Everyone looks pissed off. It’s hard to give this match a star rating. It was going along well, ***1/2-**** range, but that finish… my God, I’m glad I didn’t pay for this nonsense. Doing this kind of stuff once I’m cool with, but two PPV’s in a row, when WWE knows they have a tight schedule to work around? It screams lazy and inconsiderate of their paying audience.
Final Thoughts: I guess this was better than Night of Champions, but somehow felt worse. Ending a Main Event with that kind of finish, after the bullshit finish they went with last time at Night of Champions, was an absolutely terrible move. The secondary program? The babyface stoops to a low blow to conquer the big bully heel, three weeks after performing acts on Paul Heyman that are more suited for a heel to do. The Rhodes Family saga is the only bright spot on a card that otherwise was made up of filler programs and thrown-together matches that the live crowd showed zero interest in. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Battleground did one of, if not the, worst buyrate in WWE History. Apparently some within WWE feel the same way, rushing back John Cena to be at Hell in a Cell, adding Shawn Michaels as a special referee for what is meant to be the conclusion of this Bryan/Orton program, and Vince McMahon is rumored to finally return and kick things off with Triple H that’s meant to build towards WrestleMania. Absolutely positively no recommendation for Battleground.