Tuesday, July 25, 2017

WWE Battleground 2017: In Perspective (A 1-2-3 Podcast Feature)


Comic Frontline & Zone 4's 1-2-3 Podcast presents another installment of the regular feature here on Comic Frontline: In Perspective!

Brant Fowler, co-host of 1-2-3 Podcast breaks down and discusses each match on the card. This time, it's WWE BATTLEGROUND, a SMACKDOWN LIVE only Pay-Per-View available on the WWE Network!
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Welcome back to "In Perspective!" Even though I didn't receive feedback requesting it, I'm adding an audio component to this feature going forward. So you can listen to me discuss the event in audio format via our YouTube channel, or you can read my thoughts below. Your choice going forward. Or you could do both!


So BATTLEGROUND is the last SMACKDOWN LIVE before next month's joint-brand PPV, SUMMERSLAM. This is where we set the stage for who the champions are, what feuds will move on and so forth to the biggest event of the summer. So let's talk about what took place. But first let me say that I did not watch the pre-show, so I did not see the Aiden English vs. Tye Dillenger match. English won.



SMACKDOWN TAG-TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
THE NEW DAY vs. THE USOS


This was probably my favorite match on the card. They really built up this feud for some time with rap battles, singles matches, tons of promos, injuries and more. The Usos have had new life breathed in them since turning heel, and the gangster gimmick is working really well for them. Trust me, it's not paranoia, it's the USOS! But The New Day have been on top for a while. Yet this whole feud has seen The New Day chasing the titles.

Finally, it culminates in this match. Now, The New Day consists of three members, and only two of them can compete at a time. So for this night they chose Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston while Big E was at ringside. This made it a pretty evenly matched face-off as Woods and Kingston are closer to the size of the Usos.

This was one for the books. Both teams got really innovative in this match, and both teams were staving off the other's attempt at victory. The Usos pulled out every trick in their book, every signature move, every double-team move. They even tried to cheat a little, and nothing could put The New Day away. In the end, The New Day proved why they are the top team in the WWE right now hands down.

I love it when a show opens with one of the best matches on the card. You do that to kick things off with a bang, get people invested and feeling like they're getting their money's worth. Usually it's followed up by a few mediocre matches and a couple of other really good matches. This, however, was by far the best match of the night. That's both good and bad. All things considered, though, I really enjoyed this match.

WINNER BY PINFALL: THE NEW DAY (New Tag-Team Champions)



SHINSUKE NAKAMURA vs. BARON CORBIN


I don't like this feud. I get it, I understand where it came from, and they built it up nicely. Corbin is Mr. Money in the Bank, and Shinsuke is the next big thing on SMACKDOWN LIVE. It works... on paper. For me, their styles clash and don't make for entertaining fights. This match was no different.

It could be chalked up to Corbin still being young in the business, or just what I said about it working better in theory than delivery. But this match was a bit clumsy at times, ugly, not paced well, and ultimately unfulfilling. Corbin won by DQ, which solves nothing, and insures that this feud, unfortunately, will continue.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a completely terrible match. There were some high points like Nakamura's flurry of kicks and strikes, or Corbin's signature sliding out and back in the ring delivering a devastating clothesline. And the way he came back in to deliver End of Days just to add insult to injury was a classic heel move. I'm just not invested in this feud and long for it to be over.

WINNER BY DQ: SHINSUKE NAKAMURA




FIVE-WAY ELIMINATION NUMBER ONE CONTENDER MATCH
NATALYA vs. TAMINA vs. LANA vs. BECKY LYNCH vs. CHARLOTTE FLAIR


This is one of those matches that you think is definitely going one of two ways, but then they swerve you and go with option C. And I like that.

All five of these women are fun to watch, but for very different reasons. Four of them deserved the opportunity to get a shot at the Women's Championship. But only two of them seemed plausible: Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair. It was inevitable it would come down to those two, right?

Well, as it turns out, Natayla finally had her day in the sun once again. If you've ever watched Total Divas (and yes, I watched some of it), you know that Natalya has been lobbying for a while to get another run at the title. But with so much talent, and her being as skilled as she is, the runs were always favored to the younger and more popular choices, while Nattie played the role of putting everyone over. Not the greatest accomplishment for the last member of the Hart Dynasty. But still commendable.

Well, when this match was said and done, she got to stand atop the mountain once more on her way to SUMMERSLAM for a title shot against Naomi. And whether you like Natalya or not, you can't deny her in-ring skills and the fact that she deserves this. Win or lose, she's got the shot and she'll make the most of it. Interestingly enough, as Naomi pointed out during the match from the announcer's table, she and Nattie have never faced each other one-on-one. So it'll be fun to watch these two very talented women lay it all out there on one of the top four PPVs of the year.

WINNER BY PINFALL: NATALYA
(New Number One Contender for SMACKDOWN WOMEN's CHAMPIONSHIP)




UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP
AJ STYLES vs. KEVIN OWENS


These two always put on good matches. Maybe not great, but good. This, I have to say, was probably not their best, though. It felt a bit rushed, they seemed out of sync at times, and the finish was kind of shoddy.

AJ Styles is one of my all-time favorites. I watched much of his career in WCW and TNA. I didn't get to watch much of him in Japan or Ring of Honor, but I saw enough to know he's one of the best. And since coming to the WWE, I think he's improved on the mic and as an overall performer.

Owens, on the other hand, I feel has steadily gone downhill. He came up to the main roster with a fire. He ran through everyone and solidified himself as a credible threat. Then he went to SMACKDOWN LIVE. Ever since, he's been coasting. And this match was more of the same. He coasted through it while AJ did a bulk of the work. And in the end, what was supposed to look like a controversial finish just looked like AJ got sloppy and got caught.

I want to see an end to this feud and for both guys to move on to opponents more suitable for them. But we're not done here yet I'm afraid.

WINNER BY PINFALL: KEVIN OWENS (New UNITED STATES CHAMPION)



FLAG MATCH: UNITED STATES vs. BULGARIA
JOHN CENA vs. RUSEV


Sigh. Was there really ever any other way this match could have gone? John Cena has been off filming TV shows, comes back on Independence Day, makes grandiose patriotic speeches in the month of our nation's birth, and gets attacked and challenged by the Bulgarian Brute, Rusev.

Come on!

And of course, as is always the case it would seem, the foreigner's finisher is a version of the Camel Clutch.

1982 wants their gimmick match back!

Seriously, this was a throwback, but not in a good way. And it's not even something we haven't seen before. When Rusev first came to the WWE, nobody could beat him. All the American heroes came out to try to fell the massive Bulgarian to no avail. Then comes John Cena, who delivers Rusev his very first defeat in the WWE.

Now, I'm all for long-standing feuds, and building back to previous feuds and grudges even years later. It works for the greats. It works for the Stone Colds, the Rocks, the HBKs and Undertakers. It even works for Cena... but this story line, this USA vs. the big bad foreign guys is played out, overused, and somewhat insulting to the viewers' intelligence. Not to mention maybe a little dated and racist? At the very least prejudice. And let's not forget that the main event of this PPV is another USA vs. foreign heel in Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal!

And if it wasn't bad enough, John Cena making a speech on last week's SMACKDOWN compariing his coming victory to this nation rising from defeat after defeat, citing Pearl Harbor, the Twin Towers and more, was in bad taste, bad form and nonsensical.

Can you tell I wasn't a fan of this match?

WINNER BY FLAG RETRIEVAL: JOHN CENA



SAMI ZAYN vs. MIKE KANELLIS


I'm probably in the minority of thinking that Zayn is overrated. I don't find him funny or endearing, and his in-ring skills are just average to me. He's a bit too slow to pull off some of the high-flying he tries to do, and too small to pull off the power stuff he does. So it makes little sense watching him in the ring. But I still like him better than Mike "Bennett" Kanellis.

For the record, I think it's cool that Maria Kanellis fell in love with this guy, they created this gimmick together outside WWE, and she found her way back in the door and brought him with her. It's a romantic story and I'm happy for them that he got the chance. That's cool on the real. But in the ring, he's done nothing to impress me yet aside from that solid right punch that looks and sounds really good. His finisher, though, is a glorified sit-down version of the Attitude Adjustment (John Cena's finisher). And even after delivering that he lost here. So there's just not much to pull me in outside of the fact that I used to like Maria when she was in the WWE before.

This was definitely a filler match to go between the two USA vs. Foreign Heel Guy matches.

WINNER BY PINFALL: SAMI ZAYN



WWE WORLD TITLE - PUNJABI PRISON MATCH
JINDER MAHAL vs. RANDY ORTON


I still don't see Mahal as being good enough to hold the title, but he's champ to get into new markets if the dirt sheets are to be believed. Interesting enough, Mahal, though of Indian descent, is actually Canadian, born and bred. 

All that aside, Mahal came out of nowhere and took the title form Orton, and has, so far, been able to keep Orton from getting it back. Against all odds, Orton just can't defeat Mahal. And Mahal has never once won clean. Further painting Mahal in bad light and confirming the opinion - that I share - that Mahal isn't a deserving champion. 

This match was no different. It started off with the two of them going hard against each other, and for the first time I saw something in Mahal. He was going toe-to-toe with the Viper. But then the Singh brothers got involved and it became three-on-one. 

Even with those odds, Orton showed how bad Mahal was by beating all three of them down and nearly making it out of the double cage. Then the big surprise showed up, which surprised no one really: The Great Khali returned. And he predictably kept Orton from climbing out while Mahal did to retain his title.

If you didn't see that coming, you weren't paying attention. And sadly that means this one is far from over too, and Mahal goes into SUMMERSLAM your WWE WORLD CHAMPION.

WINNER BY ESCAPE: JINDER MAHAL (Retains Championship)




They can't all be winners. This was not the best PPV in recent months by far. You had one really good match, a couple of okay matches, and then the rest were just mediocre at best. Filled with feuds no one cares about and leaving solid performers off the card to tell those stories no one cares about. It worries me for the SMACKDOWN LIVE brand going forward, but only time will tell. Maybe SUMMERSLAM will reset things a bit.

What did you think of BATTLEGROUND? And more importantly, what did you think of this feature?!  Let me know in the comments below!



And if you've never listened to or watched 1-2-3 Podcast, you can find the playlist here:


And if you're really bored, you can find my old wrestling blog, Kayfabe here before I eventually delete it!:


Join us next month as we resumre our LIVE show covering RAW/SMACKDOWN LIVE's SUMMERSLAM!

Brant Fowler is the co-founder of Zone 4 and one of the Frontline Six. He's also Co-Publisher of Last Ember Press. Check out his YouTube channel every Monday for Monday Musings, and find him most Tuesday nights on Frontline LIVE!

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