Hey! It’s a House Show Match! (And That Isn’t Entirely a Bad Thing.)
I complained a lot in the run-up to this Wyatt/Uso rematch that it reeked of desperate booking grown from an underdeveloped tag-team division. And yeah, the Usos went over after taking two out of three falls, and concluding a story arc that was literally the exact same as the last one. Wyatts win on Raw, Usos win at Money in the Bank. Wyatts won on Raw, Usos win at Battleground. It’s profound that the WWE has hours and hours of content, capital and talent available to them, and we still have clear repetition.
That being said, this might’ve been my favorite match of the night. It especially got going when Luke Harper was alone in the ring with Jimmy Uso. Harper is an absolute monster, there are precious few big guys who can move and superkick like him, and matching him up with human springboards like the Usos add up to some absolute magic. I bought every near fall, and I totally mark out every time Harper dives through the ropes. HE’S HUGE, HOW DOES HE MAKE IT THROUGH THE ROPES EVERY TIME WITHOUT HIS MOUTH CATCHING OR SOMETHING? Save for the Cena win, this was probably the biggest pop of the night, and for good reason. I mean, you got to watch Erick Rowan deliver a double superplex from the top rope, when you do stuff like that it kinda doesn’t matter that we’ve seen this match like, six times now.
But, there’s still some diminishing returns. For instance, every match the Usos delivers a flying kick to Luke Harper. Luke Harper catches the Uso’s foot, at which point the Uso flips around and tags Luke Harper’s head with the other foot. This has happened literally dozens of times. I know, it’s wrestling, but at certain point it’s hard not to yell at your TV. JUST STOP CATCHING HIS FOOT MAN, YOU KNOW HOW THIS ENDS. I certainly can’t imagine this feud carrying on, but if it does I’d love to have a moment where Harper just… moves out of the way of the Uso kick.
This Paige and AJ Thing is Confusing but These are Two Talented Ladies Wrestling and that’s Enough
So this match was solid. A couple violent bumps for both women, Paige powered out of the Black Widow, AJ kicked out of the Paige Turner, and eventually got the pinfall following the Shining Wizard, which Paige sold so well I actually thought her head detached from her body for a few seconds. This is undoubtedly setting up a much larger feud that will culminate at SummerSlam, and I’m not just saying that because the Summerslam promos are currently covered with both of them.
However, there was a story arc here, and it had something to do with these two women being “frenemies.” This was pounded into our heads by the commentary team, the hardest they’ve tried to get something over all show. How did this look in the ring? Paige would do something really violent to AJ, look concerned, and say something like “come on AJ!”
So this is weird, because in the run up to this match their friendship was made to look really forced and awkward and barely hiding a deep seething hatred. But the way Paige acted in the ring implied that their friendship was all supposed to be genuine. They really are “frenemies” or whatever? Remember AJ is the woman who acted like a total bitch to Paige when she came out to congratulate her on her win at WrestleMania. She then showed up a few weeks later and coerced her into an impromptu title match and stole the Diva’s belt away. Like, I’m probably (definitely) a huge Paige mark but IT’S PRETTY CLEAR WHO THE BAD GUY IS IN THIS SITUATION OKAY?
Maybe this is some longform storytelling that I’m too stupid to pick up on, but when someone takes the belt away from a woman like Paige I tend to get defensive. I don’t exactly trust the WWE knows what they’re doing with this storyline, but I suppose I can wait and see.
Swagger and Rusev Totally Worked Me
This was a fun match, I’m still totally into the huge pop that the sudden Jack Swagger face turn has gotten, and I’m always a fan when two big dudes beat the crap out of each other in the middle of a giant stadium. Swagger catching Rusev’s superkick into the Patriot Lock? Still looks pretty cool! The finish was also great, in that it got me mad until realized that I was literally mad about kayfabe. Basically Swagger has the Patriot Lock on Rusev outside the ring, the ref’s count is at 8, and Rusev jerks his leg forward, causing Swagger to tumble into the ringpost, and allowing Rusev to squirm back into the ring for a very weasely disqualification victory. Suddenly, my “NO F*** THAT” instincts superseded my “of course, he’s being a good heel by earning that bogus victory, that’ll generate him great heat” instincts. Yep, the Swagger/Rusev feud is so good it made me turn into a 12-year old.
There is one thing that we must mention. If you don’t know, the Swagger/Rusev feud is an old-school “this guy is from Russia, he thinks Vladimir Putin is awesome” storyline. Think Iron Sheik, or Iraqi sympathizer Sargent Slaughter. As you might know, some pretty crazy things happened over the weekend in terms of Russian foreign policy. This is generally something you want to avoid mentioning, but the WWE has never stepped down from a challenge. They handled it lightly, with Lana (Rusev’s manager) offering “you blame us for recent current events?” She then spoke about U.S. warmongering, burying the topic entirely. Which, you know, good.
I Feel For the 12 Year Old Kids Out There Who Were Super Excited for Ambrose/Rollins
So towards the top of the bill there was a match billed between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, the two guys who have probably enjoyed the most entertaining feud in the company right now. So we get a promo of Rollins doing an interview, and threatening to cash in his contract tonight. Then Ambrose runs from out of nowhere and starts beating the shit out of Rollins, Ambrose is kicked out of the stadium by Triple H. Rollins comes to the ring anyway and claims he wins the match by forfeit, and as everyone in the entire universe expected, Ambrose runs in again, starts beating up Rollins again, and is separated by security again. This was not a match, just a storytelling peg.
THEN about an hour later, we get a scene of Rollins walking to his car. He gets a concerned look on his face, starts peering around corners anxiously, and Ambrose climbs out of the goddamn trunk of the goddamn car and starts beating on Rollins AGAIN.
So obviously I adored this. This is the sort of thing I love about wrestling, and the fact that Ambrose was patiently waiting for Rollins in the trunk of his own car is some truly genius characterization. And I’m glad that the Rollins/Ambrose match didn’t happen at Battleground, because that seems like something that could cook longer and be even bigger. Maybe even a main event!
Still, I can’t help but feel for that kid who was SO PUMPED for this match, probably sitting in his uncle’s living room in his Shield shirt, and not getting to see what was clearly advertised on the card. Justice for the young bright-eyed wrestling fans!
Great, We Get to Watch this Wyatt/Jericho Match Again in a Month
When Bray Wyatt lost I was legit angry. I love Bray Wyatt, he’s one of my favorite talents in the company. I love his promos, his essence, his entrance, his brutish technique in the ring. I loved most of his feud with John Cena, and contrary to a lot of people, I found his “THEY DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE JOHN” run-up to those matches to be very effective.
Of course he was pretty much swept in the actual matches against John Cena, because John Cena never puts anyone over. Which is fine, because Wyatt is in his mid-20s and has a lot more winning to do in his career. The run up to this Jericho feud has been a lot less effective because the whole pathos to Wyatt’s character effortlessly entwines with a desire to dismantle Cena’s simplistic composition. For a few moments, I think the WWE got close to art with Bray’s realism and John’s fading, but vigilant beliefs. It doesn’t work nearly as well with someone who isn’t an arch-face like Chris Jericho. Jericho’s a vet, Jericho will be back for a few weeks before disappearing again, and Jericho certainly doesn’t have the same legion of followers like Cena.
But whatever, it’s going to be a match or two where Jericho puts Bray Wyatt over. Of course that didn’t happen, which almost certainly means we’re going to get a rematch on the much bigger stage at SummerSlam where Wyatt will get his clean victory. The only thing? The wrestling here was pretty clunky and awkward. A couple slow dudes wandering around to get in position for the next clothesline. There was no drama, the bumps were weak, the crowd was out of it -– there’s a certain type of match where a guy keeps covering after transition moves that have no chance to draw a pinfall, and this was that kind of match. It was clear that these two dudes are saving their best for SummerSlam, but they’re going to have to do a hell of a lot to get any of us to care about this feud by then.
Another thing, about halfway through the match the referee ejects Luke Harper and Erick Rowan who, as usual, had accompanied Bray to the ring. And they just leave. We’re talking about the weird half-human monsters of the Wyatt Family, the guys who can seemingly teleport around the arena, the guys that follow every word of their leader. And they just leave because a ref told them too? When does that EVER happen, with ANYBODY. So yeah, this was probably the low point of the night, let’s hope they can develop some chemistry before August.
The Intercontinental Battle Royale Was Some Delicious Trolling
I love Battles Royale (that’s correct grammar, editors!) (Editor's note: I'll take your word for it) because I love things like Kofi Kingston being caught by the just-eliminated Big E and being thrown back into the ring. I love The Great Khali showing up for approximately 45 seconds before getting pushed out of the ring. I like Heath Slater making a legit run before getting ousted and crushing all of our dreams, but I mostly love Battles Royale for these sorts of finishes.
The ring has been cleared and Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler are the last two men remaining. Like most wrestling fans/massive Shawn Michaels marks, I’ve really been hoping for a Ziggler push. In some ways he’s my favorite wrestler in the entire company. And after a great back and forth sequence between two dudes that should be main-eventing, Ziggler scores the win! Oh my God! It’s happening! He’s throwing his arms to the sky!
Except, no. The Miz, who was just hanging out at ringside after he ducked through the bottom rope (you have to go over the top rope to be eliminated,) squirts back into the ring, pushes Ziggler out from behind, and claims the Intercontinental Title.
This is great stuff, because it proves the WWE reads the Internet and actively hates you. Of course they were going to dangle that Dolph push right in front of your eyes before snatching it away and replacing it with The Miz. The MIZ! We don’t even know if that dude’s body works anymore, and he has the belt and Ziggler doesn’t. There are some people absolutely furious about this, and those people are getting worked. Just roll with it man, enjoy the barbs.
I Called It/Cena Wins LOL
I said last week that the Roman Reigns/John Cena/Randy Orton/Kane Fatal 4-Way match would end with Cena retaining, but feature a prominent standoff between Reigns and Cena, which Reigns would win. I called it, and so did everyone in the universe, and it was all but confirmed when those SummerSlam ads started surfacing with the names JOHN CENA and BROCK LESNAR at the top.
So yes, Cena retains, and Cena will (hopefully) be utterly destroyed by Brock Lesnar in about a month, which would probably fit nicely with that movie he has to go make. But yeah, another Reigns-as-top-guy tease, and a showcase for the rift growing between Kane and Randy Orton, because why not. This was the most treading-water moment of a treading-water pay-per-view.
So I’ve got a question, the whole premise of The Authority inserting two of their guys into the Fatal 4-Way was so they could increase their chance of bringing the title back to Triple H’s domain. But in a Fatal 4-Way, you don’t actually have to pin the champion to win the gold. So instead of sending your guys to beat up certified odds-overcomer John Cena and untouchable babyface Roman Reigns, why not let the bell ring, and have Randy Orton immediately cover up Kane for the victory? That would still count! And it seems a lot easier than trying to pin one of the good guys. If there are two heels on the same team, just have one heel cover the other heel! They win! It’s over!
Naturally the answer to all these questions is simple.: It’s wrestling.