Previously on the Best and Worst of Battleground: We had probably 2016’s under-the-radar best secondary pay-per-view, featuring Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn having a match of the year candidate, the main roster debut of Bayley, and that Shield triple threat nobody remembers and everybody thinks still needs to happen. I’m sure this year will be just as good! Please ignore the picture.
If you missed Battleground 2017 and want to spit in the face of a God that loves you enough to spare you three hours of this, click here to watch it.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Battleground 2017 for July 23, 2017.
Worst: So Khali Maybe
I’m just going to review this show in reverse, because — and this is not a compliment, in case you have the reading comprehension of a trout — the only thing you’re gonna talk about when you talk about Battleground 2017 in the actual year 2017 is the return of the Great Khali. In a Punjabi Prison match. Featuring Randy Orton. In 2017.
At some point they’re just gonna have to start flashing the words THIS IS FOR INDIA at the bottom of the screen and ask every other nation in the world to tune out. I’m not even sure what to tell you. It’s a Punjabi Prison match featuring Randy Orton and an extremely muscular guy who can barely wrestle whose finisher is OTHER PEOPLE HELPING ME. It’s got all the dumbest logical loophole shit in the world.
There are four doors. Why are you worrying about your opponent going through a door if you can just go through one on the other side? Honestly the match could’ve been a footrace that lasted about 40 seconds total and it would’ve been a lot more fun and more fun to talk about. Why are you stopping your opponent from climbing the little cage? Just go through one of the doors and wait for him to climb down, where you can be waiting to beat the shit out of him. Why worry about the “60 second door time limit” when there isn’t a roof on your cage, and the cages are close enough that if you climb one you can just step over to the other one? Why did you build a double piss-colored cage out of bamboo? Why can’t anyone in the live crowd see through it? Why do you play the scary Iraq music from Arrested Development when the cage is lowering? Why is any of this happening? WHY AM I WATCHING THIS? HOW IS THIS MY JOB? IS THE OLIVE GARDEN HIRING, CAN I JUST WAIT TABLES INSTEAD OF WATCHING THIS.
And to recap, Randy Orton’s 2017 since WrestleMania has included:
- a WrestleMania match where he walked out on a giant sperm and won because his opponent put on an entomological slideshow instead of doing wrestling moves
- the House of Horrors, probably the worst match in the history of wrestling, featuring teleportation, backwards-driving ghost tractors, scary Hue lights and a cursed refrigerator
- losing his first title defense to the third best member of 3MB
- losing a Punjabi Prison match because of The Great Khali
What’s next, entering the Cruiserweight Classic and losing in a first round match to Hornswoggle? You wanna lose a Kickoff Match at SummerSlam to Ascension Viktor because the Boogeyman showed up and hit you in the back with a big clock? Jesus Christ, dude, are you trying to have all 10 of the worst 10 matches of the year?
I guess the only highlight I can find here is that now Jinder Mahal’s OH GOD PLEASE HELP ME WIN posse who are essentially a pit crew for when his gross Skinny Jeans Entire Body goes haywire includes two tiny guys and a giant, so maybe Gurv and Blerg Shira can ride out on the Great Khali’s shoulders like baby birds.
Best: RIP Singh Brothers, Part A Million
Since the beginning of this feud, Randy Orton has done everything in his power to murder the Singh Brothers on television. The Punjabi Prison wasn’t any different. Jinder is a stack of rocks and Orton’s about as physically dynamic as an inflatable tube man, so it was up to Singh 1 and Singh 2 to do all the heavy lifting. Or heavy falling, whatever.
Here’s Samir Singh getting knocked off the side of the cage by a fist so hard it spins him around in mid-air. It hurt more because Orton kissed it!
That’s what the Singh Brothers get for freely entering and leaving those inescapable cages.
Best: The Fashion Files
An Eddie Money callback, The Ascension selling the sight of a dead hobby horse head (with Konnor getting horse head guts on his beard) and the most sexually charged hug on WWE TV:
The Fashion Files segments should just be the shows. And for real, Mike and Maria Kanellis are married in real life and aren’t as convincing a romance as Tyler Breeze and Fandango.
Worst: Sami Zayn Destroys Love
How dead-on-arrival do you have to be as a pro wrestler to have a bad match with Sami Zayn? I haven’t seen a gimmick this DOA since they put Crush on a motorcycle.
I think the major problem is that, among other things, they already did this match on Smackdown. Mike Kanellis — which I always hear as “Mike and Ellis” — won that with one (1) punch and one (1) bad Samoan Driver. So they just do the match again for some reason, and this time it’s longer and requires more work. Which, uh, doesn’t make it any better, especially when “debuting Mike Kanellis” was the point. You’re basically doing a do-over instead of booking literally anything else five days before your fucking pay-per-view.
And good lord, Mike Kanellis. This version of this guy wouldn’t be hot shit on your local independent show, much less having a pay-per-view match. I’m like, 70% sure that if they’d booked Maria vs. Sami Zayn it would’ve been better. Mike just doesn’t any anything going for him. He looks like an irregular piece of candy. He’s like the Roger Clinton to Rick Rude’s Bill. When the only notable part of your offense is slapping your leg too hard when you punch so a closed fist sounds like a clap for some reason, you need to take a step back and reevaluate.
I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both Kanellisi were gone by the Royal Rumble. Like, their story is already over. You told the entire thing. They showed up, they’re in love, we hate that. Mike wrestles and his wife cheats so he can win. Then it backfires, and they lose. They could go away right now and there’d be nothing left on the table.
Here’s a complete list of things I like about Mike and Ellis and Maria Kanellis:
- the theme song is still pretty good
- the subtle touch that Mike has Maria all over his gear, and Maria’s jacket also has Maria on it instead of having anything to do with Mike
Worst: The Flag Match
You Have To Write Something, Brandon
All right, all right.
You know that bit where I was like, “hey, here’s why almost none of the Punjabi Prison makes sense?” Check out this flag match, where you have to pull down your flag, run up the aisle, climb a small set of steps and plant it to win. And they’re having these big dramatic fights on the steps, and I’m thinking, “why doesn’t Rusev just grab the US flag and chuck it into the crowd?” Cena would have to go get it, and he could just mosey up there with the Bulgarian flag and win. More than one of the night’s main events could’ve just been a 40 second foot race. At least toss it back in the ring if you see it lying on the ground outside. And then I’m thinking, “if you have to win by planting it in that base, and the base isn’t attached to the steps, why not just throw the base away? They couldn’t win. Or better yet, break the flag pole over your knee. They couldn’t physically win then.” Or about a billion other things besides slowly setting up a bunch of tables near the steps instead of just planting your flag when a dude’s on the ground selling.
I think the entire problem with the last … several pay-per-views is that nobody stops and asks, “is this insulting to our audience’s intelligence?” There’s a lot — a lot — that wrestling fans can put up with. There’s a lot of suspension of disbelief going on. Crazy characters and Irish whip physics and all that. But if a stupid person watching your show can point out 10 logical problems with what’s going on, why isn’t anyone in your company? And if they are, why don’t the people in charge care? And if they do, why isn’t anyone doing a second draft of this shit and at least attempting to make it better? Why are we letting a 70-year old man operating through a basement quality Armstrong shit this onto television at the last minute? It’s not even a matter of preference, or like, “I like this kind of wrestling and not this kind,” it’s just stupid. And not the fun kind.
Also, shout-out to the announce team for acting like the honor of the United States was somehow on the line in this flag-based wrestling match they came up with a couple of weeks ago. They’re acting like if Cena doesn’t win, he’s going to be shamed into exile. It’s the most important match in the career of the, uh, 16-time WWE Champion who has main-evented a handful of WrestleManias and done pretty much everything you can do in wrestling. Making sure a Bulgarian doesn’t feel good about where he’s from while he’s in an important city to our history is the most important. Don’t let Brakkus get the win in San Antonio, that’s where the Alamo is!
Double also, when did Smackdown become the Evil Foreigner show? Why is that a thing again? The top two singles championship matches had them. Do we need two on the same show? Is Vince trying to dig his heels into that Trump fanbase? I think you’ve already got those people, man.
Worst: How Is AJ Styles Vs. Kevin Owens Boring
So let’s talk about the finish here. They do some good (but not exciting) work establishing that AJ Styles has hurt his left shoulder. Owens dumps him on the apron. So a few minutes later when Styles goes for the Styles Clash, he can’t get it because he’s hurt. That leads to Kevin Owens picking him up and tossing him at the referee. The ref gets bumped. Styles avoids a Pop-up Powerbomb and locks in the Calf Crusher. You’d think that plus the ref bump, even if it’s totally avoiding the psychology they set up for the finish, would involve a visible tap-out, right? Like, Owens would get caught in this move and tap out, but get lucky because the ref is knocked out. Basic wrestling stuff.
Except the ref bump doesn’t matter. Owens reverses the Calf Crusher into a Crossface. On the left shoulder. Which now doesn’t hurt Styles, who is able to get out of it and reverse into a Crossface of his own. Using his arms. Owens still doesn’t tap. They even scoot around so Styles’ body is blocking the half-knocked-out referee’s view, but it’s just for the cameras. It’s not to give us an obstructed tap or anything. Owens rolls Styles back into a pin. Styles holds on to the crossface with his shoulders against the mat for some reason even though the move isn’t hurting Owens anymore. The referee recovers and counts a very slow three. None of this is happening for a reason. It’s like they forgot the finish to the match and only did half of it. Nothing’s even there.
So when your match is kinda boring and you set up meaningless psychology and you bump the ref for no reason and you have him doing a big slow count on a pin that could only not make Styles look like a moron if it was super quick, you’ve done a bad job. With KEVIN OWENS AND AJ STYLES. You don’t need this bullshit. You don’t need Styles getting his leg caught in a table. It’s Kevin Owens and AJ Styles. How can you POSSIBLY fuck that up?
Worst: Natalya Is Definitely A Better SummerSlam Opponent For Naomi Than Charlotte Flair, Yep
The women’s elimination match was fine, but it suffered from the same problems as the Money in the Bank ladder matches. Nothing really happens, and then everything happens all at once, and it’s suddenly over. This time we have an okay match going, and then it’s rapid-fire eliminations. Three in less than a minute, and then Natalya pins Charlotte by … school-boying her into the bottom turnbuckle? CHARLOTTE lost to that? Did she really get hurt on the moonsault and call an audible? That’s like beating Ric Flair with a hip-toss. Whoever’s been agenting these things needs to start with an ending and work backwards. Slowly.
Another tip: maybe don’t let Lana try to kick people.
If you completely whiff the first kick, you probably shouldn’t toe kick your opponent in the back of the head to make up for it.
Worst: Nakamura’s Not Getting Any Better
That’s a contentious sounding sentence, but here’s a truth: Nakamura likes to mail it in when he doesn’t care about a match. That’s the kind of performer he is. He’s not a 300 dates a year guy. In New Japan sometimes he’d completely half-ass a match, more often than not, really, and then somehow over-perform when it mattered. It worked because so much of wrestling is in the moments, and we don’t need to remember all these throwaway matches, right? We just need to remember the ones that count. Not my opinion, but it’s how a lot of people think.
The only match Nakamura’s over-performed in was his NXT debut. Since then, he’s been pretty much a non-entity. He was less exciting of an NXT Champion than Bobby Roode, and I think I spent most of his title run wishing Samoa Joe would beat his ass. Part of it is that Nakamura doesn’t get to be NAKAMURA, all caps, this swaggering shithead who will kick you to death and snap your arm and is beloved by the crowd for it even though he’s a jerk and a weirdo. In WWE, he’s in there letting his opponent beat him up for 3/4 of the match and selling too much, because North American babyfaces have to build to comebacks. They have to be the underdog or whatever. Even John Cena will get his ass kicked for an entire match and then magically hit all his specials and get out. That’s Nakamura. It’s why he doesn’t work. It’s why Hideo Itami doesn’t work, either. You’re painting a bunch of oranges red and calling them apples.
I didn’t think the match with Corbin was terrible, really — I love Corbin’s shit-talking, especially “I’m doin’ pretty good, dummy!” — but it was lazy. It was just there. And then you had the finish, where you can’t have either guy lose so you have one kick the other in the nuts, and the question becomes, “if you can’t book a finish because both results hurt the guys too much, why’d you book the match at all?” Start with the ending and work backwards, guys. Don’t let the ending to every single story be, “nobody can do very well, because nobody can look bad.”
And Finally, We Have The Best Match On The Show By A Thousand Miles
Yes, Vanessa Carlton would’ve gone out of her way to see this.
This is the kind of match that proves that if I don’t like a match result but love the match, I’m gonna probably be okay with the result. At least, it’s not going to bother me and make me spend three paragraphs dissecting it. We all knew the Smackdown Tag Team Championship was coming to the New Day, no matter how great the Usos have been, but they did a good job of making New Day really earn it, and I think that matters.
This was also easily the match of Xavier Woods’ career. Since the beginning of him being “Xavier Woods,” he’s been the weak link of any situation he’s in. In the New Day, he’s the most glaring and obvious weak link in faction history. We’re talking Paul Roma levels of weak. Kofi was the guy with experience, E is the powerful one, Woods is the manager. For almost New day’s entire run, he’s been on the bench. He’d be Jim Cornette if you could blow into the handle of a tennis racket and make it honk. Even when he’s wrestled, it’s seemed like the New Day B-team.
Here, Woods KILLS it. He wrestles most of the match and takes a Ricky Morton-level ass-kicking, including one of the most gruesome (and unexpected) springboards into a superkick you’ll ever see:
Man, how are you alive? And the best part is that the spot is the centerpiece of the match, and ends up coming back around and paying off. Woods finds himself on the top rope again during the finish, and Kofi Kingston coming out of the corner under him with Trouble in Paradise sets him up to attempt the springboard elbow again, hit it, and win the tag straps for his team. Woods did the work, Woods got the duke.
Wonderful stuff to open the show. If this had actually happened in reverse, it might’ve even been good enough to save it.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
I want Ember Moon to run in at Summerslam, and hit her finisher on Natalya.
It would be a total eclipse of the Hart.
Shawn Michaels and Willy Nelson should have a reality show called “High Guy and the Lazy Eye”
And in the final bit of WCW-ass booking, The Great Khali shows up like a big unwrapped Yeti to awkward Randy to death
This is a holy shit moment! Minus the holy part.
“They killed him! As Ganesh as my witness he’s broken in half!!!”
-Indian announce team
Shame they didn’t put Cena in this, because ‘you can’t see me’ has never been more appropriate.
The Real Birdman
I agree with Kanellis’ tights, Mercury & Morrison forever
I’m going to take a knee when Cena’s music hits.
If Nattie wins the belt she better replace the light-up belt with a digital photo frame that shows nothing but pictures of cats.
At the end, we were all the Punjabi Prisoners.
That’s it for Battleground. Possibly forever.
Make sure to drop down into our comments section to let us know your favorite Great Khali moment, from “that time he walked out looking like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon being walked by a team of handlers” to “that time he said something you couldn’t understand and everyone laughed.” And hey, click the social share buttons so we can convince somebody to read about this pay-per-view. The least we can do is get some views out of it.
Thank you for suffering through this with me. This has got to be one of the most unbearable pay-per-view streaks ever. Let’s get hype for SummerSlam and hope it changes the direction of the company, even if that direction is, “Women’s Champion Natalya.”
And make sure you join us on Tuesday for the fallout from Battleground, which I assume involves Tiger Ali Singh and Lo Down returning so Jinder Mahal can win a match.