WWE Battleground airs this Sunday, July 23, live on WWE Network. The Smackdown-exclusive pay-per-view is headlined — “headlined” — by a Punjabi Prison match for the WWE Championship. Also on the card are things that are not in a Punjabi Prison, but should be.
Here’s the complete Battleground card as we know it.
WWE Battleground Card:
1. WWE Championship Punjabi Prison Match: Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Randy Orton
2. United States Championship Match: AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens
3. Flag Match: John Cena vs. Rusev
4. Baron Corbin vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
5. Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos (c) vs. The New Day
6. 5-Way Elimination Match To Determine Naomi’s Opponent At SummerSlam: Tamina Snuka vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Lana vs. Natalya
7. Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis
8. Kickoff Match: Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English
As always, read on for our full rundown of the card, including analysis and predictions for all eight matches. As this card seems dangerously like a regular episode of Smackdown, we’re going to abridge our normal what should happen/what will happen format to include a brief blurb from WWE.com, followed by a vague shrugging gesture.
Be sure to drop down into our comments section to let us know what you think will happen, and be here on Sunday to talk to 5-7 other really bored people about Battleground.
Kickoff Match: Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English
Dillinger has been on a roll as of late, not only fighting his way to the final three of the special Independence Day Battle Royal on SmackDown LIVE, but also giving WWE Champion Jinder Mahal a run for his money in a one-on-one blue brand contest on July 11. Like him or hate him, English is as dangerous as he is emotional. Could Sunday be the day that The Artiste finally brings the curtain down on Dillinger’s fairytale story?
What Will Happen: This match seems like it can only happen on the pre-show of a Smackdown pay-per-view. I think every time it happens I rationalize that Aiden English will win, because he needs it and Tye Dillinger’s character is sort of made to lose, and then Tye keeps winning. No need to break from tradition here. Aiden English should win, because the most interesting thing he’s done in a month is pretend to be a ghost in a Fashion Files, and because Dillinger can take 30 losses and be fine.
(Congratulations on your win, Tye!)
Chris Trew: I’m going to need Tye Dillinger to win this match and get off the Kickoff as soon as possible because I predicted a few months ago that his entrance theme would be the most played on WWE’s Spotify account and it ain’t going well so far. Tye Dillinger in ten (please?).
Bill Hanstock: Aw man, don’t make me Sophie’s Choice this one. English needs the win a lot more, but you don’t really want to get Dillinger into the habit of losing on the Kickoff show, so I’m guessing Tye gets the crowd pumped up with a win, and I’m just hoping everyone has a good time and stays safe.
John Canton: A repeat of a match they’ve done a few times in the last three months. At least their other matches have had a bitter of a story. Dillinger seems to win every wrestle, so I’ll go the other way and give English a much-deserved victory just because I like his singing better than the “ten” chant at this point.
David Dennis, Jr.: I hate that the Drifter is ruling on RAW because it’s sort of reaching across the tracks to diminish what English is doing, even though he’s the OG at this heel singing bit. And this is the motherf*cking thanks he gets? Dillinger is winning here.
Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis
They didn’t even give this one a match graphic!
When [Zayn] poked fun at the affectionate couple’s behavior, however, The First Lady of SmackDown LIVE decided to show Zayn just how much love can hurt with a hard slap, and Mike added the exclamation point by smashing a vase over the Superstar’s back.
After being assaulted by Maria & Mike, Zayn opted to go head-to-head against the up-and-coming Superstar in his opponent’s debut match on the July 18 edition of SmackDown LIVE. Zayn was unable to get retribution, however, and Mike Kanellis walked away with a victory, thanks in part to the “loving” distraction from his better half.
What Will Happen: These two already wrestled on Smackdown, with Sami dominating until he was distracted by Maria and felled with one (1) punch and a finisher. The logical thing seems to be to give us a “good” match as a re-do, Sheamus/Daniel Bryan style, that actually attempts to showcase Mike as an Actual Pro Wrestler and not just have him be the dude who hides behind his wife until he can hit the SUPER PUNCH. Since Mike won the first match, it’d make sense to give Sami the win here, but probably via disqualification or (God forbid) a purposeful heel count-out. Maybe Mike and Maria are too busy giving each other edible arrangements and get counted out.
Bill Hanstock: Well, Mike won on Smackdown Live thanks to FEMININE WILES, so I guess Zayn has to win this one here? But given Kanellis is the new kid in town, they probably don’t want him to drop his first pay-per-view match, so I’m guessing Kanellis hands Sami that big ol’ L via FEMININE WILES, ALSO.
John Canton: It would be nice if Zayn was used in a better way, but I’ve almost given up hope that it’s ever going to happen. There’s just no consistency with how they use him. As for Mike Kanellis, at least he’s got the new factor for him and this angle seemed to be about getting his wife Maria over, so it makes more sense for Mike to win.
David Dennis, Jr.: Zayn is the guy you beat when you’re debuting in the WWE now. This is your life. Everything sucks.
5-Way Elimination Match To Determine Naomi’s Opponent At SummerSlam: Tamina Snuka vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Lana vs. Natalya
With so much talent surging and SummerSlam on the horizon, SmackDown LIVE management decided that the fairest way to determine Naomi’s opponent at SummerSlam would be to put five of the roster’s best on the Battleground (literally) and see who prevailed.
Will Charlotte’s Flair big-match pedigree pay dividends as she continues her quest to become the first Superstar in history to hold the Divas Championship as well as both the Raw and SmackDown Women’s Titles? Or will Becky Lynch or Natalya be able to use their years of experience as to elevate themselves toward SummerSlam glory? And will the seemingly brewing alliance between Tamina and Lana play a factor in the contest?
What Will Happen: Smackdown loves its “everybody into the pool” title and number one contender matches. I’m surprised Carmella and Naomi aren’t just in it already.
The logical story here seems to be Charlotte winning, because she’s the most proven championship talent, and having Naomi and Charlotte tear it up at SummerSlam could make up for the lackluster Money in the Bank ladder matches and Lana title matches we’ve been dealing with for the past couple of months. Plus, what better time for Carmella to cash-in (or think about it) than when Charlotte and Naomi have pushed each other to the limit? Honestly, I just want to see Charlotte and Naomi try to out-athlete each other.
Chris Trew: I think I’m the only person in the WWE Universe (or, universe) who doesn’t like Naomi’s entrance. So I’m excited to not see that entrance at Battleground and I’m excited for someone to give me less opportunities to see that entrance in the future so my call here is Charlotte Flair. Also I feel bad for what I said back there about Naomi’s entrance, my self-induced punishment is watching Battleground on my phone in a nightclub on Sunday.
Bill Hanstock: They’re being real careful to not say this is a No. 1 Contender match, what with the women’s MITB briefcase floating around out there. I think WWE wants the best match possible at SummerSlam, so that rules out Natalya, Lana, and Tamina. There’s a CHANCE Natalya wins to give us a true heel/face dynamic at SummerFest, but I think either Becky or Charlotte will win this one. Probably Charlotte. Then she’ll get to win the title and drop it to Carmella immediately at SummerJam!
John Canton: The winner of this match is supposed to face Naomi for the Smackdown Women’s Title at SummerSlam, but we all know it’s going to lead to some six-way match at SummerSlam. Based on this week’s Smackdown, I’m thinking Tamina might win, but she’s so boring that WWE may not go that route. Her promos are bad that she screws up sometimes even when she has one line. I guess I’ll pick Charlotte Flair since she had the clean loss on Smackdown. Charlotte wins Women’s Title at SummerSlam, Carmella cashes in and leaves with the gold.
David Dennis, Jr.: Charlotte is the winner here. She’s showing a bit of heel persona and she’s going to take on Naomi next month in a match I can’t freaking wait for. She’s pinning Natalya as the Hart Queen might be bowing out soon if rumors are true
Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos (c) vs. The New Day
At the height of their previous title showdown at WWE Money in the Bank, the resilient Kofi Kingston & Big E looked incredibly strong against their tough Samoan adversaries. That was until Jimmy & Jey Uso opted to take a walk and a count-out loss that saved their SmackDown Tag Team Championship.
But the “Power of Positivity” refuses to be denied, and the longest-reigning Tag Team Champions in WWE history are coming back for more! Can The Usos fend off their rejuvenated foes to maintain their grasp on the gold? Or will Day One finally give way to a New Day?
What Will Happen: New Day. Gotta be. With SummerSlam positioned as Second WrestleMania, expect New Day to walk into it as your W (hip swivel) W (hip swivel) E (hip swivel) etc. I’d expect a multiple team match at the show to get as many of the teams on SummerSlam as possible. Maybe New Day vs. the Usos vs. Breezango vs. whoever wrecked Breezango’s office, roughed up Tyler Breeze, had greasy hair and murdered a hobby horse?
Chris Trew: I hope The Usos squash The New Day and then I hope The New Day does something crazy like anything besides what they’ve been doing for the past year (other than introduce The Hardys at WrestleMania, that was cool) (hey what if The New Day managed The Hardy Boyz).
Bill Hanstock: You know what? Logic dictates that the New Day will win here, but I think the Usos retain. Then we can get Breezango back in the mix, or build the Ascension or Hype Bros back up, or whatever. The Usos are just way too good at doing what they do right now, and if anyone doesn’t need the tag team championship, it’s the New Day.
John Canton: This should have been a gimmick match after The Usos lost by countout after walking away. Where’s the storyline progression? At least they added to the feud with the entertaining battle rap segment. I guess that’s progression? The lack of depth in the Smackdown tag division makes it hard to predict because other than Breezango they aren’t using other teams much at all. I’m leaning towards a New Day victory just to have a title change on the show.
David Dennis, Jr.: This won’t have a clear winner because these teams are having a ladder match at SummerSlam. Bank on it.
Baron Corbin vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Mr. Money in the Bank will do battle with The King of Strong Style on the SmackDown LIVE-exclusive pay-per-view, bringing their frothing rivalry to a head after weeks of assaults by The Lone Wolf — including one that nearly took Nakamura out of the Money in the Bank Ladder Match that Corbin eventually won — and a retaliatory strike by Nakamura before what was scheduled to be their first-ever match on SmackDown LIVE. When that sneak attack led to an all-out brawl between WWE’s Rockstar and Mr. Money in the Bank, a contest between the two was instead sanctioned for WWE Battleground.
What Will Happen: There are few things WWE loves to do more than have whoever holds the Money in the Bank briefcase lose a bunch of matches to “throw you off the sent” of a cash-in. It almost always happens. Chances are, Nakamura will get a strong win here and probably a clean pin, and WWE will think they’ve tricked us into thinking Corbin won’t cash in on a 17-time champion John Cena at SummerSlam, or whoever ends up beating Jinder.
Chris Trew: I love it, a preview of the WrestleMania 40 main event at Battleground 2017. Baron Corbin wins a hard-fought match and then puts Shinsuke’s mouthguard in his mouth.
Bill Hanstock: Baron Corbin has the Money in the Bank briefcase, and Nakamura hasn’t lost a singles match yet and is supposed to be the next hot thing, so I think Corbin takes the L here. I have faith he won’t get into “lose every match” territory like some past MITB holders, but maybe I’m just naive. The other possibility here is a non-finish, but I think this feud will be one-and-done, and maybe they can revisit it later when one of these guys has the world title.
John Canton: Nakamura comes into the match undefeated in singles matches and I don’t think Corbin is the guy that should end that streak. Corbin holding that contract means losses, not wins in WWE’s booking patters. They’ve brawled a lot, which is really the only thing they’ve done in this story. At least that’s better than the sleep inducing promos of Jinder Mahal in the WWE Title feud.
David Dennis, Jr.: Since Baron Corbin has the Money In The Bank briefcase he’ll be carrying on the long tradition of losing every match he has until he cashes in on AJ Styles (or whoever) at SummerSlam. Make em look strong.
Flag Match: John Cena vs. Rusev
The Bulgarian Brute made it clear he would battle on his terms at WWE Battleground. Cena was more than willing to oblige, and the showdown was soon made official.
In this explosive Flag Match, the American and Bulgarian flags will be set above the turnbuckles on opposite sides of the ring and the first Superstar to retrieve their country’s flag will be the winner.
What Will Happen:
Chris Trew: In high school I had a friend who tried out for the the flag team and didn’t make it. She was really upset but then was really happy when she didn’t make it after seeing them perform at a basketball game. That’s exactly how I feel about this match (which Cena has to win to balance out Jinder retaining the strap).
Bill Hanstock: I’m really looking forward to Rusev and Kevin Owens forming a full-time tag team after they both lose on Sunday, because if you have the two best heels in the world NOT holding world championships, you might as well just let him play off each other every week. Maybe they can get vignettes like Breezango where they just hate America together.
John Canton: I like both guys, but I don’t care about seeing this match again. The USA vs. Bulgaria flag story is what you do when you can’t think of anything else. Is anybody in the US watching at home thinking: “I hope Cena wins because I hate those damn Bulgarians!?!?” Nope. Nobody cares. Cena wins and poor Rusev loses his first feud after coming back from an injury instead of giving him a chance to move up the ladder. Moving to Smackdown could have been a reboot for Rusev. Instead, he’s putting over Cena again. Yawn.
David Dennis, Jr.: Vince Russo, AMIRIGHT. Rusev is going to continue to be Cena’s jobber and it’s unfortunate but this should be pretty good. I hope it leads to bigger and better things for Rusev going forward.
United States Championship Match: AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens
Up until recently, the WWE Universe was expecting the opposite, as Owens has maintained a firm grip on the illustrious prize. But, in a stunning turn of events, The Phenomenal One dethroned The New Face of America in a championship bout at a Live Event at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
Prior to the electric title clash at MSG, Styles was the one chasing after the coveted championship, having to earn No. 1 contender status by winning SmackDown LIVE’s Independence Day Battle Royal. But the noteworthy night at The World’s Most Famous Arena completely shifted the balance of power.
What Will Happen: The booking for this is probably just, “go out and have the match of the night, obviously.” If this isn’t the best match on the show, I’ll be shocked. Everyone will. It’s maybe the only match on the card that would have to work overtime to fail.
That all being said, it’s almost too close to call. Owens could win the belt back, as the Styles title change was just to pop the Madison Square Garden audience, or Styles could keep it and head into SummerSlam for a match with Nakamura. Or, they could be saving that for WrestleMania, and do Styles vs. Cena again. That’d at least help Jinder be safe for another pay-per-view. So it’ll be fun to see how it plays out. If I had to pick, I say Styles retains. Jinder’s not losing, so we need at least one singles face champ.
Chris Trew: It’s always a bummer when a top-tier guy goes from defending a top-tier belt to defending (or chasing) a secondary belt. This is happening twice in both directions now and it makes me sad. The match will be great because of course but I’ll be silently protesting this in my heart.
Bill Hanstock: Much like Randy Orton, the question is what happens to Kevin Owens after Battleground, when he doesn’t win his title match. I mean, he’s probably just going to keep feuding with Styles, but whatever. Styles is going to retain and it looks like we might be getting Styles-Nakamura at SummerSlam instead of WrestleMania for the U.S. Championship. I’m not mad about it.
John Canton: Best match of the night, even though we have seen it a few times. I feel like they’re going to have a better match than what they did at Backlash and try to “steal the show” like wrestlers tend to say. Since it’s Styles and Owens they certainly have the skills to provide a classic match if they are given the time to do it. I’d be very surprised if there was a title change since Styles won it less than two weeks ago. Bring on the Styles US Title Open Challenge after this.
David Dennis, Jr.: This is your match of the night, kiddos. AJ and Owens have great chemistry and they haven’t had a chance to even put it on full display. This match is going to kill and Owens is going to win because I think Styles is wrestling for the title at SummerSlam.
WWE Championship Punjabi Prison Match: Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Randy Orton
What Will Happen: Here we are, actually having another Punjabi Prison match in the year of Our Lord 2017. Randy Orton will have had a snake sperm and bug-ring match at WrestleMania, a House of Horrors match, a match where he loses the WWE Championship to a jobber and a Punjabi Prison match in the same half a year.
I think the hook is that it seems stupid for Jinder to be so reliant on the Singh Brothers and then choose a match where the Singh Brothers can’t interfere that Randy will be too confident that he’s good, and get caught by surprise Singh interference. Nothing says those little guys can’t climb cages, or fit through the gigantic square holes in the cage. Maybe the whole gimmick is that they’re gonna climb through at the very beginning and everyone who’d maybe want to help Randy fight them off is slightly too big.
The only thing I want to see less than a Punjabi Prison match is Randy Orton as WWE Champion. Jinder retains, and his Cinderella run either runs head-first into John Cena at SummerSlam, or the Orton beef continues and Orton gets Lone Wolfed out of the championship.
Chris Trew: I’m tailgating for this match in a homemade Punjabi Prison which I made out of twigs and gorilla glue. I’m Team Jinder all day, ride this man until Wrestlemania please. For every single ex-wrestling fan who stopped watching because WWE is too predictable, drag them to Battleground.
Bill Hanstock: This is as good a place as any to end this feud (please god end it), and Jinder Mahal is definitely leaving Battleground as champion. Really the only question here is whether Orton is finally going to for-real murder a Singh Brother this time. I’m guessing Mahal escapes when Orton takes a moment to RKO a Singh off the top of the fence. Orton is really going to hurt those kids bad.
John Canton: My interest in this match is very low and making it a Punjabi Prison match doesn’t excite me. It makes me feel sorry for the wrestlers because it’s a dumb gimmick match that’s almost as bad as House of Horrors was. It would be nice if WWE gave us an interesting WWE Title feud because Orton-Wyatt and Mahal-Orton have been boring. Is Orton as a face part of the problem? Yeah, but the heels are the problem too. Jinder will find a way to win when the Singh Brothers prevent Orton from climbing out. Cena beating Jinder for the title at SummerSlam seems likely.
David Dennis, Jr.: Jinder Mahal is money. Money, money, money. It’s rare in the modern era to find people who generate real heat and Jinder does that. He reminds me of JBL except, you know. Anyway, he’s going to win here and make someone a massively over babyface at SummerSlam. AJ Styles maybe?