Those of you who visit my blog regularly will have probably seen the message I posted about why I haven’t written any reviews lately. (If you haven’t visit the link at the bottom of this piece.)
It’s for those reasons that we’re now going to play catch-up with the goings on in the wrestling and MMA worlds, beginning with a look at WWE’s newest pay-per-view, Battleground, shown recently on Sky Sports here in Britain.
The show began with the first title match of the evening as Rob Van Dam, accompanied by Ricardo Rodriguez, challenged Alberto Del Rio for the World title in a hardcore match.
As far as openers go this wasn’t too bad. The toys made an early appearance when RVD brought a chair into the match, and from there both guys used their various weapons to good effect.
At one point Del Rio looked like he was going to get the submission win with his cross arm breaker, but as this was a no rules encounter. his old buddy Ricardo got into the ring and clobbered him with a bucket. A brief skirmish between the former friends followed, ended when ADR threw his former charge into the ringside barricade.
The aforementioned chair would go on to play a pivotal role in the ending. RVD missed his Van Terminator, and after ADR took him down with a drop toe hold Raven-style onto the chair the champion stomped down on it while his challenger’s arm was trapped inside. He then went for his cross arm breaker once more, with RVD’s arm still in the chair, and it wasn’t long before he tapped out to give Del Rio the submission win.
Tag team action followed as the Great Khali and Santino Marella, accompanied by Hornswoggle, took on the Real Americans team of Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro, who had Zeb Colter in their corner.
Well, to be honest with you this one was okay, although there wasn’t much to write home about really. Marella began the match and looked pretty decent with the moves he’s only allowed to do before he took the role of the punching bag. This gave Swagger and Cesaro the chance to beat up on him a little. As a team these two are a great prospect, but they didn’t really show much as a unit here.
After a few moments Marella managed to get the hot tag to the big guy on the apron. Khali came into the ring and did his usual slow and plodding thing before taking Cesaro down with a chop to the skill. He probably would have got the pin there and then if Swagger hadn’t broken up the count.
Then, after the bodies began to fly came the best part of the match when Cesaro showed just how strong he is by taking the big Indian down with his Cesaro Swing for the winning pin.
The title action resumed with Paul Heyman guy Curtis Axel defending the Intercontinental title against R-Truth.
How best to describe this one? Well, it wasn’t too bad. Both guys put in decent performances, with Truth pulling off some good moves early on before Axel took control. The champ showed once again why he’s been so highly rated recently as he controlled the action, and I have to admit that I’m starting to warm to this guys a little.
Truth eventually made his comeback, and after a few near falls he went to take Axel down with his face-plant thing, the same move he used to beat his man on Raw. The only problem was that this time Axel held onto the ropes and avoided the move. Axel then grabbed hold of Truth and put him away with his neckbreaker variation for the title retaining pin.
More title action followed as Brie Bella, accompanied by her sister Nikki, challenged A.J. Lee, accompanied by Tamina Snuka, for the Divas title.
When you begin the match with a stinging slap to the face it kind of sets the tone for what’s to come, and although this didn’t degenerate into a catfight it was a nice little encounter.
Most of the time Divas title matches seem like filler material on the big shows, but this time around I didn’t get that feeling. Both ladies put in very good performances here. Bella looked quite impressive early on until Lee rammed her into the corner post before working over her injured arm.
Lee once again looked great as the psycho queen, but when Bella made her comeback it looked as if we were going to get a new champion when she dragged Lee to the centre of the ring. She then saw Tamina attacking her sister at ringside, and instead of finishing Lee off she went to aid her sister.
This proved to be a big mistake. As soon as Bella tried to leave the ring Lee rolled her up, and a three count later she had retained her title.
It was back to tag team action for the next match as Tag Team Champions Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, accompanied by United States Champion Dean Ambrose, took on Cody Rhodes and Goldust, who had their old man Dusty in their corner.
The stipulation for this one was simple, if the Rhodes family won they’d get their jobs back and Dusty would keep his.
Now this I liked. It was one of the most dramatic matches WWE have put on this year, and I loved every minute of it.
From start to finish it was packed with great action, with the Rhodes boys controlling the action early on before Rhodes and then Goldust took turns as the crash test dummy, with the Shield boys again showing what a good unit they are.
Eventually the face-painted one managed to make the hot tag to his brother, and that’s when things got really interesting. Rhodes went all out to get the win, and the fans were lapping everything up as he came close on so many occasions.
We then got the inevitable ringside confrontation between Ambrose and old Dusty, and I’m sure it warmed the hearts of old school fans everywhere when the Dream took the young up-start down with his bionic elbow before he took off his belt and tried to whip him like a government mule.
Back in the ring the younger Rhodes was doing pretty darn well, and with Goldust having taken care of Reigns Rhodes took Rollins down with the Cross Rhodes for the job-saving pin.
Normal action resumed as Kofi Kingston went up against Bray Wyatt, accompanied as always by his rather creepy clan.
What we had here was a match between two guys with completely different styles, and that, perhaps, is what made this one quite compelling.
Kingston, as always, looked quite good early on as he took Wyatt down early with his usual impressive away, but it wasn’t long before the creepy guy took control with some of his rather unique offence.
As the match progressed I was a little surprised that Wyatt’s co-horts didn’t really do anything, except take a bump on the floor when Kingston flew over the top rope into them.
Sadly this wasn’t enough the get the win, and back in the ring Wyatt eventually put Kingston away with his sister Abigail move for the winning pin. His boys then dealt out a bit more punishment before Wyatt took to the microphone for some weird pronouncement.
Then it was on to the big grudge match as Paul Heyman’s new guy Ryback took on his old friend C.M. Punk.
Last year the confrontations between these two were all about the cowardly champion against the powerful newcomer, but with Punk having gone toe-to-toe with Brock Lesnar a couple of months ago it was obvious that this was going to be different.
And it was. This wasn’t a ten minute knock-off job with Punk running for his life most of the time, this was an intriguing back and forth encounter that was played out very well.
The former champion was more than happy to trade blows with his more powerful opponent, and although Punk had some success early on Ryback soon took control as he took our hero down with a variety of power moves.
But as the old saying goes you can’t keep a good man down. Punk made his comeback, and with Heyman going through the full gamut of emotions at ringside Punk looked for the GTS. It was then that Heyman grabbed the microphone and proclaimed how great he was. It was the perfect distraction as Ryback regained control.
It looked as if he was losing his cool a little though. As he hammered Punk on the ropes the referee had to keep pushing him back, and when the official went to admonish the big man Heyman tried to get involved when he found a kendo stick under the ring. Luckily for Punk the referee stopped him before he could do any damage and gave Heyman a colossal rollicking.
But as he dressed the manager down Punk connected with a mule kick south of the border. Ryback fell to the mat like the proverbial sack of spuds, and the next thing the referee saw was Punk pinning Ryback. A three count later and Punk had the win.
After a power cut to the arena it was on to the main event as Randy Orton faced Daniel Bryan for the vacant WWE title.
Now I know this is a line I’ve used countless times over the years, but for me this was the perfect piece of storytelling.
It began with our two protagonists exchanging holds in a feeling out period before both men enjoyed periods of control. It may have seemed a little slow and steady at times, but to me it was kind of obvious that they were building towards something big.
So the action progressed with some big moments as both guys began to show their wares. It was proving to be an intriguing encounter, and things got really interesting as they shifted into high gear so they could bring out the big guns.
Numerous near falls followed, and it was around the twenty minute mark that it looked like it was finally going to be Bryan’s day. The former Dragon had taken everything Orton had thrown at him and had come back each and every time, and with the yes lock in place it looked as if it would only be a matter of seconds before he’d win the title again.
Then it happened. The Big Show, frustrated at the way that the powers-that-be had treated him, came down to the ring. His first target was the referee, pulling him out of the ring before he could end the match. The big guy looked crestfallen as he pondered what he’d done.
But what he’d done didn’t sit too well with Bryan, and as he began to remonstrate with Show he was soon flat on his back after a knockout punch. Raw GM Brad Maddox then appeared on the scene, ushering in fast-counting official Scott Armstrong, and as Orton covered the fallen Bryan and Armstrong made his count Show then took him out with another KO blow.
The big guy then got into the ring with an irate Orton. The Viper began to berate him, pushing him at one point. Show responded with his third KO blow, leaving Maddox flabbergasted as he stood triumphant in the ring as the show came to an end.
In conclusion – if you’d read my recent post you’d know that I had considered to skip reviewing this show, mainly because Fremantle Media will probably send me a copy of the DVD release to review in a few weeks.
I’m kind of glad I didn’t, because although this won’t go down as the best show of the year it was still quite entertaining.
All of the matches delivered in varying ways, and even the Real Americans/Santino/Khali encounter had it’s moments. But for me this show had three great moments, and while the Rhodes family securing their futures and Punk’s battle with Ryback were both extremely watchable the highlight of the night for me was the Orton/Bryan main event, and it’s for this reason it’s getting the match of the night no-prize.
So with all of that out of the way there’s just one more thing to do, and that’s to give WWE’s first Battleground show the thumbs up.
By day I’m an unemployed retail worker, and at weekends I volunteer at a local museum, but by night I’m the author of The Two Sheds Review, Britain’s longest running professional wrestling and mixed martial arts blog. Visit my site at www.twoshedsreview.vze.com. It’s been online in one form or another since June 2000!