Battleground 2015 Kick-Off
Things all began with the now regular Kick-Off panel of Renee Young, Corey Graves, Booker T and Byron Saxton, it was at this point that I realised Renee Young may very well be the love of my life. Tom Philips then attempted to say Social Media as many times as possible inside the aptly named Social Media Lounge, whilst also pushing an upcoming interview with Paul Heyman. My affections continued to grow for Renee as she ran down the card for the night. A superb video package for the United States Championship match between John Cena and Kevin Owens aired, with the pairs back and forth promos being highlights perfectly, if you didn't want to see this match from the package then wrestling isn't for you. Some chatter from the panel regarding the aforementioned bout, including Booker T making the claim that "nobody has worn that title better than John Cena", which I'm sure caused an outrage amongst a certain fanbase.
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt was next to fall under the spotlight, firstly with a well-produced promo package that made their feud look a lot more slick than it actually has been. Byron Saxton really shone in the panel discussion about this match, making the rivalry relatable to the audience at home, good work Citreon Saxo. Eden Stiles' interview with R-Truth was a slightly awkward affair on the interviewers part, but Truth's inane ramblings at least contained some entertainment value. Randy Orton vs. Sheamus was next to be covered by the panel, with the panel discussing Orton's "home field advantage" although failing to put over what wrestling in your home town can really do for a performer.
The New Day turned up with the panel during discussion of their match with The Prime Time Players, which at least brought a bit of variety to the format.
Battle for the Crown Match
"2015 King of the Ring" King Barrett
"King What's Up" R-Truth
I was actually rather surprised with how much I enjoyed this match, mainly because the feud doesn't interest me in the slightest and I find Barrett's gimmick to be rather stale. However, the two put together a decent encounter, that was well-paced and looked slick, especially when it came to the finishing sequence. Despite Jerry "The King" Lawler being intent on going on about Barrett's nose, the live crowd were into the action and this made the action much more satisfying to watch, given that it was provided a solid soundscape by a lively St. Louis crowd. Barrett picking up the win with a Bullhammer, after being able to block a What's Up attempt by holding onto the ropes, allowed Barrett to pick up a much-needed clean victory, maybe WWE does have some plans for him after all (I'm not holding my breath though)
Winner - King Barrett by pinfall in 9 minutes, 15 seconds
It was back to the dweeb master general himself, Tom Philips, in the Social Media Lounge, as he ended up on the wrong ending of a verbal beating from Paul Heyman, in a car-crash of an interview. The debut's of Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks on last week's Raw received a recap, with Renee revealing all three would be present tonight alongside their various cohorts. Finally the panel took a look at the World Heavyweight Championship match between Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar, with Citroen Saxo putting in another shift with more metaphors than you could shake a shitty stick at. The promo video for the main event was chosen to close the Kick-Off show, with the video working as not only a good recap of the feud between Lesnar and Rollins, but also as a nice lead in to the main show.
The opening video package focused Wyatt vs. Reigns, Cena vs. Owens and Rollins vs. Lesnar, although the theme of the video felt a confused with a gladiatorial/war-based vibe that didn't quite gel.
One Fall Match
"Mr. Money in the Bank" "The Celtic Warrior" Sheamus
"The Apex Predator" Randy Orton
The Scottrade Center crowd was absolutely red-hot for this one and the match was all the better for it. It makes a big difference when a crowd is behind a babyface and against a heel, it gives everything that the two guys do in the ring so much more purpose and allows the audience member at home to be drawn into the action a hell of a lot easier. The encounter made good use of Orton working in front of his home town crowd, whilst Sheamus has been very easy to take a disliking too since his heel turn the night after WrestleMania.
The actual content of the match was perfectly acceptable stuff, with the two working a WWE main event style match, with some nice near falls for both men and some well-done brawling sequences that suited both men's in-ring styles. My biggest hang-up with this one was The Viper's lack of selling after taking three Irish Curse Backbreaker's from Sheamus, had Orton sold the back at various points during the match, then when Sheamus was able to lock in the Texas Cloverleaf later in the match it would have meant a hell of a lot more and been believable as a potential finish. The actual finish saw The Apex Predator pull out an RKO out of nowhere to pick up the victory, which got a good reaction from the crowd, although where these two are heading into SummerSlam is anyone's guess.
Winner - Orton by pinfall in 16 minutes, 54 seconds
The previously mentioned Diva's segment from the previous week's Monday Night RAW got another recap, despite their still not being a match booked between any of those competitors. Things became clear however, during an Jo Jo conducted interview with Stephanie McMahon, with Stephanie revealing their would be a triple threat match between a member of each of the respective factions.
One Fall Tag Team Match for the WWE Tag Team Championships
The Prime Time Players (C)
The New Day's Kofi Kingston & Big E with Xavier Woods
A much improved effort on their outing from last month's Money in the Bank, this match seemed intent on making Titus O'Neil look like a beast. Whenever O'Neil wasn't in the ring The New Day would somehow manage to get the upper-hand, however when O'Neil was inside those ropes he was kicking ass and taking names in impressive fashion. Despite Young taking a lot of the beating, a spirited sequence that saw him take out all of the New Day just about stopped him from looking like a twat. The finish worked well with some nice back and forth with both teams looking like they could have had it won in the closing stages, before Young was able to hit a Gutcheck on Kingston and Big E took the Clash of the Titus to allow the PTP to retain the tag titles.
Winners - PTP by pinfall (O'Neil on Big E) in 8 minutes, 50 seconds
The Diva's bout continued to be heavily featured with a backstage skit with Paige, Becky Lynch and Charlotte, in which Becky seemed to be the stand-out for the group with an impressive speech. The well produced promo for Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns made their feud look a lot more slick than it actually has been.
One Fall Match
Wyatt and Reigns really stepped up to the plate here, both working hard for each other to create an enjoyable heavyweight collision. The two kept a strong pace throughout the lengthy contest, with the action being fast and furious, but also giving the big moves time to breath. The two worked in some good spots that played off their signature offence, a particular highlight coming from an attempting Drive-by kick from The Juggernaut being met with a huge lariat onto the apron from The Eater of Worlds. There was also plenty of solid near falls, some of which the crowd seemed to fall for, with Reigns rolling through a Sister Abigail attempt into a Superman Punch standing out among the pack.
The story telling element of the bout was the real hook for me however, with Wyatt being pushed to use unorthodox offence, like a DDT onto the apron, in order to gain control of the match, with The Powerhouse actually spending a surprising amount of time on the offense. Reigns positioned as the stronger of the two, suited both characters, with The Man of 1000 Truths constantly rolling to the outside, and resulting in a lot of back and forth sequences with The Big Dog more often than not coming out with the upper hand.The pay-off of Wyatt attempting involved a pair of steel chairs was simple but effective in it's delivery. Perhaps, the match was a little too long for the story it was attempting to sell, with the long-ass chinlock from The Monsters hurting the match in terms of pace, as well as making it hard to believe that these two men truly hated each other, as had been referenced in the build-up.
The finish saw a hooded Luke Harper rejoin his former Wyatt Family cohort, sending Reigns into the steel post before hitting a superkick, that allowed The New Face of Fear to use Sister Abigail to pick up the pinfall victory. Again, this worked well with the on-going story of the bout and produced a great moment when Harper removed his hood to reveal himself. With Harper now back at the side of Wyatt, it surely can't be long until we see Erick Rowan turn up as well, with WWE seemingly admitting defeat with The Pied Piper of Terror as a singles act after less than a year without his Family. The Juggernaut was booked strongly enough here that he won't be hurt heading forward, whether that be to continue the feud with Wyatt (possibly with more involvement from Dean Ambrose) or elsewhere.
Winner - Wyatt by pinfall in 22 minutes and 5 seconds
Team B.A.D. got an opportunity on the microphone next, with the group interview by Jo Jo, in what was a disappointing turn from all three women.
One Fall Triple Threat Match
with WWE Diva's Champion Nikki Bella & Alicia Fox
with Becky Lynch & Paige
NXT Women's Champion Sasha Banks
with Naomi & Tamina Snuka
A nice way to properly introduce Charlotte and Sasha Banks to a main stream WWE audience, inside the ring with an established main roster member in the shape of Brie Bella. Cleverly, Brie spent a lot of the match on the outside of the ring or on the apron, allowing Sasha and The Nature Girl to show the rest of the WWE Universe exactly what those who view NXT every week have been saying for a long time, these two are bloody special. Both women's characters came across strong, rather than just being an extension of their respective groups, which was a delight to see on a big stage.
Whilst the bout perhaps wasn't up there with some of Charlotte and Sasha's encounters on NXT, there was still a handful of enjoyable spots involving all three women, like Sasha's pantented double knee strike in the corner, as well as the involvement of all the women on the outside, even if Brie's bump off the apron didn't look particularly well caught by Alicia Fox and Nikki Bella. The finish again spotlighted the different characters in the ring well, with Sasha locking the Bank Statement on The Flair of NXT, before Brie made the save and sent Sasha into the ring post and Charlotte was able to hit a slightly awkward powerbomb before strapping Brie into the Figure 8 Leglock for the submission victory. Despite what many may think of her in-ring ability, a submission victory over Brie Bella is a big win for The Nature Girl and shows WWE's commitment to pushing the "Diva's" division going forward, which is great to see.
Winner - Charlotte via submission on Brie in 11 minutes and 30 seconds
Renee Young, Citroen Saxo, Booker T and Corey Graves were back with their big glass table to give a quick run-down of the show so far, as well as the matches to come...which was nice of them. A superb video package for the United States Championship match between John Cena and Kevin Owens aired, with the pairs back and forth promos being highlights perfectly, if you didn't want to see this match from the package then wrestling isn't for you.
One Fall Match for the WWE United States Championship
John Cena (C)
Another superb outing from John Cena and Kevin Owens, amongst their two previous Match of the Year candidates. The two have an incredible in-ring chemistry as both characters and performers, that allowed for a mixture of styles to shine through, with plenty of WWE-style brawling, as well as the almost indy-style with a strong focus on near falls. Pulling on elements from the previous two bouts at Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank we saw the two throw out some big moves early on in the match as they attempted to put each other away, in a blistering back and forth opening five minutes in a match that didn't seem to stop.
Something that rarely get's picked up on in wrestling, especially when it comes to The Cenation Leader, is facial expression. It's a vital part of the game, it can sell the severity of an injury or it can show the desperation following a near fall. It was the latter in which Cena really excelled when an Attitude Adjustment off the middle rope was not enough to put away Owens. The look on The Champ's face was that of a man that had nothing left to give, meaning that when he did eventually push through to claim victory, it meant so much more because of the previous little moment. Michael Cole put a whole new emphasis on the moment, by calling back to Cena's defeat to The Rock back at WrestleMania 28, in a superb piece of commentary.
The finish will divide the fanbase, simply because Big Match John won and then the fact that Kevin Owens tapped out to Cena's STF. Personally, I'm not someone who usually let's the winner of the match effect my feelings about the match itself, and that happens to be the case here. Even the submission doesn't bother me, as firstly Owens had intially been able to get to the ropes and only tapped when there was clearly no way to get back there, and secondly, how many wrestlers have tapped out to the STF over the last ten, eleven, twelve years? Owens will only be helped by this loss, as the tap-out gives him somewhere different to take the character, as well as a reason for the fans to get on the back of his brash, arrogant attitude with the ever popular "You tapped out" chants. Was it as good as Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank? It's too close to call.
Winner - Cena via submission in 22 minutes and 11 seconds
If someone could explain what a segment where heel The Miz ran down the injured babyface Intercontinetal Champion and heel The Big Show, before Show came out and knocked out Miz was supposed to achieve, I'd love to hear from them. Please send any idea on the back of a postcard to....Seriously though what was the point? I understand having to make the best of a bad situation with Ryback's injury, but this segment helps no one in either the short term or the long term.
The video package previously aired on the Kick-Off show for Lesnar vs. Rollins recieved another trip out here to head into the main event.
One Fall Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Seth Rollins (C)
This was a weird main event, seemingly unsure of what it wanted to be. Whilst Rollins constantly running away and being hunted down by Lesnar painted the WWE World Heavyweight Champion as a cowardly heel, we also saw him make an almost babyface-esque comeback after taking a sustained beat down on The Aeralist, with The Beast seemingly uninterested in going for a pin. There were elements that worked nicely, such as The Architect focusing on Lesnar's hamstrings in an attempt to take the big man down, but there just wasn't enough exploration of these ideas to make them fully realised strands of the bout.
Another finish that you will either have loved or hated. The Undertaker returning was a genuinely shocking moment, and it was great to see Undertaker take it The Conqueror. However, after a show that was built almost entirely around a Lesnar vs. Rollins match (see the poster at the start of this review) and five weeks of the bout being heavily promoted on Monday Night RAW, I don't think anyone could say they were truly satisfied with nine minutes of suplexs from The One in 22-1. The Architect didn't get enough offence in to justify a rematch between the two, and WWE is now in a situation where their Champion has been dominated in a title match, but retained the title, because the person who was dominating him, was then dominated by someone who only wrestles once (or seemingly now twice) a year.
No Contest in 9 minutes
This was a good PPV that delivered on a number of it's promises heading into the show. Owens and Cena stole the show for the third time in a row, with another blistering effort, Orton vs. Sheamus and Wyatt vs. Reigns both produced strong singles matches, with Wyatt and Reigns going above and beyond my expectations heading in. The main event is perhaps the only thing that let's this show down in my opinion, failing to deliver on it's potential and the amount of time the build up has had across television. Undertaker's return may have captured the headlines, but it left the show ending on a flat note for this reviewer.
ATPW Scale Rating - 5.75