Storylines give fans reason to care. Storylines are the foundation of great pay-per-views.
Battleground, which takes place Sunday in Tampa, is a perfect example. It took WWE a while to set up the matches to fill out the card, which will be broadcast on WWE Network and select pay-per-view carriers, but it has done a wonderful job of setting up the matches. The fans know why each match is taking place. They have a reason to care who wins each match.
The main event is a fatal four-way for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, with John Cena defending the title against Randy Orton, Kane and Roman Reigns. In addition to the title chase, there are multiple storylines within this match.
Orton and Reigns have a rivalry stemming from the feud between Evolution and The Shield. Orton and Cena have a long-running feud. Orton and Kane are supposed to be working together for The Authority, but there have been signs that Kane may be having second thoughts about helping Orton win the championship. Finally, the rivalry between fan favorites Cena and Reigns has been building in recent weeks, with Reigns spearing Cena – accidentally? – at the end of RAW.
Cena should emerge with the championship. None of the other participants winning the title makes sense right now. That takes a little bit of suspense out of the match, but the multi-layered storyline should make this an intriguing main event. The possibility of Seth Rollins cashing in his Money in the Bank championship opportunity after the match adds another layer of intrigue.
Rollins will battle former Shield teammate Dean Ambrose in what may be WWE’s hottest current feud. The obvious storyline is that Rollins turned on Ambrose and Reigns to destroy The Shield. But the feud has gained momentum, with Rollins joining Orton and Kane in an attack on Ambrose on RAW this past week and Ambrose preventing Rollins from cashing in his Money in the Bank opportunity on several occasions. Either man could win this match, although the only near-certainty is this match won’t end this feud.
The returning Chris Jericho has quickly become embroiled in a feud with Bray Wyatt. It’s still not clear what this feud is about, but the mystery behind the Wyatt Family’s motivation in attacking Jericho is part of the storyline. Jericho may come out on top Sunday, setting up a Wyatt win at SummerSlam.
The Wyatt Family’s Luke Harper and Erick Rowan challenge Jimmy and Jey Uso for the tag team championship in a best-2-out-of-3 falls match. This is a pure wrestling storyline. The Usos defeated Harper and Rowan in a terrific match at Money in the Bank. The chemistry between the two teams is excellent. Giving them time for three falls should produce another tremendous match. Harper and Rowan may return from Battleground with the gold.
Storylines are often lackluster or rushed on undercards. Despite the late announcement of many of these matches, the storylines for Battleground’s undercard are strong.
A.J. Lee defends the Divas Championship against Paige. Paige beat A.J. Lee on the day after WrestleMania. Lee returned the favor by returning and taking the title from Paige the day after Money in the Bank. Paige has been gushing with praise for Lee, even teaming up with her in a tag match. Lee seems wary of the “friendship,” though, which should make for an interesting dynamic at Battleground.
The most surprising storyline involves Rusev and Jack Swagger. Rusev and Lana, his vivacious manager, have been running down the United States while Rusev has been destroying the competition. Swagger, the All-American, turned babyface a few weeks ago when he and manager Zeb Colter confronted Rusev and Lana. Rusev and Lana are generating tons of heat. The surprise is how well the fans have responded to Swagger, who was dying on the midcard without much to do.
There is also a battle royal to determine a new Intercontinental champion. (Wade “Bad News” Barrett had to relinquish the title due to a shoulder injury.) If United States champion Sheamus prevails, he could unify the titles. Other potential winners among the 20 participants are Cesaro, The Miz and Alberto Del Rio. Dolph Ziggler and former champion Big E are also possibilities. Bo Dallas is a dark horse.
Even the preshow match, between Naomi and Cameron, has a storyline. The former Funkadactyls broke up, with Cameron turning heel.
The storylines have been well-established for Battleground. Now it’s up to the wrestlers to deliver the action.
MAJOR SIGNING: WWE scored a coup by signing Japanese start Kenta, which was announced during the WWE’s Osaka stop during its recent tour of Japan. Kenta has been a star for a decade. He reportedly will start out at the WWE Performance Center in Florida.
It will be interesting to see how and when WWE introduces Kenta to its fans. Expect some video packages promoting Kenta before he appears on RAW or Smackdown.
MAKING AN IMPACT: If you’re reading this on Thursday, there’s a loaded edition of Impact Wrestling tonight. Taped in Manhattan, Impact includes Jeff Hardy challenging Bobby Lashley for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Austin Aries will defend the X-Division title in an eight-man gauntlet match, Bully Ray teams with Tommy Dreamer to take on Ethan Carter III and Rhino, and Bobby Roode and Eric Young battle MVP and Kenny King.
Impact also features the return of TNA’s six-sided ring. As I explained last week, the Greek god of wrestling isn’t in favor of the six-sided ring.
TNA TAKES RISK: TNA has tried to promote itself by bringing MMA fighters into TNA. For the most part, these attempts have made little to no impact, if you’ll pardon the expression.
Now, TNA is reversing the process. TNA world champion Bobby Lashley is going to face Josh Burns in Bellator MMA on Sept. 5. Lashley has a 10-2 record in MMA and Burns is 8-7, but TNA is taking a risk in letting Lashley compete in MMA.
MMA and professional wrestling are two very different occupations. But if Lashley loses to a mediocre fighter, it will hurt his credibility as champion. Furthermore, risking injury wrestling while training for an MMA fight is idiotic. Is Lashley going to be an absentee champion during the month leading up his fight?
CZW RESULTS: “Speedball” Mike Bailey was the opponent chosen for Biff Busick at Combat Zone Wrestling’s New Heights last Saturday (Busick won). Based on Busick’s interference in Drew Gulak’s match earlier in the card, it appears Gulak may soon get a rematch with Busick for the CZW World Championship.
LOOKING TO FUTURE: Ring of Honor will host Future of Honor 2 in Laurel, Del., on Sun., July 27. The main event pits Jay Briscoe against Ring of Honor World Television champion Jay Lethal, but the focus will be on young wrestlers.
TAGGING UP IN PHILLY: When Ring of Honor returns to Philadelphia on Aug. 9, it will treat fans to a tag team match between the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian. This will be the first time these teams will meet in Ring of Honor.
Ring of Honor world champion Michael Elgin will defend his title against the winner of Saturday’s six-man gauntlet winner.
NETWORK HIGHLIGHTS: Achilles Heel hopes you took his advice and checked out the WWE Network during the free preview week. Achilles Heel, of course, followed his own advice. I’ll leave you with some of the amazing highlights from the past 7-10 days on WWE Network.
- The acclaimed special on Warrior, focusing on his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame during what, tragically, turned out to be the final days of Jim Hellwig’s life.
- The fascinating special on the rise of C.M. Punk from backyard wrestler to WWE champion, which is certain to fuel rumors of Punk’s return to WWE.
- The WrestleMania 13 match between Bret “Hitman” Hart and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, which features a double turn and ranks as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, match in WrestleMania history.
- Ric Flair’s emotional Hall of Fame speech in Orlando.
- The “Legends of Wrestling” roundtables, hosted by Jim Ross. A panel of former wrestlers discuss other wrestlers and tell wonderful stories.
- The RAW ladder match in 2002 between Undertaker, the WWE champion, and Jeff Hardy. This fantastic match elevated Hardy to main event status.
- Clash of Champions from Iowa in 1994. Hogan-Flair headlined the card, including a Hogan injury angle that developed throughout the show, but Ricky Steamboat and “Stunning” Steve Austin stole the show with a United States Championship match. Steamboat won the title, but injured his back and was forced to retire after this match.