The John Report: WWE Battleground 2017 Preview

Submitted by John Canton on July 21, 2017 - 8:30pm
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John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Battleground preview featuring the Smackdown brand. The show takes place this Sunday, July 23 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

There are eight matches on the card with one match part of the Kickoff Show. I think the card’s hurt a bit because there are too many rematches with no single match really standing out among the rest. It feels pretty average to me. We’ll get into it as we go through the whole show.

Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora, Matthew J. Douglas and Mike Holland.

(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner up top is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)

Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English

Kurt: Let’s put Dillinger and Luke Harper in a Best of 7 series because we have nothing else for them and then see if you can luck into having them become a great tag team.

Prediction: Tye Dillinger

Mike: What a novel idea to have Smackdown's invisible men, Tye Dillinger and Aiden English, compete one on one on a PPV preshow. We haven't seen the likes of that since...oh, right, the blue brand's last one, Backlash. I'm all for continuing a saga, but this feels like a throwaway feud gone stale because that's exactly what it is. Dillinger is miles away from his heady callup at the Royal Rumble, and once again smacks of an opportunity missed because WWE brass prefer that you cheer who they want to push instead of who the audience chooses to get behind.

As for English, any hope that he could be successfully repackaged into a contender of some sort after his tag partner departed the company have evaporated. Instead, he's a pale version of R. Truth, brought in to do singing comedy segments (if you're keeping track, we're up to 3 current guys with this same gimmick when you walk with Elias) and get served up to whatever far bigger star Smackdown feels like pushing on any given week.

Given this rather bleak backstory, it boils down to a simple matter of who the WWE feels stronger on right now. Won't go ten minutes.

Winner: Tye Dillinger

Matthew: I feel like I’ve written about this exact same match, in this exact same spot on the card before. Is there nobody else available for these guys to have matches against? I know that we’re not seeing it again because of it’s stellar previous iterations. I don’t have anything new to say so…

Winner: Tye Dillinger (because Aiden hasn’t beat him yet)

John: They’ve done this match several times with Dillinger coming out on top as the usual finish. At some point English should be booked to win a match to see if his singing gimmick can get over a bit. Give us a clever finish or even the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! win for English. I just want the guy to get some momentum. I’m rolling with the man with the best singing voice in WWE, Aiden English.

Winner: Aiden English

Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis (w/Maria Kanellis)

Kurt: I feel bad for Sami continually being put in underdog situations where he’s designed to lose, but I am such a huge fan of Mike and Maria that I can’t feel that badly about it. Mike and Maria were what got me into Ring of Honor full time and they made Impact Wrestling somewhat watchable when they were on television. There is a presence that they have together that hasn’t been seen in a long time.

Mike is absolute gold in his role as the subservient to his wife. There is nothing about this gimmick that I don’t like so far, and Mike’s ring attire that he debuted on Tuesday put it all over the top. Just tremendous. Plus, with Maria being the most beautiful woman in wrestling (yeah, I said it), the more of her on television, the better.

Prediction: Mike Kanellis

Mike: Battleground's big problem (a mantra I shall repeat early and often, so be warned!) is a very real lack of creativity regarding the recycling of some semblance of the same matches we've already experienced fifty times over. It's wrestling's own deja vu moment, and it's incredibly frustrating when you consider the depth of talent on the blue brand has never been higher. Fortunately, while Sami and Mike have done nothing but feud of late, this is one of the card rarities that feels fresh because they haven't been overexposed.

Unfortunately for Sami Zayn, the whole idea of him having that mini-feud with former Raw GM Mick Foley was supposed to play off the very real prospect that he's essentially been stuck in neutral since his NXT callup. Frightening that it's been that long and we're still saying the same stuff. He also continues to get booked in matches he should assuredly win where he does the opposite. Kanellis doesn't do much for me, frankly, but the gimmick is different and works well. Maria did herself a lot of resume favors by appearing on Celebrity Apprentice with the current POTUS and doing quite well. McMahon plus mainstream advertising equals happy face emoji.

Winner: Mike Kanellis

Matthew: I like Mike and Maria Kanellis enough, but I’m still not quite sure if the gimmick they are serving really has any legs under it. I mean it may have peaked when Sami Zayn referenced Huey Lewis and The News while talking to them a couple weeks ago on Smackdown. But the theme song is pretty great cheesy fun.

Now the way this got turned into rivalry was good fun, until Sami Zayn implied that they should apologize to him for being in his way, as opposed to him interrupting them. I love Sami Zayn and know that he’s the babyface, but he’s simply verifiably wrong in that assertion and The Kanellis’ are 100% correct in claiming that he has interrupted them many times. I’m not saying he should apologize, but he could have at least said that he was adding to their act and attempt to banter with them once more, when Maria slaps him and Mike smashes a vase over his head.

I know it’s a minor detail, but its the details that take something from mediocre to great and vice versa. In this case, the details made Sami seem like an ass.

Winner: Mike Kanellis (because even though he won on Smackdown, I think you need to put the new guy over, likely via distraction or interference)

John: It’s a shame that Sami Zayn has assumed the old Dolph Ziggler role as the face wrestler that is there to put over newer heels. Zayn should be doing so much more and should be having more high-profile matches. It’s why the current WWE product can be hard to watch at times because the most talented guys like him are not being used right. Speaking of Ziggler, he disappeared from television in the last month.

I like Mike and Maria’s gimmick with Maria having her husband wrapped around her finger so to speak. I assume the gimmick will evolve where we find out Mike is whipped by her and can’t win a match on his own, which is why she has to help him. Mike beat Zayn in about four minutes on Smackdown because of Maria getting involved. I think the outcome will be similar here although they might get a few more months.

Winner: Mike Kanellis

Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match: Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya vs. Becky Lynch vs. Tamina vs. Lana – Winner gets Smackdown Women’s Title Match at SummerSlam

Kurt: Smackdown once again gets it right where Raw got it wrong. I said I understood why the gauntlet match that Sasha Banks won wasn’t on the PPV, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t have been. That was the prime opportunity to give all the women a big stage. Smackdown gets it right and has all the contenders vie for a shot on a big stage like SummerSlam. It’s a little weird when Naomi and Carmella are both off the card, but I would expect both of them to make their presence felt during this match in some way.

I think with it being for a SummerSlam title match, it’s between Charlotte and Becky as you want your biggest names on the biggest stage. I think Becky needs the win most of all, so I’m going to predict her. I hope they get plenty of time to follow up on a tremendous MITB performance.

Prediction: Becky Lynch

Mike: What do you do when you have no idea how to handle an entire division? Put all available talent into some variation of the same match every week, of course! The blue brand's women continue to suffer fools gladly as they pile into the ring for another version of musical chairs. I'm really struggling to say something positive about this match, which once again allows reasonable champion Naomi to take a night off while wearing gold and makes her look horribly weak in the meantime. It also doesn't feature Carmella, who wouldn't have been my pick to win the MITB briefcase but at least has played the heel role to the hilt in doing so.

Instead, we're left with the same reheated leftovers. I love me some Becky Lynch, but she and Natalya exist purely to allow other people to win big matches so they are both out. I admit to being reasonably intrigued by WWE finally giving cardboard cutout Tamina something useful to do shepherding Lana, but that seems tailor made for some kind of dramatic turn to try to get Lana a drop of the excitement she had before she started actually wrestling.

Where does that leave us?

Winner: Charlotte Flair

Matthew: There are a lot of pieces in this match and I’m truly not sure which direction the WWE wants to go in, as all directions, save maybe one, are equally viable to me. Outside Tamina, I can see any of these Women challenging for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. So I need to cut down the options.

Since Naomi is a babyface, I think you need to remove all the babyfaces from the equation. So Becky Lynch and Charlotte are likely out of the running. That leaves us with, Lana and Natalya. In that case I’d pick Lana over Natalya, because I assume Tamina will help her win, to pay off that tease from a couple weeks back on Smackdown. I’d imagine that Lana will get taken down early but remain largely out of the fray and re-appear in time to steal the win from somebody that worked hard for it.

Winner: Lana (because I’m just taking a shot in the dark and don’t feel confident about it whatsoever)

John: These women are used to working matches with eachother because of how many of these multi-women matches WWE has booked this year. Making it an elimination style match means it will be better than if it was just one fall. They can have Lana lose early to get her out of there because she might get lost. Tamina might last long because of her alliance with Lana, but I don’t think she’s that interesting to watch. If WWE is smart then the match will be carried by Charlotte, Natalya and Becky.

My preference is Natalya because she’s the best heel performer in the match and it makes sense to have a heel challenge the face champion Naomi at SummerSlam. However, WWE doesn’t view Natalya to be as big of a star as Charlotte or Becky, so I think one of those two are going to win. They had a good match on Smackdown last week. It will probably be even better when they are the final two in this match. Since Charlotte lost on Smackdown, I think she’ll get the win here to set up a title match at SummerSlam.

Winner: Charlotte Flair

Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos vs. The New Day

Kurt: This angle had all the momentum in the world after that epic Rap Battle on the 4th of July…. and then nothing. They’ve really dropped the ball these last two weeks. Their match at the last PPV was tremendous and ended a little early for my liking. I really hope they stretch this out into SummerSlam.

Have The Usos actually pin New Day this time, but let there be some controversy to it so that we can have a reason to get to a third match. These guys have all the chemistry in the world together and the last two weeks weren’t their fault at all. A great match can heat back up this angle in a heartbeat.

Prediction: The Usos retain

Mike: Much of the same criticism I've already fired off at this PPV could be said of Usos/New Day, which I'm convinced was a feud while dinosaurs roamed the earth. A small but meaningful difference, though, is at least this recycled effort feels a bit fresher thanks to the stellar job the Usos have done as heel champs and a rap battle that was way better than anyone could have ever contemplated it being. (I can't believe I even typed that. My general reaction to rap angles in wrestling was best summed up quite well by the West Texas Rednecks. Then again, I sat through a LOT of Public Enemy matches.)

Usos taking the countout loss in their previous showdown was a lame but effective way to drag this thing out, because other than revealing the foes of Breezango the tag division is stuck in neutral. Is it too much to ask to reunite Luke Harper and Erick Rowan at this point? If we're going the nostalgia route, let's do it up right. I expect we'll still be talking about all these same elements when these teams face off again at SummerSlam. Let's hope it's at least a triple threat by then.

Winners (and NEW Smackdown Tag Team Champions): The New Day

Matthew: We are currently in a time in WWE, where breaking up Tag Teams is the new hotness. The Vaudevillains, Cass and Enzo, Goldust and R-Truth, American Alpha, all disbanded this year, with barely a year together as teams on the main roster. Which is why It’s crazy to see these two teams, The New Day and The Usos still together and going pretty damn strong. The Usos are better than they’ve ever been, and The New Day have thrived in a new environment on Smackdown Live.

These two teams have also worked surprisingly well together, whether it be the matches or their promo banter (especially the heavily lauded Rap Battle hosted by Wale). These guys also feel like they are the only viable teams on Smackdown live right now, so I’m sensing no hurry to end this rivalry. One sure fire way of extending it is a title switch here with The Usos the invoking their rematch at Summerslam. It’s almost too easy.

Winners and New Smackdown Tag Team Champions: The New Day (because it’s been too long since we’ve seen belts around New Day’s waists)

John: They are two of the best tag teams this decade in WWE. Probably the two best in terms of longevity and number of good matches. I wish the feud meant more, though. This should have been a gimmick match to punish The Usos after intentionally losing by countout in their last match.

The reason the rap battle was successful is because it made it feel personal. When you saw each team ripping on the other, it made you think these characters don’t like eachother. It’s what works in pro wrestling. They didn’t follow it up that well, though. I thought it was dumb for Jimmy Uso to beat Kofi Kingston clean in a singles match. That’s where you book a cheap finish and let the faces get revenge after. There just isn’t a lot of intrigue going into this feud.

I’m leaning towards a New Day win just to pick at one least title change at Battleground. The lack of depth in the tag team division is a serious concern, but if they do a title change that can lead to more matches between them as WWE tries to re-build the depth behind them.

Winners and New Smackdown Tag Team Champions: The New Day

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin

Kurt: Spoiler alert… when you get to the bottom of this preview piece, this match will be my choice for shortest match. There’s just something about the way they’re “protecting” Nakamura that they won’t give him an extended match yet. Also, I don’t know that Corbin’s style meshes well with Nakamura so this could be a really clunky match if given 15+ minutes. (And that’s coming from a Corbin fan.)

Corbin hasn’t done much with the briefcase, besides his initial tease to Mahal after he won it. You would think that after a match like a Punjabi Prison match that he could reasonably cash in, but it seems more likely that he’s in it for the long haul with the briefcase. Just based on history of how MITB winners are booked, Nakamura is clearly in line to get the win here. With SummerSlam on the horizon, I could see them hotshotting the dream match against AJ for Summerslam for the US Title instead of waiting until WrestleMania.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Mike: Finally something inherently interesting to discuss. I was getting worried. Baron Corbin has finally gotten the push everybody's been clamoring for, capturing the MITB briefcase and therefore positioning himself as a major player in the WWE Title scene moving forward. It also makes every WWE championship match a bit more interesting, as you've got to consider the possibility of the Lone Wolf cashing in. In the meantime, they've built an effective feud up between him and the sensationally charismatic Shinsuke Nakamura, which started at MITB when Corbin attempted to prevent Nakamura from even participating at all and essentially was the reason he didn't end up getting the case himself.

Since then, Corbin has sneak attacked Nakamura several times, but Shinsuke has battled back and taken the fight to Corbin as well on more than one occasion. It's been smart, steady booking, and it's added some emotional tinges to this match that more than compensate for the potential that it could potentially underdeliver come match time. It's also a reasonable question to openly wonder whether WWE pushes the case holder strongly. Past facts dictate they don't, and don't really have to. I doubt Corbin loses clean, but he will lose. He doesn't need a win here to cash in and further the MITB narrative later.

Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura via disqualification

Matthew: I’m a huge fan of Shinsuke and and like Baron Corbin fine, but this rivalry hasn’t really captured my imagination. I’m not the biggest fan of Nakamura’s booking on Smackdown. I feel like he should be a bizzarro version of Sting or the Undertaker. They were ominous and mysterious attractions.

Shinsuke should carry the same level of mystery in a more flamboyant package. We shouldn’t know much about him. We shouldn’t hear him speak very often. They should try to interview him and get stonewalled or just miss him constantly, because he is truly a mysterious, eccentric, rock star.

It might have been hard to predict this match had Corbin not won Money in the Bank. However, with that briefcase, it shouldn’t be difficult to predict. Corbin loses. Nakamura remains undefeated.

Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura (because MITB Contract holders lose a lot)

John: The story is okay here, but not great. Corbin has done repeated sneak attacks to try to weaken Nakamura and Nakamura has done an admiral job of fighting back. There aren’t a lot of promos or defining moments. It’s just little to a singles match with Corbin likely to lose since that’s what happens when you hold the Money in the Bank contract. Nakamura’s also undefeated in singles matches on the main roster. I know WWE doesn’t put that over much, but would they want Corbin to end it? I doubt that. Hopefully it’s a good match with Corbin controlling most of it and Nakamura making the big comeback to win.

I think Styles vs. Nakamura is very likely for SummerSlam. They teased it with a great moment at Money in the Bank and on last week’s Smackdown they were in the locker room with Nakamura telling Styles he was coming for the title.

Did you notice how all four of us pointed out that the Money in the Bank holder tends to lose a lot? Most WWE fans know it too. While WWE’s creative team might think it’s clever, it really isn’t that unique at all.

Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura

Flag Match: John Cena vs. Rusev

Kurt: I find it to be really lazy booking that in the limited time you have with Cena, you put him in a program for the third time with Rusev. We’ve seen this match way too many times and not even an outdated gimmick match like a flag match gives this any pep. Maybe it says something to how they view Cena right now. You would think they’d want to put him in the biggest matches possible, but instead it seems like they’d rather focus on other stars and he’s just a bonus for them when he’s around.

Rusev is in an unenviable position as he’s basically what Jinder Mahal is, just without the title. With Mahal in line to win his match, there’s no way they’ll have Rusev’s “foreign” victory take any heat way from Mahal’s. Cena wins and I feel gets in the front of the line to take on the foreign adversary that does carry the WWE Title.

Prediction: John Cena

Mike: Quick question: It IS in fact 2017, right? I wasn't sure if I'd ventured back in the DeLorean or Hot Tub Time Machine since we're actually discussing the finer points of a flag match. John Cena's much-hyped return to Smackdown (and the free agency implications that accompanied it) were a thinly-veiled excuse for him to cut another blustering pro-'Merica promo and get interrupted by Rusev. That would be exciting since Rusev's been MIA since the roster shake, except that we've already seen this match 1776 times and they didn't even attempt to change anything about Rusev's stale character and presentation. Opportunity missed.

I'm irritated by the very existence of this match, frankly. Nobody I know cares a whit about a flag match. Is Bulgaria an enemy of any country? Could anyone locate it on a Risk map? (Cue Seinfeld: "The Ukraine is weak!") As for Cena, I'm now sifting through reports that he's the genius that came up with his own ballyhooed free agency angle that I couldn't care less about. Cena's a hell of a hand and always puts on a good match, so he can wrestle at every event for the rest of his career and it's just fine with me. But let's not bandy about discussions of what a creative genius he is. This entire thing is recycled Hulk Hogan.

What do I expect from the match itself? Not much. Cena is earmarked for bigger and better things, and likely has a date with the WWE champion at SummerSlam. As for Rusev? Not matchka.

Winner: John Cena

Matthew: I don’t much care for this match. If you ere going to have these guys wrestle in a Flag Match, the best timing would have been the 4th of July show 3 weeks ago. At this point, the national pride angle feels tired. Patriotism was at it’s highest then, not now.

These guys usually have solid matches and it should be fine, but the concept of a Flag Match is rather dull. I really don’t have much more to say, other than I can’t wait to be done with this and have both guys move on to other programs.

Winner: John Cena (because I’m not stupid)

John: I haven’t been this bored by a Cena feud in a long time. It feels like this is WWE’s way of telling us they have nothing else for him and they brought him back on America’s birthday on July 4, which meant Rusev had to show up to set up a Flag Match. It made me groan immediately. Instead of booking Rusev as a monster heel following his return from a shoulder, he’s out there putting over Cena again. I don’t think there needs to be a lot of analysis here. Why waste our time talking to it when WWE’s creative team spent very little time thinking of this story? Cena wins without much doubt and moves on to get a WWE Title shot at SummerSlam.

On another note, I think taking Lana away from Rusev hurts his presentation. I would have Lana join her husband after this feud is over.

Winner: John Cena

United States Championship: AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens

Kurt: First off, I love the title change at a live event. There is so much they could do to make live events feel more important, and having title changes such is one of those things. That’s a story for a different day. I thought the “New Face of America” had some legs to it and a part of me does feel like they were cut out from under Owens, but that’s just a minor complaint. As stated above, I think Nakamura is destined to face the winner of this match at SummerSlam. I really would like to see them hold off AJ and Nakamura until WrestleMania and Nakamura vs. Owens would be a great match for SummerSlam.

It’s hard for me to imagine AJ losing the title that quickly and if he were to lose there doesn’t seem like anything set up for him at SummerSlam (Corbin perhaps?). I just think with KO’s gimmick gaining traction and the fact him vs. Nakamura makes sense for the short and long term, I’m going to predict a title change. With the dynamic of Owens having to chase AJ in this match, I expect it to be even better than their Backlash encounter.

Prediction: New US Champion, Kevin Owens

Mike: In what will unquestionably be the strongest match on the card thanks to the talent level involved, Kevin Owens and AJ Styles have a bit of role reversal from their last PPV match together. Thanks to the unexpected United States Title change at a house show, it is now AJ defending against KO. That's a good thing, because while I enjoyed the last encounter, the old "foot got stuck in the announcing desk" trick wasn't the most brilliant way to end the story. These two can flat out go, and they should get every opportunity to wow the crowd here. I can only hope that WWE chooses to close with this, because if the last images we have of Battleground 2017 are a Punjabi Prison match, well...I just wonder what Philadelphia ever did to the WWE besides buy a buttload of tickets that we have to experience this dreck.

In any case, Owens has been a true breakout star and clearly has a bright future ahead of him on the blue brand. He's spent so much time with former partner Chris Jericho that he's starting to inherit some of Y2J's mojo, wherein it kind of doesn't matter whether he's a face or heel because he can play both roles so well. That's meant to be a high compliment indeed. Styles is the real deal and proving everyday why WWE should have opened their doors to him long before now. The only downside of a match such as this is it can't take up two hours.

As for the result? I don't see them handing the gold to Styles just to take it off again at the next opportunity. He is clearly being groomed for a showdown with Nakamura, and that is something we can all get excited about.

Winner (and STILL United States Champion): AJ Styles

Matthew: Here’s a spot where I’m not sure of the outcome. On one hand, AJ just won the belt a couple weeks ago and I wouldn’t expect him to lose it so soon after winning it. That being said, it makes more sense to have it on Owens as Styles should be hunting bigger prey. I could see Styles in a WWE Championship match at Summerslam, but I don’t see him with the United States Championship when I envision it.

I think the move here is to move AJ Styles up the food chain and allow Kevin Owens to have a fresh opponent to defend the United States Championship against in August. The match should be great as both guys are incredible, and the key is finding a way to get the belt back on to AJ that doesn’t make AJ look bad.

Winner and New United States Champion: Kevin Owens (because AJ Styles should be wrestling for the WWE Title at Summerslam)

John: This will be the kind of match where Owens is really aggressive from the beginning because he’s mad he lost his title. Owens should get about 80% of the offense before Styles makes the big comeback. At that point, they can trade nearfalls and the crowd will really get into it. I have no doubt in my mind that this will be a great match. I’m a huge fan of both guys, I just wrote a review of the new Kevin Owens DVD (I like to shill) and Styles is the best performer in the company. This has all the makings of one of the better matches of the year if they get around 20 minutes like I expect.

My issue with the match is that this should be for the WWE Championship not the US Championship. I have no problem with WWE using talented wrestlers like Styles and Owens to elevate a midcard title, but the Smackdown brand has suffered after Styles left the WWE Title picture.

Winner: AJ Styles

WWE Championship Punjabi Prison Match: Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton

Kurt: I know a lot of people rolled their eyes when they heard what type of match this was going to be. I was not one of those people. Listen, maybe this gimmick is snakebit just in the sense that the first time it was to be used, Great Khali couldn’t even be in the match due to a health scare. So you had a match that had no story behind it in a gimmick that neither guy could really do anything with. What’s the appeal of seeing big guys like Taker and Show try to climb? Same with Batista and Khali. At least with Orton and Mahal, they are athletic enough to make something of this apparatus and give us a new take on the match. Could the gimmick still suck? Absolutely. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if this is awful and we never see it again. However, on the off chance that someone with the psychology of Orton and the eagerness of Mahal to stake his name as a top guy, can come up with some innovative ways to use the structure, then it’ll feel like a brand new match and something you can attach to Mahal a couple times a year. The reason it went away in the first place is because Khali couldn’t do anything to make it memorable. I don’t feel the same way about Mahal.

Mahal has continued to get more confident every week and I think it says a lot if WWE books him to beat Orton three times in a row. Obviously, the losses don’t hurt Orton, but they do a ton for Mahal. As I stated above, I’m sure Mahal is on a collision course with Cena at SummerSlam, so hopefully he’s learned a lot from Orton to be able to go to and stay at that next level. As much as I don’t like Cena, he will Mahal everything he could want and then some.

Prediction: Jinder Mahal retains

Mike: With apologies to Monty Python, now for something completely different...it's Jinder Mahal defending against Randy Orton! What can I say about this lousy feud that hasn't already been said? How bad is it that the horribly hokey Punjabi Prison is the BEST thing about this match? The Jinder Mahal experiment has been good while it lasted, but it's rapidly approaching its expiration date. Rewarding a solid citizen and trying to get international fans excited is a great idea, but enough is enough. It's dragging down the top of the card and making Smackdown look second rate.

Even worse off is Orton, who's supposed to be a huge top talent and has put on some of the worst wrestling matches of his entire career in this calendar year. 2017 can't end for him soon enough, frankly. I'm sure this gimmick match will allow for some great moments, but it's as overdone and tacky as this feud has been. Orton hasn't been able to unseat Mahal and naturally that will continue. He can only hope that his next feud is against someone that can push him out of the canned responses and back into the natural aggression he's excelled in previously.

You'll have to let me know if my prediction was correct here. I don't think I'll be watching this match.

Winner (and STILL WWE Champion): Jinder Mahal

Matthew: I don’t want to talk too long about this match because simply thinking about it bores me to tears. I just want this feud over with because I’m frankly sick of seeing both guys in this spot. The added flare of the Punjabi Prison Match doesn’t quite excite me either.

There are two roads to go down here. A Jinder win likely means the absolute end of this feud, and allows Jinder to face a new challenger at Summerslam. The only issue is that the challenger is likely John Cena (though I’d hope AJ could be in the mix too).

The other road has Orton winning, beating Jinder again on Smackdown and moving on to defend against a new challenger in August. In this case I doubt they’d go with Cena as the number one contender and the thought of Orton vs. Styles is certainly better than the thoughts of Styles vs. Jinder or Cena vs. Jinder.

I just want this nightmare main event scene to be over, so I have to go with the quickest route to that.

Winner and Still WWE Champion: Jinder Mahal (because then there are no more Mahal/Orton matches and we can have Mahal drop the belt at Summerslam)

John: I don’t think this is going to be a good match and I feel bad for the wrestlers trying to have a good match inside the two cages. Here’s the problem: Watching guys walk out a door to climb a cage and then climb another cage is boring especially when they have to do the slow climb thing all the time leading to the other guy preventing them from leaving. If they were to have a Street Fight or No Holds Barred match at least there’s some excitement of using weapons and going for pinfalls all over the arena. A match like that can end at any time. In this match you…have…to…slowly…wait…for…guy…to…climb...a cage. Get my point? It’s just not visually appealing to the viewer. It’s the same reason why WWE cage matches have lost a lot of their appeal, but at least in this match the only way to win is to get out of the second cage and touch the floor.

I’m going with Mahal to win in a cheap way. I don’t know if it’s going to involve the Singh Brothers preventing Orton from getting out and Mahal climbs out the other side or maybe Baron Corbin (the guy with the Money in the Bank briefcase) shows up to stop Orton, which would set up an easy feud for Orton with Corbin. It can lead to Corbin saying he didn’t want Orton to win because he thinks it’s easier to beat Mahal.

I don’t know how they get there with a cheap finish, but I’m confident in picking Mahal to win. I also think it’s very possible that John Cena beats Mahal for the WWE Title at SummerSlam too. Plenty of time to discuss that one, though.

Winner: Jinder Mahal

 

BONUS TOPICS!

Match I'm Looking Forward To The Most

Kurt: Honestly it’s Orton vs. Mahal. Like I said, this will be the first time we can actually see the potential in this match.

Mike: Styles v. Owens in a landslide. Other than Nakamura/Corbin, I can't even comprehend of another answer to this.

Matthew: New Day vs. The Usos for The Smackdown Tag Team Titles.

John: Styles vs. Owens because it has the potential to be one of the year’s best even though we’ve seen it several times.

 

Match I Care About The Least

Kurt: Cena vs. Rusev

Mike: Tough one! Dillinger/English would be an easy answer, but I'm going with the flag match. Predictable and silly.

Matthew: Dillinger vs. English.

John: I like both guys, but Cena vs. Rusev just screams “boring” to me at this point.

 

Longest Match

Kurt: If it’s not AJ vs. Owens, something is very wrong.

Mike: The WWE Title match will likely go longer than usual due to the gimmick, but Styles/Owens will be a long back-and-forth affair.

Matthew: Styles vs. Owens for The United States Championship.

John: It’s always a safe bet to go with the AJ Styles match here. A sleeper choice would be the women’s 5-Way match just because elimination match could mean they get more time.

 

Shortest Match

Kurt: Corbin vs. Nakamura

Mike: Dillinger and English didn't go very long last time. This time won't be different.

Matthew: Dillinger vs. English.

John: Dillinger vs. English most likely. From the main card I’ll go with Zayn vs. Kanellis.

 

Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)

Kurt: Probably a 6-6.5. It’s the lowest I’ve been excited for a Smackdown exclusive show, but I love so much about the brand that just that in itself gives it a fairly decent grade.

Mike: Pretty tough to get excited about last month's leftovers. I'm struggling to go higher than a 4.

Matthew: Maybe a 5. I don’t see that much here to get too excited about. A lot of retreads.

John: I’m going with a 5.5, which is disappointing. It has the worst build of a Smackdown brand PPV this year. I hate saying that, but it’s true. I’m sure they’ll have some newer feuds heading into SummerSlam, which should get them on track again.

 

Final Thoughts

John: I hope the Philly crowd has a lot of energy on Sunday night because if they do it will help the show. If they don’t care about some of these matches then that’s going to hurt. I know the roster is talented and they’ll work hard, but my interest level in this show is below where it should be for a pay-per-view.

I will have a live review of Battleground on Sunday night, so check it out on TJRWrestling.net during the show or after it’s over for all of my thoughts, ratings and analysis.

Kurt - @KTankTMB

Mike - @DharmanRockwell

Matthew - @MJDP_GSE

John - @johnreport

If you want to send an email, send it to me at mrjohncanton@gmail.com as well. Thanks for reading.




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