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WWE Delivers Entertainment At Battleground by Ron Pasceri

Last night WWE brought us Battleground once again. Of all he PPVs on the WWE calendar, Battleground is among the least anticipated. It’s got a cool name but it just happens to fall between Money In the Bank and SummerSlam so it’s almost a “trap” show to steal a phrase from sports. That being said, it was held in Washington, D.C. this year which is only a two and a half hour drive from my residence in Philadelphia. Myself along with two of my co-hosts on the Mat Madness Wrestling Podcast decided to make the trek to our nation’s capital for the event. While we knew we’d have a fun time I don’t think any of us had much expectation for what the show would produce. Spoiler alert, we were wrong in the most wonderful of ways.

The thing about expectations is that it’s always a fine line. Set them too high and you’re bound to be disappointed. Set them too low and you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised. Now we were pleasantly surprised, as I’m sure most readers are today, but this was more than a case of exceeding low expectations. I’d have Battleground on the short list for show of the year thus far. There were a variety of reasons why I feel that way and part of it may be that I was in the crowd for this one. As I mentioned earlier and a few times over the course of writing this weekly column, I am from Philadelphia.

In some circles that can be considered a negative but as far as a wrestling crowd goes we hold ourselves in pretty high esteem. We take our job as a crowd very seriously in Philadelphia and we tend to deliver. I have to tip my cap to the Washington, D.C. crowd for bringing it all night and helping to elevate that show to another level. There was no telling the people in the Verizon Center that Battleground wasn’t supposed to be the biggest show of the summer. There was a buzz not only from the time the show kicked off but really from the time we set foot in line outside the arena. This isn’t intended to be a cheap pop, but Washington, D.C. you have earned my respect and admiration. The crowd was even at full tilt for the opening sequence of the show, cheering everyone who appeared on the screen but mercilessly booing Roman Reigns.

On strictly a personal level the show was made for me after the first match on the main card. If you’ve read any of my previous columns you will be familiar with how much of a mark I am for Sasha Banks. I wasn’t thrilled she was going to be in a tag match because I’ve always felt like “The Boss” doesn’t need friends or a partner to get ahead, but they actually are making the most of her run to SummerSlam. First, I’m enjoying the story of Charlotte making her jump through hoops to get the Championship match she clearly deserves. Second, we had the added bonus of guessing who her mystery partner was going to be. My hope all along was Bayley and judging by the reaction of the crowd at the Verizon Center I wasn’t alone.

It was actually Sasha and Bayley’s match at TakeOver: Brooklyn that inspired me to even attempt to write a column here at TJR Wrestling. Seeing them tonight as a team against the villainous Charlotte and Dana Brooke was almost like seeing a whole chapter in my life come full circle. As much as I’m a fan of Sasha, I love Bayley almost as much and it as a treat to be there to witness her debut in WWE. The ovation she got when her music hit and the reactions she got during the match were truly magical. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a little choked up when Sasha caved and gave Bayley a hug after their big victory.

In a night full of highlights we saw The Wyatt Family get a win in what appears to be their final appearance together, with Bray’s aura overcoming the Power Of Positivity as he finally put a stamp on his brief story with Xavier Woods. Both teams were crowd favorites in the arena and it seemed like Bray getting the pin was what the people in attendance wanted. It was cool to see Xavier show a different side of himself. While he’s shown his humor, charisma and athleticism before, last night he actually came across like he showed desperation, almost as if he was fighting for his life. It was just what the story called for and helped build to his eventual loss. As Jeff Hardy was doomed to be deleted, Xavier Woods was always destined to fall in this battle.

Old friends and bitter enemies Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens met once again, and once again they did not disappoint. This story felt a little off to me coming in, as it was billed as their final battle but then they both got drafted to the same show. I felt like it took some of the luster off it but these two amazing performers managed to change that feeling. They both delivered a performance that truly felt like a final battle. It felt like everything they had ever been through together was resting on this fight. And that’s what it was, a fight, not a wrestling match. It was the longest match of the night and deservedly so. Owens at one point asked Sami why he won’t stay down. After months of coming up short and being on the wrong ends of a Kevin Owens beating, Sami Zayn emphatically delivered two Helluva Kicks to finally earn the victory he worked so hard for. These two never cease to amaze me with their storytelling and the lengths they’ll physically go to in telling those stories. Vince Russo has criticized both of these guys saying they’re not great workers. He says that being a great worker isn’t about the “moves” you can do, but how you make the crowd buy into what you’re doing. I hate to break it to you , Vince, but Owens and Zayn had that crowd eating out of the palm of their hands last night. And actually I’m not sorry.

Another Six-man tag that was highly anticipated was John Cena, Enzo Amore and Big Cass against The Club. From what I remember the match was good with a lot of frenetic action, but the promo before the match was so incredibly great that it stands out more than the match. At times on the main roster I’ve felt that Enzo’s promos felt a little forced but over the last two weeks he has reached a new level. His mixture of humor and intensity are reaching a perfect balance. While the words are typically always funny, his facial expressions and mannerisms are right up there with anyone I’ve ever seen in WWE. Watching Cass cover his face to hide his laughter was another highlight to me, not to mention the lengths John Cena went to in putting Enzo over. That promo from Enzo and Big Cass was so good that it earned AJ Styles, who is a crowd favorite, a round of “Soccer Mom” chants. It almost seemed as if AJ was surprised to be greeted with a negative chant, but it was hilarious. AJ and Cena will move on to SmackDown while Gallows, Anderson, Enzo and Cass go to Raw. This match left me looking forward to what’s next for all six men.

I’m not sure how this played on TV or the WWE Network, but I loved last night’s Highlight Reel. I’ve never been a Randy Orton fan but I thought he came across really well. Jericho obviously delivered the same level of excellence we’ve come to expect from him for all of 2016. We got the condescending tone, the annoying hand gestures, the arrogance, the disgusted facial expressions, a stupid idiot and of course we were given what we all wanted, what we all needed, which was the gift of Jericho. Drink it in maaaaaaannnn! We even finally got an RKO that Jericho made him work for. Great work as always from the GOAT.

In the main event of the evening and arguably the main event of the last three years of WWE storytelling we finally saw The Shield face off in a Triple Threat match. I assume none of us envisioned Dean Ambrose being the WWE Champion when this match finally occurred and I’d also bet most wouldn’t have seen him being the one to walk away as the champion. We got yet another great promo from Seth Rollins talking about how great he is and an equally great promo from Daniel Bryan in explaining why he and Shane made him their first pick on SmackDown. We also got to see Mick Foley make and entrance and were given an opportunity to join the Yes Movement once again. We got to witness the immense popularity of both Rollins and Ambrose as well as the utter distaste for Roman Reigns. There is no more polarization to speak of at this point. Roman was roundly booed and the crowd is firmly against him. I don’t see that coming to an end anytime soon.

A far as the match all I can say is wow. All three performers brought their A-game and pushed the live crowd to new heights. Whether it was Ambrose and Rollins teaming up to powerbomb Roman through the announce table, the three of them slugging it out on equal footing or even the Commissioners, the General Managers and even the rosters of Raw and SmackDown cheering for their participants in the match, it felt like a true prize fight with high stakes. As much as I’d love to see Seth always be the whiny, cocky heel Champion, it was great to see Dean win. For so long he seemed the afterthought of the group and now he is the victor the first time they all met in the ring at once. He takes the WWE Championship to SmackDown which theoretically puts the brand on more of an equal footing with Raw. Having the locker room empty out and hoist Ambrose on their shoulders was a great touch, even though it was weird that the Usos were doing it right after he had pinned their cousin.

This is not a detailed, technical breakdown of the event as John Canton has that more than covered. This is just the blurred, emotional reactions of being at a live show that exceeded expectations as the first PPV of this era. There were a few lows but there always will be and they aren’t worth talking about. The positives far outweighed many negatives and WWE delivered exactly what wrestling is supposed to be. It gives us action, athleticism, storytelling, emotion, suspense, humor, agony and triumph. In short, ENTERTAINMENT. If WWE has figured out a way to consistently put the E in WWE, then sign me up for the New Era. I can’t wait to see where we go on both Raw and SmackDown. It will be hard for SummerSlam to top what we saw last night but if they can continue what they started last night things will be very hot in Brooklyn next month.