The SmarK Rant for WWE Battleground 2017–07.23.17

The SmarK Rant for WWE Battleground 2017

The video where we’re supposed to get excited by Photoshopped face tattoos might be one of the dumbest in a while. Just saying.

Live from Philly.

Your hosts are Tom Phillips, JBL & Byron Saxton

Smackdown tag titles: The Usos v. The New Day

Rather tepid response for the New Day from the Philly crowd, even steeped in the American flag, so I guess they’re just booing everything tonight. Xavier and Kofi are repping the team tonight, and after some quick double-teams Xavier gets caught in the corner and beat up. JBL: “They call it the Uso Penitentiary for a reason.” Who exactly calls it that? Anyone? Xavier is quickly your porn star in peril and the Usos work him over like Paige working over…well, you know. Usos with a Demolition elbow while JBL is off about the Von Erichs again. Jey takes Xavier to the top rope and they fight up there, with Xavier coming down with a missile dropkick to get free. Hot tag Kofi and he’s a house of fire with a Boom Drop on Jimmy, but Trouble in Paradise misses. The Usos get bumped to the floor and Kofi tries the “Trust fall”, but he gets caught and slammed on the floor. I’m thinking that trust exercise was a complete failure.

Usos also beat on Xavier and Jimmy tries a splash in the ring, but Xavier reverses to a faceplant into a rollup for two. Honor Roll is caught, however, and the Usos hit the double-team samoan drop for two. Jey with the blind charge, but Xavier elbows him out of the corner and makes his own comeback, but goes Up Up to the top rope and Down Down onto a superkick from Jimmy that gets two. Impressive timing on that one. Jimmy with a Tequila Sunrise in the middle, but Xavier fights to the ropes and gets the break. Finally Kofi revives and comes in with the double stomp for two. Jimmy superkicks him, however, and Jey comes in with the flying splash for two. Thought that was the finish. Usos go up for stereo splashes, but they miss and Xavier goes up again with the flying elbow and New Day wins the belts back at 13:51. Hell of an opener! **** Keepin’ it simple: Isolate the babyface, get the heat, go to the false finishes and then the good guys win.

Shinsuke Nakamura v. Baron Corbin

Hey, finally Nakamura gets his full entrance on PPV! Minor note: When JBL calls everyone “one of the best strikers in the world” it sort of loses meaning. Nakamura throws down and Corbin bails, and then they switch places and finally Corbin takes over with a cheapshot. And it’s BEARHUG TIME. What a striker! Nakamura manages to reverse a slam into a triangle choke attempt, but Corbin boots him down for two. To the floor again and Corbin runs him into the railing and back in for more bearhuggery. Corbin: “I’m doing pretty good, dummies!” Yeah, you tell those fans! Nakamura fires back with kicks and a dropkick. Nakamura throws knees in the corner for two, but Corbin slides out of the ring and back in with a lariat for two. This of course greatly impresses JBL. Nakamura counters a suplex with knees to the head, but he runs into the Deep Six and Corbin gets two. They slug it out and Nak catches him with a backstabber and sets up to finish, but Corbin just lays there. So Nakamura goes after him and Corbin goes low for the DQ at 12:29. Really, that was the finish they came up with? Major, major style clash here that ended up really boring. *1/2

#1 Contender’s match: Natalya v. Becky Lynch v. Charlotte Flair v. Tamina v. Lana

The video package makes this match seem like it was even more lazily booked than it was. Like, did we need a slick video package for “There’s no clear contender and we need one, so here’s five people thrown in a match”? Charlotte dumps Lana to start and Nattie rolls her up for two. Tamina pounds Becky down for two, and Lana gets cocky while Tamina beats up Charlotte. Is Charlotte seriously supposed to be a babyface? Because she’s TERRIBLE at it. Lana and Tamina double-team Charlotte and Lana gets two as this is just some of the worst stuff you’ll see, like the girls on GLOW in the training montages or something. Finally Becky Lynch returns from her Ireland vacation and makes the save, although the smart move would have been to let it play out and get rid of Charlotte. Natalya hits Charlotte with a low dropkick for two, but Becky takes out everyone with Bexploders. Tamina gets her shine and puts Nattie down, but Charlotte tosses her and then Nattie lays out Charlotte and gets the Sharpshooter. Lana saves and gets two on Charlotte. Becky puts Lana in the armbar, but Tamina saves with a samoan drop and Lana gets two on Becky. Thankfully another armbar on Lana follows, but Tamina saves AGAIN. So Becky gets the armbar on her and Tamina taps at 8:07. Lana attacks Becky and she’s done at 8:25. Nattie rolls up Becky at 8:39. Charlotte boots down Nattie for two and tries the figure-four, but Natalya reverses to an armbar and Charlotte gets a nice powerbomb for two. Charlotte goes up and misses the moonsault, and Natalya pins her at 10:54 to win the title shot. Nothing special because it was really rushed, and the Naomi v. Natalya match doesn’t feel like anything that’s going to generate interest. **1/2

US title: AJ Styles v. Kevin Owens

Kayfabe is SHATTERED by some guy in the front row, who gets a “Savio Vega is Kwang” sign on screen. I bet security is gonna be all over that guy and use the Men in Black flashy things on everyone. Owens grinds on the headlock to start, but AJ puts him on the floor with an armdrag. Back in, they fight for a suplex and AJ puts him on the floor with a dropkick. They brawl out there and Owens meets the railing, but AJ charges and misses, then gets crotched into the post. Question: Corbin got disqualified for hitting Nakamura low earlier in the show, but Owens can run AJ ball-first into the post without so much as a warning from the referee? I’m beginning to think wrestling isn’t entirely on the up-and-up. Back in the ring, Owen takes over and it’s CHINLOCK CITY. AJ fights out and blocks a senton with his knees, but Owens gets a DDT for two. Back to the chinlock, but they slug it out and AJ comes back with a forearm and faceplants Owens for two. Owens with a hotshot for two, but AJ gets the fireman’s carry neckbreaker for two. Springboard 450 hits the knees, and Owens gets two off that. KO with the cannonball for two. They fight to the top rope and AJ brings him down into the torture rack powerbomb for two. AJ goes up again and they fight over a superplex that goes nowhere. AJ sets up for the forearm on the apron and Owens trips him up to hurt the arm and takes over on it. Ref gets bumped as my bad finish senses are tingling, but AJ reverses the powerbomb into the calf crusher. Owens reverses that into a crossface and they reverse until Owens rolls him over with a fluke pin at 18:06. What was even the POINT of the title change at MSG? This one didn’t work at all and the meandering finish was weaker than Bud Light. **3/4

Flag Match: John Cena v. Rusev

Ironically, we get the rundown of the foreign announce teams before this match, which is based entirely on Cena being from the USA and Rusev being from Not The USA. I mean, Rusev is great and all, but we already did this whole song and dance two years ago. Anyway, just to needlessly complicate this match stip, you now have to climb the pole, retrieve your flag, and then take it up to the entrance way and put the flag into a pedestal in order to win. Rusev climbs right away and Cena pulls him down for a headlock, and then brings him down with a bulldog on a second try. Cena climbs and gets taken down with an electric chair, and Rusev pounds away FOR BULGARIA to take over. Rusev climbs again and gets foiled as they’re really struggling to find the heat here. The flag match concept is good when there’s an actual issue behind it and the crowd believes the rivalry, like the Hart Foundation angle, but USA v. Bulgaria is not going to inspire anyone. Cena makes a comeback but walks into a spinebuster, and they fight on the Bulgarian turnbuckle, which Rusev wins. Finally Rusev claims the flag of his country and the people boo like it’s the finish, but of course we need to overcomplicate things so the match isn’t over yet. Like, an “old fashioned flag match” is just supposed to be a match where the winner gets to wave the flag of his country, ya know? Cena comes back and reverses a powerbomb into the STF, and now Cena gets the US flag and Rusev lays him out. So now both guys have flags down, thus rendering the entire first part of the match completely pointless. Rusev grabs his flag and walks towards the back, and JBL is breaking down all the strategic factors in walking towards the back with your flag like this is a match requires complex math or something. Now Cena walks with his flag and they brawl at the video wall and momentarily forget about the flags. Rusev finds multiple tables and sets those up, but Cena fights off a potential trip through the tables and grabs his flag again. I feel like maybe the smarter move on Rusev’s part would be to smash the flag stand on the podium, because then Cena wouldn’t be able to plant his flag and thus render him unable to win the match. Cena crawls with the flag and Rusev uses the stand to cut him off, then puts him in the Accolade until the POWER OF BULGARIA renders Cena unconscious. Rusev retrieves his flag, but has to dramatically climb the stairs first instead of just putting the damn flag in the stand. Cena thus is able to prevent him from putting the flag in there, but a second Accolade is reversed and Cena puts Rusev through the tables and plants his flag to win at 21:00. Finally, a victory for America over the evil forces of Bulgaria! Amazingly, if you take away all the near-falls and finisher reversals, the WWE formula kind of sucks. **

Meanwhile, the Ascension meets with Breezeango and confesses that they were the culprits the whole time, despite how disappointing of a finale that makes for. However, in a shocking twist, it turns out that they were actually at an Eddie Money concert and couldn’t have done it, leaving the REAL attackers to attack again. So this mystery must continue.

Sami Zayn v. Mike Kanellis

So I got up to the Cena-Rusev match and had to deal with some stuff for an hour, and it’s now midnight on a Sunday and I’ve gotta work on Monday, and I thought “OK, I’ll come back to this and wrap it up with the Punjabi Prison” nonsense, and now it turns out I have to get through THIS filler as well. Zayn controls with a flying headscissors and dumps with a clothesline, but Mike avoids the dive. He gets a punch on the floor and Phillips is like “Shades of what happened on Tuesday night!” So Kanellis punched him? Wow, talk about must see TV. Back in the ring, Mike takes over with a corner clothesline and a big boot for two. Mike and Maria stop for some love while the announcers bicker and make this match even more insufferable. Zayn dumps him and follows with a dive, and back in for a cross body for two. Zayn with a tornado DDT, but Maria runs in to prevent him from suplexing Mike, but Zayn hits the exploder and Heluva Kick for the pin anyway at 7:17. Wow, Kanellis could not have looked like any more of a geek there. Like, I don’t even know what Mike’s finisher is supposed to be. This one died in the death slot. *1/2

PUNJABI PRISON MATCH, WWE title: Jinder Mahal v. Randy Orton

I should note that I got a bunch of ominous texts during the night that basically said “No spoilers, but prepare yourself”. So that’s great. Unfortunately, the Singh brothers are unable to be at ringside for this one, so they’ll have to come up with a different finish than “Orton beats up the Singh brothers and walks into a cobra clutch slam”. So there’s two bamboo cages here and you have escape BOTH of them to win. Oh, so scary. I don’t even want to get into how shitty the camera angles are going to be on this because you can’t see S--- outside of the main cage. So if you thought the stips on the flag match where overdone, this one features four doors in the inner cage and you have 60 seconds to escape once a ref opens the door, and then it closes FOR GOOD. So what if neither guy can escape? Does the match just end? Jinder immediately calls for the first door and they battle over that, but 60 seconds runs out and it’s shut FOR GOOD. And padlocked, so you know they mean business. Jinder takes him down with an armbar and works the arm on the cold, unforgiving bamboo. But not just regular bamboo, oh no, it’s STEEL REINFORCED BAMBOO. Jinder Mahal works an armbar here in this brutal unforgiving blood showdown, and calls for door #2 to open. Secondary question: Why not just let the guy escape? You can then instantly call for another door to open and leave yourself! So anyway, door #2 is now locked after 60 seconds and Orton runs Mahal into the bamboo and we have to pretend this is something that would be painful. So now they try to climb out, because apparently you can just do that and no one mentioned it. Mahal counters the draping DDT and sends Orton into the bamboo and the bored crowd starts chanting stuff. Orton suplexes Mahal into the cage and they have a f------ conversation right there on camera. And door #3 is open! Something exciting might happen! No, sorry, my mistake. Like really, was there any chance whatsoever of either guy escaping this cage before the climactic fourth door? So it’s more laying around until Orton suddenly hits the draping DDT and opens the last door. Sadly, Jinder hits him with a high knee, but Orton gets the RKO, and indeed the Singh Brothers manage to show up and screw Orton again, thus defeating the entire purpose of this b------- match. So Orton is locked into this cold, unforgiving bamboo cage and has to climb out, and soon both men are hanging on the outer cage until Jinder falls off. And then the Singhs drag Orton down as I’m thinking I spoke too soon about the finish. So Orton beats up the Singhs yet again while Jinder climbs. And now Jinder finds a kendo stick, because the giant bamboo cage wasn’t enough I guess, but Orton gets his own and beats on everyone with it. He climbs, but a Singh casually exits the cage through a hole, like Roger Rabbit escaping the handcuffs, and annoys Orton until he takes a bump through the announce table as a result. Orton hits Mahal with the draping DDT on the floor and they continue conversing on camera. Next up, Orton finds a chair and hits people with that, and with everyone finally dealt with and the announcers declaring that he’s about to win the title, Orton climbs the cage…and Great Khali returns. Orton is thus unable to climb out, because apparently he just HAS to climb the side where Khali is standing, and Jinder climbs out to retain at 28:00 as our national nightmare continues. Jesus Christ, do we have to sit through ANOTHER match between these two next month?! This was like taking a terrible match and then throwing GREAT KHALI in as a surprise finish to somehow make it worse. The entire match was meandering and pointless, not to mention going THIRTY F------ MINUTES for that finish. I’m done. I’m tapping like Rusev in that STF to this show. Instead of hot pokers up the ass, this one gets three bamboo skewers under the toenails.

The Pulse

Hey, the tag title match was GREAT. Sadly, the rest of the show was WAAAAAAAAY downhill from there and everything disappointed. Thumbs way down.

But I guess it was memorable, at least?