KELLER INTERVIEWS ROB VAN DAM FOR FIRST TIME...
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KELLER’S WWE BATTLEGROUND PPV REPORT
JULY 23, 2017
AIRED LIVE ON WWE NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, JBL, Byron Saxton
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Last week’s first “Interview Friday” edition featured Jack Swagger and ex-WWE Creative Team writer John Piermarini talking about the dynamic between wrestlers and writers behind the scenes in WWE.
-They went to the announcers on camera who talked about their anticipation for the Punjabi Prison match.
(A) TYE DILLINGER vs. AIDEN ENGLISH
Tye got in some early offense, to which the crowd chanted “10, 10, 10” as he stomped away at him in the corner. When the ref tried to back Tye off from going after Aiden when Aiden was on the ring apron on the other side of the ropes, Aiden head butted Tye to take over offense. He got boos for his heelish mannerisms between holds. They cut to a break. [c]
Aiden was in the midst of a cover as they returned to live coverage. Aiden stomped away at him, then settled into a chinlock. He sang opera style while holding Tye on the mat. When Aiden leaped off the top rope, Tye dropkicked him out of mid-air. Tye went for a superplex a couple minutes later, but Aiden head-butted Tye off of him. Aiden landed a cross-body on Tye, but Tye rolled through for a near fall. Tye went for the Tye-breaker, but Aiden grabbed the top rope and then snapped Tye backwards over the top rope. He then face-planted Tye for a near fall. Aiden threw a tantrum. Aiden went for Tye’s finisher, but Tye fought back and went for a roll-up, but Aiden reversed it, then Tye reversed it. When Aiden charged Tye, Tye moved and then mounted AIden in the corner and threw punches. As the crowd chanted “10!” Aiden slipped free and dropped Tye face-first over the top turnbuckle. Then he gave Tye his finisher and scored the clean win.
WINNER: Aiden English.
(Keller’s Analysis: Perfectly fine opener to warm up the crowd. They kept it in the ring and told a nice story with basic moves, which picked up at the end. They had the crowd appropriately engaged throughout. The win for Aiden establishes that Tye isn’t in for a big push anytime soon, and this match was used to give Aiden a little credibility for the wrestlers who beat him on TV in coming weeks.)
-They went to the panel of Renee Young, Sam Roberts, Jerry Lawler, and David Otunga.
-A video package aired on the Punjabi Prison match. Then they showed Tweets (kayfabe-style) of Jinder and Randy vowing to win.
MAIN PPV CARD
-A long video package aired on Battleground.
-Phillips introduced the crowd and welcomed everyone to Battleground.
(1) THE USOS vs. THE NEW DAY – WWE Smackdown Tag Team Champions
As New Day came out wearing red, white, and blue, Phillips said “the WWE Universe is watching all over the world. They threw to various announce teams calling the show in other languages. The Usos made their ring entrance. They replayed some of the battle rap between the New Day and the Usos. Kofi surprised Jey with a dropkick to the side of his head at the sound of the bell. He quickly tagged in Xavier who gave Jey a clothesline and then a second rope elbowdrop for a two count. JBL noted the strategy of New Day leaving Big E outside and going with the smaller, faster line-up. Jimmy held onto Xavier as he bounced into the ropes, giving Jey a chance to get in some shots. Jimmy also took illegal shots as the ref had his back turned to keep Kofi from making the save and get him back to his corner.
The Usos dominated for the next several minutes. Xavier head-butted Jey off the top rope, apparently he move de jour tonight. Both were slow to get up, but both made hot-tags. Kofi entered and went after Jimmy with a series of dropkicks. Kofi rallied, played to the crowd, and hit a boom drop. He clapped and the crowd chanted for them. Kofi ducked a charging Jimmy, who flew over the top rope to the floor. He then dove off the top rope onto both Uses, but the Usos caught him in mid-air and gave him a running powerbomb at ringside. Xavier leaped off the ringside steps, but they caught him mid-air with an uppercut.
Back in the ring, Xavier avoided a Jimmy splash, then face-planted Xavier for a near fall. JBL said New Day took a risk going with the smaller team, but it might pay off. Jimmy caught Xavier on his shoulders, rammed his head into the top turnbuckle, and then the Usos double-teamed him into a Samoan Drop for a believable near fall by Jey. Kofi was still selling the double powerbomb at ringside, which was nice. Xavier caught a charging Jey with an elbow. He charged, but got backflipped over the top rope onto the ring apron. Xavier kicked the Usos as they attacked. He climbed to the top rope and went for a splash, but Jey rolled to the floor. Jimmy was actually the legal man, and he kicked Xavier out of mid-air and scored a believable near fall.
Jimmy applied a half Boston crab mid-ring. Xavier crawled over and grabbed the bottom rope. Jimmy held on for four out of the five counts he had. As Jimmy complained to the ref, Xavier had time to recover enough to surprised Jimmy with a shot to the gut and then a tag to Kofi. He set up Jimmy for a Midnight Hour, and Kofi landed the double stomp off the top rope and scored another believable near fall. That was the first we had seen Kofi since he was double powerbombed at ringside several minutes earlier.
Kofi and Jimmy were both slow to get up. When Jimmy did get up, he went for a springboard move, but Jimmy ducked and superkicked Kofi. He promptly tagged in Jey who landed a top rope splash for a believable near fall. Jey threw a fit of frustration. Kofi was down on the mat as Jey tried to regain his bearings. The crowd chanted “This is awesome!” The announcers agreed. The Usos went for a double-top rope move from opposite corners. Xavier shoved Jey off the top rope. Jimmy went for a splash, but Kofi moved. Kofi tagged Xavier. Kofi landed Trouble in Paradise, then Xavier landed a top rope elbow for the win.
WINNERS: The New Day to capture the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Titles in 17:00. (***3/4)
(KELLER’S ANALYSIS: That was a tremendous tag match. A lot of little details strengthened the match, including Kofi long-term selling the double-powerbomb. Every twist and turn in the match was explained in a believable fashion with really good timing. They should all be very happy with that match, and with the crowd engagement which built throughout.)
-A commercial aired for WWE Network.
-They showed A.J. Styles warming up backstage.
(2) SHINSUKE NAKAMURA vs. BARON CORBIN
Highlights aired of their feud so far. Then Nakamura made his ring entrance and the crowd sang along. Corbin trash-talked Nakamura. Nakamura rolled his eyes and then took the first shot. Corbin fired back. Nakamura blocked him and threw some strikes, including some round kicks to his left leg. JBL said this is a dream match between a former Golden Gloves boxer and a former MMA star. Saxton said Matt Bloom (Albert/Tensai) from the WWE Performance Center said getting kicked by Nakamura is like getting hit with a baseball bat. JBL said Nakamura became the youngest IWGP Champion at 23 years and 9 months old back in 2002 and became a rock star in Japan.
Corbin caught a charging Nakamura with a punch, and then stomped away at him. Corbin went for a slam, but Nakamura slipped free and went for a triangle. Corbin struggled against it, then lifted Nakamura. Nakamura released. Corbin gave him a big boot and scored a two count. JBL said he’s not sure Tensei fought anyone in Japan with the striking power of Corbin. Corbin settled in a bearhug. Phillips said Corbin is a bit of parijah in the locker room. JBL said Corbin didn’t come here to make make friend, he came to WWE to beat people up, make money, and win championships. Well put.
Nakamura eventually elbowed out of it. Corbin came back with a chokeslam attempt, but Nakamura broke free. Corbin ducked a kick, but Nakamura spun around and landed with the other leg. He then hit Corbin with hard round kicks to Corbin’s chest. He caught the fourth or fifth, but Nakamura came back with an enzuigiri. Corbin didn’t go down. Nakamura took him down with a dropkick. He let out a yell and pursued Corbin in the corner with various strikes. He went for a cover and got a soft two count.
Corbin came back with a running clothesline. Nakamura took a flip bump. Corbin mounted Nakamura and had him down on the mat. Nakamura came back and threw a series of knees at Corbin’s ribs. Then he lifted and dropped Corbin suplex style mid-ring. He signaled for his Kishasa running knee. Corbin turned it into a Deep Six for a near fall. Both were slow to get up. Nakamura came after Corbin with a stretch of offense. He played to the crowd and got them clapping, but quite as riled up as he seemed to be asking for with all of his mannerisms. Corbin didn’t get up on his own, so Nakamura had to go after him. Corbin mule kicked Nakamura. The ref immediately called for the bell.
WINNER: Nakamura in 12:00 via DQ. (**1/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: Nothing special, but not bad at all, either. I don’t know if these matches serve the potential Nakamura had or work against it. That said, Corbin is getting a serious steady push by Vince, so Nakamura not beating him isn’t a sign of lacking confidence in Nakamura as much as it is Vince really wanting to protect Corbin and keep him on pace as he rises up the card. Going into this match, I really couldn’t see a scenario where Nakamura pinned Corbin clean, nor Corbin going over Nakamura even with light cheating, so the DQ isn’t a big surprise based on my perceptions of how Vince McMahon values each of them at this point.)
-After the match, Corbin hit Nakamura with the MITB briefcase. Then he gave Nakamura an End of Days. Saxton said, “That proves a lot, after the match.” JBL said Corbin sent Nakamura a message. The ref angrily told Corbin to get out of the ring. Or what? He’d DQ him again?
(3) NATALYA vs. TAMINA vs. CHARLOTTE vs. BECKY LYNCH vs. LANA
After an early brawl, Becky and Natalya were out at ringside. Naomi joined the commentators at ringside. Lana mouthed off to Charlotte early. Tamina grabbed her leg. Lana then kicked Charlotte in the face. She went for a cover and got a soft two count. When Lynch returned, she helped Charlotte clear the ring of the two heels. They battled until Natalya re-entered an dhit Charlotte with a dropkick. Natalya applied a sharpshooter on Charlotte. Lana broke it up and went for a pin. Becky caught Lana in the Disarmer. Tamaina broke it up. Lynch applied the Disarmer on Tamina, and Tamina tapped out.
First Elimination: Tamina.
Lynch then quickly put the hold on Lana, and she tapped out. Good.
Second Elimination: Lana.
Natalya then opportunistically rolled up Becky and yanked on her tights for the pin.
Third Elimination: Becky.
Charlotte and Natalya battled one-on-one. Naomi said she’d be honored to take on either of them. She said she’s never faced Natalya one-on-one. When Charlotte went for a moonsault, Natalya lifted her knees. Natalya then rolled up Charlotte with force and Charlotte’s head hit the bottom turnbuckle. Then she rolled her up and scored a clean three count.
WINNER: Natalya in 11:00 to advance to a Smackdown Women’s Title match at Summerslam. (**)
(Keller’s Analysis: What you’d expect in terms of action, and they got to the two weaker links out early. The finish was a surprise, but not a bad choice. WWE obviously want parity in the Women’s Divisions more than one or two top stars, for whatever reason, and if that’s the philosophy, Natalya vs. Naomi feels fresh and I think there’s potential for some fun promos back-and-forth. Natalya also has a history of pulling very good matches out of less experienced opponents, so I’m looking forward to how this match works out. Assuming WWE doesn’t needlessly complicate this with more women being added to the match.)
(4) A.J. STYLES vs. KEVIN OWENS – U.S. Title match
The crowd chanted “A.J. Styles” as soon as ring announcements concluded. Owens took it to Styles right away with forearms and knees, and then an early side headlock. Styles shoved Owens off of him. They collided, Styles leapfrogged, and then Styles arm-dragged Owens, who rolled to the floor to regroup. Owens rolled out a minute later after he was frustrated by Styles countering his moves including a head scissors takedown from the ground. Another “A.J. Styles” chant broke out. Styles went for a German suplex, but Owens blocked it. Owens elbowed Styles, but Styles fired back with a dropkick. Owens bailed out yet again.
Styles went after Owens at ringside. He whipped Owens into the barrier, then dove at him, but Owens moved. Owens then rammed Styles crotch-first into the ringpost. Owens took over and settled into a chinlock. He yelled, “I could do this all night, A.J.” Styles fought out of it eventually and punched Owens in the nose. Then he hit Owens with rapid-fire strikes and took him down with a clothesline.
Eventually Owens lifted his knees when Styles went for a running splash. He hit a cannonball in the corner for a two count. Styles made a comeback and went for a Phenomenal Forearm, but Owens knocked Styles off balance and swept his legs. Owens went for a Popup Powerbomb, but Styles countered into a Calf Crusher. Owens countered with a crossface. The ref was bumped when Owens threw Styles his way seconds earlier, so he was slow to check on Styles. Styles broke free and applied a crossface of his own. Owens countered by bridging Styles’s shoulders onto the mat and he scored an unexpected three count.
WINNER: Owens in 17:00. (***)
(Keller’s Analysis: That is a strange finish. It stunned the crowd as it just seemed to come out of nowhere. Not sure if that was meant to be a way to train fans to believe a pin can happen unexpectedly even before a flurry of fast-paced sequences with people kicking out of finishers or what?)
-A backstage promo aired with the Singh Brothers and Jinder Mahal. He said India’s population will recognize him as the greatest champion of all-time.
-They showed more announcers.
(5) RUSEV vs. JOHN CENA
Rusev came out first and hung his Bulgarian flag on a post in the corner. Then a “Let’s Go Cena! / Cena Sucks!” battle chant broke out before Cena’s music played. The crowd sang “John Cena sucks” to the beat of his music. Rusev offered a test of strength, but then shot over to his corner to grab the flag. Cena chased him down and applied a headlock. Cena and Rusev battled on the top rope. Cena threw Rusev hard to the mat and then climbed for his U.S.A. flag. Rusev ran over and lifted Cena onto his shoulders and dropped him with an electric chair. Both were slow to get up.
Rusev went on offense and did some trash-talking while pointing at the American flag. Rusev went for his flag eventually, but Cena chased him down and pulled on him. Rusev leaped off the top rope with a forearm to Cena. Cena punched Rusev a few times. Rusev fired back and then DDT’d Cena. Cena came back a minute later with a series of signature moves. He signaled for Five Knuckle Shuffle, then connected. Cena went for an AA, but Rusev countered with a spinebuster.
Rusev threw Cena out of the ring, then made the slow, deliberate climb to get to his flag. Cena punched him just as he reached for it. Cena head butted Rusev and punched him. Rusev bumped to the mat. Cena went for a top rope move, but Rusev countered with a modified powerbomb of Cena out of mid-air. He climbed for his flag again, and he pulled it off the hook. He had to then carry his flag up to the stage the place it on the “Bulgarian pedestal.” JBL said this gives Rusev a huge advantage, but not a sure win.
Cena dropkicked Rusev, and the flag dropped to the mat. Rusev got up and charged, but Cena moved. Rusev flew into the ringpost. Cena then gave Rusev an AA. Rusev caught up with Cena as he reached for his flag and carried him out of the corner. Cena sunset flipped out of it and then applied an STF in one nice flowing sequent. Rusev tapped, but that didn’t count. The ref told him he couldn’t force Cena to break the hold. Cena eventually let go and looked up at his flag. He got up and climbed to grab his flag. He grabbed it and held it up. Rusev, though, had recovered and he hit Cena with a superkick. The American flag hit the mat.
Rusev picked up his flag and began the march to the stage. Cena leaped off the ring apron and took Rusev down hard. Then he whipped him into the ringside steps. He retrieved the American flag and began the walk down the aisle. Rusev hit him from behind. They brawled at ringside again. Rusev hit Cena with the top of the metal steps. Then he grabbed the Bulgarian flag and walked toward the stage. Cena grabbed his right let. They fought their way to the stage, without either flag. Cena threw Rusev into the LED panels on the stage. Cena dove at Rusev, but Rusev caught him and overhead fallaway tossed him. Both were slow to get up. Rusev asked where his flag is. The referee helpfully told him. A Cena battle chant broke out.
Rusev located a table and set it up. JBL said, “Oh my god.” An “ECW” chant started. He set up a second table next to the first. The American flag podium was on a platform about three or four feet high. Rusev taunted Cena, but Cena shoved Rusev to the stage. Cena and Rusev battled again on the ramp. They clotheslined each other. Cena grabbed the American flag on the ramp and crawled toward the podium. Rusev crawled after him. Cena was about to plant the flag, but Rusev grabbed the stand and hit Cena with it. Rusev then put Cena in the Accolade and grunted, “Not today!” Rusev lifted his Bulgarian flag and walked over to his podium to place it in the stand. Rusev got cocky and stood and waved the flag. As he was about to plant it, Cena showed up and blocked it. He lifted Rusev for an AA. Rusev elbowed out of it. Then Rusev kicked Cena and then applied another Accolade. Cena stood and lifted Rusev onto his shoulders and delivered an AA off the American podium, dropping Rusev through the two tables. Cena then grabbed the flag and planted it to win.
WINNER: Cena in 21:00. (**1/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: That was long and lumbering. And the slow climbs to grab the flag get old quickly. There’s only so much action that works outside of the ring before it just feels drawn out because they can’t move and bump like usual. This just went on at least five minutes too long.)
-A Summerslam commercial aired. Announcers hyped ticket sales. Then they threw to the latest Fashion Files.
-This Fashion Files played off of the X Files open. They agreed they had been good friends and partners. They fist-bumped and then hugged awkwardly. In walked The Asension. They said it was them all along. Breeze asked, “Why?” Ascension because, “We felt like it.” Breeze said it was a letdown, but all series finales are a bit of a letdown. Fandango said The Ascension weren’t even at the show last week, they were at an Eddie Money concert. The Ascension tried to claim it was them, but when Fandango showed them the sawed off head of the hobby horse, the Ascension gagged and clearly couldn’t stand the sight of it and left. The lights went out and they were attacked again. Fandango turned on a flash light and Breeze was knocked out. He was then attacked and the lights went out again. Then Fandango was dragged away, but the camera didn’t show who was behind this. No laughs in this one, but some storyline progression, I suppose.
-JBL played it straight and said this mystery may never get solved. Saxton seemed confused by it all.
(6) SAMI ZAYN vs. MIKE KANELLIS (w/Maria Kenellis)
Mike and Maria played up their love for each other with some PDA and general flirting. Mike caught a blown kiss in his hand and then punched Sami with that fist. Late in the match, Sami came back and hit a top rope crossbody block late for a near fall. Then he landed a top rope DDT. He played to the crowd, then set up an exploder in the corner. Maria got into the ring and blocked it. The ref turned to order Maria to get out of the ring. Kanellis turned and lifted Sami. Sami slipped free and hit an Exploder. Then he connected with his Helluva Kick to win. The announcers said “Power of Love” a lot, and in the end said “The Power of Love, meet the Power of the Helluva Kick.”
WINNER: Sami in 7:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: This seems to send a message that Mike & Maria are going to be a mid-card act and probably not much more. But WWE needs actual effective mid-card heels and faces to help others march up the card with impressive performances. Still, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Mike go over strong here since Sami isn’t getting a strong push and the Mike & Maria act is so new, so this defines them down right out of the gate.)
-An ad aired for “Pure Country, Pure Heart” with Shawn Michaels and Willie Nelson.
-They announced that tonight on “Talking Smack,” Kevin Owens, Natalya, and the winner of the Punjabi Prison match will be guests.
-A video package aired on the Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal feud.
(7) RANDY ORTON vs. JINDER MAHAL – Punjabi Prison match
During Jinder’s ring entrance, they showed the India announce team who talked about 1.3 billion people in India.
The structures lowered and the ring announcer explained the rules (better than the Singh Brothers did last week). Jinder went on the offensive right away and, when he had Orton down, called for the first door to be opened. Orton caught up with him and almost climbed out of one door early. Jinder blocked him. The 60 second countdown clock reached zero, so the door was closed permanently.
Jinder went on the attack again. The cameras outside the structure floated past all the “bamboo” posts and ropes, which was constantly distracting and disorienting, with frequent cuts to different cameras. Jinder called for a second door to open. He tried to leave, but Orton stopped him. Orton fought back and tried to leave, but Jinder yanked him back to the middle of the ring. The crowd counted down the last ten seconds, but neither man escaped. That second door was padlocked shut.
Orton set up a DDT, but Jinder blocked it and sent Orton into the wall. Phillips said there is no give with this structure. Orton suplexed Jinder into the wall. The crowd was pretty disengaged – silence mixed with scattered boos and just general chatter. Orton called for the third door to open. Orton moved toward it. Jinder grabbed him and the door eventually closed.
Orton gave Jinder a DDT off the middle rope. Phillips called it an important moment and turning point for Orton. Orton called for the fourth door to open. Orton then set up an RKO, but Jinder blocked it and gave Orton a high knee. Mahal then tried to apply his submission hold, but Orton landed an RKO instead. Both were down. The Singh Brothers came out from under the door. They yanked Mahal out of the final door. Then when the clock struck zero, Orton was locked inside. JBL said, “Randy is screwed.”
Orton climbed the inner structure and climbed right to the outer structure just as Jinder was climbing the outer structure to try to win. They met on the inside of the outer structure and exchanged punches. They worked their way down the cage. Orton head butted Jinder and then rammed his head into the fence. Jinder tumbled to the ground. The Singh Brothers grabbed Orton’s legs and yanked him down and stomped away at him. Jinder got up eventually. The Singh Brothers whipped Orton into Mahal’s boot. Mahal let out a raspy celebratory yell and began climbing the structure again. The Singh Brothers held Orton down.
Orton fought free and then climbed after Jinder. He grabbed his boot and pounded on his back. They landed on the floor and fought some more. The Singh Brothers attacked Orton again. The show reached the three hour mark at this point. Orton grabbed a kendo stick and used it. When Orton climbed the structure, Samir Singh grabbed him from the other side and held on. Orton punched himself free and then knocked Singh off of the side of the cage after a minute of milking it. Singh landed on the announce table below. Mahal recovered and climbed the cage and battle Orton again near the top. They crawled back down. They replayed the table spot bump on a split screen twice.
Mahal threw Orton into the side of the cage. Orton came back and gave Mahal a DDT at ringside on the floor as Mahal’s legs were caught in the cage, similar to his DDT off the middle rope he does in the ring. Orton found a chair and used it against the remaining Singh Brother. He turned and jabbed Mahal, then bashed him across his back. Orton then looked toward the cage structure and began to climb it. He kicked off the other Singh, but then played exhaustion. Jinder’s music then played and out walked The Great Khali. Orton was bleeding from his left arm.
JBL said Khali was the creator of the match. Orton looked scared and he began to climb the cage more quickly. Khali walked up to the structure and began to shake it. Orton lost his balance and fell back down half way. Orton caught himself. Khali grabbed Orton by his throat and held on. Orton gasped for breath. Jinder climbed next to Orton and made his sinister face. Then he climbed to the top and escaped. The announcers were stunned. “Not like this! Not like this!” said Saxton. Jinder dropped to win. JBL said Mahal is becoming a great WWE Champion, as Mahal and Khali celebrated together on the ramp.
WINNER: Mahal to retain the WWE Championship in 28:00. (*)
(Keller’s Analysis: There’s not much worth watching for the first 80 percent of the match, and even the last few minutes was “saved” only by the big table bump, if that’s your thing. Otherwise, just a lot of climbing up and down, and then a few kendo stick and chair shots. The Khali surprise was perhaps enough to redeem the match to a certain degree for some fans, and it gave Orton an excuse to lose. But overall, not one to go out of your way to see.)