Confusion Reigns Supreme: What’s Going on With This Sunday’s Battleground PPV?

If it feels like you’ve been here before, you’re not alone. It feels like we’ve been here before because we were here, right here, three weeks ago, on the eve of WWE’s last pay-per-view card, Night of Champions. Just because WWE comes up with a new name for an event doesn’t necessarily make it exciting — especially when that name is Battleground. At a loss for what to write about, I put out the call for questions about this show, and what I received was a whole lot of exasperation and confusion. I’ve broken them down by category. Hope you enjoy — I feel like this has a fighting chance to be better than Battleground.

What the hell is going on with Battleground?

Why does Battleground exist? We just had a ppv a couple weeks ago. — Josh Odson

Why is Battleground even taking place? — Jim Rogers

Why should we care at all about this ppv? — Jeremy Sexton

Will this be the least watched ppv since Backlash? — Billy H

Is Battleground the least exciting and most money-grubbing pay per view ever? — Johhny PBRClops

Ok, that last one might have been aiming a bit low, but when this is the most obvious question about an event, you might have problems. Why on earth is WWE having a pay-per-view event Sunday? First is the boring, technical answer: A long time ago, in a media galaxy far, far away, the WWF used to have one tentpole event — WrestleMania. It steadily built up to four fairly evenly spaced PPVs a year. Then came the thankfully bygone phenomenon called “In Your House,” under which banner the WWF would market second-tier PPVs at a reduced price point, which eventually led to a “major” PPV every month, whether or not fans wanted one. When WWE decided to build extra room into the calendar for the buildup to “major” events — WrestleMania and SummerSlam — it had to suck those weeks up out of the calendar somewhere. And since the May-September window is a slow time of year for the WWE, I guess it just crammed the extra one in during the busier fall semester.

Now for the slightly nefarious answer: It wants your money! When it built in hype weeks for the big shows, it wasn’t about to sacrifice a whole PPV’s worth of profit, even if it meant slightly reduced earning across the board for the fall PPV slog.

On some level, WWE knows how ridiculous this is. The writers don’t even try to build it up — the story lines are basically the same as Night of Champions, which is basically the same as every episode of Raw in the past two months. That’s the odd thing — you’d think that when the big events are close together they’d be scrambling for new angles and story lines, but instead they’re so hamstrung by PPV-pimping that they don’t even have time to breathe. If you’re searching for a silver lining, consider this: If they’re stuck in a holding pattern, at least they’re holding with Daniel Bryan, right?

What the hell is going on with Daniel Bryan?

Why should I believe Daniel Bryan will keep the title, even if he wins Sunday? — John Payant

Is there any scenario in which the Daniel Bryan angle is considered a success without Triple H putting him over? — Matt Daigle

Did you think it was a mistake to introduce Brie Bella to the Daniel Bryan storyline? — Mike Walsh

Fine, ignore my silver lining. Trepidation within the Bryan fan base runs deep, and with good reason. I hate to be snarky, but these are the facts: Bryan being the top babyface in pursuit of the belt is just as good as him being champion. He will win it eventually, and the wait will hopefully seem worth it. There is no degree to which Triple H can put him over that will satisfy fans, but I assume they’ll end up fighting. I’ll tentatively put Bryan winning at 4-1 odds over Bryan getting ground-shipped back to WWE developmental. The Brie Bella thing is an odd turn, though. Presumably they’re just using her — just like they’re using Randy Orton’s re-embracing of the sadism I hadn’t realized he left behind — as window dressing, to add some newness and intrigue to the proceedings. Hopefully it’s just a detour and we’re not going to have the full smoochiness of their Total Divas love lives thrust upon us every Monday night. If the romance gets pumped up, however, I might jump ship to Team Orton.

What the hell is going on with the Divas?

Are all the Divas from Total Divas faces now? — Patrick Occhiuto

Um, yes? On Total Divas the line between good and evil is drawn fairly clearly, and the Bella Twins anchor the bad-gal unit. Except when they’re hugging their grandmother or something and they’re not, and hell, if the Kardashians taught us anything it’s that you don’t have to be likable on reality TV to be popular. At the very least, it became basically impossible to have Brie play a heel while her new fiancé Bryan plays a face. (Her sister Nikki can go ahead and be as wicked as she wants, since her BF John Cena is basically a heel anyway.) And so now that Brie, arguably the star of Total Divas, is taking on AJ for the Divas title on Sunday, can anybody say they’re surprised? Isn’t this their only story line going forward? If Survivor Series features Team Total Divas versus Team Real Wrestlers, will anybody be surprised? How about if they have that same match at every PPV between now and WrestleMania? Would you really be shocked?

What the hell is going on with CM Punk?

Are you going to discuss the separate universe that Punk/Ryback/Heyman is in vs. the corporate feud? — James Montessi

Face CM Punk seems to exist in his own parallel universe where he never interacts with other faces on the roster. — JTG from Montgomery

Since they’re just going to keep trotting out new minions of manager Paul Heyman to feud with Punk every month or two, I’m just surprised nobody ironically asked how excited I am for Punk versus “Paul Heyman Guy” The Great Khali in a few weeks. But to the point: Maybe this is just another WWE truism we have to get used to (or get used to complaining about). Any time there are two equal stars, they don’t interact — Cena existed in an alternate universe for much of Punk’s reign, and Undertaker spent the better part of his career in a similar shadowy, dry ice–filled parallax. It’s frustrating, especially when Bryan’s getting beat down and Punk is nowhere to be seen, despite their long history and Punk’s own feud with Triple H and the WWE front office. It undermines the intelligence of the story WWE is plotting. If there’s one positive, though, it’s that when the modern Indiepowers finally collide, it will feel like a big deal. And if and when that story line ends up revolving around Punk coming to the rescue of Brie Bella, we can all cry together on Twitter.

What the hell is going on with Big Show?

When do they turn Show? No way to be a face now with his build up (no successful way). — Ryno Atkins

How much money does Big Show need to KO Stephanie? — Jim Rogers

For the last month or so, Big Show has been transformed from a giant badass into a blubbering, besuited bore, strong-armed into doing McMahon family bidding because of financial hardships he brought on himself through his history of bad investments and his nationwide ban from all-you-can-eat buffets. And sure, seeing Big Show bring himself to tears literally every week when confronted with his destitution is a strangely compelling thing to behold. But seeing a giant guy do lots of things — use an iPhone, play violin, eat pistachios — would be bizarrely fascinating, and that doesn’t automatically make it a good use of him. We’re careening inevitably toward one of two opposite outcomes: Either Big Show gets his hands on Triple H, personal finances be damned, or Big Show goes full-evil. Despite his protestations of being a nice guy, we’ve been around long enough to know that a giant is never far from the dark side.

But all of this raises a bigger question, which Jim Rogers puts nicely above. Can’t Show just tell us how much money he needs? Maybe Cena could lend it to him — that dude makes bank. Or maybe he could just launch a Kickstarter to get himself back on his feet. $25 donations get a personal phone call from Show, with him crying in gratitude. $100 donations get a ride in the Dungeon of Doom monster truck.

What the hell is going on with Dolph Ziggler?

Do you see Dolph Ziggler main eventing a PPV within the next year or is he relegated to mid-card status for the foreseeable future? — Ben Valent

Ziggler is one of the actual mysteries of the last month or two. He was initially lined up in opposition to the front office, like Bryan and Big Show, and since then he’s steadily faded into the background. As of Sunday, he’s officially been demoted to the YouTube preshow. Even though his opponent from Night of Champions, Intercontinental champ Dean Ambrose, has no challenger for Battleground, Ziggler is stuck shooting the metaphorical T-shirt cannon while the rest of his buds will be getting real minutes down the stretch.

To answer the question. though: No, they’re not giving Ziggler enough to do. And even though I think he’ll work his way back into the top tier, I don’t see him main-eventing anytime soon — at least not insomuch as “main-eventing” means “competing for the WWE Championship at a PPV.” He’s stuck a few notches down the good guy ladder, and it’s hard to imagine him turning heel so soon after he became a hero. Unless Bryan joins Punk in his alternate reality before Cena gets back from the IR, I don’t see a spot for him at the very top.

What the hell is going on with the world heavyweight title?

Does anyone really care about the World Heavyweight Title since there is no separation between rosters? — Danny Perez-Caballer

Is there ever going to come a time when the WWE realizes it has way too many titles? — Robbie Len

For everybody who took bathroom breaks whenever the Alberto Del Rio–Rob Van Dam feud over came on TV in recent months, here’s a quick primer: World heavyweight champion Del Rio is feuding with Van Dam. Oh, and Alberto’s old pal Ricardo Rodriguez is on RVD’s side now. I’m over this feud.

What matters is what the questioners above get at. It used to be that the World Heavyweight Championship was the title for the Friday Smackdown program when the two shows had separate identities. Now, however, the rosters are permanently muddled — which is mostly a good thing — and the WHC is a shriveled second banana on Raw — which is not a good thing. The problem goes past the WHC; everything on Smackdown is undermined by its perceived subservience to a belt that’s already somewhat meaningless. It’s trickle-down boredom. On Sunday, the Del Rio–Van Dam bout will be a hard-core match, which should skew things in RVD’s favor, and an RVD win could maybe blow a puff of fresh smoke into the division, and leave WWE some room to figure out what he can do to make people care about Del Rio.

It’s a meager fantasy, but for my part I’m hoping that happens. Just not before I get back from the bathroom, OK?

What the hell is going on with the tag belts?

Why do the Shield still have titles? Isn’t it stunting the growth of the mid-card to have them keep the titles yet never defend them? — Patrick Occhiuto

Why aren’t the Usos tag champs yet — a legit tag team but still no tag team titles. Can u please explain that? — Jason Trawford

What do you make of The Real Americans? — Stephen Stetson

I’m honestly surprised by that first question. The Shield, despite their intermittent inattention to wrestling, are the best tag team that WWE has had in ages, based on intrigue and charisma alone. On Sunday they’re facing Cody Rhodes and Goldust (with their dad Dusty in their corner) for the entire Runnels family’s right to continued employment at WWE. Stakes are high! Not so much for The Shield, though, who marched into WWE last year, snatched up half the titles, and have since ingratiated themselves to the power structure by working as the muscle for the McMahon family. The outcome to this match seems obvious, unless they decide to drag it out for another month or two, which, all things considered, seems more than plausible.

As for the other guys: I like The Usos, but I’m not overly enthusiastic. At the risk of having my Smark Card revoked, I’m going to agree with Eric Bischoff: When he said tag team wrestling was dead, he might have had a point. In this day and age, everything that’s not the main event is a tryout for the main event, and so I can’t see a tag team getting a huge push anytime soon without WWE seeing championship material in one of them. (Which isn’t to say they won’t be champions, just that there won’t be a major push involved.) And at the risk of sounding twinist, it’s hard to see championship material in one or the other of a team when the two performers look exactly the same. Same goes for (non-twins) Epico and Primo, who were just masterfully repackaged as Los Matadores. If you missed their debut on Monday, please stop what you’re doing and watch it this minute. Incredible, right? Neither of them will be WWE champion either. The same goes for the always-rumored-to-be-signed Briscoe brothers (even though one is a clearly superior talent). And it also goes for The Killer Bees, magically teleported to 2013. It takes a different-looking, lousy partner to make one guy stand out enough to get Vince McMahon’s attention. Which is to say that if Marty Jannetty, Jim Neidhart, and Matt Hardy looked more like their partners, we’d be out a few incredible world champions.

I’m inclined to think that despite whatever doghouse they’ve crawled into, The Real Americans — the unholy alliance between Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro — hold more promise for future success than the legitimately talented and charismatic Uso brothers. Unless, of course, Jimmy hip-tosses Jey through a plate-glass window on an episode of Total Divas and Jey is never heard from again.

Bonus question

Macho Man or Ultimate Warrior. Who would you rather have write the foreword to your new book? — Tim Hayes

Oh, did I mention that I have a book out in mere weeks and available now for preorder? Well I do. Thanks for the question, Tim. Obviously I’m inclined to go with the guy who’s alive. But from a marketing perspective, how could I not go with the dead guy? I could have the last (and possible first) foreword ever written by Randy Savage. But pretend it’s 1987 and they’re both alive and teleported here in the same hypothetical time machine that brought us The Killer Bees? Well, I love Macho a million times more than I love Warrior, so this should be easy. But here’s the thing: We know Warrior can write — at least pretty well — and I wouldn’t be surprised if Savage was signing X’s as autographs on his minor league baseball cards. So from a writing perspective, I’m going with Warrior. But I’m going to have to go with Savage because I’m nostalgic and nobody reads anymore anyway, right? Whatever. What were we talking about?

What the hell is going on with Battleground?

Oh, right. One caveat: Over the past year, WWE has done a good job of pulling surprises out on nights like this, when all the outcomes seem blindingly obvious. If it does, I’m not sure it’ll validate the very existence of the show, but at least it’ll be something.

Filed Under: Wwe

Shoemaker

The Masked Man is David Shoemaker, author of the new book The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Pro Wrestling.

Archive @ AKATheMaskedMan