B-PPVs that are actually pretty good are always a delight since most of these events are usually filler until it’s time to get to the WrestleManias and Royal Rumbles and SummerSlams. So when last year’s Battleground ended up being possibly the best pay-per-view of 2016, it was a pleasant surprise. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn was a match of the year contender, Bayley‘s kind-of main roster debut was a great way to start the show, New Day‘s feud with The Wyatt Family at least looked like it would go somewhere, Enzo Amore‘s promo with John Cena showed what a star-in-the-making he could be, and The Shield main evented in the historic first-ever Triple Threat between the former stablemates. All-around solid show. I doubt this year’s show can measure up. Not to say the card is flat awful, but it’ll be difficult to top last year’s. Hopefully it does; it’s Smackdown‘s final big hurrah before the Biggest Party of the Summer, so they need to make it a good one. I’m going to leave out what Breezango will be doing on the show as I’m not sure that will result in an actual match; for now, let’s look at what we know will happen.
Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English
At Smackdown’s May pay-per-view Backlash, Tye Dillinger defeated Aiden English in a highly skippable match on the preshow. At Smackdown’s July pay-per-view Battleground, Tye Dillinger faces Aiden English in what will likely be a highly skippable match on the preshow. Literally nothing has changed for either of these men in two months. WWE hasn’t capitalized on the popularity of Dillinger’s “10” chant, probably in a Zack Ryder-level effort of sabotage to make them die. And having his tag team partner axed by the dreaded pinkslip has unsurprisingly done English no favors. Just like back in May, we have two directionless men who’s NXT careers weren’t perfect, but were at least better than what they’re doing now, being sent out to be before-show filler again. Triple H will probably bring this up to Vince at Thanksgiving dinner, I’m sure.
Who I Want to Win: Tye Dillinger, largely just because I see more of an upside in him than English.
Who Will Win: Tye Dillinger, but if you expect this to lead to him getting some kind of a renewed focus on the main roster, you may be giving the creative staff too much credit.
Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis
Maria and Mike Bennett have built up a lot of clout since the former was let go from WWE in 2010. Making waves in New Japan Po Wrestling and Ring of Honor before a yearlong stay in the Impact Zone ended with one hell of a wedding segment where Allie and Braxton Sutter got their happy ending, Maria finally found her way back to WWE alongside her husband at Money in the Bank. Aside from heaps of praise for their cheesy, 80s-inspired theme song, they haven’t gotten off to a smooth start. Now taking his wife’s last name, Mike Kanellis has only wrestled once and has spent the rest of his time on Smackdown getting interrupted by Sami Zayn in random segments. That has led to this match, which doesn’t have that much heat in my opinion, but will probably garner a reaction anyway because that’s how beloved Sami Zayn is.
Who I Want to Win: Sami Zayn; this dude is so good and making you feel sorry for him when he loses that you just have to want to see a bone (read: a victory) thrown at the guy.
Who Will Win: Mike Kanellis; he’s the new kid on the block and his girlfriend is infamous for helping him gain victories. This Sunday will be no different.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin
Seems like there is nothing that can warm the icy cold heart of “The Lone Wolf” Baron Corbin. No matter what, the man is always angry and flatout mean. Maybe it’s that attitude that won him Revolver Magazine‘s Most Metal Athlete Award, but it certainly won’t win him any friends or admirers. And he probably doesn’t mind too much as his Money in the Bank briefcase will probably ensure he’s a World Champion in the near future. But until he is ready to cash in, he’ll like just go around beating down whoever he pleases. In the case of Shinsuke Nakamura, usually during his famed entrances or interviews. Nakamura is both the cool kid and the weirdo, filling two niches that Baron Corbin doesn’t necessarily care about, though he probably secretly believes himself to be the former. Come Battleground, payback may be on the mind of Nakamura as his feud with AJ Styles is still on hold to make way for this filler bout.
Who I Want to Win: Shinsuke Nakamura; when have I ever rooted for Baron Corbin to win something.
Who Will Win: Shinsuke Nakamura. By DQ. At some point, Corbin is going to get fed up and get himself disqualified in an attempt to completely incapacitate Nakamura.
Smackdown Tag Team Championship
Two teams of color fighting over the Tag Team Championships. That seems like a very cool idea, and so far it has been. These two very over tag teams have been the shot in the arm that the very much dead Smackdown Tag Team Division needed. Their match at Money in the Bank was praised as maybe the best match of the night, so there is a lot of money to be made from this. But when WWE decided to book them in a rap battle, we had every right to be skeptical and believe the segment would flop hard. It turned out to be one of the most entertaining segments WWE has produced in 2017 so far, with a cameo from actual Grammy-nominated rapper and noted WWE superfan Wale and some of the most savage disses ever uttered in a ring, including THAT diss. You know the one. This Sunday, the belts are once again on the line and these men could potentially steal the show again.
Who I Want to Win: The Usos; I said at the last show that I wanted The New Day to win the titles. This time, I’m changing my mind. I like The New Day, but the Usos have been too good lately.
Who Will Win: The New Day; I don’t know if the fans will respond to it well though.
Fatal 5-Way Elimination #1 Contender Match
The Smackdown Women’s Division has been drastically different since Alexa Bliss and Mickie James left. Whereas months ago, the Smackdown writing staff was capable of crafting multiple stories for the women and building up their characters exceptionally well to the point it received more praise than the RAW Women’s Division, we’ve somehow ended up in some weird dimension where the Smackdown women have constant multiple-women matches. And making matters worse is that we’ve gone back to the only real women’s feud revolving around the Women’s Title, with no other real side feuds in the meantime. And since the entire division – sans Miss Money in the Bank Carmella – is in this elimination match to determine who faces the Women’s Champion, the Glowing Women’s Champion (Naomi) gets the night off. Ryan Ward, save us please.
Who I Want to Win: Becky Lynch. Full disclosure: I’m always rooting for Becky Lynch.
Who Will Win: Tamina Snuka; they’ve been teasing her aligning with Lana for an angle between her and her former Team B.A.D. partner lately. Why would they tease it without plans to pull the trigger?
United States Championship
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens not being the main event of a pay-per-view seems wrong. These are two of the most talented men in wrestling today and they’re battling over a secondary strap rather than the biggest prize on the program. Still, we’re lucky to be getting this battle at all. Kevin Owens walked out of Backlash with his championship still intact, but it happened under the most suspect of circumstances. Clearly, things were not over between them. The story only got bigger when Styles defeated Owens at a non-televised Madison Square Garden show to win the United States Championship. They say anything can happen in WWE, so WWE likely wanted us to believe the same for houseshows and gave us this title change. Not the first time a title changed hands on a houseshow, but one that totally caught us by surprise. Now Styles is the defending champion and the “New Face of America” needs to try earning back his gold.
Who I Want to Win: AJ Styles; he just won the championship. Don’t take it from him now.
Who Will Win: Kevin Owens; sure, it would be hot potatoing, but after that feel-good MSG moment for Styles, I won’t be surprised if they dump all over it by cutting it short for the sake of PPV buzz and more heat for KO.
If there is any cliche in pro wrestling that needs to die, it’s the “Evil Foreigner” storyline and gimmick. In 2017, when people are trying to be more progressive and accepting in the face of powers-that-be who seemingly having dedication to being the exact opposite, who still wants to see this? Apparently someone in WWE does because we have two of these as the headline matches for this show. First up, Rusev is back to his old ways of bashing America, and just like in 2014, John Cena is here to take him down a peg. Both men returned on the 4th of July edition of Smackdown and while their exchange was solid due to their performances, it was still hard to shake the fact that this is WWE dusting off the whole “Anti-American villain” schtick for some easy, outdated heat. And subtlety really gets blasted in the face when a Flag Match is chosen as the stipulation.
Who I Want to Win: Rusev. Two reasons: 1) Cheap heel heat is still heel heat and 2) He has too much potential to be squashed by Cena again.
Who Will Win: John Cena. Two reasons: 1) ‘Merica, and 2) So he can be elevated to faces Jinder Mahal once Randy Orton is done. And speaking of…
WWE Championship Punjabi Match
Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion? That’s surprising. Jinder Mahal being WWE Champion for the last several months? Even more surprising. Jinder Mahal feuding with Randy Orton his entire reign so far? Not surprising, but certainly growing stale. I know Smackdown is lacking main event-level talent, but who wants to see this match over and over again? The good news is that this time, they decided to up the ante by adding a stipulation to the match; a match type that hasn’t been seen in a decade and was originally the calling card for a different Indian superstar, The Great Khali. Unfortunately, the Punjabi Prison doesn’t have a celebrated legacy due to the first two matches being seen as either an entertaining mess or unbearable garbage depending on who you ask. The common denominator is that they weren’t very good either way. But in a way, that means Orton and Mahal can easily impress with this one given how low the bar is.
Who I Want to Win: Jinder Mahal; I’ve already said this twice already, but a Randy Orton title reign is not something I want to see in 2017.
Who Will Win: Jinder Mahal; that precious John Cena feud is bound to happen.