WWE's Battleground pay-per-view is nearly upon us, and as the company prepares for it, fan anticipation is likely very high. The truth is that Night of Champions was perhaps not the best event that money could buy, so the pressure from fans for its follow-up has been building since.
We have seen the continuation of CM Punk's feud with former advocate and best friend Paul Heyman. We have also seen Triple H's regime claim its latest victim in Cody Rhodes. And the company's main storyline centering on Daniel Bryan has seen more ups and downs than any in recent memory.
All three of these angles will play out at Battleground and for me; the resulting matches are very intriguing indeed.
The Rhodes Brothers vs. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns
This match stemmed from Cody daring to speak up backstage to Randy Orton on Monday Night Raw. As we all know, Triple H forced Cody into a bout with Randy later that night with the stipulation that if Cody lost, he was done.
Dusty's youngest son came up short, of course, and after an unsuccessful attempt by his brother Dustin to win his job back, Cody remained on the outside looking in. He was helpless at that point.
But when Stephanie McMahon forced Big Show to knock Dusty out, Cody and Dustin responded. They sneak-attacked the Shield on Raw and now have been offered a deal they cannot refuse. The stipulation this time is very simple: If Cody and Dustin defeat Seth and Roman at Battleground, the Rhodes brothers will both be on WWE's payroll.
However if they lose, then not only will they be out of chances, but so will their father. Dusty will be fired by Triple H, and then it will all be over for the Rhodes family in WWE.
Now, even though this match is not for the WWE tag team titles, I think this one could be the sleeper on the card. The fact is that Cody and Dustin Rhodes have the crowd's support. They have a good angle going in and the sentimental aspect, thanks to Dusty.
But for me the biggest drawing point of this match is the fact that all four men are very good workers. This will do nothing but up the entertainment value of the bout, as it should be a very exciting match to watch.
Dustin is an old pro and will surely step up on the pay-per-view stage. Cody, Roman and Seth are all considered to be future main event stars in the company, so their contributions in this one are certainly not in question.
However what is in question is what will happen. We have watched this angle from the beginning, and seeing the McMahons having fun with the Rhodes family must pay off eventually. But will it happen at Battleground? Will Cody and Dustin get the win and each receive a job in WWE?
Or will we see Dusty unceremoniously dumped from his position with NXT? Either way, this one should be good and could be a top match of the night.
CM Punk vs. Ryback
If this match looks familiar, it should. We have seen this rivalry back in 2012 already, when Punk was the top heel and WWE champion, while Ryback was the rising babyface Superstar. To say that things have changed is an understatement.
Punk is now arguably WWE's No. 1 face again next to Daniel Bryan, and Ryback is attempting to make his way as a heel. Punk is no longer WWE champion, and Ryback is as far from being a contender as he can be. But there is another major difference now that did not exist then.
Paul Heyman does not represent CM Punk anymore; he is now the new advocate for Ryback. For many fans who felt that Ryback had grown stale before his time, the sight of Heyman by his side has surely changed their tune. Heyman is one the best on the mic that we have ever seen and now is lending his skill to get Ryback over. Battleground could be Ryback's coming-out party as a Paul Heyman guy.
The entire dynamic of this rivalry has changed, and for me, the most intriguing part of the match is that neither man can afford a loss.
For Punk, this one is about continuing his heat with Heyman. The two men have been at odds since Heyman turned on Punk and have generated some great TV as a result of it. Punk has been beat down more than one time thanks to both Heyman and Curtis Axel, but with Ryback involved, it has just gotten worse.
If Punk loses to Ryback he will fall to 1-3 on pay-per-view since Money in the Bank, with all three losses coming at the hands of Paul Heyman and his clients. This would not bode well for Punk, who many fans believe should be back in the WWE title picture. But the possibility of becoming No. 1 Contender could be hindered by a loss to Ryback at Battleground.
In Ryback's case, every pay-per-view is a must-win. Ryback is 1-5 since January's Royal Rumble, with his only win coming against Chris Jericho at Money in the Bank. Considering that he is usually dominant on TV, the fact that Ryback does not typically go over on the main event stage is strange indeed. Will that change at Battleground?
A win over CM Punk would be huge for Ryback. And it would be just another notch in the belt of Paul Heyman, who would likely hold the victory over Punk's head for a very long time. I for one am very interested to see the outcome of this match.
Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton-WWE Championship Match
We have been here before, haven't we? This match is of course just the latest entry into the ongoing saga of Daniel Bryan versus the world. Since winning and then losing the WWE title at SummerSlam, Daniel has become arguably the top Superstar in the company.
He is on one of the hottest streaks we have seen in quite some time, one that has only been intensified by the actions of Triple H's regime against him. Nearly every week we watch as Daniel fearlessly steps up to the plate, only to be physically destroyed by the Shield or Randy Orton. Bryan is doing all he can to fight the odds, but the deck is definitely stacked against him.
Fans believed he had perhaps reached the Promised Land at Night of Champions, when he unexpectedly gained the pin on Orton and was handed the belt. However, the fact that the win came after a fast count did weigh heavily in the air, and for good reason.
The next night on Raw, Hunter accused Bryan of being in a conspiracy with referee Scott Armstrong, and as a result the championship was held up. Since that night, WWE has not had a primary champion and even though Randy has been anointed as the new face of the company, he received no consideration from Triple H's administration.
Of course, we all know that The Game and The Apex Predator are thick as thieves on TV. And there is loyalty among heels in Vince McMahon's company, especially if it's at the expense of a red-hot babyface Superstar. So I expect that Triple H could once again make his presence known and perhaps stop Daniel Bryan from realizing his dream for a third WWE Championship.
The most intriguing part of this showdown for me is of course who wins. If Randy walks away with the belt, this could mean the end of Daniel's main event run. Randy could then move on to work a program with CM Punk, which could lead us to John Cena's potential return later in the year.
And if that happens, then I have to wonder what the purpose of all this truly was. Why build Daniel Bryan up only to ultimately fail in the end? Why make Randy Orton look weak by having him lose the title, only to then win it back a month later in a match that he may not win on his own?
On the other hand, if Daniel Bryan does win this one and then moves on to perhaps work against Punk, the question becomes: Will that work? For me, Daniel is at his best against a strong heel like Orton. Facing Punk could likely split the crowd right down the middle. However, there is no denying that they would put on some great matches that would likely steal the show every time.
If these three matches deliver for fans, I believe that Battleground will be a success. All we can do now is wait and find out together.