Examining the Biggest Hits and Misses on the Road to WWE Battleground
The grudge matches and championship bouts set for the first-ever WWE Battleground are the climaxes for stories that have limped or sauntered to the finish line.
The pay-per-view offers narratives like the Rhodes family's battle for its livelihood, which has been a series of home runs. Other clashes, such as Brie Bella challenging AJ Lee, have been the equivalent of a batter swinging wildly.
The road to Battleground has seen positives and negatives about Randy Orton's return to the dark side, some glaring plot holes and a number of compelling performances from a man who inspires chants of "Walrus!"
Hit: Rhodes Family vs. The Shield
Every moment, every decision leading up to this match has had a purpose.
WWE spent its time crafting the story of Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, and the result is that this bout has the highest stakes, the most emotion and the potential to be a classic.
Starting with Triple H firing Rhodes, every week's Raw built upon that catalyst.
Goldust failed to win back his brother's job thanks to Randy Orton, Stephanie McMahon ordered Big Show to knock out the Rhodes family patriarch and then the brothers ambushed The Shield. The animosity escalated; the situation grew more personal.
The attention WWE has paid to this narrative and the patience the company has shown in drawing it out over the course of a month now has this tag team match poised for greatness.
Miss: Not Enough Diva Hype
Kaitlyn and AJ Lee showcased the power of a Divas match built on a quality storyline at Payback.
Brie Bella's bout against AJ is instead a showcase of missed opportunities. AJ's scathing promo is a distant memory and the tense moments between champion and challenger have been scarce since.
Brie and her fiance, Daniel Bryan head into Battleground with a chance to both become champion. Here's a potential chance for an emotional moment of dual triumph. As it stands, should that scenario play out, it won't mean what it could have.
WWE announced this title match late, but unlike The Shield vs. the Rhodes family, it didn't follow a escalating story.
Natalya has had more run-ins with AJ in the past few weeks than Brie, including their confrontation at the announce table. Brie's path to the title has felt thrown together. Even the pin over AJ that earned her the title shot happened in a match that ended far too quickly.
The WWE Championship feud has made full use of Bryan and Brie's relationship, having Orton use it as a means to anger Bryan. AJ hasn't had that same opportunity.
Hit: Randy Orton's Viciousness
Randy Orton heads into this battle for the WWE Championship a far more dangerous opponent than when he lost to Daniel Bryan at Night of Champions.
At Stephanie McMahon's urging, Orton tapped into his more merciless self. He has since exuded a different aura, coming off as more bloodthirsty, more relentless and more of an obstacle for Bryan.
Orton seems to be delighting in his destruction, and this tweak of his persona helps reinvigorate the feud over the WWE title. It changes and betters the energy of that title fight by letting Orton be the version of himself that is most compelling.
Miss: Not Selling Injuries
As much as WWE has let Randy Orton be the monster he was born to be, the carnage around him wasn't convincing enough.
His attack on The Miz appeared to be the kind to put one out of action for weeks, but The Miz was back on Raw the next week and competing against Orton on the following SmackDown. WWE did present Miz as not being 100 percent, but having him out there at all undercuts Orton's ability to hurt his opponents.
That was true as well when Orton left Rob Van Dam unconscious after their match on Sept. 23.
Van Dam was healthy enough after that to compete in the 11-on-3 match later than same night. Couldn't it have just as easily been a 10-on-3 match with Van Dam nursing his injuries backstage?
And why isn't Orton bringing back his most dangerous weapon, the punt?
If Orton is supposed to be a monster, he should be able to put guys on the shelf, not just have them smarting afterward. During Mark Henry's Hall of Pain angle, he sent everyone from Big Show to Kane to the disabled list.
WWE missed a shot to have Orton mirror that.
Hit: Paul Heyman, Must-See TV
The match card may read Ryback vs. CM Punk, but really, this is a bout between Punk and Paul Heyman, with Ryback as his proxy.
Whether you think this feud has dragged on too long or this is a case of staying committed to a storyline, Heyman has been brilliant. His increasingly intimate relationship with Ryback has made sure that "The Big Guy" isn't just a replacement for Curtis Axel.
Instead, the borderline romantic interactions between client and advocate have provided intrigue for WWE programming and renewed interest in the Punk and Heyman tale.
Heyman appears to be trying to replace what he had with Punk by overcompensating with Ryback. That adds an element of humanity to Heyman, making him even more pathetic.
His trap of feigning a broken Rascal gave us another reason to hate him, increased the intensity of his feud with Punk and made for great television. Regardless of how the saga plays out, this leg of it has been fun to watch.
Miss: Referee Story/Logic
The reason that Triple H stripped Daniel Bryan of the WWE Championship was that he allegedly coerced a referee to use a fast count to help him win.
If Triple H believes that or is at least trying to make it appear as if he believes that, why wouldn't he suspend, fine or fire Bryan? It's even stranger for him to decide to give Bryan another shot at the title.
There has been no public investigation of what went on at Night of Champions and very little mention of it since that night. There are certainly ways to have that story build and deepen heading into Battleground, but WWE has mostly ignored it.
The controversy of the referee situation and the injustice of Bryan being blamed for something he didn't do was a story ready to be tapped into, something that simply hasn't been done.