The build to any given match can make or break it.
A solid build can create anticipation, leading to a crowd reaction that creates an electric atmosphere. A great build also enhances the match's historical significance.
For example, the Hulk Hogan-Randy Savage main event at WrestleMania V was an outstanding match on its own. Factor in a year-long build that saw jealousy tear apart a friendship and suddenly, a great WWE title match became one of the iconic bouts in WrestleMania history.
Poor build, on the other hand, can ruin an otherwise great match. It can take a five-star technical wrestling match and ruin it. Audience apathy will cast a dark shadow over the hard work of the performers.
At WrestleMania X-8, Triple H and Chris Jericho met in the main event with the WWE Undisputed Championship on the line. Two of the elite workers of their generation, they delivered a very good match that focused on in-ring psychology and centered on The Game's injured quadriceps.
Unfortunately, the audience was quiet for the majority of the match. They were not invested in the match, largely because of a subpar build and a lack of faith that Jericho could actually defeat the recently returned challenger and retain his title.
To this day, the match is considered a mediocre and horribly disappointing main event.
Sunday's Battleground pay-per-view has received a great deal of criticism for its perceived lack of necessity considering Hell in a Cell is only three weeks later. Luckily, the show's headlining matches have strong stories behind them.
Whether those matches can translate that build into outstanding in-ring product is another story.
For now, let's take a look at every match on the Battleground card and grade each on the effectiveness of its build.
WWE Kickoff Show: Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien Sandow
How exactly does one grade the build for a match that has none?
You do not.
Intercontinental Championship Match: R-Truth vs. Curtis Axel
Curtis Axel's latest pay-per-view title defense comes as a result of a booking method this writer not-so-affectionately refers to as the WWE Special.
R-Truth scored an upset win over Axel on Raw despite doing nothing of any significance for the better part of a year.
There is no way Axel loses the title here in a match thrown on the show at the last minute simply to fill out a card and take up time.
Divas Championship Match: Brie Bella vs. AJ Lee
Prior to Night of Champions in September, Divas champion AJ Lee cut a promo running down the Total Divas cast for their attention-seeking ways and putting herself over as a real women's wrestler.
At NOC, she fended off the challenges of Brie Bella, Natalya and Naomi in a Fatal 4-Way match, forcing Natalya to tap out to the Black Widow submission.
On the September 16 edition of Raw, Brie Bella teamed with the Funkadactyls to take on Alicia Fox, Aksana and Layla. The former Divas champion would score the win for her team.
The following week, Bella would once again have her arm raised in victory after pinning the Divas champion in a 10-Diva tag match, earning herself a title match.
On the "go home" edition of Raw, Bella picked up another win on the road to Battleground, defeating Alicia Fox in a well-wrestled match while Lee watched on a monitor in the backstage area, her new bodyguard in Tamina Snuka by her side.
The creative team failed to follow up on an excellent promo by AJ just over a month ago, and the booking heading into Sunday's title match stumbled as a result.
The redeeming factor is that there is history between the two from the month prior, making this title match feel a lot less thrown together than the previously mentioned Intercontinental title match.
Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins
The best built match on the card stems from COO Triple H's termination of Cody Rhodes' WWE contract following a loss to Randy Orton on the September 2 edition of Raw.
Rhodes had spoken out against Triple H's decisions, telling the boss that what was best for business was Daniel Bryan getting a shot at Randy Orton's WWE title. He paid for it with his job, and for the weeks that followed, his brother Dustin (Goldust) and father, Dusty, would make several failed attempts to get Triple H to reconsider.
Dustin, as Goldust, put up a tremendous fight against Orton on the September 9 episode of Raw. A series of near-falls and a hot crowd helped the match earn rave reviews from fans and critics alike, all the while furthering the story.
Had he been victorious, Cody would have earned back his employment.
The following week, Dusty let his emotions get the best of him in an exchange with Stephanie McMahon and ended up paying dearly for it. McMahon gave him an ultimatum: get beat down by The Shield or knocked out by The Big Show.
Show would not allow one of his idols to suffer the violent attack of the United States and Tag Team champions and delivered a one-punch shot that knocked the American Dream unconscious.
On the September 23 Raw, Cody and Goldust hopped the guardrail and attacked The Shield before being escorted away by security.
With tensions high, Triple H and Stephanie invited the entire family to Raw the following week to discuss a potential employment opportunity.
Both Cody and Goldust would have the opportunity to earn employment with WWE. All they would have to do is defeat Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns.
Oh, and if they did not, Dusty would lose his job with NXT.
Dusty vowed to be in his boys' corner before The Shield hit the ring and laid out all three.
The build for the tag match has been nothing short of phenomenal. It elevates Cody Rhodes to a level of stardom he had struggled to achieve as a villain, all the while reintroducing Goldust to a new generation of fans and getting the wrestling genius Dusty back on television.
The side stories stemming from the angle, including Goldust's shot at redemption and one last chance, as well as the McMahon family vendetta against the Rhodes family, are as interesting as the main angle itself.
A fine example of what the creative team is capable of when it stays focused on the task at hand.
Hardcore Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Rob Van Dam vs. Alberto Del Rio
Much like the Divas title match further down the card, RVD and World Heavyweight champion Del Rio have an established backstory that helps to make up for lackluster booking in the weeks leading up to Battleground.
At Night of Champions, Van Dam defeated Del Rio by disqualification when the frustrated champion refused to release his Crossarm Breaker, despite the fact that Van Dam had reached the ropes.
After the bell, Van Dam attacked Del Rio and delivered a rare Van Terminator in a moment that ensured the rivalry would continue.
On the September 20 SmackDown, Van Dam was involved in a Handicap Gauntlet match against The Shield. Midway through the contest, just as he was about to thwart the three-on-one attack of his opposition, Triple H came to the ring and cancelled the match.
Apologizing to him for even being placed in the match, Triple H granted Van Dam a rematch against Del Rio.
The World champion would attack RVD seconds after the COO left the locker room.
The following week, Van Dam would prevent Del Rio from doing serious damage to R-Truth with the Armbreaker, chasing the champion from the ring with a chair in hand.
The build has been anything but spectacular. Van Dam's role in the Daniel Bryan vs. The World storyline kept him away from Del Rio, sacrificing the build to their match in favor of RVD's presence in the top angle in the company.
The history between the two of them, including the Night of Champions match, is solid, and their match at Battleground is almost assuredly a Match of the Night contender.
Unfortunately, there is not a stronger story to support said match.
CM Punk vs. Ryback
At September's Night of Champions, Ryback entered the squared circle just as CM Punk was getting ready to dish out more pain and punishment to Paul Heyman and exploded across the ring, taking Punk through a table with a vicious spear.
Seconds later, he placed Heyman's unconscious body on top of Punk, helping the former ECW boss to victory over the Straight Edge Superstar.
Ryback would explain himself the following night, announcing his hate for bullies and promising that Heyman would never be victim to Punk's attacks again.
On the September 23 Raw, Punk appeared in front of his hometown crowd in Chicago, receiving one of the loudest ovations of the year. He had harsh words for Heyman and Ryback but ultimately fell into a trap that saw him assaulted by Ryback and Curtis Axel.
The beating ended when Ryback slammed Punk through a table.
With revenge on his mind, Punk arrived to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum intent on proving that Heyman and his guys were not the only ones capable of playing games.
Punk's music interrupted Axel's match against R-Truth, providing a momentary opening for Truth to score an upset win.
Later in the show, the Best in the World feigned an injury, luring Heyman and Ryback into a trap before unloading on the two of them, as well as Axel, with a kendo stick.
Punk was left standing tall.
CM Punk's antics on this past Monday's Raw was enough to earn the build to his match with Ryback a high grade. Prior to that, however, the feud had progressed nicely. Ryback's hypocritical stance on bullying is hilarious, and his assault on Punk two weeks ago in Chicago really helped to reaffirm how brutal and violent he can be when he wants to.
WWE Championship Match: Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton
COO Triple H's determination to prevent Daniel Bryan from becoming WWE champion, and thus the face of the company, reared its ugly head the night after Night of Champions.
Claiming that Bryan had colluded with referee Scott Armstrong, who had delivered a fast three-count at the end of the pay-per-view title match 24 hours earlier, Triple H vacated the title.
Later on that episode of Raw, the September 16 show, Bryan took on The Shield's Roman Reigns in the main event. With another beatdown of WWE's resident goat face by Orton and The Shield looking like a certainty, a number of the roster's most popular babyfaces (and Justin Gabriel) hit the ring and fended the villains off.
They closed out that show by hoisting Bryan on their shoulders and celebrating.
Bryan would pick up the win for his team, a team of 11 Superstars, over The Shield in a Handicap Elimination match on the September 23 show.
For the first time in a while, Bryan had survived two consecutive episodes of Raw without being attacked by The Shield and Orton or knocked out by Big Show.
That would end a week later when Bryan was assaulted by Orton.
The Apex Predator delivered a violent DDT onto the arena floor before dragging his limp body onto the announce table and executing a high-impact RKO.
All of this happened as Bryan's real-life fiancee, Brie Bella, watched from just feet away.
The injection of Brie into the angle on this past Monday's show takes the angle to a whole other level in terms of emotion. Originally, the whole focus was on Bryan regaining the WWE title he worked so hard for.
Now, the love of his life had to watch as he was brutally and savagely beaten. She has also been on the receiving end of advances and threats from Orton in the backstage area.
It should make for an emotionally heated contest that unleashes an angrier, more violent side of Bryan for the WWE Universe to see.
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