Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of Oct. 11
Battleground opened with one of WWE's best matches of the week and ended with the audience fuming.
The match for the World Heavyweight Championship impressed; the WWE Championship bout left fans unsettled. WWE did well to provide huge, emotional moments, including Cody Rhodes and Goldust earning back their jobs and Big Show finally fighting back.
Monday's Raw gave us a putrid debut, and the newest edition of NXT countered that with a showdown that deserves a second look.
A giant, a Total Divas cast member, a pair of brothers and a Swiss Superstar provided the biggest highs and lows of the week in WWE action.
Best: The Shield and the Rhodes Family Rivalry
The emotion and drama of Cody Rhodes and Goldust earning their way back into WWE stole the show at Battleground.
No match delivered at the pay-per-view more in terms of stirring up a reaction in the audience and telling a moving story. Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins brought their best, but heart won out. After an exciting match, Rhodes scored the pin and the crowd in Buffalo joined the Rhodes family in celebration.
Goldust looked fantastic, and "The American Dream" hit Dean Ambrose with an elbow to top everything off.
The two teams went at it again on Monday's Raw with Daniel Bryan joining the Rhodes brothers. The ensuing match was one of the night's best.
WWE has a red-hot storyline here with a number of options going forward. Does the company use this to send Rhodes into the world title picture, or is there a more intriguing story at work here?
Worst: Battleground Letdown
Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton fought to decide who would take home the vacant WWE Championship. No one won.
Instead, Big Show left everyone, including two referees, lying on their backs, looking up at the ceiling of the First Niagara Center.
The defenses for Battleground ending in such disappointing fashion include that WWE was simply building toward the next pay-per-view.
All pay-per-views should build to the next events, but fans should still feel like the 50 bucks they've spent was worth it and that they were entertained along the way. There's a difference between a cliff-hanger and an ending that leaves the crowd chanting "BS!"
It's especially surprising that WWE went this direction after fans successfully scored refunds because of negative feelings toward how Night of Champions ended.
Best: Antonio Cesaro vs. Leo Kruger
Antonio Cesaro continues to expand his greatest hits collection through his work on NXT.
On this week’s NXT TV, Cesaro battled Leo Kruger in a hard-hitting, captivating match that rivaled anything we saw on Raw and Main Event. Cesaro looked beastly in his victory, while Kruger impressed as an opportunistic warrior who fought hard to stave off defeat.
It began with Cesaro speeding toward Kruger with a nasty dropkick.
Each foe cracked the other in the ribs and wowed the crowd with aggression in a narrative of two titans looking to topple each other. Kruger used the ring apron as a weapon, wrapping Cesaro in it as he clubbed him.
Cesaro provided more evidence that he needs to be in a more prominent position with WWE, while Kruger made a case to join him on the main roster.
Worst: Eva Marie's Debut
It's not Eva Marie's fault that she belly-flopped her in-ring debut, it's WWE's.
The company had to know that she wasn't ready. The awkward, sloppy and confused version of pro wrestling that Eva delivered in tag team action on Monday's Raw was hard to watch.
Put someone into the spotlight much too early and they can't help but wilt.
WWE essentially sent someone who had just taken a few guitar lessons on stage at Coachella. The results were predictable.
If Eva works hard, gains experience and carves out a successful career for herself, years down the road she might look back at this night and laugh. For now, the fans are doing the laughing.
Best: Alberto Del Rio vs. Rob Van Dam
The Battleground pay-per-view started off excellently as Alberto Del Rio retained the World Heavyweight Championship in a bout where steel met spine and pain thresholds were tested.
Rob Van Dam and Del Rio made use of a ladder, chairs and unforgiving kicks to make their title match one of the best of the night.
Ricardo Rodriguez teased turning against Van Dam, expressing being conflicted about his relationship with both men. In the end, he stuck with his new ally who he watched lose to the world champ.
The win makes Del Rio look more powerful going forward. He's going to need that momentum as he faces John Cena with the title on the line at Hell in a Cell.
As for Van Dam, although WWE could have hyped his exit far more, it makes sense storyline-wise that after failing to win the championship and suffering from the effects of the Extreme Rules match he'd need to take some time off.
Best: Big Show's Moment
Catharsis finally arrived thanks to Big Show's massive fist.
Over the past few weeks, WWE pounded us with the image of Triple H ordering The Shield and Randy Orton to punish Daniel Bryan. Big Show struggled to fight against the tyranny, the regime holding his livelihood over his head.
Monday's Raw featured the payoff of that story, with the giant finally striking back.
He knocked Triple H out, and Bryan hovered over the fallen COO with glee beaming from his face. The excitement and energy that this moment created was the kind of unique satisfaction that the apex of a wrestling narrative can provide.
It sets up the anticipated Big Show vs. Triple H bout for Hell in a Cell and creates a major crack in Triple H's reign.