WWE Battleground 2014: Most Underappreciated Storylines to Follow
On July 20, World Wrestling Entertainment will present its Battleground event exclusively on the WWE Network.
The main event is a gigantic Fatal 4-Way match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. John Cena will defend his title, which he captured less than a month ago at Money in the Bank, against The Authority's Kane and Randy Orton and young breakout star Roman Reigns.
To this point, the match has dominated WWE programming and is clearly the selling point for the show. Whether it is the not-so-subtle hints at a war between Reigns and Cena or the growing tension between Orton and Kane, WWE Creative has done a phenomenal job of pushing it as the most important story in the company.
But the writing staff has also done an admirable job of building one of the better undercards the company has produced in quite some time.
Whether it is the personal war between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins or the patriotic battle between Jack Swagger and Rusev, there is plenty for fans to sink their teeth into prior to the night's top-billed match.
In preparation of Sunday's pay-per-view, take a look at the underrated storylines that have made Battleground a show with potential to not only exceed expectations but become one of the best of the year.
Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins
The rise of Roman Reigns to the top of the professional wrestling world over the last two months has somewhat overshadowed what has been the best-built rivalry in WWE leading into Battleground in Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins.
At Money in the Bank, the feud intensified tenfold, as Ambrose saw his dreams of both doing bodily harm to Seth Rollins and capturing the coveted briefcase evaporate thanks to corporate henchman Kane. Rollins got the last laugh that night, stealing the briefcase and the championship contract it contained.
Ambrose, never one to sit back and let someone get one over on him, vowed to interrupt every attempt Rollins will make to cash in his contract. He promised that his former partner would not see him coming, that he would have to have eyes in the back of his head if he wanted to stop the Lunatic Fringe from attacking.
He's made good on his vows, already twice preventing Rollins from cashing in and taking the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from John Cena.
At the same time, Ambrose's determination to punish Rollins for betraying The Shield has cost the former several high-profile matches. Losses to Kane and Randy Orton were preventable had Ambrose kept his eye on the ball rather than letting his hatred for Rollins get the best of him.
That hatred is only going to grow exponentially following the July 14 episode of Raw, during which Ambrose was beaten down by Rollins, Kane and Orton and left lying following a brutal Curb Stomp.
The emotion that Ambrose and Rollins have shown to this point has set their program apart from others on the Battleground card. So intense and aggressive are they in what they have presented to viewers that it is not beyond the realm of possibility for fans to believe that they really do hate one another.
The brawls have been outstanding, the unpredictability of the Ambrose character has been refreshing and fans have reacted with great enthusiasm. If the actual contest can match the stellar build of the feud, fans may see something truly special come bell time Sunday night.
The Usos vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan
There is an argument to be made that the Usos have been the MVPs of WWE in 2014, at least from an in-ring perspective. One of the most consistent acts in all of professional wrestling, the Tag Team champions have wrestled a variety of different teams with different styles, strengths and weaknesses and have gotten outstanding matches out of all of them.
Some of their best chemistry is with the team they will defend their titles against at Battleground, the Wyatt Family's Luke Harper and Erick Rowan.
A classic battle between the powerful villains and the quicker, more agile heroes, their match at Money in the Bank was one of the night's best and a textbook example of a great tag team match. Sunday night, they will attempt to replicate the success of that bout when they meet in a 2-out-of-3 Falls match.
The build to the match has been nothing extraordinary, but when two teams work as hard to deliver the quality of matches that the Usos and the Wyatt Family have, an overly complicated storyline is unnecessary.
Harper and Rowan scoring a non-title victory over the champions on the July 7 edition of Raw earned the heels a championship rematch, while a sneak attack a week later only served to establish their dominance ahead of the biggest match of that team's career.
It is rare to see WWE allow two teams to have a very real, very defined rivalry such as the one the Usos and the Wyatt Family have. It stretches back to the brothers opting to back John Cena in his war with Bray Wyatt, Harper and Rowan and will culminate Sunday in a match with great potential to steal the show.
The Usos may see their title reign come to an end, but they can rest comfortably knowing they have done as much, if not more, to revitalize tag team wrestling than any other team in recent memory.
Jack Swagger (with Zeb Colter) vs. Rusev (with Lana)
From the moment he made his in-ring debut the night after WrestleMania XXX, Rusev has dominated the competition. Every Superstar unlucky enough to face him in singles competition inevitably found themselves on the receiving end of a loss, courtesy of his punishing submission hold known as the Accolade.
Big E and Roman Reigns have been the only Superstars to even faze the Bulgarian Brute, but neither Superstar was able to slow him down. He continued his rampage and was even awarded the (fictional) Gold Star Award by the Russian Federation. It seemed as though Rusev, along with his social ambassador, the Ravishing Russian Lana, would dominate WWE.
Then it happened.
Self-proclaimed "Real American" Jack Swagger and manager Zeb Colter interrupted a celebratory promo by Rusev and Lana, making it clear that they would not longer be content to sit back and listen to the foreign duo run down the United States of America. They stood up in defense of the country, instantly turning them babyface.
In the weeks that followed, the four performers have partaken in some of the hottest segments on WWE television, proving that patriotic storylines do and always will have a place in the sport.
The July 14 episode of Raw featured a molten-hot segment in which Colter and Lana exchange pro-U.S. and Russia sentiments before Swagger and Rusev got physical six days before their much-anticipated encounter.
It is still amazing how such a simple angle has taken the wrestling world by storm. Reverting back to the more basic, successful storylines of the past has benefited the program tremendously and proven that not every feud has to be some overwhelming exercise in soap opera storytelling or bad sitcom writing.
Effective performances from all involved have helped make Swagger and Colter vs. Rusev and Lana the most passionate story in all of wrestling. Bar none.
Intercontinental Championship Saga
One of the most underrated aspects of the road to Battleground has been the effective build to the Battle Royal for the Intercontinental Championship.
WWE Creative has done a stellar job in hyping the match without showing its hand and hinting at who may leave Tampa with the title in their possession.
Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Rob Van Dam and Cesaro are all favorites, thanks in large part to the television exposure they receive on a weekly basis. Still, young stars such as Bo Dallas and Adam Rose figure to play a big role in the night's festivities, while someone such as The Miz cannot be taken lightly.
All have taken turns winning and losing matches, outside of the undefeated Dallas and Rose, leaving fans to wonder who will leave with their arms raised in victory.
In a day and age in which the Internet tends to ruin surprises or leak booking plans well in advance of the actual match, it is a credit to all involved that there is such an air of mystery surrounding the match.