WWE Battleground 2014 delivered the same feeling a kid would get opening a Christmas present only to find a pair of socks inside.
One year after the first-ever Battleground belly flopped, this year's edition left fans unsatisfied with so-so matches and poor decisions. It wasn't without its good points, but the pay-per-view didn't do much more than fill the space between Money in the Bank and SummerSlam.
WWE not delivering on Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose was one of many ways that made Battleground a letdown.
There can't be 12 WrestleManias on the calendar. Fans know that. Still, this event had a robust supply of promise with Chris Jericho and Bray Wyatt wrestling each other for the first time, some intriguing midcard bouts and a red-hot rivalry between Rollins and Ambrose.
That promise never materialized.
As ProWrestling.net's Jason Powell wrote, "This was a show that looked better on paper than it played out." That's an upgrade over the criticism of the first Battleground. After that show, Mike Johnson wrote on PWInsider that WWE owed fans an apology.
Battleground 2014 wasn't in that range of awful, but it made its three-plus hours drag.
The Usos and The Wyatt Family opened the night with their best effort to date. Considering how excellent their matches have been to this point, that's quite an accomplishment.
Usos vs Harper/Rowan was excellent. I give Usos extra credit for having to be baby faces against Wyatt Family-Bray, which I can't label heel— Sean Waltman (@TheRealXPac) July 21, 2014
The fire that their battle created soon became a pile of wet ashes, though.
A solid main event and a number of unsatisfying matches followed. On PWTorch, James Caldwell didn't give a match other than the tag team title bout a rating higher than 2.75 stars.
AJ Lee defeated Paige in a match that the two women will not have any trouble outdoing.
Paige seemed to feel remorse each time she got close to victory. She looked ready to cry and began shouting at her opponent. Thanks to a rushed buildup, it wasn't clear what WWE was going for here.
When John Cena hesitated to crack Wyatt with a steel chair at WrestleMania, fans knew it was him resisting his dark side, the monster Wyatt had been trying to coax out of him. Paige's reluctance had far less impact.
That's WWE's fault for not fleshing out this story more.
It felt like a precursor to their eventual SummerSlam rematch because it didn't have that proverbial big-fight feel. As the Fans Talk Wrestling podcast alluded to on Twitter, the Divas will likely have a chance to improve upon their chemistry and produce a smoother match the second time around.
Definitely not a good match by AJ and Paige. Hopefully they can work it out by Summerslam. #WWEBattleground— Fans Talk Wrestling (@ftwpodcast) July 21, 2014
Lana and Rusev then came out spouting their pro-Russian views.
Even ignoring the potential of this being viewed as insensitive, the promo was far too long. The energy in the Tampa Bay Times Forum dissipated by the end of her speech.
Their match was physical and intense, but not to the extent both men are capable of. One has to wonder if they were asked to hold back to not overshadow a probable second collision or if each powerhouse was just not sharp on this night.
The finish saw Rusev knock Swagger out on the ring post, get a count-out victory and then lock his unconscious opponent in The Accolade.
It was a smart way to open this feud up for more confrontations and not make Swagger look like a pushover. Plus, it provided an unsettling, lasting image.
Unfortunately it had to follow an uncomfortable, long-winded promo and a solid-at-best match.
Jericho vs. Wyatt had a similar feeling to Rusev vs. Swagger in that it wasn't as good as many had hoped. Both men have had far crisper and inspired performances.
Their SummerSlam match should be an improvement. Chances are, it will be what Wyatt and Cena's Last Man Standing match was compared to their previous efforts against each other.
The Battleground Battle Royal lacked Adam Rose's antics. He was relegated to a pre-show match against Fandango, which viewers would have missed if they made a quick run to the fridge. More importantly, Rob Van Dam was missing.
WWE.com later announced that the exciting star "did not compete due to injury."
The match was fun with Kofi Kingston doing his usual escapist tricks and Heath Slater shockingly eliminating Cesaro. The ending stuttered, though. The Miz went under the ropes and hid near the announce table during much of the action.
That led to the familiar scenario where one wrestler (this time it was Dolph Ziggler) thinks he's won only to have the hider emerge and earn the victory.
The problems with Battleground can't be blamed on the Battle Royal, though. It was WWE's choice to forego one of the pay-per-view's most hyped matches that really jabbed a needle into fans' enthusiasm.
Triple H punished Ambrose for attacking Rollins backstage by throwing him out of the arena. Of course, The Lunatic Fringe made his way back in.
That led to some fun brawls, especially one where Ambrose leaped out of the trunk of a car. Still, that is a story more fitting for Raw, not something that is the backbone of a pay-per-view.
Sean Radican of PWTorch is far from the only one who lamented the choice of WWE not following through with Rollins vs. Ambrose.
Really poor decision to trash Ambrose-Rollins match by WWE the way the rest of the show played out. #WWEBattleground— Sean Radican (@SeanRadican) July 21, 2014
"But they're saving it for SummerSlam," one might say. WWE making that decision earlier would have been fine. Yanking a promoted match mid-show, though, is not.
Those who were watching on the WWE Network could live with the choice. They didn't pay anything extra for Battleground, it was one of the many bits of programming that came with a subscription.
What about the fans in rural areas who have limited access to high-speed Internet or fans from other countries who can't get the Network yet? They shelled out money for the show. Ambrose vs. Rollins was a major selling point.
How does one not feel cheated after that?
It would have taken a magnificent main event to overcome that slighted feeling coursing through the audience. It would have taken an instant classic to have fans forget about the awkward and ho-hum matches before it.
The Fatal 4-Way was no classic.
Last year, Battleground ended without a climax, Big Show knocking out Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton and the referees to keep a vacant title vacant. That main event left fans feeling unsatisfied, upset and chanting "refund."
Cena vs. Orton vs. Kane vs. Roman Reigns wasn't that kind of disappointment. It just wasn't as good as fans have seen throughout the year.
The Shield vs. Evolution at Payback, Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania and all of 2014's pay-per-view's last matches were more electric, memorable and enjoyable than this one.
Count on the Fatal 4-Way missing out on being one of the top 25 bouts of the year. There have been too many stellar showings to compete with.
Battleground 2014 is in danger of being the same thing its predecessor was—the worst pay-per-view of the year.
After just two years, Battleground's track record is one of being a dud. This year's show did little to entice potential WWE Network subscribers as the folks at Fighting Spirit Magazine tweeted.
Seeing varied opinions on #WWEBattleground. Disappointed in no Rollins vs. Ambrose. Show not strong enough to tempt anyone to subscribe.— Fighting Spirit Mag (@FSM_Editor) July 21, 2014
One could argue that it was simply a placeholder before SummerSlam. That much is clear, but can you really ask fans to pay money for placeholders?
Every show can't be spectacular, but they have to make fans feel as if their time and cash were well spent. Battleground didn't do that.
If Battleground is just going to be a glorified episode of Raw and a pay-per-view that the company produces on auto-pilot, then why have it all? It makes more sense to just remove it from the calendar and have a longer break before SummerSlam.
Going from 12 pay-per-views to 11 of them isn't going to ruin the company, especially if that 12th one is the rotting egg that stinks up the rest of the carton.