WWE Battleground 2017: Updated Match Card, Early Predictions for SmackDown PPV

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2017

WWE Battleground 2017: Updated Match Card, Early Predictions for SmackDown PPV

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    Credit: WWE.com

    WWE SmackDown Live will roll into Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center on Sunday night for its Battleground pay-per-view, a show headlined by the return of the Punjabi Prison and supported by what should be a show-stealing United States Championship match and a Flag match featuring the returning John Cena.

    The night should wrap up several ongoing stories and give fans a taste of what they can expect come August 20 and SummerSlam.

    More significantly, if the current card is any indication, it should provide fans with an entertaining night of action.

    • Punjabi Prison match for the WWE Championship: Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal
    • Flag match: John Cena vs. Rusev
    • United States Championship Match: AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens
    • Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match: Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Tamina vs. Lana
    • Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin
    • SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: The New Day vs. The Usos
    • Kickoff Show: Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English

    Given the plethora of rematches slated for the event, it will be up to the Superstars to deliver performances that elevate the card past a state of staleness and repetition. The wealth of talented individuals should see to it that occurs.

    Who will emerge victoriously, though—their arms raised in triumph and, in some cases, with championship gold around their waists?

Kickoff Show: Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English

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    Credit: WWE.com

    If ever there was a rivalry that existed solely because WWE Creative had nothing else better to do with the Superstars involved, it would be Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English.

    The Perfect 10 and former Vaudevillain will meet for the second consecutive time on a SmackDown Live pay-per-view Kickoff Show, despite having no real rivalry to speak of. They have wrestled a few times, with the beloved Canadian babyface scoring the victory on every occasion, but they have not undergone any character or storyline development whatsoever.

    Sunday night, they take to the ring for no reason other than to ignite the crowd ahead of the main card.

    Of course, their spot on the card could be better used on Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis, which is a feud that has actually developed over the last month or so. With that said, expect the fan-favorite Dillinger and the maniacal music man English to get the show off on the right foot, energizing the fans for the action that will follow.


    Early Prediction

    Tye Dillinger defeats Aiden English.

SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: The New Day vs. The Usos

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    Credit: WWE.com

    At Money in the Bank, The Usos were intentionally counted out, retaining their titles in defeat. In the weeks that followed, the rivalry between the dominant tag teams of the 2010s intensified. Taking on a personal edge after a heated rap battle, the teams enter Sunday's show ready to prove to the WWE Universe they, not their opponents, are the top of the division.

    In recent weeks, WWE Creative has resisted the urge to overexpose the program. Booking singles bouts between the participants in Sunday's championship clash, the company kept the spotlight on the competitors but not in a way that bored or tired fans.

    New Day and The Usos still have an uphill battle in front of them.

    Even if they have not been overexposed recently, fans do not forget the endless wars they have had with the tag titles at stake over the last two years. The matchup has been WWE's go-to when it has no other options. The fatigue is real.

    Hopefully, Sunday's match proves to be the end of the rivalry for the time being. If not, the tag team titles face the very real threat of becoming even more irrelevant than they already are.


    Early Prediction

    The New Day defeats The Usos to win the SmackDown Tag Team Championships.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Baron Corbin's repeated sneak attacks on Shinsuke Nakamura may prove costly come Sunday in Philadelphia when Mr. Money in the Bank battles The King of Strong Style in what may prove to be the most hotly contested bout on the card.

    At Money in the Bank, Corbin attacked Nakamura, preventing him from competing in the annual ladder match from the get-go. When The Artist did return to the fray, he did so at a physical disadvantage, injured from the attack. Corbin eventually capitalized and won the match.

    Since June 18, the NXT alumni have battled all over arenas in the United States. They have brawled on stage and in the ring, and Sunday night, they will finally have the one-on-one match the WWE Universe has been deprived of.

    In any other case, common sense would suggest Corbin goes over to build momentum for his eventual Money in the Bank cash-in. Nakamura is not an ordinary figure, though. He is clearly being built to lead the SmackDown Live brand at some point and sacrificing his first pinfall loss on the main roster on a show that is garnering very little interest outside of the WWE faithful would be a massive miscalculation on WWE's part.


    Early Prediction

    Shinsuke Nakaura defeats Baron Corbin.

Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match to Determine No. 1 Contender to the Women's Title

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The SmackDown women's division has been bogged down in a mess of potential No. 1 contenders with little or no resolution to the issue since Charlotte's arrival during the Superstar Shake-up of April.

    Whether it was the Six-Woman Tag Team match at Backlash or the multi-woman ladder match at Money in the Bank, the same handful of competitors meet in repetitive, tiresome matches on a seemingly weekly basis with nothing to show for it.

    Hurt the most by the booking indecision is Naomi, whose Women's Championship reign has fallen into mediocrity thanks to the complete lack of an actual feud, rivalry, program or storyline.

    Sunday, the brand seeks to make up for its poor utilization of its immensely talented female roster when it presents a Fatal 5-Way Elimination match featuring Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Tamina, Lana and Natalya.

    Of greatest interest is what dynamic Tamina and Lana will bring to Sunday's match.

    The second-generation competitor has recently taken The Ravishing Russian under her wing, forming some sort of alliance that could rear itself Sunday night. The question is: In what way?

    While Lana has been repeatedly beaten and humiliated by Naomi, it feels like she is the favorite to win here, if only because of the emphasis placed upon her by the champ herself during a backstage promo on the July 18 episode of SmackDown Live.

    Still, Charlotte has to win at some point and set up the inevitable championship run. What better time and place to initiate this than in Philly, one month out from SummerSlam in Brooklyn?


    Early Prediction

    Charlotte defeats Natalya, Tamina, Lana and Becky Lynch to become the No. 1 contender.

United States Championship Match: AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens

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    Credit: WWE.com

    AJ Styles and Kevin Owens have been feuding since The Prizefighter arrived on SmackDown Live in April, and since then they have been part of some strong in-ring efforts. Sunday night, though, there will be tremendous pressure on them to deliver a match that steals the show and gives an otherwise ice-cold Battleground lineup a much-needed boost.

    Owens won the first bout at Backlash, defeating Styles by countout after The Phenomenal One had his foot trapped in the announce table. Two months later, in front of a raucous New York City crowd, Styles defeated Owens to capture the United States Championship, putting an end to the run of The New Face of America.

    Sunday night, their rivalry will seemingly come to a head as Styles defends the title against the former champion—pride and glory at stake.

    After a shocking victory inside Madison Square Garden, it would be a mistake to take the title off of Styles this early. It would hurt the prestige of the belt and render that acclaimed live event title change a footnote in history rather than the exciting, unpredictable moment it actually was.

    Owens does not need another run with that title at this point and may actually benefit more from a run as a sarcastic, antihero babyface challenging Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship instead.


    Early Prediction

    AJ Styles defeats Kevin Owens to retain the WWE United States Championship.

Flag Match: John Cena vs. Rusev

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    Credit: WWE.com

    John Cena returned to much fanfare on the July 4 episode of SmackDown Live.

    Interrupting his impassioned promo was Rusev, also making his return, though to considerably less fanfare.

    The two sparked a rather generic if patriotic USA vs. Bulgaria rivalry that will commence Sunday night in Philly. Their battle, a Flag match, is straight out of the 1980s and represents an age-old trope that has not been connecting with audiences of late.

    Whereas Randy Orton and Jinder Mahal have avoided the "evil foreigner vs. proud American" theme, Cena and Rusev have embraced it as a way of making up for the nonexistent issues that exist between them as Sunday's show arrives.

    Theirs is an uninteresting program we have seen dozens of times before. It lacks excitement because it feels so dated, even if the same exact story led to a series of wildly entertaining bouts between the same two Superstars just two years ago.

    Thrown together and irrelevant, the program feels like a placeholder for Cena, who will undoubtedly move onto bigger and better things after Battleground.


    Early Prediction

    John Cena defeats Rusev.

Punjabi Prison Match for the WWE Championship: Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal

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    Credit: WWE.com

    WWE champion Jinder Mahal has pinned Randy Orton's shoulders to the mat on two separate occasions, capitalizing on the interference of The Singh Brothers to catch a distracted Viper off guard and nail him with The Khallas for the win.

    Sunday night, Mahal will not have his cronies to help him achieve victory. He will have to survive the war that is a Punjabi Prison match on his own, against a relentless competitor seeking vengeance for the disrespectful treatment of his father at Money in the Bank.

    Expect to see an unhinged Orton, a vicious and vile savage who values the WWE Championship but would like nothing more than to crack Mahal's face and back on the bamboo of the unforgiving structure. And in that moment of revenge, his aggression and ruthlessness at a height, Mahal will slither out of his control like the snake Orton is supposed to be and find a way to win the match.

    By using Orton's aggression against him, Mahal will emerge victorious and march into SummerSlam as the WWE champion, presumably for a defense against John Cena. Where that leaves The Viper just ahead of the Biggest Party of the Summer remains to be seen.


    Early Prediction

    Jinder Mahal defeats Randy Orton.