WWE Battleground 2017: John Cena, AJ Styles and the Top PPV Storylines
WWE Battleground is coming up on Sunday, and fans are preparing for a big night of action. This time, the company's blue brand is up to bat in the war of the live programs, and there will surely be nothing held back for the event.
The same can really be said of every WWE pay-per-view, as the talent involved typically always step up to entertain as only they can. The only issues fans usually have are the end results.
Who will go over? Will championships change hands? Most importantly, will any of it make sense? But fans have some positives going into Battleground, and those positives center on the top storylines.
John Cena and AJ Styles, in particular, each have intriguing matches on the card. For Cena, it's about re-establishing his foothold in the pecking order and reminding everyone why he was the top guy for over a decade.
For Styles, it's about doing what he does best: stealing the show.
But they're not the only big names attached to Battleground, of course. The WWE champion will step into a massive prison, locked in with a snake that has no qualms about leaving him for dead in the middle of the ring.
The King of Strong Style finds himself in a match where he will need every ounce of creativity he can muster against a Lone Wolf who's hungry for a win. A warrior family will face off against a fun patrol of guys who are very accustomed to beating the odds.
Battleground is indeed primed with big names and big matches.
The Superstars are ready. The fans are ready. With any luck, WWE Creative is ready as well. Battleground is coming, and war is coming with it.
The Usos vs. The New Day
The Usos have finally found their swagger.
All it took was a heel turn and a new attitude. Jimmy and Jey are now cooler, smoother and more intense than they perhaps ever have been. It's clear from the work they're doing now that it was definitely the right move for both men.
The Usos are not so crazy anymore.
But they are booked against three of the wildest Superstars WWE has ever seen in The New Day. Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods are hip, they're fun and they're highly entertaining. Anyone who believed New Day would eventually lose its appeal has perhaps changed their minds now.
New Day is fresher today than ever before.
The best part about this tag team match is that both sides are extremely good at what they do. They also have great chemistry in the ring, which keeps the fans interested. When The Usos and The New Day work, it's clear that each team is giving its all to get the match over.
The entertainment factor is a big part of that. Even though Jimmy and Jey are heels, they are still very appealing to fans who appreciate the work the brothers have done to reinvent themselves. The New Day is still on top of the mountain even without the titles because they're arguably the most solid team on the roster.
But what will happen in this match?
Many feel that New Day will win the SmackDown Live Tag Team Championships. That's possible, of course, and it's even possible that they will perhaps have a record-breaking run with the titles, as they did on Monday Night Raw.
However, if they do not get the job done at Battleground, then it may not happen for a while. The Fashion Police is getting hot, and that could be the next team to have a shot at championship gold. Despite what happens afterward, fans know that they will get an exceptionally entertaining match between New Day and The Usos at Battleground.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin
What happened to Shinsuke Nakamura?
When The King of Strong Style came to SmackDown Live, many fans were beside themselves with excitement, and rightfully so. Nakamura was a major star in Japan. He made believers out of the NXT audience. He has the charisma and talent it takes to become a top draw in WWE, and everyone was surely waiting for that to happen.
But it's not happened just yet.
Instead of booking Nakamura to the moon, the company grounded him. Nakamura is now just another WWE talent with a great background and massive buzz around him. However, he has yet to show more than a glimpse of what he's capable of.
This is the guy who many fans believe could step into a WWE ring with Brock Lesnar and tear the house down. But yet he's being featured in very competitive matches with Dolph Ziggler, instead of ruling the ring as he's always done in the past.
Now he's stepping up against Mister Money in the Bank and a future WWE champion. How will this match play out?
Baron Corbin's attacks on Nakamura have put him in the spotlight, and now it's time for him to answer for what he's done. Nakamura has been on this side of a storyline before, and he knows what to do when the two collide at Battleground.
But will WWE allow him to be himself or to simply bump and feed like everyone else?
Nakamura is a special talent, and that's how he must be booked. Until WWE realizes that and puts him in spots where he can be properly showcased, then his main event potential will continue to be neglected. Battleground could be a coming-out party for Nakamura, or it could just be business as usual thus far.
Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal
The Punjabi Prison is back, but The Great Khali is nowhere to be found.
Jinder Mahal is bringing his WWE Championship to the massive structure, and he will do so against a man who knows no fear. Randy Orton wants his title back, and Mahal is standing in his way. All of this means something will definitely give at Battleground.
That something could be Orton's title hopes if he does not go over.
It's unlikely that he will continue his program with Mahal, which means whoever wins this match will probably move on to the next title contender. Could that contender be John Cena?
Cena's all-American comeback has indeed set up a perfect future match with Mahal, if WWE decides to go that route. Cena is the man who proudly waves Old Glory and professes his love for his country. Why wouldn't he go after the man who spews forth venom at America every time he has a mic in his hand?
But if WWE does move on with Cena vs. Mahal afterward, then what happens at Battleground?
This storyline has been about Orton putting over the new main event guy. Orton's been criticized in the past for being unwilling to do just that, but fans have the truth in front of them now. The Viper is all business, and he's done his part to make Mahal look like a million bucks thus far.
Of course, it's up to Mahal to carry his part of the load.
Mahal has come a long way in a short amount of time, and he has the most to lose when he drops his title. Fans believe he could be on the way back down after he loses the belt, proving that all of this was nothing more than just filler until Cena can become WWE champion for the 17th time.
But if Mahal is to continue on his main event road, then he must keep working hard to get over. He's getting better in the ring, and he's getting heat in his promos. He's a true villain, and he lives the part every time he's on camera.
He's the kind of heel WWE needs at the top, and despite whether or not he stays there, he should have a great showing at Battleground. He has the industry's top championship around his waist, and he's got a future Hall of Fame opponent on the other side of the ring.
Whether or not he has either after the match is over remains to be seen.
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens was the self-proclaimed New Face of America, but then he lost the United States Championship.
AJ Styles beat him in Madison Square Garden, of course, and fans were more than a little shocked when it occurred. Major title changes don't happen that often at house shows, but WWE decided to go in a different direction this time out.
Now the showdown that should have been one of the more intense at Battleground has perhaps lost some of its steam.
However, that does not mean Styles and Owens will not deliver. This is the kind of environment that Styles usually thrives in, and he will surely be ready to give his all against Owens. Styles is a top guy and has proved he can handle the pressure that goes along with it.
KO is a man who is always trying to impress in the ring, and that will surely be true at Battleground. Owens is an old-school heel with a nasty attitude and a bad temper; anyone who crosses him pays the price. Owens is the punisher, and Styles is his victim.
But this match is about much more than just their ring work or even the U.S. Championship itself.
This match is about consistency. AJ and KO are always on their game, and together, they're always pitch-perfect. In an era where new faces are taking over and WWE has turned the corner on its future, the demand for consistently entertaining matches is at an all-time high.
That's why Owens and Styles are booked for the championship, and they will likely have the match of the night at Battleground.
Both guys know what it takes to get over, and they have always worked hard to do just that. WWE has allowed them to be themselves, which has done nothing but help their careers. Owens and Styles have followed similar paths thus far, and this will certainly not be the last time those paths will cross.
They're both part of the company's immediate future, and they will hopefully be around for a long time to come.
John Cena vs. Rusev
When John Cena speaks, people listen.
Cena's haters are still alive and well; they're still clamoring for a heel turn that will probably never happen. His critics are also surely upset that he will eventually win the WWE Championship for the 17th time. But when Cena talks about the country he loves, everyone pays attention.
Rusev is the foreign threat this time out, and Cena has said a lot about this match.
The American and Bulgarian flags will be in the corners of Rusev and Cena, respectively. Pride is involved this time out, and whoever pulls down his flag will forever have bragging rights over the other man. But could Rusev actually win this one?
If Mahal has a chance against Orton, why would Rusev not have a chance against Cena?
But if Cena does lose, where would he go from there? Would he really be the next man up to challenge Mahal for the WWE Championship considering he lost a flag match against a guy who's rarely been featured over the past couple of months?
Cena will likely walk away with the win, but that would not necessarily kill Rusev's momentum because Rusev doesn't really have any momentum yet. This match seems to be nothing more than a throwaway bout, a way to get Cena back to title contention.
Rusev would actually be in no worse shape than he is now.
Of course, none of this means that Cena and Rusev will take the night off. This match may or may not have lasting repercussions past July 23, but it's still a main event-caliber bout. Both men will surely give a great effort to entertain and to give fans their money's worth.
This one is all about pride, and both men definitely have an abundance of it.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, iHeart Radio, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online at boinkstudios.com