WWE Battleground 2017 Results: Kevin Owens and the Biggest Stars of the Night
And then it was SmackDown's turn.
With Great Balls of Fire, Raw set a bar that was near insurmountable; they put on an exclusive pay-per-view that could have stood in for SummerSlam. SmackDown had to follow that act on Sunday night, and they had to do it with a diminished roster (which became even more diminished with the defection of Jason Jordan).
Did they surpass Raw? No, they did not. There was no way they could top the circus theatrics of Roman Reigns versus Braun Strowman or the pure physicality of Samoa Joe versus Brock Lesnar.
However, the show was solid (the Punjabi Prison match, in particular, was a pleasant surprise) and every match built to a bigger rematch at SummerSlam.
Here are the biggest stars of the evening at WWE Battleground.
WWE fans don't always get to see Xavier Woods wrestle. Usually, he's the odd man out in The New Day's matches; his job has always been to provide the charisma and humor to WWE's most popular tag team.
But when Woods does get in the ring, it's always interesting. The match's dynamics change significantly; he has a distinct underdog vibe that Big E decidedly lacks. Every pin attempt on Woods is a bit more suspenseful, and every one of his victorious high spots is a bit more thrilling.
Back when The New Day were feuding with the Wyatt Family, Woods stole the show with his excellent storytelling—once afraid of Bray Wyatt, he managed to overcome his fears.
There is the possibility of a similar dynamic in this feud. Here's hoping we haven't seen the last of Woods' in-ring action for this feud.
Baron Corbin continues his deliberate climb up the WWE ladder, this time with a great performance against Shinsuke Nakamura.
He juxtaposed perfectly against Nakamura's more flamboyant theatrics and delivered the low blow to give the Japanese the dirty win. He wasn't even close to defeat; he just provided it to be a jerk and that kept both superstars looking strong.
Eventually, Nakamura is going over; he has to if WWE wants to eventually push him as champion material. But Corbin did a great job of hanging tough and absorbing the stiffest knees in the business. When he finally cashes in, he's going to be a legitimate contender.
Could it be? Could Natalya—long-overlooked, long-unappreciated Natalya—finally clinch the women's title for the second time in her lengthy career? The last time she held the women's title, it was still called the Divas championship.
During Sunday night's match, Natayla showed off her Hart-style non-theatrics. She kept things simple but fundamental and effective. She got her knees up on Charlotte's moonsault and opportunistically slammed Charlotte's head into the bottom turnbuckle. She then finished the match with a pin, but it was surprising that she didn't win with her Sharpshooter. WWE ought to switch up their finishes more often.
Natalya is now in the best position to win the Smackdown's women's title at SummerSlam. Hopefully, WWE pulls the trigger—if for no other reason, than to thank her for years of hard work and for always being an incredible female wrestler, Divas Revolution or not.
Kevin Owens and AJ Styles
It feels redundant to continue celebrating the same two guys for the same reason, but again AJ Styles and Kevin Owens stole the show.
This, right here, was how it's supposed to be done. This match had wonderful pacing; Owens gets some great heel heat by rolling out at opportune times, and he continued to impress by moving as well as he can, for a man as big as he is.
Styles impressed even more by lifting Owens with a series of grapple moves that looked effortless, particularly the torture rack near the end of the match.
It's unfortunate that one of them had to lose, and with such a weird finish—everybody, including the referee, looked confused and not in a good way.
This is the type of match that deserved to be at the top of the card for the big title, rather than at the middle for a midcard title. At least the two men are increasing the prestige of the United States Championship, which is more than can be said for the WWE Championship.
This was a match that was an uphill battle from the start. No matter the table spot or the prolonged suspense in the ring, this match was two grown men—who have feuded before—fighting over a pair of flags.
It wasn't compelling; the USA-versus-evil-foreigner schtick barely worked when Rusev rode a tank into WrestleMania. It certainly isn't believable now.
Cena won, as he should have. WWE needs to build him up for his inevitable title fight against Jinder Mahal.
And Rusev? He needs a hard reboot. Scrap the character, the music and the name. Start from scratch, because this Bulgarian Brute act is never getting over. He's had too many losses, and he's not scary anymore. He would probably make a better babyface at this point. He has a goofy sense of humor on Total Divas that he can transfer over to SmackDown.
The Singh Brothers have turned stooging into a fine art. They're like two annoying gnats that buzz around an opponent's head, giving Jinder Mahal just enough of an edge to pull out close victories.
The Punjabi Prison match was surprisingly good. And the Singh Brothers were the catalyst for every one of the best spots; they trapped Randy Orton in the first prison and prevented him from escaping the second by hugging his legs. They oversell perfectly, and Samir took a sick bump to an outside table after crawling though the holes in the prison.
The Great Khali will get most of the hype and headlines after a pretty cool cameo near the end, but the Singh Brothers were Sunday's big stars.