WWE Battleground 2016
Verizon Center – Washington DC
July 24, 2016

Watch: WWE Network

Welcome to the VOW preview of WWE Battleground 2016! From the United States capital city, WWE Battleground 2016 is set to determine the fate of multiple championships’ future. It’ll also determine the identity in some cases of Raw and Smackdown going forward.

Your VOW Battleground preview panel…

  • Rob McCarron (@ShakeThemRopes): Host of Shake Them Ropes on VOW, and 2nd runner up to be named Smackdown General Manager.
  • Sean Flynn (@spiffie6123): Former WWE Raw columnist for VOW, and current US Ambassador to the Uhaa Nation.
  • Barry Hess (@BFHess171): Columnist at VOW, and former legal counsel at Bapip, Pecota, Vorp & Eckstein.

Sasha Banks & ? vs. Charlotte and Dana Brooke

Rob McCarron: There appear to be two likely candidates for Sasha Banks’ partner. One of them, though, seems to be stuck as the new Finn Bálor role – the role of always being presumed as the next call up, fitting into whichever hole is necessary. Off TV for a while, Naomi could very well fit in here, as well. She’s a former teammate of Sasha, and has been off of television in a meaningful role for some time. Bayley being a key part of NXT Takeover: Back to Brooklyn does not disqualify her from appearing at Battleground, though. Last year, many NXT talents working the SummerSlam weekend Takeover were called up the month prior. I’ll go with the Naomi, guess, just to refrain myself from always expecting Bayley for her to never come up. Prediction: Sasha Banks & Naomi

Sean Flynn: How you feel about this match is almost wholly dependent on who you think ? is. If you think it will be Bayley, then the match should be a showcase for her, where she beats Dana but only after she shows she can get Charlotte. If you think it will be the last time for the near future for Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Charlotte to be in the ring together at the same time it would be hoped that this will be their chance to have one last blowout match, and Becky beating Charlotte could propel the creation of a second women’s belt for SDLive. And if, like me, you assume the worst in all things, you see Nia Jax as the mystery partner. She throws around Charlotte and Dana for a bit, proceeds to turn on Sasha, and ends up as the enforcer for the two blondes. Prediction: Charlotte & Dana Brooke

Barry Hess: With Charlotte and Sasha Banks having both been drafted to Raw; their anticipated collision course for supremacy in the Women’s division all but guaranteed, this tag team match appears to be the traditional conduit to a singles match at SummerSlam next month. Banks’ inability to overcome the numbers game has been the primary focus of the story thus far, an obstacle neutralized by the mystery partner’s involvement. Bayley’s failure to be drafted makes her involvement unlikely (not impossible) and that is for the best. As Sasha and Charlotte inch closer to a title confrontation the focus should remain squarely on them. Inserting Bayley at this stage in the game would be counterproductive to establishing Sasha as the top babyface of the division. Since all three announced combatants belong to the Raw brand it’s only logical that the mystery partner will come from the new roster, right? Maybe not. It’s possible the returning Naomi (drafted to Smackdown brand) could show up for a Team B.A.D. swan song before making the move to Tuesday nights. More important than the mystery partner, this match will set the tone for the new Raw brand of women’s wrestling. It also has the opportunity to revitalized WWE’s women’s division on the whole, which has lost much of its’ steam since WrestleMania 32. Bottom line, the stakes are incredibly high for these women, Sasha and Charlotte especially. Prediction: Sasha Banks & Mystery Partner

The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) vs. The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman)

Rob McCarron: Bray Wyatt is casually walking away from this cursed trio after Battleground, heading off to Smackdown. Sure, Rowan is following him there; but Rowan may be the forgotten man left to work the openers of Main Event for months to come until Luke Harper returns to save him from irrelevance. New Day, on the other hand, remains a unit on Raw following the show. New Day should triumph as they head off to their next adventure. Prediction: The New Day

Sean Flynn: Once you’ve fought on a rural compound how the hell do you go back to fighting in the ring? The only thing that would bring me joy with this match would be if Broken Matt Hardy appeared and schooled all these #BrotherNero jamokes in what it means to be insane and insanely entertaining. It feels like its about time for a summer-fall Strowman push, and having him hug someone’s head until they fall asleep feels like the ending. Especially with most of the hosses being on Raw, there’s big guy matches waiting for Braun all the way until the frost comes to Erick Rowan’s vineyard. Prediction: Wyatt Family

Barry Hess: The draft didn’t do this match any favors. All three members of The New Day were drafted to Raw as the current champions of the tag team division; the Wyatt Family was not so lucky. Bray and Erick Rowan now find themselves on SmackDown while Braun Strowman heads to Raw, breaking up the trio as we knew it to exist. With everyone involved heading in different directions, this lackluster match is the blow off to what has been a lackluster rivalry. The six-man aspect removes the tag titles from the equation, making it even more insignificant. The match between Bray and Xavier Woods Tuesday on Smackdown actually exhibited some intriguing chemistry between the two. The best we can hope for is a brief continuation of that chemistry for an entertaining but meaningless match before we can all put this story behind us and hope for bigger and better things for everyone involved. Prediction: The New Day

WWE United States Championship
Rusev (c) vs. Zack Ryder

Rob McCarron: The big question with the US and Intercontinental Championship matches for me is… Will both titles switch shows already? WWE loves this, and they’ve done it before. Could Ryder win, bringing the US Title to Smackdown? Then, Young wins, and brings the IC Title to Raw. Big swerve. The problem is this – can WWE book a show where both Darren Young AND Zack Ryder win singles titles on the same PPV? I don’t see that happening, but it’d be cool if it does. Prediction: Rusev

Sean Flynn: Last summer John Cena made the U.S. Title into the wrestling belt. With the way the draft has turned out the timing is right for Rusev to turn that belt into the Hossweight title. Given that Ryder has his Hype Brother on the main roster now it would make zero sense at all to move the belt here. Let Rusev Crush and have Mojo come out to make the save when Rusev just won’t stop Crushing. Prediction: Rusev

Barry Hess: In yet another curious example of a character failing on an upward trajectory, Zack Ryder challenges for the US title despite a glaring lack of progression in the character’s journey. Since his unexpected win at WrestleMania 32 Ryder has had a steady but largely unassuming presence on television. Conversely, Rusev has been presented as the dangerous heel character since reclaiming the title earlier this year, a role that has served him very well. Rusev has done his best work during his two runs as US champion, but by no means is he hollow without it, especially with plenty of compelling dance partners waiting for him on Raw. The inter-brand dynamic is the most intriguing aspect of this match. Should Ryder win he takes the title with him to Smackdown, erasing one of Raw’s championships in the wake of post-draft concerns that Smackdown appears to be the weaker brand. There is, however, a wildcard to consider. Like Ryder, Mojo Rawley was also drafted to Smackdown. Since the two were drafted separately it’s unclear if the they will rekindle the Hype Bros tag team of mild NXT fame or not. If so, it’s unlikely the title changes hands. The fact that Rawley was drafted indicates, to me, that WWE is leaning in the tag team direction. Prediction:  Rusev

WWE Intercontinental Championship
The Miz (c) vs. Darren Young

Rob McCarron: Bob Backlund might have a setback in his quest to make Darren Young Great (Again).  Prediction: The Miz

Sean Flynn: This is just a terrible thing. The best hope for this match is that Young has a bout of 24 hour flu causing Backlund to have to take his place. After dominating Miz for a few minutes Miz rolls out of the ring and offers to be Bob’s campaign manager for another run at the Presidency. Bob films six months of vignettes culminating in Damien Sandow returning as Abe Lincoln to sneak attack Miz and then we forget everything post Mizdow ever happened. Prediction: Miz

Barry Hess: The Intercontinental title was the beneficiary of a strong program this spring before cooling off considerably to start the summer months; the result of Miz being pulled from television to film a movie. Darren Young enters Battleground the recipient of a makeover designed to repackage the former tag team specialist as a singles competitor. With only two weeks of build this title match doesn’t have much weight behind it at all. The second of three inter-brand title matches on the card, it seems unlikely Young walks away with the championship given that such an event could place all the undercard titles on the Raw brand. However, should the US title change hands (and brands) prior to this match it could be possible. The fact that Miz and Young were drafted to different brands combined with the minimal build suggests the status quo will not change. With Young still in the early stages of his quest to become great (again?) a loss in his first chance to win a singles title is more in line with the story being told. Prediction: The Miz

Becky Lynch vs. Natalya

Rob McCarron: This match is for the (non-existent yet) WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship. With Alexa Bliss, Carmella, and All Red Everything breathing down their neck, can Natalya and Becky show why they belong atop the newly formed Smackdown women’s division!? Prediction: Becky Lynch

Sean Flynn: This has some real potential to deliver. That is if it gets time and isn’t dragged down by any crappy surrounding angles. I’m guessing that this leads to the creation of a women’s belt (maybe the Divas title returns just in time for Nikkisawa’s return) for SD. Becky is ready to be the top face on a brand so I’m thinking a good clean win with the handshake of respect after. And a calm before the eventual storm named Asuka. Prediction: Becky Lynch

Barry Hess: Becky and Natalya have been positioned as the top two female stars of the Smackdown brand so it’s important that they over deliver in the brand’s first showcase. The Smackdown women’s division can’t help but feel somewhat secondary due to the fact that the Women’s title is on Raw. In lieu of championship conflicts (at least for the moment) Smackdown’s female division must be ripe with compelling character-centric conflict. Becky and Natalya have the required skill sets to achieve such an outcome. The rivalry between the two has heated up over the last week, especially after the fiery exchange between the two on Smackdown. Now that Becky is positioned as the top babyface of her division, her character’s trajectory will be interesting to follow. Since WrestleMania 32 the Lass Kicker has been presented in the same vein as Bayley in 2014 and early 2015 (NXT). Should that continue she isn’t likely to stand tall after Battleground. However, if she is about to transform into a badass loner-type (which has been teased more than once over the last 12 months without fully pulling the trigger) she may go over as a transition to another angle. The chemistry between these two should be strong in the ring regardless of the outcome. Prediction: Natalya

John Cena, Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. The Club (AJ Styles, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson)

Rob McCarron: The Club didn’t spli up, they expanded to both shows. That won’t be enough here, though. John Cena vs AJ Styles is what matters out of this, so neither of them should be pinned. Poor Karl Anderson, he’s probably taking the loss. Prediction: John Cena, Enzo Amore & Big Cass

Sean Flynn: The #1 face in the company, the best young prospect, the baddest heel faction, and John Cena. All Hail and WATTBA. Expect a fast pace, and scorching hot tags to Cass. I really want to believe the point of this match is to strap the rocket to Enzo and Cass using Cena’s star power as fuel. I’m all in on Enzo and Cass being a unit that might not always tag together but will always roll together. Prediction: John Cena, Enzo Amore & Big Cass

Barry Hess: Unlike the other six-man tag on the card, this match is not hurt by the post-draft dynamic in the least, this despite the fact that The Club was separated between both brands. The program as a whole has benefited all six participants thus far and this match will likely set the SummerSlam table for all involved. Being positioned with John Cena has elevated Enzo and Big Cass into a credible tag team as opposed to strictly a comedic act. Likewise, Styles has helped position Gallows and Anderson as a compelling heel team. Cena and Styles have been on solid ground since the start of their story; their chemistry becomes more intriguing with each interaction. Their involvement in this match should be peripheral; just enough to advance their likely altercation at SummerSlam. The larger goal of this match should be to prepare the respective tag teams for their forthcoming program in the absence of their greater anchors. For that reason, don’t accept Cena or Styles to be involved in the finish. The outcome can really go either way and make sense, but either Enzo or Big Cass getting a shining moment on a larger stage feels like the best bet. Prediction: John Cena, Enzo Amore & Big Cass

Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens

Rob McCarron: I believe this will actually be the end of the program between these two for the time being. Sure, they were drafted to the same show, but there is something else within that show that should separate the two – The Cruiserweight Division. Eagle-eyed readers out there may have seen that WWE recently updated Sami Zayn’s billed weight – from 212 lbs to 205 lbs – indicating that Zayn could potentially be shifted to the cruiserweight division. With Finn Bálor on his way up, and Neville returning, the cruiserweight division will look an awfully lot like the 2014 NXT main event scene. Prediction: Kevin Owens

Sean Flynn: I really hope that drafting these two together was a clerical error that will be corrected at some point. Or that the GMs watch the match and decide they need to be separated so Zayn goes to SD. Because they need some absence to make the heart grow more hateful.  You know this match will be great 99/100 times. You don’t need me to tell you that. I agree with my colleague and expect a non finish. Prediction: No Contest/DDQ

Barry Hess: This rivalry is the gift that continues to give. Akin to a WWF midcard feud in the early 1990s, the program between Owens and Zayn has been chugging along for seven months now (WWE proper). The story has been simple yet subtle, consistent without becoming monotonous, exciting but not over the top, dramatic but not melodramatic; WWE’s weekly segment of pure pro wrestling. The former best friends turned bitter enemies have taken turns screwing one another over in high profile situations like the Royal Rumble match, the WrestleMania 32 ladder match for the Intercontinental title and the Money in the Bank match. The bad blood has escalated to the point where neither man can continue his career unless he first eliminates the other; an all-consuming hatred that has brought the careers of beth men to a screeching hault. With speculation abound that the rivals would surely be separated during the draft it shouldn’t be all that surprising that the opposite actually occurred. Look for the same misdirection to show up at Battleground in terms of the rivalry coming to a head once and for all. These two have more story to tell, more venom to spew and more show stealing action to deliver. Prediction: No Contest/Draw

WWE Championship
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins

Rob McCarron: I’m really intrigued by the direction coming out of this. I’ll tell you right now, I think Dean Ambrose walks out with the title. Who wins? I’m not sure. Probably Seth. But for Dean, his positioning on Smackdown out of this show is interesting. Cena and Styles appear to be higher on the pecking order, which is nuts considering Dean is world champ. I almost see Dean as 2008 era CM Punk. He’s upper midcard, and the fans like him, but his title reign is meaningless and only happens because of craziness around draft time. Look at the two, they’re quite similar. Prediction: Seth Rollins

Sean Flynn: After all this time, on a middling show, the Shield finally meets in a three way match. And the hype is nonexistent. I honestly don’t know how you can make that happen. But here we are. Once again the title feels like an afterthought compared to the battles between various McMahons and their proxies. The match should be very good to excellent, but it all seems meaningless somehow. Something will happen and there’ll be a deunified title and Stephanie will growl and Shane will shuffle and we’ll all be David Byrne asking now did we get here, but rather My God, what have we done? Prediction: Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins both are declared winners by a owner/GM combo

Barry Hess: Timing is everything in pro wrestling; pull the trigger too fast and you risk presenting a story before it’s fully incubated, pull the trigger to slowly and you risk losing the emotional investment of the audience. Then there’s the wildcard called the real world, which has a way of turning yesterday’s creative gold into tomorrow’s booking garbage. It’s been two years since Seth Rollins’ heel turn disbanded The Shield and placed the trio on a surefire collision course. Over that period of time all three have traveled an ever-changing path in terms of creative direction and investment from the audience. Each of the three have held the WWE title in a round robin of angles ranging from immensely popular to outright apathetic. 2015 was Rollins’ year. Then November came along and put an abrupt end to his reign as champion. 2016 was supposed to be Reigns’ year. A post-WrestleMania 32 transformation presented the best version of the character to date. Then a Wellness Policy violation put an abrupt end to that. Ambrose is currently the man, though he feels like more of a place holder than a credible champion. Throw the brand extension dynamic into the already complex equation and you’re left with the main event of Battleground; a match that was once eagerly anticipated but is now mildly enticing, leaving most to ponder what could have been. That said, the match itself should be highly entertaining. The chemistry between all three men has always been strong. In what will be the last Network special before Brand Split 2.0 officially begins, much of the focus of the match will be on which brand emerges as the owner of the WWE title. Reigns’ wellness violation likely eliminates any chances he walks away with the title, in fact, he is most likely the man to have his shoulders pinned in the end. That leaves Ambrose and Rollins. The last time we saw the two in the ring Ambrose earned a clean victory in the middle of the ring; that leads me to think Rollins is walking out of Battleground with the title around his waist. Prediction: Seth Rollins