Saturday, April 20, 2024

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Battleground in Review: Emotions Run High

Last night at Battleground, we saw a lot from the Divas: the good, the bad, the controversial. How much we saw of each depends on where you stand, I guess.

Before the official show could begin, however, we had Battleground Kickoff, which featured a match between erstwhile Funkadactyls Cameron and Naomi:

Naomi goes after Cameron before the match can officially start, forcing the referee to step between them. The bell rings, but Cameron still isn’t crazy about going against this intense version of Naomi. She hides behind the ropes and waits for her to come close, sneaking a kick between the ropes and then going on the attack.

She slams Naomi to the mat and knocks her to the outside, slamming her back-first into the ring apron. Cameron tosses her back into the ring, going for an early pin. Naomi kicks out.

Cameron plants a boot into Naomi’s back, trapping her in a submission hold. After a bit, she kicks Naomi out of the hold. Naomi reverses a whip into the ropes but misses a dropkick. Cameron tries to roll through and snag another pin attempt, but Naomi keeps the momentum going and ends up on top, pummeling Cameron with closed fists.

The Divas get to their feet, Cameron trying to fight Naomi off. Naomi can’t be stopped, though, hitting a Lou Thesz press and continuing to beat her down. Cameron heads to the outside for a respite, Naomi chasing her. They make it to the entrance ramp before Naomi brings her back, tossing Cameron into the barricade. Naomi tries to stop Cameron from entering the ring, but Cameron is able to fight her off and scramble back in.

Naomi follows, whipping Cameron into the ropes. Cameron blocks a back body drop attempt with a kick, slapping Naomi for good measure. She second guesses this when she sees Naomi’s reaction, though, and again tries to run for it. Naomi grabs Cameron by the hair, but is sent throat-first into the ropes, freeing Cameron.

Cameron suddenly rolls up Naomi, grabbing a fistful of tights to get enough leverage to get the win. Cameron beats Naomi! Even more importantly, the two have a staredown post-match, indicating that this feud is not finished.

Also in the pre-show, we saw a glimpse of Layla and Summer Rae as they continued their two-woman crusade against Fandango, accompanying his opponent Adam Rose to ringside:

On the Pay-Per-View itself, we got a controversial appearance by Lana, who made some choice remarks against America before Rusev‘s match against Jack Swagger. Unfortunately, I can’t find video of it, so you’ll have to head to the WWE Network to see that one.

I’m not going to touch on her promo in detail, but I will say that I think it was in bad taste to reference the downing of flight MH17 directly, if not by name. There are some things that shouldn’t be used to get heat, and real life tragedy is one of them. I think she should have stuck to the usual anti-American, pro-Russia script and let the fans read between the lines. They’re going to make the connection without them having to spell it out, and that way the WWE wouldn’t look so gauche. That’s just my opinion, though..

Back to wrestling. Shortly before this segment, we had our Divas Championship match, which saw AJ Lee defend the belt against her self-professed “frenemy” Paige:

Paige initiated a handshake before they get started and takes control of the opening tie-up, backing AJ up against the ropes. She displays some nice cockiness here, applauding AJ sarcastically. They tie up again, AJ getting control this time and backing Paige into the ropes. It’s AJ’s turn to mock her opponent, skipping a bit.

The Divas circle each other again, Paige kneeing AJ in the stomach. Paige whips AJ into the ropes, but on the return AJ leaps onto her, rolling her into a quick pin attempt. Paige reverses it into a pin of her own, which AJ kicks out of.

AJ kicks Paige in the stomach and runs the ropes, but gets a boot to the face. Paige goes for another pin, but AJ kicks out. She drags AJ to her feet and lays her out with a headbutt. She tosses AJ into the corner, stomping on her, but not before reminding AJ that she’s her friend. Aw..

Paige hits a scoop slam and tries for another pin. AJ kicks out. Paige drapes AJ over the middle rope and hits a barrage of knees before sending her back into the ring for another unsuccessful pin attempt. Paige doesn’t relent, capturing AJ in a headlock. AJ tries to power out, but Paige slams her to the mat. She plants a knee into the spine of AJ and wrenches her arms back.

AJ powers out of the submission, but is immediately clotheslined by Paige. Paige goes for the pin, AJ kicking out at two. Paige hoists AJ up on her shoulder, but before she can act, AJ turns the move into one hell of a DDT, planting Paige’s head onto the mat.

Both Divas are slow to get to their feet, but when they do Paige charges at AJ, taking them both through the ropes and to the outside (….eventually…). Paige tosses AJ into the barricade before sending her back into the ring. Paige climbs to the top rope, but AJ follows her, going for a move of her own. Paige stops her and hits a top rope sunset flip, turning it into a pin attempt that AJ kicks out of.

Paige is visibly upset, getting frustrated. She grabs AJ by the feet, but AJ kicks her off, running to a corner and fighting off Paige again. She leaps off the second rope, but Paige catches her, looking to slam her to the mat. Mid-swing, though, AJ latches on the Black Widow!

Paige stays strong despite her anguished screams, though, powering out of the hold impressively. She immediately hits the Paigeturner and goes for the pin. AJ kicks out!

This only frustrates Paige more, who looks to be on the verge of tears. She wallows a bit in her frustration before getting to her feet and trying to lock in to PTO. AJ counters before she can lock it in, though, rolling it into a pin attempt. She can’t get Paige’s shoulders flat, though, and Paige reverses it into one of her own. AJ kicks out.

Immediately, AJ springs to her feet and hits the Shining Wizard! She pins Paige and gets the three-count. AJ retains the Divas Title! Paige exits the ring quietly, still playing nice and applauding AJ, though you’d be a fool to not think she’s plotting something here.

Thoughts: Judging by reactions on the internet, both Divas matches underwhelmed. I’m not going to disagree with that. After all, Diva fans have been on a high of sorts, seeing how extensively the women been used on WWE television lately. These matches just didn’t live up to the hype. They weren’t bad by any means, but they certainly could have been better.

I think the Cameron/Naomi match did its job, as far as advancing their feud goes. If this were the blowoff match between them, I think it would be a different story. I didn’t expect Cameron to win, but I kind of hoped she would, as I thought that would keep this feud going. Since she did, and Cameron and Naomi had that meaningful staredown afterwards, I think we can all assume that they’re not finished with each other. That’s good, because they deserve better than this match.

Again, it wasn’t *bad*, but it felt rushed. Granted, closing out the pre-show definitely puts you on a time limit, so maybe that had something to do with it. As for any sloppiness, I think a first match between former friends should “color outside the lines” a bit, and I think they did that here, to an extent. They want to fight, not wrestle. Looking back, I think they should have had a full-on brawl a la Lita and Trish Stratus at Survivor Series 2004 in order to sell Naomi’s frustration. No, she wouldn’t have busted out a steel chair on Cameron, but I would have rather seen them they “screw the rules” and fight instead of wrestle at this stage, since this appears to be the mid-point in their feud. It would have made for a better story, anyways. Still, seeing Cameron steal the win helps carry them forward. Naomi’s going to want revenge, and I can’t wait to see what she’s going to do to get it.

Similarly, the AJ/Paige match didn’t deliver all that its storyline promised. Granted, most of the hype (at least for me) consisted of what Paige would do here: would she finally turn heel? Mostly what disappointed me was the fact that Paige didn’t turn. She played her role well in the match, though, getting frustrated and mocking AJ while still hiding behind the veil of friendly competition. I just don’t see why they didn’t pull the trigger here – it certainly would have made this match matter more. As it is, it’s a rehash of the last few weeks, Paige playing the gracious loser. Maybe Paige has some master plan she’ll put into motion now that she’s lost? I can’t see how she’d blindside AJ, though, because I really doubt AJ buys “nice Paige” for one second.

As for the match itself, I can’t see why these two – great wrestlers, in my opinion – couldn’t put together a cleaner match. The lack of flow kind of surprised me, as did the bits of sloppiness. I know these Divas have an amazing match in them: I can see the makings of it here. They just need to get on the same page. Most of us assumed that these two would face off again at SummerSlam, so we weren’t expecting them to leave it all out in the ring at Battleground. I can understand the temptation to hold back, since this is clearly a stepping stone, but that doesn’t explain their lack of chemistry. Hell, maybe the hype was too much and got in their heads. I mean, I saw many people call this their “dream match”. It would be hard for anyone to live up to that, but they didn’t even scratch the surface here. Maybe next time..

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