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WWE Battleground 2016 airs this Sunday, July 24, live on WWE Network. The show is headlined by the former members of The Shield in a triple threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, as well as a pair of six-man tag team matches and the “maybe last ever, we swear” confrontation between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens.
Here’s the complete card as we know it:
WWE Battleground 2016 Card
1. Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns
2. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
3. The Club (AJ Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson) vs. John Cena, Enzo Amore and Big Cass
4. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya
5. The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman and Erick Rowan) vs. The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Big E)
6. Charlotte and Dana Brooke vs. Sasha Banks and ???
7. Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs. Darren Young
8. United States Championship Match: Rusev (c) vs. Zack Ryder
As always, here are our predictions and analyses. Be sure to drop down into our comments section and let us know what you think will happen, and who will win that long-awaited Dana Brooke tag.
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United States Championship Match: Rusev (c) vs. Zack Ryder
What Should Happen: Battleground should open with Rusev in the ring holding a big spiked pole with Zack Ryder’s head on it, like the people with the flags in the commercials. And he should have no idea how to wave it.
What Will Happen: WWE’s done a surprisingly good job building up Ryder as a guy who loses the matches you think he’s gonna win and winning the matches you think he’s gonna lose, so there’s a chance they could have him pull off a miracle and defeat Rusev here. They shouldn’t, though, because one of these dudes is Zack Ryder and the other is Rusev. Zack puts up a strong fight, but Rusev retains and the glorious 7-year reign as United States Champion continues.
Bill Hanstock – Wait … wait a minute. If Ryder wins, that means Smackdown gets the United States title. Wait, John Cena will be on Smackdown. SWITCH BOTH SECONDARY TITLES UNITED STATES OPEN CHALLENGE FOREVERRRRR. (Rusev wins.)
Scott Heisel – While Zack Ryder might have a new T-shirt and a new theme song, he’s also no longer on the same show as Rusev (just as Miz and Darren Young have been split up). So either both belts will be switched or, more likely, neither belt will be switched and each feud is going to expire this Sunday. I’m picking Ru-Ru to win here, and I also wouldn’t be surprised if we see Young go after the US championship and Ryder try to regain his IC belt post-brand split.
Ross Bentley – See my answer to the IC title match. I think Rusev retains as a result of Miz’s victory earlier in the show Also, The Hype Bros are totally going to be a thing on Smackdown so Ryder can’t be holding a singles title right now.
Justin Donaldson – The new Zack Ryder could potentially pull off a really great match with Rusev. This has the potential to be a real sleeper. As fun as it would be to see Ryder pull off another miracle and beat Rusev, this is not the time to have Rusev lose. Rusev crushes Ryder and gets the win. Maybe Mojo Rawley shows up to save Ryder in a post-match beatdown? I’m not the biggest fan of the Hype Bros, but Smackdown sure could use another tag team.
Austin Heiberg – I don’t think I’ve ever picked anyone on the strength of their Twitter banter, but that streak ends now. Rusev retains in a walk.
David D. – Rusev is one of the three best guys in WWE now and I can’t get enough of him. He’ll crush Zack Ryder and hopefully make fun of his dad in the front row. Then tweet a hilarious rap reference in response.
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Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs. Darren Young
What Should Happen: See below.
What Will Happen: Darren Young’s sudden rise to mid-card fame has been a lot of fun and Bob Backlund is the man, but it’s just too much too fast. Miz has been sorta defined by starting fun stories and having them stall out before they reach a satisfying conclusion. There isn’t much story yet but there’s a ton of potential, and then boop, Young and Miz are on different shows. So I say Miz retains via chicanery, keeps the IC strap on Smackdown, and Young hopefully moves on to something fun and productive. If he goes back to pre-taped vignettes like the Shining Stars, I’m flipping a table.
Bill Hanstock – I would be stunned — STUNNED! — if Darren Young won the Intercontinental Championship. Weirder things have happened, but no. These two are heading to different shows and unless WWE wants the belts to go to the opposite shows from the ones they were drafted onto, Young will have to take a close loss and look good in the process.
Scott Heisel – My wife’s favorite thing on WWE TV for the past two months has been the Darren Young/Bob Backlund vignettes. Like, if she’s doing something in another room and hears one comes on, she literally runs in to watch it. So clearly this story has connected with more people than maybe some of us neckbeards expected. It would be cool to see D-Young win here but I don’t think Backlund’s done coaching his life yet—maybe the Chickenwing gets applied and then Maryse interferes to cost Young the victory? Yeah, that works for now.
Ross Bentley – Whichever match between this and the US title match that goes on first will give away the result of the other one as they are not going to have the US and IC title on the same show. Considering that, that means either both D-Young and Ryder win to switch which show has which title, or both champions retain. I think the latter is more likely, so I’ll take The Miz to win here with Maryse’s assistance.
Justin Donaldson – This is a tough one. I could definitely see Darren Young taking it, but then that gives Raw every belt. So I guess I’m going with Miz retaining. Either way, I’d still prefer if this match was Bob Backlund vs. The Miz.
Austin Heiberg – Thou shalt not pick against Bob Backlund. My hands are tied on this one. Darren Young is your new Intercontinental Champion.
David D. – Darren Young has a cute little following going into this match but Miz is hitting on all cylinders right now. He’s winning and getting a clean pin finally.
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Charlotte and Dana Brooke vs. Sasha Banks and ???
What Should Happen: Everybody wants the mystery partner to be Bayley, right? But Bayley’s got an NXT Women’s Championship match coming up and we don’t want to kill the drama of that. Also, are we ready for Bayley on the main roster? Are we okay losing that character in its pure form? My “what should happen” would normally be “have someone else be the tag partner and hold off on Bayley for something more important down the road,” but we might be in that Rey Mysterio/Daniel Bryan Royal Rumble territory where anything but Bay makes the crowd mad.
What Will Happen: Sasha’s team wins, because (1) there’s a mystery partner, and you’ve gotta pay that off with a win, and (2) Sasha vs. Charlotte’s definitely happening at SummerSlam. Bonus points if the mystery partner is just Paige.
Bill Hanstock – Hey you know who the mystery partner is going to be? NOT BAYLEY. It might be Nia Jax, but I think the likely culprit is the return of the new-look Naomi. Sasha’s team will probably get a victory by submission or pinfall on Dana, allowing Sasha to claim No. 1 contender status heading into her SummerSlam singles championship match.
Scott Heisel – I know we all expect/hope that cluster of question marks to be Bayley, but we all expected/hoped Bayley would’ve been drafted on Tuesday and she wasn’t, and we all expected/hoped Bayley to debut on the Raw after WrestleMania and she didn’t. Maybe we’re setting ourselves up for another disappointment. And really, what does bringing up Bayley do in this situation? She clearly won’t be thrust into the title picture since we all know we’re headed toward Sasha and Charlotte at SummerSlam, so do you really want to watch her lose to Dana Brooke and Summer Rae for a few months until there’s room for her in the storyline? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Nia Jax is Sasha’s surprise partner and becomes Banks’ bodyguard a la Shawn Michaels and Diesel. But regardless of who her surprise partner is, the Banks/??? team wins for sure.
Ross Bentley – Conventional wisdom says Sasha’s partner will be either Bayley or Nikki Bella, but I think Bayley would have just been drafted if she was coming up and it doesn’t seem as though Bella is ready to be back yet. That leads me to believe this is going to be a legend making a one-time return and I’ll go with Trish Stratus with Banks and Trish getting the win.
Justin Donaldson – My heart says Sasha Banks’ mystery partner will be Bayley, but my gut tells me it’s Nia Jax. Either way, Sasha pins Charlotte, because there’s nothing WWE loves more than the challenger pinning the champ in a tag match.
Austin Heiberg – I really wish I had even the slightest idea who Sasha’s partner is here, that’d help me pick. If it’s Bayley (which seems doubtful), then yeah, they’re winning in 30 seconds. But otherwise, anyone else in the Mystery Partner position doesn’t seem like a huge boon for Sasha. Naomi? Carmella? Not exactly power players, even though I enjoy watching them. I’ll go with Charlotte and Dana.
David D. – This match is going to be a letdown because everyone expects Bayley. But I think Bayley shows up at Summerslam. Sasha’s partner is more likely going to be Nia Jax, who then turns on Sasha, giving Charlotte another Horseman and positioning Sasha as the new Sting. God just give me the Charlotte/Sasha match already.
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The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman and Erick Rowan) vs. The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Big E)
What Should Happen: Matt Hardy interferes. I don’t care if it doesn’t make sense, have there be a mysterious red light in the “fireflies,” only for it to be VANGUARD 1. I don’t know. The Wyatt Family wins to get a tag titles shot at SummerSlam? That seems reasonable.
What Will Happen: That, I think. The Wyatt Family fought New Day in their compound, beat them with deadly objects, assaulted them inside of a car (?) and scared them to death with a forest of cultist sheep-men. The next week, New Day was totally fine. So unless we just want to completely neuter the Wyatts … again … they’ve got to take this. I’d book them to beat the ever-loving sh*t out of New Day and just dominate them in a quick win. These guys beat The Shield in their prime, they should eat the New Day for breakfast.
Bill Hanstock – This might be the hardest match on the card to predict. Strowman is about to be on his own, but a loss to New Day without their belts being on the line wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happened if WWE is serious about trying to make Bray a thing again (they’re not and they never will be). I’ll pick the New Day to win and Xavier to reveal this was all the world’s dumbest long-con ruse. Bonus points if Bray debuts Ophidian as his fifth Family member to fully hypnotize Woods. Or the Eye of Tyr or whatever. Triple bonus points if a character gets murdered with an axe.
Scott Heisel – Considering the Wyatts were just broken up via the Draft, it would be pretty dang dumb to have them beat the New Day here — then again, what if the Wyatts do win and then it’s Braun Strowman’s mission to terrorize Big E, Kofi and Xavier on his own? It could actually be a good way to get the New Day in more than one storyline at the same time — have Big E go after Braun while Xavier and Kofi have their hands full with Raw’s robust tag division. However, that actually sounds too interesting, so my official prediction is New Day.
Ross Bentley – Yeah…count me along the rest of the people who don’t understand why this match is happening after they already had a death brawl at the Wyatt compound, but whatever. New Day wins because they can’t go forward with a tag title program anymore after Wyatt and Rowan got drafted to SD.
Justin Donaldson – I love both of these groups, but this is maybe the match on the card I’m looking forward to the least. These teams just don’t fit well together. I’m picking New Day to win in a snoozer.
Austin Heiberg – New Day wins so Bray and Rowan can go be ineffectual on Tuesday nights. And then Strowman joins the New Day. Have you seen him as a Rosebud? He knows how to have a good time.
David D. – The New Dayletion video on Raw a few weeks ago seemed to be the proper end to this feud. It’s weird that they tried to kill each other with pickaxes and chainsaws last week but have to have a classic wrestling match after. Since the Wyatts are splitting up, I guess this is the perfect time to get the New Day their win. Afterwards, they officially kick Strowman out and Luke Harper rejoins the fray.
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Becky Lynch vs. Natalya
What Should Happen: Six more months of Natalya pay-per-view matches for all!
What Will Happen: Man, who even knows? I hate to be dismissive of this, but does it matter? This has “kickoff” written all over it. I’d give a strong win to Becky to at least attempt to keep her relevant on the show with the Women’s Championship, but she’s also sorta become WWE’s main roster female Sting, so … Natalya cheats to win. Preferably with Tyson Kidd showing up to cause a distraction and a rollup. They can keep that tradition going and call themselves TEAM SMACKDOWN.
Bill Hanstock – Natalya will probably win this match, because Becky Lynch is basically becoming Irish Alicia Fox at this point. It’s fine, whatever.
Scott Heisel – Becky’s been positioned as the No. 1 woman on Smackdown via the draft, so it would make sense to kick things off with a bang and a decisive victory over Natalya. Since when has WWE booking ever made sense, though? Nattie wins.
Ross Bentley – If they’re going to do a SmackDown Women’s Championship, they should just make this the title match. Regardless, Becky Lynch has to take this as she is miles and miles above Nattie in every way possible.
Justin Donaldson – I hope this is a great match, because with the Women’s Division split these two are going to be feuding with each other forever. I feel like Natalya is going to cheat now that she’s a heel and steal the victory from Becky. But never fear, Becky will get her day. Over and over and over again.
Austin Heiberg – I feel so bad for Becky Lynch. A feud with Natalya is like an infield pop-up to end the inning. That’s it, pump the brakes, say goodbye to your momentum for a while. But on the upside, I feel like she’s poised to be Smackdown’s #1 woman after this feud. I’ll take Becky for the win.
David D. – Here’s another match we thought would be an end. But they’ll both be on Smackdown so this feud will continue…unendingly…for months. *closes eyes and picks* Becky wins. And they build towards…nothing.
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The Club (AJ Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson) vs. John Cena, Enzo Amore and Big Cass
What Should Happen: John Cena gets beaten up. With Anderson and Gallows going in one direction and A Chay Stalls going in the other, this is the perfect time to pull the trigger on some faction dissolution, or at least drop a Real Rock n’ Roller into the mix.
What Will Happen: This should be the best match of the night. All I can see in my head is an Attitude Adjustment followed by a Rocket Launcher, probably on AJ Styles. Then Finn shows up, and we redo the “AJ Styles gets kicked out of the Bullet Club” bit from New Japan on WWE TV.
Bill Hanstock – The Club is about to split (more or less), so I think the good guys take this one. Gallows eats the pin and I think Amore gets the pin via the horribly-named Badaboomshakalaka. Or Cass hits the East River Crossing. At any rate, Cena’s team is usually the favorite, but for some reason I think the hottest act in the entire company will actually make the pinfall. And that’s not Cena.
Scott Heisel – The beauty of this six-man tag is that no matter who wins or loses, it’s really easy to avoid your A-level talent taking the pin. The odds of Styles or Cena being involved in the finish are pretty slim, so I predict Gallows & Anderson score the win with the Magic Killer to Enzo., allowing their tag feud to continue on Raw with Styles and Cena tearing up Smackdown.
Ross Bentley – Enzo and Cass going to Raw, away from both Carmella and their new buddy John Cena is a total bummer. This is another match that feels pointless since all the guys are going to be on different shows come Monday. I’ll say the babyfaces take it to give Enzo and Cass the rub and set up a rematch between Styles and Cena at SummerSlam.
Justin Donaldson – This feels like a great way for Cena to get his win back without actually getting his win back by pinning AJ in the six man tag match. Maybe Gallows and Anderson turn on AJ afterwards? Breaking up The Club was such a stupid decision, why wouldn’t they add another layer of stupidity to that.
Austin Heiberg – I feel like The Club has very little to gain here if they’re losing AJ Styles soon. That probably means they’ll lose, which will send Gallows and Anderson back to Raw in search of both leadership and whoever owns the patent on Bullet Club merchandise, because Finn’s going to fix all of this very soon. I’ll take Cena/Enzo/Cass.
David D. – This is the swan song for the Club in its current incarnation. We’re looking at Styles/Cena at Summerslam and Cena probably beating Styles for the next six months. But for now, The Club gets a decisive win. Then they celebrate and hug and go overboard. Wouldn’t it be sweet if this is where Balor shows up?
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Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
What Should Happen: THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. Just kidding. In a perfect scenario, these guys beat the hell out of each other for half an hour until they can barely stand, then stop one final Frye/Takayama punch-fight in the middle and realize they’re actually still best friends and are sorry about everything. Then we team them up, have them run shop in the tag division for a year, then start realizing that wait, no, they hate each other’s guts.
What Will Happen: I hope it’s that, but if it isn’t, you’ve got to “end the rivalry” with something big. Maybe have Kevin Owens pop Zayn up so high he gets caught in the lights, which then explode and send everything crashing down on Owens. Or, you know, a double KO. Something that doesn’t end with them actually dying.
Bill Hanstock – This is pretty much just the build-up to them having a rematch on Raw on Monday. And then only fighting each other every week forever. I’m going with Zayn to get a win here, because he REALLY NEEDS a big, high-profile win to justify his No. 11 overall pick. Plus, it would signify a type of blowoff and allow the two arch-enemies to do literally anything else for a while.
Scott Heisel – Man, the Draft sure sucked the fun out of this one, no? I think we all expected KO and Sami to be drafted to different shows, given how they’ve been billing this match as “the definitive end of this feud, forever and ever, no take-backsies!” So now what? In a perfect world, you’d give these guys a cage match (or, even better, a Hell In A Cell match) to work out their aggression toward one another on a big platform like SummerSlam, so maybe this match ends in a double countout or no contest or something to keep the train chugging along to Brooklyn? Nah. Owens powerbombs Zayn all the way back to Warped Tour and gets the duke.
Ross Bentley – That whole “destined to fight forever” thing might actually be true after these guys were drafted onto the same show. I’m not entirely sure that they won’t have another match at SummerSlam with a cage or weapons or something to take it up a notch. I’m picking Zayn here since he needs a win to balance this out a little bit.
Justin Donaldson – Now that we know Zayn and Owens are staying on the same brand, I have a hard time believing this is the end. I think this ends in some sort of draw, maybe a double DQ or a double count-out, leading to the really really really final match at Summerslam.
Austin Heiberg – Is this really the be-all end-all if they’re both on Raw? Regardless of the timing issues I have with putting the culmination of the feud on such a minor show (especially when it’s clearly not the culmination), hopefully this catapults both men towards bigger and better things. I’ve got Sami Zayn here. We have to continue making Kevin Owens as mad as humanly possible, that’s when he excels. In any event, it’s actually good that they’re on Raw together, because eventually we’ll have to do a Steenerico run of unlikely tag team champions.
David D. – Remember when we thought this was the end of their feud for a while? It appears that won’t be the case considering they’re both headed to Raw. In any event, I think this is finally the classic we were hoping to get as it’s probably still the blowoff for a while. I think Owens to finally get the win.
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Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns
What Should Happen: This seems like it only exists to substantiate a title split so both shows can have a world champion, right? I say play it straight, and do the belt malfeasance on Monday or Tuesday. Give Seth the clean win over Roman, because that’s (in my opinion) the best story. Roman continues to eat sh*t for a while, Dean loses without losing, and Seth continues secretly being the biggest babyface on the show.
What Will Happen: Belt nonsense and a non-finish. Gotta be. Otherwise, Roman just walks in and takes the belt again, causing the Internet to make that “blowing smoke out of your nose” emoji until SummerSlam.
(Give it to Seth.)
(And have him stop being overtly heel so he doesn’t cut that one promo that always ruins the momentum of everything.)
Bill Hanstock – There are two likely results for this match. The first is that there is a screwjob, multi-pin non-finish that allows the company to have a reason to split the titles. The second is that Seth Rollins wins the belt and begins his next glorious reign as WWE Champion, holding down the top spot on Raw and giving Roman or whoever someone to chase. I just don’t see Dean retaining the belt clean here. I’ll go for the screwy ending and a second world title being introduced in the next couple weeks. The real prediction is just HOW loud the Reigns boos will be. I’m going with “Seahawks playoff game.”
Scott Heisel – The promo build for this has been largely entertaining and engaging, and it appears we have Adderall to thank for that. Will Roman’s 30-day suspension do anything to change his character, or his standing within the company? I’m guessing no, but I’m also guessing that Dean will actually retain this Sunday. However, don’t think that means there won’t be a WWE Championship on Raw — I fully expect Steph to open Raw on Monday with some long-ass 20-minute promo explaining how there is “no way the flagship program of the WWE will be without its crown jewel” and she’ll introduce a new, Raw-exclusive WWE championship that Roman and Seth will battle for at SummerSlam. (Dean will go onto feud with, I dunno, Bray Wyatt, I guess? Not a lot of top-tier heels on the Smackdown roster following the Draft, especially considering AJ Styles is still tied up with Cena.)
Ross Bentley – This whole show is so weird. It feels like all of these matches are rendered useless now that the draft happened and the title match is at the forefront of that. So we just had two WWE title matches this week, with Ambrose coming out as the definitive winner, and now Rollins is getting yet another title shot along with a guy who’s been suspended for the last 30 days? Uh, sure. Anyways, Ambrose will retain because Smackdown desperately needs the WWE title on their brand to have any real significance going forward.
Justin Donaldson – My gut tells me this is some sort of situation where Dean Ambrose gets “screwed” out of the belt, forcing them to create a Smackdown World Championship. Rollins pins Reigns after Ambrose hits Roman with Dirty Deeds.
Austin Heiberg – Unfortunately for Seth Rollins, I only see two possible outcomes. Either Dean Ambrose retains and gets a title reign that actually means something, or Roman Reigns embraces his dark side and Chaotic Evils his way to the championship. The fact that Ambrose is now a top guy on Smackdown makes me think the first is true, but don’t be surprised if it sets up a more clearly defined Seth/Roman feud on Raw. Dean retains.
David D. – It feels like we’re finally at a point where we can no longer assume that everything will be breaking Roman Reigns’ way. I have no clue what they’re going to do with the title in terms of keeping one or splitting them up. But my gut tells me there’s some trickery with Rollins and Ambrose getting a double pin on Reigns, effectively burying him, and we get a belt controversy that gets settled at Summerslam.