What you need to know
There is still no WWE champion. After weeks of indentured servitude and abuse at the hands of Chief Operating Officer (COO) HHH and especially his wife Stephanie McMahon, Big Show snapped last night at Battleground. The title was already held in abeyance due to suspicions of referee impropriety at Night of Champions. And it remains there following Show knocking out everyone but the timekeeper from last night's main event between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton to decide who would hold the gold.
Show wasn't the only one who went off of The Game's script last night. Cody Rhodes and Goldust shocked the tag team champs and thrilled the world with an amazing victory that means their father keeps his job with WWE Developmental, and that they are both employed with the company again. At least for now...
As Eddie Dane would say, Paul Heyman was only half-smart last night. Whether it was a distraction gone wrong or his emotions getting the better of him, his attempt at attacking CM Punk with a kendo stick allowed the Best in the World to deliver a low-blow to Ryback and earn only his second pay-per-view (PPV) victory of 2013 over Heyman's newest "Guy".
Curtis Axel and Alberto Del Rio both retained their titles in Buffalo last night, and grew their reputations as good workers who largely fail to connect with the audience. And, yes, I just lumped the World Heavyweight Championship (WHC) and the Intercontinental title together. Because I don't see how one has significantly more value than the other at this point.
AJ Lee also kept her beloved Divas title at Battleground in another totally decent womens match, this time with the improving Brie Bella. The Total Divas-inspired angle drew Bella twin Nikki and Lee's new enforcer, Tamina Snuka, into the storyline, as an assault on the former by the latter distracted Daniel Bryan's intended.
Primo and Epico are back, but they're bullfighters now. They come to the ring with a little person dressed as a bull who goes by El Torito. This is the most inspired part of their gimmick. Antonio Cesaro is pretty much a babyface now because of the amazing things he can do in the ring. The Usos are still the #1 contenders to Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins tag titles, but I might be the only person who remembers that.
What you should be looking out for
A Pittsburgh crowd that could be either off the charts, exhausted or depressed depending on what goes down at PNC Park earlier in the day.
A long speech from HHH - and it's probably called for this week. Things have not been going as planned for the Best for Business crew lately, and may have really gone off the rails last night if the Big Show is off his leash and looking for revenge. Plus, the next big show, Hell in a Cell, is just three weeks away, so there really is no difference between fallout and build at this point.
What will the COO have to say to World's Largest Athlete? Will the Rhodes boys just quietly be reinstated, or will there be delayed shenanigans? Aitch has shown a willingness to throw the Hounds of Justice under the bus before, will they bear some responsibility for Trip's blueprint not being followed? And, if so, how will they react?
The face reactions to the Cesaro Swing (and his other feats) present an interesting problem for Creative. Do you split up The Real Americans already? Can you even semi-plausibly turn Swagger and Colter, whose gimmick is built on xenophobia?
How will crowds react to Los Matadores? Fans have initially embraced the more outré characters like Fandango, but grow bored with them when the company waffles on their push.
Where does the Heyman Guys story go from here? Presumably it continues, as Punk has not really gotten a satisfying measure of revenge on his former friend and mentor. But will Ryback and his new manager continue being as lovey-dovey after a loss? Curtis Axel delivered a solid match last night, but also one you can see most Thursday nights on Superstars. Is he going to get a chance to develop the meathead character he seems to have been showing behind the Heyman-Big Hungry duo, or just continue to tread water in the background?
What they should do
Book Bryan vs. Orton for a steel cage, and add whatever stipulations necessary to make fans believe they'll get a decisive result at Hell in a Cell if they fork over their money and time for more of this story. I don't have a problem with dragging it out, but they've set a dangerous precedent in giving away satisfying, good guys celebrate ending to episodes of Raw and then selling confusing non-finishes for $50 a pop.
A PPV is somewhat stand-alone chapter of a larger narrative. If WWE stays committed to long-form storytelling, they may need to readjust and have a few incomplete matches that advance the story on USA Network and more that wrap up subplots (like the Rhodes or The Shield's 11 on 3 gauntlet) on Sundays.
And, speaking of larger narratives, if they don't already, it's time to have a plan in place for The Shield's break-up. It's tempting for creative and fans to want to keep them together, because they're so damn useful and entertaining. But there are bigger things ahead for all three men. For all their hard work and enjoyment they've given us, they deserve a well thought out story for how they start their separate journeys.
What we're afraid they will do
Throw Show in a triple threat for the WWE championship. And have him win. And give us a winter-long program between he and Orton for the strap while Bryan does stuff with Brie and ends up in a mixed tag match with Hunter and Stephanie at Survivor Series.
Try to turn Real Americans by cutting Colter loose. Or, have Cesaro work técnico against heatsink Jack Swagger, and then blame Antonio when their feud falls flat.
Continue to job out Damien Sandow. No, wait. We know this what they'll do...
What's your temperature as we come out of Battleground and start down the road to Hell in a Cell?
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