United States Championship Match
Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles
Another long-running SmackDown program, but this one featured a title change on a house show!
The Road to Battleground
When last the blue brand was on pay-per-view (PPV) - well, actually, on the award-winning WWE Network for $9.99, but old habits die hard, and PPV still sounds cooler - Kevin Owens was holding the red, white and blue belt. It looked like it might stay that way for a good long while, too. He was calling himself “The New Face of America” after all, and making it his business to throw obstacles in the way of challenger AJ Styles.
The Phenomenal One had a pretty good case for a title shot. Two PPVs ago at May’s Backlash, Styles came up short against KO, but only because his leg got stuck in the announce table and he was counted out. On either side of last month’s Money in the Bank (where Owens and AJ were both in the eponymous ladder match) however, the champ was throwing up obstacles to keep another match from happening between the two.
On the Fourth of July, that culminated in Styles winning twice, including outlasting Sami Zayn and Tye Dillinger in a battle royal to earn a championship match.
We barely even had time to figure out how AJ would respond to the post-win beating Owens laid on him when we got this shocking bit of news a couple nights later...
After a Friday night in Madison Square Garden, America had a NEW new face in AJ Styles.
In the wake of that development, there was a little bit of intrigue where the Phenomenal One made it sound like he was going to turn the tables on Owens and make him earn a rematch, with WWE even removing their match from the Battleground card for a few days.
But the “contractual rematch” is one of the most adhered to kayfabe rules in sports entertainment, so here we are... just as we knew we would be.
What’s at stake?
The belt, of course. And probably a lot more for KO than AJ, at least to this writer’s eyes.
While in the midst of this feud, we’ve mostly been talking about what’s next for Styles. Aside from the title change in the Garden, there’s not been much buzz about Owens attacks on his rival, despite his getting the upperhand in most of their interactions over the past couple weeks.
Instead, the focus has been on the teases of big programs for AJ down the road. A Wrestle Kingdom rematch with Shinsuke Nakamura. A Royal Rumble rematch with John Cena.
Can the Prizefighter get us talking about Styles’ Backlash rematch with Kevin Owens?
Tune into Battleground and keep it here on Cageside Seats to find out.
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