The Punjabi Prison match returns to WWE for the first time in a decade and only the third time in history. Jinder Mahal will climb into the structure to put his WWE Championship on the line against Randy Orton.
The WWE Championship isn’t the only title on the line tonight. AJ Styles won the United States Championship from Kevin Owens at a live event from Madison Square Garden a couple of weeks ago. Tonight, Kevin Owens gets his rematch when he challenges AJ for the US Championship. The Tag Team Championship is also on the line tonight when The Uso’s defend against The New Day. The Uso’s escaped with the titles at Money in the Bank by taking a count out loss. Can The New Day found a way to finally capture the Smackdown Tag Team Championship?
The Smackdown Women’s Championship isn’t on the line tonight, and champion Naomi won’t be seeing action, but the women of Smackdown will be competing in a five-way elimination match where the winner will wrestle Naomi for the Women’s Championship at Summer Slam. It’s going to be Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Tamina vs. Natalya vs. Lana. Which woman will be the last woman standing?
John Cena returned to WWE on the July 4th episode of Smackdown as a free agent. His return was interrupted by Rusev, and now the two men will meet inside the ring in a Flag Match. Which superstar will be able to climb the turnbuckles and pull down his country’s flag?
At Money in the Bank, Baron Corbin tried to take out Shinsuke Nakamura. While he failed to do that, Baron Corbin did win the Money in the Bank briefcase. Tonight, Shinsuke Nakamura looks to exact some revenge on Baron Corbin.
Finally, Sami Zayn will take on Mike Kanellis in a Smackdown rematch. Can Sami find a way to put away Mike Kanellis?
Battleground begins tonight at 7pm CT on WWE Network with a kickoff show happening at 6pm CT. On the kickoff show, Tye Dillinger will be going one-on-one with Aiden English.
Now, let’s get on to the predictions for tonight’s WWE Battleground 2017!
Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English
I don’t like this match at all, and the reason is because I like both wrestlers. That seems a strange thing to say, but when I say I don’t like the match I mean I don’t like the booking. These are two guys who right now both need wins and need to be establishing themselves.
Unfortunately we’re in a situation where WWE wants us to view Aiden English as a jobber, and Dillinger isn’t far removed from it, and that’s a shame. They both deserve so much more. I don’t see the upside to the match, especially considering that even though it’s on the kickoff show it probably won’t get much time.
I hope to be pleasantly surprised, but I’m not holding my breath. It’ll be a forgettable match that will do nothing for either man.
Winner: Tye Dillinger
Sandman’s Take: Can I proclaim the Kickoff Show Match the Austin Aries Memorial Match? Did I miss any real point to this match? I guess I should just be thankful that Tye Dillinger has a match on the card and against someone that isn’t terrible in the ring. Winner: Tye Dillinger
Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis
I could probably copy/paste what I wrote about and just remove the jobber parts. Sami was doing so well with strong showings and wins against Baron Corbin, and I’d hate to see all the momentum that he was building up stall because they want to use him to build up Kanellis.
At the same time, Kanellis does need wins and does need to be built up. I’d say there’s a better way of doing that than having his first match and feud be with Sami Zayn, but then WWE really doesn’t like to use local jobbers to get talent over with squash matches these days which is a real shame.
What I don’t want to see is yet another case of 50/50 booking. Mike won his first match on Smackdown against Sami, we don’t need to see Sami “get his win back.” Best case scenario is we get a decent match, Mike wins, and both guys move on to something else. Sure the “feud” just started, but this really isn’t something that needs to carry on for months. Sometimes, one and done is the best way to go.
I think the match will be good, and I ultimately believe that Mike Kanellis has the potential to be a top heel on Smackdown. So he definitely doesn’t need the loss here.
Winner: Mike Kanellis
Sandman’s Take: I’m in the minority among wrestling fans in that I don’t like Sami Zayn. He’s a good performer, but he just annoys me. Kanellis I don’t know enough about yet, though I was always fond of Maria. Not sure yet what the end game is here but I would imagine they would like Kanellis to get off to a strong start. I think Sami ends up drowning in the love. Winner: Mike Kanellis
5-Way Elimination #1 Contender’s Match:
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Tamina vs. Lana
This is a number one contender’s match, so hopefully this is the last time we get one of these matches involving essentially the entire Smackdown women’s roster. It’s about time they get back to giving the women different things to do rather than all of them being involved in the same angle.
We have an interesting situation here with basically three heels and two faces while the women’s champion is a face and the Ms. Money in the Bank contract holder is a heel. My gut tells me Charlotte wins, but will WWE do a face vs. face women’s match at Summer Slam?
I think the better thing to do would be hold off on Charlotte a little while longer. If you’re going with a face, I’d prefer Becky because I think she makes for the better story. If we’re going to get a run with Carmella as champion, I think WWE should get to it at Summer Slam and not drag out the MITB wait any longer than that. If that’s the case, I’d actually go with Natalya winning here, and then losing to Naomi at Summer Slam who in turn immediately loses the title to Carmella.
I don’t for a second believe Tamina has a chance of winning. I wouldn’t put it past them to have Lana win, but does anyone want to see Lana vs. Naomi again considering how quickly she has been beat each time?
I’m torn, as I can see them going with four of the women. For the sake of the prediction, I’m going with Natalya.
Sandman’s Take: I feel like the Women’s Revolution has become a series of random multi-women matches to become the number one contender. I also liked it a lot better when Alexa Bliss was on Smackdown. I feel this match would be much better as a triple threat between Charlotte, Lynch and Natalya, but we’re stuck with Tamina and Lana in this match as well, and sadly, I think that’s where our winner is coming from. Winner: Lana
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin has grown on me a lot since his NXT days. I see a lot of potential him to be a big player later on, and with him holding the Money in the Bank briefcase it is only a matter of when he becomes WWE Champion and not if. So because of that, I have to go with Shinsuke Nakamura.
You’re probably thinking, “wait, what?” Well WWE has a history of having their MITB winners, particularly heels, lose matches until they eventually cash in at an opportune time and win the title.
Obviously that’s not the only reason Nakamura is going to win this match. WWE hasn’t really done a fantastic job with Shinsuke on the main roster. Too much time has been spent on having him do promos and not enough time has been spent on building him up in the ring. He’s the guy the announcers say is a big deal, but the booking doesn’t do anything to indicate it. So a few months into his main roster run, Shinsuke hasn’t really had the opportunity to do much.
I think this match will be more of the same. Shinsuke will get a decent match out of Corbin, but he’s not going to come out of it in any better position than he already is.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Sandman’s Take: This is a match I’m looking forward to. Like most I’m a big fan of Nakamura, and I’m higher on Corbin that some around here are as far as his long term potential. This probably won’t be a MOTN contender, but could be a solid, stiff fight. I’m very torn on who will win and who should win. I somewhat feel like Corbin should win in order to look strong and a viable threat with the MITB contract, however if they plan on going forward with rumors of AJ/Nakamura at SummerSlam, they would probably want him to come in off a win if that is going to be a US Title match. With that in mind, I’m going with Nakamura. Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match:
The Usos (c) vs. The New Day
This is going to be a pretty decent match. I’m not the biggest fan of The Uso’s, but they’re better now than they were as faces for sure. I try to look at these predictions more along the line of what comes next, but here I really don’t have a clue. There’s The Ascension and Breezango. That’s basically it other than the Hype Bros, I guess. What’s the point in even having a division at this stage?
I like The New Day a lot, but I think their act could be freshened up a bit. How exactly is the question though, and I’m not sure to be honest.
I wish WWE would put more focus on tag team wrestling, and I mean real tag team wrestling with actual teams and a division and not in WWE’s favorite way to promote two feuds at once. There’s such a rich history of tag team wrestling. Obviously this match can’t do anything to solve the problems of the Smackdown tag team division.
I’d be okay with the Usos retaining the titles, but I really don’t want to see some cheap finish again like we saw at Money in the Bank. With that said, I’m going with New Day getting the win and capturing the Smackdown Tag Team Championship this time.
Winners: The New Day
Sandman’s Take: This should be a pretty good bout, but I’m not very excited about it. Maybe because the WWE has decided to split up as many face tag teams as possible and thus kill their tag team divisions (again). Off topic, but does anyone other than me miss the old tag title styles/designs? The current ones look like giant dimes. Back on topic, given the lack of face teams going forward, I’m picking a title change here. Winner: New Day
John Cena vs. Rusev
I am a HUGE fan of Rusev. I was excited when they moved Rusev to Smackdown because I thought “FINALLY, he’ll get his break.” Unfortunately it took forever for Rusev to finally debut, Jinder Mahal got the spot originally planned for him, and John Cena comes back from his little hiatus at the same time. So who does Rusev get for his first Smackdown program? John Cena, also known as the guy who effectively killed the original Rusev push back when he was undefeated.
Why is Rusev not THE top heel on Smackdown? I’d feel better about this match and Rusev if I thought for a second that he would actually win the match. But I don’t see it. Normally I’d say it’s a gimmick match and thus Cena would be protected by the fact that you win the match by grabbing your flag. But it’s patriotic John Cena, and I just can’t see him losing a Flag match and “letting America down.”
With that said, I WANT to be optimistic here. I hope WWE understands that Rusev really needs this win and that the company gets behind him. I want to believe it, so I’m going to go against all logic and my gut and predict that Rusev wins.
Sandman’s Take: Odds are this will be a typical John Cena match; A little back in forth, Cena gets in trouble, Cena gets beaten down, miraculous rally, Cena wins. There’s a small part of me that wants to pick Rusev with the upset, but I just can’t see that happening. Winner: John Cena
United States Championship Match:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens
This should be the main event. It’s definitely going to be the best match of the night and I dare say there’s no one better in WWE right now than these two. The feud between these two has been one of the few bright spots on Smackdown since the Superstar Shakeup.
I’m not a fan of passing a title back and forth, but I’m torn here. With a heel WWE Champion and a heel holding the MITB briefcase, I think there’s more potential for Kevin Owens as US Champion going into Summer Slam and beyond. And while Owens is fantastic and belongs in the main event scene, that AJ Styles isn’t THE top on Smackdown right now is a crime. He needs to be put back in the main event ASAP, and it’s AJ that I’d have take the title off of Jinder.
As for Kevin Owens, the US Championship is a great title for him in the interim because he can build it up and have great title matches with faces like Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, and the guy who I’d have ultimately take the title away from Owens, Chad Gable.
So I’m going with Kevin Owens to regain the the title in a great match.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Sandman’s Take: This is my pick for match of the night. Both guys are fantastic. It’s a shame this feud isn’t getting more attention on Smackdown. In a perfect world, this would be for the WWE Championship not the U.S. Title (and honestly, I think Jinder’s shtick would be better suited if he were US Champ). I selfishly want this match to be on during the first hour so I can watch it live before I switch over to Game of Thrones. I am going with AJ here, and I hope they keep this going until Summer Slam, however rumors have indicated other plans for Styles there. Winner: AJ Styles
WWE Championship Punjabi Prison Match:
Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Randy Orton
This is the match that I just can’t care about. Jinder Mahal doesn’t work for me, he just doesn’t. He could have had they taken the time to build him up and give him a story. As is, he’s who WWE had jobbing who came over to Smackdown, was given a anti-American stereotypical foreign heel gimmick and a couple of goons, and suddenly he’s the WWE Champion. I don’t have anything against him as a wrestler and he seems like a cool dude, but man I hate stupid booking.
Past that, it’s a Punjabi Prison match. The previous two were terrible, and while it’s true that this one will likely be the best one, it just isn’t going to be very good. It’s just not. So combine that with the fact that this has been a completely forgettable feud and you have a dud waiting to happen. The only good thing about this match is that when it is over, the feud is over. It’s been a complete afterthought and the WWE Championship quite frankly deserves better.
Winner: Jinder Mahal
Sandman’s Take: The potentially good news here is that after this match, we’re done with this storyline. Bad news, a Punjabi Prison does not lend itself to being a great match. These are different performers and different styles than the ones that were in the previous Prison matches, but when the objective of the match is to run away from your opponent, it doesn’t lend itself to being a 5-star classic bout. Sadly I think we’re stuck with the Modern Day Maharaja for a little while longer. Winner: Jinder Mahal
WWE Battleground airs tonight LIVE on WWE Network at 7pm CT with the kickoff show starting at 6pm.
Agree or disagree with the predictions? Let us know in the comments what you think will go down tonight at Battleground!