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Jinder Mahal bt. Chad Gable
Despite Sunil Singh being barred from ringside, he appeared to play a decisive role in the finish to this match. While the referee didn’t see it, Drake Maverick did. Following the match, the Interim GM questioned Jinder Mahal about his rule breaking. Maverick was soon seeing double however, as it turned out that Sunil Singh hadn’t been at ringside, and the outside involvement came from the returning Samir Singh.
Aleister Black & Jeff Hardy bt. The Bludgeon Brothers
Ahead of the next match, as Sasha Banks made her entrance, the number one contender was attacked by Bayley from behind.
A brief brawl between the two was quickly broken up, with referees flooding out of the back. Bayley tried to get back at Sasha Banks, telling her that she ruined her life. Sasha Banks was clearly shaken up by the pre-match incident, but wasn’t hurt enough that it would affect her physically.
Despite the minor nature of the pre-match incident, Sasha Banks was still taken off her game by Bayley’s involvement. As a result, her attempt to end Nia Jax’s run as Raw Women’s Champion became even more difficult. While Sasha Banks put in an okay challenge for the title, Nia Jax’s strength proved too much, as Banks failed to completely break her down. A Running Leg Drop followed a Samoan Drop, as Nia Jax retained her Championship.
Nia Jax (c) bt. Sasha Banks
Looking back at how this rivalry came to be, a video package showed the brutal attack that Daniel Bryan suffered at the hands of Shinsuke Nakamura. Samoa Joe was disgusted by the attack, and looked to get revenge for the man he respected. Since losing his last-chance WWE Championship match against AJ Styles at SummerSlam, Shinsuke Nakamura has shown an even more ruthless and sadistic side to himself, taking great joy in the suffering he caused to Daniel Bryan and his family. In this match, Samoa Joe looked to make Nakamura pay, but the former WWE Champion had plenty of tricks up his sleeve. Eventually, between his attempted shortcuts and his overall mocking demeanor, Shinsuke Nakamura sent Samoa Joe over the edge. Flying completely off the handle, Samoa Joe began laying into Shinsuke Nakamura in the corner. As Samoa Joe backed up, with the referee reaching 4 on his count, Nakamura laughed at Samoa Joe. Telling Joe to “come on”, Shinsuke Nakamura further angered Samoa Joe, who once again laid into him in the corner. This time, he dropped Nakamura down to the mat, laying his boots into him on the ground. Despite the referee’s count, Samoa Joe refused to relent. As a result, he was disqualified.
Shinsuke Nakamura bt. Samoa Joe (DQ)
Having been riled up by Shinsuke Nakamura (who can get under his fellow Superstar’s skin like no other), Samoa Joe continued to lay into his opponent after the bell. Already losing the match by DQ, Joe didn’t care about the referees protestations, instead looking to make Nakamura pay for what he did to Daniel Bryan last month. Samoa Joe looked to lock the Coquina Clutch onto Shinsuke Nakamura, and refused to release the hold when he did. Eventually, several referees were able to pry him away from “The King of Strong Style”, but it was clear Samoa Joe was far from done with his opponent.
Prior to the entrances, a detailed video package made it clear that the focus wasn’t really on Ambrose & Rollins or The Authors of Pain in this match, but rather “The Decision” of Roman Reigns. Footage was played from Triple H’s “proposal” to Roman Reigns, where he suggested that the only thing that has stopped him from becoming the Universal Champion is himself. Promising to turn the WWE Universe into “The Roman Empire”, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H want Reigns to turn his back on everything he has built over the last 5 years, and finally accept that to get ahead in the WWE, you have to “play by [their] rules”.
The match itself was also built around the arrival of Roman Reigns, with Ambrose & Rollins looking to break down the stronger duo of The Authors of Pain. More experienced and talented, Dean and Seth were able to gain some traction, but struggled when Akam & Rezar explored the No DQ stipulation. Able to get unreal force behind their Steel Chair shots, The Authors of Pain began to victimise Dean Ambrose, after Seth Rollins was thrown to the outside. Ambrose & Rollins would fight their way back into the match, but mostly found themselves fighting off both Akam & Rezar at the same time. Things went from bad to worse for Dean Ambrose, as he was hit with a Powerbomb from the Apron, to a Table that was placed at ringside.
With Dean Ambrose temporarily out of the equation, The Authors of Pain could single out Seth Rollins. Bringing Steel Steps into the ring, Rezar hit Rollins with a Powerbomb to them. Akam had by then climbed to the second rope, and hit a Splash to Seth Rollins, crushing him between his 290lbs body and the steel. The Authors of Pain then removed the Steel Steps from the ring, looking towards the back. This appeared to be the cue for Roman Reigns to make his way down to the ring.
As Roman Reigns walked down the ramp, Akam & Rezar lifted the prone Seth Rollins to his feet. Rollins couldn’t stand, and was held up by The Authors of Pain. When Roman Reigns stood in the ring, Corey Graves commented on the “perfect fit”, with all three men dressed in similar attires.
The look on Roman Reigns’ face gave nothing away, and the delay allowed the commentators to speculate on his next move. Fearing the worst, Cole spoke about how Reigns’ decision could change the course of the WWE forever. Akam & Rezar then signalled that they were setting Rollins up for something, and it soon became clear they were offering him to Roman Reigns. Setting him up in The Shield’s trademark Triple Powerbomb position, Seth Rollins was prone. Seemingly ready to accept Stephanie and Triple H’s offer, Roman Reigns let out his signature “roar”, which usually signified the Powerbomb was coming. The commentators couldn’t believe what they were seeing, but Roman had one more trick up his sleeve. Instead of hitting Seth Rollins with a Powerbomb, Roman Reigns hit Akam with an Uppercut. This caused him to drop to the mat, with Rollins falling beside him.
Having shown his true colours, Roman Reigns ducked an attempted strike from Rezar, hitting The Authors of Pain member with an Uppercut of his own. When Akam came back at Reigns, “The Big Dog” dropped him with a Superman Punch. As Akam returned to his feet, he was taken out by a huge Spear. Reigns then switched focus to Rezar, who had been caught in the ropes following the Uppercut from Reigns. Leaving the ring, Roman Reigns helped Dean Ambrose back into it, before running around the other side and hitting the Drive-By to Rezar. The move caused Rezar to return to his feet, stumbling into a Dirty Deeds from Dean Ambrose. Covering his opponent, Dean Ambrose was able to secure victory for his team.
Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins bt. The Authors of Pain
Following the match, the immediate concern of Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns was the condition of Seth Rollins. Soon, Rollins made it back to his feet, standing tall with Ambrose and Reigns. Together in the ring for the first time since Ambrose’s injury, the three members of The Shield stood tall, with Roman Reigns having made “The Decision”. It could be any clearer that Roman Reigns had opted to turn down the proposal from Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
Looking back at the Kick-Off show, Jinder Mahal’s plot was recapped. With Sunil Singh having been barred from ringside, Jinder appeared to have broken the rules when Singh helped him score the victory. However, when Drake Maverick came out to confront Sunil Singh, he joined him on the ramp. Quickly it became apparent that there was a Singh in the ring, but it was Samir - who hasn’t been seen since January!
Later, Jeff Hardy & Aleister Black picked up a victory over The Bludgeon Brothers.
Smackdown Women’s Championship
Coming into the match, the previously well loved Becky Lynch had become more and more desperate to keep her Smackdown Women’s Championship. This has caused division between her and her friend Charlotte, as Becky has attempted to convince Naomi that she was best served with Becky as Champion. This played into the match, as when the evenly contested match began to drift away from Lynch, Naomi made her way down to the ring.
With Asuka on the outside, having been hit with a Moonsault from Charlotte, Naomi’s presence only directly affected Charlotte Flair. Getting up on the apron, Naomi seemed to confront Charlotte, and was successful in distracting her from locking in the Figure 8 to Becky Lynch. This distraction cost Charlotte the victory she appeared to be closing in on, as Becky was able to hit her with a Bexploder Suplex, and score the win.
Becky Lynch (c) bt. Asuka and Charlotte
As Becky Lynch celebrated in the ring, there was confusion around it. While it was clear that Lynch’s words had gotten to Naomi, it wasn’t clear what she had said to Charlotte, or how she had intended to involve herself in the outcome of the match. All that was clear was that she’d cost Charlotte Flair a clear chance to regain the Championship, as well as Asuka indirectly.
Raw Tag Team Championship
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn came into this match with a lot of confidence, particularly due to Owens’ recent victory over Matt Hardy on Raw. Despite this, they were surprisingly the less cohesive team, with a number of miscommunications causing issues for the team. This was present in the finish of the match, where Sami Zayn was taken out by Bray Wyatt on the outside. From that moment, Sami Zayn remained on the outside, first due to the impact of the move, and secondly as he nursed his injury. As a result of Sami Zayn being unable to continue, Kevin Owens had to fight the Tag Team Champions alone. To his credit, Kevin Owens gave his everything to win the titles, only to be defeated as Bray and Matt hit the Wheelbarrow Twist of Fate for the victory.
The Deleters of Worlds (c) bt. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
Following a number of promotional packages and discussion from the commentators, it was time for the debut of Randy Orton as a member of the Raw roster. Returning to the ring, Elias was set up with his Guitar.
After playing a song where he ran down San Antonio and Texas in general, Elias said it was his pleasure to welcome Randy Orton to the Raw roster. Elias said that he asked Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas not to join him, as he wanted to share a personal moment with somebody who he has heard is a huge fan of his. He then invited Randy Orton out.
When Randy Orton entered the ring, Elias said that “it is always great to meet a fan”. Randy Orton took this with good humour, laughing as he accepted the handshake of Elias.
Elias continued to welcome Randy Orton, bringing the crowd along with him as he reminded them that WWE stands for “Walk With Elias”. Orton allowed Elias to continue, even when his words verged on insulting. When Randy Orton eventually spoke, he told Elias that they both know how this ends, asking if he wanted to do it the easy way or the hard way. Elias didn’t take the threat from Orton well, saying that he tried to make tonight a special night for Randy, but he now feels that Randy (and the people of San Antonio) doesn’t deserve him.
Elias then went to walk away, with Randy Orton turning to the crowd to share in their displeasure. However, Elias was merely trying to draw Orton into a false sense of security, and came back swinging his Guitar. Randy Orton was smart to this, and avoided the assault. As Elias’ momentum carried him through, he dropped the Guitar, and turned straight into an RKO! Randy Orton then placed his foot through Elias’ Guitar, standing over him with his signature pose.
WWE Universal Championship
Prior to the match, Bobby Lashley was interviewed in the back. Putting over the match, and what he had done to Braun Strowman in the weeks leading to it, Lashley called the match the biggest of his career, vowing that he would become the new Universal Champion. This was followed by a video package. The footage put over that Bobby Lashley has unleashed his “Dominator” persona, taking down the biggest tree in the forest in the process. As well as the first Spear, where Bobby Lashley turned on his friend Braun Strowman, “The Spear that shook the Universe!” was also shown, as Lashley drove Strowman off the stage to the ground below. These incidents were put over throughout the match on commentary, with the suggestion being made that Braun Strowman may have finally found his match, having been “victimised” for the first time in his entire career.
In the ring, the action went as expected, with the two strongmen looking to brawl all around the ringside area. When they returned to the ring, Bobby Lashley enjoyed a good spell in the match, and it seemed like a shocking Championship change was on the cards. Having overpowered everybody in his path so far, Braun Strowman appeared to be struggling with the agility of Bobby Lashley, who even managed an incredible Vertical Suplex to “The Monster Amongst Men”. Surreal to watch, the moment appeared to be straight out of a video game, as Braun Strowman was taken somewhere he had never been before. Lashley then set up for the Spear.
Running at the groggy Strowman with the move that has taken him down twice in the last month, Bobby Lashley looked to hit the Universal Champion with a Spear. Strowman moved out of the way at the last second, staggering towards the other side of the ring. This didn’t stop Lashley, who was ready for another attempt. This time, Strowman saw the run even later, and could only put his knee up to shield some of the impact. Strowman came back at Lashley, but was clearly hurt. Manhandling the Champion, Bobby Lashley slammed Strowman into the canvas with a thunderous Spinebuster.
Bobby would then set up for a third Spear attempt, only this time to be blocked. Showing his own incredible strength, Braun Strowman lifted Lashley up in the air, dropping him with a Yokosuka Cutter. Strowman was then able to establish a hold of the match, and quickly looked to hit the challenger with a Running Powerslam. Unfortunately, he never got that far, as Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn jumped him from behind. Taking out the knees of the Universal Champion, both Strowman and Lashley dropped to the mat.
Completely ruining a huge match, Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn drew the ire of the commentators. Zayn had strapped up his hurt knee from earlier, and tentatively joined in the attack, as the two men laid cowardly boots into the competitors. As a result of the initial contact, the match was called as a DQ in favour of Braun Strowman.
Braun Strowman bt. Bobby Lashley (DQ)
Having seemingly done the job they intended to, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn ran away up the ramp. They hadn’t done much damage to Braun Strowman or Bobby Lashley, but clearly that wasn’t their intent. Instead, they had simply decided to ruin the match. The best explanation as to why they would attack Braun Strowman, ensuring Lashley didn’t become Champion, was that they were annoyed by Lashley’s involvement in their match with Strowman earlier in the month. That didn’t explain the timing of the involvement however, pointing at pure spite from the two Superstars.
Perhaps feeling their shot at the Universal Champion had been stolen from them, Owens & Zayn now had a furious Strowman and Lashley on their case. Braun Strowman immediately followed the two men up the ramp, who would surely be vacating the building as quickly as they could. Lashley on the other hand, remained in the ring, completely furious. Throwing things around at ringside, Bobby Lashley completely flipped out as the referee tried to calm him down. Storming off, it was clear that Lashley wasn’t done with the Universal Champion. He would likely also have a his eyes on Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, who overshadowed his incredible performance against the most dominant Superstar in the WWE.
After the controversy of the previous match, the WWE Championship was given the spotlight in the Main Event of Battleground. It was noted that the WWE Champion was going on last, the first time since the dual-branded pay-per-views returned earlier in the year. As a result, the two men were sent out to “steal the show”, putting on the best match that two men with their styles possibly could. This saw The Miz look to take shortcuts where possible, but otherwise give a good account of himself. Most of these attempts failed, as AJ Styles was too smart to fall for the oldest tricks in the book. This meant that The Miz had to dig deep and be creative.
Of course, The Miz getting this shot was something of a “robbery” in the first place, as he took the injured Daniel Bryan’s shot in the number one contendership match at the last minute. He had done this by manipulating GM Paige, but would instead need to pull the wool over the eyes of the referee in this match. AJ Styles is clearly on another level to The Miz when it comes to in-ring acumen, but The Miz nonetheless had several close falls. Looking to “steal one” again, The Miz could almost taste the WWE Championship, having waited over 7 years to hold it again. Unfortunately for him, the near-falls never went any further, and in the end it was a routine defence for AJ Styles. Having escaped a Calf Crusher, and wriggled out of a Styles Clash attempt, The Miz was caught blind by the Phenomenal Forearm. Flattening The Miz in the middle of the ring, AJ Styles was able to pick up the victory.
AJ Styles (c) bt. The Miz
Standing tall to end the show, AJ Styles looked forward to the challenges ahead of him, having routinely defeated The Miz. Celebrating his victory as Battleground came to an end, AJ Styles was praised by the commentators. Once again proving himself capable of taking on all comers, AJ Styles cemented his position as the franchise player of Smackdown Live, and possibly of the entire WWE.