By Chuck Carroll
WWE Battleground is shaping up to be a fast-moving show with seven matches on the three-hour card, plus one more during the pre-show. After the night is finished, we will have a pretty good grasp on the course WWE is plotting heading into SummerSlam next month. The big question is who will be the WWE Champion.
A Randy Orton victory would theoretically set up a rematch against Jinder Mahal in New York next month. Is a repeat contest headlining WWE’s second biggest show of the year truly what’s best for business? Probably not.
Another interesting bout on the card is the Five-Way Elimination Match, with the winner going on to challenge Naomi for the SmackDown Women’s Championship at SummerSlam. The Blue Team’s women’s roster is thin when it comes to heels. Does that give Tamina and Lana a leg up here?
John Cena is back in the mix following a post-WrestleMania hiatus. His opponent, Rusev, is also coming back following a lengthy absence. This is a good old-fashioned red, white and blue patriotic clash. Could WWE’s hustling, loyal and respectful Yankee Doodle Dandy possibly lose in the Birthplace of America?
Helping me answer those questions as always are the king of wrestling interviews, Scott Fishman, and Aaron Oster, who still wants to Bo-lieve. Both are coming off solid pick performance at WWE Great Balls of Fire, where they had six correct predictions versus two misses. My record was five versus three.
WWE Championship (Punjabi Prison Match)
Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Randy Orton
Scott: I’m going with Mahal winning the Punjabi Prison Match and adding another feather in his cap. This would build some good momentum leading into a match with John Cena at SummerSlam, if that is the direction WWE would want to go. With each having so much outward nationalistic pride, it really is the perfect title match for the “Biggest Party of the Summer.” Pick: Jinder Mahal
Chuck: WWE is going to need a heel champion heading into SummerSlam, and I don’t see a rematch between these two getting top billing on the company’s second biggest show of the year. I agree with Scott that a match against John Cena is a strong possibility. WWE loves to tout their star power on the biggest stages, and outside of Brock Lesnar, Cena is the biggest name they have. A title shot for him next month makes sense. Pick: Jinder Mahal
Aaron: This match really could go either way. My main thought process revolves around what would be best for SummerSlam. There really isn’t an overly compelling matchup for Orton at SummerSlam. However, Cena-Mahal could make for an enticing match at Barclays. Plus, if you have Jinder Mahal lose in his handpicked specialty match, that’s a lot of work for a push that will fizzle the second he loses this match. Pick: Jinder Mahal
John Cena vs. Rusev
Scott: The way John Cena spoke on SmackDown Live days before the match about America, it’s impossible for him not to win a flag match. Although I wouldn’t rule out handsome Rusev from somehow getting his flag, as it’s a way to have Rusev win and not pin the leader of the CeNation in the process. So it could lead to another chapter in their rivalry. Though I see Cena going on and facing Jinder Mahal at SummerSlam. Pick: John Cena
Chuck: If Cena is going on to main event SummerSlam, there is no way he loses this match. Plus, he’s just returned from a three-month absence. It doesn’t make much sense to have this big buildup to his return only to have him lose in his first match back. Then again, he is a “free agent.” So, maybe he doesn’t face Jinder Mahal at SummerSlam and instead makes a surprise appearance on RAW to issue a challenge there. Either way he’s going over. Pick: John Cena
Aaron: John Cena invoked 9/11 during his go-home promo on SmackDown. He’s defending Old Glory in his return match. Him losing this match would go against everything that we know about John Cena. SHOULD Rusev win? Of course, he needs to re-establish himself. But it’s really hard to see it here. Pick: John Cena
SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Usos (c) vs. The New Day
Scott: I’ve enjoyed the Uso brothers’ work against New Day and go with them to keep the gold. I’m still holding out hope the Fashion Police are the ones to dethrone the champions. The tag division lost American Alpha, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Usos and New Day have another chapter at SummerSlam, too. Only there they make it some sort of gimmick match. Pick: The Usos
Chuck: The rap battle between these guys a few weeks ago was gold. The chemistry shared by The Usos and The New Day is extraordinary, and I don’t see this being the blowoff match, regardless of the outcome. My money is on The Usos retaining here and then dropping the gold to Xavier “Rated R” Woods and the rest of The New Day at SummerSlam. Pick: The Usos
Aaron: The New Day won via count-out last month. Usually that’s just a way to draw out the feud before dropping the titles. While it’s possible they could draw it out just a little further to allow The New Day to win at SummerSlam instead, I’d guess that The New Day walks out of Philadelphia with the belts. Pick: The New Day
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin
Scott: Baron Corbin clearly is on the path to the main-event scene. However, Nakamura gets the victory and goes on to SummerSlam to face AJ Styles. I know that has been the talk for WrestleMania, but [given] the way they are having Styles and Nakamura team up, this isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
Chuck: The writing is on the wall for a match between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura. And — spoiler alert — it will be for the U.S. Title at SummerSlam. Perhaps a triple threat match with Kevin Owens? We’ll see… Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
Aaron: Baron Corbin holds the Money in the Bank briefcase. If we’ve learned anything about the briefcase holder, it’s that WWE believes, correctly or not, that the briefcase speaks for itself. Wins and losses don’t matter, because they can just cash in the briefcase at any time. So add that to the fact that Shinsuke Nakamura is still something special, and Nakamura wins here. Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
United States Championship
AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens
Scott: Since I am looking at the writing on the wall with Styles and Nakamura, I’m picking the “Phenomenal One” to go over. That, and I am a big stickler for titles not playing hot potato. I wouldn’t rule out some disqualification or count-out finish either to keep Owens strong. Pick: AJ Styles
Chuck: The WWE just made a huge deal out of AJ Styles defeating Kevin Owens to become the U.S. Champion at a house show at Madison Square Garden. Why have him drop the belt two weeks later? That doesn’t compute. My only question is what becomes of K.O. after the 1, 2, 3. Could there be a triple threat title match at SummerSlam with Shinsuke Nakamura? Pick: AJ Styles
Aaron: They didn’t have AJ Styles win the title, re-establish the open challenge and tease future matchups just to have him drop the belt instantly. There are already matchups set up for the future. Another match against Kevin Owens. A match against John Cena that we didn’t get a couple of weeks ago. Shinsuke Nakamura said he’d answer a challenge this week. It would be a mistake to tease all those and follow through with none of them. Pick: AJ Styles
Five-Way Elimination Match for Title Shot at SummerSlam
Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Tamina vs. Lana
Scott: This could go many ways, but there is money in Naomi vs. Charlotte at SummerSlam. I’m saying this as much as I would like Natalya to get the nod on the big show. Looking at social media recently, there may be other plans for Becky Lynch. So I am ruling her out as well. Although depending on where they are going with Tamina and Lana, Tamina could get a big opportunity too. I’m still sticking with Charlotte. She also has a book to promote soon. Pick: Charlotte Flair
Chuck: I’ve been saying this for awhile now. Charlotte Flair is going to turn heel again. SmackDown Live is void of quality heels in the women’s division, and The Queen plays that role perfectly. She and Naomi will clash at SummerSlam, while Tamina and Lana will have other fish to fry. Nikki Bella is reportedly nearing a return. Perhaps she’ll be next on their hit list. But for now, wooooo! Pick: Charlotte Flair
Aaron: This one is odd. You could make compelling cases for pretty much any of them winning, besides maybe Lana. Unless they have a big match in store for Charlotte though, it’s hard to see her being left out of the title match at SummerSlam. Despite the pushes to others, she’s still the biggest star on the brand. SummerSlam is time to pull the trigger for big matches. Charlotte needs to be in it. Pick: Charlotte Flair
Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English
Scott: Tye Dillinger hasn’t been getting much love since his initial debut on SmackDown Live. However, this is a nice way to start getting the wheels back in motion for the Perfect 10. I’ve appreciated Aiden English the last few weeks, but I see Dillinger winning here. Pick: Tye Dillinger
Chuck: Perfect 10. End of story. Pick: Tye Dillinger
Aaron: You hope that Tye Dillinger’s run in the battle royal a few weeks ago was a precursor to some sort of a push. Plus, at this point, one of the best things going is Aiden English’s emotional outbursts after losses. So while I’d like to see English get a push, sometimes losing can be the best strategy. Pick: Tye Dillinger
>>MORE: From the world of Pro Wrestling
Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis
Scott: Sami Zayn is a good first rival for Mike Kanellis, and this match has the potential to be a fun one, especially with Maria ringside. I’m going with Mike, as another victory will give him a strong start and because love triumphs all. Pick: Mike Kanellis
Chuck: The recent track record for newcomers in their first pay-per-view match doesn’t bode well for Mike Kanellis. One would think that they would get a win to prove they belong, but we’ve seen time and again where WWE has gone against conventional wisdom. However, I don’t see that being the case here. The lovebirds will come out on top. Pick: Mike Kanellis
Aaron: The Kanellises have the potential to be a truly epic heel package together. While it would make some sense to have Sami get his win back, I’d love to see Maria keep figuring out new ways to help her man win. Let it reach nuclear levels of heat before letting someone figure out a way to beat him. Pick: Mike Kanellis
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.