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WWE Battleground 2016: The full rundown and why you should care

The Shield triple threat we’ve all been waiting for headlines the final pay-per-view of the pre-brand split era, but there is more to this card than that key match.

Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins face off for the WWE Championship at Battleground

With the brand split draft behind us, it’s time for the last major WWE event using the pre-draft rosters. Battleground has a few matches that are meant to further ongoing stories in time for the second-largest WWE event of the year, SummerSlam, which will go down in August in Brooklyn as it did last year. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be bereft of any drama or excitement, though: There are quite a few directions for these stories to go as they work their way into August, and Battleground will let us see which directions they’re actually taking.

You can watch Battleground on the WWE Network on Sunday, July 23 at 8 pm ET. The pre-show will begin as usual on the WWE Network at 7 pm ET to preview and analyze the upcoming event, and will also feature one Kickoff Match.

Kickoff Tag Match: The Usos vs. Breezango

What am I looking at here? The Usos are twin brothers named Jimmy and Jey. You will forget which one is which while watching, because they really are twin brothers and the announcing team often has trouble identifying which Uso is which. Breezango is made up of Tyler Breeze and Fandango — Tyler Breeze is the gorgeous blonde one with a summer residence somewhere exquisite, while Fandango is the gorgeous one who just might grace us with a little dance.

Why you should care: There is no built-in feud here, but both of these tag teams were drafted to SmackDown — as the blue brand lacks tag team championships at this point, this could be one way that SmackDown is going to try to kickoff not just Battleground, but also get some tag rivalries going. If none of that interests you, then just know that Breezango are amazing characters who deserve more screen time and love, and could end up getting both on SmackDown.

Becky Lynch vs. Natalya

What am I looking at here? Becky Lynch and Natalya were partners at last month’s Money in the Bank event, but after losing yet again to Women’s Champion Charlotte, Natalya decided to take out her frustration on Becky. Poor Becky has tried to be friends with many on the main roster, but they always turn on her in the end — she’s not naive, though, nor is she helpless. Natty will very likely regret the day she decided to blindside Becky, who is basically the living embodiment of the fire emoji.

Becky Lynch gets revenge against Natalya for a previous backstage encounter

Why you should care: Becky Lynch is incredible in the ring and on the mic, and she was drafted to be the anchor of the Women’s Division on SmackDown. Natalya is there, too, and the two have a long history going back to their days on the indies wrestling in Japan. This could be the first match in an important feud for not just this pair, but the brand they’re on as well.

United States Championship Match: Rusev (c) vs. Zack Ryder

What am I looking at here? Rusev is the Bulgarian claiming he’s the greatest American ever, essentially because he has the United States Championship and American wrestlers do not. Zack Ryder has been around for ages and was often looked at as a joke despite his talent, but right now, WWE is giving him a chance to shine. He won the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania before losing it to The Miz, and now he’s getting a chance to win his second United States title.

Why you should care: Rusev is one of the most consistently excellent performers — both in and out of the ring — in WWE. Ryder has some momentum on his side, and the two should put on an entertaining affair. Plus, Rusev is on the RAW roster and Ryder is on SmackDown, so even outside of these two individuals, we have one of three brand-on-brand battles for a title at this show.

Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs. Darren Young

What am I looking at here? The Miz is as you remember him, and that’s a good thing: he’s a tremendous jerk of a heel, and has only improved since adding his real-life wife Maryse to the mix. If the two share a kiss, it will make you hate love. Darren Young is the one accompanied to the ring by WWE legend Bob Backlund, who probably looks better without a shirt at 66 years old than any of us ever have. He’s training Darren Young to become the best, and has even gifted him the Crossface Chicken Wing to help that mission along.

Why you should care: The Miz and Maryse are always a treat, but Young and Backlund have managed to be far more entertaining on live television than in taped vignettes, and it’s easy to see people rallying behind this duo on the rise. This match, like the one for the United States Championship, is a battle of competing brands, too, so there’s that tension of power shifting from one show to the other.

Tag Match: Charlotte (c) and Dana Brooks vs. Sasha Banks and Mystery Partner

What am I looking at here? The Women’s Champion Charlotte and her protege slash muscle for cheating and shenanigans Dana Brooke are set to take on fan favorite Sasha Banks and an unknown partner. This is your standard setup for a title shot when the heel has a buddy — why would Charlotte ever go it alone until she’s forced to?

Why you should care: This is likely the last step before we get Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte in a championship match at SummerSlam, and that’s a thing that everyone should care about. We don’t know who Sasha’s mystery partner is, but there are plenty of guesses to be made. NXT’s Bayley is the wrestler everyone is hoping for, as she wasn’t drafted last Tuesday despite being clearly ready for the main roster. A returning Nikki Bella would work in storyline — Nikki lost her title to Charlotte before undergoing neck surgery — but unless she and WWE have been lying to us, she’s not quite ready to come back yet. Paige is a former champ and popular wrestler also on RAW, and is probably the most likely candidate if WWE isn’t giving Bayley a much bigger spotlight than a 10-second video on the draft show.

Six-Man Tag Match: The New Day (c) vs. The Wyatt Family

What am I looking at here? The tag champions — Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods — will take on the Wyatt Family — Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman — in a battle for... well, we’re not really sure anymore. It’s not a tag title match, Strowman was drafted to RAW away from Bray and Rowan, and these two teams already faced off in a "Compound Match" that featured lots of weapons and violence (and, okay, disappointment, too). This is now just kind of a regular ole six-man tag match with unclear consequences.

Why you should care: That doesn’t mean it’s going to be bad, though. Bray Wyatt is a force of nature in the ring, and The New Day are still one of the most entertaining parts of WWE. The fact that we don’t know what the significance of this matchup is following the draft and their previous interactions mostly makes me curious for what is going to come out of it all.

Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens

What am I looking at here? Sami Zayn is the redhead who will repeatedly punch Kevin Owens in the face. Kevin Owens is the one who will be repeatedly punched in the face by Sami Zayn until he can maybe powerbomb Zayn into oblivion. These two will fight forever, and it’s maybe the only instance of a never-ending feud in wrestling that everyone is okay with.

Why you should care: It’s Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens, which is the kind of thing you automatically care about given the long nature of their blood rivalry. However, there are some implications at play here that make this particular matchup intriguing: it’s being billed as the match to finally put a stop to their constant fighting, but the two were both drafted to RAW, where they will surely cross paths and fists often. Maybe Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley, RAW’s authority figures, will force the two to work together in a tag team for a bit after this, giving us a look at the other wonderful side of the relationship here: begrudging friendship and teamwork that eventually results in betrayal and violence.

Six-Man Tag Match: John Cena, Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. The Club

What am I looking at here? Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows — two-thirds of The Club — ganged up on John Cena at Money in the Bank, causing him to lose to the other third of The Club, AJ Styles. Before we get a rematch of that incredible dream bout, we get newcomers and fan favorites Enzo and Big Cass here to even the odds. Enzo is the one with impossible energy, ridiculous clothes, and incredible mic work. Big Cass? He’s almost seven foot tall, and probably a future WWE Champion.

Why you should care: This might be the last time AJ Styles gets assistance from The Club for some time — Gallows and Anderson were drafted to RAW, while Styles (and Cena) were drafted to SmackDown. How their relationship plays out going forward — especially with actual (Bullet) Club founder Finn Balor now on the main roster and on RAW with the two men he formed this stable with in Japan in the first place — is a question as open as it is intriguing.

Also, AJ Styles and John Cena are facing off with two of the most compelling tag teams in wrestling flanking them. That alone is reason to care.

WWE Championship Triple Threat Match: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins

What am I looking at here? Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins debuted back nearly four years ago as a unit, The Shield. They were the most destructive, compelling force on WWE television for two years until Rollins betrayed his brothers in 2014, won the Money in the Bank briefcase through shenanigans that cost Ambrose the case, then cashed it in on Reigns during the main event of WrestleMania 31 to win his first WWE Championship — and the first of any Shield member.

Reigns then won his first WWE title after Rollins’ knee exploded and he needed surgery, and Roman had to get through Ambrose in a tournament to get said title. Rollins won the championship he never lost back from Reigns at Money in the Bank last month, but then Ambrose, who had won 2016’s Money in the Bank briefcase earlier in the night, cashed in on Rollins to become WWE Champion for the first time. Now, all three face off against one another for the first time, and the rock-paper-scissors nature of their relationship means any of the three could walk out as champ.


Why you should care: Just read that last paragraph again. Also, know that Reigns and Rollins are both on RAW, while Ambrose is on SmackDown — the latter having the WWE Champion is a compelling excuse for people to watch, and Ambrose isn’t necessarily a good bet to retain. Drama! Intrigue!

That’s only because this is a three-way match, though, and you can construct reasoning for any of the three to win — even Reigns, who is just coming back from a 30-day suspension for violating the wellness policy. Wellness policy violation or no, he’s still one of the faces of WWE, and was champ just last month. Reigns regaining the championship is the least likely outcome of the evening, sure, but the chances are better than zero. This matchup didn’t need the added weight of SmackDown vs. RAW or Reigns’ return from suspension, but now that it has all of that, we’re not complaining, either.