Even after Brock Lesnar turned J&J Security — and their prized Cadillac — into mincemeat last week, give Seth Rollins credit where it’s due. The Architect didn’t blink at the prospect of staring down The Beast Incarnate in Raw’s opening moments, even if he only had a well-rested Kane to speak of as his backup. Despite his depleted defenses, The Architect certainly talked a big game, as did Kane when Lesnar and Paul Heyman attempted to bait the Director of Operations into fighting The Conqueror by bringing up Lesnar's most infamous deed. Ever the professional, Kane brushed the taunts aside, at least until champion and challenger reunited with their respective retinues for the contract signing later in the night.
Two long-simmering rivalries will finally boil over at WWE Battleground, but before Randy Orton goestoe-to-toe with Sheamus and Ryback battles Big Show and The Miz for his Intercontinental Title, four of the five parties involved joined forces for a tag team rumble on Raw. And indeed, it was quite the rumble, one that Ryback had taken control of after pummeling Sheamus with a spinebuster until The Miz sprang up from commentary and began heckling the various competitors.
Miz’s presence enraged Big Show almost immediately; the giant abandoned the match to give chase to The Awesome One after blasting Ryback with a KO Punch from the apron. Legal man Sheamus looked to capitalize on the giant’s interference with a Brogue Kick, but Orton sprang with some interference of his own in the form of an RKO to the Irishman while the ref was otherwise occupied. The Big Guy then sealed the deal with a big Frog Splash for the win.
It’s been a long time since anybody got the jump on Bray Wyatt, so give it up for Roman Reigns for pulling off the impossible and dishing out some long-awaited payback on The New Face of Fear, whose mind games have tormented Reigns for a month. Bray was lured into the open under the pretense of battling his old foil Dean Ambrose, though The Lunatic Fringe was merely playing the proverbial carrot, while Reigns supplied the stick as soon as Wyatt stepped out through the fog. While Ambrose admired his brother-in-arms’ handwork, The Big Dog went to town on The Eater of Worlds, at least until Wyattused his lantern as an equalizer that allowed him to make his escape.
Team Bella’s stranglehold on the Divas division just got a lot more tenuous. What was initially just the latest victory parade for the conniving trio of Nikki Bella, sister Brie and Alicia Fox was quickly spoiled by an appearance by Stephanie McMahon. The queen bee of WWE wasn’t very much impressed with the Divas Champion’s posturing, and decided to introduce some “change” in the Divas division by bringing out Paige … and some backup from NXT in the form of Becky Lynch and Charlotte. When Naomi and Tamina took issue with their exclusion, Stephanie brought out NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks to round out their own squad.
Having “set the table of opportunity,” Stephanie dared the Divas to take it for themselves. What followed was an all-out brawl between the present and future Divas that culminated in each member of Team Bella locked in the NXT Divas’ submission holds: Charlotte’s Figure-Eight Leglock, Becky’s Dis-arm-her, and Sasha’s Bank Statement. It’s too soon to call it a takeover, and “invasion” is a little aggressive, but “revolution”? That’ll do it.
The New Day may well win back the WWE Tag Team Titles at WWE Battleground … if there’s any of them left to challenge for the titles in the first place. The trio of Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods stepped into the ring on Raw against The Prime Time Players, who boasted Mark Henry as their de facto third member. That, despite a gutsy effort by New Day, turned out to be the deciding factor of the match. After an ill-fated rally by New Day, Henry reminded us all of what he does when he ensnared Woods for a World’s Strongest Slam that pancaked the Ph.D. candidate into a positivity-preaching puddle.
Call it the return of the King. “King What’s Up,” that is, as R-Truth resurrected his royal persona following a rebound victory over King Barrett, who Bull Hammered the former U.S. Champion all over the fiefdom last week on Raw. His Majesty wasn’t quite so lucky in a rematch, despite the fact that Barrett was well on his way to knocking Truth down once again in a fast-paced, furious battle. “The Bloody King” came up short when Truth caught him with the Lie Detector, and while His Grace pitched an epic fit in the ring, Truth retrieved his own royal garb from beneath the ring and paraded his way back up the ramp.
The John Cena U.S. Championship Open Challenge is here, and a lot of people think they should be next in line. What was initially shaping up to be another effort by Rusev to reclaim the stars-and-stripes title was cut short by a line-jumping Kevin Owens, then again by Cesaro, looking for a rubber match against the Cenation leader after last week’s epic war of attrition.
The solution was a Triple Threat brawl between the interlopers to see who would face Cena for the title itself, and it resembled less of a wrestling contest than a three-way car crash. So much so, in fact, that Owens up and left to preserve himself for WWE Battleground. That Rusev won was more or less because someone had to; after a dominant run by Cesaro, The Bulgarian Brute knocked The King of Swing off the top turnbuckle and thrust-kicked him in the chest to seal it. Barely.
Perhaps the WWE Universe, ironically enough, owes Kevin Owens a thank-you card: If not for the interference of the former NXT Champion, Rusev’s reign of terror might have begun anew as a result of his U.S. Title Match with John Cena on Raw. To be fair, The Bulgarian Brute was basically in shambles after withstanding an onslaught from Cesaro, but he still managed to claw his way into contention, suckering Cena into a false sense of security before reversing the Attitude Adjustment into the Accolade.
Owens, who had abdicated the Triple Threat that got Rusev to the title bout in the first place, made a furious return by storming the ring and obliterating The Bulgarian Brute with a Pop-up Powerbomb. He then reiterated his mantra: If it’s gonna be anyone, it’s gonna be him.
Stardust is back. And the demented space invader’s homecoming was exactly the grand celebration he’d been hoping for, despite the efforts of Neville to play spoiler. Ostensibly singled out by Stardust as the first foe in an anti-superhero crusade, The Man That Gravity Forgot indeed rose to the occasion of his bizarre opponent’s smothering offense. Although Neville couldn’t quite get into position for the Red Arrow — lest we forget, Stardust hates arrows — he made up for it by going to the ground, rolling Stardust up with La Magistral. “The Prince of Dark Matter” wouldn’t be so easily denied, though, reversing one of Neville’s rollups into a rollup of his own, grabbing the tights to help gain the ill-gotten win. How … sinister.
One ax handle, one overturned table and one broken ankle later, and Seth Rollins is officially set to defend his WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Brock Lesnar at WWE Battleground. Despite the insistence of Kane that a plan was in play to weaken The Beast before Battleground, the contract signing quickly turned into a one-man demolition spree once pen had been put to paper.
Not only did Lesnar flip the aforementioned table in Rollins’ face, but Kane, who’d stood tough against Heyman’s slandering of his brother and an increasingly hostile Rollins all night, also suffered the broken ankle. The injury came after Kane’s master plan — an ax handle stored under the contract table — failed to pan out and his gritty efforts to fend Lesnar off were eventually thwarted by The Beast Incarnate and a set of steel steps. Further ignominy followed when a frustrated Rollins insulted Kane and stomped on his ruined ankle, pausing only to promise, once again, that he’d slay The Beast at Battleground. Partially because of adrenaline, sure, but at this point, it’s fair to say Rollins has nothing left to lose.