Battleground 2017 was one of the most critically panned pay per views in modern history. On paper it wasn’t a bad show but as it unfolded with each match it just seemed like everything was taking the worst possible turn it could. And over it all loomed the shadow of the Punjabi Prison Match, and match that was not very good either of previous times it was run. But as they say time heals all wounds, so I thought maybe it would be cool to look back at it ong with the post Mania period from 2017 which is often maligned on Wrestling Twitter. So with a chance to watch it away from social media cranking everything up to 11, would it still win the title of worst PPV of the brand split Era? Let’s see!
Smackdown Tag Team Title Match: Usos (c) vs New Day
Great opener coming off the heels of the rap battle they had on Smackdown Live, which will go down in history as one of the segments that you just knew was gonna be trash but ended up being quite good. This match was part of the great series they had in 2017, but is somewhat forgotten because it’s on this show. Both teams got all their usual stuff in and we got one of the early uses of Xavier Woods flying elbow finishing move. If you watch nothing else on this show definitely check this match out.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Baron Corbin
It is weird seeing Corbin in his old biker gimmick now. Corbin and Nakamura had a feud going here coming out of Money in the Bank, and this was the match to settle it. This was not bad, but it went at a pretty deliberate pace and would have lost the crowd had Shinsuke not been involved. 2017 and 2018 were an extended feeling out period for Shinsuke: he was in a lot of longer matches on TV in 2017 that took some of the shine off of him. Once everyone figured out to let the man coast and then heat him up those 5 or 6 times a year you needed him, it was off to the races but this was before then. Corbin gets himself DQed here, which was a bad ending because this is a feud that should have ended right here.
Contenders Elimination Match: Charlotte Flair vs Becky Lynch vs Natalya vs Tamina vs Lana
I’m gonna go on a rant here for a minute. Post Mania through November of 2017 might be the worst a women’s division has been booked since the second brand split. You had a promising champion in Naomi, two all time greats in Charlotte and Becky and some capable veterans in Nattie, Carmella, and Tamina…..and Lana. And instead of having Naomi regularly defend against any of those ladies we got one TV defense against Charlotte that ended in a DQ, a couple of bad matches against Lana, and the Welcoming Committee. Seven months of hell to be sure and a sheer misuse of talent.
As for the match itself……oh boy. Charlotte taking a beating from Lana and Tamina for several minutes instead of getting in her offense dragged things down until they finally picked up about halfway through before slowing down again when Lana and Tamina doubled teamed Becky. Then the eliminations came quick as Tamina, Lana, and then Becky were gone within a minute. The final couple of minutes between Charlotte and Nattie were good, but the finish was pretty flat and the crowd went mild when Nattie pinned Charlotte to win (cleanly, I might add). Sitting through 9 minutes of mid for 2 good minutes and a popcorn fart ending was just…..not awesome.
US Title Match: AJ Styles (c) vs Kevin Owens
Styles won the title at a house show in Madison Square Garden, and this was the rematch. The two had also previously faced off at Backlash two months prior in a match that ended in a countout for some reason. This feud was one of the weird ones of 2017, because two guys who are among the best in ring workers of their generation had a bunch of matches that flat out did not click very well. And this was one of them, as it was good but never reached it’s potential.
It started out pretty hot but a few minutes in slowed down to a more deliberate pace and got a bit awkward. And then even some cool near fall sequences weren’t enough to wake everyone up. All that being said on a second watch it was better than I remembered but it still lives under the overall cloud of this show. Owens getting the win here to essentially nullify the Madison Garden match was a strange choice as well. Styles didn’t have to pin Owens here but could have retained some other way; the double pin finish here was wack as well.
Flag match: John Cena vs Rusev
This match basically existed to get Cena on the card, and the flag match was set up because Cena challenged Rusev on the 4th of July. That’s about it. Cena and Rusev fueded in 2015, and had already gotten every bit of juice available from it but it was an easy match to set up between two guys who knew each others well. But did we really need this? Not really.
The match was fine but once again we got a slow and deliberate pace for a match that went over 20 minutes. The match worked in the building only because of Cena’s greatness and ability to play Captain America. There were some good spots where the two guys laid it in but there were some other clunky spots as well. The match could have very well just been the TV main event on the July 4th Smackdown for real.
Sami Zayn vs Mike Kanelis
And in the area of unnecessary, here we go. Mike and Maria Kanelis were signed during the free money era of 2016 to pre-COVID 2020, and it showed during this stretch in 2017. I have zero problem with them taking the offer when it was made but outside of them and the IWC no one was clamoring for them to come to WWE. This match was a rematch from Smackdown Live, and really could have been left to television. It was fine, but who cared then or now?
Punjabi Prison Match: Jinder Mahal (c) vs Randy Orton
Ok the first and biggest issue with this match is the runtime, 27 minutes and change according to Wikipedia. That is just……yikes. Why you would stick Jinder, a so so worker at best in there with Orton for almost a half hour is absolutely puzzling. You could have easily cut this to 20 and the flag match to 15 and gotten a title defense for Naomi in (Carmella wasn’t on the show, after all). If you want an example of sexism in wrestling it’s that we got a half hour of this over a second women’s match.
It wasn’t a badly worked match, but like several other matches on this show it had a…..wait for it……deliberate pace. And the prison structure itself, a bulkier version of a steel cage, made for a terribly obstructed view of what was going on. A slower match that was hard to see and went too long? Yeah, that’s not a winning combination. Had this thing been 15 minutes instead of 27 I’d have a much better opinion of it. But as it was it was……a bit of a tough watch. The last few minutes were pretty good, though. Props to Samir Singh for taking a table bump from the side of the prison, and to Great Khali for making the trip just to get involved in the finish.
Should you bother to watch this? Hell no. Every matchup that looked good on paper has a better version out there on another show. Here they all lumbered along in spots and went entirely too long. And we haven’t gotten to the unnecessary Zayn/Kanelis match or the bizarrely booked women’s elimination match. Were the matches bad per se? No, but there wasn’t one worth a rewatch here beyond the opener. So it’s bad in the sense that it’s chock-full of ok matches and nothing else. Worst ever? I think December to Dismember still holds the crown there. Now is it the worst of Brand Split Era? Without a shadow of a doubt. Seriously, only watch it this if you’re interested in completion.