WWE Battleground 2017 Preview – Triple Threat POV | Smark Out Moment

WWE Battleground 2017 Preview – Triple Threat POV

Posted by Robert DeFelice Friday, July 21, 2017
Welcome to another edition of Triple Threat from Smark Out Moment, where three of us get together to discuss three questions based on one big topic going down in the week of professional wrestling.

This week, Robert DeFelice, Gabby Velasquez and Callum Wiggins will be giving their opinions on WWE Battleground 2017.

SmackDown Live is back on the air this Sunday! Punjabi Prisons and Flags and Fatal Five Ways will reign supreme and we here at Smark Out Moment break it all down for you.

Question 1: With a foreigner like Kevin Owens calling himself The New Face of America, Jinder Mahal providing promo material that is so heavily based on anti-American rhetoric, and even a flag match scheduled between John Cena and Rusev, is the SmackDown Live roster relying too heavily on Xenophobic storylines?

DeFELICE: Professional Wrestling can at times tell some amazing stories. However, in times of creative drought, it can resemble somewhat lowbrow sitcoms in terms of stories. SmackDown at the moment has quite a few anti-American characters: Kevin Owens, Rusev, and perhaps most notably WWE Champion Jinder Mahal. All of these superstars rank at different levels in terms of their intensity when it comes to being anti-American. KO probably being the lowest level as he is just calling himself The New Face of America when everybody knows that he's actually Canadian. Rusev kicks it up a notch by waving his flag around and questioning why people think America is so great and then at the top of the chain we have our turban-wearing Indian WWE Champion who says that Americans don't like him because of the way he looks and the way he sounds.

There are two ways you can look at this the first being that it's lazy, perpetuates negative stereotypes and garners reactions that we should not be looking for in 2017. All of this would be correct. It's 100% lazy and it does rely heavily on negative stereotypes and a divisive rhetoric. However, there is another side to this. No matter what you say, it actually works. Americans love their nationalism and they love chanting "USA!" On the July 4 edition of SmackDown when John Cena was defending Old Glory, the anti-Cena crowd quickly rallied behind the All-American hero and booed the foreigner who was bashing our flag and our traditions. For the floundering jobber turned WWE Champion, Jinder, The simplistic story gave him something easy to work with and easy to follow for the audience and in turn, we got an instant main eventer. Now, with Kevin Owens it's much more tongue-in-cheek and everybody can have a good time with the charismatic villain and that is much more subtle but still works.

If you watch the GLOW series on Netflix, there is a point where one of the characters asks the crew why they're not going with more simple characters like the Iron Sheik. I wouldn't be surprised if very similar conversations pop up in WWE writer's rooms every three to five years. Is it lazy? Yes. Is it not the highest brow form of entertainment? Absolutely. None of that matters. It's Pro Wrestling, it's been this way for a very long time and I don't see it changing anytime soon.

VELASQUEZ: I get that building off of stereotypes is easy and that it has worked for years, but here's the thing: art forms evolve. We don't see stereotypes like this on the same level in mainstream entertainment. You know why? Because it's outdated, and every industry outside of wrestling seems to understand that. I mean Jesus, this isn't the 80s anymore, and that is just fine with me.

Can you imagine how it must look to first-time viewers tuning in just to see Jinder Mahal get booed and rained with USA chants? I get that there are many more reasons to boo him, but we all know what they're using to generate heat. And it's not Jinder's unnatural veins or average ring skills. This kind of booking keeps wrestling in a box and prevents better, more complete storytelling, and it also ensures that fans are seen as ignorant and promotes the kind of nationalism that makes the news so unbearable today.

So yeah, I don't care if it works. WWE should do better, and take it easy with the reliance on nationalism to fuel storylines. Appealing to the lowest common denominator can only carry a story so far, and I fear that when all is said and done, relying on ignorance for a cheap pop hurts the business of wrestling more than it helps it.

WIGGINS: They make call SmackDown Live 'The Land of Opportunity', but I feel it is more appropriately named 'The Land of the Stereotype'. Honestly, one anti-American gimmick is bad enough, but having watched WWE for fifteen years, it's something I've learned to live with. But three on one two-hour show? That's overkill in the extreme. Now, I accept WWE is a global product that caters to many diverse audiences, but this isn't the nuanced storytelling of the Hart Foundation against America. This is a lazy way to book three foreign wrestlers that will invest the uber-patriotic among the WWE Universe and get them to chant 'USA! USA!'

I'd genuinely like this to stop. Jinder Mahal I can vaguely understand to be presented as a hero in India and a villain in America, just because he isn't that talented or charismatic so this is the only feasible way to give him heel heat. But Kevin Owens and Rusev are both extremely talented both in the ring and on the microphone, so they don't need to resort to these tired tropes to make their characters interesting. Make Owens the Prizefighter again, make Rusev a convincing mid-card heel and end the xenophobia.

Question 2: Have the women of SmackDown Live lost their way when it comes to compelling storytelling? Have interesting story lines taken a backseat to the consistent need to create a women's wrestling history as is the case in this Sunday's first ever Fatal Five Way Elimination Match?

VELASQUEZ: I've said this in Women's Wrestling Weekly, and I'll say it again: "A division is only as strong as its characters, and when you don't take the time to properly develop characters as individuals and build conflicts with precision, your division feels shallow and the payoff is weak." The juicy stories for SmackDown are not found in the division as a whole, they are found by expanding and deepening relationships and conflicts both.

Dig deeper into Charlotte and Becky's friendship. Let it be tested by former allies like Natalya, let them develop a friendly rivalry akin to Lynch's with Sasha Banks leading up to WrestleMania 32. Tamina can be driven by jealousy over Naomi's success and make it her goal to keep Naomi from getting any success. Character-wise, Carmella is excelling because they are letting her develop and evolve as a character. Character moments like her second Money in the Bank victory can be had by others as well.

Women's wrestling doesn't operate any differently than men's wrestling. A division is nothing without strong, well-defined individuals. WWE needs to figure that out quickly, or else the giant pool of talent it has in its SmackDown women's division will be wasted.

WIGGINS: What has happened to WWE's women's divisions in 2017? The Mae Young Classic should be an outstanding accomplishment, and will undoubtedly create stars that will be signed to NXT and the main roster in short order. But they probably will be bewildered by the creative process that has taken place on SmackDown Live since WrestleMania 33. Put it this way: at Elimination Chamber, there were three distinct women's singles matches built on compelling feuds and character development. Since then it has been Six-Pack Challenge, followed by Six-Woman Tag, followed by Money in the Bank, and now a Five-Pack Challenge.

I don't think this is a case of trying to create history with the women's division on SmackDown Live - I just think they don't want to devote the time to tell more than one simple story. Already half the SmackDown roster can't force their way onto the show, with the likes of Tye Dillinger, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan and The Ascension regularly overlooked. Due to its abundance in star power (and yet bewildering lack of creativity), the SmackDown Live women's division is reverting back to an 'everybody in one match' mentality, which isn't helping anyone to stand out.

DeFELICE: Part of the beauty of being the one who gets to choose some of the topics of discussion for these articles is being able to you start a conversation that has been going around in your head for quite some time. In recent months, WWE has been really pushing women's wrestling. All in all, it leads to some pretty awesome moments but in the grand scheme of things it comes across (to me at least) like a company that was the last to realize that women can be athletes as well and now they just go around "making history" just to show that they are with the times. This is the catch 22 in play when it comes to the women of SmackDown Live.

All the girls on the blue brand have gotten really cool opportunities such as the women's Money in the Bank Ladder Match. However, I think that people confuse opportunity with the spotlight. This Sunday at Battleground, five women will once again compete in a first time ever match to earn an opportunity at the SmackDown Live Women's Champion, Naomi. This will be the fourth consecutive pay-per-view in which this brand represents its females in a multi-women chaos match rather than showcasing a select couple embroiled in a compelling issue. I am really bored of it and I want to see a really heated issue in this division heading into SummerSlam. Making history is great, I'm not knocking you out at all. I just enjoy compelling rivalries so much more and that is what the main roster has been missing in 2017.

Question 3: Given the violent nature of the WWE Championship Punjabi Prison Match, do you see Baron Corbin cashing in on whomever the WWE champion may be following that match?

WIGGINS: No, it's too soon. Baron Corbin will already have his hands full fighting and almost certainly losing to Shinsuke Nakamura at Battleground, so it would feel quite underwhelming for him to win the title after losing that match. Don't get me wrong, WWE has done that before and will more than certainly do it again. But I don't feel Corbin cashing in on either Jinder Mahal or Randy Orton will have the lasting impact a Money in the Bank cash-in should have, and quite frankly both those return matches sound very unappealing.

Plus, with the stipulation of a Punjabi Prison Match being victory by escape only, Corbin would either have to drag the winner back to the ring, or Mahal would win before being destroyed by Orton post-match, allowing Corbin to pick the bones. Both of those scenarios don't sit well with me, so I say Corbin keeps his hands on the briefcase for now (or whatever Vince McMahon wants us to call the briefcase now, even though it's 100% a briefcase).

DeFELICE: First and foremost, I'm looking forward to Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton having an incredible match up and really putting that stipulation on the map which is something it wasn't able to accomplish when it was centered around the Punjabi Goliath, Great Khali in the past. On to the topic of discussion. The Money In The Bank briefcase has always been used as somewhat of a get out of jail free card by WWE. It is for that reason that I do not think Baron will cash in on Sunday. Seeing as they're headed toward SummerSlam I think that they have a plan in place and do not need the quick fix that the briefcase holder can provide. I think that will be saved for the autumn months when creative tends to be at their lowest of lows and mostly on auto pilot.

That's not to say that it's not possible. If Randy wins, and they decide to move past Jinder then yes I do see the cash in happening. However, I see it playing out the way I always did with Jinder Mahal fighting John Cena for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam with Baron Corbin maybe cashing in between October and December. I'm okay with this as the Lone Wolf still needs time to build up credibility but when he cashes in, regardless of when and where this guy will be very happy

VELASQUEZ: I highly doubt it. I can see Corbin's eventual cash-in happening only one way, and it involves neither Randy Orton nor Jinder Mahal.

Corbin is a heat magnet. I still despise him for robbing me of my full Nakamura entrance at Money in the Bank. WWE will likely save his cash-in for when it will generate the absolute most heat for Corbin, and that will be with a face champion not named Randy Orton. WWE will want to generate an emotional moment, so I can see Corbin's time being held off until someone massively over with the crowd like Sami Zayn, AJ Styles or Shinsuke Nakamura gets a title shot or wins the title.

Additionally, if Corbin were to cash in now...then what? He's in a bit of a transitional half-feud with Shinsuke Nakamura that will wrap up soon, so his biggest plot point going forward is his briefcase. Taking that from him with no real foes lined up for him post-cashing in would be unwise. Not that WWE isn't drawn to making dumb decisions…

Those are our thoughts on the issue, but where do you stand?
Let us know your answers to these questions in the comments below!

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Robert DeFelice is a journalist and marketing student. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram as well as his apparel website Time Killer Apparel and his pro wrestling blog PandemoniuMania.


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