Without even noticing, I’ve already passed the one year mark of PPV Spotlights. I started doing them last summer, and I just happened to be going through some of my articles and noticed what match I’d written about for last year’s Battleground – Natalya vs Becky Lynch. I thought it might be apt to revisit that article somewhat for the 2017 edition of my Battleground Spotlight. So here we are with Battleground 2017 tonight, and instead of writing about two women, I’m writing about five.
SmackDown in particular have made a habit of this. In every PPV this year that has featured a women’s match from the blue brand, there at least five female superstars from Tuesday nights on the show – often in multi-women matches. At the Royal Rumble there was a 6-women tag on the pre-show, at Elimination Chamber there were three separate singles matches, at Wrestlemania there was a championship 6-pack challenge, at Backlash there was another 6-women tag match and Money in the Bank was fairly self-explanatory.
It’s a far cry from a year ago when I spoke about the lack of depth in SmackDown’s women’s division. Back then I wrote about how delivering a show-stealing performance was more important than a win for either Natalya or Becky, to inject life into a division that had been bolstered by unproven NXT call-ups. I spoke about how Becky and Natalya had to lead the others, and while they were out in front Alexa Bliss, Carmella and Naomi could be built up to become big players. Based on where the latter names are now, I think they succeeded.
If anything they succeeded too well. These multi-person matches don’t often lend themselves to great storytelling in the built up to them. Usually a succession of triple threats, fatal-4-ways, fatal-5-ways, six pack challenges or tags means that WWE are just trying to cram everyone on to the show. And it must be said, since Naomi won the title there hasn’t been a hugely convincing storyline around the championship.
But I think that changes tonight. After facing off against each other in a variety of matches, tonight the focus for Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Natalya turns back towards title glory. There’s Tamina and Lana too, but I would be amazed if either of them won. After tonight, we should finally have a clear contender to challenge Naomi, even with the lingering presence of Ms Money in the Bank in the background.
I just want to say at this point – I absolutely love that this match is being done on PPV. It would have been all too easy to have done it weeks ago on SmackDown and have the winner be facing Naomi here. But I like that number one contenders matches are finally returning to PPV – it makes the eventual path to a title shot feel like a bigger deal when the opportunity is earned on PPV. I’ve thought for a while it would be a nice touch for world titles, a way of getting a good competitive match on PPV without necessarily crafting a major storyline around people, and here we are with the women’s title hunt instead taking that initiative.
Especially when the title shot presumably comes at SummerSlam. Do not underestimate how important that is – WWE increasingly go all out to make the biggest show of the summer feel on par with Wrestlemania. Post-Mania season, all plans lead to SummerSlam. Post-SummerSlam, all plans lead to Wrestlemania. That’s just the way it is. Making someone earn a title shot on PPV adds to the special feel surrounding the PPV too.
So then the question becomes who is going to win. If the face/heel dynamic matters for SummerSlam, which you could logically argue it won’t with it likely to be a Mania style crowd, I would think Natalya is the favourite. Natalya vs Naomi, and say Charlotte vs Tamina & Lana and Becky vs Carmella would be three solid and fresh storylines that could run on Tuesday nights, and keeps the face/heel sides fairly balanced.
A Charlotte win, which is always a possible option because of how successfully she has been portrayed in her WWE run so far, might give you the best match at SummerSlam, but it would leave a massive face/heel imbalance as it stands. You would have Becky having to fend off some combination of Natalya, Tamina, Lana and Carmella on her own – unless we’re due a Nikki Bella return or an NXT call-up, which did happen around SummerSlam time last year in the form of Bayley on Raw.
Similarly, if Becky won Charlotte would be vastly outnumbered. However, Becky beating Charlotte this last week made for an interesting development. Becky has defeated arguably the best WWE has to offer, so if she comes up short tonight – what’s next for year? She has slowly been getting more and more frustrated at people using underhand tactics to beat her, or just plainly getting outnumbered. Could that frustration get the best of her if she comes up short tonight? Could there be a heel turn in Becky’s future? Yes, that might unbalance the roster all the more, but you could ease that with a Bella return and/or the debut of an Asuka or Ember Moon quite easily. After all, if even half the women from the Mae Young Classic get signed, NXT is suddenly going to be overcrowded with talented women, so people will have to be moved on or moved up.
And since they are actually in the match, I probably should touch on Tamina and Lana. First off, the whole enforcer role is played out, especially with Tamina in the role. Without some sort of tag division for the women, I’m not convinced the pairing will help either women, or see any success tonight or in the future. I suppose it’s possible, but unlikely after losing three title matches, that everyone takes each other out and Lana picks up the pieces to cover someone. I think it’s less likely Tamina comes out on top, even though she is the better of the two. It could be the case that Lana wins, loses another title match, attacks Naomi with Tamina’s help resulting in a cash in somewhere down the line.
And there’s another aspect of beauty right now: everything can change within a week or two. If Carmella cashes in her MitB contract and becomes champion, that changes the entire dynamic of the division again. Right now Naomi isn’t scheduled to defend her championship at Battleground, but that could change with the handover of a briefcase. If we have a heel champion heading into SummerSlam, especially one who won MitB the way Carmella did (twice), then I’d guess it’s extremely likely that Charlotte wins tonight, and becomes a five-time champion.
It’s an exciting time for the women’s division across the board in WWE, with the Mae Young Classic, a Money in the Bank holder, as well as potential returns or call-ups. It was only around two years ago the whole “women’s revolution” started, and even one year ago there looked like a bit of a lack of depth. That could all change in another year or two, and it looks like things are only going to get better and better. Tonight’s match is just the latest sign of how far they’ve already come.