WWE Battleground feels thrown together. Four of the matches on the card have either been booked with little-to-no reason (see: Axel/Truth, Sandow/Ziggler) or booked in favour of more preferable matches (see: AJ/Brie).
But then, that’s frequently the case with pay-per-view matches WWE throw together. Half are booked seemingly at random, suffering at the expense of other matches that have been booked with care and consideration.
Thankfully, this match falls into the latter category. It is The Shield versus The Rhodes Family.
There are many famous family names in the wrestling industry. The Funk family. The Guerrero family. The Hart family.
It is an absorbing business, that often indoctrinates more than one generation. Second and even third generation superstars have stepped into the square circle, continuing the proud lineage of their family’s inextricable connection to professional wrestling.
Two other famous wrestling families, of course, would be the Rhodes family and the McMahon family.
Both huge names in the business; both families that have created an indelible legacy in professional wrestling. And yet they are as different as night and day.
One, the McMahon family, controls almost the entire industry in North America, monopolising professional wrestling with their globally recognised promotion. The other, the Rhodes family, carved a reputation inside the ring rather than outside it, but are fondly thought of by fans for their undeniable impact over the years.
And between them exists a simmering resentment that has led to the Battleground PPV’s most unpredictable match.
These two that don’t actually have any particularly bitter history with Dusty Rhodes and his children. But Stephanie and Triple H, relishing their insurmountable control over the affairs of WWE, appear to be continuing the campaign of humiliation that Vince McMahon first orchestrated against the Rhodes family when he dressed Dusty, arguably the greatest babyface of all time, in polka dots.
Their egotism know no bounds, and despite the masquerade of doing what’s “best for business”, it is clear to all watching that what Stephanie and Triple H are interested in is doing whatever they feel like doing.
And just a few short weeks ago, when Cody Rhodes spoke out against the treatment of Daniel Bryan, he irritated the wrong man in the Cerebral Assassin; on a whim, HHH placed him in a career-threatening match against Randy Orton, which he proceeded to lose along with his job.
After that, both The Game and Stephanie tormented Goldust for his inability to win a match again Orton that would have earned Cody his job back. Things escalated further still a week later, when Stephanie ordered Big Show to knock out a helpless Dusty, who was merely speaking on behalf of his children. It was in that moment that the depths of Stephanie and HHH’s evil were exposed.
Worst of all, though, is the parade of wrestlers – some willing, some not – they use to enforce their heinous will. And the most dangerous of them all will be facing Cody and Goldust this Sunday.
The Hounds of Justice.
But who’s justice?
The Shield have become a militia; the iron fist of an oppressive regime, enforcing whatever sickening rules Stephanie McMahon and Triple H tell them to enforce.
And over the past few weeks, that has often involved them someone with the surname Rhodes.
While they may be in the backdrop of this overall picture, both Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins remain a crucial part of the entire scheme; they are the physical extension of Stephanie and HHH’s more vicious whims.
They are unrelenting; they are remorseless, and they are the best there is at what they do.
And what they do is destroy their opposition.
The common touch means a lot to wrestling fans.
They have lived vicariously through so many characters that they have felt as though they could be – Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Jeff Hardy – and their ability to relate to the heroes of wrestling has always been an intrinsic part of profession.
Nobody embodied that more than Dusty Rhodes. While Vince McMahon was taking Hulk Hogan and WWE national, Dusty Rhodes remained the true hero of the southern states, where there was always more emphasis on the realistic and relatable as opposed to the fantastical image Vince has of the industry.
Dusty Rhodes has given so much to professional wrestling. He booked shows as well as performing in them, and innovated many ideas. He personified the American Dream, representing the common man in an era when wrestling felt like a club exclusive to those that looked like Greek Gods.
It’s fitting, then, that his greatest contribution to the wrestling business – his sons – circumvent that typical luck.
Dustin Rhodes was blue chip. He had the look, the physique, and the genetic requirements to be as successful as he wanted to be in wrestling. He was in the mould of Randy Orton before Randy Orton ever became an existing mould.
Goldust was not blue chip. Goldust was an embarrassment to the Rhodes name, and became part of what caused a family rift that existed for years.
Distinct? Yes. Memorable? Absolutely. But for all the wrong reasons, in his father’s opinion.
Now, though, Goldust is defending the honour of his family name, after years in which he supposedly disgraced it with his unorthodox methods and alternative lifestyle. Having returned seeking to earn back his brother Cody’s job, he fell victim to Randy Orton and failed. Some would argue that failure is his predominant legacy.
But what’s admirable about Goldust is that he doesn’t shy away from that, and instead seeks to atone. And while he lost to Randy Orton, he certainly proved himself to have gas left in the tank. When he stands beside his younger brother on Sunday, with their father watching from the sidelines, it will be with pride.
Goldust the pariah will be forgotten. Goldust, defender of the family, will be what is remembered.
The wrestling world was Cody Rhode’s oyster.
Until it was all taken away.
A six-year mainstay of WWE now, it is easy to overlook the fact Cody is still only 28-years-old. And at that age, he was already extremely decorated; a multiple-time tag team champion, and one of the definitive Intercontinental Champions of recent years.
Slowly, but surely, he was assembling a portfolio of accolades that would eventually lead to World Championship opportunities. The big leagues would call eventually, and with time on his side all Cody needed to do was continue to work hard, add to his already decorated résumé, and bide his time.
But his name is Rhodes. And thus, it can never be that easy for him.
When Triple H fired Cody Rhodes, it was truly heartbreaking. At the time Cody was almost treading water, but still people saw in him the future; limitless potential, which meant he was someone it was always worth keeping an eye on. His termination was gut-wrenching.
Daniel Bryan had been screwed, yes, but this was a step further still. This was a young man, fired before he could even reach his prime. All because he spoke out against the despicable actions of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
But now, he has the chance to come back into the fold. Now, he has the chance to make his firing the platform to greater things. What appeared to be the worst moment of Cody’s career could, years from now, be seen as the genesis of his ascension.
And the ultimate salvation of the Rhodes name.
It is hard to tell what exactly will happen in this match.
There are so many variables that can’t be predicted. The experience of The Shield, in combat against the cause of the brothers Rhodes. Their father, on the sidelines; his very presence a potential source of galvanisation or distraction. Stephanie and HHH, so falsely benevolent in their loathsome condescension towards Dusty and his sons. Big Show, as of yet unattached at Battleground, and thus available for (begrudging) use.
What we can expect is a passionate, frenetic encounter that the fans will hopefully get involved in.
This is a match of opportunity. An opportunity for Goldust to earn himself a job. An opportunity for Cody to get back his job. An opportunity for Dusty to keep his, and stick the proverbial middle finger up to the McMahon family in the process.
A battleground, indeed.