After a rapid-fire string of Pay-Per-Views (can we still call them that in the Network era?) produced a string of largely rehashed feuds and rematches aplenty, WWE Battleground holds the early promise of being a breath of fresh air. Already booked for the show are a battle between Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns, who last did battle as respective parts of the Wyatt Family and the Shield, and a Heavyweight title match between champion Seth Rollins and the returning Brock Lesnar.
Not only do each of these matches carry the promise of fresh, intriguing feuds that haven’t been overdone, but they feature WWE superstars who have no shortage of compelling prospective opponents still left to work with. Lesnar is in the second year of a contract that has specified a limited number of dates for which he is obligated to work, which somewhat protects the creative department from itself in terms of risking the over-exposure of the special attraction that is The Beast Incarnate. Meanwhile, NXT alums Wyatt, Reigns and Rollins have been on the main event scene for a suitably short span of time, so as to allow for new matchups to still present themselves.
Beyond those four, WWE still has some pretty formidable cards to play in the form of Kevin Owens, the still-fresh Dean Ambrose, a group of talented NXT stars poised to break through and a nice cache of WrestleMania season WWE legends who can still bring it in the ring. If Daniel Bryan can return to health and get back in the ring, that adds one more elite wrestler to the list. Gone are the days, it seems for now, of endless John Cena / Randy Orton battles.
With that, here are 15 matchups that will get the WWE Universe buzzing if and when they come to fruition. Here’s hoping they aren’t simply thrown out unadvertised on a random episode of Raw.
15 Neville vs. Kalisto
No, this won’t be headlining WrestleMania any time soon and it might seem odd to see a roster member who can barely get TV time as a tag wrestler on this list, but these guys can flat out go in the ring. Give them 10-15 minutes and they will showcase an array of unique, exciting and fast-paced moves that will surely win over any crowd. Both men are airborne, explosive wrestlers who would put on one heck of a showcase head-to-head. Too bad that their respective sizes don’t exactly fit the WWE mold. Instead of a proper stage, look for this match-up on Superstars or Main Event some day.
14 Paige vs. Charlotte
No one on the WWE roster is more in need of an injection of fresh opposition than Paige, who has been toiling in an endless feud with the Bellas within a Divas division that simply doesn’t have many other options at present time. Good thing for her, then, that NXT features several talented women that appear poised to break through to the main roster. While Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch would also provide a much-needed jolt to the division, a clash between Paige and Charlotte “Daughter of Ric” Flair could be a show-stealer.
13 Brock Lesnar vs. Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler remains seemingly forever entrenched in the mid-card, so he would initially seem like fodder for Lesnar But man, would he ever make Lesnar look good. No one on the roster takes better bumps than Ziggler, making him uniquely suited to match up with the potent, impactful offence of Mr. Suplex City. It’s almost too bad that Lesnar has begun a character shift that sees him entering babyface territory, as Ziggler trying to rally valiantly against a brutal beatdown from Lesnar could do great things for both competitors. If Lesnar was able to make Cena look like a rag doll in their matches, imagine what he could do to a guy like Ziggler.
12 Daniel Bryan vs. Rusev
In what will surely be an on-going theme throughout this list, this entry comes with the continued hope that Bryan can recover from chronic neck woes and numerous surgeries to get back into the ring. Clearly the best in-ring worker in all of WWE, Bryan would be ideally suited for a program with Rusev, the physical Bulgarian Brute who has some in-ring skill of his own. The patriotic USA gimmick that seems tailored to any Rusev opponent would be an awkward fit for Bryan, but he’s still got more of an everyman quality than Cena, who has already had a successful program with Rusev.
11 Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton
Psychology would be the order of the day in a feud between this pair of second generation superstars. Wyatt would be called upon to handle the bulk of the mic work to sell the feud, but The Viper exudes an intensity and non-verbal charisma that would allow him to play an excellent reactive role. Plus, it would also inspire Orton, who tends to lock in on hot feuds and coast during dull programs (see his current semi-feud with Sheamus). On top of the non-wrestling segments, matches between these two could make for compelling viewing as well, with the RKO meeting Sister Abigail.
10 Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton
Remarkably, despite coming up through the OVW developmental system at roughly the same time, Lesnar and Orton have never really crossed paths in WWE, save for a 2002 Smackdown match in which Orton was practically a jobber. In addition to a similar shared timeline, the two men boast an interesting parallel history that could help drive their feud. It was Orton, after all, who ended Lesnar’s reign as the youngest world champion in WWE history upon winning his first title at 24 years of age. It’s also no coincidence that much of The Viper’s success came within the years that Lesnar spent out of WWE.
9 Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns
It’s surely only a matter of time before these two powerful forces encounter one another in a WWE ring. Owens has exploded onto the scene and removed all doubts about his ability to be an elite superstar for years to come, while Reigns has been groomed since day one to be a main event player. The challenge within the current WWE landscape, however, would be to book a program that would encourage fans to get behind Reigns rather than Owens. Should they hold off on the feud for the time being, however, they could build a major program pitting Reigns as the corporate heel against the more legitimate Owens.
8 Daniel Bryan vs. Sami Zayn
The most popular underdog in WWE, meet the most popular underdog in NXT. Of course, no introduction would be necessary for two men readily familiar with each other from their days on the independent scene. Still, it would be awfully interesting to see these two similarly skilled in-ring technicians go at it inside the WWE squared circle. Whether you would be chanting “Yes!” or “Ole!”, it would certainly be a treat to see Sami Zayn and Bryan, both of whom had to overcome some major obstacles to reach the big time, square off. Both are out of action right now with injuries, but they have each proven doubters wrong before.
7 Seth Rollins vs. Triple H
According to reports, we can look forward to this feud playing out ahead of a SummerSlam showdown. In fact, ever since Rollins began using the Pedigree in place of his now-outlawed Curb Stomp finisher, the writing has been on the wall that a head-to-head encounter is looming. Based on the direction of current storylines, it’s difficult to see who will shift to the babyface side of the ledger to make the program work (early reports suggest it’ll be Rollins). Regardless, the two men should have plenty to work with to build up the feud and could also deliver in the ring, where Rollins is now a proven quantity.
6 Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho
Give these guys a program to sell, two microphones and hold onto your hat. In the post-CM Punk era, there isn’t another superstar on the regular roster that can hold a candle to Ambrose, unless Wyatt’s mumbo jumbo promos impress you. Enter steady part-timer Chris Jericho, who can still own opponents on the mic even after months away. Jericho has shown no qualms about being willing to put over emerging stars and Ambrose would certainly fit the bill. It’s not quite Ambrose and Roddy Piper in terms of WWE doppelgangers, but there are enough parallels here for the feud to pretty well write itself.
5 Sting vs. The Undertaker
Yes, I know that I’m suggesting a dream match that ideally would have taken place about 10 to 15 years ago. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that this wouldn’t still be huge if it was booked for WrestleMania 32, in Taker’s home state of Texas. At this past year’s Mania, both The Undertaker and Sting showed that they could still put together a standout match with the right opponent (Wyatt and Triple H, respectively), so long as they dipped into their bag of tricks a bit. Heck, the entrances alone would make this one a must-see encounter.
4 The Rock vs. Seth Rollins
I’ll admit that I had a harder time than expected in coming up with an ideal opponent for The Rock when he next sets foot in a WWE ring. I’m not entirely sold on speculated programs with either Lesnar or Triple H, although the teased Authority vs. Rock and Ronda Rousey tag match holds some intrigue. Enter Rollins, who has gained the main event status to share the limelight with The People’s Champion and boasts the in-ring pedigree to help coax a strong match out of The Rock. An all-Samoan battle against cousin Reigns could also work for The Rock.
3 Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns
Speaking of Rollins and Reigns, it’s clear that a program between the two has been festering since Rollins turned on his former Shield mate and later cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase by pinning Reigns at WrestleMania 31 for the World Championship. WWE creative has shown discipline in not hot-shoting a program between the two, but surely it’s coming after Rollins seemingly wrapped his feud with The Shield’s third former member, Ambrose. With two competitors so intrinsically linked, there wouldn’t be much thought required to build a feud.
2 Brock Lesnar vs. Kevin Owens
There have been no shortage of big man matches over the course of WWE history, just as there have been some brutal, physical ‘slobber-knockers’. But this somehow feels different. You’d be hard-pressed to find another clash featuring two men as dangerous as Lesnar and Owens. It’s a credit to Owens to put him here, as few can stand up to Lesnar as an equal, but Owens is quickly heading that way. There is so much to relish over this potential feud, including promo battles between Owens and Lesnar advocate Paul Heyman and a devastating finisher battle pitting Lesnar’s F-5 against Owens’ pop-up powerbomb.
1 Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan
Remember what I said about hoping that Bryan would eventually be cleared to wrestle again? The feud that WWE fans were denied leading into WrestleMania 31 represents the ultimate underdog battle of the dominant Lesnar against the undersized fan favorite in Bryan. Even if Bryan ultimately gets a clean bill of health, it’s tough to see them rushing him into a feud with the punishing Lesnar – and with good reason. For as much as their fascinating clash of styles would make for compelling viewing, many fans would have trouble looking on without at least some cringe-inducing discomfort over the physical toll being taken. Man, what a match though.