Former Funkadactyls Naomi & Cameron square off in the WWE Battleground pre-show, while AJ Lee defends the Divas Championship against former titleholder and frenemy Paige on the main card.
WWE Divas Championship
AJ Lee v Paige
• Paige shocked everyone when she won the Divas Championship from AJ Lee in an angle/match the day after WrestleMania XXX, then went on to successfully defend the belt at Extreme Rules, Payback and Money in the Bank.
• AJ returned the day after MotB and convinced Paige to defend her title there, and won it back in another angle/match. Since then, Paige – who turned heel in the match but is still acting like a babyface – is being as nice and supportive of AJ as possible, though AJ knows the knife to the back is coming. The pair have teamed up on a couple of occasions with success, but there is the underlying tension of Paige threatening to pull the trigger and go full heel.
• Paige came out all happy and smiling, applauded AJ during the champion’s entrance, and the pair shook hands at the start of the match before Paige took the advantage with a thrust kick to the face following the exchange of some early victory roll attempts. The Briton went to work with kicks, slams, knees in the ropes and a clothesline before locking in a surfboard to wear her opponent down.
• AJ responded with a tornado DDT before the pair spilled to the floor, seeing the titleholder being thrown into the barricades. After throwing her opponent back into the ring, the challenger went to the top rope but was cut off by AJ, though she suffered a top rope sunset slip – which was presumably meant to be a sunset powerbomb – for a two-count.
• Fighting back with an upkick, AJ attempted a crossbody from the second rope but was caught, though countered it into a Black Widow attempt. Paige managed to free herself with a hiplock and connected with a Paige Turner for a near-fall. Stunned, she went for the PTO but AJ rolled through before nailing a Shining Wizard for the pinfall.
• This match has come in for some criticism online – with claims that it was too sloppy and was a disappointment. While I see the validity of those arguments, I don’t think I hated it anywhere near as much as others. Yes, the spill through the ropes was messy and the top rope sunset powerbomb didn’t really come off, but they fought through those mishaps – which could happen to any wrestler, in fairness – to put together a decent little contest which drew in the crowd, even though the commentators were messing around with making jokes for the early portion of the match.
• I thought as a contest, it was fine – but probably falls short of the massive expectations many had for it. It wasn’t perfect, but when you consider how few times they have actually wrestled in proper matches rather than the title-switching angles – twice, in fact, and they took place on house shows a year ago – you can imagine that they aren’t totally comfortable wrestling each other yet. They need more matches on the road to get them ready for an inevitable rematch. Hopefully that rematch will have Paige as the proper heel, as the expected full turn which we thought we would see did not take place, and more of the frenemy talk continued in a post-match video, which you can see below.
• Story-wise, what was Paige trying to do by encouraging AJ to fight back? That makes no sense. Also, directors – make sure we can’t hear the wrestlers talking to each other. There were at least three occasions where you could hear them talking through spots.
• All in all: not bad, not brilliant, but a base for the future.
Naomi v Cameron
• Cameron started getting delusions of grandeur after Paige’s win over Alicia Fox at Payback as she confronted the then-Divas Champion to demand a match, and was soundly defeated twice. Naomi wasn’t happy with her partner’s rudeness or attitude.
• Naomi defeated Paige in a non-title match and Cameron celebrated as if it was her own victory, shoving Paige after the bell and getting a beating for her trouble. Naomi, embarrassed by Cameron’s actions, did nothing to save her.
• Cameron was at ringside for Naomi’s title challenge at Money in the Bank but looked bored by the whole affair and openly cheered when Paige was winning. The pair came to blows two weeks ago on Raw after they were beaten by AJ and Paige, with Cameron – who had done nothing for the whole match – tagged herself in and was pinned following a Paige Turner.
• Cameron tried to run in the early going but then got in a cheap kick and took Naomi down with a hair pull before throwing her to the outside to ram her into the apron.
• Back inside, Cameron stretched Naomi with a surfboard and Naomi missed a dropkick when she made it to her feet. However, a jack-knife pin attempt by Cameron was countered so Naomi mounted her former partner to rain down punches, and did the same following a Thesz Press.
• Cameron tried to make a run for it but was stopped and thrown into the barriers before being thrown back into the ring – though she countered an Irish Whip by running Naomi throat-first into the rope before rolling up her former partner to get the tights-assisted pin.
• Cack. I accept that this was on the pre-show and it needed to be TV-match length, but the action was weak and nothing really happened.
• Cameron is still sub-par when it comes to wrestling. She failed to run the ropes properly and looks all over the place. Her character is good but once the bell rings, the wrestling skill is lacking. This hurts the more athletic and exciting Naomi, as she has to work to her opponent’s capabilities – which aren’t many.
• The win helps Cameron’s new gimmick but leaves Naomi in a difficult situation. A month ago she was challenging for the Divas Championship in a pretty exciting match and now she’s here, losing to Cameron in a couple of minutes. I would imagine that the pair will have another match but I can’t imagine it going much longer or being much better than this without a few shortcuts. It’s a feud which had to happen but this isn’t helping Naomi much at all.
– Photos by WWE