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For the second time in her current reign, Naomi finds herself not having to defend the SmackDown Women’s Championship at the latest pay-per-view, as Sunday’s Battleground will feature a Fatal 5-Way to determine who gets a title shot at SummerSlam on August 20.
Making up the participants in said match are the usual suspects from the blue brand’s women’s division: Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Lana, Natalya and Tamina.
Noticeably absent is Carmella, the current Ms. Money in the Bank, who can insert herself into the title hunt at any given moment she chooses, according to the contract she won not once, but twice.
With those five women vying for contention and Carmella lingering in the background, there are plenty of options for how this could go down at Battleground, but a few stand out as predominantly better or worse than the rest.
Let’s take a look at the best and the worst possible outcomes regarding Battleground’s Fatal 5-Way winners.
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All five women are talented and have different personalities and characters they can showcase, but if one of them is going to be the bottom of the barrel, it has to be Lana.
This doesn’t mean she’s someone who should be cut from the roster or anything drastic like that—far from it, actually—but when compared to the other four competitors, it makes the least amount of sense for her to come out on top.
Lana has already received multiple matches against Naomi recently and repetition is a mood killer in WWE, despite the company’s tendency to get lazy from time to time and do nothing but the same feud for months on end.
Fans almost always seem to prefer something new as opposed to something they’ve seen on a handful of occasions recently, which hurts Lana’s effectiveness as a viable contender.
Working against her favor, too, is how decisive Naomi’s victories were over her, with their most recent two spats being decidedly in the champion’s favor to the level of a complete squash.
Why would fans think anything else would happen at SummerSlam other than Naomi retaining?
The only way around that would be to either have Lana somehow win the title or for Carmella to cash in her title opportunity, both of which would mostly be a shock for the pure sake of a shock.
Surprises are fun, but they shouldn’t be booked without knowing that the future of the division and storylines to come aren’t hindered by the initial shock value, as that dissipates rather quickly.
Lana has made massive improvements and will continue to add to her skills, but she hasn’t proved herself anywhere near capable enough to lead the entire blue brand’s roster, so it would be a mistake for her to be the next champion just to avoid the obvious scenario of Naomi retaining for a fourth time.
Likewise, Lana setting up Carmella for a cash-in doesn’t need to happen unless WWE desperately needs a surprise, but SummerSlam has already been used for the Money in the Bank so many times in the past that people would be expecting that, too.
Even if that is non-negotiable and Carmella somehow has to dethrone Naomi, Lana isn’t the person who should wrestle her ahead of time before the cash-in.
The Ravishing Russian has had a good start to her run as an in-ring performer, and over time, she’ll likely get to the point where a title reign can be legitimate. For now, she needs to sit this out.
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As pictured above, there are three options who fall into the middle range where they wouldn’t be the worst, yet they certainly aren’t the best.
When it comes to Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Natalya, the response should be a mediocre sigh and not an energetic boo or cheer.
Sure, they’re all more than capable of putting on a good match against Naomi, but none of them bring anything particularly interesting to the table at the moment.
Charlotte is struggling considerably to maintain any kind of semblance of a babyface character since the majority of her career has revolved around her being the snotty, self-absorbed and entitled heel. As a face, she is bland and wouldn’t pair up well against a fellow babyface like Naomi.
A similar situation is going on with Becky, who fits into her character much better but has been doing the same thing since coming up to the main roster. With nothing different in the mix, does anybody really care to put her at the top of the pecking order?
While it would make sense to a certain extent for Natalya to go up against Naomi because she is a heel, she’s been used more as a buffer or filler wrestler rather than the marquee name.
More time has been dedicated to Nattie talking about her cats on Instagram than building her up to look like she could actually win the SmackDown Women’s Championship anywhere down the line.
If any of these three women win, it certainly won’t be the end of the world, as this match isn’t going to be the most important one that sells tickets to SummerSlam.
For that matter, even a Lana win wouldn’t be that drastically bad, but the difference that separates her from these three women is that she makes no sense getting that title shot while Becky, Charlotte and Natalya are more justified yet still boring options.
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Of course, this leaves only one woman left in the field: Tamina Snuka.
While Lana herself winning makes little to no sense, her newfound ally Tamina checks off all the boxes for a viable contender to Naomi’s title.
This alignment between Tamina and Lana allows for a cover-up of one of Tamina’s biggest flaws, as she’s proved herself reliably bad on the mic while Lana is proficient in that aspect.
Where Lana succeeds in promos while Tamina fails, the opposite can be said about in-ring presence.
Lana was laughed at several weeks back when she threw her name into the running for a title shot and then she was proved to be no match for Naomi, but Tamina is the most physically dominant woman on the SmackDown roster who has had no problem laying the champion out from time to time in their careers.
Tamina and Naomi also have a familial connection that hasn’t been hit hard enough for promotional sake, as the current champion married into the Anoa’i family with Jimmy Uso.
Another positive from a Tamina win would be the potential to see someone who has wrestled in the company for seven years possibly finally get her first championship.
In all that time, Tamina has never won a single title for WWE or any other company, yet what’s crazy to think about is Charlotte has won five in nearly half that time.
Of course, a win at Battleground does not secure a belt around Tamina’s waist come SummerSlam, but the potential for it to happen and the quality of the in-ring action we could see between she and Naomi along with the storyline of her making up for Lana’s defeats all combine to make her the best possible choice for the victor of this match.
Who are you rooting for in the Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match at Battleground? Do any of the women stand out to you in a negative way as the worst case scenario?
Tell us your thoughts and predictions in the comments section below!
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.