The Punjabi Prison is coming to Philadelphia.
World Wrestling Entertainment is bringing its Battleground pay-per-view event to the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday night. It’s a SmackDown Live exclusive, which means Philly can see the likes of A.J. Styles, John Cena, Charlotte Flair, and Kevin Owens.
(That means we won’t see Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Sasha Banks, or Samoa Joe. They’re all on the Raw brand.)
Before seeing any stars, though, fans will see a massive bamboo-like structure hanging from the ceiling of the Wells Fargo Center. It’s in that Punjabi Prison that unlikely WWE champ Jinder Mahal will defend his title against Randy Orton.
There have only been two previous Punjabi Prison matches. The first was between the Undertaker and Big Show at the Great American Bash in 2006; the second was between Batista and the Great Khali at No Mercy in 2007.
Like Khali, Mahal is of Indian descent (he was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada), which spurred WWE to unearth the structure for what looks like to be the final match in the rivalry between Mahal and Orton.
Mahal and Orton should not have too much trouble topping the previous Punjabi Prison matches, which were generally panned by wrestling fans and pundits.
Rules for the first two bouts were vastly different from those of other WWE cage matches, such as the Hell in a Cell and the Elimination Chamber. The structure had four trap doors, which only opened when one of the combatants called for it to happen. Once a door was opened, each man had only 60 seconds to escape. After 60 seconds, the door was closed and padlocked for the rest of the match. If someone escaped from the inner cage, he had to climb over the outer cage to win.
WWE may tweak the rules this time around — not an uncommon occurrence — but that is a basic outline of what fans could expect to see Sunday night.
If you’re not interested in a grudge match and are purely looking for star power, Battleground has that covered: Cena is taking part in his first pay-per-view match since WrestleMania, facing Rusev in a flag match. The object of the flag match is for a wrestler to grab his or her flag hanging above the ring. Cena, defending the honor of America, will be tasked with pulling down the American flag.
That patriotism won’t stop at least half of the Philadelphia fans from greeting Cena with a chorus of boos.
Rusev, the “Bulgarian Brute,” will attempt to pull down the Bulgarian banner so he can wave it with pride — something that would no doubt upset all proud Americans watching.
Speaking of patriotism, WWE’s most patriotic title, the United States championship, will be on the line when Styles defends the title against Owens in a match between two of the best wrestlers WWE has to offer. Fans already were looking forward to the contest, but WWE added a new level of intrigue when Styles defeated Owens for the United States title at an untelevised event July 7 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The SmackDown Women’s championship, currently held by Naomi, will not be on the line, but there will be a five-way elimination match with Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Natalya, Tamina and Lana to determine the number one contender.
The winner will vie for the SmackDown Women’s championship at SummerSlam in August.
Ms. Money in the Bank Carmella isn’t scheduled to wrestle at Battleground, but she’ll be looming somewhere in the Wells Fargo Center with her Money in the Bank briefcase, which contains a contract that guarantees her a Smackdown Women’s title shot at any time for the next year.
As for Mr. Money in the Bank Baron Corbin, he is scheduled to face Shinsuke Nakamura in a one-on-match. For fans who have never seen Nakamura’s entrance in person, that alone will be worth the price of admission. Prepare to be wowed by that and Nakamura’s ability in the ring.
The third title being defended Sunday night will be the Smackdown Tag Team, as The Usos will attempt to fend off The New Day.
New Day may come down with unicorn horns, their own breakfast cereal called Booty-Os, and a trombone named Francesca, but they can get it done in the ring: The trio holds the record for the longest tag-team title reign in WWE history at 483 days.
7:30 p.m. Sunday
Wells Fargo Center
Tickets from $25.