20th September 2015.
During a conversation with fellow 2015 Raw reviewer extraordinaire James Dixon, we agreed that I’d cover Night of Champions this week while he volunteered to do Raw. Which is a show we both seem to detest in equal measure. It occurred to me after this arrangement had come to pass; what did he know about Night of Champions that I didn’t? Had he caught wind of foul occurrences? Had I been saddled with a duff PPV, caught unawares thanks to my gleeful ignorance of PPV cards ahead of time? I say that but I know most of this card; it’s the show where all the titles are defended so it’s hard not to know what’s happening. Oh well, once more into the breach…
We’re in Houston, Texas. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry Lawler.
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Ryback (c) vs. Kevin Owens
The Ryback is popular but Owens is REALLY popular. As in his pop dwarfs Ryback’s and the crowd start into the “Fight Owens Fight” chants and then start booing Ryback’s offence. Ryback does a lot of power business but Owens takes his arm. The brilliance of Kevin Owens is he always manages to retain his heel status, even when the crowd love him because he’s such a dick. Unfortunately that means he has to grind away at holds that nobody is going to cheer, which is dull. You just can’t win with the heel/face alignment. When he was working with Cena it was a lot easier as the crowd were inclined to cheer him anyway but you can’t do that with poor Ryback. He’s fragile. The arm psychology pays off with Ryback struggling to get into offensive positions with it and Owens continuing the assault. When Ryback fights through the pain Owens just rakes the eyes, because screw the rules, and rolls Ryback up for the belt. Owens controlled this one and definitely deserves the IC title. His biggest problem will be how he’s portrayed as IC champion as others have suffered in the role. Wade Barrett immediately springs to mind. Hopefully the forward planning with Owens is better than Barrett.
Final Rating: **1/4
Video Control shills Brock Lesnar’s “Go To Hell Tour” with a match against Big Show at MSG, Podcast with Steve Austin and Taker-Lesnar at Hell in a Cell. From there we get another recap of the Rusev-Ziggler ‘TMZ’ feud. Summer Rae is now wearing Ziggler’s “peace offering” earrings from last week. Is sweet, submissive Summer also in danger of being stolen away by the Show Off? Ziggler is building a harem.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev
No belts on the line in this one, unless Summer Rae is some sort of locker room championship. The commentators ignore this one and talk about diaries and Twitter instead. That about sums the feud up. It’s not about wrestling. Partly because of this, and partly because they don’t do anything, the match struggles to gain my concentration. The crowd gets bored too and chants for Lana, who’s the only person who’s gotten over through all of this. Rusev dominates much of the match, even though that means nothing against Ziggler as he gets beaten up by everyone. That’s his gimmick. He’s a punching bag. He’s probably hoping for some serious throwback love from the ladies in the audience, like Ricky Morton in the 1980s, but most wrestling crowd’s are sausagefests nowadays. You have to cater to your audience. Pretty babyfaces getting their asses kicked doesn’t get the same reaction as it used to. Although, oddly enough, the “USA” chants still ring out to greet an anti-American heel like Rusev. Both gimmicks are throwbacks but Rusev’s is still over. The match is actually solid with good back and forth action until Summer jumps in there and gets thrown out. Good grief, she’s got a screechy voice. She goes nuts and starts throwing shoes everywhere and a distracted Rusev is planted with the Zigzag for the loss. I feel bad for Rusev, who was pure gold at the start of the year but has found a John Cena feud hard to recover from.
Final Rating: **1/4
WWE Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz
The New Day might be the greatest turnaround in wrestling history. Saddled with a craptastic positivity gimmick, they were roundly hated and turned heel only to become a phenomenally entertaining act, one of the best in the promotion. It’s a prime example of taking what you’re given and making it worthwhile. New Day run through a list of guys who’ve signed their #Savethetables petition. D-Von is a bit of a throwback too. His move set is rooted firmly in the Attitude Era. All punches and the like. Bubba upgraded himself somewhat by becoming a main eventer in TNA. They do some great trash talking in this match, even outside of Xavier Woods’ ranting. “GO HOME OLD MAN, THIS IS OUR TIME” – Big E. “FUCK YOU” – Bubba. I find Big E’s headlocks entertaining, for crying out loud. When did that happen? Xavier running through his scales while Bubba gets stomped in the corner is AMAZING. That trombone is a godsend. Big E splashes Bubba on the apron and it genuinely looks like it knocks poor Bubba stupid. The ref is obviously worried. Kofi breaks out some boxing and Xavier plays the Rocky theme; “Gonna Fly Now”. When you’re hot, you’re hot. If he can coordinate more with Big E and Kofi about doing spots like that this could be one of the greatest tag team units of all time. That’s how friggin’ great that trombone is. 3D on Kofi but Xavier runs in for the timely DQ so the New Day retain. The New Day go to table the Duds and the crowd chant “save the tables”, showing the New Day can get just about anything over. The Duds recover, kick everyone out of the ring and 3D Xavier through a table. Xavier Woods made everything happen in this match. A glorious display of awesomeness.
Final Rating: ***
Video Control shills “Breaking Ground”, an inside the company look at getting into wrestling. It’ll be on the Network. That sounds pretty cool, actually. From there we get clips from the 301 day reign of Nikki Bella as Divas champion. She’s broken AJ Lee’s record.
WWE Divas Championship
Nikki Bella (c) vs. Charlotte
I think most people are hoping for a title change here although it’s a bit weird how they’ve stacked the deck against the champion. If Nikki gets disqualified she loses the title. Nikki’s biggest problem as champion is that while she does have a smoking hot bikini bod, she’s still not very good in the ring, despite a record title run. My biggest issue with the Divas Revolution, is that the Queen is still the Queen. When the French had a revolution, they cut the Queen’s head off. The commentators build up Charlotte as being Ric Flair’s daughter, to the point where you wonder why they dropped her surname? Initially they wanted her to get over on her own but now she has, now they want her to piggyback her old man’s glory? To be fair, they did the same thing with Randy Orton and it didn’t hurt him any. They establish an early injury to Charlotte’s knee and it’s really awkward. It takes all the steam out of the match and the contest has to rely on the ring skills of the champ. It’s not a good role for Charlotte either, who’s far better at dominating the ring with her superior size and athleticism. Nikki does have some better ideas than usual, like suplexing Charlotte into the ropes so her leg lands on the bottom strand. Nikki is still a clumsy fucking mess at times. She manages to punch Charlotte square in the vag at one point, missing her target (the knee) by a quarter of Charlotte’s entire body and then can’t decide which leg is injured for a half crab. But then again, she does use the Ringpost Figure Four. It’s a fairly competent, for the most part, performance from Nikki. But that’s it…competent. The ladies on NXT were doing far better than that.
I might like Nikki more if I start referring to her bossing a match as “Nikki Heat”. I love me some Castle. The match struggles, thanks to the total lack of chemistry between the two girls. Charlotte looks like a rampaging horse and Nikki comes across as more calm and composed by comparison. Too many spots look rough around the edges and they’re not on the same page often enough. The match has a weird ending too, after all that leg work (the entire match) Charlotte just hooks the Figure Eight for the belt and that’s it. It’s strangely anticlimactic. Actually a half decent showing from Nikki, there’s hope for her yet. Even if she made too many mistakes for someone of her experience. Hopefully Charlotte can work with Becky or Sasha now. A tearful Ric Flair can’t help himself and joins in the celebrations, crying like a baby. And that makes it feel a lot more special. Hopefully they can make this belt mean something because Nikki’s run means one thing at least, they actually made the title change mean something. Even if it took a blubbing Nature Boy to push it. In a world where Ronda Rousey is headlining for UFC, there’s potential for the WWE to have the women as a major alternative to the men.
Final Rating: **1/2
Video Control takes us backstage where the new IC champion Kevin Owens puts over his string of big achievements since signing for the WWE. He’s once again a prize-fighter with a prize to fight for. “It’s no secret just how great I am”. From there we get clips from the pre-show where Neville & the Lucha Dragons lost to Stardust & the Ascension. Another curious piece of 50-50 booking would be a reversal of the same result on Raw the next night. What purpose does any of that really serve? From there we go backstage where Ric Flair and PCB celebrate Charlotte’s title win.
The Wyatt Family vs. Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose & Mystery Partner
There’s been a lot of debate about who the third man in the Shield team will be. I’d love for Seth Rollins to team up with the guys again but he’s already wrestling twice so that would be overkill. Bray’s entrance, as per usual, is super cool and the crowd love it only to start booing when he poses on the corner. Why does Roman still come in through the crowd when Ambrose doesn’t anymore? A fan tries to run in before they announce the mystery partner drawing a great improv from Wyatt. “That’s your guy?” Anyway, the third man is Chris Jericho, as he’s got history with Bray Wyatt and has been working for the WWE on house shows so he’s available. He’s only wrestled once on TV so far this year, despite thirty house show dates, working the Network special “Beast in the East”. Before that his last TV appearance was losing at last year’s Night of the Champions to Randy Orton.
Jericho’s presence perks the contest up a bit as the others have been working together for a while, without much interest. The WWE seem intent at getting Braun over as a killer, even if the crowd really don’t give a crap about him. He looks like a gigantic man-baby with enough forehead for two people. I don’t get sacrificing genuine talents to him. There is a need for new stars on the roster but Braun is completely inexperienced and not gifted, nor threatening. So why pick him? Because he’s big. Luke Harper is actually scary, even if he’s smaller, because he has the look of a serial killer but they’ve already cocked his booking up. When Braun shows weakness it’s because he’s standing on the apron in place for Jericho to dropkick. All that work they’ve already done on Strowman to get decked by Jericho? The guy jobs to everyone. Ambrose and Wyatt have the best sequence of the match, both attempting finishers only for them to be countered in inventive fashion. Braun gets a shoeing from Roman and Ambrose, with Reigns having the match won only for Jericho to tag in blind. As per usual poor Chris gets overpowered and is used as fodder for Strowman. The crowd’s “urgh” reaction is palpable. The match was ‘there’ with a decent final third. I don’t really care about the storyline I’m presented with here. Maybe it’s partially because I wanted someone better as the third man, and maybe it’s because I was hoping this was heading to a Shield reunion. As heels. But hey, that might still happen.
Final Rating: **
Video Control takes us backstage where the Authority big up Seth Rollins, who’s up against two first ballot Hall of Famers tonight. I wonder if that means Sting will go in next year then? Sheamus walks in to hint at cashing in tonight.
WWE United States Championship
Seth Rollins (c) vs. John Cena
As with Ryback-Owens, the crowd hate the babyface and cheer the heel. It’s perhaps less obvious here as Seth has his White Power Ranger gear on again. Maybe he considers it a good look charm, having bested Cena for the US title while wearing it. These two had a thrilling, outstanding match at Summerslam…until the finish. It’s still a contender for WWE MOTY. That’s what they have to live up to and Seth is wrestling again after this match. Like the Summerslam contest, they establish a quick pace, determined to be the showstealer. Seth has a lot of clever counters for Cena’s rather predictable move set. It shows how good Rollins is, confirming his status at the top end of the card. When Rollins tries the same counter twice, Big Match John finds a switch in tactics and busts out the Code Red. JBL makes a fair point that Cena changed with the times, as an in-ring competitor, which is why he’s been so successful for so long. Cena again surprises by countering the Bucklebomb into a rana into the corner. Indy Spot-Monkey Cena is the best Cena!
The match exists on a higher plane than most of the night, with the action fast-paced, inventive and loaded with high spots. Not just ridiculous moves but effective moves and counters thereof. For instance, Seth manages a roll through out of a superplex into another suplex. It’s ridiculous and wonderful. Cena does rely on his old finishing holds, frequently going after the AA and the Struggle Snuggle. I’m surprised, given how many times both have been escaped from, that when Cena started doing the springboard Stunner and the Code Red, that they didn’t supplant the normal moves as Cena’s finishers. Diving Rocker Dropper sets up the AA and Cena wins his title back. Thrilling contest, loaded with effective big spots and the kind of chemistry that makes me hope for a third match between them. Preferably without it burying Seth Rollins back into midcard obscurity like long feuds do for every Cena opponent.
Final Rating: ****1/2
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Sting
This would be far more effective if Sting hadn’t lost to Triple H at Wrestlemania. It didn’t make any sense at the time and it doesn’t make any sense now. Although, and I have to say this, I did call it at the time. The ‘spoiler Triple H wins’ meme overpowers all. Kudos to Seth Rollins for working two PPV matches back to back to headline the show. It sets him apart as a workhorse, something the WWE haven’t had since Daniel Bryan went down injured in April. The pressure is on him as Sting doesn’t need to do anything to cement his own legend. His advanced years have not altered his technique or in-ring and unlike a lot of exciting power wrestlers he’s not deteriorated with age. Hell, he’s well into his 50s and is wrestling almost exactly the same as he did 17 years ago, in his prime. Maybe slightly passed his prime at that point. Nevertheless he’s not deteriorated like a lot of other workers and Rollins doesn’t need to carry the match. It’s a decent back and forth, although much, much slower than the Cena match. Sting suffers a head injury when taking the Spanish table spot and that slows him right down.
Seth takes some silly bumps during the two main events. A couple of monster ones against Sting especially. A massive backdrop over the top near the start and another where he takes a nasty spill to the floor. Sting is no slouch and is keen to cement that damn legacy by busting his ass. A crossbody to the floor and the Scorpion Deathdrop have Seth grabbing at the ropes. Sting takes a horrific bump on the Bucklebomb, legitimately destroying his neck in the process and you can tell something is wrong as he just drops to the canvas. It’s a really, really bad injury. Sting twice collapses without contact and, because this is wrestling, the match must continue! If it was any other sport Sting would have been carted to the back. They hurriedly go to a Scorpion Deathlock with Sting still wobbly legged. They try that again only with Rollins blocking it into a pin and that’s the match done. Sting’s neck injury was described as “significant”, which at his age (56 years old, if you recall) probably means he’s now retired. An unfortunate end to an incredible career. If only they’d done the real dream match vs. the Undertaker.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Post Match: Sheamus runs out here. BROGUE KICK. Sheamus is cashing in…only he’s not because OLD SCHOOL KANE is back. Complete with mask and “hair”. Kane quite happily chokeslams Rollins and Sheamus is eager to cash in again. Until Kane chokeslams him and Tombstones Seth. So, Kane is in line for a title shot? Super.
Summary: Pretty solid show, with Cena vs. Rollins being the star attraction. The injury to Sting is a bad one and what the show may ultimately be remembered for, depending on whether he makes a full recovery. Seth Rollins comes out of the show looking extremely good as he wrestled two main event matches and looked great in both. He dropped the less important belt in a phenomenal match and retained his title in difficult circumstances. Nothing on the undercard was actively bad and two title changes put hardcore fanbase favourites Kevin Owens and Charlotte into plum positions. I have very few complaints about the show as a whole but the only match worth going out of your way for is Rollins vs. Cena, which was on a par with the Summerslam match.