Fall is here and September hosted WWE’s tenth pay-per-view of the year, Night of Champions.
Every week, Monday Night Raw is still a slog to sit through. But, I will always make time to watch their pay per views, where storylines and feuds are resolved, surprises happen and time is given for quality matches. Well, hopefully. Some matches had surprises and some matches were given time, but nothing was really resolved on Sunday night.
By no means was Night of Champions the worst WWE show I’ve ever seen, although it wasn’t the best. The main theme and selling point of the show was Seth Rollins pulling double duty and defending his two championship titles in the same night, against Sting for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and against John Cena for the US Championship. The other main point of interest for the show was the unannounced, mystery third partner for Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose’s team for their match against The Wyatt Family.
With all of those selling points, Night of Champions looked to be good on paper. The main gimmick of Night of Champions is that every championship must be defended, and so we saw a few titles change hands, 56 year old Sting hold his own in a main event match and some big announcements are having me looking forward to October.
Brock Lesnar is back next month and his appearances were announced randomly in a promo package during Night of Champions. Brock will be wrestling on a live Network show on October 3rd, appearing on a live Stone Cold Steve Austin podcast on October 19th, while Brock and Undertaker will have their rubber match at the October pay per view, Hell in a Cell. The match will of course take place in the pay per view’s namesake. Very surprising that WWE just announces this huge match just out of the blue, which was seemingly set for the blow-off at Wrestlemania next year. Lots of Brock to look forward to, plus an NXT Takeover event is making October look pretty good. Anyways, on to Night of Champions.
The show opened with Kevin Owens vs. Ryback (c) for the Intercontinental Championship. Not a bad match. I always have lower expectations for Ryback and high expectations for Owens, and I feel like they met in the middle. I like Ryback but I like Owens much more, so I was interested to see how these guys would work together. Ryback held his own but Owens wasn’t doing any moonsaults. The crowd was hot for Kevin Owens even though he’s the heel. A common theme of the night presented itself in this match, with Kevin Owens working over Ryback’s shoulder for most of the match. It’s very old-school when the villain in a wrestling match focuses on an opponent’s body part and it adds into the cohesiveness of the story being told. My man Owens picks up the win after an eye rake and wins his first championship in the WWE. After a losing streak in NXT and to John Cena, Owens gains some momentum here.
Ryback with some impressive feats of strength.
What a dirty cheater!
Up next was Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev.
Didn’t do anything for me. Their storyline is hilariously bad featuring TMZ-esque girlfriend drama. I don’t really feel like these guys have a lot of chemistry in the ring, since their previous match at SummerSlam didn’t set the world on fire either. Both Dolph and Rusev can be great paired with the right guy, but it’s not each other. Unfortunately this feud doesn’t look like it will be over anytime soon.
The Dudley Boyz vs. The New Day (c) for the Tag Team Championship
I’ve gushed about The New Day before and I was excited to see the Dudleys return to WWE. The New Day reaffirmed their status as heels by name dropping Barack Obama in Texas. Their entire shtick for this match was a petition in order to “#SaveTheTables.” Which is real and can be found here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-the-tables. The Dudley Boys whole act is based on putting people through tables, you see. Everything surrounding the match was entertaining but the ring-work left me wanting more. The match itself was nothing special but Xavier Woods’ antics and the New Day’s promo beforehand were quality entertainment. The Dudleys can still go at their age, but something here just didn’t click. They’ll eventually get to an actual tables match which I hope will be great. The New Day win after Xavier interferes and causes a disqualification. This feud will continue as well.
Xavier plays his trombone in sync with Big E stomping a mudhole in Bubba Ray. Wrestling.
So of course, Xavier ends up going through a table.
Charlotte Flair vs. Nikki Bella (c) for the Diva’s Championship
Nikki Bella set the record last Monday for the longest diva’s championship reign, surpassing AJ Lee’s previous record. Nikki ended up at 301 days, almost a year. Nikki’s not my favorite female performer in the company and it had been long overdue for a title change. Charlotte gets the victory tonight after a decent match. Nikki has had her turn and it’s time for some fresh faces. Ric Flair made an appearance afterwards with an emotional celebration with his daughter. You can tell Ric is genuinely proud of Charlotte and this was a great moment on an otherwise weak show.
The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Braun Strowman) vs. Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Mystery Partner
Bruan Strowman is the new heavy for The Wyatt Family who debuted the night after SummerSlam. He’s 6 foot 8 and probably 350lbs. He’s green in the ring but does a good job at being big and intimidating against Reigns and Ambrose. Tons of speculation surrounded this match as to who was going to be the unannounced third member. Reigns and Ambrose make their entrances when this happened.
A random fan rushes the ring dressed in gear that Ambrose and Reigns used to wear in The Shield. It completely killed the tension for the surprise member and was pretty hilarious. Bray Wyatt actually can be heard saying, “That’s your guy?”
Chris Jericho’s music hits and he gets a great reaction. While Jericho wasn’t the first choice I had wanted to see make a surprise return here, but he has history with Bray Wyatt and has been in the ring recently at house shows. Basically I always get my hopes up for Daniel Bryan.
Usually the surprise return guy wins the match as a conquering hero, come back to avenge his brethren, but not tonight. This match really felt like a vessel to put over Braun Strowman as a killer. He took everybody’s moves and eventually stopped Jericho dead in his tracks, getting the victory for The Wyatts in the process. Jericho tagged himself in and got wrecked; eventually shoulder checking Dean Ambrose as a way of planting the seeds for something later down the line. I’m fine with that. Still not as great as The Shield vs. Wyatt Family clashes from last year, but they’re getting close.
John Cena vs. Seth Rollins (c) for the US Championship took place next. I think I’ve seen Cena vs. Rollins over 5 times now. Sometimes they can burn the house down, sometimes they’re just another match. Tonight was good, but not as great as their SummerSlam match. In fact, a lot of this match felt like them repeating spots from their previous encounter at SummerSlam. Cena winning the US Title back seemed like a foregone conclusion, and sure enough he did.
Oh well. Jon Stewart makes news headlines by screwing John Cena out of his title, only for this to be reversed the next month. I’m torn. With Seth holding two titles we had something new and unique, but we can’t expect him to defend two titles every month. With Cena holding the belt again, the US Open Challenge will return and we’ll get to see John have good matches with midcard wrestlers once again. I wonder where this is leading? Cena doesn’t seem to have much of a direction now that he won the rematch, and most of the uppercard heels look to be busy.
The main event immediately followed that match with Sting vs. Seth Rollins, this time for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Seth has insane athletic conditioning so I can imagine that two matches in a row for him isn’t much of a deal. For a 56 year old guy, Sting worked his ass off here. Sting wanted to put on a great show for the fans and he held up his end of the bargain.
Sting takes a huge fall through the Spanish announce table and almost cracks his head open on a monitor. Yikes.
Sting takes flight. He’s old enough to be my dad.
There were some big spots in the match as seen in the GIFs here, accompanied by some continuity from Rollins’ wear and tear from the match with Cena prior.
Here is where things get a little shaky. Sting takes this powerbomb into the turnbuckle a little too hard and soon collapses to all fours. The ringside doctor rushes in to check on him and Sting makes it back up to finish the match. Of course with pro-wrestling, we can never really tell if moments like this are scripted for the story of the match or if the performers are actually hurt and they’re stalling for time. This, unfortunately turned out to be a real injury and we can see the effects of it here.
Sting goes for his submission move, the scorpion deathlock and Seth reverses it into a rollup for the victory. This finish felt abrupt and rushed, but can you blame them? Sting was in rough shape and they finished the match as well as they could. More shenanigans took place after the match with Sheamus running in with an attempt to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase, followed by another surprise return from Kane to close out the show.
It was later revealed that Sting suffered a neck injury that resulted in some numbness in his hands and arms during the match. You have to respect someone his age that will go out and put his body on the line just for the entertainment of the fans. Hopefully this isn’t the end of Sting and he gets a final send off.
This brings up the topic of older and former stars coming back, along with part-timers. Since SummerSlam we’ve seen Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker, The Dudley Boys, Chris Jericho, Sting, Kane, and The Big Show featured in prominent roles and main events. Sure, I like Brock a lot and feel like he brings something to WWE that is missing. WWE is now up against football season and needs the star power. Every week it is reported that Monday Night Raw gets record low TV ratings, and it’s only a couple weeks into Monday Night Football. I like seeing the older generation of wrestlers mix it up with the current guys. I’m excited to see Brock and Taker again in the hell in a cell.
On the other hand, why aren’t the WWE trying to present their full time wrestlers on the same level as those guys? They’ve pushed Seth Rollins as the champion but he doesn’t move the needle. The WWE will pay millions of dollars for veterans to come back in an effort to move ratings and sell network subscriptions, but they won’t let Seth Rollins pin John Cena cleanly. Pro-wrestling is fascinating in this aspect; you don’t really see this in any other sport or entertainment medium. They’d rather have Raw be full of buzzwords and slogans they can attempt to sell on a t-shirt rather than producing a cohesive serial drama. I digress as this could be a whole other column. If I take a step back I can enjoy Seth Rollins vs. Kane for the title as the silly entertainment spectacle it will be. Brock Lesnar effectively has me paying $9.99 a month to watch him perform.
Night of Champions was certainly a WWE pay-per-view. I don’t think I’ll be having friends over to watch it again, but I’ll keep up to see where things are headed in October.
by Nate Dimit (@ndimit)