"The fate, future and direction of WWE will be
decided tonight," said Josh Mathews at the start of the Night of Champions
pre-show. Even by WWE standards this was overly dramatic. Anyone who’d had a
glance at the announced line-up of matches this show was offering could have
told you it was going to be, at best, a functional show more concerned with
advancing storylines than anything else.
Towards the end of the pre-show Booker T said he wasn't
the face of WWE when he worked for WCW. He was entirely accurate. In addition
to inane comments there was also a surprisingly good tag team turmoil match on
the half hour freebie. It was won by The Prime Time Players, granting them a
shot at the straps held by Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins later in the evening.
Triple H kicked off the main show, entering to his heel
King of Kings track. He was there to put his stamp of approval on the show
because he believed it would be one of the greatest nights in company history
(I’d be amazed if anyone believed
that claim). After trotting out his "best for business" catchphrase
he announced that the main event would feature no interference from anyone,
specifically naming The Shield and Big Show. He then, bizarrely, started doing his
“Are you ready?” shtick but got interrupted by Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel.
Heyman tried to get out of his match, spurring 'The Game'
to activate face mode. This was a bad move. Inconsistency with how performers
are presented is a contributing factor to heel and faces switches not sticking.
You never would have caught Vince McMahon playing a face while acting as top
Triple H pointed out that Paul had nothing to worry about
because he could simply rely on Axel to defeat Punk, ensuring he wouldn’t need
to tag in. When Axel piped up he got booked in an Intercontinental title
defence against, perhaps as some sort of poster-related title switch tease,
Michael Cole described the match as being of great
importance to both men. That he spent several minutes promoting an online poll
and rattling off seemingly random IC title-related factoids should tell you how
true that claim was. Axel won an enjoyable enough bit of filler with his neck
Curtis Axel is very good at post-match celebrations
Following the decision it was revealed that 63% of WWE
fans had voted Chris Jericho as the greatest Intercontinental champion ever.
They'd only been able to vote for him, Rick Rude (2%), Mr Perfect (24%), Pat Patterson
(1%), and the Honky Tonk Man (10%), so this is far from a definitive answer to
the "who's the greatest?" question. For the record I’d have voted for
Hennig or HTM from the selection.
Backstage Ricardo Rodriguez and Rob Van Dam had a
painfully awkward conversation. RR taught RVD various Spanish phrases in what
apparently passes as comedy.
Elsewhere in the back Alicia Fox and Aksana were busy
abandoning AJ Lee. Layla remained loyal but then disappeared to straighten out
the deserters. It’s possible Layla was actually meant to be leaving AJ too, but
that wasn’t clear. The upshot of this segment was that AJ was left alone for
the four-way match.
Before the match we were reminded of AJ's worked shoot
promo and subsequent alliance with the Divas who we'd just seen abandon her. An
on-screen graphic also revealed that fans had voted Trish Stratus the greatest
Divas champion of all time. That's pretty impressive considering she never won
The Total Divas teamed up on AJ at the start of the match
before Brie turned on her allies and presented us with a fair bout. One of the
highlights of this match, for me, was the revelation that fans had voted on
what outfit Brie Bella would wear. Losing options included "raggedy
Bella" and "strawberry shortcake Bella". This voting for outfits
idea needs to be a permanent gimmick for the Bellas. It's tremendous.
Natalya clumsily applied a double sharpshooter to Brie
and Naomi (during which the recipients' shoulders were on the mat in pinning
positions for a lot longer than three seconds) only to be lumped by AJ. The
champ then applied her wonderful Black Widow on Natty hold for the submission
victory. The division has a long way to go before it becomes unmissable stuff
but it's got the right woman as its figurehead.
Experts Booker T, Santino and Alex Riley had a chat about
the World Heavyweight championship match. Booker picked Van Dam to win, largely
because they're pals. I like the idea that he makes all predictions based on
how well he gets on with people, as opposed to form or anything that even tries
to sound legitimate. Santino and A-Ry contributed nothing.
The battle of men known by three initials is on!
'Mr Pay-Per-View' got a great reaction from his home
state crowd. Alberto Del Rio had to work for his heat. That wasn't a problem:
he had fans jeering by the time he was on the apron. Lilian Garcia's Spanish
intro helped too. That heat only intensified when ADR got disqualified for refusing
to release his cross arm breaker submission after a five count. The finish did
what he was designed to, namely keeping heat on ADR and avoiding a clean loss
for RVD in an area where he’s very popular.
Following the decision Del Rio gave his foe a kicking. His
attempt to involve a chair was foiled by Ricardo, allowing ‘The Whole F’n Show’
to drop the champ with a DDT and dust off the old Van Terminator (a move which
sees Van Dam launch himself from one corner of the ring to the other and kick a
chair into a seated opponent). If that was a regular part of his repertoire it
would be a nice use of Ricardo. But it's not. Head shots like that are rare in
modern WWE, and for good reason. It happened here because RVD was so popular
and it was a positive note on which to end the segment.
Backstage Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel were shown
discussing their handicap match. Here Heyman tried using the fear of Triple H
causing problems for Axel as motivation for his charge to perform. We’d seen
plenty of this sort of stuff on TV since the match was announced.
The WHC poll revealed that Booker T is considered the
greatest man to hold that belt by fans. He got an impressive 38% of the vote.
Edge (22%), Batista (5%), Undertaker (21%), and Ric Flair (14%) were the other
options. I suspect Booker benefited from being a part of the broadcast. I'd
have voted for Edge.
Backstage (again) Randy Orton asked Triple H why he
wasn't getting any help in the main event, all but admitting he felt he
couldn't defeat Daniel Bryan unaided. Why are all heels cowards these days?
This hasn’t always been the case, surely? 'The King of Kings' told him he
wanted to make sure he'd picked the right man to be 'The Face of WWE'. Orton
told him he had done and wandered off to do whatever it is he does before
We were presented with a bonus match after that, The Miz
facing Faaaaaan... daaaaaan... goooooo. 'The Ballroom Brute' was introduced
first to a huge pop and enthusiastic gyrations. 'The Awesome One's' reaction
was decidedly more tepid. I suspect WWE are building to a double turn with this
feud. Miz is not considered a success as a face (although I like him in the
role) and Fandango basically plays a tweener anyway, so it'd make sense.
The match was solid. Miz worked over Fandango's leg
(further indicating he may be turning) and they included a number of spots that
should have gotten a response from the crowd. They didn't. The audience was dead.
Miz won with the figure four.
CM Punk and Curtis Axel both had kendo sticks with them
when they came out for their handicap match. Perhaps they should have had a
kendo stick on a pole match instead. Chairs and tables were also introduced.
They made the most of the no DQ ruling they'd been granted, walloping each
other and doing everything they could to remind us this was a relaxed rules
affair. It was very effective. They undoubtedly benefited from being the only
non-standard bout on the show. WWE should bear that in mind. Less is more.
Heyman predictably stayed down on the mat and didn’t
involve himself in proceedings for the majority of the bout. His hand was
forced when Axel had fallen to a GTS and an Anaconda Vice. He tried running
away but that didn't work. After a jog around the tech area Punk caught him in
the ring. He pulled handcuffs from his boot, slapped them onto his former
agent-slash-bestie, and then pelted him with painful-looking kendo stick shots.
CM Punk is a talented man to be capable of wrestling with handcuffs pressed against his leg
After several minutes of fun and frolics Punk announced
he was going to break Heyman's face. That was the signal for Ryback to charge
to the ring and spear Punk through a table (a decision which did nothing to
dissuade the Goldberg chant). 'The Big Guy' pulled Heyman on top of Punk and
the match ended.
I'm a fan of this development. It's what I predicted
would happen in my preview for the show. It should give Ryback a fresh start
after being thoroughly mishandled for most of the year. He’s not bad on promos,
but he’ll benefit from not having to do them quite so much and from the
association with Heyman. Naturally he’ll be facing Punk at Battleground, which
should be good for him too.
We saw the experts again at this point. They wittered on
about what had occurred so far on the show. Santino's mind was apparently blown
by the actions of Ryback. He's easily impressed.
Dolph Ziggler failed in his attempt to become a two time
United States champion. Dean Ambrose beat him with the headlock DDT he's fond
of. The match was good but didn't draw the crowd in. You may have noticed this
was a theme at Night of Champions. The crowd were rowdy during introductions
and at certain points during matches but quietened down often. They were less
The result was a blessing in disguise for 'The Show Off'.
Winning a mid-card title a couple of months after losing the WHC would have
been a comedown for him, and would have looked like an admission that he didn't
belong at the top of the card. Hopefully WWE will remember how popular he was
in early summer soon and so something meaningful with him. He’s wasted at the
After being told that 53% of WWE fans (those that voted,
at least) believe Sting to be the greatest US champion ever it was time for the
tag team title match. I wouldn't have been surprised had The Prime Time Players
won the championship considering the rise in status they've enjoyed recently.
But they didn't. The Shield retained when Reigns hit a spear on Titus, setting
up a Rollins pin.
A video package recapped Bryan defeating John Cena for
the WWE championship, Triple H going heel, Randy Orton successfully cashing in
his Money in the Bank briefcase, the firing of Cody Rhodes, the manipulation of
Big Show, and Trips explaining that he's all about what's best for business. It
was a very good video. It's the sort of approach that could be good for a
Randy Orton's entrance was deemed the perfect time to
address the greatest WWE champion poll. Bit weird, what with him being the face
of the company and all. Hulk Hogan was considered the greatest (which surprised
me) with an impressive 55%. 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin came second with 16%
(he'd have been my pick), followed by John Cena (13%), CM Punk (12%) and Triple
H (a meagre 4%). If these polls proved anything it's that we can't trust poll
results from WWE's website.
Back to the action. The match was slow to begin with.
Orty was on offence which meant a plethora of stomps, rest holds and
nonsensical mid-match posing. Bryan took over at various points, which always
resulted in a quickened pace and some noise from the crowd.
They had a good match. The regular spots such as Bryan’s
diving headbutt, Yes Lock, and top rope German suplex and Orton’s hanging DDT
and numerous failed RKO attempts were all present and correct. As good as it
was it didn’t quite hit the heights of their exchanges on RAW and SmackDown
from the summer. Perhaps it was the lack of a stipulation or Orty altering his
style because he’s now a bad guy.
The finish saw Daniel Bryan escape an RKO attempt before
hitting his running knee to win. That's two shows in a row where Bryan has
beaten an established star with his new finisher. At SummerSlam it was a
completely clean win. Not so with Night of Champions. Referee Scott Armstrong,
who'd taken a scheduled bump at the hands of ‘The Viper’ during the match and
been briefly replaced by a second official, gave a fast count during the
Daniel Bryan there, celebrating his title win with a fan
This will almost certainly become a plot point. Perhaps
it will be revealed Tripper ordered Armstrong to end the match in Bryan's
favour so he'd have the chance to gauge Bryan's popularity as champ. That would
contradict his reason for turning on Bryan in the first place but it’s still
possible WWE will go with it. Perhaps we’ll learn it was 'The Cerebral
Assassin's' way of discrediting Bryan. There's no obvious answer but the way
the camera was angled to fully show Armstrong, not the norm on a WWE broadcast,
indicates something was up.
Night of Champions had the potential to be a surprise
hit. The handicap match and the WWE title match both featured performers
popular enough to deliver belters, but they didn’t. The rest of the card
featured nothing that couldn’t have occurred on RAW or SmackDown (or Main Event
in some cases). The fate, future and direction of the company were not affected
in any unforeseen manner.