Night of Champions is WWE’s old school pay-per-view, so it makes sense that it would be headlined by a returning legend. Sting showed up out of nowhere on Raw the night after Summerslam, and for flimsy reasons was given a shot at the WWE Championship. Didn’t make much sense, but seeing Sting fight for the WWE Championship is cool enough that I won’t really complain.
I missed the pre-show match, but I’ve been extremely pleased with the progression of the Stardust/Neville storyline. It’s not taking up a ton of time and it’s something completely different from the rest of the show. Wrestling is best when it’s like a circus and there’s variety.
Ryback vs. Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens is such a great heel. Sadly we’re in a post-modern era where good heel work gets you cheered, because he works harder than just about anyone in wrestling to get boos and deserves them.
He cheated to win! He raked the eyes! No one does that kind of stuff anymore. He probably had to get special permission to do it. But it’s the kind of thing that’s gotten heat for decades and still should work today. Owens wins by being a dick, Ryback isn’t hurt because he was cheated out of it. Also liked the working of the shoulder. Owens had a viciousness that elevated that beyond the typical working of a body part.
Rating: **¾. Solid opening match, loved the way Owens worked the arm and still had to cheat to win.
Rusev vs. Dolph Ziggler
This feud is just garbage. Everyone involved is worse off for it. Except I guess Summer Rae, because she’s actually on TV. Lana has gone from one of the strongest female characters in wrestling to having a schoolgirl crush on Ziggler and dressing like an extra from a bad 80s movie. Ziggler just seems like a dick. Rusev is trying, but he’s diminished every week by this material. Remember when this guy was the #2 heel in the company? Seems like a long time ago.
But once the bell rings that bullshit mostly goes away and you remember these guys are both awesome wrestlers. They work especially well together too, as Dolph is best at getting bounced all around the ring and Rusev is great at hurting people. I think Rusev is underrated in the ring. Not that people think he’s bad, but I think he’s tremendous. Moves so well for a big man, great timing, everything he does is crisp.
Then we crash back to earth with an eye-rolling finish. A shoe to the face?
Rating: **½. Away from the stink of this storyline these guys could have some damn fine matches, I think.
WWE Tag Team Championship: The New Day (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz
Perfect timing for the Dudleyz to come back. New Day had run out of credible challengers (they’d already gotten through both Kidd/Cesaro and PTPers, there’s nobody else). New Day has taken it to another level these last few weeks. The dancing, Xavier’s trombone, the table shenanigans. It was a mistake to take the belts off these guys and they probably shouldn’t lose them before Wrestlemania.
Bringing in the Dudleyz is something I wish WWE did more often. Bring in some credible veterans to put younger talent over. The Dudleyz walked in and were instantly the most over babyface team on the roster.
Kofi has become a much better heel than I expected. I thought he was a babyface for life, but he’s become a great obnoxious weasel. New Day taking a power was something I was happy to see. Two matches in it seems like we’re starting to bring back old-school heel work, which I’d love to see. It’s like they’ve got somebody different producing these matches.
New Day take the advantage after Xavier distracts Bubba. Cue the heat segment and Xavier’s antics getting even more ridiculous. The hot tag to D-Von wasn’t quite as spicy as you’d hope. I loved the finish here, which was so simple but got so much heat. New Day takes the easy way out with the disqualification when they were clearly beaten. The chase goes on.
Rating: ***. Quality tag match. Same formula as always, but a more than competent rendition of it.
Nice post-match angle with New Day trying to put Bubba and D-Von through the table and getting their comeuppance.
Divas Championship: Nikki Bella (c) vs. Charlotte
Can’t talk about this without going over the match from Raw this last week. I don’t necessarily hate Nikki retaining to break the record, but the finish was clumsy. They did the same finish a few months ago and the match didn’t end in a disqualification. If you’re going to apply rules, you have to make them consistent. I would say the Diva’s Revolution is in better shape this month than last month. At least the title is important instead of the stable war.
This match featured a basic story with Charlotte tweaking her knee early and Nikki attacking it relentlessly. Sure, that’s not revolutionary, but it is logical and engaging. I thought the knee work from Nikki here was great, and especially loved the ringpost Figure Four. I do wish Ric had been out at ringside because I know he would have sold the anguish of seeing his daughter in pain amazingly.
I’d say this was the best main roster women’s match in a long time. Nikki is underrated. I know her title reign has gone on way too long, but she’s a more than capable wrestler. Well-deserved pop for Charlotte’s win.
Rating: **¾. Enjoyed that. It’s a new era for women’s wrestling in WWE. Now let’s get on with Charlotte vs. Paige.
Loved JBL’s “17 world championships” line. The Divas Title might look completely absurd, but it is the world championship of women’s wrestling.
The Wyatt Family vs. Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and ????
I loved Braun Strowman’s debut. First time in a long time someone has debuted and no one had any idea who the hell he was. Then I think they made a few mistakes by having him talk (especially since he doesn’t have a scary voice) and having him wrestle in real competitive matches instead of pure squashes. It’s another example of where they’ve abandoned the old way of doing things and not for the better.
I’d say all the intrigue to this match revolved around the mystery partner. Not much else there. The surprise? Chris Jericho. Not a bad one at all. Way better than Kane, Erick Rowan, Baron Corbin, or really any of the other rumored partners other than Samoa Joe.
I found my mind wandering throughout this match. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, there just wasn’t anything about it to engage me. It comes back to the fact that there isn’t really any reason to care who wins or loses here. The feud probably won’t end, and the feud doesn’t have any stakes. They’re fighting for flimsy reasons and they’ll probably keep fighting for at least another month if not more. Strowman putting Jericho out with his Choke was the right finish. This feud will roll on because WWE can’t think of anything else to do with any of these guys.
Rating: **½. Perfectly acceptable but a little flat. Just like this storyline.
I’m ridiculously excited for Taker vs. Lesnar at Hell in a Cell, but announcing it in a commercial is incredibly anti-climactic.
United States Championship: Seth Rollins (c) vs. John Cena
They haven’t built this match much at all since Summerslam due to all the focus on Sting, but damn is this exciting. They were tearing it down at Summerslam before the Jon Stewart interference. This has a real chance to be a classic.
Seth has grown a lot as champion the last few weeks. There are still some issues with how he’s presented. Most of these stem with him being henpecked by Triple H and Stephanie. But he’s doing worlds better than when he had Kane and J&J backing him up and he was feuding with Randy Orton. He’s starting to actually feel like the world champion now in a way that he didn’t back in the spring.
These guys have had a lot of matches now. It’s got to be ten televised singles matches by now. I get why the bookers keep coming back to this matchup, because these guys always deliver. The way Seth wrestles against Cena really does make him seem like the man. He basically works babyface and he’s like Shawn Michaels in his prime when he does that.
One note: John Cena needs to protect himself more. The Code Red, the Hurricanrana, it’s too dangerous. He’s just not fluid enough to do them safely. I was sure he’d tone it down after the close call against Owens at the house show but it hasn’t happened.
These guys wrestle so smoothly, but it’s just rough enough that it doesn’t seem contrived. I think the most notable thing about this match was the lack of finisher kickouts. The AA has become the weakest finisher in WWE the last few months, so I was happy and surprised to see one AA finish it off. Once again, old-school work seems to be coming back.
Rating: ***¾. Maybe not quite as good as their Summerslam match but with a better finish. I do love watching these guys but wouldn’t mind a break from it.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Seth Rollins (c) vs. Sting
Who ever thought we’d be here? Sting being in WWE seemed like an impossibility right up to when he walked through the curtain at Survivor Series last year. And when he lost to Triple H at Wrestlemania and disappeared, it seemed like that was it for him in WWE. Then he pops out of a cake and is the #1 contender for the world title. While that wasn’t the most logical development, it was way more interesting that anyone else they could have given a shot to. Sting is a legend, he’s huge over with WWE audiences despite his lack of history in the promotion, and him getting a shot at the WWE Championship is serious business.
That said, the build has been pretty shoddy. Way too much focus on that statue, which no one cared about. Not nearly enough on this being Sting’s chance to make history, his one and only chance to hold the most prestigious championship in wrestling. Oh, and there was that one week where they decided it would be a good idea if Sting spent his entire promo kissing Triple H’s ass.
Sting worked his ass off here. He’s 56 years old and took some bumps that would be impressive for a guy half his age. This match was structured so smartly. Sting takes two or three big bumps, other than that it’s mostly brawling and down-time. And it was great, about as good as it could be. Good finish, Rollins comes out strong. Kudos to Sting for putting him over.
And as a postmortem, we now know that Sting suffered a serious neck injury during this match. I would have figured it was on the table bump, but apparently it was the second turnbuckle Powerbomb. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the kind of thing that’s going to happen when a guy who’s 56 is in there bumping the way Sting was. When he went down I was worried it was a heart attack, so “just” a neck injury is a better outcome. Like I said, I thought this match was mostly smart except the table bump was a little bit much. Too bad it ended with Sting busting up his neck.
Rating: ***. Solid stuff, especially considering it was cut short by Sting’s injury.
Oh, and the aftermath involved Kane and Sheamus. I don’t get why WWE thinks either of those guys should be in main events at this point instead of Owens, Cesaro, Ambrose, Reigns, or any of the other great young talent they have.
Overall: It’s just another decent WWE pay-per-view in a string of them. I feel like every show since Wrestlemania has ranged from C+ to B without any deviation. WWE isn’t doing anything catastrophically wrong, but they’re not doing as much right as they’re capable of doing. They’re a student with the potential to get As if they applied themselves more, but instead they’re content with getting Bs and the occasional C. This show did have a nice old-school flavor to it with heels cheating and working bodyparts. I’m hoping we see more of that in the weeks and months to come.