Monday, September 22, 2014

Way to Front-Load, Guys: WWE Night of Champions Review

HEY! Tell everyone the Tittymaster's back!
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Hey yo! TH Review ENGAGE. Catch the replay on the WWE Network if you weeell.

  • Goldust and Stardust won the WWE Tag Team Championships from the Usos when Stardust countered a Superfly Splash by getting his knees up and rolling up for the pin.
  • Sheamus retained the United States Championship with a flash Brogue Kick counter on Cesaro from the corner.
  • Damien Sandow returned from the back after being shooed away by R-Truth and ugh, Florida-Georgia Line and distracted Dolph Ziggler long enough for The Miz to O'Connor Roll him with tights to win the Intercontinental Championship.
  • Roman Reigns' incarcerated hernia kept him from the arena, allowing Seth Rollins to claim a forfeit victory. He then issued an open challenge, which was answered by a returning Dean Ambrose, leading to a non-match brawl around the arena.
  • Rusev defeated Mark Henry by submission with the Accolade.
  • Randy Orton countered a Chris Jericho leap from the top into a RKO to get the victory.
  • AJ Lee wrangled Paige in the Black Widow to earn the tapout victory and her third Divas Championship reign.
  • John Cena defeated Brock Lesnar by disqualification when Rollins came in and broke up a pin attempt after a fourth Attitude Adjustment. Cena then prevented Rollins from cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase by yanking him from the apron before he could make the attempt official. Lesnar is still WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

General Observations:
  • I think I've finally pinpointed at least two reasons why Stardust tickles me so. First is that his demeanor reminds me of classic Goldust, only if he were 12 years old and constantly on a sugar high. The second is his look, which makes him appear as the most glam member of The Batiri.
  • Also, Goldust got some badass new facepaint, an original design at that.
  • The Usos broke out a sweet new double team move on Stardust. One of the back body dropped Stardust towards the ropes, and the other slam dunk-stun-gunned him across the top rope from the apron. These twins don't get enough credit for taking the tag division on their backs in 2014.
  • The Usos working over Stardust's leg was a great callback to the buildup of this match. Seriously, WWE's writers don't deserve the wrestlers they have executing their lame-ass stories.
  • Stardust at one point had an Uso tied up in the ropes and slapped him, duel-challenging style, with his glove. As Cody Rhodes, he was good, but Stardust has been a complete transformation for the better for him.
  • Sheamus came out with bushier looking facial hair than normal. The sideburn-moustache combo with the spiked hair always made him look goofy anyway. I think he needs to embrace his shagginess to go along with his prime roughneck style in the ring.
  • The only thing more impressive than Cesaro sending Sheamus to the floor with a Swiss Death was the sly grin he shot the camera afterwards. Seriously, how is Cesaro not Bond-villaining his way up to the top of the card?
  • Cesaro's counter game was on point this entire match, stopping the five moves of doom with a lariat, countering Brogue Kicks, even the Ten Beats of the Bodhrán. But Sheamus countered with some fierceness. The look on his face when he hit Cesaro with the Irish Curse was plain ol' mean.
  • Florida-Georgia Line came out for guest commentary on the Miz/Dolph Ziggler match, and my thought at the time was, and I quote, "OH I BET THIS WILL BE ENRICHING AND TOTALLY WILL NOT END UP IN UNTRAINED, SCRAWNY FUCKING COUNTRY MUSIC SHITHEADS BEATING UP ON THE MIZ AND/OR DAMIEN SANDOW."
  • Sandow gets a lot of deserved props for his stunt-doubling for The Miz, but to give credit where it's due, R-Truth totally nailed the Ziggle Wiggle atop the entrance ramp.
  • Ziggler and Miz have had really good matches before where both guys put in work, but this contest was all Ziggler. Miz felt off all match, most notably on that clothesline Ziggler hit out of the corner. Miz totally telegraphed it. I hate the "MIZ SUX LOL" train, but he wasn't on his game this match.
  • Of course, my awful premonition was right, and the D-list country music shitheads punked out Sandow. If this doesn't end with Miz, Sandow, and Heath Slater eviscerating the Flo-Rida-Georgia Line combo trio at WrestleMania, then I will probably seethe quietly and concentrate on the stuff I do like, which is my coping mechanism for when bullshit like this happens. What did you think I was actually gonna quit watching?
  • I originally suspected that Roman Reigns' injury was a work because of how it was timed after his inexplicable clean win over Seth Rollins Monday, but then WWE showed footage from his hospital bed. If that's a work, then the company is really committed to the lie.
  • Rollins isn't a great promo yet, but he keeps picking up the easy meat at least. He set up Dean Ambrose's return perfectly.
  • Of COURSE Ambrose arrived to the arena via cab. He is the Charlie Kelly of WWE.
  • Much like at the other contender for "least-best WWE PPV of 2014" Battleground, the highlight of the show may have been Ambrose going apeshit all over Rollins in a non-match brawl segment. He's going to be so much fun when WWE finally realizes he's the next big thing.
  • Whenever Rusev outstretches his arms and shouts before doing a corner charge, the only thing I can think of is someone shouting "HOORAY! I POOPED!"
  • Mark Henry's body may be failing him at an increasing rate by the minute, but the man's wrestling IQ just keeps climbing and climbing. He sold his back masterfully during this match. It was a well-worked, smartly booked match that should have come off better than it did, but something still felt off about  it. Still, I can't hate it that much.
  • My review of Chris Jericho/Randy Orton: 
  • The general consensus was that AJ Lee and Paige both had good matches in them, but goddamn, Nikki Bella came out like a HOSS in this match. She threw her weight around, heeled it up, and even went to the mat hard. Maybe Brie IS the weak link...
  • I don't trust WWE not to go the skeezy lesbian route with Paige/Lee, but again, the wrestlers execute on stories that are better than what's being written for them. The exchange where Paige was on one knee extending a hand to Lee that caused Lee to go nuclear on her? Brilliant.
  • HOLY SHIT TOWER OF DOOM SPOT IN A WWE DIVAS MATCH, and it looked pretty darn good too.
  • Brock Lesnar broke out Los Tres Amigos, which is funny because I thought you had to have BEATEN Eddie Guerrero to be able to gank that move from him.
  • Lesnar should get all the credit in the world for not only working in his MMA background into a worked environment and hybridizing it with actual pro wrestling, but making it look easy and natural. I know he had to leave in order to make this run work, but watching him wrestle makes me long for an alternate timeline where he never left and was able to become THE guy.
  • A small part of me wanted to see Lesnar just up and squash Rollins on an attempted cash-in instead of treading down the well-worn "rival prevents a cash-in before the match starts" path. I know that Rollins winning the title eventually is the right move, but oh man, I'm at a point where I just want Lesnar to immolate everyone and everything around him.

Match of the Night: Sheamus (c) vs. Cesaro, United States Championship Match - As soon as this match was announced, I predicted that it would be worth the monthly sub for The Network by itself, and even in a month when the monstrously critically acclaimed Takeover: Fatal Fourway happened, I feel vindicated in my projection. The consensus on Cesaro has been pretty resounding for two years now, and Sheamus has been a critical favorite of mine since he came up in WWECW. They've had several tremendous matches in the past, and both are in the midst of banner years. This match not only met their lofty expectations, but it may have been the best of their meetings to date.

The early portions of the match mixed together some classic European grappling with the stiff brawling that Sheamus has become known for during his career. They wove between brawling and grappling sequences so fluidly like it was a true clash of styles. Cesaro wanted to pull the match towards his wheelhouse, Sheamus kept resisting violently with his wailing fists, but both guys were also adept enough at the other guy's game to give the impression that their aim was to hybridize the match. They almost felt like they were showing off, but when the action came off looking as good as it did, I can forgive it.

But then they started trading bombs, and the match became fully actualized. They careened to the outside, threw each other onto tables, and countered moves like whoa. The chains came off, and they were free to create finery in the field of HOSS artistry. Even if Cesaro coming into the match hadn't been booked the best, the way it was laid out made him look like he was a threat to win that title at any point. He cut off Sheamus' five moves of doom with a huge lariat. He Swiss Death'd Sheamus out of the ring and then flashed the sliest smirk this side of the Atlantic. He countered the Brogue Kick four times. But then the final attempt at the kick may have been Sheamus' best ever, uncorking one at the exact right moment when Cesaro was seemingly in the middle of a protracted heat segment in the corner. Matches like these may not totally absolve WWE's horrendous midcard booking, but they go a long way in easing the pain of the week-to-week doldrums with payoffs that these writers don't deserve.

Overall Thoughts: If one were to watch WWE pay-per-views, and ONLY the PPVs, then Night of Champions stands as a transitional episode in a slate of 12 events over the course of a calendar year. WWE has been abnormally and exceptionally strong on special events this year that pure transitional events like this one or Battleground can get lost in the shuffle. In the face of a full slate of WWE programming, free and paid-for, Night of Champions becomes even shakier, especially the finish of the show. I would have an easier time apologizing for using the special events as story-driving platforms if the narratives were pushed forward on RAW as well.

Even with the state of RAW, I can buy Seth Rollins coming in, waylaying John Cena, and trying to cash in on a prone Brock Lesnar, because just as the company proved last year that great wrestling should not be confined to pay-per-view, the talking point that plot advancing, non-wrestling devices belong only on free TV feels weak to me. WWE is a living, breathing thing where nothing should be off-limits. However, I think that the things the customer is expected to pay for should be on a grander scale than the stuff you get for free. The way the main event ended felt like something that should have happened on RAW. As a contrast, Rollins bashing in Dean Ambrose's head on cinder blocks felt like a pay-per-view thing. One provides good value and the other feels on the cheap side. I'll let you decide which is which.

Still, Ambrose returning at this show, whether planned all along or necessitated by Roman Reigns' emergency surgery and subsequent prognosis, was a fantastic moment. The problem, however, was that the show took a stark nosedive afterwards. The Tag Team Championship match was a great opener. The United States Championship match was one of the best contests in the company all year. But then after Ambrose fired the crowd up, Mark Henry and Rusev fell a bit flat (even if the match had all the nuts and bolts of a good contest). Randy Orton and Chris Jericho went on so long even Davey Richards could've shouted at them to take it home. The Divas Championship match was surprisingly and refreshingly well-done, but it wasn't enough to save the rest of the show. And Lesnar/Cena trended downward despite having some great action embedded within.

Still, Night of Champions wasn't bad. I'm not sure WWE has had a bad special event in 2014, but given that even Payback had an elite resume this year, being "not bad" is not good enough to keep up with the pack.