– Apologies for the slight lateness of the column. I was at Chikara Pro’s KING OF TRIOS all weekend, and am making the trip back from Pennsylvania to Austin today. This was written on an airplane. I don’t know how that affects Raw, or whatever the joke is.
– Please watch the show on WWE Network before reading. It was a good show. It’s available there for an unannounced price-point.
– Please share! It’ll help the column get a bigger audience, which we need with everybody bailing on Raw. MAKE WRESTLING BETTER, I CAN’T GO BACK TO WAITING TABLES.
Click on through for the Best and Worst of WWE Night Of Champions 2014.
Best: Goldust’s Evil Facepaint
Disclaimer: I watched Night Of Champions on my phone in the backseat of a car headed from King Of Trios to an airport in Baltimore, so if I missed anything or there are any inconsistencies with the announcing/storytelling, I apologize. It’s not easy to Look Closer when you’ve got your hand cupped on the ass of the phone like it’s Hulk Hogan’s ear to make it slightly louder and staring at a screen the size of a playing card.
That said, an obvious first Best has to go to Goldust’s new facepaint, which owns and makes him look like Tinieblas. One of the most under-appreciated things about Dustin is the fact that he’s a facepainting wizard. He should have slightly different paint every time we see him. Make it into a Rorschach thing.
Best-ish: Gold And Stardust Win The Big One (Fairly?)
1. The “here are pictures of old champions” montages before all the title matches on the show were great. I wish they’d done a big ceremony, too, and named off everyone. “The WWE Tag Team Championships, held by such great teams as Charlie Haas and Rico, Renee Dupree and Kenzo Suzuki, the Basham Brothers, John Cena and David Otunga …”
2. As I mentioned in my Night Of Champions predictions, I’d have been happy with either team winning, but I like the Rhodes brothers more so YEAH RHODES BROTHERS. Goldust seemingly genuinely emotional over not his win but Cody’s was the best. These guys are basically my favorite wrestlers, so I want to see them successful and happy.
3. I liked the entire match, especially the finish. All the Usos do is jump and splash and superkick, right? Plan for jumps and splashes and superkicks. Stardust not only getting his knees up, but getting them up so that they jab his opponent in the ribs was great. Usually when guys get their “knees” up, their opponent’s landing across their shins. That same illusion that makes Codebreakers and Backstabbers so popular. Cody’s just like, “nope, SPEARS INTO YOUR HEART, sorry you jumped.”
My only real question about the match is, why build up Gold and Stardust as being all bloodthirsty and angry if they’re just gonna wrestle a normal tag team match and win by countering a move? Three weeks ago they were cheapshotting the Usos and trying to break their legs with chairs. This match could’ve been between two totally face teams and been the exact same thing. You built the drama, guys. Why aren’t you using it?
Let’s give the Rhodes boys a story now, and not just throw them against the Wyatts or whomever a hundred times in a row. Have them use the cosmic key to do something goofy. Build a gold spaceship and defend the titles on Mars, who cares.
BEST: Holy Crap Are You Kidding Me With This Match
I watched a lot of good pro graps this weekend. This was the best thing I watched. It might not’ve been the best WWE match of the year, but it’s in the top ten.
You know, I sorta have to nitpick these shows when I write them up (unless you want to read the 11 Reasons Why WWE Is The Worldwide Leader In Sports Entertainment five times a week), so I often get real wordy about why story matters, and about crowd reactions and character motivations and the intangibles of pro wrestling. Those things are all incredibly important, but if I’m being honest, I don’t give a shit about any of them if two big f*cking dudes are dialed up to 11 and beating the ever-loving shit out of each other.
That’s what this was. Take away the stiffness and it was an expertly-wrestled match. Cesaro’s easy to love, but he’s a heel because he’s so good at controlling the flow of a match. He knows what to do, when to do it, and how to put it all together without screwing up. He’s a base. Sheamus is the best when he’s not really doing a lot. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it isn’t — he excels at taking a glorious beating and believably fighting up to his feet from it. That’s what’s so cool about him, and why his ringwork justifies his terrible character. He’s compelling as hell when you’re beating on him until his hair’s matted and his skin looks like uncooked chicken.
Add back in the stiffness and oh man, it’s special. If beating Sheamus up is what makes him turn it up and get good, Cesaro’s the king of it. That guy can kill you with basically anything in his arsenal. He can grab your ankles and spin you around in a circle and make it look like he’s killing you, so when he’s in your face European uppercutting you and booting you in the ears, that mess is legit. If Cesaro worked with more than three or four people who could absorb a shit-kicking like this and give it back, he’d be the most popular and successful wrestler in the world. He’s already pretty close.
Even the finish worked, which I feel weird saying about a Brogue Kick From Outta Nowhere. That’s his knockout blow. It’s almost bulletproof. If he hits you with it, it’s over. He got hot in the corner thinking he could take Cesaro’s offense and stay on his feet, but at some point during being BRUTALLY PUNCHED IN THE FACE he realized he was gonna fall if he didn’t put this dude away. He saw an opportunity, went for it, got lucky and fell into a pin. Cesaro “won” the fight in a way, but Sheamus won the match. That’s so awesome.
Best: The Best Sequence In A WWE Match This Year
Everything after the Irish Curse backbreakers was unreal, but the best part is when Cesaro goes for a Neutralizer. Sheamus counters with a backdrop, but Cesaro is SWISS NINJA JESUS and lands on his feet. He hits the ropes, they build up some momentum and Sheamus goes for the Brogue Kick. Without missing a step, Cesaro ducks it, catches him mid-kick and Alpamare Waterslides him for a nearfall. My heart’s going BOOM BOOM BOOM.
Worst: Hey Florida Georgia Line, You’ve Got A New Album Coming Out, Right? Let’s Talk About It For The Entirety Of This Intercontinental Title Defense For Some Reason
You know who’d keep the show’s momentum going after a title change and one of the best matches in months? A country band featuring Heath Slater and a wax Chris Jericho. Let’s have them chug some Dewz with two mental senior citizens and a shoot senior citizen and talk album releases while four mid-carders desperately try to get over.
He’s either a wax Chris Jericho or Beavis, I go back and forth.
Worst: Ziggler Please
Great idea #1: Associate Dolph Ziggler’s name with the N-word.
Great idea #2: Make a sign that says “Ziggler Please” that features a blackface Dolph Ziggler.
Great idea #3: GIVE THAT SIGN A CLOSEUP ON YOUR WRESTLING SHOW.
Worst: Flo Rida Georgia Line
I only remember two things about this match. The first is how much using the Raw set instead of giving a pay-per-view a dedicated theme and design makes the entire thing FEEL like Raw. Doing half of these matches for free on Raw several times (Miz/Ziggler, Usos/Dusts, even Rollins/Reigns) didn’t help that. When Miz had Ziggler locked in his piss-poor figure-four and Cole was chucklemonstering with Florida Georgia Line, I kept expecting them to crash to break so I could hear from the Popeye’s lady. Is there an all-new episode of SUITS coming on after Night Of Champions?
The other thing I remember is going “ohhh no, aww crud” and the like when Beavis and Shithead started puffing up their chests to Damien Sandow. I get that Sandow’s a crony and started it and deserved to get knocked on his ass, but WWE’s instance on putting musicians and semi-celebrities over their talent IN FIGHTS is infuriating. Couldn’t R-Truth have danced over and knocked him out? Do the 85 pound Alter Bridge-looking motherf*ckers have to do it? They even put them over Miz on commentary. “Heh heh Miz wears a dress! He should sing opera because he wears a dress!” YOU ARE A METH HEAD COUNTRY BAND WEARING WALLET CHAINS, WHY ARE YOU THROWING STONES.
On the bright side, Heath Slater finally won a shoving match.
Best: Seth Rollins
In my brain, this was Seth’s best promo ever. I still wanted him to hurry up and get to the point, but for the first time it felt like a conscious decision and not a guy with poor public speaking skills.
It was SO HATABLE. Oh man. Him winning his match by forfeit was bad enough, but him saying EMERGENCY SURGERY IS NO EXCUSE was next level. Even better was his refusal to win gracefully and let it go, making the referee raise his hand (with an amazing 80s dickhead yell of “EENHHH!!!!” in victory) and continuing to arbitrarily challenge and promo about whatever. We didn’t need another reason to lose our minds over Dean Ambrose’s return, but Rollins gave us one. Great stuff.
Best: Dean Ambrose Climbs A Ladder And Drops A Big Elbow On The World
It was the most obvious thing in the world, but shut up, who cares, because DEAN BY GOD AMBROSE is back VIA TAXI with a NEW HANES UNDERSHIRT. In BLACK. Because REVENGE.
I love that Ambrose didn’t return with a surprise musical cue. He had to pull up to the arena fresh, because we all know/believe that if he’d been there already, Seth would be dead. Dude opens the cab door and just POWER WALKS to the ring to continue the street fight that put him out. Continue the lumberjack match. It’s all just one big prolonged fight for him.
That’s what makes Ambrose so much cooler than Reigns. Reigns seems like a guy doing wrestling stories. He’s being prepped as a John Cena/Sheamus type, an action figure that shows up on cue and says his catchphrase and does his moves. Dean Ambrose seems like a guy who wants to FIGHT YOU TO DEATH and believes everything he says. That’s crucial. That’s what’s going to make Ambrose a hero to people like me, and Reigns a hero to little kids. Little kids want to raise their hands and say “yay.” I want to see a motherf*cker bleed.
It was all so perfect. Rollins being a total chickenshit and getting brow-beaten around the arena. Ambrose doing nothing but throwing punches and throwing him around by the hair, EVERYWHERE. The Authority showing up to back their guy and Ambrose dispatching them ten at a time with a jumping goddamn elbow drop off the stage props. He didn’t even have to do it, he just saw a pile of them and though they should be hurt. I also really loved how they took him down in the end. It wasn’t security finally just swarming in and backing him into a corner … those guys had to dive and tackle him mid-swing-of-a-chair and hope for the best. No corny handcuffs, either. ZIPTIES. Because that man is out of his freaking gourd and you can’t tear gas somebody in the middle of a wrestling ring.
Five stars. I hope Rollins loves the taste of CRUMBLY CINDERBLOCKS.
Best: Do You Love America? Not As Much As This Gigantic Man
More about the match itself on the next page, but I love love loved how hilariously melodramatic the opening to Mark Henry vs. Rusev was. Big Show’s backstage giving Mark special USA CLOTHES and one of Alberto Del Rio’s old scarves with a USA STICKER ON IT and saying that he’s got 318 MILLION TAG TEAM PARTNERS TONIGHT. He’s like Buff Bagwell, I guess!
Then Mark shows up and they get Lilian to sing the Star-Spangled Banner while he silently stands in the middle of the ring with his hand over his heart and CRIES. This is SO GOOD. If you think you love America, go f*ck yourself, because Mark Henry loves America MORE.
Best/Worst: Rusev Very Slowly Destroys America
The match itself was … not great. It was a lot of aimless clubbing of forearms and hugs that get out of control. It just didn’t work. It should’ve have been more than five minutes long — America vs. Russia was the only hook, as babyface Mark Henry is cool, but not a real exciting wrestler — and it REALLY shouldn’t have attempted to be hossy so soon after the HOSSIEST MATCH OF THE YEAR. Cesaro and Sheamus made these guys look like Cameron and Naomi.
There were highlights, though, including one big one I’d hate myself if I missed. They paid off Mark Henry escaping The Accolade on Raw and I hated it because they should’ve done that here. That should’ve been a tentpole to keeping people interested in the in-ring work. They managed to top it, however, by having Mark Henry shed a single tear before tapping out. If you missed it, go back and watch it. He realizes he’s about to tap, and one beautiful, Micky Rourke in The Wrestler-style tear falls. That is ART.
I really hope Bo Dallas spends the next month chiding Henry for letting down the United States.
Worst: WHAT ARE YOU DOING, CHRIS
Speaking of matches that felt like they were happening on Raw, Chris Jericho vs. Randy Orton.
The match itself was fine, but the finish ruined it for me. If you didn’t see the match, Jericho climbs to the top rope and readies himself to hit Orton with WWE’s most deadly move: the jumping nothing. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, think back to any Alberto Del Rio match where he’s got a guy lying in the corner diagonally, climbs the ropes and barely jumps off with (best case scenario) a weak double-axehandle that MIGHT hit a standing opponent. The guy on the ground gets his foot up and OH NO ALBERTO HAD HIS MOVE BLOCKED, even though there is no f*cking chance he was doing something. He was doing the Jumping Nothing.
What makes this worse is that he’s wrestling Randy Orton, and the first sentence in your “I’m gonna wrestle Randy Orton” game plan should be “DO NOT JUMP HEADFIRST AT RANDY ORTON.” He’s going to either dropkick you or RKO you, stupid. If it’s this late in the match, you’re getting RKO’d. What makes this even WORSE WORSE is that Jericho climbed up and started going “CAMAWN GET UP,” and Orton took like a minute and a half to get to his feet. Seriously, the ref should’ve counted Jericho off the ropes about a dozen times. So Jericho’s just up there going CAMAWN CAMAWN and Randy’s slooooowly getting up, taking his time, wandering around in a circle. Jericho at no point goes “hey, maybe I should hop down and just run over and kick him.” No, Cool Dad decides to JUMPING NOTHING HEADFIRST at RANDY ORTON and gets RKO’d for the loss. Orton just stops and poses and moseys into a pin because how stupid are you, Jericho, Jesus.
Worst: Brie Bella
At Night Of Champions, Nikki Bella competed in a triple threat match for the Divas Championship. She fought hard, showed us a lot of stuff we’ve never seen from her before, and only lost because she got thrown from the apron to the arena floor.
At Night Of Champions, Brie Bella found a backstage interviewer so she could smugly call Nikki a bitch. Again.
Nikki isn’t lying. Brie is the evil one.
Best: NIKKI Bella (No, Seriously)
Credit where credit’s due. I’ve given Nikki Bella shit for … well, for her entire WWE career, but she busted her ass last night. She showed up rocking cornrows and decided she was gonna take Cactus Jack bumps to the floor and throw springboard enzuigiris. I thought she was gonna Cutthroat Burning Hammer somebody. She deserves a lot of praise for this. Also deserving praise: whoever decided to break up the Bellas and let me watch one of them wrestle without the other going COME ON NIKKIIIII at the top of her lungs the entire time.
AJ won with a great submission sequence, managing to swing her way into a Black Widow, avoid having it countered and Black Widowing again. Interestingly enough, AJ was the least entertaining part of the match. Paige and Nikki were on, and AJ was just kinda there. The good news is that “AJ was just kinda there” is a dozen or so times more entertaining than Rosa Mendes or whoever else might’ve been in this spot.
One complaint, though:
Worst: Turn Down The Damn Ring Mics
I heard these women call the entire match. Reminder: I watched this on a phone. I know Botchamania needs material and all, but turn down the ring mics and maybe pull the camera back out of their faces from time to time. WWE’s got the best production team in the world. They just need to remember to HELP the performers instead of making their jobs harder.
Best: Cena vs. Lesnar
The sad thing is that the Cena vs. Lesnar rematch was really good, and nobody will remember it. They’ll just remember the finish, which was colossally stupid, and forget the cool little stuff Cena did like clinging to the ropes for his life, or stuff Brock did, like switching up his offense to combat Cena’s refocused gameplan. Cena came in expecting Germans. He got them, but he also got a Kimura and some bellies-to-belly.
Worst: Every Single Part Of The Ending
F*ck it, let’s just list them.
1. Cena totally no-selling the Kimura lock and doing whatever he wanted, despite it breaking Shawn Michaels’ arm, Mark Henry’s arm, two of Triple H’s arms, etc. Guy’s like, “I got out of the move! Now the hurt has VANISHED!” I wish they’d send Cena to a seminar and say “hey, you know that stuff you do while you’re getting beaten up? Keep doing that when you start winning.”
2. Seth Rollins running in and causing a DQ on Cena, which is an iffy plan at best, but I understand. Cashing in on Brock Lesnar’s probably more reasonable than trying to beat Cena. But yeah, here’s the problem with the ending: nobody benefits.
Rollins doesn’t look good because he ruined the championship match to get heat, then immediately got his heat taken back when Cena jumped him and ran him off. Cena doesn’t look good because he won by DQ and didn’t really prove anything, and also because the f*cker couldn’t sell water to a guy in Hell. Lesnar doesn’t look good because he was “beaten” by Cena, but remains the champ, meaning there’s a rubber match to prove a bunch of stuff that’s already been proven and Lesnar looks like a putz. He did this to the Undertaker way back before THEIR Hell in a Cell, if you’ll remember. Taker just straight-up emasculated him, and thankfully somebody went “stop it, stupid” between pay-per-views and gave Brock a strong, bloody win in the cage. The new timekeeper guy doesn’t look good because Justin Roberts announced SETH ROLLINS IS CASHING IN HIS MONEY IN THE BANK and the guy’s like “sure, but I’m gonna wait, just in case!” So now Rollins doesn’t lose his briefcase and they still got Boy Who Cried Wolf briefcase heat.
The ANNOUNCE TEAM especially looks stupid, because of their “HOLD ON GUYS, LET’S RESET … WAS LESNAR GOING TO TAP TO JOHN CENA” and King going “I SAY YES!” Except, you know, Cena was PINNING Lesnar. He couldn’t tap him to the STF so he’d hit him with a bunch of Attitude Adjustments. Oh, and Lesnar was kicking out when Rollins interfered. So … no, Cena didn’t do anything, and the match ended for no reason. Boof.
Here are the plusses:
1. The pay-per-view was full of good wrestling, and WWE’s 2014 has basically been “enjoy this good wrestling so when we f*ck this story in the ass you won’t leave.” And, you know, we’re still here.
2. The idea of Rollins’ failed cash-in causing a rift between the Authority and Lesnar/Heyman is a fun idea. Cena can even be JOKESTER JOHN and try to make them madder at each other.
3. The inevitable 16th John Cena title reign starts in October instead of September.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
If this angle has taught us anything, it’s that Damien Sandow has terrific peripheral vision.
Sandow’s twitter account should just be RTs of the Miz.
Believe in DeShields
Forget about Seth Rollins, any chance we can hear from Rascal Flatts?
Would’ve been perfect if Ambrose were driving the cab, and had a fare in the back.
Harry Longabaugh (with two!)
Thank God Dean knew that Spiro Agnew was the only VP to resign, otherwise the Cash Cab would have dropped him off three miles ago.
Dot Dash Dot
Dash Dot Dash
Dash Dash Dash
That is the only way they could have telegraphed that RKO any more.
Goat Faced Killer
The only way that would have been better is if Ambrose attacked Florida Georgia Line on the way to the ring.
Wrestlemania 31. Lesnar vs. Reigns. Battle of Intestinal Fortitude.
Cole: “What a disappointing night for Mark Henry.”
Tonight, the role of Mark Henry will be played by EVERYONE WATCHING.
Randy Orton looks like someone tattooed a hot dog
I swear if WWE does this 13 or 14 more times, I’m outta here!