Pre-show notes: If you missed the show, you can watch it here on WWE Network. You can find past editions of The Best and Worst of Night of Champions on its tag page.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Night of Champions 2015.
Best: The New Big Guy
The opening match for Night Of Champions was full of surprises. I was surprised that they’d open with a Ryback match, surprised that a Ryback match would center around psychologically-sound limb work, surprised that Kevin Owens went over (almost) clean, and surprised that it was one of the best matches of the night. Ryback is one of those guys who is eternally frustrating because he understands how wrestling works and can be genuinely great, but spends most of his time doing cross-eyed readings of cue cards and shaking his head between taunts. The way to book Ryback is to put him in the ring with opponents who beg him to be something more. Put him in with Daniel Bryan or Owens, and he shines. Put him in with Big Show or Miz, and he doesn’t. It’s what keeps him from being a top guy, but it’s also a totally exploitable, genuine skill that should be the focus of his WWE career.
Anyway, yeah, Kevin Owens and Ryback kinda tore it up. I wasn’t expecting it. I’ll mention it a little later when Nikki Bella vs. Charlotte happens, but we sometimes forget that early match limb work is supposed to have something to do with the finish. That’s why you’re doing it, right? Think of wrestling as a real competition for a second. If your opponent does something signature with his arms, you’d want to attack his arms, right? If he uses his legs or his back, you attack those. At the same time, if your opponent is KNOWN for those things, he might be hard to injure in those areas, and that’s where the give-and-take limb work battles come from.
Far too often in wrestling, wrestlers (and wrestling fans) think things like wristlocks and headlocks are just placeholder moves to kill time before the cool stuff happens. You can work a guy’s arm all match, but it doesn’t matter because the exchange of signature moves is what you’re here for. WWE’s trained audiences to see wrestling as a video game, for better or worse. It sells a lot of video games, but it doesn’t make the fantasy world you’re building around a fictitious sporting league make any damn sense.
WWE says they “tell stories” with wrestling matches. A story has a beginning, a middle and an end. So does a match. If you’re reading a story, do you want the beginning and middle to have nothing to do with the end? Why waste all that time writing? Why not just write the end? That’s why the limb work matters. If you work a guy’s shoulder all match, the finish doesn’t have to be you hitting him in the shoulder, but it should connect somehow. Here, Ryback has trouble holding Owens up in the Shell Shocked, and that saves Owens’ ass. On the second attempt, Ryback has decided to hulk up and power through it, but he’s still not able to do the move very fast or confidently. That lets Owens have enough time to rake him in the eyes, which leads to the finish. The work done at the beginning and the middle has something to do with the end, and everything makes sense. See how much better that feels? It makes you feel like you’re watching a wrestling match, and not a PSN highlight video.
So, Are We Gonna Get Positive About The Intercontinental Championship Again?
As for Owens himself, man, I hope this is the first step in rehabilitating WWE’s haunted championship. There’s no better hypothetical narrative for the next few months of the WWE mid-card than John Cena holding and regularly defending the company’s most prestigious title, and the guy who hates Cena the most holding its shameful counterpart, and hoarding it for himself. All I want is months of MINE’S BETTER THAN YOURS, and it absolutely not being true.
Worst: Summer Rae Uses Pro Wrestling’s Deadliest Weapon
If you were hoping Night of Champions would end the Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev feud and allow us to move on with our lives, good news! It didn’t, and they’re feuding forever. You’re gonna be on a couch with your grandkids in 40 years trying to explain why the mean Bulgarian man is throwing food at the weird spaghetti-haired man who won’t stop trying to f*ck his girlfriends.
I thought what they put together in the ring was an improvement from SummerSlam, but the way it ended made the entire thing feel like you’d just flushed a toilet, and it’s taking a little too long for the sh*t to go down. If you missed it, Summer Rae gets onto the apron to interfere and accidentally falls into the ring. The referee throws her out, so she angrily trots back out onto the apron and throws one of her shoes up the ramp. She takes off the other and tries to blind-throw it at the ref, but suddenly Rusev is there, and he gets shoed. That gives Dolph Ziggler a chance to hit a surprise Zig Zag and win the match.
As regular readers of The Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro, a woman’s shoe is the deadliest weapon in wrestling history. I don’t care if you’re wrapping a baseball bat in barbed wire or building log cabins out of light tubes, if Miss Elizabeth shows up to King of the Deathmatches and starts hitting people with her shoe, Liz is the f*cking King of the Deathmatches. She hit Hogan with the flat heel of a shoe once and split him open so bad he sold it like he was dying. It was like a scene from Saving Private Ryan where a guy’s lying on the beach with his guts hanging out.
The point is that it ended as dumb as possible, which means everyone involved will have a problem with it on Monday. That leads to problems every Thursday and Monday thereafter, and maybe a Hell in a Cell match where shoes and fish are legal. Who knows? Everybody should just f*ck everybody, Jamie Noble-style, and we should never speak of it again.
Best: The New Day As A Living Simpsons Episode
First of all, Xavier Woods has Rufio hair. We need to spend a few sentences on that, just to make sure it registered. The crowd even starts an all-too-brief “Rufio” chant in the New Day Rocks rhythm, because if they hadn’t, they would’ve been dead to me. I just hope he keeps it long enough for us to get a few more Hook jokes in. I want him to wrestle Adam Rose, smush around his face for a few seconds and go, “Oh THERE you are, Leo!”
Second of all, I think I figured out what I love so much about the New Day. They’re a living Simpsons episode. What hooked me on the golden age Simpson episodes — seasons two to eight, for the record — is that the jokes and references were rapid fire, but they were also smart. They referenced things I should know about, not just stuff I already knew. I discovered so many wonderful things researching Simpsons jokes, and The New Day packing so many references into their promos with a total disregard for audience comprehension makes me happy. The Final Fantasy victory fanfare? Fetty Wap parody songs? 2 Live Crew? DO IT ALL. I hope there’s a kid who watched Night of Champions somewhere googling “Computer Blue” today. I also wish New Day had gotten involved in the Divas Championship match just to call, “Darling Nikki.”
Also great: Big E making his Twitter petition canon and claiming signatures from Bill Nye the Science Guy, Barack Obama and “Jake from State Farm.” I love you a lot, The New Day.
Best: The Finish Was Bad, But It’s Probably The One We Needed
The Dudley(z) vs. The New Day was a lot of fun, even if it ended with the “the Dudleys hit the 3-D, Xavier Woods jogs in to cause a disqualification” finish. That’s probably the most obvious and least helpful finish they could’ve done — New Day lost but kept the titles, the Dudleys won but got nothing for it — but in matches like these, it’s probably the right call. If that finish happened on a show like Night Of Champions and was followed by the catharsis of Woods getting put through a table and didn’t have an entire cycle of Raw and Smackdown non-finishes prefacing it, it would mean something. We’d get mad at Woods for ruining things instead of just saying, “oh, that’s how the match ends.” Still though, what other call can you make? You don’t want to bring in the old tag team and put them over your hot new act clean, but you also don’t want to make them look like chumps. So you have them “win” a good match, not get the titles and live to fight another day. Sometimes the right call in wrestling isn’t the creative or exciting one, I guess.
+1 to Xavier Woods for doing the D-Von Dudley electrocution sell when he went through the table. You know that sh*t was on purpose. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, D-Von has no idea how to realistically sell damage, so he just lies on the ground and shakes like a fish out of water. He’ll do it for almost everything. Watch Woods go through the table and lie there with his eyes open and his legs twitching. Simpsons episode, man.
Worst: The Ultimate WWE Image
Question: what does Brandon Stroud’s brain see when you say, “WWE?” Hogan slamming Andre at WrestleMania 3? A bloody Stone Cold Steve Austin passing out in the Sharpshooter at WrestleMania 13?
Nope. Florida Georgia Line waving at the camera with a big Mountain Dew logo between them. That’s what it sees.
All it needs to complete the image is a pan down to the Sonic guys as Big Show runs in and turns on them.
Worst: FOOL DAD
Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns went with WWE’s least surprising surprise for their mystery third man: Chris Jericho, condescending Tough Enough host and Cool Dad who took a break from driving his kids to soccer practice to put on his best purple underpants and fight some cultist swampbillies.
It doesn’t work out well for them, either. Braun Strowman is the kind of old school “can’t knock him off his feet” monster WWE hasn’t had for a minute, and whenever the Wyatts are in trouble, they tag him in to do double damage. He’s not really an exciting wrestler, but he doesn’t have to be … he’s giant, he’s wearing Nikki Bella’s top and he will choke you to Hell. After a long back-and-forth, Ambrose and Reigns (the guys who’ve run headfirst into Strowman the most) start to figure him out. Reigns nails him with two Superman Punches, staggering him long enough for Ambrose to come flying off the top rope with a crazy guy body attack and knock him down. Reigns hits him with a spear, and sh*t’s rolling. He sets up for another, but f*ckin’ Cool Dad tags in and ruins everything. Strowman chokes him out, and that’s that.
After the match, Ambrose and Reigns kneel beside Jericho and are all, “bro.” Jericho doesn’t respond, not even with “bro, I know,” and angrily pushes his way past them. This could be building to an angle, or it could just be Jericho going back into hibernation until January, when he will be a shocking surprise for something. You should’ve went with Rob Van Dam, guys.
Best: I Think I Really Like Roman Reigns Again
Back when he was in The Shield, my running joke for Roman Reigns is that he was a Handsome Prince and the exclamation point on the end of whatever Ambrose and Rollins did, which made him a beautiful, awesome flower. That flower started to wilt when The Shield broke up and WWE decided to make him The Next Big Thing, aka a milquetoast-ass WWE babyface who smirks constantly, doesn’t take anything seriously, acts like an entitled dick 24/7 and speaks in baby talk. Listen to any of Roman’s promos from last fall. They’re still remarkably bad. Some of it was on WWE creative, but some of it was on Roman. There have been plenty of guys who’ve been given sh*t material and done something palatable with it. Roman looked like a fourth grader who’d forgotten his lines in a Christmas play.
Around WrestleMania, WWE eased back on the WE KNOW WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU angle and lessened the severity of the Roman Reigns “thing.” Since then, they’ve taken steps to rehabilitate him, and they’ve worked. They paired him back up with Dean Ambrose, and (“I like my beer ice cold” promo notwithstanding) have allowed him to take a more natural approach in promos and be himself. On top of that, his matches have been consistently good, and none of the bad stuff happening around them seems like his fault. He’s just a handsome, athletic, super tough guy who excels like a motherf*cker at team wrestling. That’s maybe the easiest kind of wrestling character to love, right?
Watch him and Ambrose get rolling here, and tell me you don’t want to cheer for these dudes. Since the Shield breakup, WWE’s invested great time in making them look like the stupidest human beings alive. Spooky tea parties, losing matches via ghost lantern or exploding television monitors, I LIKE MY WATER ROOM TEMPERATURE, and on and on. But man, when these guys team up and get going, that crap falls to the side. Let’s keep these guys together as a badass team, please, and don’t try to turn a guy into The Rock if he hasn’t already started doing it on his own.
Also, Before I Forget, Stop Jumping The Barrier, You Idiots
Sure, it’ll get you a post on With Spandex, but it’s not worth it. You look like an idiot, and most of us wish Roman would punch you in the face so hard it Fatalities you.
Best: Everything About Nikki Bella Vs. Charlotte Besides The Finish
Worst: The Finish, And People Who Run Wrestling Not Understanding Why Wrestling Happens
So, Nikki Bella vs. Charlotte.
Just to type it out, I loved most of this match. Nikki Bella garroting Charlotte’s knee for 13 minutes was wonderful, and she did a fantastic job with it. I particularly liked the backslide counter, with the straight kick to the back of the leg. That’s the kind of thing I’m gonna cheer for immediately. The argument that Nikki “can’t wrestle” continues to be ridiculous, because “wrestling” means more than just doing moves. It involves a broad set of athletic, acting, live performance and television skills that most of us don’t ever consider. Nikki Bella understands how to work a WWE TV match, listen to her agents and tell a story on TV (as bad as that story is) more than almost all of our indie favorites. That’s the truth. Whether or not we enjoy the matches are our prerogative, and Jesus Christ, there’s so many reasons to say Nikki’s contributing negatively to the product, but her ability to “wrestle” is not one of them. You’re thinking of Brie. Brie can’t wrestle.
Charlotte did a good job, too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her get beaten up so badly, and her facial expressions are great. She’s a natural at telling a story with her face, and it’s one of the things we forget when we’re complimenting her (or deriding her, for some reason) in NXT. The match from beginning to almost-end was very good, and that should be clearly stated.
So, remember that sh*t I was saying about limb work in the Owens/Ryback match?
How the f*ck are you gonna spend 13 minutes working somebody’s leg, only to get immediately tapped out by the first leg submission put on you by the lady with the bad leg, using the bad leg?
The finish to this match — the finish, not the result — made me so damn mad. There is absolutely no point in spending that much time on limb work, building an entire long championship match around it, only for your finish to be, “well, she toughed it out.” WHY THE HELL ARE YOU DOING THAT? I don’t know if they cut the time or something, but there’s no way that first Figure-8 should’ve ended the match. You’ve been GARROTING Charlotte’s knee for a quarter hour, and she puts you in a leg submission that not only relies on her leg for pressure, but for balance. You have two free arms and she’s bridging upside down. Isn’t the story of the match that you’ve compromised her leg? Why don’t you just punch her in the f*cking kneecap? I’m not trying to agent your match over here, but the 12 minutes you spent building to minute 13 have nothing to do with minute 13. You wrestled a 30 second Divas match. Finish the story, guys. Charlotte’s even got a backup, non-submission finisher that doesn’t rely as strongly on her legs. How do the people in charge of all the wrestling and the people performing the only wrestling that matters to most mainstream wrestling fans not understand why the wrestling they’re doing is happening? If this, then what? If that, then this. F*cking-A.
I won’t get into how hard they’re telegraphing Paige’s jealousy (because “jealousy” is their favorite Divas story) or Ric Flair getting all emotional again and giving me feelings, but man, what a disappointment. I’m glad Charlotte’s the Divas Champion so we can hypothetically, finally move on with the division (read: “get Sasha Banks involved”), but I wish they wouldn’t have sold out the work they put in.
Best: My Precioussss
Not a lot needs to be said about Cena vs. Rollins. We’ve seen it a bunch and it’s always great. This was no exception, and was probably my second favorite match of theirs behind the nose-breaking incident that forced Cena to sell his ass off.
I hate to type “the right man won” in a match where Cena beat a young, top star for a title and beat the WWE World Heavyweight Champion clean to further assert his personal brand of pastel dominance, but it’s the truth. Cena did wonders for the United States Championship, and as much as I like Rollins, it was just an accessory for him. It was a way to say, “he’s the first person to ever hold both belts.” Now that he’s done that, he doesn’t need it. Sorta like how they play up Kevin Owens beating Cena in his debut match, but don’t bring up Cena emasculating the sh*t out of him afterwards. The talking point is more important than the story. Collect a bunch of talking points and you’re a WWE legend!
But no, Cena as U.S. Champ is the right choice. Not only do we (hopefully) get his weekly open challenge back, but we get a chance to pay that story off the way it should’ve been: with someone unexpected rising to the challenge and besting The Face That Runs The Place, fulfilling his prophecy. Maybe Cena steps aside gracefully and golf claps that dude. Maybe monkeys fly out of my butt, I don’t know. Plus, as mentioned, Cena as U.S. Champ while Kevin Owens holds the Intercontinental belt is a great storytelling opportunity.
Also great: Cena looking at the United States Championship like he’s a little kid, and the belt’s his dad coming home from the Army.
Best: Sting Going Full-Tilt, Or
Worst: Be Careful With Our Legends, You Guys
I didn’t love Cena AA’ing Rollins on the floor after he’d beaten him, but at least Rollins shoved him first, so it was … provoked? I guess you could say Cena started it, but man, I’m too tired to type another six paragraphs about what a colossal dickhead that character is.
Anyway, the main event saw Rollins take on Sting, and you probably have heard how it ended. Sting bumped like a freak for 10 minutes, going backwards through the Spanish announce table and diving off the top to the outside (onto only one guy). It was an incredible effort, and the kind of gutsy, kinetic performance that made kids like me love Sting when we were little. He was big and strong, but he wasn’t afraid to leap over the top rope to the outside, or climb and jump from electrified steel cages. He was Hulk Hogan with a worker’s spirit, you know?
Watching him go down like that, especially after the great match he was having, was heartbreaking. It’s going to sound more dramatic than I intend, but WWE really needs to stop leaning so hard on the nostalgia and name value of these 50+ year old men and pushing them this hard. Between Sting collapsing in the ring and the multiple instances of Undertaker collapsing after wrestling Lesnar, can’t we take the hint? I love the ’80s and ’90s in wrestling as much as the next person, but time is real, and every day there’s more and more time between then and now. These guys are getting old. You gotta be careful with our legends, man. In a world where we’ve seen top stars die in the ring during matches, we absolutely do not have any reason whatsoever to push someone THAT old THAT hard to prove they’ve “still got it.” I appreciate it, and I know nobody held a gun to Sting or the Undertaker’s head and said WRESTLE GREAT OR ELSE, but somebody’s gotta make the call to end that Era we said ended at WrestleMania 28.
Via Danielle Matheson:
Best: Sting Is Old Meme
If you’re like me, you’ve already been watching Old Man Sting get in the ring like Mick Wall forthe past few years with TNA, and also make too many dumb Guns N’ Roses references. I also tend to make my own fun during all of Sting’s matches that aren’t with Ethan Carter III (who, in case you missed it, totally beat Sting). As such, can we just take a second to address Sting’s weird butt hands? Look at them. The scorpion legs form nearly perfect skeleton hands that are grasping his butt. I know the John Cena meme is a Pretty Big Internet Deal right now, so it seems kinda fitting that the old dude they’re parading out is inadvertently doing some weird Goatse tribute. It’s the terrifying picture of a dude’s b-hole only 90s WCW Kids will remember!
And Now, Kane And Sheamus
So let me get this straight … WWE is building their next cycle around The Undertaker, Kane, the Dudley Boyz and Chris Jericho, and we just watched a main event featuring 56-year old Sting. Also, Triple H might show up and wrestle Seth Rollins. Is … is everything okay? Are we Benjamin Buttoning our wrestling shows, but in a world where you can’t actually Benjamin Button? Are we Work Benjamin Buttoning?
Sheamus and Kane. Sheamus and Kane! Seth Rollins is gonna wrestle wig-wearin’ Kane while Sheamus lurks. It’s … we’re doing a thing. It’s fine. We’re positive! Wrestling is great! WE’RE DOING A THING.
GO TO THE COMMENTS.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
“This is not good wrestling, this is a terrible match to watch-.”Troy Aikman
To which Joe Buck responded: “And with that we welcome a new audience.”
This match is like Avatar. Feel like I’ve seen it before and the only things saving it are the score and the 3D.
Dolph Ziggler is what would happen if there was a transporter malfunction that somehow fused Shawn Michaels with Marty Jannetty.
Single Leg Takedown
I hope security sees Jericho out too
White after Labor Day? Bray Wyatt truly is the new face of fear.
WWE Architecture, Inc. Secretary: “Hello, Seth? Do you remember that “The Shield” project you worked on a couple years back? The one we had to scrap and destroy mid-construction? We’re getting some complaints that too many of the walls were left intact.”
Seth Rollins: “Don’t worry, we’ve got a guy for that sort of thing.”
I assume Ambrose and Reigns’ disappointment in tag partner choices will end with Chad Gable holding up his towel next to them for weeks to come.
Hopefully this match will be longer then Victory Road
Sting bought Randy Savage’s hair on ebay.
Now send out Big Show to make SURE no one gives a f*ck!
Thanks, everybody. See you back here tomorrow for the Best and Worst of The Raw After Night Of Champions.