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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: WWE Night of Champions 2015



Welcome to the Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review! It’s been a while since I last did this, and quite honestly, I actually missed it since PPVs have less of the bullshit that RAW normally does.

This month, I’m trying something new, so I’ve got my good buddy and Smark Henry’s Lucha Underground reviewer, Anthony Cuello, to help me out with this review of Night of Champions.

Kickoff: Stardust and The Ascension def. Neville and the Lucha Dragons

Stan: That was a fun little match, though I was kind of sad that it seemed more like a TV match than a PPV match, or even one on the Kickoff. In the past, Kickoff matches were given a bit more time, but it just didn’t feel that way this time around.

I enjoyed seeing the Lucha Dragons work with Neville in a coordinated fashion. If WWE wants to try something different, they should make their own version of the Trios division, and they could start off with these guys and Cosmic Wasteland. I’d watch more of their work.

The dynamic between Stardust and the Ascension was pretty fun to watch, too. At some point, those guys are going to want to be their own men. So to have Stardust treat them like lackeys and goons right now is just right, since it opens the door for a potential story between them.

As for the finish, it was brilliant to see Stardust literally using Viktor to ram into Neville as a setup for the Queen’s Crossbow. I wish this match had a bit more time, then again, with such a shallow story, so far, there’s only so much you can do.

Anthony: I just love the fact that the Cosmic Wasteland are a thing now, and what better way to kick them off by having them win. Konnor and Viktor have been losing for so long that I’ve forgotten how dominant they actually look, and a win here helps establish them further.

This is a feud that doesn’t really get much time on RAW, but I’m liking what they’re doing here. The coordination between Neville and the Lucha Dragons was great, and this was a nice way to give these tag teams something to do while the Dudleyz and New Day duke it out for the belts. Stardust as a comic book villain is just perfect. Here’s to hoping we see more of this feud, as this match has left me wanting more.

Kevin Owens def. Ryback (c) to become the new Intercontinental Champion

Stan: First off, I was pleasantly surprised that Vince allowed Owens to say, “This is how a wrestler looks like,” in the pre-show hype video package. I tried turning my overthinking brain off so I wouldn’t think of it as any red herring. And I’m glad I didn’t.

Seeing Ryback and Owens duke it out isn’t supposed to be pretty, and they wasted little time in beating the hell out of each other. KO was very physical with Ryback, to the point of manhandling the Big Guy. Then again, Beezy returned the favor, and I was legit shocked when he pressed Owens up in the air before throwing him out over the top rope.

As a whole, I didn’t expect this match to go on first, because I thought Rollins and Cena would open the show. But having this match as the curtain-jerker wasn’t a bad choice at all, because both men put on a decent match, which I hope isn’t the last we see of Ryback vs. Owens.

That finish looked pretty damn interesting, mostly because for a prize fighter like Kevin Owens, it showed that he wasn’t above resorting to underhanded, sneaky tactics in order to win a match and the Intercontinental Championship. It was a good call to make because those 5 seconds between the eye poke and the pinfall was a stark contrast to the brutish, brawling style Owens is largely known for.

Anthony: This was a good choice for an opener, as both men know how to put on a decent show. They told a nice story here with Owens going after Ryback’s arm for most of the match, limiting the damage that a Meathook clothesline or a Shell Shocked would bring. Despite the champion fighting back, those attacks on the arm took its toll on Ryback, as he struggled to lift Owens for a Shell Shocked that gave the former NXT Champion the opportunity to poke some eyeballs and sneak one over Ryback for the win.

The big story here, though, is that Kevin Owens is once again a champion. As much as Ryback deserves a run with the belt, you have to admit that this title reign has been very lackluster so far. Putting the belt on one of the hottest names right now in the WWE is a very good decision, and I can’t wait to see Owens run with the belt. He’s got to deal with Ryback one more time, but after that, the sky's the limit. Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro? Owens vs. Randy Orton? Hell yeah.

Dolph Ziggler def. Rusev

Stan: At least this match had a conclusive finish.

It’s fitting that this match had all the makings of a throwback, since the feud in itself screams retro. Watching Summer Rae attempt to cheat on behalf of Rusev, and then having that backfire was a whole lot of fun, especially on a meta level since the heel hit the heel.

The only thing I find myself asking is if Dolph and Rusev appear headed for a double turn down the road. I mean, Rusev doesn’t know that Summer was wearing the earrings that Dolph gave her the previous week on RAW. And if Dolph was really such a good guy—which on the surface, he clearly does not look like, on top of constantly bragging about stealing people’s girlfriends—then why would he fuck with Summer Rae that way just because Lana’s away?

Either they’re attempting to write these characters with more nuance and layers, or they just want to spice things up without realizing how the characters end up looking. Summer continues to look like a duplicitous woman, Rusev just looks like a bitter fool, Dolph looks like such an asshole, and Lana… Well, Lana still looks fine.

Anthony: So it looks like they’re going to go down the slow path of a double turn, which at this point is a very much-needed change of pace for Ziggler. Good match, but we already knew what we we’re getting as Ziggler and Rusev have met countless times in the ring. This is a feud that I’m tuning into because of the backstage segments rather than the actual matches, and a double turn may shake things up.

All in all, this storyline hasn’t been that bad, but that’s because I’m hinging on the one big payoff we can get (an emotional reunion between Lana and Rusev). Having Summer Rae involved in the finish (#HEEL) was a nice way to change up things, I guess, so I’m looking forward to seeing how Lana will react to all of this. That’s going to take some time, though, so I hope they have plans for this feud in the immediate future.

The Dudley Boyz def. WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day via DQ

Stan: Another retro finish from a match with a retro team in it.

Then again, I actually can’t disagree with the way they went about it. By having the Dudleyz win via DQ, the New Day gets to keep their heat without losing the championships. Plus, the Dudleyz remain undefeated as a team, which is good, because it gives them a reason to keep challenging the champs, unlike a certain legend who can’t buy a win in WWE.

As a side note, let me just say that I want Xavier Woods to start playing Taylor Swift songs on his trombone. Taylor Swift has become the New Day of pop music. She’s such a huge heel, except she doesn’t realize it, which is so New Day. Make it happen, Xavier. Make it happen.

Anthony: Unfortunately, no tables were saved in this match.  This was your standard tag affair, but the finish allows both teams to settle this at a future event (Hell in a Cell, or the upcoming Network special at Madison Square Garden). I agree with the Dudleyz remaining unbeaten yet not picking up the belts, as it gives them a reason to keep going after New Day. I want more of this feud, and it looks like that’s exactly what we’re getting.

Charlotte def. Nikki Bella to become the new Divas Champion

Stan: It finally happened, and I’m glad they really milked the celebration with Ric Flair in the ring and all. It’s just a shame that they diluted it with the events of RAW.

Now that Charlotte’s Divas Champion, I’m sure they’ll be building off the slow burn heel turn Paige has been hinting at. During Ric and Charlotte’s celebration, part of me wanted to see Paige attack Charlotte right there and then. It would’ve made for nuclear heat, and it would set up a feud so personal that we’d all win in the end. Well, except Becky Lynch, because I honestly don’t know where I’d place her in that scenario.

Anthony: I’m glad that Charlotte finally got the strap, but something about this match rubbed me the wrong way.

Let me explain. Charlotte won after two actual moves, despite spending most of the match on the defensive from a Bella beatdown. Nikki constantly attacked Charlotte’s leg, with the premise being (as the announcers put it) that this would hamper Charlotte’s ability to successfully bridge into her Figure Eight lock. That’s actually pretty smart, except for the part where Charlotte won with said lock, showing no serious effects from Nikki’s efforts to put a strain on her leg. So now Nikki looks like a total schmuck, despite the fact that she actually looked like a decent champion for most of this match. Come on, man.

There was also the feeling that this match simply felt like they were going through the motions. It’s like your favorite bad television show on its season finale, where you just want things to be over so you can finally move on to better things. They were able to somewhat salvage the emotional pull by involving Ric Flair, but had they not put Naitch in, I think this would’ve been a very flat moment.

So yes, now that Charlotte is on top of the mountain, here’s to hoping we see an actual revolution now. Nikki will likely get a rematch, but that should be watchable at the very least because she’s decent in the ring. Now give us Charlotte-Paige, Charlotte-Becky or Charlotte-Sasha Banks from Team BAD (entrance theme).

The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, and Braun Strowman) def. Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Chris Jericho

Anthony: WHY 2 JERICHO! Man, this felt flat to me, but that’s because they set the bar so high with the possibility of a Savio Vega return. Jericho’s all good, because he has actual history with the Wyatt Family dating back to last year. My main issue is that the moment you heard his countdown and saw his LED jacket, you also knew the outcome of the match. 2015 Jericho is here to make people look good, and it just so happens that the other team has a 6’8”, 400-pound man waiting to be made.

All that aside though, this was a pretty fun brawl. Interesting way to finish the match, as it seems that we’ll get some sort of tensions going on between Ambrose/Reigns and Jericho. I’m not sure if that’s the best thing to do right now, especially as Shield 2.0 has a cult going after them. Now isn’t really the best time to be bickering with someone, guys.

Let’s talk about the real story, though: that jabroni who entered the ring. At first I thought he looked like Drake Younger and was about to freak out, but security carried him away which meant that this was another deranged fan. On behalf of all the smart and reasonable smarks in the world, I want to raise this man a massive middle finger. Fuck you.

Stan: First off, I have a lot of things to say about the asshole who jumped the barricades to pretend to be the mystery partner. How many times do fans have to be arrested and banned from WWE shows before we all realize that we should know our place? It’s idiots like these who make the rest of us fans look bad. Look, we get it. Wrestling is a personal medium because the interaction is direct. But there’s a line you just don’t cross. They’re performers and the priority is their safety. If you get hurt because you entered another person’s workplace without permission, then that’s your fault.

Now, I said on both the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas podcast and on last week’s RAW review that anything less than Cesaro, Finn Balor, or Samoa Joe would be a letdown. I hate to say it, but Chris Jericho’s return as the mystery partner was a disappointment. Sure, if I were there in Houston, I’d pop like mad because I’m a Jerichoholic at heart. But story-wise, they went for a 45-year-old semi-retired guy to neutralize Braun freakin’ Strowman?

But after literally sleeping on it, and observing Cole’s commentary, it was noteworthy that they referenced Jericho’s past with Bray Wyatt. Plus, he did bring veteran experience to complement the younger duo of Ambrose and Reigns.

However, based on Jericho’s body language, particularly during the comeback, you could tell that he was bound to turn on his partners at some point, and we saw it when he tagged himself in right before Roman Reigns could spear Strowman.

Having Jericho turn on Reigns and Ambrose at the end could lead to a story where one of Reigns and Ambrose ends up dealing with Jericho, while the other continues to deal with Wyatt in time for Hell in a Cell. I think this hurts the story as a whole, and Roman Reigns as an individual.

It hurts the story because all of a sudden, Reigns and Ambrose can’t defeat the Wyatts anymore after they added Strowman. And even adding a mystery partner in Jericho couldn’t answer their problems. So they bicker with Jericho when they couldn’t get it done, and their focus is taken away from the Wyatts, which makes Roman and Dean look shallow and short-sighted.

More importantly, this hurts Roman because the idea behind bringing Dean into the story was to make Reigns more likable by association with Ambrose. We saw it in the Shield and we saw it this year: Roman Reigns is way more likable when he’s next to Dean Ambrose.

The more they’re together, the bigger Roman’s stock is as a babyface. And if he turns on Dean, then that’s an even bigger amount of heat on Roman because of the capital they should have built. If Dean were to turn on Roman, it would have still paid off because Roman should have been well-liked enough by that point for the WWE Universe to not jeer him and cheer a heel Dean Ambrose. Sayang.

[Update: Jericho didn’t show up on RAW this week, and there are conflicting rumors about his status as an active wrestler in WWE moving forward. That’s extremely short-sighted on WWE’s part, and it doesn’t add value at all to this feud. In fact, it takes away from the storytelling because instead of taking two steps forward, Dean and Roman ended up taking three steps back. But I’ll get into that on my RAW review this week.]

John Cena def. Seth Rollins to become the new United States Champion

Stan: There are times when I just hate it when I’m right. This is one of those times.

I predicted Cena to go over Rollins because believe it or not, Cena works well in the niche they carved out for him after WrestleMania, which was to be the standard-bearer who put over younger talent through excellent matches over the U.S. title week after week.

Now that we have that back, I hope Cena continues to do it, and this time, whichever young gun they pair up with him, I hope he gets more than a token win in a feud that spans several months. I’m still a bit sore over the fact that Kevin Owens never won the feud against Cena.

Here’s an idea: Cesaro isn’t doing anything. Maybe it’s time to give him a feud against Cena, where he proves he can actually beat John. After all, all of the other guys who got in Cesaro’s way in the past are all busy with something else now.

As for the match itself, I was really surprised it went on second to the last, and that the decision was made to have Rollins wrestle back-to-back. That shows a great deal of trust towards Rollins, plus it validates all the work Rollins has done to deserve his place in the company right now.

More brownie points for Rollins for attempting a frog splash. Pretty sure it was no coincidence he did it in Texas. With the chemistry between Cena and Rollins in the ring, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of this, but maybe in the future. Not now. Indy Cena needs a new opponent just to keep things fresh. Giving us a taste of what he could do with Rollins in the ring was a great litmus test for Rollins because this rivalry isn’t over just yet.

Anthony: Big match John, ladies and gentlemen! The thing about John Cena vs. Seth Rollins is that because they’ve gone face to face so many times now, you know exactly what you’re getting. This was another great match from these two, and they added a couple of nice touches to it (such as the frog splash) that made it different from previous encounters. Rollins continues to prove his stock as one of the WWE’s biggest assets, and while the U.S. title loss cuts his reign short, that’s actually a belt he doesn’t really need now. Let him continue to duke it out carrying WWE’s grand prize.

Cena, on the other hand, can now go back to his role of gatekeeper, something most of us have actually enjoyed over the past couple of months. Bring on the U.S. Open Challenge, and hopefully they can catapult someone else into stardom from this.

Seth Rollins def. Sting to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Anthony: In a live discussion thread, Wendell Dongo of Smark Gilas-Pilipinas said that “Sting will look like such a jabroni if he still loses here”. Oh, hey, guess what? He lost. Let this sink in for a moment: the Vigilante now has a worse WWE record than Stephen Amell. Even Michael Cole has fared better in a WWE ring than Sting. Michael. Freakin’. Cole.

Otherwise, I felt that the match was just okay. Sting’s age showed here, as Rollins, despite having just wrestled John Cena, clearly looked like the better man. They also broke a table, which may or may not be enough for the New Day to start going after Seth Rollins. Rollins won with roll-up, and I’m just happy that he’s still the WWE’s top dog.

Sheamus tried to cash in at the end of the match, but was thwarted by a returning Kane. I like the possibility of a Kane-Seth Rollins feud, as that’s something they really didn’t close out properly. This should make for a pretty good match, and a good story as they can play up more Authority tension (as well as a Sheamus cash-in at any time).

Stan: Hell, you can count Snooki and Maria Menounos on the list of people who have a better WWE record than Sting. That’s your Mount Rushmore, right there.

This is too funny because as Vince McMahon would have you believe, wins and losses don’t matter in the WWE.  Except, at some point, they have to.

At first, it was already questionable why a guy with an 0-1 win-loss record gets an instant WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Night of Champions. But let’s assume that Sting was booked to defeat Rollins. That title win would have served as a transition champion’s win so that he could pass the belt off to Sheamus, who would have easily cashed in on the Vigilante. He’d still finish with a losing record of 1-2.

I don’t know why we’re obsessing about Sting, or why we care about his win-loss record. He’s at a point in his career where wins and losses essentially don’t matter anymore because he’s cemented his status as a legend. It’s just a shame that he’s too old to do much with his WWE run right now, and it’s even more unfortunate that he got injured during the main event.

I’m just relieved that Rollins retained his title, because there’s still a lot that they can do with him as the top dog. What I would like to see moving forward, though, is more tension between Seth, Sheamus, and the Authority. If the Authority can tease that they’re considering putting their eggs in an Irish basket, then that’ll make for a compelling story, and Rollins might just end up turning face in the process.

*****

I’ve got to thank Anthony for tagging with me on this here PPV review column. This is something I might do more often moving forward, so let me know if you like (or dislike) it!

As a whole, the PPV had a very throwback feel to it for many reasons other than the superstars who returned. The way they wrote the stories and the finishes had retro touches, that were mostly good. The matches were generally excellent, which is more than we can say for most non-big four PPVs these days. It was good that the pairings were such because we got what we were expecting, and I mean that in a good way.

All that being said, I’m giving the PPV a solid B because for all the good matches this show had, there were also some logical loopholes I just can’t let slide, particularly Charlotte’s in-ring psychology and the Chris Jericho return.

What did you think of Night of Champions? Sound off and hit us up in the comments section below!

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