WWE Night of Champions, WWE’s annual celebration of past and present champions, came and went last night. The premise of the card, for those who might not now, is that every WWE Championship belt is defended on this night. In this era of wrestling it includes five title belts: World Heavyweight, Intercontinental, United States, Divas, and Tag Team. The event is usually a stand out among the glutton of pay-per-views that WWE puts out every month.
Did Night of Champions continue its solid showing this year? Here are some of my thoughts and final grade on the show. Enjoy!
Seth Rollins is the Best Wrestler in WWE Right Now
You can argue about how the finishes of his matches have been booked lately, but there is no doubt that Seth Rollins is the best pure wrestler in the company right now. He continues to put on high energy matches that you can’t look away from. He did it for years in Ring of Honor, and he continues to do it in the Big Leagues. WWE is full of great wrestlers both on the main roster and NXT, and it might be their strongest pure wrestling roster since the early to mid-2000s, and Rollins typifies the migration back to great storytelling and athleticism being promoted in the ring.
His match with Cena, which was the best of the night for the second event row, continues to show just how talented Rollins is in the ring. He perfectly complements Cena’s brawling style with his incredibe athleticism to create matches that hold your attention from start to finish. I’m not taking anything away from Cena (more on that later), but Rollins could be put in the ring with anyone and the guy would make a compelling match out of it. Cena’s rivalry with Edge is the closest comparison, but Rollins, with all due respect to Edge, might be a bit better in the ring due to him being able to adapt to his opponent without losing what makes him unique. I don’t want to go off topic, but Edge was always better with guys that could match his dynamic style better like a Chris Jericho or Shawn Michaels. I always thought his matches with Cena were solid, but nothing spectacular. Rollin’s matches with Cena have been nothing short of fantastic and, unlike some of Cena and Edge’s best matches, he has done this with no gimmicks: no ladders, chairs, or cages. Just a straight wrestling match. I thought we may had lost the talent to put on a great and exciting straight wrestling match with the departure of CM Punk and losing Daniel Bryan to numerous injuries, but Rollins has taken the mantle and shown, with a very strong roster of pure wrestlers, that he is the best in the business.
Oh, and did I mentioned he wrestled twice on the show?
It’s Time We Give Cena More Credit for Being a Good Wrestler
John Cena has been maligned by fans for his lack of in-ring work. I used to be on the same bandwagon myself. The booking of Cena didn’t help as WWE decided to make him a hybrid of Hulk Hogan and The Rock, then they preceded to shove him down our throats for the better part of 10-years by booking his matches all the same way: Cena gets beat down, Cena makes a comeback, and Cena wins. Repeat. It was boring and it deserved all the boos it received.
So when did I change my mind?
When Cena had his match with CM Punk at Money in the Bank in 2013. Punk, like Rollins is now, was the best worker in the company and Cena, just like he is now, was hated even though he was supposed to be the good guy in this match. Part of that was the match taking place in Chicago, and the other part was because he was Cena.
Since that match, Cena has impressed me with how he has adapted to wrestling with more dynamic and athletic performers. He has adjusted his move set accordingly, but he has been able to more than keep up with guys like Rollins and Kevin Owens. Guys that have been able to combine the WWE and Indie wrestling style into this exciting hybrid that is fun to watch. Cena has evolved his work and speed to be successful inside this new hybrid. I can honestly say that Cena has had his best matches of his career since that 2013 match with Punk. There is no doubt working with guys like Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, and Kevin Owens have been a big help, but you also have to be a willing participant in order to make those matches great and Cena has been. No one every questioned Cena’s work ethic, but now it seems he has the booking and the guys to work with to help elevate him as a wrestler. Gone are the days of him working against the Great Khali and Umaga. He now has wrestlers across from him that can take that work ethic and turn it into a great match due to their pure wrestling skills.
And it’s time to start giving credit to Cena for being a willing a participant and evolving to keep up.
The Booking of the Seth Rollins/Sting Wold Heavyweight Title Match was Terrible
My issue is with the booking of the match.
It should have been booked with less bumps and more storytelling. When looking at the participants in the ring, Rollins is a young guy that can do some amazing things between the ropes while Sting is near the end of his career and needs to be more protected. This match was built like Sting was 30-years-old and it was the absolute wrong way to construct it.
I don’t want to take anything away from Sting. He came into this match in great shape. From what I could tell, he never looked like he was out of breath or a step behind, but he is still a 56-year-old man who has spent his entire life throwing his body around 340-days a year since his early twenties. Instead of booking the match with that in mind, WWE decided it was a good idea for Sting to go through the table and take not one, but two, turnbuckle power bombs. A move, that while very innovative and visually cool, makes you cringe when it’s done to a much younger wrestler, let alone a guy a couple of years away from 60.
I don’t really know who is to blame, and I’m sure the dirt sheets will tell us half truths about who actually made the final decision, but regardless of who is responsible, the WWE should have stonewalled the booking and told them to figure out a better way. One that didn’t include the aforementioned bumps. Even if Sting himself came up with the idea, which wouldn’t surprise me at all, WWE should have said no and offered an alternative. And if WWE’s booking agent came up with it and WWE signed off on it, then they should be ashamed. Especially for a company who is dead set on trying to shed the sins of their business by protecting their talent from life altering injuries such as head and neck trauma. Wresting a standard match with standard bumps is dangerous enough for an athlete at his age, throwing in non-traditional bumps, let alone three of them, should have been off the table entirely. Someone should have reminded the company of that before Sting walked through the curtain.
Ric Flair had a very bloody and epic ladder match for the World Title against Edge on Raw many years back. At that time Flair had to at least be close to the 60-year-old mark. I remember watching that match and thinking, “Why would they book this match where Flair is falling off ladders, going thorough tables, and bleeding?!” It made no sense to me, even though the match is probably one of the best ladder matches to be given away for free, that this type of match was even thought of once Ric Flair was involved. It was hard to watch, no matter how great the actual match was, seeing Flair, who has done more for this business than almost anyone, being asked or allowed to do those types of bumps at his advanced age was something terrible to watch.
Watching the World Title match last night, gave me the same exact feeling of confusion and concern I had for Flair, but this time for Sting. There is no doubt in my mind that Sting could have refused to do those spots if he wanted. He is a legend of this sport that never needed to step foot in WWE to build his legacy and he should not have been asked, or allowed by his own request, to take those bumps. Maybe Sting wanted to prove himself or maybe WWE just decided to book it that way. Some believe Seth should have protected Sting more. Regardless, Sting should have never been put in a position that he collapsed during the match and had massive bruises on his back and shoulders. And with reports now coming in that Sting possibly suffered a career ending neck injury during the match, the booking mistakes may have cost a legend what little bit of a career he had left.
I won’t get in to the actual finish and WWE still burying ex-WCW guys with their booking (Sting is 0-2 in his PPV matches), but I will say that Sting is a true legend and a tremendous competitor that always wants to be in the match of the night. I just wish someone would have figured out a different path for this match to achieve that status.
“Quick as a Hiccup!” Thoughts
Kevin Owens is the Intercontinental Champion We Need
When Daniel Bryan went down to injury after winning the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania this year, the IC Title has been in a state of flux and due to the US Title being elevated by John Cena (one of the better decisions made by WWE this year) it’s kind of been forgotten.
Enter Kevin Owens.
I always questioned giving Ryback the IC Title due to his lack of wresting skills. I’m not trying to the put the guy down, but his matches are just boring to say the least. Even Owens, who is one of the best pure wrestlers in the game, could only elevate this match to acceptable mostly due to Ryback’s glaring limitations in the ring. The IC Title should always belong to one of your most talented wrestlers on the roster, or at least an interesting one, and Ryback is neither.
Owens is exactly what the IC Title needed: An elite and charasmatic wrestler to bring the title back to prominence. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The New Day Gives New Life to the Tag Team Division
Most of the credit needs to be thrown towards the decision to make The New Day a heel faction and giving them the titles. They have been more than entertaining and all three members are more than capable of solid in-ring work. They are nearing that Edge and Christian type tweener territory where they are supposed to be heels, but are just too darn entertaining to boo them like you are supposed to. They have put on great tag matches with every type of team on the roster, from high flyers to brawlers, and their promos are nothing short of spectacular.
You may disagree, but without The New Day being this big of a success the Tag Titles would have still been regulated to the pre-show and the Dudley Boyz would still be sitting at home.
Overall Grade: B
I like the show as a whole and it did have a “big event” feel to it. It would have been an “A” if the booking of the Sting match wasn’t so terribly done. It wasn’t perfect, but Night of Champions is starting to cement itself as a must see wrestling event.