On Sunday, Night of Champions 2015 was another offering by the WWE on PPV/Network which couldn’t be classed as a poor show. The only problem with this show is that, unlike a lot of the others, it did very little for me. It felt like the wrestling equivalent of candy floss – nice enough to taste, but lacking any real substance. It still had its big moments, but of the PPVs I’ve watched this year, it struggled the most to hold my attention.
Ryback (c) vs Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Title
Most of my more enjoyable PPV moments this year have come at the hand of Kevin Owens; the transition from Indy to WWE ironing out some of the kinks in his arsenal that never used to quite gel with me. In the opening match, he went up against Ryback, an interesting clash as much due to Owen and Ryback’s relatively similar size, with Ryback being the first ‘big’ guy I’ve seen Owens against. How he would take on someone of his own size intrigued me.
Most of the match saw Owens gameplan consist of attacking the arm. After getting dumped outside the ring by a gorilla press slam, Owens targeted Ryback’s arm, using locks and a jumping armbreaker across his knee. I especially enjoyed the arm-trap Russian legsweep, showing Owens ability to adapt his repetoire on the fly to work into the narrative of the match. Even when Ryback did make comebacks with a slam and spinebuster, Owens was quick to cut him off with a (frankly poor looking) superkick.
The end stretch was all about Owens’ attempts to avoid Shellshock. He was able to avoid one attempt, before using an eye rake into a roll-up off of the second try, a move that was enough to get him the three count and the IC Title. I wasn’t surprised by the result, as it felt like Owens needed something to go his way after recent big match booking, but did feel that it was a little too abrupt for the pinfall to come via roll-up. The match was nothing offensive, and it will be interesting to see Owens given an opportunity to run with a belt, but it lacked something. Ryback is still over enough with the crowd, but unless he is destroying people, he just doesn’t do much that is worth celebrating. Shame, really.
Rusev vs Dolph Ziggler
This was at least better than the horrow show that we saw at Summerslam, which is worth saying right off of the bat. Admittedly, that wouldn’t be difficult. Whilst the match was at least testament to what both men are capable of in the ring, the storyline just continues to drag them down. The sooner they move away from it, the better.
In the early going of the match, it is all about Rusev controlling Ziggler. With a man who has the offense of Rusev squaring off of a bumper like Ziggler, it only makes sense to accentuate the positives. Rusev chucks around Ziggler with ease, whilst an initial comeback is cut short with a beautiful spinout slam that drove Ziggler hard into the canvas. Surprisingly, rather than the heat section working towards a comeback and more or less direct to finish, we did begin to see a trading of two counts, as both men came ever so close to picking up the victory. Rusev’s kicks have Ziggler down but not out several times, whilst Ziggler finds any opportunity to drill Rusev’s head into the mat via a rocker dropper and a leaping DDT.
Whilst Summer Rae’s involvement when Lana is not around feels like the lesser of two evils, her involvement in the finish was a little contrived. On the apron to distract Ziggler, she ends up falling into the ring and being sent away from ringside by the referee. In anger, she chucks a shoe at the referee, only for him to duck and it to hit Rusev. Distracted, Rusev is easy prey for the ZigZag and falls to defeat. Some major reconstructive work needs to be done on Rusev – in my eyes, this guy was the future less than a year ago, but now it just feels that he has been kneecapped by the labouring storyline. Hopefully, this might be moving towards an end in their feud.
The New Day (c) vs The Dudley Boyz for the Tag Team Titles
As has been stated before, I don’t watch the RAWs and Smackdowns around the PPVs due to a lack of time, so have consequently missed the return of The Dudley Boyz, outside of a video I watched on the WWE website. Whatever your opinion of them, it is always cool to see big wrestlers/teams get the odd nostalgia run, as long as they can still offer something when it comes to the match. Even if they weren’t able to, the WWE didn’t make a mistake in the choice of their opponents – The New Day. Anything becomes more watchable with the New Day gets involved.
The match was perfectly fine, but was worth watching purely due to the antics of the New Day. From Kofi slapping D’Von hard around the back of the head to Big E’s headlock with rhythmic New Day Rocks accompaniment to that damn trombone, it was great to see three guys out there just having fun. That’s not to say the Dudleys didn’t get their licks in as well – Big E was launched off the top rope by Bubba with a superplex, whilst Kofi Kingston had his spine rearranged with the Bubba Bomb. My only real concern came when Big E dropped his now patented apron splash – that always looks like it has to hurt!
With D’Von playing the ‘house on fire’, we inevitably see the 3D and a Xavier Woods interference to give the Dudley Boyz a DQ victory. They were never going to lose on their big return, but the New Day weren’t going to lost the tag team titles this early either. It was a finish that, whilst a little frustrating, made sense for the long game. The hypocrisy shown by The New Day (considering their #savethetables movement) to bring a table into the ring was hilarious, and made even better when Woods ended up through it with a 3D. This isn’t the end of this feud, and I’m not horrified by the idea of it continuing, most importantly.
Nikki Bella (c) vs Charlotte Flair for the Divas Title
Ding dong, the witch is dead! That will be akin to the reaction of some members of the internet wrestling community as a product of the ‘Divas Revolution’ finally took the belt off of Nikki Bella. Even though the stipulation and the whole storyline surrounding breaking the record made Flair’s victory all too obvious, it still felt like a big moment, especially considering it followed a decent match between the two.
The match centred around Charlotte’s injured knee, banged up early in the match and rabidly targeted by Nikki throughout. Not content with just leglocks, she also slammed Flair several times so that the impact saw the knee colliding with the bottom rope – I’m perfectly willing to accept this was on purpose due to the continued nature of it. We even see Nikki wrap a leglock on around the ringpost as she really took the knee to pieces.
There was a moment where it looked like tensions would boil over outside the ring, but thankfully this was relatively kept under wraps. Charlotte ended up fighting back with chops and a neckbreaker, and even after a suplex into the corner, recovered enough to catch Nikki flying off the top rope in mid-air with a spear. This left Nikki easy prey for the Figure 8 – it would have been nice to see there be more of a struggle due to the work Nikki did on the knee, but it wasn’t a game breaker. Nikki tapped, and we finally have a new Divas champion. This was what the Divas movement had needed though – a good match on the big stage. Bayley vs Banks on NXT was amazing, but it wasn’t always being followed up with the goods being delivered on the main roster. Maybe this will be the turning point.
The Wyatt Family vs Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho
And the crowd goes mild! Ok, so it was unlikely that the mystery partner to support Reigns and Ambrose in their quest to defeat The Wyatt Family was going to be anything that special, but Jericho is the ultimate example of the law of diminishing returns. It is still cool enough to see him, but he is hard to take as a viable threat. He felt like the token lower card guy in a Japanese six man tag who you know is just there to take the fall – which he did. At least in the process, he made a newcomer look pretty impressive.
Braun Strowman hearkens back nicely to the era of the big man who wouldn’t leave his feet. Whilst you don’t want a lot of immobile giants stinking up the ring, a man of his size who is able to throw people about the ring and take a beating without hitting the mat is always a valuable asset in a promotion. Most of the action occurred around him, but what he then got involved in felt like it meant something. Outside of Strowman, a lot of the match degenerates to the guys throwing bombs at each other – Reigns lands a particularly impressive sitout powerbomb on Harper, Harper returns the favour by superkicking Reigns’ head off and Bray Wyatt adds insult to injury with his ringside senton.
The ending felt a little weak, as apropos of nothing, Jericho tagged himself in just as Reigns had managed to take Strowman off of his feet. Jericho is easily pancaked by the much bigger man, before a modified bearhug is enough for the Wyatt Family to pick up the victory. I can only assume this result sees the feud between the Wyatts. Reigns and Ambrose continuing, though what part Jericho might play in the long term could be interesting. Once again, a decent enough match, but nothing to really write home about.
Seth Rollins (c) vs John Cena for the US Title
Actually, this might be the best example of the law of diminishing returns. These two have just fought too often recently for me to get particularly excited about it. That isn’t to suggest their matches aren’t anything other than watchable, it just feels like nothing particularly fresh or engaging. The spectre of the Sting match to follow adds some interest, but only moderately so.
We get the usual ‘big match Cena’ spots – Rollins gets blocked copying Cena, Cena gets blocked trying to work towards the Five Knuckle Shuffle himself, the Yoshi Tonic not yet being retired considering the injury it caused Cena in a previous Owens match. Rollins also continue to wrestle more like a face than a heel, as he nails a beautiful looking swanton dive over the top rope and hits his superplex/falcon arrow combination (…a pretty stupid move, to be fair). He even manages to avoid two AA attempts, one by flipping out and the other by fighting out of it, allowing him to reverse it into turnbuckle powerbomb.
What maybe feels most surprising about this match is the finish. Rather than a long counter/2-count/counter/2-count type stretch, the finish seems to be quite abrupt. Cena hits Rollins with an inverted suplex, the famouser off of the top rope and an AA for the three count and the US Title. Having been conditioned to feel like one finisher is often not enough, the succinct nature of the ending surprised me. If this leads back to the resurrection of the US Title Open Challenge, than this might not be a bad thing. Fine match, shame that it no longer excites as it used to.
Seth Rollins (c) vs Sting for the World Heavyweight Title
A match most famous now for the injuries caused to Sting than anything around the match itself. Having been dumped on the floor at ringside with an AA, Rollins was easy prey for Sting in the early going. This was until Sting ended being knocked through an announce table. Apparently, the injuries may have initially been caused during this incident rather than the more significant turnbuckle powerbomb later on in the match that saw Sting’s legs visibly buckle and him clearly shaken for the rest of the match. Why a 56 year-old is doing spots like these seems to be a bit beyond most wrestling fans I’ve seen discuss this match. It is unnecessarily risky at the best of times, but for a man who should be able to get by on his signature spots and nostalgic reminisces of his glory days, it just feels a bit much. It even looked as if Rollins helped Sting attempt the Scorpion Deathlock that got turned into a cradle that saw Rollins retain the World Heavyweight Title. A match that was interesting for the spectacle, but unfortunately overshadowed by the potentially serious nature of the injury Sting suffered.
The aftermatch shenanigans brought Kane back onto our screens as he attacked Rollins and Sheamus (who had come down to try and cash in the MITB briefcase). As a stop gap feud to keep Rollins away from other wrestlers, this might not be a bad way to go. Kane isn’t the most exciting, but as a way of rotating strike so to speak, there are worse things. However, when that is the best you can say for a booking decision, maybe there really are bigger problems afoot.
Hope you enjoyed reading – do comment below with thoughts, feelings, concerns and suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you.