Just like yesterday, the Attitude Era is proving so hard for the WWE to fully say goodbye. If the current generation of WWE superstars are ever going to be considered stars in their own right, the WWE has to stop trotting out the legends from 1999 to remind everyone how much better sports entertainment was in the good old days.
Tonight’s Night of Champions felt like a few good steps in the right direction, but several more back as the WWE keeps one eye focused on the path to spite the future.
Ryback vs Kevin Owens
Michael Cole tries to make Owens sound scummy for not caring about the Intercontinental title’s legacy and just wanting the belt for more money. Not like people can relate to wanting something just because it brings them more money, right Cole?
Owens spends most of his time on offense working on Ryback’s arm, a sensible old school thought so The Big Guy can’t get The Shellshock on. Just as I write in my notes the fans are so conditioned to finishers being the only way a match can end and thus don’t buy any of the near-falls, we get a different finish. Ryback rallies and goes for the Shellshock, but Owens claws at his nose and eyes long enough to get free and get a quick roll-up for the pin and the Intercontinental title.
Rating: 3 out of 5. Owens is a classic old school heel and this match had a good solid throwback feel. Like I predicted, Owens needed the win here and got it allowing guys like Cesaro and Neville a heel champ on the midcard stage to battle.
Promo for Brock Lesnar’s Go to Hell Tour starting with Brock battling Big Show on Oct. 2 at Madison Square Garden, appearing on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast and finally having his rubber match against the Undertaker in a Hell in the Cell. Think WWE wants to keep those network subscriptions up?
Oddly, Cole congratulates Owens for winning the IC title. Psst, Cole, he’s a heel who cheated. You should be outraged. We get a lengthy recap of the Dolph Ziggler/Summer Rae/Rusev hastily thrown together love “triangle” now that Lana’s on the shelf with a wrist injury.
Now the feud has evolved into Ziggler possibly going after Summer Rae now and trying to woo her with expensive earrings, which she just so happens to be wearing tonight. Tell me again how Ziggler is supposed to be the face in this feud?
Ziggler vs. Rusev (with Summer Rae)
I hate how much emphasis Cole puts on storyline hype and angle development through the superstars’ tweets. They’ve got 80 hours of TV yet we need Twitter to help progress angles?
Ziggler is now wearing tights for those of you who care about such things. The match is your standard Rusev/Ziggler match. Ziggler gets beat on most of the time and gets some hope offense every so often to keep the fans somewhat interested. It doesn’t work as they rally for the most over person in the feud with a “We Want Lana” chant. Sigh. Fun fact: if you didn’t watch the match and totally had to rely on the commentary you’d only know what was happening about 30% of the time.
In a nice counter, Ziggler evades the Accolade with a superkick and as both guys recover, Summer Rae gets on the apron and is bumped into the ring. In a only for the angle decision since she hadn’t impacted the match at all, the ref sends Summer to the back. In frustration, she throws her heels off. The second she aims at the ref who ducks and it hits Rusev. Ziggler uses the distraction to hit the Zig Zag and get the win. Rusev walks off in disgust, Ziggler kisses Summer’s hand and the parting shot is of Summer Rae symbolizing everything wrong with this storyline.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Skip it. Unless you really want to see Summer’s white outfit in channeling Lana. Rusev and Ziggler really deserve better than reprising the high heel shoe of death angle from WCW with Miss Elizabeth and Hulk Hogan.
Team Bella,Team PCB with Flair get hyped for the upcoming Divas title match. It won’t happen, but logically speaking, Paige should so turn on Charlotte for getting the title opportunity and fair shot at Nikki Bella that she fought months to earn only to see a newcomer steal it out from under her.
WWE Tag Team Title: New Day vs.
The Dudley Boyz
This is the second match where the champ comes out first. Xavier Woods has dyed red patches in his hair to look like Ronald McDonald’s bastard child. New Day is on a campaign to save the tables and have gotten signatures of support from folks like The Authority, Bill Nye the Science Guy and even Jake from State Farm.
The match plays out like every Dudley Boyz match in TNA. It’s a formula that’s worked well for Bubba and Devon so it’s hard to knock ’em. Fortunately, Xavier keeps things entertaining with his trombone — in the bit of the night he plays the theme to Rocky as Kofi punches away at Bubba.
JBL constantly referencing the Attitude Era isn’t the way to make the Dudleys seem fresh or like viable challengers. That was 16 years ago! Just as the Dudleys hit 3D, Xavier runs in for the DQ. With the Dudleys wiped out, New Day goes for tables themselves and Cole actually calls them out for their hypocrisy. They take too much time though and Xavier eats a 3D through the table.
Rating: 3 out of 5. The match isn’t anything special, but New Day is the best act in the company right now and their antics made this a lot more fun than expected.
In a theme for the night, we get glimpses of former champions. We get a shot out to female champions and I know I must have blinked when they showed Chyna and AJ Lee.
WWE Divas Title: Nikki Bella
Nikki Bella dominates the match and completely “outwrestles” Charlotte. This was frustrating to watch as Charlotte was going at about 3/10 in order to make Nikki look competitive without getting help from the rest of Team Bella. Charlotte gets a fluke spear to counter a second rope axe handle and gets the figure eight submission win to become the new champ.
Despite the commentators trying to push this as a great feel good moment complete with bawling Ric Flair out to celebrate, Charlotte was the one who looked out of her league and got a lucky win.
Rating: 2 out of 5. Wait for the RAW highlight. This somehow managed to be a major letdown and awful payoff to the Divas Revolution angle. Charlotte looked like she couldn’t hang with Nikki Bella, who couldn’t beat any of the main NXT Divas.
The Wyatt Family vs. Dean Ambrose,
Roman Reigns and a mystery partner
After all kinds of hype and speculation, the mystery partner is … Chris Jericho. The fans seem a bit deflated by this revelation as well. Not that Y2J isn’t a fun treat, but I got the sense they wanted to see someone fresh like Samoa Joe or Finn Balor.
For all the hard work WWE has put into building the Reigns brand all they needed to do was pit him against the Wyatts again. The fans were actually chanting for him while the Wyatts beat him down. The newest Wyatt, Braun Strowman is huge! Just as the sorta Shield has the advantage and Reigns prepares the Superman punch, Jericho tags himself in only to get locked in Strowman’s vice bear hug and passes out giving the Wyatts the win.
Reigns and Ambrose look kinda ticked off as I envisioned the place going crazy if the Shield members put Jericho through a table. They calm down and go to comfort Jericho, who wants none of it and bumps Ambrose on his way out the ring. A Jericho/Ambrose feud could be money, but I’m digging this Reigns/Ambrose dynamic and their quest for a perfect partner must continue.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5. Jericho’s reveal was underwhelming and the match never reached the next gear to become anything more than a throwaway RAW six-man.
In the back, The Authority hype Seth up while Sheamus reminds them he’s got the Money in the Bank briefcase.
U.S. Title: Seth Rollins vs.
Rollins will be defending his titles in back to back matches. Cena could come one reign short of tying Ric Flair’s sixth U.S. title reigns so expect John Stewart to run in some time next year to prevent it.
Just like Summerslam, we get a great scientific match between these two, which is fine if you want to ignore the fact that Rollins is supposed to be the main heel. Unlike his follow-up matches with Owens, Cena finds another gear to tap into in this rematch even countering a corner powerbomb into a hurricarana.
Cena’s Tornado DDT doesn’t get three because DDTs in 2015 can’t pin anyone. Rollins hits a really sweet float over suplex into a standing suplex. After a series of counters, Cena hits the top rope leg drop and the AA to get the win and regain the title. Cena celebrates his win with a likely Make A Wish child as I continue to be annoyed by all the Cena hate.
Rollins is ready to leave out, but Cena cuts him off and nails an AA and sends Rollins back in the ring.
WWE Title: Seth Rollins
Alright even the most diehard Sting fans knows he’s not leaving with the title, but this match was better than we expected. The layout of the match covered for Sting not being able to move as quickly as Rollins and they added some more drama after Sting got pushed through the Spanish announce table. Both guys worked really hard here as Rollins took a crazy bump off a countered springboard and Sting matched him with a dive onto the floor from the top rope.
After Rollins hits a corner powerbomb, Sting appeared to be hurt staggering and collapsing for a moment in a scary moment. Sting is ready to continue after being examined by the doctor and slaps on a Scorpion Deathlock. To everyone’s credit, I buy into this near submission before Rollins reaches the ropes.
Sting counters a Pedigree attempt and goes for the Scorpion again, only for Rollins to roll him up for the pin.
Rating: 4 out of 5. Sting couldn’t keep up with Rollins like Cena, but he was game and this was a surprising match and easily Sting’s best since he’s entered the WWE. Rollins deserved a lot of credit for his work in carrying this to a better than decent match. –According to reports, Sting was seriously injured from the buckle bomb, but managed to finish. Looks like Rollins may see another move removed from his repertoire.
As Rollins slowly recovers from the win, Sheamus runs out to cash in his Money in the Bank. Right after he connects with the Brogue Kick, Kane’s music hit. He chokeslams Rollins and as Sheamus goads him on to hit another one, Kane gives him a chokeslam too.
The show closes with Kane standing tall like it’s 1997 all over again. Wrong, wrong, wrong. So if you’re keeping score, that’s Kane, Jericho and the Dudley Boyz prominently featured on a show in 2015.
Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10
The final two matches really made the show. The Divas title match should have been special, but was very underwhelming. The only other must-see match on the show was solely due to the New Day’s antics. I’m not optimistic with the return of Kane and the likelihood of him battling Rollins in the co-main event next month.
**Pics credit: wwe.com