One thing that becomes clear upon watching Night of Champions, the September Pay Per View in 2010, is how rarely some of these championships are defended on Pay Per View. Night of Champions will be only the 4th time all year the US Title will be defended on Pay Per View. It will be the first title defense made since Fatal 4 Way in June, when The Miz recaptured the US Championship from R Truth. I am hard pressed to remember any notable defenses Miz has made on Raw between June and September. The Unified Tag Titles fair slightly better as the Tag Team Turmoil Match at Night of Champions will be the 5th defense on Pay Per View in 9 months. The Hart Dynasty were last seen defending the titles against The Usos at Money in the Bank but have been sparsely seen on TV since. The Intercontinental Championship as also only been featured on Pay Per View 5 times this year as of Night of Champions. Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston had a Championship Match at Summer Slam the previous month, however it was short and ended in Nexus interference. Unlike the other two titles I’ve mentioned, the Intercontinental Championship has been involved in a storyline between Kofi and Dolph. While The Miz and Daniel Bryan have been feuding for a good portion of the year, their issues are more personal and the US Title is a backdrop to the match at Night of Champions. The Miz has been US Champion for much of the year. He is having a great year but with his infrequently title defense the title has not risen in profile with The Miz.
With all of this being said, Night of Champions is a pretty good show in my estimation. But it begs the question as to how the company can properly respect these championships without having every Pay Per View be a night of champions. Long time fans bemoaned the diminished prestige of the championships in WWE outside of the WWE and World Heavyweight Championship. Bret Hart’s two Intercontinental Title reigns feel more meaningful than all ten combined reigns of Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler combined. That’s not entirely the talents fault but its an undeniable reality. As of the time of writing this, Gunther has just won the Intercontinental Championship in 2022. The hope of many fans is that Gunther can restore some glory to the title. As for the US Title, Austin Theory is the current champion. He has done little with the title other than get in a Twitter feud with John Cena. Time will tell what fruit that bares. The Usos are in the middle of a lengthy Tag Title run. The long reign looks good on paper but I’m not so sure it has done much to elevate those titles or the Usos. For roughly 20 years fans and the company have been trying to solve the riddle of how can you make mid card titles mean something like they did in the past. I don’t know that we have found the answer yet.
One last word on championships. I resent the observation that championships are just props, even though it is accurate. Consider this. Freddy Kruger’s glove is a prop. Doc Brown’s DeLorean is a prop. Dorothy’s ruby slippers are a prop. A prop means as much or as little as the emphasis the storyteller places on those items. When the storyteller is doing their job right a prop can become iconic.
There are roughly three things carrying Raw in September of 2010. Rehabbing The Nexus and trying to make them a threat again. Randy Orton’s accenting to the WWE Championship. And John Cena being the face of the company. Cena needs strong opponents at this point more than he needs a championship. Randy Orton has been gaining in popularity since the beginning of the year and September seems like the right time to put the belt on him. They seem to be doing all the right things on Raw with the pieces they have in place. Even the balance of wrestling to promos and storylines feels about right.
Pop A Top Again.
Sheamus is quite confident that he will be able to keep his WWE Championship going into the Six Pack Challenge Match at Night of Champions. Randy Orton is quick to remind Sheamus that even though The Celtic Warrior has had a great year, he has never beaten Randy Orton.
Edge and Chris Jericho will have to earn their way into the Six Pack Challenge per the orders of the Anonymous Raw GM. Edge is losing his patience with the Anonymous Raw GM and demands a match with Zack Ryder to earn his chance into the match. Instead he has to face The Great Khali. Edge cleverly wins in the match by countout. The Raw GM doesn’t like that so the match restarts as an Over the Tope Rope Challenge. Khali eliminates himself by stepping over the top rope but the match isn’t ended. Michael Cole absolutely has an amazing moment on commentary where he calls out what we all just saw. Lawler tries to explain it away which only makes Michael Cole more incredulous. The match isn’t much to watch but the segment is must see.
Jericho has to face John Morrison to get into the Six Pack Challenge. Jericho vows that if we doesn’t leave Night of Champions as WWE Champion, he will leave the company. He loses the match to Morrison. For maybe the third time this year, Jericho tries to turn on his acting skills and looks off into the distance with a sad look on his face. Maybe when this played out over the course of the year this wasn’t so ridiculous but watching this year in a binge like I have, it’s 100% silly. Also, Jericho loses in a situation where he either will leave Raw or WWE as a stipulation frequently and he never goes anywhere.
The next step for Jericho deserves its own paragraph because it’s easily the stupidest thing I’ve seen in pro wrestling. And I’ve watched a lot of wrestling. Jericho comes out the next week to rage against the Anonymous GM, demanding another opportunity to enter the Six Pack Challenge Match. The Raw GM grants his request if Jericho can defeat the Unified Tag Team Champions The Hart Dynasty in a Steel Cage Match. So our dastardly heel has to overcome impossible odds set against him by a shadowy authority figure. Jericho doesn’t even have a chance to put his gear on, competing in his street clothes. Almost immediately in the match, DH Smith escapes the cage. Jerry Lawler declares “They already have the match half won!” Which makes sense until you think about it. What David Hart Smith has actually done is give up a clear 2-on-1 advantage in this match and gotten in very little offense. Instead he opted to leave his partner in a 1-on-1 situation with a former World Champion who is desperately trying to get into a title match and in the process save his career. Things get worse though when Chris Jericho goes for a pin fall and the ref counts 2. In general, Steel Cage Matches are escape the cage only in WWE. It is possible that the referee didn’t explain this to the Hart Dynasty before this impromptu match. Jericho seemed to know about it so maybe the Hart’s just weren’t listening to the referees instructions. Once that fact was made clear, he could have reentered the cage and double teamed the shit out of Jericho because this situation just went from bad to worse for Tyson Kidd. Instead, DH Smith offers moral support to his partner while standing on the outside of the ring with a dumb look on his face. In a kayfabe sense, this was a piss poor strategy that makes Smith look like a moron who left his partner out to dry. And how pissed must Tyson Kidd be that he was left to the tender mercies of Chris Jericho. Jericho wins with the Walls of Jericho, a rare occurrence in and of itself. If we are to believe in this pretend world that The Hart Dynasty was trying to win this match, they gave up a clear advantage for no reason whatsoever. It only makes sense if Smith planned on turning on his partner. Instead, this match is never mentioned again even though The Hart Dynasty is on their way on the decline.
For John Cena’s part, he isn’t too focused on winning the WWE Championship. His focus is on destroying the Nexus, one piece at a time. In the interest of fairness, on the 9/6 Raw, John Cena is forced to face Justin Gabriel. If you can find a better Justin Gabriel match, I’d like to see it. Cena wins and it was pretty good. Wade Barrett has to face Randy Orton. This match was also quite good. It ends with Randy winning and an RKO after Darren Young comes out declares that he isn’t the weakest link but The Missing Link. Then he disappears the rest of the month, proving Darren Young to be a man true to his word. The next week, Chad Ochocinco is the guest host of Raw Roulette. John Cena will face Randy Orton in a Tables Match. The other four participants in the Six Pack Challenge run in and most of them end up through a table. When the smoke clears, Randy Orton is standing tall and John Cena has lost another Tables Match.
The Six Pack Challenge at Night of Champions is an interesting match. It feels like a real crowning moment of Randy Orton. In the respect of how the match was put together and the fans response to Orton winning, it felt like a big moment for The Viper. There have been several World Title changes in 2010. This one felt like it was earned. Randy has gained in popularity through the year. The people were ready for Orton to win the title. The elimination aspect of the Six Pack Challenge made it feel like Randy Orton overcame the best challengers to stand tall at the end. Sheamus last until the last moments and he came out of this match still looking good. Even though The Celtic Warrior lost the title, he survived the best Raw had to offer and didn’t lose in a 1-on-1 situation.
After Night of Champions.
Shockingly, Hell in a Cell will only be two weeks after Night of Champions. Wade Barrett challenges John Cena to run the gauntlet of Nexus members on Raw if he wishes to face Wade Barrett. Cena more or less does this, even though the Nexus attack during his match with Justin Gabriel. Cena demands the match he has earned. Barrett makes a proposal to John Cena. If Cena wins at Hell in a Cell, the Nexus will disband. If Wade Barrett wins, John Cena will have to join The Nexus. Cena jumps at the opportunity.
Tap or Snap.
Following the Aftermath of Summer Slam, Mix feels slighted that Daniel Bryan was picked for Team WWE over him. Miz comes down to cut a promo on how great he is, unveiling that Miz is on the cover of the latest WWE Magazine. I didn’t even know that was still a thing in 2010. Daniel Bryan interrupts. Bryan and Miz have been at odds since Miz was assigned the Pro for Daniel Bryan during NXT Season 1. Bryan engages in some self depreciation before asserting very clearly that he can make Miz tap out. I don’t know why people say Bryan lacks mic skills. He was great in this srgement. The next week, Miz is scheduled to face Daniel Bryan in a Submission Match. Miz claims to have an injury so he sends his apprentice, Alex Riley, to face Bryan instead. Bryan makes Riley tap out quickly. This leads to Miz having to defend the US Title against Daniel Bryan at Night of Champions. Daniel Bryan wins the United States Championship from The Miz at Night of Champions in a very good match. It was a satisfying moment in that this feud has been simmering all year and was put on the back burner while Bryan was fired.
The next night on Raw, Edge is raging against the Anonymous Raw GM to Zack Ryder. Daniel Bryan shows up to offer some words of comfort. Edge doesn’t want to hear it. They have a match later in the evening. It’s very good and Edge wins with help from Miz and Alex Riley. The Anonymous GM reverses that decision, furthering the issues between Edge and the Raw GM. Miz and Riley attack Bryan and leave him in a heap anyway because they can. Miz opens Raw the next week. Tonight, he wants to face his most hated rivals, Daniel Bryan and John Morrison, Miz’s old tag partner. So Miz teams with Riley to face Bryan and Morrison. Miz and Riley get the win and a post match brawl breaks out between Miz, Morrison, and Daniel Bryan. The Raw GM makes a Triple Threat Match for the US Title, Submissions will count anywhere in the building. But that’s a story for next month.
Edge and his crusade against the Anonymous Raw GM.
The Anonymous Raw GM has taken a particular interest in the affairs of Edge. It is driving Edge crazy. I have already mentioned how Edge had to earn his way into Night of Champions by winning twice over The Great Khali. Edge vents his frustrations towards former Edge Head Zack Ryder. Ryder seems to think they are still friends, not picking up on any of Edge’s social cues that he can’t stand Zack Ryder. Which begs the question why he is venting to Zack. Edge takes advantage of Evan Bourne in a match, attacking Evan after the match. The Raw GM immediately makes Edge face Mark Henry in a Bodyslam Challenge. Shockingly, Mark Henry wins the match instead of getting jumped from behind by a heel and left laying. Chris Jericho seems have have some clues on who the Anonymous GM is but he is bluffing. Edge invites the Raw GM onto the Cutting Edge and the GM’s computer is fitted with an artificial voice. The segment is quite funny as Edge argues and gets mad at a computer. The Raw GM doesn’t like Edge’s attitude so he puts The Rated R Superstar in a match with John Cena. It looks like Edge best Cena for once but Cena had a foot on the ropes. The match is restarted by the Anonymous Raw GM and Cena wins quickly with a STFU. Edge smashes the computer in frustration which might have accidently turned him face as everyone is sick of the Anonymous Raw GM. This issue is expected to continue into October.
The Fiery Red Hand.
Following Night of Champions, Randy Orton comes out to address the fans on Raw as the new WWE Champion. Naturally, Sheamus comes out to interrupt and demand a rematch. This rematch will happen at Hell in a Cell and it will be a Hell in a Cell Match. The problem I’ve always had with Hell in a Cell as a pay per view is that you have to have a Hell in a Cell Match, whether or not you have a program which has earned it. On Smackdown, Undertaker and Kane will battle in Hell in a Cell. You can have those two go in that match any time. Randy Orton and Sheamus have had a long running issue but this doesn’t exactly feels worthy of this type of match.
Meanwhile, Chris Jericho is threatening to expose the Raw GM. The GM calls Jericho’s bluff and puts him in a match with Randy Orton on next weeks Raw. The next week, Sheamus cuts a very good promo talking about an Irish folk tale about a Fiery Red Hand. Basically, Sheamus will do anything to regain the title. Jericho and Orton have their match which ends in disqualification when Sheamus runs out to attack Orton. Orton runs off Sheamus and punts Jericho for good measure. Randy Orton is about as over as a face as he is going to get at this point. Fans really want to just see him wreck some dudes, punt them and hit a RKO.
Melina rematches with Alicia Fox on the 9/6 Raw. Alicia Fox really struggles with her promo, if you are at all considering her for your list. This match is considerably worse than their epic Summer Slam showdown. Almost immediately LayCool mock Melina and it is determined there will be a unification match for the Divas and Women’s Title. But which member of LayCool will face Melina? LayCool bring in their old pal Kaval to draw a name out of a hat, which turns out to be Michelle McCool. Kaval tells Layla that all the names in the hat were Michelle and it looks like their might be problems with LayCool. At Night of Champions, it will be a Lumberjills Match. And LayCool have insulted or bullied almost every woman on the roster. And Layla is hinting that she isn’t happy with Michelle rigging the name drawing process. Turns out it was all a trick, Layla and Michelle were on the same page, and LayCool win the Unified Women’s Title. This means LayCool will be on Raw more often. But not that often.
Tag Team Turmoil
The Hart Dynasty have been largely invisible on TV until the aforementioned angle with Chris Jericho. Since the pay per view was Night of Champions, the Unified Tag Team Champions should be involved. So there is a Tag Team Turmoil Match for the championships on the show. The Hart Dynasty start out the match against The Usos. The Usos get a win for the first time in their time with the company, at least on TV. The Usos then face Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov. The Usos dispatch of Santino and Kozlov when Santino is distracted by Tamina standing on the apron. There seems to be some kind of love affair between the two. Maybe that is all happening on Superstars but it kind of comes out of nowhere if you’re only watching Raw and Smackdown. Next up is the team of Mark Henry and Evan Bourne. Henry and Bourne get the win, probably also for the first time on TV. Shockingly, Mark Henry isn’t jumped by a group of heels and carted off. Finally, we have the team of Drew McIntyre and Cody Rhodes. Rhodes and McIntyre do have wins on TV but they have only teamed like twice in two months. So naturally Rhodes and McIntyre win and are the new Unified Tag Team Champions.
This is a baffling move but makes a certain kind of sense if you’re watching all of the TV. Cody Rhodes is getting over with his Dashing persona. Drew McIntyre is having some of the best matches on TV. But there is only so much room on the card, particularly for the pay per views. So putting these two acts together makes some sense. Also now they can perform on Raw. Drew has been pretty much exclusively on Smackdown since coming into WWE. They have big plans for him so getting Drew some exposure on Raw is a good idea. The execution of this plan is another matter.
And The Rest.
Ted DiBiase Jr and Maryse continue their slow motion break up. One of them has a secret admirer sending then messages and they argue over who it could be. They dumped Virgil as Ted’s bodyguard for this.
On the Raw Roulette episode of Raw, William Regal has to face Goldust in a Trading Places Match. Regal dresses as Goldust. Goldust dresses as Regal. It’s a high point for both of them in the year so far.
Natalya wins a Divas Battle Royal to earn a title match against LayCool at Hell in a Cell. That came out of nowhere.
Beginning in October, Smackdown will be moving from My Network TV to the SyFy Channel. NXT Season 3 will be bumped from SyFy to the WWE website.
As for the tone of the show, as usual they are relying more on good matches, good angles, and good editing. It always surprises me that Smackdown is considered to be the B Show when it is often superior to Raw, especially if you’re watching for personal enjoyment 12 years later.
The Brothers of Destruction
The Undertaker is back from his vegetative state and he is out to get revenge on Kane. But something is not right with The Man from the Darkside. He sounds weak in his promos. Undertaker has his comeback match against CM Punk and he doesn’t look sharp. In a brilliant piece of storytelling, Undertaker is completely off in the match. Slower than usual. Missing things he normally hits. Punk is taking The Dead Man to the limit. Taker pulls out a win with The Hell’s Gate but his powers have decreased, clearly. Kane, on the other hand, has declared himself to be the Devils favorite demon. He has sapped the Undertaker’s powers and now they belong to The Big Red Machine. At Night of Champions, Kane proves his point by beating The Undertaker cleanish. As clean as you can get in a Kane vs Undertaker Match. This may not be their most well remembered match or highest profile but I don’t know that they have had a better match. In terms of telling the story that Undertaker is in a weakened state, in terms of Taker selling for Kane’s offense, even in terms of general work rate. This was as good as you are going to get from these two.
Kane comes out on Smackdown to brag about finally dispatching his brother for good. The druids roll a casket to the ring and Kane is willing to finish the job now, assuming Taker is in the casket. It’s actually Paul Bearer in the casket. Paul Bearer is back with the urn and he is on the Undertaker’s side. In addition, Kane and Undertaker will square off in Hell in a Cell.
A Strong Start for Alberto Del Rio.
Alberto Del Rio is getting a rocket push right out of the gate. Trouble is there’s only one place to go after that and it’s down. Del Rio has put Rey Mysterio on the shelf with a bad arm. To being September, he tries to do the same thing to Matt Hardy. Christian saves Matt Hardy from the dreaded Cross Arm Breaker. Christian then invites Alberto Del Rio onto The Peep Show to challenge Del Rio to a match at Night of Champions. After much teasing, Del Rio declines Christians challenge. Captain Charisma slaps Del Rio to get his attention. Del Rio gets fired up and still says no. The same night Christian faces CM Punk. Del Rio helps Punk win the match. Del Rio reminds Christian one more time that he still won’t face The Captain at Night of Champions. The Smackdown after Night of Champions, Del Rio jumps Christian in the back, hurting Caps shoulder. Later in the night, Del Rio cuts an in ring promo. Christian shakes off the earlier attack and comes after ADR. Shoulder isn’t 100% though so Christian finds himself in the Cross Arm Breaker, furthering the injury to the shoulder. It’s nice to see the company putting over a relatively simple move like the Cross Arm Breaker. I suspect the rising popularity of MMA made the move more devastating than it had been portrayed years prior. Del Rio will get pretty creative in how it puts it on down the road.
Best in the World.
How good is CM Punk? His feud with The Big Show is dying on the vine. His faction is going out with a whimper. He is losing matches to a half powered Undertaker. He made a guest commentator spot on NXT Season 3, perhaps the worst thing ever put on WWE television. Yet, CM Punk remains one of the most over heels in the company and routinely the most entertaining thing on Smackdown. I have no idea why he is facing Big Show at Night of Champions. There isn’t much meat left on the bone for that feud. The match isn’t much to speak of. But Punk gets himself over with a pre match promo in which he talks about how much he loves Chicago but hates the people of Chicago. He gets the most heat of the evening. Previously, Punk attacked Luke Gallows after losing a handicap match to Big Show. Before his match against Undertaker, Punk shoos the Straight Edge Society to the back and it looks like that is it for the Straight Edge Society. Weeks later, Punk faces Gallows in a short match on Smackdown. Gallows says when he wind, he will celebrate with a beer. Punk wins so it looks like Gallows will be sober a while longer. It looks like Punk will be moving to Raw soon. They could have got a lot more out of the break up of the Straight Edge Society. Mercury won’t be seen again for some time. Gallows did a good job cutting his beer promo. For a man his size, Gallows is quite good in the ring. He needs more time but you can see some potential there. A prolonged feud with Punk and Gallows could have only made the show better. But we don’t get to see it. The faction just peters out and dies.
They are running out of ideas for this feud between Kofi and Dolph. Dolph Ziggler gets a dirty win over Chris Masters to begin the month. That leads to a tag team match next week in which Masters and Kofi defeat Dolph Ziggler and Chavo Guerrero. Kofi cuts a pretty good interview and has a decent match with Jack Swagger going into Night of Champions. At Night of Champions, Kofi Kingston faces Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Championship. It was a good match but not really anything different than they have been doing for the previous three months. To end the month, MVP defeats Doloh Ziggler by countout, setting up a little angle between the two of them that I assume will go into October. MVP has a small feud with Jack Swagger over an amateur wrestling match and Swagger hosting the VIP Lounge. That just kind of fades into the background. We will see what October holds.
And The Rest.
Teddy Long continues to try to teach Hornswoggle how to talk. He brings in a psychiatrist to do shock therapy and a nun to hit him with a ruler. Teddy finally gives up on the idea as stupid. The Dude Busters and Hornswoggle pack the truck to move Smackdown to the SyFy Channel.
Kaval makes his Smackdown debut. He loses to Drew McIntyre. Whether or not it was wise to book the next breakout star in this match is up for debate. After the match, LayCool run out to the ring to comfort Kaval in his defeat. It was kind of sweet. LayCool are so mean to everyone, it’s kind of fun to see them warm up to Kaval, of all people. Next Kaval loses to Chavo Guerrero. It’s got to be Chavo’s first win on TV all year. The next time we see Chavo, he will be in an eagle costume as Jack Swagger’s mascot. That doesn’t speak well to what the company thinks of Chavo or Kaval.
NXT Season 3 is a show that dares you to watch it. Almost immediately its clear that Naomi is superior to every other woman in the competition and its not even close. Aside from that, its all of the same corny challenges that kill a crowd dead. In this case, some of these challenges get go away heat. The matches are bad. The commentators, Michael Cole and Josh Matthews are brutal when criticizing the show they are watching. The last episode of NXT before it is moved to the website has no wrestling. I probably won’t be watching much of this going forward because there is nothing to see here.
- Six Pack Challenge. Night of Champions.
- Miz vs Daniel Bryan. Night of Champions.
- Kane vs Undertaker. Night of Champions.
- John Cena vs Randy Orton. Tables Match. Raw. 9/13/10.
- Undertaker vs CM Punk. Smackdown. 9/10/10.
- Jack Swagger vs Kofi Kingston. Smackdown. 9/17/10.
- Daniel Bryan vs Edge. Raw. 9/20/10 .
- Edge vs John Cena. Raw. 9/27/10.
- Chris Jericho vs John Morrison. Raw. 9/20/10.
- Dolph Ziggler vs Kofi Kingston. Night of Champions.
- CM Punk vs Christian. Smackdown. 9/17/10.
- Sheamus vs John Morrison. Raw. 9/13/10.
- Cody Rhodes & Drew McIntyre vs The Hart Dynasty. Raw. 9/27/10.
- John Cena vs Justin Gabriel. Raw. 9/6/10.