Matt’s Last Look: Night of Champions 2014

NOC

Its that one night of the year where all the titles being on the line is a big deal. Of course, it was much more significant in the days of the brand extension when there were many more titles floating around, as nowadays its not all that rare to see all the championships defended on PPV. Anyway, this year’s Night of Champions PPV was coming off the heels of a very good SummerSlam. I didn’t really know what to expect heading into this one, as the line up looked fairly strong, however the TV shows heading into this PPV were not that great for the most part to say the least. With that said, its time to take a last look at the 2014 edition of Night of Champions. I didn’t watch the pre-show this month. From what I have seen, nothing major occurred as we did not have a match scheduled. Instead, Christian hosted the Peep Show, with Chris Jericho as his guest. It was just a segment to get the crowd into Jericho and also hype the match with Randy Orton later in the show.  We kicked off the PPV with the usual awesome video package that we have come to expect from WWE’s production team over the years. It was focused on the great champions of the past before looking at the main event between Brock and Cena later in the night. In the arena we were welcomed by the usual announce team of Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler & John Bradshaw Layfield. The opening match was the tag title match, and before the entrances, as would become a theme for all the title matches on this night, we saw brief pictures of some of the past holders of those titles.

WWE Tag Team Championship: The Usos (c) vs Goldust & Stardust My picks heading in: Goldust & Stardust Winners: Goldust & Stardust when Stardust pinned Jey Uso with a roll up at 13:27. The quest for the cosmic key of the Dust Brothers had led to a new rivalry over the past few weeks in the tag division heading into this show. I’ll admit that when the Dust Brothers turned heel I was not on board with the idea at all. They were guys that the crowd wanted to cheer for, but where the turn has worked is that they haven’t really changed their characters at all. They are still the same wacky nut jobs only now they had decided to focus on the long time reigning champions. I understand why they made the turn from a booking perspective as well. With the Usos at the top of the face side of the ladder, the Dust Brothers weren’t going to get their chance to shine as the top team as they did last year around this time. Anyway, this was a solid match to get the show off on the right foot. The Usos had a really impressive reign with the titles going back to before WrestleMania, but it was time to switch this up on this show. The match followed the traditional tag formula as Jimmy Uso was worked over for much of the contest by the challenging team, but with the talent involved that leads to a solid match. It wasn’t anywhere on the level of the 2 out of 3 falls match the Usos had with Harper & Rowan back in July or anything, but that also got a bit more time than this one. Jey Uso got the hot tag in the closing moments of the match, but after building momentum and things breaking down, Stardust blocked a splash with his knees and scored an opportunistic roll up to win the titles for the second time with his older brother. He had a hand full of tights to do it, although it wasn’t mentioned by any of the announcers which was strange. I fully expected Goldust & Stardust to win the titles here, as for them to do so was pretty much the reason they were turned in the first place. The feud will continue from here obviously, and I would expect to see the Usos get their rematch at next month’s Hell in a Cell PPV where they will put on another solid match. I do wonder how long the new champions will hold the titles though. One would expect the Ascension will be on their way to the main roster soon, especially after they lost the NXT Tag titles at the most recent Takeover event. Naturally if they were going after the titles, you’d think the Usos would be getting them back soon as it doesn’t make much sense for Goldust & Stardust to turn face again already. Anyway, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. This was a solid tag match which the crowd really got into and the celebration by Goldust & Stardust put over the importance of the titles as well. My Grade: ***

We now went backstage to Byron Saxton, who was standing by with Dolph Zigglerl he was joined by his “stunt double” R-Ziggler (R-Truth). Ziggler talked about the Intercontinental title, which he would be defending later in the evening, and said that it looked good on him.

WWE United States Championship: Sheamus (c) vs Cesaro My pick heading in: Cesaro Winner: Sheamus by pinfall following a Brogue Kick at 13:06. Our second title match of the night was a rematch from a very good contest at Payback, as the reigning U.S champion Sheamus put his title on the line against the Swiss Superman. Cesaro had really lost direction in the past few months, losing in a random match to RVD at last month’s pre-show and basically doing a whole lot of nothing before being inserted into this feud. Its been refreshing to at least see him back in a proper feud now, although he really should be above the level of the U.S title by this point. Back at the start of the year I had him pencilled in as the guy that would win Money in the Bank, along with many others. I thought we’d get a title change here as WWE likes to de-push people before sending them en route to a title win, and Sheamus also hasn’t done much with his lengthy reign. It was not to be however as Cesaro was once again down for the three. What we did get however was an awesome match. These two have wrestled a lot this year, and they have great chemistry in the ring. This got more time than their match at Payback, and was better than what was already a really good match at that show. These guys do not hold anything back when they square off, as we got another physical contest between two guys working stiff with each other as we’ve come to expect from them. There was lots of back and forth and some awesome counters, especially towards the end of the match where Cesaro kept managing to avoid the Brogue Kick and reverse into some offence of his own. Cesaro would begin to taunt Sheamus from there, slapping at the champ, but his cockiness would get the better of him, as Sheamus would finally connect with a Brogue out of nowhere as the ref was backing Cesaro off for the win. Just an awesome match between two great in ring performers in the company. Cesaro also sold the effects of the Brogue awesomely after the match. I do wonder if this feud will continue. They were on opposite sides of the ring again the following night on Raw, but Sheamus has beat Cesaro a whole heap of times now.  My Grade: ***3/4

Before our next match, we cut to the locker room, where Mark Henry was preparing for his match with Rusev later in the night. Big Show came in and gave him a pep talk before handing him a ring outfit with the U.S flag on it. Show told Henry to take Rusev out, to which Henry responded “That’s what I do!”. Good to hear the old catch phrase after a while.  Back in the arena, country music band Florida Georgia Line, who were on Raw last year as guest stars randomly made their way out to join the commentary team for the next match. They were promoting the fact that they would be at Tribute to the Troops in December

WWE Intercontinental Championship: Dolph Ziggler (c) w/R-Truth vs The Miz w/Damien Sandow My pick heading in: Dolph Ziggler Winner: The Miz by pinfall with a roll-up at 9:22. I’ve enjoyed the feud between these guys since the Miz won the I.C title back at Battleground. Ziggler won the title in a solid match with a shocking upset at SummerSlam that seemed to signal the end of his run in the dog house and I was looking forward to what we would get in the rematch here. I’m a fan of both guys, and its been good to see Ziggler back to building some momentum, whilst Miz’s current Hollywood character is really well done. Despite all that, this was not the best showing for these guys. The whole match came off as a Raw segment, which was added to by the fact that the announcers were busy hyping up Florida Georgia Line through the whole match. Couldn’t they have just had a segment the next night on Raw like they do with most celebrity guests? This whole thing came off as an afterthought which made the result even more strange. I expected Miz to win at SummerSlam. I didn’t think there was a chance he would win here as Ziggler was still early in his reign. Then out of nowhere it happened courtesy of some Sandow interference and a hand full of tights. I was sad to see Ziggler’s reign come to an end so soon. Of course, the following night he won back the title on Raw in what was a much better match that I was really into. Thats the match we should have got here instead. Obviously with all the title changes the feud will continue, so hopefully we’ll see a better example of what these guys are capable of doing at Hell in a Cell next month before Ziggler moves on to new challengers. By the way, the Miz is now a two time 24 hour I.C champion (the same thing happened when he faced Wade Barrett back at WrestleMania 29). Little trivia fact there for you. Anyway, really disappointing especially since we’ve seen these guys deliver more. My Grade: **

Up next, the announcers talked about Roman Reigns going in for emergency hernia surgery the day before, resulting in his scheduled match with Seth Rollins being cancelled. He’s supposedly going to be out of action for around 2-3 months which is a huge blow. He’ll be back before the big shows, but these next few months were going to be really important in getting Reigns elevated to the point that he is ready for the big push next year. I still feel like he’s the favourite to main event Mania, but I’m less certain as time goes on, especially if that singles feud with Triple H doesn’t happen beforehand. We’ll find out in January. “Yes!” we will.  At this point in the show, Seth Rollins made his way out to the ring. He got on the mic and essentially accused Reigns of being afraid of facing him, saying that emergency surgery is no excuse. He demanded to be declared the winner by forfeit if Reigns didn’t show up by the count of ten which obviously didn’t happen. Rollins was declared the winner by forfeit at the second PPV in three months and had his hand raised by the ref. Rollins then said that he was going to issue an open challenge to anyone in the locker room that wanted to take Reigns place, as the crowd chanted for Ambrose. Right on cue, a cab pulled up in the parking lot and Dean Ambrose emerged to a huge pop after being put out of action to film his movie the nigh after SummerSlam by his former Shield partner. He went after Rollins all around ringside before Triple H and Stephanie came out with agents in tow separating the two men. The fight continued for a bit before Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble tackled a chair wielding Ambrose and cable tied him. The Authority ordered Ambrose to be carried out of the arena whilst Rollins looked on in anger. A wild segment that was effective in bringing Ambrose back to renew his rivalry with Rollins. Its clear these guys are facing off next month. I hope it takes place in the Cell too. We now checked in with the expert panel hosted by the amazing Renee Young. She was joined as usual by Booker T and Alex Riley, and the special guest was the Big Show. They talked about the upcoming clash between the USA and Russia as Mark Henry takes on Rusev.

Mark Henry vs Rusev w/Lana My pick heading in: Rusev Winner: Rusev by submission with the Accolade at 9:01. Our next match was one that had been billed as much more important than it really was. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mark Henry, but this feud had no business closing out the go home Raw heading into the PPV. It was clear from the outset that this was just designed to give Rusev a win over a big opponent who has credibility due to his time on the roster and being a former World Champion. Lillian performed the National Anthem before the match, but nobody thought Henry was winning here. I understand the purpose of this, but I’m just starting to slowly lose interest in Rusev. I haven’t been as high on him as most seem to be from the beginning, but I did think he was winning me over for a while. Every week its just the same thing from him though and I think the character has a very short shelf life. Essentially he’ll continue to be built up as an unstoppable monster for a few more months before he’s conquered by Cena or Reigns. Oh right – the match. It was pretty basic power stuff. Henry powered out of the Accolade on one occasion and followed up with the World’s Strongest Slam, but he wasn’t able to capitalise as Rusev rolled to the floor. Rusev came back and locked in the Accolade for the victory shortly afterwards. Based on the interaction from earlier in the night, I wouldn’t be shocked if Big Show is the next monster in Rusev’s path. My Grade: *1/2

Before the next match, we saw highlights from Michael Cole’s WWE.com interview with Brock Lesnar. He basically promised to destroy Cena again.

Chris Jericho vs Randy Orton My pick: Randy Orton Winner: Randy Orton by pinfall with an RKO at 16:21. Up next we had a battle between two veterans that was thrown together with very little build aside from Orton jumping Jericho backstage after his cage match with Bray Wyatt on Raw. I was surprised they didn’t have the blow off match with Wyatt on this show, but I guess they needed to get Randy on the show somehow. The result of this one was never in doubt as it was common knowledge that Jericho’s current stint with the WWE was ending here. I’ve been a big Jericho fan for years, but for the most part this run wasn’t working for me, as I mentioned in the past two PPV reviews. What we got here though was a great match between two guys who know how to out on a show. I’ve said since coming back that Jericho had lost his touch in the ring. After seeing this match, I have to say maybe Bray Wyatt has a little improvement to do in the ring. He’s not bad, but his matches with Jericho just didn’t live up to expectations, whilst this one with Orton clearly exceeded them. He’s not bad or anything, but his only truly great singles matches have been with Bryan at the Rumble and a stipulation heavy match with Cena at Payback. Anyway, back to the guys actually in this match. They hooked me in despite my lack of interest in the match as a whole before it started. They got time and delivered in a big way in what will probably become something of a hidden gem in the annals of PPV history. We got some great counter wrestling and finisher reversals as the match went on, with both men hitting the spots that we know them for. We got a fun call back to the punt in 2010 that Orton used to put Jericho out of action, but this time Jericho managed to avoid it. I actually thought Jericho had the match won at one point with a Codebreaker towards the end, and judging by the crowd I was not the only one. Jericho would follow up from this by going to the top and setting up to dive onto Orton. It would prove to be his undoing however, as Orton would catch Y2J with an RKO in mid air, picking up a decisive win for the Viper. A really good match that gave Orton a win after having a fair share of losses this year on PPV. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s being set up for a face turn and return to the main event picture over the next few months from here as another veteran guy for Brock to conquer at the end of the year once he’s done with Cena. We’ll see if that happens, even though character wise he’s better staying as a heel. We’ll see Jericho again a few months down the line, maybe Mania season. He’s still got it after all. My Grade: ****

Before our next match we got a well done video package for the Diva’s title match focused mainly around Paige. Coming back from that, Byron Saxton was standing by with Brie Bella. She said that she’ll be living vicariously through Paige and AJ as they get to put their hands on her sister in the upcoming match. She concluded by calling Nikki a bitch.

WWE Diva’s Championship: Paige (c) vs AJ Lee vs Nikki Bella My pick heading in: Paige Winner: AJ Lee by submission making Paige tap out to the Black Widow at 7:42. The rivalry between Paige and AJ is one that I have enjoyed for many months now. AJ is my favourite current diva on the roster, whilst Paige has really grown into her role as a heel. The addition of Nikki made sense from a storyline point of view as she was rewarded with this title shot for betraying her sister in her match against Stephanie McMahon at SummerSlam. She didn’t detract from the match at all. She’s improved in the ring over the past year, although Brie is still the more talented Bella. The match followed the usual triple threat formula as the competitors rotated through different pairings with the third individual being sent to the outside and so on. We got some good interaction between AJ and Paige as usual, and if rumours are to be believed, those interactions will be intensifying going forward. Of course, we got some CM Punk chants as well which is just annoying at this point. They didn’t last long at least. We got a good spot towards the end of the match as Nikki powerbombed Paige as she was setting up to superplex AJ off the top in a cool visual. Nikki attempted to capitalise with the Rack Attack to Paige, but the match continued with AJ making the save and eventually picking up the win with the Black Widow to Paige, becoming a three time Diva’s Champion in the process. The result surprises me as I expected Paige to retain, although I’m glad the feud with AJ is continuing. I didn’t think Nikki had a chance to win this, as her feud with Brie is for Total Divas, and those feuds tend to stand separate from the title picture for the most part. I was surprised Brie didn’t come out to cost her sister the match though. A decent enough diva’s match here. My Grade: **1/2

Up next it was main event time. In what felt like a throwback to the days of Cole & Tazz on Smackdown, we got a bunch of stats about the SummerSlam encounter between Brock and Cena. We then went briefly to the expert panel before throwing to a video package for the match.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) w/Paul Heyman vs John Cena My pick: Brock Lesnar Winner: John Cena by DQ when Seth Rollins interfered at 14:10. Our main event was the much anticipated rematch from the most one sided WWE title match in history last month at SummerSlam. I was really curious heading in as to how this one would play out despite it being a given that Brock would retain the title here. I was standing up in my living room for the whole match due to the big fight feel we get whenever Brock Lesnar steps into the ring these days. Despite not being on every week, when he’s there, everyone is paying attention, and that makes the WWE title feel more special as a result. As far as the match is concerned, it was much more competitive than SummerSlam, as Cena managed to fight back despite also taking a fair share of offence from the reigning, defending WWE Champion. There was a really awesome moment early on where Cena hit an AA and Lesnar kicked out just after a one. When you look at how many times Cena has won a match with that move, that shows you how strong Brock Lesnar is being booked. After Cena escaped from a Kimura Lock, Lesnar fired back with German Suplexes like at SummerSlam to take control. Lesnar would cut off Cena’s comeback attempts and continued the assault, and taking off his gloves to pound on the former champion with his bare hands. Cena managed to get a second AA in, but Lesnar again kicked out from there. The two competitors then fought over their submission finishers before Cena connected with a third AA. Instead of going for the pin though, he locked in the STF and kept reapplying the hold after positioning Brock away from the ropes. With Lesnar trapped in the hold in the middle of the ring, we got the cheap DQ ending however, as Seth Rollins rushed out and nailed Cena with the Money in the Bank briefcase. It was a disappointing ending, but as it seems this feud will have one more match left in it, they were painted into a bit of a corner as they wanted to have Brock retain without beating Cena again here. That comes next month in the Cell. Overall though, the ending didn’t take away from the match as a whole, which was excellent. Right up there with SummerSlam, but not at the level of the classic Extreme Rules match from a few years ago. The story of the match was Cena gave Brock everything he had and would have had him beat if not for the interference. Brock Lesnar is still the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. I look forward to seeing what will likely be the final meeting of these two competitors next month.

My Grade: **** As Cena was declared the winner by DQ, Rollins nailed him once more with the briefcase. He saw Lesnar was still down and then decided he was going to cash in Money in the Bank! Now, I’m normally pretty good at picking a false cash in, but this time they had me. And I walked in thinking there was no chance Rollins was leaving with the title when the PPV started. For a split second I thought we would actually have a new champion on our hands, so as cheap as the ending to the match was, it worked in that regard. Before the bell could ring however, Cena came back and chased Rollins off. Meanwhile, Lesnar had recovered and laid Cena out with an F-5, standing tall with his title to end the show.

Three Stars of the Night:

1. Randy Orton/Chris Jericho (tie) – stole the show with a match that I didn’t really have high hopes for going on.

2. Brock Lesnar – the guy just has that it factor that glues your eyes to the screen whenever he steps into the ring. Part of that is due to his matches being few and far between, but its also due to him being a phenomenal talent.

3. John Cena – showed great fire fighting back against Brock, delivering a competitive match that set the stage for next month.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  Despite a few strange booking decisions, Night of Champions 2014 was a good show to kick off the usual down time of the WWE calendar. We got a great deal of awesome matches throughout the show, with the Jericho/Orton and Lesnar/Cena matches being the best, and the Sheamus/Cesaro match not far behind. Most of the rest of the PPV was enjoyable as well with a solid tag title match and a pretty fun diva’s match as well. The only matches where the quality really dropped off were the I.C title and Henry/Rusev matches. In the case of the latter I wasn’t expecting all that much, but the way the I.C title match was treated as a complete afterthought was really disappointing. Miz and Ziggler are capable of more, and we saw that the following night as well as at SummerSlam. For the most part though, this was a strong PPV despite the mostly lacklustre build. A lot of people will be upset with the ending of the main event. I can see why they had the match not have a clean finish, although there were probably other ways that would have achieved that result in a better fashion. That said, we should have expected shenanigans – the previous three years the main event at this PPV had a controversial outcome. Heading into Night of Champions I thought this would be the blow off to Brock/Cena, but once word leaked about Lesnar’s new contract and the fact that he’ll probably work each PPV came out, it became clear they would face off again next month. You aren’t going to throw a new feud with only five weeks build into the Hell in a Cell after all. I’m looking forward to the final showdown between the two next month which will be amazing. Brock will retain there, and I’m interested to see who will be next to attempt to take him on.  Speaking of Hell in a Cell, the other big feud going into that show will be the long awaited rematch between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. Its great to have Ambrose back again, and his presence will make up for the inactivity of Roman Reigns over the next few months on the face side. I really hope these two get to have a cell match as well next month. There’s a good possibility considering the wild brawls they have had and the fact that on this show the announcers mentioned that next month there will be “at least one” Hell in a Cell match. That seems to imply there will be more than one to me. The past two years we’ve only had one at Hell in a Cell, but in previous years its happened.  A lot of the feuds on this show will likely continue through to next month’s PPV. I imagine we get a rematch between Ziggler and Miz which hopefully gets more of a chance to shine, and another between the Usos and the Dusts. A Rusev/Show match is also likely, along with a Paige/AJ and possibly Brie/Nikki match. I’m not sure where a guy like Randy Orton will factor in. I’m not going off much but a gut feeling, but I really think a face turn lies ahead for him. We’ll see if thats on the cards. Jericho is obviously going back on tour now, so thats another loss to the roster going forward, but he’ll be back eventually, and I’m glad he proved tonight that he still has something left in the tank after some disappointing PPV matches over the past couple of months. Coming off an awesome SummerSlam, I was ready for the usual drop off in quality to hit heading into Night of Champions. As a result of this show however, I’m interested to see where things go. We got lots of good action tonight. It wasn’t as good a show as SummerSlam overall, but its up there as far as PPVs this year go. FINAL GRADE: 7.5 out of 10

2014 PPV Rankings Thus Far:

  • WrestleMania XXX (9.5)
  • SummerSlam (8)
  • Night of Champions (7.5)
  • Payback (7.5)
  • Money in the Bank (7)
  • Elimination Chamber (7)
  • Battleground (7)
  • Extreme Rules (7)
  • Royal Rumble (6)

Author: Matt McCulloch