Night Of Champions Preview: Play Our Fantasy WWE Game And Win Some Money
I admittedly have the fever. Watching and loving professional wrestling is in my blood and I know that no matter how much I dislike the product or find the storylines insipid, I’m still going to watch. I can’t help reading the “dirt sheets,” listening to podcasts and just following along. However, this month I decided not to renew my WWE Network subscription. Yes, it’s just $9.99 as WWE frequently reminds us, but it wasn’t the money that bothered me. Sure, the nostalgia was great; getting bored and having the ability to check out a random edition of WCW Monday Night Nitro was always entertaining, if not ironically amusing. The true reason I did not renew my Network subscription was twofold. First, I realized that if I renew after September 23, WrestleMania 31 will be included in my next subscription. Essentially, by missing Night of Champions I get ‘Mania, which seems like a good tradeoff for me. Second, and the more frightful reason I did not renew my subscription, is that I am legitimately bored and tired of WWE. The storylines were repetitive, the characters uninteresting and the direction was no longer “must watch.” I needed a break.
Monday Night Raw, which has always seemed like appointment television for me, has become somewhat of an afterthought. The unfortunate thing is that the booking of the show has also become an afterthought for the company as well. In fact, this past Monday on Raw, they advertised “halftime” over and over again. Meaning, ‘hey, when Monday Night Football goes to halftime, come back to us because we’ll have something good on.’ That last sentence isn’t even a joke. They put their main event segment of Brock Lesnar and John Cena during halftime of a football game. The actual main event segment was a match that is scheduled for the pay per view, which they gave away for free with a completely clean finish and a promo segment in which absolutely nothing of note happened between two mid-carders. The ratings reflected WWE’s complete lack of caring, as they completely tumbled in the third hour, bringing WWE its worst third hour rating in months. If WWE is treating their show as something that can be missed except for a 15 minute break during football, I’m going to have no problem continually missing Raw. Instead of watching every segment, over the last three weeks, I have watched the show live zero times. I have fast forwarded on my DVR through essentially the whole show, each week, legitimately not stopping to watch a full segment on any of the three shows. And why? Because WWE has given me, the diehard, no reason to care.
Usually, when my roommate complains to me about recording Raw, I fight the good fight. It’s not that I’m tired of fighting, but it’s pointless. There is not a single character or storyline in WWE that interests me going into Night of Champions this Sunday. I could care less about seeing Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena…again. I officially could care less about Roman Reigns. WWE made their hottest character in years turn into another Ryback. And his match this Sunday? It’s just a repeat of Raw, where Reigns already defeated his heel counterpart, giving me no reason to want to pay to see yet another rematch. Ziggler and The Miz…again. Sheamus vs. Cesaro…again. The Usos vs. Goldust and Stardust…again. Five of the eight matches announced for the show are matches we have seen within the last six weeks. Tell me why we should care, why we should pay or invest in the Network. Despite six weeks in between Summerslam and Night of Champions, WWE has given us no reason. Since they were lazy, I’ll be lazy with my money and miss an entirely missable event.
Can Cena Conquer The Conqueror?
So, the Conqueror again goes head to head with the Posterboy, when Lesnar has his rematch with Cena. At Summerslam, WWE had a mesmerizing main event, in which Lesnar literally almost killed Cena. 16 suplexes later, the main event was nothing more than a squash match…and that was awesome. It was something we had never seen before, especially when Cena was the one getting squashed. It was the main event of the company’s second biggest event of the year and they used it to get their beast over and kill the face of the company. In one night, WWE had made Lesnar the Conqueror of the Undertaker, and also of Cena. It was brilliant. Unfortunately, the brilliance didn’t even last two weeks. Instead of giving us a broken down and beaten Cena, we were given Super Cena, as per usual. We had Hall of Famers like Hulk Hogan tell us how incredible Cena is and how after he takes his vitamins, drinks his milk and says his prayers he can beat the big bad Brock Lesnar. We had Cena never sell a single suplex or even act upset. Thanks to Vince McMahon wanting to give everyone the belief that Cena can conquer the Conqueror, he destroyed Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan, and Luke Harper. (Wyatt, by the way, is stupidly and shockingly not booked on this event.) Instead of Cena in peril, we see Cena reenergized and reinvigorated…like we have a thousand times before. Losses mean nothing to John Cena, physically, emotionally or mentally. All WWE did was Eat/Sleep/Repeat that.
On Sunday, I have no doubt Brock Lesnar will defeat John Cena once again, in what is sure to be a more competitive match. This one will probably resemble the Cena/Lesnar affair that was Lesnar’s first match back a couple of years ago. But this doesn’t interest me. I saw Lesnar destroy John Cena; I have no interest in seeing Cena “hopefully” get his revenge. The sad thing, though, is I also don’t have any interest in seeing Roman Reigns be the one to conquer Brock Lesnar. And that should be the scariest thing of all for WWE.
Losing Interest In Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns was supposed to be the savior, the next “next big thing.” However, on his way to the top, typical WWE booking has screwed this entire thing up. Finally, white hot babyfaces after almost two years as heels, WWE was short sighted in breaking up The Shield. They didn’t know what to do with the other characters on the show and split up their most successful act to try and spice things up. They predicted gigantic things for Reigns, and sped him to the top of the card. The only problem was, much like Ryback two years earlier, the company was not ready to truly give Reigns the ball. So, while Reigns has main evented many episodes of Raw over the past few months, and was the last man standing more often than not, when it came down the WWE title match, he never stood tall. In WWE’s mind, they are giving us the slow burn; making us earn it when Reigns finally wins the big one. But by stopping and starting the push of Reigns to the very top, we’ve lost interest in his character altogether.
The man that broke up The Shield, Seth Rollins, is Reigns opponent this Sunday. Rollins, who turned heel and joined The Authority, currently holds the Money in the Bank briefcase, and is simmering at the top himself. Since the breakup of The Shield, Rollins has been embroiled in a bitter feud with the third member of The Shield, Dean Ambrose. With Ambrose off fixing his face after having it smashed by Rollins (Just Kidding...He’s filming a movie), Rollins and Reigns were paired up with two guys as having nothing to do. They fought last Monday on Raw, as I mentioned above, with Reigns winning. So why are we seeing the rematch again? Oh right…so Ambrose can return in spectacular fashion to save Reigns after Kane interferes in this match. My three-year-old cousin can book this.
As Reigns’ push has simmered, as much as WWE has tried to botch the Dean Ambrose push, he might just be the most over exposed superstar on the roster today. Much like I wrote last month in regard to Brock Lesnar, being away for even a little while makes you more desirable. Ambrose has been gone a month and the crowd will go ape shit when he comes back. While incredibly over, it won’t matter come WrestleMania season, right? Or would it? I hold out the slimmest of hopes that WWE will pull an Evolution, where Randy Orton was primed for the Mania main event before the crowd swayed them into making it Batista. Could the same happen between Reigns and Ambrose? Seems doubtful…but a man can dream.
Randy Orton Circling The Wagon
Speaking of Randy Orton, he’ll face the departing Chris Jericho this Sunday. As I seemingly say every month, Orton is pretty much going nowhere. He’s been de-pushed in favor of Lesnar and really has no heat, besides being the smarky veteran heel that works for The Authority. Orton has been circling the wagon before WrestleMania and desperately needs a way to get his heat back. Jericho will do the best he can to make that happen before he leaves to go on tour with his band Fozzy. Jericho and Orton have been feuding for the past few weeks (I think?), so basically, they are just on the card to give Orton something to do, and no one makes people look better than Chris Jericho. There’s no actual storyline, so the fact that I’ve written over 100 words on this match is probably more time than the writers gave to the feud.
Since this is 1986, WWE will once again have their “Russian” brute Rusev go up against his American patriot of the month, Mark Henry. Henry is a former Olympian and World Strongest Man that has been in WWE for almost 20 years. For most of that time, he was always the big guy that would pose as a “challenge” but really was just an 80s bad guy. He had a great run as Sexual Chocolate, when he and girlfriend Mae Young gave birth to a hand. A few years ago, WWE finally gave Henry the killer gimmick he deserved and he ascended and won his first World Championship. Since then, the usually injured Henry has been in and out. After forming a short lived partnership with the Big Show, WWE realized they needed a new American challenger to go against Rusev, so they arrived at Henry. Due to WWE’s “halftime” stunt, Rusev and Henry actually was the main event segment on Raw. Again, nothing at all notable happened, as they “brawled” and uh, that was it. Henry is not a big enough name to give Rusev his first defeat, so like everyone else, he’ll eventually fall to Rusev. WWE probably thinks the crowd is behind this feud because the audience loves being able to chant “U-S-A, U-S-A”, but really, this is again nothing new. So where is Rusev going? Eventually, I’m sure, patriotic John Cena will be the one to defeat the Bulgarian Brute (see, told you he wasn’t Russian). Of course, like many smarks, we have to hope this somehow leads to the return of Kurt Angle, a former WWE champion who has been wrestling in TNA for around ten years. Again seems doubtful…but a man can still dream.
Nikki Bella: The Heel
As predicted in the Summerslam preview, Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon had a fun match, which ended in Brie’s sister Nikki turning heel. Rather than watching these two beautiful women wrestle or just stand and look pretty, we have been forced over the past six weeks to watch them talk. Talking is not their strong suit. It’s been a lot of back and forth garbage that even included WWE bringing in old friend Jerry Springer to mediate the two sisters. Yes, so WWE is running a feud from 1986 and then bringing in a 1996 celebrity. Anyway, as a reward for Nikki turning heel (and so WWE no longer has to have two women’s matches on their shows), Stephanie gave Nikki a divas titles match with both Paige and AJ Lee. Ever since AJ returned after a hiatus, she has been feuding with Paige over the title. The feud went from aggression to a weird obsession, to some sexual overtones, to now just weird. This feud also had a lot of bite to it at first, but like everything this company does, it has overstayed its welcome. Normally, I would say inserting Nikki here would help, but obviously, since Brie isn’t in the match, she’ll have to make her presence known, costing her sister the title. This will either lead to a fatal four way match at the next PPV or the “much anticipated” (Read: Not At All Anticipated) showdown between Nikki and Brie Bella. Paige and AJ will probably continue this feud into the next millennium.
Since this show is called Night of Champions, every WWE title must be defended. This is how Sheamus and Cesaro get on this card. Sheamus has been the US Champion since April and has defended the championship less than five times. Cesaro, the former Zeb Colter/Paul Heyman Guy, has lost every shred of momentum he had going into and out of WrestleMania. He won the major battle royal, was paired up by Heyman, and then for a completely unknown reason, was completely dispatched and sent wandering into the abyss with every other mid card wrestler. These two have wrestled around 100 times this year, but THIS TIME IT’S PERSONAL. Nah…not really. It will be another undercard match that will definitely be very stiff and fun to watch, but there’s simply no story here. Why does former World Champion Sheamus care so much about the U.S. Title? Why is Cesaro, who was on the precipice of the main event scene, STILL caring about a title he held onto two years ago? Why can’t ANYONE explain this to me? And would it not make sense to pair Rusev with Sheamus, so the evil Rusev goes after the United States Title. Is this really that hard to book?
Speaking of wrestlers that should not care about the mid card titles - we get former World Champion Dolph Ziggler once again taking on former WWE Champion, The Miz. By now, both of these wrestlers (particularly Ziggler) should be past this. Hell, The Miz main evented WrestleMania. To be fair, Chris Jericho did the same and he went on to win more Intercontinental titles than anyone. Ziggler and Miz have been mired in a month-long feud over the Intercontinental Championship. Rope in Damien Sandow and R-Truth, and this feud has actually been one of the more fun ones going on right now. Miz’s Hollywood character is the best thing he’s done in forever, and Damien Mizdow is hilarious. Pretty much anything Sandow does is gold. I would have replaced R-Truth with well, anybody, but still I’ve enjoyed what I have seen from these four very talented performers. I hope this is the last match in this feud and that both of these guys go on to something else, perhaps pairing Ziggler with Bray Wyatt and Miz with…okay yeah, that part doesn’t matter so much.
The final title match pits The Usos against the Rhodes Brothers, who recently turned heel for no real reason. Since Stardust and Goldust are fresher, I think they’ll come out victorious, finally dethroning the Usos after seven months as champions. It’s also possible that The Usos retain in order to feud with the NXT debuting Ascension, which seems imminent at this point. I expect this match to be the opener and, like every other feud in the company, drag on for another 16 weeks.
I’m never going to get rid of the sickness or my love for professional wrestling. It’s impossible. It’s why I write about it and participate in the Kountermove game every month. It is also why I am so passionate when I’m disappointed. Wrestling can be so good and entertaining with just a few changes that seemingly WWE is unable or unwilling to make. The staleness brings out a cynicism in even the most diehard fans. I expect Night of Champions to be a solid show, full of good wrestling and very bad commentating. The actual wrestlers and wrestling aren’t the problem. These men and women are supremely talented and entertaining. I just wonder when the creative team will catch up.
Pick a Team: Pick 5 wrestlers under the $25,000 Salary Cap
Strikes: Earn .5 points - including with weapons and foreign objects (ladders, chairs, etc.)
"Big Move": Earn 3 points - any clear big move (clothesline, jumping off the top rope, signature moves, etc.)
"2 Count" Pin: Earn 3 points - an attempted pin for a 2-count.
Finishes and Multiple Finishes: Earn 50 points - a "finish" is a 3-second pin or the ultimate goal of the match is achieved (e.g., suitcase of retrieved).
Full "finish" points are awarded for any 3-second pins to any opponents. For example, if a wrestler pins his scheduled opponents AND also an unscheduled opponent makes an appearance and they are pinned too, then that wrestler receives points for both of the pins (e.g., 2 x 50 = 100 points).
Extra Opponents Note: All opponents -- scheduled or unscheduled (e.g., all ladder match opponents, girlfriends, managers or unscheduled wrestling rivals or other) count towards points -- wrestlers receive points for stats generated anytime during the event's broadcast, even if it's from wrestling with multiple or unscheduled opponents.
You can follow Gregg Sussman @GreggSussman.
Photo via Getty
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