Social media is a double edged sword. In fact, it’s more like a multi-sided sword, if that’s even possible. . . Can you have a sword that’s also an octagonal prism?
. . .
I shouldn’t write these columns on only 4 hours of sleep.
Last month I realized that I was spending so much time Tweeting, I wasn’t actually watching the wrestling on my WWE Network, and thus was born #SummerSlamTaughtMe, a series of handwritten notes that became a couple of columns and part of a podcast.
This month for Night of Champions, I decided to avoid social media during most of the matches, and once again took up my pen and yellow legal pad. However, as I watched WWENOC, I found myself discovering broader themes rather than just bad jokes and minor observations.
So, for #NOCTaughtMe, let’s do single lessons from each match, shall we?
Doc Manson and I discussed their future and potential briefly on the NAIborhood podcast yesterday morning, but seeing them in action last night really made me a believer. Stardust is a natural leader, this was common knowledge, but what impressed me even more was how different The Ascension looked. No longer bogged down by the pressure of doing everything on their own (especially with that terrible “we’re better than you” gimmick), Konnor and Viktor positively shined just being able to be wrestlers.
I’m excited to see where this goes from here.
One of the most common things I saw online near the end or just following Night of Champions was that the ‘event’ (can’t call it a PPV, can we?) had an “old school” feel to it, and I think we can thank our new Intercontinental champion for that. Mr. Owens had a match that Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and our own MagnumNAI would be proud of, spending the majority of it isolating a body part and working it over with some of the most innovative offense I’ve seen in quite some time.
Hammerlock Russian leg sweeps, sentons directly to the arm, it was a treat to watch, and for what it’s worth, Ryback did a fine job of selling that injury. He really didn’t have to do much else.
Maybe Kevin Owens didn’t inspire the rest of the roster to break out their 80’s wrestling psychology, but it was notable that many other performances that followed (including, most surprisingly, Nikki Bella’s) involved similar styles of wrestling.
The prestige and honor of many fans (this one included) favorite title is in your hands, Mr. Owens. Make us proud.
They probably didn’t have the best match on the card, but Dolph Ziggler and Rusev definitely had themselves a pretty good match, yet nobody seemed to care. Why? Obviously because we all have gotten so tired of this angle that nothing can save us.
You know who else was obviously tired of that story? The wrestlers themselves. It’s Rusev and Ziggler, so you’re going to get a good match regardless, but couldn’t you tell that there was just a little less than full effort coming from them? They weren’t really giving it their all, which would explain why, on a couple of occasions, we saw phantom bumps. Rusev runs the ropes to hit Ziggler on the apron, and Dolph takes off before Rusev gets there. Rusev sells a DDT without his head actually hitting the canvas. Those kinds of things.
Truthfully, we can’t blame the talents - This has been dumb for a long time and I’m sure both talents would like to move on. Whether or not they can do so is a different story.
One thing I will say, though. I love me some #SadRusev.
No offense, Mr. Luger, but Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods are everything that is nice and good in professional wrestling. We saw it with their ‘Table for 3’ episode, we see it each night on RAW, and we absolutely saw it at Night of Champions.
What do we want from a “perfect” wrestler? An impressive look, excellent wrestling skills (which hopefully include power, aerial ability and some technical know-how), and charisma, particularly if it can translate onto the microphone. While it could be argued that no member of New Day has all of those features (though I could make a case for Big E), with their powers combined, they are something to behold.
I know this because, for that entire match, I couldn’t have cared less about the Dudleys. They were just in the way of the Day, if you will. I enjoy Bubba and Devon, but they were easily and completely overshadowed by Rufio and his Lost Boys.
New Day could be, historically, something very special.
I stayed on social media for this match, figuring it would play in the background and I’d glance at it from time to time, but I actually spent a good portion of the match paying attention, and that was all thanks to Nikki. When did she become Dean Malenko? Why wasn’t I given a memo? If Nikki has really been that skilled all this time, why on Earth did they not let her defend her title?
A lot of people were confused by the nature of that match, but it made sense to me, One of the biggest criticisms of Charlotte’s game has been her ability to sell, and that gave us all a chance to see if she’s improved in that area. It was a bit over-the-top, in my opinion, but she’s a Flair after all, so I guess that comes with the territory.
I almost felt a little bad for Nikki, to dominate the match the way she did and then lose so quickly.
Am I starting a #GiveNikkiAChance movement? No, but I have far more respect for her than I did before. That’s something.
As I said on the podcast, one of the matches I was most looking forward to was this six man tag, solely because I love a good mystery partner. When I saw the countdown and heard the music. . . I was less than thrilled.
In fact, I was borderline devastated. There were about 7-8 other guys that would have been more preferable to me, and those were just the likely names. Heck, I would have probably been more excited to see Big Show waddle his way down to the ring.
Jericho didn’t make any sense other than he fought with Bray Wyatt a long time ago. He didn’t have the size, the strength or the relevance to make a lot of sense there.
Then he made the blind tag on Roman, and it all started to make sense.
Chris Jericho wasn’t going to work as an opponent of the Wyatt Family. . . But he does make some sense as an opponent for Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. . .
NAI Honorary Team Member Adam hit the nail right on the head with his prediction, so props to him. I went from disappointment to intrigued with that tag, and I’m excited to see where this goes from here.
Well done, WWE, you do know what you’re doing.
The last two matches went back to back, so I’m going to group them together for a couple of final points.
Throughout the night, I found myself criticizing the logic of some of these matches. Why would Nikki Bella even participate in this match? Why not take a countout or blatant DQ? (I forgot about the no DQ rule, and thanks to the 457 people who reminded me) I was told to stop being rational, to suspend disbelief and to just enjoy the show, but I found it hard to do that with all these questions. I’m all for surrendering to the rationale of pro wrestling, but there needs to be SOME adherence to common sense.
Seth Rollins seems to incorporate that, and I really appreciate it.
I first noticed it when Cena was doing his “Cena thing” hitting the shoulderblocks. What happens next is textbook - The wrestler takes a giant swing, Cena ducks, hits the side slam or Blue Thunder Bomb (whatever it is) and goes for the Five Knuckle Shuffle.
Except Rollins didn’t swing. He feinted, then hit a neckbreaker, and if memory serves, he gave the crowd a little “no way” look as he did it.
I loved that. Rollins is already a super talented wrestler, perhaps one of the best I’ve seen in a very long time. Adding some actual logic and intelligence just sealed the deal. I also appreciated the number of times he tried to crawl or walk away with his title during the WHC match. That’s what a heel champion should do - anything to save the belt.
He might not be the next Shawn Michaels or Bret Hart, but Seth Rollins is a special talent, and you saw the way he randomly decided to control the crowd in a wave - He’s going to be the biggest babyface in the world REALLY soon.
We’re not sure what the nature or severity of Sting’s injury is, but obviously something was wrong during that title match, and that’s not even counting the huge bruise on his arm from smashing into the monitor on the Spanish Announce Table.
That was a scary moment, though, seeing him collapse in the middle of the ring. For just a second, I thought he was going to need to be carted out, and it was terrifying.
I give Steve Borden all the credit in the world for fighting through whatever the injury was and continuing the match, no matter how short it may have been. We’ve all spent a lot of time discussing Sting’s legacy, or the manner in which it has been portrayed by WWE. That moment there, staggering to his feet and continuing the match, might be the best thing Sting has ever done in a McMahon-controlled ring.
We all knew that Sheamus was going to try to cash in last night, but I didn’t see anyone on Twitter predicting that Kane would make his presence known during the main event. I figured he was there solely to give some slight air of mystery to who would be teaming with AmbReigns.
I have never been as big of a Kane fan as Jason Moltov or Liam Stryker. He’s been a fine and loyal WWE worker and I’ve enjoyed some of his matches, but I’ve always been ‘meh’ when it comes to the Big Red Machine, even more so when he went Corporate.
Yet there was a moment. . . After chokeslamming Rollins AND Sheamus. . . Where I was sitting upright in bed, quietly (since Mrs. Matthews was sleeping) begging Kane to grab the MITB briefcase, cash it in, and become World Heavyweight Champion.
Maybe it was because the “Demon” was back. . . Maybe it was because we hadn’t seen him in a while. . . Or maybe it was just #AnyoneButSheamus. . . but. . .
For just those few seconds, I became the kind of fan WWE has always wanted us to be - Lost in the moment, all reasonable thought out the window, pleading for a 20 year veteran I’ve never really been in love with to beat, as I just described, my favorite wrestler.
Goofy gimmicked stables. . . Working over a single body part . . . Solid storytelling. . . Totally bought in.
Now that’s Old School.
In 10 days, WWE will bring us Night of Champions, the annual PPV where every title belt is on the line. As many of you know (I shan’t assume you’re all well versed in current-day storylines), that puts Seth Rollins in an interesting spot, being the current World Heavyweight AND United States champion. Mr. Rollins will be defending the US belt against John Cena and the World title against Sting.
Everybody with me? Good.
There are four possible outcomes stemming out of Night of Champions, assuming, of course, that all of the matches wind up in clean, straightforward decisions.
Based off of a question by @Cody_Burris, let’s chat about each outcome one at a time, discussing why it might happen, what it could mean, and how likely it might be.
This might happen if WWE wants to take the Seth Rollins character in a new direction. So far, we’ve rarely, if ever, seen Seth struggle. He was highly successful with The Shield and then transitioned directly to The Authority’s Golden Boy. Up until now (if memory serves), we’ve never seen Rollins on the ropes.
To put it another way, playing off of a character from a few months ago, we’ve never seen “Sad Rollins”.
By having Rollins lose both titles in a single night, Sad Seth comes to the forefront. For the first time, there’s doubt, both in his mind and in the minds of The Authority. What if Rollins ISN’T all that and a bag of organic, vegan vegetable crisps? What if Triple H and Stephanie picked the wrong horse? This would make for some compelling television.
How likely is it? Honestly, not very. Doing this sends a very clear signal that WWE has lost some semblance of faith in their champion, so much so that he’s not even worthy of a mid-card title. I don’t think this is the world we wake up to on the first day of autumn.
This might happen if, compared to the first scenario, WWE wants to send a message that Seth Rollins IS the superstar of the next 10 years, and that’s the end of the discussion. In the 90’s, Shawn Michaels held the World and European titles for reasoning that escape me right now, but it was around that time that he was THE guy. As much as people might balk at the comparison, Rollins CAN BE the next Shawn Michaels if WWE wants it - uncanny ring work, charisma galore and even the potential for backstage drama.
Seth Rollins is the NoseBreak Kid. Copyright DC Matthews, 2015.
How likely is it? Only slightly more likely than him losing both titles, really. As Liam Stryker says each and every week on NAIpod, the biggest problem WWE has right now is with commitment. They don’t seem able to fully put their weight behind a single star, so they’re just dancing around with a group of them.
I have a hard time seeing WWE allowing Rollins to beat two all-time legends, even if one is “merely” a WCW icon in Sting. Just don’t think they want to put all their eggs in that basket.
This might happen if WWE wants to hit the reset button on the last 6-8 weeks. Just like you, I can’t possibly explain the whole Jon Stewart debacle from Summer Slam. Maybe Stewart insisted on having some ring action, maybe it was just to get the publicity - who knows?
What I do know is that the vast majority of the WWE universe (and NAIborhood, a very exclusive part of the Universe) thought Cena dropping the US title to Rollins made no sense, and perhaps WWE has been swayed. Putting the title back on Cena allows them to “do it right”, even if Owens is the IC champion by then.
How likely is it? Far likelier than the other two so far, solely because it requires very little effort on WWE’s part. They love their lazy booking, and by going back to the US Open Challenge and Seth Rollins World title promos, they’ve written almost a third of RAW already.
This entire column stemmed from the notion that WWE had a bunch of John Cena US title t-shirts ready to be shipped, which led people to believe that a Cena victory was imminent.
My thoughts on that? Please, people. There are ALWAYS Cena shirts ready. I’m sure they have designs prepped for a John Cena Diva’s title, if ever there’s a need.
This might happen if WWE recognizes the golden opportunity they have right now, one that they’ve been squandering since Survivor Series of last year.
As much as Vince McMahon and friends might hate to admit it, Sting IS A LEGEND. They might not have educated new fans on Sting’s role in wrestling history, but his place can not be questioned.
Giving Sting a run with the World Heavyweight Championship, as ludicrous as it might seem, will draw older fans back and potentially create a new flock of fans. Sadly, Raven won’t be involved.
They don’t need him to hold the title for very long. Survivor Series at the shorter end, the Rumble at the longer. A couple of title defenses and a hotly contested loss to John Cena (that’s who he’d lose it to, there’s no question) is all WWE needs to honor an icon and make wrestling fun again for anyone who was a fan of the surfer / Crow / Joker these last few decades.
Plus, Rollins retains a title and can be a contender for the top strap again anytime WWE needs. (remember, HHH held the IC title after winning his first World title.)
How likely is it? This is, in my mind, the likeliest scenario for Night of Champions. It keeps Rollins relevant, it makes Sting relevant and it puts Cena in prime position for his 16th world title. Hate it if you must, but that’s going to be a big piece of the puzzle.
WWE will likely feel it is best for Seth Rollins to retain his US title and for Sting to win the World Heavyweight Championship. As the hip hashtaggers would say, #BookIt.
What do YOU think? What is, in your mind, the most likely scenario? Be Heard.
There are days where it is hard to be a wrestling fan. If you read the Summer Slam preview Doc Manson and I had late last night, you could tell that for both of us (though Doc is suffering far worse than I), there is a definite vein of pessimism in how we feel about the WWE product. In our minds, too much has been mis-managed, too many worthy superstars are being ignored, and there is way, way, WAY too much being shoved down our throats.
Yet, despite the negativity that can drag me down at times, I have hope. Perhaps its, as @NewAgeInsiders says, just because the relationship I have with WWE is an abusive one. Or perhaps its because, as an actual classroom teacher, hope is sometimes all you can hold on to in order to maintain your sanity. But I think there are opportunities abound here for WWE to start heading in a positive direction.
We all have our ideas on how we’d book it were we a McMahon, so I humbly submit my own thoughts on a few directions WWE could go.
(Disclaimer: All of this is conjecture, based on the information I have gleaned, rumors floating around, or just my best guess. This should not be considered to be anything other than a series of thought experiments, and should in no way be considered entirely original thoughts.)
World Title Picture
Tonight, I want to see Brock Lesnar win the title. I want it to be a competitive match, but mostly controlled by Lesnar, with Cena having to resort to more and more desperate acts to stay in it. In the end, though, Lesnar’s just too big and too bad.
On RAW, I want Heyman to come out and be presented with the new belt. Lesnar would be here, says the Advocate, but frankly, there’s just no reason to be. He dominated Cena, and there is nobody out there who is worthy of a title shot, so Brock’s going on a little vacation.
Heyman than calls out the WWE roster and says, simply. . . “Impress me”. He wants to see somebody step up and make themselves worthy of the honor of being next conquered by The Beast.
The next week, Heyman comes out again, once more condemning the lack of worthy talent. This brings out Chris Jericho, who reminds his good friend Paul, and the rest of the WWE universe, of his track record. Before Jericho can finish, however, he is interrupted by another blast from Heyman’s past, Rob Van Dam, who also seeks to stake his spot as a potential contender.
Heyman, shrewd as he is, begins to pit the two would-be challengers against each other, and a match is made between the two for later that night. Heyman says he will be at ringside to watch, and once again, reminds them. . .”Impress me”.
The winner of that match is irrelevant, really, because Heyman returns the next week to state that while they both have had great careers and are close personal friends, they are still not worthy of the champ. That’s when Jericho and Van Dam get creative. They begin going back and forth on how sad it is to see Heyman in such a position. Paul Heyman, once the creator and lifeblood of ECW, now just shilling for the corporate champion.
Heyman, who was the one to make stars of Austin and Foley. Heyman, who single-handedly began the Attitude Era. Heyman, who created the Three Way Dance.
Heyman, shrewd as ever but swayed by the “ECW ECW” chants that you just know would ring through the arena, begins to cave. “Three Way Dance? You two and BROCKKK LESNARRR in a 3 way dance? That’s really how you want your careers to end, huh? Well, who am I to turn down the last request of a friend. You’re on!”
Night of Champions: Brock Lesnar vs. Chris Jericho vs. Rob Van Dam for the World Title.
Rise of The Undercard
After Heyman’s announcement on the RAW after Summer Slam, we see the Authority backstage. Orton is not happy about feeling like he has to earn a title shot, Rollins is looking smugly at his briefcase with his new protection at his side (more on this later), and Kane just looks like Kane.
Amidst the hubbub, Dolph Ziggler enters the room. He walks up to Triple H and all but demands to be given the opportunity to show his stuff, fully intending to prove his worth to Heyman, Lesnar and the world. He refuses to be “held down” any longer.
The Authority, naturally, finds this hilarious. Triple H, in his weekly poke at the Twitter-verse, asks if Ziggler has been dropped on his head one too many times, daring to come in here like this. But, being in a good mood (with Cena out of the picture), he sets up Ziggler vs. Kane for that night. Ziggler, despite the size and experience advantage, picks up the win.
Random aside: Did I mention in my booking, Cena takes a few months off to sell Lesnar’s beatdown? You’re welcome.
The next week, Ziggler appears again, insisting on another match. This week, it is Rollins who is set up against Dolph. As Dolph gets ready for his match, he is approached by a handful of lower-card talent (Woods, Kofi and Big E was my original idea, but you could insert anyone who isn’t where they should be). “You’re fighting our fight,” they tell him, “Fighting for the guys who The Authority won’t let through the glass ceiling. We got your back.”
Despite having his security team with him (wait, friends, your patience will be rewarded), Ziggler once again is victorious, thanks to the assistance of those lower card guys I just mentioned.
The next week, Triple H addresses Ziggler personally, talking about the “little troupe of misfits” he seems to be acquiring. (Which, as we see backstage, has now nearly grown to the entire undercard of the roster.) Despite the dig, HHH does praise Ziggler for taking the ball and running with it, unlike some people he knows, looking dubiously at Orton (who lost to Reigns at Summer Slam.) Maybe Ziggler does deserve a title shot, muses the COO. Orton, naturally, flies into a frenzy, challenging Ziggler to a match at Night of Champions.
Night of Champions: Dolph Ziggler vs. Randy Orton
Protectors of the Briefcase / Tag Team Dominance
During the lumberjack match, Big Show and Mark Henry, who had been scaring the bejesus out of Rollins each time he rolled out of the ring, turn heel, attacking Ambrose and helping Rollins pick up the victory. (Also giving Ambrose an out to go become a movie star)
It is revealed on Monday that Big Show and Mark Henry are the newest members of The Authority, had their services bought by Rollins and Triple H in exchange for a tag team title match on RAW. The Usos, though blessed with that all-powerful “Twin Magic”, basically are steamrolled in quick succession, giving the WWE a new dominant pair of Tag Team Champions.
Rollins and the champs come out to the ring the following week (before the Rollins / Ziggler match) to gloat at all of their success, only to be interrupted, oddly enough, by The Wyatt Family. While not officially making a face turn, Bray and his boys do take issue with the “World’s Biggest Tag Team” for taking ‘their titles’, and Bray accuses Rollins of not being man enough to handle his problems on his own, as Bray did by defeating Jericho solo at Summer Slam.
We see a six man tag the following week, and we now have two matches scheduled for our next PPV.
Night of Champions: Big Show and Mark Henry vs. The Wyatt Family (Tag belts)
Bray Wyatt vs. Seth Rollins
(Note: Will move more quickly through the last few, as I don’t want this to become ridiculous in length)
Reign’s Next Roadblock
Reigns comes out following his victory over Orton at Summer Slam to call out The Authority, basically saying he’s toppled every single member, so what’s next? (With a ‘Believe that!’ thrown in for good measure). Triple H comes onto the Titantron and sets up a rematch with Orton for that night. After beating Orton again (this time by DQ), Triple H comes out to say “Oh wait, I forgot. There’s still one more member of the Authority you haven’t beat.” Everyone expects it to be Triple H himself, but then Batista’s music hits, and the Animal runs to the ring and destroys Reigns, starting off their feud.
Night of Champions: Roman Reigns vs. Batista
International Take-Over / Mid-Card Title Relevance
Despite having lost his flag match to Jack Swagger, Rusev’s post-match beatdown assured us we hadn’t seen the last of the Bulgarian Brute. On RAW, Lana comes out and sets their sights on a new target; the United States Championship. Never being one to back down from a fight (at least on camera), Sheamus comes out and accepts the challenge, and we have a US title match on our hands.
During the match, Sheamus is attacked by Cesaro, who seems to have aligned himself with Rusev and Lana. Moving gracefully away from all the pro-Russian banter, this new pairing of “International Mercenaries” (the name needs some work, I grant you) is hungry for respect and power in the WWE. While Rusev continues to go after the US title, Cesaro begins issuing open challenges to anyone. Being relegated to pre-show status for Summer Slam was an insult, and he’s going to force the WWE to notice him.
Meanwhile, The Miz, bragging about being able to hold onto his belt post-Summer Slam, has been getting into it with Jack Swagger. According to Zeb Colter, Miz’s Hollywood lifestyle and cowardly antics are entirely un-American, and its time to honor that title (giving opportunities to promote the history and relevance of the title) by putting it around the waist of a real hero.
Having been beating his opponents (sometimes 2 at a time), Cesaro’s joins this group, declaring himself the rightful heir to the IC title. Zeb can use Cesaro’s ‘betrayal’ of their team as fodder, while Miz can try to set his two opponents against each other and weasel out of the way.
As these three argue, Bo Dallas comes out, saying he’s tired of hearing all this hostility, especially when everyone knows that the real IC champion just has to . . . You guessed it. . . Bo-lieve! I imagine this would be where everyone else beats down Bo, but he winds up in the mix regardless.
Night of Champions: Rusev vs. Sheamus (US title)
Miz vs. Cesaro vs. Swagger vs. Bo Dallas (IC title)
Oh Yeah, the Diva’s Title
Paige beats AJ. Brie beats Steph.
Night of Champions: Brie Bella vs. Paige (Diva’s Title)
Just for Fun: Let’s do the Pre-show, too
The Uso’s vs. The Dust Brothers vs. RybAxel vs. Kofi / Big E for #1 contenders to tag titles.