Sunday, December 6, 2015

Random Network Reviews: Night of Champions 2014

Night of Champions 2014
September 21st, 2014 | Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee | Attendance: 12,000

Coming off of a SummerSlam that saw Brock Lesnar win the WWE World Heavyweight Title, Night of Champions really needed to big. Not only because SummerSlam was a big deal, but because some of the WWE Network subscriptions were coming up and a big show was crucial for the renewals. Also of note on this show was that a big match between former Shield members Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins was booked, only for Reigns to be forced to have emergency surgery and miss this show and about four months.

Normally I would have reviewed the Kickoff Show but there were no matches on it. Instead, it was just an edition of the Peep Show so I’ll jump straight into the actual PPV. The opening video package is cool as it discusses the importance of the top title in the business, before we quickly see every current champion in the company.

WWE Tag Team Championship
The Usos (c) vs. Goldust and Stardust

The Usos are in the midst of a near seven month reign with the belts and have been having good to great matches consistently. After being excellent in 2013, the Brotherhood now turned into Stardust and Goldust here. The Usos get in the first cool move, doing an assisted EDDIE GILBERT HOT SHOT! Both teams have worked as faces for about a year but the Dust Brothers are on a fresh heel turn, which they show off by being aggressive. In an attack a few weeks ago, Jey Uso’s leg was kayfabe injured and it is smartly brought into play. An Uso leaps off the guardrail onto Stardust but runs into a Randy Orton like snap powerslam outside from Goldust. Surprisingly, the heels are working over Jimmy even though he’s not the injured one. This is some good old fashioned tag formula. Jimmy finally gets a nice enziguri in to make the hot tag to Jey. He comes in to show turnabout is fair play by targeting Stardust’s leg. Jimmy flies out onto Goldust, prompting a “that’s Uso crazy” comment from Michael Cole. I hate Michael Cole. Samoan Drop and Umaga running ass attack from Jey but Stardust comes back with Dark Matter. How great is it that Cody changed gimmicks and his moveset with it? He ties Jey up in the ropes like he’s Andre the Giant and slaps him with his glove like this is a cartoon. In a really cool spot, Jey leaps out onto Stardust just as Goldust front flips off the apron onto Jimmy. That DDP Yoga really works doesn’t it Goldust? Jey goes for a splash on Stardust, but he gets the knees up and rolls him up with a handful of tights to win.

Winners and New WWE Tag Team Champions: Goldust and Stardust in 12:49
At the time, this was still a relatively fresh match that hadn’t been beaten to death. They used tag formula very well and these are two of the better, if not best, tag teams that the WWE had at the time. I wish the finish was more definitive and that the leg injury came into play for it but still a really good match. ***¼

Byron Saxton interviews Dolph Ziggler and his stunt double, R-Ziggler. Dolph is like, the perfect choice for the Intercontinental Title and the R-Ziggler stuff was pretty funny.

WWE United States Championship
Sheamus (c) vs. Cesaro

At Payback, these two had a damn good match but this time, there is no longer Paul Heyman at ringside for Cesaro. They begin trying to feel each other out, but when Cesaro doesn’t give a clean break, instead slapping Sheamus, it breaks down into a fight. Sheamus hits the Finlay roll before they just go back to punching each other. After falling outside, Sheamus is back in with a slingshot shoulder block. He goes up top only to be knocked outside with a huge uppercut. Cesaro moves to wear down Sheamus, which makes sense here. We get stiff uppercuts and a clothesline from Cesaro before Sheamus hits the Irish Curse backbreaker twice. Sheamus’ ten beats of Bodhran is countered for the first time I think. Every single counter, strike or move has been impactful. Sheamus slams Cesaro from the top for two. Cesaro comes back with the popup uppercut, which is extra impressive considering Sheamus’ size. Cesaro ducks a Brogue Kick and hits some big moves. He goes for the Neutralizer but Sheamus counters with a backdrop. Cesaro lands on his feet though and then reverses a Brogue Kick into the fucking Alpamare Waterslide for a very close near fall. He’s pissed now and just slaps the taste out of Sheamus’ mouth like 15 times! Cesaro boots him into the corner, still just firing away. Sheamus shoves him off and screams for more so Cesaro brings more. The official pulls Cesaro back, opening the door for a Brogue Kick to retain.

Winner and Still WWE United States Champion: Sheamus in 13:06
When it comes to these two, I want to see them beat the hell out of each other and that’s exactly what we got here. They just went balls to the wall. Everything was hard hitting and impactful. The counters and near falls were great. Even the finish, which seemed slightly heelish by Sheamus, kept Cesaro strong as it was a tiny opening. A severely underrated bout. ****

Mark Henry is backstage prepping for his match tonight when Big Show comes up to him and hypes him up. He’s fighting for ‘MURICA! Then Florida Georgia Line comes to join commentary.

WWE Intercontinental Championship
Dolph Ziggler (c) w/ R-Ziggler vs. The Miz w/ Damien Mizdow

At Battleground two months prior, Miz won the IC Title in a battle royal, last eliminating Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler won the title from Miz to open SummerSlam. It’s hard to concentrate and enjoy the match when JBL and commentary just reel off Florida Georgia Line’s short list of accomplishments. Ziggler hits the heart attack series of elbows which Miz follows with a big boot. As Miz works over Ziggler, commentary starts talking about Miz’s pets. Is anyone watching the match? Ziggler gets fired up, hitting a corner splash but his Famasser is blocked, only for him to turn that into a rollup for two. When things go outside, Mizdow gets involved and badmouths the country duo until they strike him. R-Ziggler chases him off as Ziggler superkicks Miz. Miz comes back with the figure four but Ziggler gets the ropes. As Dolph calls for the Zig Zag, Mizdow reappears to distract him. Miz uses that rollup Ziggler with a handful to tights to reclaim the gold.

Winner and New WWE Intercontinental Champion: The Miz in 9:20
They’ve had better matches for sure. I enjoyed their work at SummerSlam but this didn’t click as well which is a shame since they usually have good chemistry. Commentary was a major distraction and annoyance, while the finish is another issue because we just saw a cheap rollup two matches ago. **

We are reminded of Roman Reigns’ emergency surgery that caused him to miss tonight’s show. Seth Rollins comes out and runs down Roman Reigns, saying surgery is no excuse. He gives him until the count of ten to show up, and he obviously doesn’t, so Rollins gets the forfeit victory. Knowing that the fans paid to see him, Seth brings up how much of an opportunist he is, looking at his briefcase. He issues an open challenge, which never goes well. On the titantron, we see a taxi pull up and A WILD DEAN AMBROSE appears! He hadn’t been on TV in about a month after Rollins Curb Stomped him through cinder blocks. They brawl throughout the arena and Ambrose breaks through security and more to get his hands on Rollins. This would set the stage for their Hell in a Cell match at the next PPV. 

Mark Henry vs. Rusev w/ Lana
Lillian Garcia sings the National Anthem before the bell in a ridiculously over the top show of patriotism. Mark Henry even cries during it. I loathe anti-American gimmicks, not because I’m American but because it is pure lazy booking. I do enjoy Rusev’s ring work though. Henry stands toe to toe with Rusev, not allowing him to get out of the blocks. When he does take control, he throws Henry into the steel steps. He works over Henry’s back in dull fashion for a while before going for the Accolade. Henry powers out though, using the power of America. He hits the World’s Strongest Slam as the announcers are completely unbiased. Like a genius, Rusev rolls out of the ring to avoid the pin. He superkicks Henry from the outside, before entering and winning with the Accolade.

Winner: Rusev in 8:17
Over the course of the year, I really grew to like Rusev’s work but this was arguably his worst PPV showing. He tried and had some cool moments but Mark Henry, for all of his tears before the bell, did not look motivated. He moved at a snail’s pace, hurting things. 

Chris Jericho vs. Randy Orton
Want to know why these two are fighting? Because Randy Orton attacked Chris Jericho two weeks prior simply because “it was the Season Premiere of Raw.” There went any interest I could have in this. Jericho sends Orton outside and throws him into the steel steps. You can blatantly see Jericho call spots here. Orton crotches Jericho up top, following with a superplex. He moves to a chinlock spot but after Jericho gets out, he moves to his beautiful powerslam. It’s seriously one of the best in wrestling history. Jericho comes back with a double axe handle but the crowd doesn’t really seem to care. Lionsault attempt misses right into Orton’s signature backbreaker. He does end up hitting the Lionsault right after, only for a near fall. The Walls of Jericho get blocked shortly before Orton goes for the punt. I liked commentary bringing up how Orton has done this to Jericho in the past, but he usually only busts it out for big feuds, which this is not. Jericho dodges and locks in the Walls of Jericho. Orton gets out but when he stalks for the RKO, Jericho nails the Codebreaker from out of nowhere for two. Out of desperation, Jericho goes up top and shouts for Orton to get up. As I suspected, it leads to a mid-air RKO that finishes this thing.

Winner: Randy Orton in 16:23
Technically, this was a good match. It was sound, went back and forth, had false finishes and entertained. The problem is that it was just there. The fact that there was no real rhyme or reason behind this makes it easily forgettable and meant that there wasn’t really a hot crowd. ***

The video package that we get for the upcoming Divas Championship match is really good and makes you really feel like it was Paige’s time to shine and get a good run with the belt. Byron Saxton interviews Brie Bella about the upcoming match. It’s not very good since Brie sucks on the mic.

WWE Divas Championship
Paige (c) vs. AJ Lee vs. Nikki Bella

With Paige and Nikki Bella being heels, they both go after AJ, but it fails. AJ sends Paige outside and takes down Nikki with a head scissors. Nikki shows off her power by swinging AJ around whilst in a sleeper. Paige comes back in as Nikki applies a decent looking armbar. She loves that move, but it’s odd as her finisher targets the back. They continue a trend of knocking one girl out while two others fight which is usual in most triple threat matches. Nikki was just starting to get comfortable as a heel, a role she would end up being really good in. Paige kicks her out of the ring before turning to AJ and caressing her. They were playing a near lesbian storyline at times. When AJ shoves her off, Paige gets aggressive with some headbutts. She takes AJ to the apron and just reels off knee strikes. Nikki now comes back as poor AJ is taking a beating. Nikki goes for a swinging slam but AJ counters into the Black Widow. Paige saves this by kicking both girls. Paige takes AJ up top for a superplex, so Nikki powerbombs her down in a cool tower of doom spot. Nikki takes out Paige with the aptly named Rack Attack before taking a SERIOUS back bump to the outside. AJ slams her from the apron and I give Nikki tons of props for taking that. AJ locks the Black Widow on Paige, who has countered it a bunch during their rivalry. She nearly does it here too, but AJ perseveres and Paige taps out.

Winner and New WWE Divas Champion: AJ Lee in 8:42
Outside of NXT, this was the WWE women’s match of the year. Something about AJ/Paige didn’t click the way I had hoped, but the addition of Nikki Bella was just what they needed. This never slowed and had the storytelling factor of the “frenemy” angle between AJ and Paige. The only real issue was that AJ won when she didn’t need to. The other two girls could have benefitted from it much more. ***¼

The month prior, Brock Lesnar won the WWE Title from John Cena in a dominating performance. In a 16 minute match, Cena got just over a minute of offense, was on the met for eleven minutes, Brock hit 69 strikes, 16 German suplexes and more.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Brock Lesnar (c) w/ Paul Heyman vs. John Cena

Brock Lesnar looks for a repeat of SummerSlam as she attacks John Cena instantly. He tries his first German but Cena blocks and hits the Attitude Adjustment. It only earns a one count though, giving the fans a quick false finish. Cena goes to attack, only to get put in the Kimura. Cena reaches the ropes, so Brock just starts to pummel him. As he hits the first German, he starts jumping around in classic Brock fashion. Cena fires away only to eat another German. He channels Eddie Guerrero with a trio of vertical suplexes. He just continues to punish Cena at every turn. Every single time Cena does something, Brock has an answer. Cena never gives up though, continuing to fight back through yet another German. Cena busts out his second AA from out of nowhere for a near fall. He then counters an F5 into the STF! Lesnar counters the poorly executed move into the Kimura but Cena doesn’t fade, getting to his feet with Brock to break it. Cena hits a third AA and goes right into the STF again. He reaches the ropes twice, only for Cena to pull him away each time. Brock won’t tap so Cena does a FOURTH AA only for Seth Rollins to appear and strike him with the Money in the Bank briefcase!

Winner via disqualification: John Cena in 14:21
While it’s not on the level of their SummerSlam match, this told a good story. John Cena was the resilient challenger that tried to do everything in his power to win. Brock is phenomenal in his current role, making this enjoyable. ***¾ 

Seth Rollins knocks John Cena out of the ring and plants Brock Lesnar with a fantastic Curb Stomp. Brock sells that far better than Cena ever does. Seth tries to cash in, only for Cena to cock block him and stop it from happening. Even Brock is upset at Cena being a dick and hits him with an F5.

Overall: 7.5/10; Very good. Here is an example of a show that was better than advertised. The build for most of these matches wasn’t great but for the most part, they delivered. Only one thing was under two stars and only the Intercontinental Title match was really disappointing. We got an entertaining main event, an old school tag opener, a damn good women’s match and a severely underrated, hard hitting bout between Sheamus and Cesaro that is must see. My next “Random Network Review” looks like it will be from the Old School Vault on 3/16/97!