By Sawyer Paul.
Professional wrestling and the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) occupy a strange space in our culture. Its flagship show, Monday Night Raw, is a ratings juggernaut every week, yet isn’t covered at pop culture websites the way a series like The Big Bang Theory is. Wrestling is often touted as a spectacle for children, yet the demographic of the WWE audience is huge; as the company’s corporate profile boasts, its TV shows reach 15 million weekly viewers in the United States. Wrestling is at once a form of low art, crafting stories in broad strokes with little nuance, and a complex morality tale that muses on many themes tackled by TVs best dramas: family, love, honesty, trust, betrayal, friendship. It’s sport, it’s entertainment, it’s business. And it’s a lot of fun.
If Night of Champions was an introduction to wrestling by WWE, Kyle Fowle’s article at the AV Club is its primer.
A good intro can do a lot. In theatre, the old cliché goes that people often only remember the entrance and exit. In wrestling, the same rings true, but there’s an emphasis on the result. But Night of Champions was a night of entrances. If you focus on the conclusions, you’ll leave the table hungry. That’s partially due to just what time of the year it is, but mostly due to WWE investing in long-term stories while retaining a product model built for a more impulsive era. Surely they don’t need to do 12 special events a year anymore. They either have your $9.99 or they don’t.
Focus on the endings and you’ll see the opposite of Summerslam, a cavalcade of spinning wheels, meaningless title switches, run-ins, and the same old, same old. But WWE put more work into the beginnings of things here that I’m going to dedicate the entire column to them.
I know who Paige is now. I don’t know everything, but that’s okay. You’re not supposed to know everything about a character this young (irrelevant here is her real age). But before night of champions, I didn’t. I got that she was a fiery competitor who was always a villain but took some time to show it. But now I know her as she is. I know because they finally gave her a microphone and a light, and let her talk over video of her opponents. WWE is unfathomably guilty of simply going “look, we also have women” that they barely let them become fully realized. AJ Lee has become so through grit. Nikki (and many others) had to go get a different show to be able to speak. Paige is now there. Watch the introduction video to the Divas Title match, and you’ll finally know her, too.
WWE positioned Night of Champions as the first wrestling show. First of the calendar? Maybe. Maybe the stories presented and continued will reach a peak around April, but I don’t think any will survive October. No, Night of Champions was a first wrestling show in that it was presented as an Introduction. If you’re showing someone what WWE is all about, this is the first show. Yeah, it’s not the best. But showing people the very best old wrestling right away has never been wise. It is unfair. Wrestling can’t sustain its highs, and isn’t designed to. Wrestling, like soap, is meant to sulk along for great stretches, it’s adorned wondering what month it was, hoping for the next crack of true romance and blood.
Night of Champions presented the various macguffins in fine, vainglorious fashion. Look at those intro videos, keynote transitions of nostalgia porn. I fell for it. Each belt is worth more having been made the town halo. This isn’t a starting point so much as a reminder. We do this because of this. Is it a good reason? Is a weird lineage enough to justify a weird existence?
One offshoot of those title videos is that they contained no wrestlers on the current show. All of WWE’s legendary performers are now firmly entrenched in the past. You know WWE is in a weird spot when Goldust is the only veteran left on the active roster, but not even Lesnar or Cena seem like they belong in those videos yet. This WWE is a new one. You may not necessarily feel like WWE is in the midst of a new generation, but they sure do.
I generally don’t care about titles, but there’s something about videos about titles that really gets me. Night of Champions is often a disappointing show, but they also often have boss as hell intro videos. 2010’s is still the pinnacle of macguffin promos, but this one came close. This was the coming out party for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Sure, we’d seen it, but this was WWE making an Apple product demo. I almost expected HHH to sit in a white room talking in dulcet tones about its chamfered edges. They should play this video on the shop site, and then just make you buy a replica. Finally, finally, the greatest trophy in fake sports looks beautiful, at least while engulfed in flames and hammers.
It seems worthless to talk about the results about an intro show. This show was built to make you watch the next show (ad infinitum), whether that be for free on cable or again on the network. Twice, the announcers sold the network over PPV in classless, glib fashion. “Folks, if you paid $54.95, you’re an idiot,” Michael Cole inferred. It’s as if they want to lose all their PPV licenses. But the message is clear: We have a platform, and you should get on. There’ll be more like this. You like this, right? This? Yeah, this. This show. This is what you want. We can only do Wrestlemania XXX once, but Night of Champions 2014? This is just another day at the office.
Still, there was one debut on the show: Seth Rollins. Sure, Seth has been wrestling on WWE television since autumn 2012, and, sure, we know who he is and what he is about. Nothing about Seth Rollins up until this event, however, indicated that he had the ability to breath the same air as Brock Lesnar. To those of us who have known Seth for many years (under a different name), we saw his rise in WWE almost as curious as Bryan, or Punk. Basically, Ring of Honor guys don’t seem like they’d be trading blows with WWE’s main event scene, and yet it’s becoming more a rule than exception. Rollins entered the big show to ruin it and none of us thought twice. Sure, he’s a cowardly villain, but he still dropped Lesnar with his finisher, and it worked like wrestling moves should. Lesnar didn’t brush it off and swat Rollins to death like he very well could have. Rollins found purchase.
I wanted to somehow key in that I started a new job this week, and connect it to how Night of Champions felt like a beginning. It did, but I don’t want to compare it to my new gig, because my new job doesn’t have meaningless Randy Orton matches. My life is better lately than whatever analogue I can find in WWE, which is good, but it really wasn’t for a long time and wrestling helped me through it. I owe a lot to wrestling, to WWE, to you for reading me and supporting me through it. I can tell what WWE was trying to do with Night of Champions. They can’t rely on us old guys forever. They need to get some new people on board, maybe some folks who aren’t yet held together with duct tape and hope.
Basically, as long as Dean Ambrose is allowed to do his thing, WWE will be in a good spot. RAW will be watchable. Puppies will bring you blooming flowers, and gorgeous people of your desired sexual orientation will make you breakfast in the morning.
$5,500 doesn’t seem like that much to pay for what would truly be the experience of a lifetime as a wrestling fan.
I could be a biased observer given that Chikara is my favorite promotion of all-time, but the reason is because I have yet to be disappointed with an entire show that the company has produced.
The only review of Chikara shows you ever need.
Best: The Best Sequence In A WWE Match This Year
Everything after the Irish Curse backbreakers was unreal, but the best part is when Cesaro goes for a Neutralizer. Sheamus counters with a backdrop, but Cesaro is SWISS NINJA JESUS and lands on his feet. He hits the ropes, they build up some momentum and Sheamus goes for the Brogue Kick. Without missing a step, Cesaro ducks it, catches him mid-kick and Alpamare Waterslides him for a nearfall. My heart’s going BOOM BOOM BOOM.
Looks like a lot of people liked Cesaro vs Sheamus.
If one were to watch WWE pay-per-views, and ONLY the PPVs, then Night of Champions stands as a transitional episode in a slate of 12 events over the course of a calendar year.
As the results go, absolutely. Treading water, killing time.
The official one.
Lots of cool stats in there, but I’ll repeat it over and over: analysing wins and losses in wrestling is as useful as reading tea leaves. Amount of matches is almost as useless. Harrington essentially proves this: guys with the most matches (and often most wins) don’t at all correlate to who you’d call the stars of 2014. Guy with the most singles matches? Damien Sandow.
The only correlation to stardom I find completely true is 100% winrate, which only goes to two people on the main roster: Brock Lesnar and Stephanie McMahon.
Who in the blue hell is this list for?