WWE brings us their September offering, Night of Champions. Most of the titles will be defended tonight, with the main event featuring the defense of the WWE Championship. Tonight's card looks like this:
- Tag Team Turmoil: The Prime Time Players vs. The Real Americans (Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro) vs. The Uso Brothers vs. Tons of Funk vs. 3MB; Winner faces Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns (The Shield) later in the show for the Tag Team Championship
- AJ Lee (c) vs. Natalya vs. Naomi vs. Brie Bella; WWE Divas Championship
- Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns (The Shield, c) vs. the winner of Tag Team Turmoil; WWE Tag Team Championship
- Dean Ambrose (The Shield, c) vs. Dolph Ziggler; WWE United States Championship
- CM Punk vs. Curtis Axel and Paul Heyman; Handicap Elimination Match, Intercontinental Championship NOT on the line
- Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Rob Van Dam, World Heavyweight Championship
- Randy Orton (c) vs. Daniel Bryan; WWE Championship
Show live from the Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI
Josh Mathews welcomes us and says the "fate and future of WWE will be determined tonight" as they show fans filing in. Alex Riley, Booker T, and Santino Marella are the rest of the panel for this show.
Booker says he's looking forward to the WWE Championship, saying "his boy" Daniel Bryan got a big win in June. He wants to see if Bryan can step up tonight and take a big one. Marella is looking forward to the match between CM Punk and Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel. Riley thinks the winner of Tag Team Turmoil will upset the Shield later on the show.
The panel discusses the Tag Team Turmoil match. Riley says that The Usos have chemistry and match up well with the Shield, but Booker T predicts that the Prime Time Players will be the team to move on.
Mathews feeds it to Renee Young in the "Social Media Lounge." She shills some polls that will be featured on WWE.com throughout the night. With the tag team turmoil match coming up soon, they open the poll for the best tag team champions of all time.
Paul Heyman is sitting on a cart of some sort. He is encountered by Brad Maddox and he chastises him for signing him up for the match tonight against CM Punk. He says Punk will slaughter him and massacre him in the middle of Maddox's ring...unless, if CM Punk gets past Axel, and Heyman punches the official. Maddox says it won't make sense, but Heyman reminds him that it's an instant disqualification and any action by Punk after the bell makes it a felonious assault.
Maddox ponders this. He responds by making the match a no-disqualification affair.
This is a good sell, really because they're going out of their way to make sure it seems like Punk will get his hands on Heyman.
Back to the panel. They discuss the match between Alberto Del Rio and Rob Van Dam. Riley brings up the fact that RVD is close to his hometown and he has Ricardo (Alberto's "playbook") in his back pocket. They put over how Ricardo can help RVD win. Mathews feeds it to the ringside commentary team - JBL, Jerry Lawler, and Michael Cole.
Match #1 - Tag Team Turmoil, 3MB vs. Tons of Funk vs. The Real Americans vs. THe Prime Time Players vs The Usos; Winner faces The Shield later in the PPV
It's McIntryre and Slater for 3MB and they're the first team out. Tons of Funk is the first opponent. McIntryre does a flip over the ropes onto Tensai at ringside and takes an awkward landing. He seemed alright though. After a short time later, Tensai rolls McIntryre up to send 3MB to the showers.
The Real Americans are next out. They put the boots to Tensai then do their "We the People" thing. We then get a mid-match commercial for the Daniel Bryan/Randy Orton match. After a short period of action, Jack Swagger makes Brodus tap to the Patriot Lock.
The Usos are next, and they start with a flurry. Both Usos hit aerial moves on the Real Americans then the action moves back inside. The action slows down momentarily and they feed it into a commercial that sells the Punk/Heyman match.
Back live, one of the Usos tries for a top rope move. He leaps, but Swagger ducks out of the way and is able to lock on the Patriot Lock to get a second submission win.
The Prime Time Players are the last team out. Swagger catches the Patriot Lock on Young quickly but Young counters out. Swagger gets flipped to the corner, and he bounces back into Young. Young hits his finisher on Swagger to get the win.
Winner - The Prime Time Players to face the Shield later for the Tag Team Championship
Swagger got a lot of shine here and I'm surprised by that. The Real Americans as a team got a little momentum out of that as well. I was not surprised that the PTP are going on to face the Shield later though. A good rapid fire gauntlet-style match to kick the show off.
Cole feeds it back to the panel. Mathews talks about the match between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton, calling Orton the hand picked face of WWE. He asks if Bryan can upset Orton and become the face of WWE with the deck stacked against him.
Mathews asks for predictions. Riley and Santino take Orton, Booker takes Bryan. Riley puts over that Orton really doesn't need the "machine" behind him but it doesn't hurt. That closes out the pre-show.
Night of Champions PPV
We get a narrated video package of black and white photos of past champions. The narrator speaks about what it means to be a champion.
This was great, but it'd have been nice to see this happen on TV leading into the pay per view. You know, sell the pay per view on free TV kind of stuff...
We get a pyro shot and the announcers check back in to welcome us to the event. Cole calls this a night to celebrate those who are the best. Justin Roberts introduces Triple H who got some boos and a few groans, but certainly not nuclear heat given his portrayal on TV of late.
He welcomes the fans to Night of Champions, which draws a few cheers. He says he believes fans want what he wants from the main event. He says to show that he isn't as villainous as he's portrayed, there will be no interference in the main event. Not by Big Show, not by the Shield, not by anyone.
Again, this would have been nice to have in the build to the show...
Triple H pulls out the DX "Are you ready..." line. Paul Heyman interrupts though. He and Curtis Axel walk to the ring. Heyman explains that he's been trying to reach Hunter all week and didn't want to conduct this business in public. He has a serious problem with what Hunter feels is best for business.
Hunter says Heyman looks terrible and asks him when he showered or slept last. Heyman gets worked up but calms down and apologizes. He kisses up a bit before saying Hunter made a serious error in judgment by putting him in the ring with Punk. The fans chant for Punk. Heyman says Punk wants to hurt him to the point that he won't be seen in WWE again.
Heyman begs for the match to be canceled. Hunter says that Heyman made some good points and asks if it has anything to do with the no-DQ stipulation. "Yes" is the answer from Heyman. Hunter says he has nothing to fear, because he doesn't have to tag in if he doesn't want to. He says if Heyman believes in Axel, then there shouldn't be an issue. "You do believe in Curtis Axel, don't you?"
Heyman doesn't answer. "Is there no more honor among thieves?" Heyman says and Hunter says the match is still on. Axel grabs the mic and asks if Hunter thinks it's funny. Axel asks what's wrong with Hunter and recalls his story of becoming a Heyman Guy and beating Hunter on Raw on May 20. Trips marvels that Axel remembers the date.
Hunter cautions Axel to not poke the bear then recalls that all championships are supposed to be defended at this event. He tells Axel he will defend the Intercontinental Championship against the first man he runs into backstage. He tells Axel to wait as he heads off to find that man and the match will be next. Heyman asks Axel off mic what he said after saying his match would be fought under protest.
Match #1 - Curtis Axel (c, w/Paul Heyman) vs. Kofi Kingston; Intercontinental Championship
Axel hits a nice drop kick, but Kofi comes back with a dive from the top rope to Axel on the floor. Axel cuts off Kofi's run of offense by tripping him up on the ropes.
Kingston goes on another run and we're about 10 minutes in now. He tries Trouble in Paradise, but Axel ducks and comes back with shoulder blocks. Kofi tries a springboard move, but Axel hits him with another good drop kick on the way down and nets a good near fall. Heyman cringes. The announce team talks about how the longer this match goes, it puts Axel and Heyman at even more of a disadvantage for the later affair with Punk.
Kofi hits the SOS and covers, getting a good near fall. Heyman freaks out over that one. Axel catches Kofi in the corner a bit later with an electric chair, but instead drops him across the ropes throat first. Axel hits his swinging neckbreaker as a follow up to get the win. Heyman calms down and enters the ring to congratulate him.
Winner - Curtis Axel to retain the Intercontinental Championship
A good unscheduled match. Axel looked good, as did Kofi. Started off a bit slow, but it finished well. Heyman was the star with his facial expressions and antics selling the action in the ring.
Rob Van Dam and Ricardo talk about the match later against Alberto Del Rio. RVD asks if Ricardo is okay, since his arm is in a sling. Ricardo says he's fine, then they work on their Spanish a bit. They end with the "R-V-D" routine.
Obvious heel turn is obvious.
AJ encounters some of the non-Total Divas Divas and says they need to prove who the real Divas are on the roster. Layla, Aksana, and Alicia Fox are the ones she encountered and they're not on board. Alicia says they're done helping AJ and leaves, along with Aksana. AJ yells after them. Layla is left there, and they talk briefly but Layla says she has somewhere to be and bails.
The announce team resets things then Cole mentions the Original Sheik, who is from Detroit.
No one, and I mean no one, is as charismatic on Twitter as The Iron Sheik though. He's a riot.
Match #2 - AJ (c) vs. Natalya vs. Naomi vs. Brie Bella; WWE Divas Championship fought under Fatal Four-Way rules
Brie has on rainbow themed tights. I wonder if there was a fan vote for that as well?
AJ tries to run, but the other three catch her and gang up on her, throwing AJ into the guardrail. They work back to the ring and Brie throws AJ back out, then clotheslines the other two ladies.
Naomi tries a cross body block but overshoots it. Things break down and go crazy, and as we come out of that chaos Natalya manages to lock both Brie and Naomi in the Sharpshooter. AJ breaks that up with a kick to Natalya's head then locks her in the Black Widow for the submission win.
Winner - AJ to retain the Divas Championship
The match was fine, and the ladies worked hard. There were some pretty clumsy moments but it exceeded my personal expectations from what I saw on paper.
They air an ad for O'Reilly Auto Parts.
The gearhead in me appreciated that, and I get their the lead sponsor and all...but...
The announcers feed it to the pre-show panel, and they talk about the World Heavyweight Championship match that's up next. As they go back to the announcers, Lawler mocks the panel members.
Match #3 - Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Rob Van Dam (w/Ricardo Rodriguez); World Heavyweight Championship
No intro from Rodriguez for this one as it goes right into Van Dam's music. Good call. Ring introductions done old-school in the ring for this title match.
RVD tries Rolling Thunder, but Del Rio rolls away before the splash. Del Rio comes back with a Backstabber for two. Del Rio tries a reverse superplex a bit later, but RVD elbows his way out and hits a somersault from the top. Del Rio comes right back and hits a backbreaker.
About 11 minutes in, Del Rio eats a split-legged moonsault from RVD for two. The crowd's kind of flat so far, but Ricardo gets them going with an RVD chant. Del Rio hits an armbreaker into a kneeling superkick that shuts them back up. Del Rio gets two out of that.
RVD comes back with the Five Star Frog Splash but takes Del Rio's knees. Del Rio locks in the Cross Arm Breaker and the fans rally for RVD. RVD struggles but does eventually get to the ropes.
Del Rio doesn't give up though, and ges himself disqualified by not breaking by five. Del Rio continues to work on RVD after the bell and teases a chair shot, but Ricardo stops him. RVD comes back and roughs up Del Rio then hits him with the Van Terminator with Ricardo holding the chair for him.
Winner - Rob Van Dam by disqualification, Alberto Del Rio retains the title.
Weak, weak finish. I guess that explains why we saw it so early in the night. I expect to see this feud run to Hell in a Cell and hopefully we'll see better finishes.
Paul Heyman is talking to Curtis Axel, and he says he won't be around to help him if he's left in the ring with Punk. Heyman tells Axel he made Triple H his enemy, but Heyman can fix that if he's still around. "I won't be here if I'm left alone with CM Punk." Axel asks Heyman if he believes him him and Heyman says he has since day one. "And tonight I need you to believe in yourself." Heyman closes.
We get the results of the WWE "Best World Heavyweight Champion" poll that Booker T had won over the likes of Undertaker, Ric Flair, and Edge.
Shoot me. Now.
Triple H explains to Randy Orton why he opted for no interference in the title match. He says he wants to be sure he made the right choice in picking Orton to be the face of WWE. Orton simply says "you did."
Match #4 - The Miz vs. Fandango (w/Summer Rae)
This is another impromptu match not already on the card.
This is pretty forgettable. After about eight minutes, Miz slaps the Figure Four on and got Fandango to tap out. Lawler says he tapped out so fast because Fandango didn't want anything bad happening to his legs.
Winner - The Miz
Yes, this was dreadful. Not sure why, and I'm just hoping it's the end of whatever Miz and Fandango are doing so they can move both on to something that might matter more.
We get an ad for WWE's involvement with the Armed Forces, and Lilian Garcia thanks the National Guard as they show members of the various services in the crowd. The fans chant "USA" and Lawler sends greetings to his girlfriend's brother, who is serving in Saudi Arabia.
We get a video package for the story between CM Punk, Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel.
Match #5 - CM Punk vs. Curtis Axel and Paul Heyman; No Disqualification Handicap Elimination Match
Punk comes out with a kendo stick in hand. He yells "time to die!" as he heads for the ring.
Axel and Punk start things off, both with kendo sticks. Punk takes the early advantage and beats on Axel with the kendo stick. Punk rips his shirt off to some squeals from the ladies. There were a few men begging for him to throw it to them ...kinda sad.
Punk hits Heyman with a suicide dive then puts on JBL's hat. He throws Heyman into the ring and lines up to hit him with the stick. Heyman pleads for mercy and tells Punk he loves him. That gives Axel enough time to hit a low blow on Punk for the save and Heyman flees.
Punk mounts a comeback and starts to take control. He cues up a chair shot but takes a drop kick instead. The fans want tables now and Axel obliges. Heyman shadow-boxes at ringside. Axel sets up the table and tries a suplex but Punk counters. Axel counters back and suplexes Punk away from the table.
Punk goes up top for the elbow drop at 8 minutes in, but Axel rolls outside. Punk tries a suicide dive instead but takes a chair to the skull. That has fine written all over it. Axel lands some strikes but Heyman intervenes and tells Axel he's better than Punk. Axel hits Punk with the kento stick a few times. Punk grabs it and nails Axel with it, then hits him with the GTS. He follows up with the Anaconda Vice and Axel taps out.
Curtis Axel Eliminated
Heyman's eyes bulge and Punk stares at him. A brief chase ensues, then they end up in the ring. Heyman begs for mercy then hugs Punk, but Punk shoves him away and hits him with the kendo stick repeatedly. "Oh God, that hurts!" Heyman yells.
The fans want tables again, but Punk calls for the GTS. Punk decides to reach into his boots for handcuffs instead and he cuffs Heyman. "I'm tapping..." he says while the fans chant that this is awesome. Punk slams the kendo stick on Heyman repeatedly again (looks like he had padding or something on though...)
"I broke your heart? I'm going to break your face!" Punk says. Ryback hits the ring out of nowhere and spears Punk through the table, drawing Goldberg chants. Ryback puts Heyman on top of Punk to make the count. Ryback then picks Heyman up on his shoulders and takes him backstage. Trainers come out to check on Punk, but he blows them off and limps backstage on his own.
Winner - Curtis Axel and Paul Heyman
Bad-ass looking move by Ryback that got several replays. Heyman took a meaningful beating that the live crowd enjoyed. I am lukewarm on Ryback initially being with Heyman, but hey, it's another Heyman Guy for Punk to go through to get his ultimate revenge on Heyman, if that's the route this is going.
They run an ad for the next pay per view, "Battleground" and send it to the panel for a brief conversation.
Match #6 - Dean Ambrose (The Shield, c) vs. Dolph Ziggler; WWE United States Championship
Rollins and Reigns appear briefly with Ambrose, but he does go to the ring alone. Ambrose taunts Ziggler early, so he returns the favor by hitting his 10-elbow drop spot. While he's doing that, the commentators talk about Lawler's heart attack
In a recent interview, Lawler said that he believed the elbow drops may have contributed to his heart attack that night.
The two battle on the top rope, and Ambrose hits a superplex for a near fall. Ambrose goes back up top, but Ziggler jumps up and hits him with a "super X-Factor" for a near fall of his own. He follows up with 10 corner punches and a clothesline for another two count.
Ambrose rolls out, and Ziggler drags him back in. Ambrose catches Ziggler on the way in with a facebuster move assisted by a handful of hair. Ambrose rolls over into the cover for the win. Rollins and Reigns come out to celebrate with him.
Winner - Dean Ambrose to retain the US Championship
This never got out of first gear like some fans thought it might. Ziggler was emasculated on TV, and The Shield has lost some of their "cool factor" by being attached to Triple H as they are also.
They hype the results of the greatest US Champion poll, and Sting won that.
Next up, more Sting vs. Undertaker hype...
Match #7 - Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns (The Shield, c) vs. The Prime Time Players; WWE Tag Team Championship
Titus has a thing for the whistle while he and Young work on Rollins early. Eventually, The Shield isolates Darren. He gets the hot tag to Titus eventually and he hits Rollins with a big shoulder block that he sells well.
Titus teases a fallaway slam. Rollins tries landing on his feet, but he didn't...but he did spring right up and hits a big kick. Reigns comes back a short time later with a spear, and Rollins picks up the pinfall for the win.
Winners - The Shield (Rollins and Reigns) to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship
A bit of a throwaway that could be featured on Raw. The Players are popular with about a quarter of the folks in the live crowd it seems. They're not gaining momentum though - a popular refrain for faces these days in WWE.
They run a "Don't Try This At Home" ad then go into a recap of the Punk/Axel handicap match.
We get the poll results for the best tag team champions of all time, with the Triple H/Shawn Michaels version of DX taking the win over the Legion of Doom, the Hart Foundation, and others.
Really? You have got to be kidding me!? Then again, it's a throwaway poll, no sense losing sleep.
We get a video package to recap the main event storyline, which also involves Triple H and Big Show.
They reveal the results of the best WWE Champion poll. Hulk Hogan won, over Steve Austin, CM Punk, John Cena and Triple H.
Match #8 - Randy Orton (c) vs. Daniel Bryan; WWE Championship
Justin Roberts handles in-ring introductions for both men after they come to the ring.
Very pro-Bryan crowd, and they're vocal early. Orton gets the first run of offense in. Bryan makes a comeback and hits two drop kicks in the corner. He keeps up the assault with several kicks at Orton and the fans chant "yes!" with every kick.
Bryan hits a top rope huracanrana then a suicide dive. Bryan throws Orton back in and hits a missile drop kick for good measure. Orton rolls out to ringside only to take another suicide dive. He tries number three, but Orton catches him with a punch in the ropes. Orton hits his elevated DDT off the apron to the floor.
Orton does his viper pose and teases the RKO but Bryan shoves him off. Bryan hits a drop kick but sends Orton into the official. He takes a bump to the outside, and a second official hits the ring. Orton sets up a second elevated DDT, but Bryan counters and locks on the Yes! Lock. Orton struggles but reaches the ropes.
I sense shenanigans with the second official, somehow.
A trainer comes out to check on Armstrong who is still out on the floor. In the ring, Bryan avoids a move by Orton on the ropes, then catches him in a tree of woe spot. He hits a series of kicks that draw "YES!" chants, followed with a running drop kick. A moment later, Bryan catches Orton on the ropes and hits a superplex but hangs on with his legs. He goes back to the top and delivers a flying headbutt.
We now have our initial referee back in the match and the second official leaves. So much for the theory of shenanigans. Bryan hits Orton with a series of kicks while Orton is kneeling. Orton catches the last one and hits an exploder suplex out of it. Bryan sells, and Orton cues up the RKO again. Bryan counters with a backslide that Orton slips away from. Bryan hits Orton with a kick then the running knee to the face and gets the cover. The official counts, a bit fast, and Bryan gets the win.
Winner - Daniel Bryan to win the WWE Championship
The crowd popped for this, but it was subdued. I think a lot of people were waiting for Triple H's music to hit to come out and admonish the referee for a fast count and either restart the match or reverse the decision. No matter, as I expect that will all go down tomorrow night to open Raw.
All in all, this was a pretty forgettable night. The title change fell flat because the fans were waiting for that other shoe to drop. They woke up once they realized it was going to stick but it really took the shine off the moment. And what's worse is when they reverse this decision tomorrow night - they will kill mojo off for the real title change moment.
WWE left a lot of money on the table by not putting the stipulation out there on Raw and/or Smackdown that no one could interfere in the match - or by really making sure they convinced fans Bryan could win.
There was some good wrestling on this show, but overall, this pay per view was one that if you missed it, you won't be saddened by that fact. We'll be back with more discussion of this event tomorrow, and be sure to catch the Raw Recap live at 8PM EST tomorrow evening for all the fallout. Thanks for following along tonight.