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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The Night of Champions Report (WWE Drops the Ball)
By The Doc
Sep 16, 2013 - 12:03:22 AM

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QUESTION OF THE DAY: Did you think that the presentation of the WWE Championship match tonight felt off or did it work for you?

The night began oddly with a 10-minute promo segment to further set-up the top two matches involving CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. Triple H seemed to change his tune a bit, acting like a babyface by clearing the way for Bryan vs. Orton to have no shenanigans (an important point for later in the night) and going face-to-face with the other top heel in the business right now, Paul Heyman. It was a confusing start to the show that I honestly felt by night’s end was completely unnecessary and counterproductive to the stories that they used to sell Night of Champions.

Match 1: Curtis Axel retained the IC title against Kofi Kingston in 14-minutes (**3/4) (The impromptu IC title match set up by the opening segment was difficult to get emotionally invested in. The downside to the three hour Raw’s featuring more matches is that bouts like these with no build-up outside of “they’ve wrestle each other before” come across as repeats of the things given away for free rather than special things that you pay money to see. On the bright side, Axel and Kofi worked very hard to produce something tone-setting for the rest of the evening. It was back and forth with numerous changes in momentum prior to nice flurry of near falls toward the final three minutes. Unfortunately, one of the most dramatic false finishes was ruined with poor production work. Just when Kofi connected with the S.O.S. and made the cover, the near three count was missed when the camera switched to Paul Heyman’s reaction prematurely. It would not have bothered me much if it were not for the lack of interest I had in this bout to begin with, but coupled with the minimal back story and a 10-minute promo to start a PPV, it was far more glaring. The crowd was into Kingston. Axel does not have “it”)

Match 2: AJ Lee retained the Diva’s title in 6-minutes (*1/4) (I understand why they decided to go with the fatal four way, but I think that it watered down the story by splitting the heat for AJ’s opponents from Total Divas in thirds. I mentioned this a few months ago when AJ first started working with Kaitlyn in Chicago and I’ll reiterate it now – there’s only a few women that can competently excel in the ring against AJ because her unique move set so heavily involves her opponent’s strength. It basically limits her ability to pull off her full range with just two of the current roster members – Nattie and Kaitlyn. I walked away from this match impressed with Naomi/Trinity’s potential. Her athleticism suggests that she can be a really solid contributor to the division. Nattie also pulled off an incredible double Sharpshooter on Naomi and Brie. In the end, though, the match suffered from too little time for so many moving parts to tell a thorough and complete tale in the ring)

Match 3: Alberto Del Rio retained the World Heavyweight Championship via DQ in 14-minutes (***1/4) (He did it again. Del Rio may not be the most entertaining guy on the roster and he may get very little reaction when he comes out for a promo, but it is no coincidence that his match consistently receives one of the best reactions on every PPV. It is simply a matter of Del Rio being one of the most gifted in-ring performers in the game with a very well established set of maneuvers always well spaced throughout his matches to invoke the desired reaction. His Cross Armbreaker on Rob Van Dam tonight, for instance, prompted the Detroit crowd to erupt into a match-enhancing chant of “R-V-D.” I may be in the minority for feeling this way, but I honestly believe that ADR is the perfect kind of wrestler to have as one of the key players in the revamped World title division. He is credible and extremely capable. Look at his track record from the past couple of years. With a variety of vastly different opponents ranging from Big Show to Randy Orton to Dolph Ziggler to Van Dam to Christian to Jack Swagger, Del Rio produces matches on PPV that deliver in spades. RVD and ADR came out motivated tonight. The execution was not flawless, but it was well done considered the degree of difficulty in the majority of their sequences. One early sequence saw them trade attempts to suplex one another from the ring and apron, respectively, ending with Del Rio snapping Van Dam’s neck across the top rope for a nice looking bump to the floor that followed. The feud will apparently continue, as Dolph Ziggler likely sat backstage wondering what in the world happened to his once promising 2013)

Match 4: The Miz defeated Fandango in 8-minutes (**) (I am a big proponent of announcing all of the matches that are going to be on a PPV card in advance of the show. You don’t see any other professional sports/entertainment entity having unannounced fights or games on their schedules. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Anyhow, Miz vs. Fandango had several weeks of TV hype dating back to Summerslam and was actually one of the better hyped bouts on this fairly weak card. I think that having it be an unannounced match makes it come across to the audience and viewers at home as inconsequential, thus gearing them toward chanting random names like “Randy Savage” during the match. If you announce the match in advance, then you also gain the advantage of having people make mental note of it in advance. I don’t see any disadvantages to announcing it ahead of time, whereas I see numerous disadvantages to the opposite. All that being stated, Miz and Fandango did not have overly good chemistry, but they put together an average match that took nothing from nor added anything to this PPV. The Miz babyface experiment, in my mind, has been a failure. Though he’s very likeable in real life, there is a sect of the audience that won’t get behind him because of his past. In my view, he’s better off turning heel and occupying an upper-tier heel spot in the previously discussed World title division. I think that would allow him to utilize his personality and “name” from being a WWE Wrestlemania main-eventer. As is, what does he contribute to the product?)

Match 5: Paul Heyman defeated CM Punk after Punk eliminated Curtis Axel; total time was 17-minutes (**1/2) (Ryback came out and drove Punk through a table to allow Heyman to win. The match was difficult to rate by any traditional scale. I thought it was effective in giving Punk the chance to get some semblance of revenge for those who paid to see it, while also setting up the next chapter in this rivalry using Ryback to potentially entice those who paid to see Punk get revenge then turn his aggression toward his former WWE title nemesis. I will be curious to see how they set up the Punk vs. Ryback match given their own history. There should be plenty of ammo there to build something interesting. The WWE clearly sees something in Ryback. Triple H recently did an interview with my favorite basketball columnist, Bill Simmons. It was not overly long, so it was surprising to me that Trips spent some time talking about Ryback. I’m in wait-and-see with slight intrigue mode, at this juncture)

Match 6: Dean Ambrose defeated Dolph Ziggler to retain the US title in 10-minutes (**3/4) (This match, despite being announced, had a comparable back story to the IC title bout, especially since the extent to which Ziggler stood up to Triple H’s regime was to say something about it on WWE’s dotcom. Ambrose has been lightly meddling in Ziggler’s affairs for the last few weeks, but nothing more. Thus, this bout had to overcome an aura of unimportance. I thought that they did well to do just that. These are two guys that, no matter their place on the card, they’re going to try and steal the show. They opened up their offensive playbooks and hit some high spots that took the match to second or third gear pretty quickly. It was an exciting, aesthetically pleasing, high octane 10-minutes of PPV wrestling)

Match 7: The Shield retained the Tag Team titles in 8-minutes (**1/4) (JBL was praising Titus on commentary and I concur – with a little luck, he has the potential to become a future star. He’s no spring chicken so time is of the essence, but he’s got the “it” factor that Curtis Axel does not. The WWE would be wise to consider making him the African American draw in the singles ranks. He is marketable, athletic, and he can talk. The Shield worked well with the Prime Time Players and had a nice little title bout)

Match 8: Daniel Bryan defeated Randy Orton (clean) to become WWE Champion in 18-minutes (***1/2) (It was not the classic match that I was expecting nor was it the result that I was expecting. When Bryan won the title after the fastest count that referee Armstrong has ever made in his life – which I suspect will come into play somehow – I kept looking for the WWE logo in the bottom left hand of the screen to officially sign the PPV off the air. I have mixed feelings about the match. I thought it was very good. There were parts that were exactly the quality that I was hoping to see. Then, there was this feeling that there was something missing the entire match. I think that, perhaps, it was that this entire show has felt rushed since the opening segment took up a quarter hour usually provided to the matches. Maybe that was not such a good call on the WWE’s part. Most of the time, they seem to figure it out. On the other hand, maybe it went exactly as they had planned. Whatever the case may be, Orton vs. Bryan was the Match of the Night and Bryan got his second big win over two “face of the company” caliber stars. That’s the positive side. On the negative side, Bryan’s win felt very anticlimactic. Lesser details have derailed otherwise successful pushes and limited their potential. It did not come across as a conquering hero type of a moment for Bryan. The presentation was somewhat confusing right from the get-go tonight. Triple H suddenly looked to be a tweener, deemphasizing the main points that had sold this PPV in the first place. Orton suddenly seemed like he wasn’t that big a part of this story, pushed aside by Triple H to fend for himself and lose. I said on my radio show last week that the intrigue in this match was to see how Bryan would come up short, writing the next chapter in his story of redemption. I further commented that Bryan winning might be a mistake because Night of Champions wasn’t about ending the story, but furthering it so that Bryan’s ultimate victory would be sweeter. That might all still happen given the fast count and whatever comes next, but I thought the booking for the main-event – all the way around from the start of the show to its end – felt off. In my opinion, it was important that Orton win and Triple H’s group keep building their heat. “Don’t be unpredictable just to be unpredictable” were my exact words as we were signing off “The Doc and Super Chrisss.” Booking 101 is Booking 101 for a reason – it works and it makes sense. I’m thrilled for Daniel Bryan, but clearly this issue is not over and the presentation that was so spot on at Summerslam was missing tonight. Instead of it all gelling together and clicking with the right emotional twists at the appropriate times, tonight felt discombobulated – like one of those nights where the rumors we always read on the internet about the WWE changing their minds a million times on the direction that they wanted. It’s all about the follow-up, but I didn’t feel as though I got my money’s worth for Night of Champions. Congratulations to Daniel Bryan and his fans, but thumbs down to the WWE for the manner in which they presented it)

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