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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The PPV Perspective (Battleground 9/16/13 - A Tough Sell?)
By The Doc
Sep 18, 2013 - 9:57:51 AM

Monday's Raw was a good rebound after the odd presentation of the PPV main-event from the previous night.

I took a fair amount of flack from my readers regarding my attitude toward Night of Champions. I'm usually the overly positive fan, constantly defending the WWE's decisions. I was overly critical of the event, mind you, but I was certainly down on the decision to book Triple H in the manner that he was booked on Sunday and also of the short duration of the championship match on what was essentially a one-match show. So, I asked another fan who usually thinks with more of a "glass is half full" mindset to give me his thoughts. In wrestling, there are two different perspectives to account for - the person watching on TV and the person watching it live (in attendance). The following is a live account from the Night of Champions Bryan-Orton match at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

Everything started off very well. All night long people had been chanting YES in the crowd, and it was abundantly clear that Bryan was easily the most popular performer with the company. The only other possible contenders were home-state hero Rob Van Dam and CM Punk, who comfortably took home 2nd and 3rd respectively in terms of pop, but Bryan easily outdistanced them both. The sight of very nearly every fan in the arena throwing their hands up in the air in unison in support of the man was a hell of a thing to see.

Things took a slightly off turn from there. Orton’s reaction was not quite as heel heavy as one might expect considering how his character has been presented for the past month, and the pro-Orton vocal minority seemed only to grow as the match went on. I tried to determine if these fans actually supported Orton or were simply following the all too common knee jerk reaction of the modern “smart” fan to cheer the heels regardless of the situation. I couldn’t say in the end, but it does tell me that Bryan’s run will likely not be free of the clichéd dueling chants. No matter how much the fans want something, as soon as they get it some will want something else. It didn’t sour the match by any means, but it did muddle the mood a little as it seemed most Bryan fans weren’t expecting to get any resistance to supporting their hero. The reaction was still powerfully and fervently tipped in favor of Bryan, but that very vocal contingent put a bit of an odd taste into the proceedings from the get go.

As to the match itself, it was a highly enjoyable affair for the most part but somehow never seemed to click fully. Bryan and Orton are two of the most talented in ring performers on the roster, and we’ve seen them clash before to truly excellent affect, but somehow this match never quite got out of 3rd gear. The presentation ended up very strange as well, and may have ended up detracting from the final product. At the time of this writing Raw has not yet aired so I’m not sure how much of the strange incidents in the match will be addressed, but on the night in the live crowd it turned what should have been a moment of great celebration into something of a puzzler. The seemingly meaningless ref bump and return coupled with an obvious fast count that went completely unacknowledged had me raising my eyebrows and watching the top of the ramp for some furtherance of the story, rather than raising my arms in celebratory triumph as I most assuredly would have done under normal circumstances for getting to witness a Daniel Bryan title win live.

So what we got was a good match that was let down a little by its booking and, arguably, by some time constraints. 17 minutes is time enough to work a great match, naturally, but these days most WWE main events tend to get at least 20 and when we fall several minutes short of that mark it just further muddles the feeling, especially when it’s clear these guys could have worked a lot longer. Bryan and Orton have the potential to put on a Match of the Year contender and, as their saga continues, I think they have a strong chance to hit that mark either at Battleground or at Hell in a Cell, depending on how their feud progresses. But from a live perspective, for all the good things they did (and they did plenty, believe me!) it didn’t quite live up to the expectation and ended up a bit mixed at the end. The crowd was happy to celebrate with Bryan in his win, but it also felt like going down a staircase in the dark and expecting one more step than there actually is. It was disconcerting, and the still considerable ovation didn’t end up matching the feeling we got at the much cleaner Summerslam match. I’m not personally a fan of using a PPV to sell a TV show, which seems to have been the plan here, but I suppose we will have to wait until Raw to say for sure if WWE made the right choice long term by choosing to end Night of Champions on such an odd note.

Awesomeness Rating: ***3/4, still good but these guys have the potential to hit ****1/2 easily.
- Mizfan, former LOP columnist

The Night of Champions main-event reminded me of X-Men 3. Did you ever see that movie? It was so disappointing. The story was lousy and did a poor job of following through with the nicely put together plot from the previous two movies. Sure, the ending left the door open for the story to be continued, but how motivated were we expected to be after 100 minutes of blah?

That being stated, I enjoyed Monday's Raw very much. The storytelling which suffered from confusing and unnecessary plot points at the PPV was back on track when dialed back to something simpler. Keep it simple, WWE. No need to muddy the waters with tweener Triple H promos that confuse the audience. Trips clearly bought off the referee to ensure that when/if Daniel Bryan connected with his home run shot to Randy Orton at Night of Champions, Scott Armstrong was to fast count allowing the events from last night to take place as a fail safe. Naturally, I'd like to see that explained at some point down the road to continue the run of storyline continuity from recent weeks, but I liked how things played out. Trips came across like the aggravatingly powerful douche bag that he is and Bryan came across like the super sympathetic "every man" that can't catch a break (for more than 24 hours). The manner in which Triple H delivered his lines to both Bryan and referee Armstrong were spot on, striking the right chords. Rather than incite eyebrow-raising, head tilting "HUH?" reactions from the audience as he did to start Night of Champions, his communication had the crowd emotionally charged to elicit the more appropriately enthusiastic reaction expected of the top feud. His wife nailed it, too. As Tripel R poignantly wrote in his column yesterday, Stephanie McMahon's delivery was as good as it has ever been in her dialogue with Dusty Rhodes.

The WWE has some work to do in translating their booking success that hypes the PPVs to the PPV matches, themselves, that people pay to see in appreciation for their booking success, but last night was a good start toward selling Battleground. If they can find a way to get the Rhodes family on the show, as well, then it ought to be twice as enticing as it would be without them. So much quality TV time has been spent putting over their beef with the McMahons that it would almost be a rip off if they failed to deliver some sort of match for the Rhodes family at the next PPV. Bryan vs. Orton appears set to be the main selling point again, but Rhodes vs. McMahon would be a solid #2 since Ryback vs. CM Punk is not likely to pull at the leather of people's wallets. God bless Ryback, but the moment he was prominently featured in the angle with CM Punk and Paul Heyman was the moment that half of my interest level disappeared. I've never been a Ryback guy. I saw "it" a year ago despite my misgivings, but I no longer see "it." He's just not a main-event talent, in my opinion. He most certainly does not rule. Feed me more of anything else besides Ryback in a headlining match. I'd be shellshocked if the Punk vs. Ryback matches succeed at adding further interest to the Punk-Heyman feud.

It is football season, which means the WWE is going to have to work extra hard to maintain their audience. They could go a long way toward doing so with finishes to Raw that pique interest in the following week's show. The way that Raw ended last night was very intriguing. The revolt against the McMahons' decisions was coming. To see the likes of Ziggler, RVD, the Usos, and others rush to the ring to assist Daniel Bryan was good TV. I really liked how they put him on their shoulders, clearly stating that he's representing their cause against the evil Establishment. I look forward to seeing what kind of response that Triple H has for them all next week. I must also state that Bryan vs. Roman Reigns was a very good TV match that made Reigns look like the next big star in the WWE. He's got intensity, presence, and a great look to go along with a good pedigree from both the gridiron and genetics. Last night, he proved that he's got serious potential in between the ropes. He looked great. Come Wrestlemania XXXI, keep an eye out for Roman Reigns.

The WWE also made a smart move in storyline-finding a way to motivate Randy Orton. Though I think it's silly that Trips and Steph want a maniacal lunatic - that would handcuff someone to the ropes so that he could assault a woman - as the "face of the WWE," I like that they think that they need the borderline psycho Randy to beat Daniel Bryan. It makes Bryan out to be a big threat. Like it or not, Bryan needs that kind of subtle treatment. He does not look like a threat, so they need to constantly reinforce to the broader audience that he is.

So, Raw was really good again. I have thoroughly enjoyed for going on two months, now. As mentioned after Wrestlemania season ended, though, these columns are going to primarily look at things from the PPV perspective. Personally, this month is a bit of a quandary. The TV shows have been the best of the year, but the last PPV suggested that the WWE is currently more interested in engaging free TV viewers than they are the paying customers. As one reader well pointed out on Sunday night, "They used the PPV to sell the TV show." I agree with that statement, to a degree, although not completely. There's no clear cut answer right now, but I'm going to have a hard time recommending that anyone order Battleground having been one of the people that ordered Night of Champions with a fair amount of excitement, only to walk away let down - and it was not as if my expectations were unrealistic. Less than three weeks from now, the WWE will present a PPV with three of the same storylines and matches from a lackluster show - Orton vs. Bryan II, RVD vs. Del Rio (PPV) II, and the next chapter of Punk-Heyman.

The jury is still out on Battleground. But my gut tells me that, no matter the PPV results, we'll get the primary pieces of the storyline puzzles on the next night's Raw anyway.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Were you happy with the way that the Bryan-Trips story played out on Monday?


Join me tonight on LOP Radio as we wrap up discussion of Night of Champions, look ahead to Battleground, and keep our eye on the Wrestlemania prize.

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