So in the middle of making my most recent video I remembered I had said I would have this article up a couple days after Night of Champions. I decided then that instead of framing each pay-per-view with two articles, that I'd combine the reaction to the last show with the build-up to the next one, roughly mid-way through the break between shows. But nobody really cares about that, I'm just talking to myself.
Night of Champions was for the most part predictable to the point of boring, and what wasn't predictable was disappointing at best and contrived to the point of idiotic at worst. The show opened up with some incredibly entertaining matches, but as it wore on, things took a nosedive.
-Daniel Bryan and Kane (more recently dubbed Team Hell No, which is awesome) defeated Kofi Kingston and R-Truth to become Tag Team Champions. Bryan and Kane continue to be the most entertaining guys on the show, but a new fold got added to their relationship since they've become an official team. Each claims "I am the Tag Team Champions!" which is an incredibly fun thing to say.
-The Miz retained the Intercontinental Championship by pinning Cody Rhodes in a fatal four-way match also involving Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara. The match was pretty entertaining when you didn't notice Sin Cara standing around awkwardly waiting for his next spot to come up (which was often), but the finish was pretty weird, to put it mildly.
-Antonio Cesaro defeated Zack Ryder to retain the United States Championship. Ryder became the number one contender by winning the pre-show battle royal. Probably my favorite match of the night - Cesaro showed off some incredible moves, and he made Ryder look phenomenal as well.
-Randy Orton defeated Dolph Ziggler. Standard Orton win, and frustrating to see Ziggler continue to lose despite the inevitable championship reign coming up for him.
-Eve defeated Layla to win the Divas Championship. Anyone but Layla being the champion is a good thing. Anyone. But the whole "Kaitlyn got Nancy Kerrigan'd" storyline (as I have dubbed it) makes everyone involved look stupid.
-Sheamus defeated Antonio Del Rio to retain the World Heavyweight Championship. The Brogue Kick was reinstated before the match, thus making the build leading into it entirely pointless on top of its already being horrendous in general.
-CM Punk vs. John Cena ended in a draw, thus Punk retained the WWE Championship. The two put on a great match as they usually do, but it really got to a point where they seemed to have set the bar too high for themselves to top as their feud continues. Also, who the hell pins a guy while his own shoulders are on the mat too?
Everyone in WWE should feel lucky that John Cena's shoulder surgery fell during one of the two longest breaks between pay-per-views in the whole year. Having an extra couple of weeks before Hell in a Cell has, I'm sure, put a bit less pressure on Cena to make a fast return, and allowed him to focus on making a full recovery. That said, I also think the mad scramble that this has sent the writers into - pushing Ryback as a potential replacement to face Punk - has alerted them to the fact that they need to do a better job of pushing more of their talent to become stars in the company, which could end up being a very good thing in the long run. In terms of the here and now, the biggest storyline in the WWE is a bit directionless, because Punk is at once feuding with two potential opponents and thus, feuding with neither of them. WWE is walking a fine line in not being able to confirm nor rule out Punk vs. Cena at Hell in a Cell, and the story is suffering for it. The silver lining in all of this is that Punk has been tasked with carrying the show in Cena's absence, and as a result we've gotten to witness his character in a number of different scenarios. The story is no longer about Cena trying to beat CM Punk. The story is about Punk's quest to gain respect, and all the people he butts heads with along the way. Punk has become the protagonist of this storyline because Cena's not around to be crammed into that role, and Punk is, simply put, a far more interesting character to have in that role. Of course, Punk's journey is one that is doomed to fail, because as long as he continues to lash out at all the heroes and legends of the WWE, his character won't be given any respect. You show respect in order to get respect, that's the golden rule. Instead, John Cena and Jerry Lawler and Bret Hart take shots at what Punk has accomplished and say that what he's done doesn't merit respect, which is almost baffling. Fortunately, Mick Foley and Jim Ross have delivered far better, far more logical arguments against Punk's assertions that he deserves recognition, and the build-up to Hell in a Cell is so far looking much better than the build-up to Night of Champions. Still, nobody seems to be able to argue for why Punk needs to defeat Cena in particular (again) to earn their respect, which is something that continues to stick out and bother me.
Thanks to the (much-deserved) attention Daniel Bryan and Kane are getting, the Tag Team Championships have momentarily leapfrogged over everything to become the second-most-important title(s) in the WWE. A year ago today, I don't think I could have named five tag teams in the WWE, let alone imagined that an eight-team single elimination tournament to determine the number one contenders would take place. Granted, it's featured some thrown-together pairings (Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow, Santino Marella and Zack Ryder) and some irrelevant throwaways (The Usos, Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd), but I've always been a fan of big tournaments in action-based stories, so for me, this has been great. The cause for the sudden spark of interest makes sense as well - all these tag teams came out of the woodwork because they figured Bryan and Kane would cost themselves the titles eventually, so winning the tournament is supposedly just as good as winning the titles...Then again, the previous tag team champions lost in the first round...
The Big Show vs. Sheamus feud has kicked off and it's already a farce. I've only been watching wrestling long enough to see about five Big Show feuds, and none of them have been interesting to me. I've also hit my breaking point with Sheamus, and pretty much everything he does now either bores me or aggravates me. For as agile and versatile as he can be, he's settled into some very recognizable patterns during his matches, which are only surpassed in dullness by his promos. When the guy isn't stumbling over his words, he's saying the same shit I've heard from him dozens of times before. When he's not saying the same shit I've heard from him dozens of times before, he's randomly making fun of Mexican stereotypes for no goddamn reason. Why the fuck was he wearing a Rey Mysterio mask and shouting "Arriba!" for a feud with Big Show!? Damn it man, your mangled and offensive use of Spanish wasn't funny when you sneered it in Ricardo's face, why would it be funny when you use it on a white guy? Fuck.
That said, I'd rather watch an entire three-hour Raw of nothing but Sheamus in his cheap Mysterio mask than listen to ten more seconds of Layla on a live mic. The whole "Eve couldn't have attacked Kaitlyn because she's not a blonde" thing is a far less convincing argument for Eve's innocence than a single Layla promo claiming the exact opposite. Layla is trying to act as the suspicious heroine who doesn't buy the bad guy's bullshit lies, but instead she's coming off as a jealous twelve-year-old posting a rant on Youtube decrying her best friend for holding hands with the boy they both like. Stop putting a microphone in front of this woman. Hell, give the mic to Kaitlyn all you want, I don't care if she comes off as the least talented actress in a middle school theater club. At least she's not Layla.
Now let's switch gears completely, because Heath Slater is leading a faction. A faction including Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal, called Encore. Mahal seems ridiculously out of place with the other two - McIntyre seems to already be comfortable in his new role as part of a rock band-themed group, headbanging and mugging and all that good stuff, and "The Chosen One" doesn't really clash with that theme. But Jinder Mahal is still a stereotypical evil Indian man. He showed up with the group wearing his regular entrance attire. I don't really...get it. If it's specifically Heath Slater's group...why is Jinder there? I feel like Curt Hawkins would've filled out the group much more effectively, and the timing would've been great since his tag team partner has retired and he has nothing to do...buuuuut Hawkins is out with an injury, so that wouldn't have worked out anyway. And even if Encore seems very strangely assembled, I want Heath Slater on tv more, because he's awesome. Also, he's my mom's favorite superstar.
So we're halfway down the road to Hell in a Cell, and only one match on the card is 100% confirmed: Big Show vs. Sheamus. I feel like CM Punk vs. John Cena will likely happen, and I suspect the Tag Team Championship match will be Team Hell No vs. Team Rhodes Scholars. Additionally, Dolph Ziggler has vowed to cash in his Money in the Bank contract following the Show-Sheamus match, but then again, he's tried to do it about five billion times in the last several months. Also we were told Orton-Ziggler would happen after Del-Rio Sheamus at Night of Champions, aaaaand then it didn't. Consistency! I'm honestly not looking forward to Hell in a Cell right now. It's probably largely because, in the course of writing this post, I realized just how much I dislike certain things that are on television right now. I still get a lot of enjoyment out of watching Punk and Heyman deliver promos, the back-and-forth between Bryan and Kane, the bits of craziness creeping out of AJ, the various feuds in the tag team division, and the emergence of Antonio Cesaro and Damien Sandow, but none of this really translates to looking forward to stuff happening at the upcoming pay-per-view.
Now that I've shared my thoughts with you, I'd like to hear yours! Comment, tweet me, whatever. I look forward to it.