Riding its surprisingly effective gimmick — every title on the line on the same night — the Night of Champions PPVs have always been somewhere between “watchable” (2013) and “awesome” (2008). With what might be called a ‘lackluster” ending, this year’s edition wasn’t exactly a barnburners on the level of years past, but it served a great deal of purpose to move any number of forward and gave us more than a few solid-to-fantastic matches along the way.
While the name of these reviews is “Bang for Your Buck”, because of the Network, it’s now less of “getting your money’s worth”, and more “how much does having access to something like this make me want to renew my subscription” or, more succinctly, “how ‘special’ was this event/match, really?”. Which means that instead of just taking into account things like: major character shifts, definitive conclusions (which are different from clean finishes) and moves that don’t make their way to Raw, it’ll focus more on “how many times would I rewatch this”, “would I show this to non-fans as a reason why wrestling is worth watching” and “how different was this historically?”
Each match is rated on a sliding scale between -1 and -1: Matches worth multiple rewatches are +1, a match you may watch or skip 0, and things that make you reevaluate being a fan earning up to a -1 score. The scale is arbitrary, of course, but it’s based around the idea that a match will be fundamentally watchable, repeatedly so.
As for the scale, it’s not particularly complicated but here are the basic levels (on a per-match basis):
WWE Tag Team Championship Match
The Usos (C) vs. Gold & Stardust
The age of anti-heroes on television is, for the most part, over. Don Draper, whose worst transgression is sleeping with half of Manhattan and assuming someone else’s identity, is the last in a long line of television leading men — men almost exclusively, because sexism — for whom morally ambiguity is part of their charm.
Which is what makes this feud between Gold & Stardust and the Usos so odd. Neither pair is so much “anti-hero” as they are rather explicitly not good guys. They are, as I said during the Night of Champions preview we did on Nick and Andy Tag Team Wrestling, in a fight with one other over “Cosmic Keys”. And when you are in a fight, you’ll do whatever you need to get what you want.
This match, however, was not as much of a fight as it should have been. While there is almost definitely more to this feud, this specific chapter lacked a full-throated representation of the type of fireworks these teams are capable of. Part of that is them likely saving something for later, but the majority of the issues with this match are a function of the crowd’s reaction to everything: they liked what they were seeing but weren’t sure how to react.
The WWE has a very particular set of stories that they tell in any given situation. Each performer or performers have their character (Bret Hart as “Hitman” Bret Hart,) their gimmick at the time (Bret’s “Hart Foundation” run) and their opponents, all of which combine to create any given match you’ll see. How the ingredients are prepared, the food is cooked and the meal is served depends on the match. The way we react to the meal/match is more often than not based off of what we expect or foresee happening on the way in.
In the same way that you have an idea of what pizza is going to taste like, fans usually “know” what’s going to happen in any given match and react accordingly based on personal preferences and expectations. There are times when people are willing to get behind something new, like burritos or sushi, but when they are getting pizza, they expect pizza.
So, when they are get what they believe to be pizza — or, in this case, a tag team match between two face teams, one of whom has become very weird and a little violent — and it instead tastes like cake, no matter how delicious that cake might be, they are still going to react oddly. Which, is what it seems like happened here.
There’s nothing, or even particularly problematic about that usually, this time it seemed like a failure by the WWE to properly prepare for the audience for what they could expect during a universally maligned build-up to this show. This match is good, but the lack of excitement means it ended up being significantly less than it could have been, ultimately making it something you could very easily skip past, like so much leftovers.