Night of Champions, like much of WWE’s programming as of late, was a mixed bag. It’s hard to argue about the results—I don’t know that I’ve ever been this satisfied with every champion in the company—but how we got there was questionable at some points. The finish of the main event itself was a mess, involving both Sheamus and a returning Kane, and Sting unfortunately looked seriously hurt. There were a lot of questions going into last night’s Raw, both in and out of kayfabe.
Questions like: Is Sting okay? Will the US Championship Open Challenge make a comeback? Do we really have to sit through a filler Rollins/Kane feud? Why is Sheamus still a thing?
Welcome to Hell
Things haven’t exactly been going Seth Rollins’ way lately. He was forced to defend both his titles at Night of Champions in back to back matches against two of sports entertainment’s biggest legends. He came away 1-1, losing his United States Championship to John Cena but retaining his World Heavyweight Championship against Sting in two very good matches (the latter of which saw Sting seemingly get legit injured; there was no update on his health provided on Raw). The curveball came when Kane—the Big Red Machine, demon variety—came down the aisle and chokeslammed Rollins as Sheamus was attempting to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. And then for good measure, Kane took out Sheamus as well, effectively keeping the title around Seth’s waist.
Last night, to everyone’s surprise, Kane was back in his suit and tie, healed up and ready to resume his corporate duties as Director of Operations (complete with “World’s Greatest Director of Operations” coffee mug). And when asked about his actions last night, he acted like he had no idea what anyone was talking about.
I have to hand it to them, they found an angle involving Kane that could be interesting. The whole split personality thing reminds me heavily of Abyss/Joseph Park in TNA from a few years back, but if it’s been done in WWE before it’s been a long time. There’s still a lot of mystery surrounding it, like why Kane is suddenly suffering from selective amnesia or if he’s simply lying and remembers everything, and that’s part of what makes it exciting. They could have gone the standard, “you were implicit in Brock breaking my ankle a few months ago and now I’m back for revenge” and no one would have batted an eye, and while I guess at the core they are still doing this, there’s an added layer of intrigue that I certainly wasn’t expecting. The Jeckyll/Hyde angle could end up being a lot of fun.
While it is more interesting than I would have expected, let’s not go crazy here. It’s still a filler autumn program for the champ involving Kane, that likely wont even main event next month’s Hell in a Cell PPV, as that honor will likely go to Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar III. It’s still going to feature the same tropes we’ve encountered with the Big Red Machine over the past 18 years—one of them ended Raw last night, as Rollins was dragged ‘straight to hell,’ aka underneath the ring. But kudos for coming at it from an angle that feels fresh.
By far the most markout worthy moment of the evening came during Charlotte’s celebration for dethroning Nikki Bella and winning the Divas Championship. After a truly heartfelt promo by her dad, Ric Flair, Charlotte and the rest of PCB came to the ring, where Paige eventually cut off Charlotte’s gushing to deliver a scathing promo on Charlotte, the celebration, and the Divas division at large. Check out the video above, because anything I say about it won’t really do it justice. It was certainly the best women’s promo in WWE since AJ’s similar tirade (and this time we didn’t have to ensure the Bellas screaming “SAY IT TO MY FACE!” throughout the entire thing, which is a plus), and one of the better promos in general in quite some time. The worked shoot aired many of the grievances fans have with the Divas revolution, and instantly changed the landscape of the women’s division.
Unfortunately, after Paige stormed off Team Bella made their way down the aisle to set up to a Charlotte/Nikki rematch for the Divas Championship. I would have enjoyed much more for Paige’s pipebomb to be the focal point of the segment, but instead Nikki got the last word, which set up a just-alright matchup between Charlotte and Brie, which took a little bit of the steam out of what Paige had to say. Brie isn’t terrible, but her offense is just so unconvincing, which is a common problem with the ‘Total Divas’ portion of the roster. It’s almost like she’s pantomiming wrestling rather than actually wrestling. But hey, I can’t really complain about multiple storylines brewing in the women’s division, and I for one am happy as hell act 2 of the Divas revolution seems to be kicking off.
One of the names Paige singled out in her promo was Natalya, who has been all but MIA since this whole revolution began. Paige and Nattie actually ran into each other backstage later on in the show, where Nattie cut an awkward-but-needed promo on her perspective of the revolution she’s been left out in the cold for. In an incredible instance of happenstance, she also had a match on Raw a bit later for the first time in months, which she lost to Naomi thanks to heavy interference from the rest of Team B.A.D. Fantasy booking for a second, I would think it would make more sense to have Nattie pick up a win and re-establish herself within the division, but again, at least there’s a story thread here.
If I have any complaint about the Divas division right now it’d probably be that it’s a little overcrowded, which is a great problem to have after spending the past who knows how many years with a complete dearth of any relevant angles involving women. Suddenly we have Paige turning her back on the team and revolution she started, Nikki Bella attempting to get her prize possession back, the daughter of wrestling royalty holding the belt and looking damn proud to do so, and the re-emergence of one of the best women’s wrestlers in the world. There’s also the Summer/Lana situation taking place in almost a reality completely alternate to that of the rest of the division, and the incredibly talented and popular Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch waiting for their moments.
The revolution ain’t perfect, but some bright times are ahead for the once forgotten division.
The Rest of the Card
- Huge fan of the Wyatt Family opening the show. Really I’m a fan of anything besides The Authority or Rollins opening the show, but kicking off Raw with the Wyatt Family’s distinctive entrance gave the show a unique feeling that, whether intentional or not, persisted throughout the show. I’m not sure what the point of the whole Chris Jericho stuff was at NoC if it wasn’t even going to be mentioned here, but alas.
- The New Day and Rusev vs. The Dudley Boyz and Dolph Ziggler: Xavier playing Rusev’s theme on the trombone. That’s all you need to know. People bemoan the lack of chemistry between Ziggler and Lana, but I think the bigger problem is the lack of chemistry between Ziggler and Rusev, who are normally two top-notch in-ring talents. I’m not sure what the problem is, but they just don’t seem to be clicking in the ring.
- Stardust and The Asension vs. Neville and The Lucha Dragons: Cool, more 50/50 booking that does absolutely nothing for anyone. I like all six of these guys, but at this point it seems like they’ll be pointlessly trading wins back and forth for time immemorial.
- Ryback vs. Bo Dallas: The “guest commentator attacks adversary after/during match” trope is incredibly overplayed, but it’s also the only thing that saved this match because Kevin Owens is so damn entertaining. He also provided the only logical explanation for how a wimpy jobber like Dallas was actually keeping pace with Ryback at points: “it’s because he BO-lieves, he said it himself earlier!” Gold.
- Sheamus vs. Mark Henry: I don’t know if it’s because I’m such a maje fan of the Cheap Heat podcast, but I’ve had a soft spot for Mark Henry as of late. And he deserves more than just being the face Sheamus runs through to remind us that he’s still a threat. Disheartening segment.
- Big Show vs. Cesaro: It was somewhat poetic that as Big Show’s music hit, Cole reminded us that we’re watching the longest running episodic show in history. A stark reminder that you’ve been watching this guy ploddingly lumber to the ring for the better part of the past two decades. He beats Cesaro clean in short order because hey, f--k Cesaro, right? So much for that push. The snap suplex he gave Big Show was amazing, though, so he has that going for him.
Some real high points here that help with the malaise caused by the rest of the show. Better than last week, but still has a ways to go.