By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Check out the free Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast featuring a full review of WWE Night of Champions co-hosted by me and Jake Barnett.
WWE Night of Champions Hits
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs. Roman Reigns and Solo Sikoa for the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Titles: A hot match with a major development in the Bloodline saga. The Usos inadvertently costing Reigns and Sikoa the match was among the expected finish scenarios, but the post match scene with Jimmy snapping and then superkicking Reigns closed the show in a memorable and intriguing manner. In typical Bloodline story fashion, they didn’t give away too much all at once. Jey looked conflicted and it will be very interesting to see where he stands during Roman’s 1,000 day title reign celebration on Friday’s Smackdown. On a side note, the live crowd’s love for Sami was really cool to see, especially considering that he wasn’t allowed to work past shows in Saudi Arabia. The fans literally chanted “we love you” at Zayn at Friday’s press conference.
Brock Lesnar vs. Cody Rhodes: I loved this match. Sure, you had to suspend your disbelief that Cody would be allowed to batter Lesnar with a titanium cast (this really needed a No DQ stipulation), but I still enjoyed the story they told of Cody showing tremendous heart before he ultimately passed out in the Kimura Lock. The creative forces need to avoid laying it on too thick with Cody’s heroic exploits or they will eventually risk fan backlash, but it was effective this time around. The finish gave Cody an out for losing and created the need for a rubber match, which could keep Cody out of the Money in the Bank match.
Seth Rollins vs. AJ Styles in the finals of the tournament for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship: A well worked match with the expected outcome. They made some effort to make it seem like Rollins was at risk of losing when he sold a knee injury off a suicide dive. That was actually clever because the only way Rollins was going to lose this match is if he suffered a legitimate injury and they had to call an audible. The idea of opening show with a new title that already feels like a consolation prize was questionable. But I don’t think it would have changed anyone’s perceptions of the title even if this match had closed the show.
Gunther vs. Mustafa Ali for the Intercontinental Championship: This was great for what it was. Ali got some terrific hope spots and had the fans behind him until the badass champion put him down and pinned him clean. This was a blast considering just how predictable the outcome felt.
Bianca Belair vs. Asuka for the Raw Women’s Championship: A soft Hit that was the wrong outcome away from the Miss section. Asuka spraying mist on her hand and gouging the eyes of Belair while up for KOD made for a cool finish. Belair has felt flat for some time now and it’s mostly due to the company’s inability to build up strong female heels aside from Rhea Ripley. The outcome obviously gives Asuka the big boost she needed to become the top heel in the Smackdown women’s division. I look forward to seeing how the Belair character performs while in chase mode. Hopefully she will get to say more than her usual EST lines and becomes a multi-dimensional character.
Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus: A soft Hit. Much like the Raw Women’s Championship match, this went several minutes longer than it needed to. The live crowd was hot for the entrances and the early action and then faded out while there was still over half the match remaining. Stratus performed well for a returning legend, and Lynch is always good. I loved the finish with Zoey Stark hitting her Z360 finisher on Lynch at ringside. It was set up nicely with the referee stumbling to avoid being tripped and spinning around when Stratus was thrown back inside the ring, which was enough of a distraction that Stark was able to hit the move without being caught. I mentioned earlier in the week that I was all for adding someone to Trish’s act if the legend is sticking around for more. I didn’t consider Stark for that spot, but I really like the pairing, which will ideally lead to Stark becoming a player once Trish’s run concludes.
Rhea Ripley vs. Natalya for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: This match lasted 70 seconds, which is fine considering that it was at least double the amount of television time the storyline build received. Dom’s distraction gave Natalya an out for Ripley destroying her the rest of the way. They can always run this back on television if they want to have a more competitive match between the two.
WWE Night of Champions Misses
None: An enjoyable show from start to finish. The Saudi fans have come a long way from those early shows. While they still mostly cheer for the babyfaces and boo the heels, it was interesting to hear some fans going against the grain. Meanwhile, the broadcast team of Michael Cole and Corey Graves continue to shine. Cole upped his game when Pat McAfee arrived and took it to another level during Vince McMahon’s temporary retirement. I was worried that Cole would slip back into his handcuffed WWE robot ways once Vince returned to the company, but he has continue to deliver the best work of his career. Overall, this show didn’t reach a WrestleMania 39 Night One level of greatness, but it was a very good event that played to a lively crowd and did not overstay its welcome.
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