Theoretically, Night of Champions should be one of the biggest WWE events of the year, right? Wrestling logic dictates that the best wrestlers are those who hold championships, and this is the only show of the year where every championship must be defended. CM Punk doesn't necessarily have to defend his WWE Championship at WrestleMania, but you better believe that he does at Night of Champions.
Of course, wrestling logic doesn't always define wrestling reality, and we all know that holding a title doesn't mean that much anymore. My apologies to anyone who thought that Kofi Kingston was "better" than John Cena based on the former being a tag team champion. Anyway, the point is, while Night of Champions may have a ton of potential as a concept, it's currently nothing more than a moderately interesting gimmick pay per view that is a long way from reaching the status of any of the Big Four WWE shows of the year.
But does that mean that there isn't anything to look forward to at NOC? Not necessarily. The only way to find out for sure is to explore the card further. To the matches!
What Not To Be Excited About:
Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler: This match continues the disturbing trend of matches that have already been shown on free TV two or three times showing up on PPVs. I see three possible reasons why the tradition is continuing with this match.
1) The WWE creative team is lazier than I'd like to believe and think they can get away with it.
2) The WWE creative team legitimately thinks that doing this is a good idea, which it isn't, because no intelligent fan is going to be pleased that you're making them pay to see a match they've already seen multiple times.
3) Randy Orton has developed an inexplicable mental condition where he feels uncomfortable if Vickie Guerrero doesn't watch his matches from ringside, and the only way to ensure she's there is to continue to wrestle Ziggler. This theory makes more sense if you consider this condition as the one that replaced his apparently dormant IED.
In all seriousness, outside of the fact that we've watched these two wrestle each other a lot recently, it's hard to get to into this match because with Orton set to go film 12 Rounds: No, Seriously, We're Doing This Again soon, it's difficult to see this feud going somewhere interesting in the immediate future. Who knows, maybe filming gets postponed or Orton pulls out and Orton/Ziggler becomes the greatest feud of all time and the two carry the WWE through the fall and winter of 2012. But none of those things will happen, right?
World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio: Here's the thing: A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article describing at length why forcing these two to wrestle for the billionth time was a bad idea, not that I was telling anyone anything they didn't already know.
So instead of writing the same thing twice, I'm just going to summarize by saying that there's no reason these two should be wrestling each other again, not after Del Rio has lost so many times, and not when there are plenty of guys on the roster who could use the bump in credibility they would get from facing Sheamus.
Of course, the wrinkle here is that the Brogue Kick has been banned. Intriguing, right? How will Sheamus be able to put away Del Rio without his finisher?
Oh wait, it's not actually a problem for Sheamus because he has the Texas Cloverleaf and the Irish Curse and could probably break out the Celtic Cross again if he wanted to. I mean, come on, if you're going to put Sheamus at a disadvantage, doesn't common sense dictate that you don't have him immediately cover for this disadvantage by debuting a new finisher?
I guess we won't know for sure until Del Rio and Sheamus face off for the World Heavyweight Championship next month at Hell in a Cell, which I'm 99% sure is going to happen and 99.5% sure is going to drive me insane.
WWE Divas Champion Layla vs. Kaitlyn: Hey, it's a a Divas match with a story behind it! Neat! Granted, it's a generic "rookie vs. veteran" story that hasn't been particularly well executed, but it's certainly better than nothing.
Of course, that alone doesn't make this match worth being excited about. In the interest of ending on a positive, I will say that Kaitlyn has a unique mixture of hair colors and she pulls it off pretty well.
What To Be Excited About:
Pre-Show Battle Royal to Determine No. 1 Contender for Antonio Cesaro's United States Championship: For whatever it's worth, I almost put this as "What Not to Be Excited About" because I don't want Antonio Cesaro to lose the U.S. Championship ever.
But seriously, what's not to love about a Battle Royal? It gets lots of guys on the card, creates an automatically legitimate No. 1 Contender (because winning a Battle Royal is pretty hard), and most importantly, they're fun to watch. A recurring problem with pre-show matches is that they've been thrown together at the last minute without any real story behind them, but a battle royal is immune to that problem for obvious reasons.
Bonus reason to get excited: the possibility that Antonio Cesaro comes out and teaches us how to say "Battle Royal" in five languages. And by "bonus reason to get excited," I mean "bonus reason for me and maybe six other people to get excited."
WWE Tag Team Champions Kofi Kingston and R-Truth vs. Kane and Daniel Bryan: If you're not enjoying the Kane/Daniel Bryan pairing, than you're an awful person and we can never be friends. Not now, not ever.
Well, that might be hyperbole—we can still be friends, maybe—but it's hard to think of any negatives to the two working as a team for a sustained period of time. If Kane and Bryan win the tag titles on Sunday (which they had better), then their pairing could go a long way towards restoring credibility to not only the titles, but to the division as a whole.
After all, both guys have serious main-event credibility and the ability to connect with the crowd. The differences in the personalities of their characters has already yielded great results (the "Hug It Out" segment from last week was fantastic, and surprisingly enough, it seems that most viewers seem to feel it was fantastic), and there's no reason that their dynamic can't continue to be effective.
There's a chance that I'm being overly optimistic about this pairing based of the awesomeness of the anger management segments and the hugging—and even them winning a match based off Kane choke-slamming Bryan onto Darren Young—but right now, they seem like they have a ton of potential to be a great team that can conceivably carry the tag team division for a long period of time.
Also, Kofi Kingston and R-Truth will be in this match.
WWE Champion CM Punk vs. John Cena: For what it's worth, if anyone said they were not looking forward to this match, I would completely understand it. Cena and Punk have wrestled each other a lot lately, Punk's quest for respect has arguably led to him getting repetitive, and Cena is always a divisive force.
I've expressed similar sentiments before, but the thing that makes me excited for this match is that Punk's quest for respect is so logical. Ever since June 2011, Punk has been begging for respect. At first, he thought that respect came from having your own collector's cup. Once he had that, he thought it came from playing to the crowd. Now, he thinks respect should be earned solely by virtue of being the WWE Champion, but he's living in a world where everyone disagrees with him and that ticks him off, with good reason.
The point is that for almost the past year and a half, Punk has been trying to figure out how to earn respect, and maybe this is just a personal thing, but I love that kind of sustained character development, whether it's intentional or not.
And even though we've seen it a million times, Punk vs. Cena is compelling just because their characters are so different. Cena's never (or at least not since he started pretending that he doesn't have a PhD in Thuganomics) demanded respect, yelled at the crowd, or beat up Jerry Lawler for no good reason (instead choosing to beat up Michael Cole for no good reason). These differences may be obvious, but they're important nonetheless.
So will Punk vs. Cena be good enough to elevate Night of Champions closer to Big Four status and allow the concept to reach its full potential? Probably not, for obvious reasons. It takes more than one good PPV to forge a legacy.
But hey, who knows, maybe Punk/Cena will be a classic, the kind of match that people will remember forever. Maybe Orton/Ziggler will be that. Maybe Sheamus/Del Rio. It may not be likely, but it's certainly possible. We just have to wait until Sunday to find out.