From start to finish, Night of Champions was one of the WWE's most entertaining pay-per-views of 2012. The show featured nonstop action and entertainment, as well as excellent booking.
The WWE has set itself up for a great six-week stretch between now and Hell in a Cell. If the WWE can keep it up, the buildup to the next PPV should be amazing.
Despite the common conception that the fall is generally a slow season for the WWE, things have started with a bang. Between CM Punk's full-blown heel turn and alliance with Paul Heyman and all the potential coming out of Night of Champions, fans are in for a treat.
Zack Ryder won the pre-show battle royal to earn a shot at Antonio Cesaro and the United States Championship.
It looked like Ryder didn't stand a chance when it came down to him, the Prime Time Players and Tensai. Even so, Ryder managed to come out victorious.
Any babyface that isn't named Santino Marella would have worked. Ryder was a great choice especially because of how popular he is with the fans. Cesaro needed to move on from his feud with Marella, and that's exactly what the WWE had him do by having Ryder win.
Despite Matt Striker saying at the end of the pre-show that the WWE Tag Team Championship bout would open the show, the Fatal Four-Way match for the Intercontinental Championship did.
I'm glad this match opened the show because it was an entertaining match that set the tone for the evening. The unique brand of offense utilized by Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara always make for a good opening match.
The decision to have Miz retain was an obvious one. It's far too early in his reign to have him drop the title. Cody Rhodes doesn't lose much by being pinned because he had a good showing in the match and managed to advance his story with Sin Cara.
This match was especially well-booked because of the way it advanced the dynamic between Mysterio and Sin Cara. They were initially working together but eventually clashed for the first time ever. Their back and forth wasn't anything that should tarnish their ability to continue working together as a team, though. It did, however, plant the seeds for the inevitable Sin Cara versus Rey Mysterio match.
This is an example of perfect booking. Everything about Kane and Daniel Bryan has been on point. They've been the most consistently entertaining thing on WWE television for the last few weeks, and the WWE was smart to strike iron while it's hot.
There's still plenty of room to develop the dynamic between Kane and Bryan. Them yelling "I'm the tag team champions" at one another gives them an entire new direction to go with their partnership.
Being tag team champions means we'll be seeing more of Kane and Bryan as a team. Not only does this mean the entertainment will continue, but it should also bring more attention to the tag team division.
As I mentioned before, Antonio Cesaro needed to move on from Santino Marella, and that's just what he did.
Ryder fit into this match well. As JBL mentioned on commentary, Ryder never received a rematch when he lost the United States Championship a while back.
The best part was how well Ryder sold for Cesaro. He made every move of Cesaro's look devastating, and his popularity only put more heat on Cesaro. The clean pin following the Neutralizer was also a great touch because it helps to solidify Cesaro as the champion.
With Christian likely being kept off TV until after TNA's Bound for Glory PPV, a feud with Ryder would be an excellent way to occupy Cesaro. Ryder has nothing going on, and a short feud with the United States champion couldn't hurt him.
Finally, the pairing of Askana and Cesaro is phenomenal. Aksana did all she could to help her beau retain. She laid down on the ring apron in an attempt to seduce Ryder into slipping up. One could argue that her pulling Cesaro out of the ring near the end of the match saved him from losing the title.
Who would have guessed one of the gems of Night of Champions would be the only non-title match on the card? Well, if you noticed that it was Dolph Ziggler versus Randy Orton, you could have.
Ziggler and Orton have had an entertaining feud thus far. They've traded wins, with Orton picking up the pinfall victory in their latest contest.
Every time these two meet, it's guaranteed to be a good match. At Night of Champions, the intensity of their match was off the charts. They wrestled for nearly 20 minutes and threw everything at one another.
The finish was epic. Orton threw Ziggler up in the air and caught him with an RKO for the clean pin. Despite the decisive loss, Ziggler looked great. He is one of the few heels who can look great whether or not he wins.
With Hell in a Cell coming up, Sheamus will have to defend the World Heavyweight Championship inside the brutal structure. There is no better way to set up Ziggler's big cash-in moment than a Hell in a Cell match. Orton will soon be taking off time to film a 12 Rounds sequel but when he returns, he'll have a viable reason to challenge Ziggler, assuming he wins the title.
In addition to being the second-best match of the night, this match continued to set up a World Heavyweight Championship feud between Orton and Ziggler down the road. The potential of that feud alone is worthy of praise.
The match was supposed to be Kaitlyn versus Layla. However, Kaitlyn suffered an injury when she was attacked by a masked person so Booker T had Eve replace her as the No. 1 contender
Yes, it was obvious that Eve was going to win the title as soon as we saw Kaitlyn injured backstage. The fact that she's the only Diva with a perceivable character and a storyline is enough to overlook that, though.
Eve has really clicked as a heel. She's doing the best work of her career both inside and outside the ring, and it only makes sense to put the title on her.
Sheamus, for the third month in a row, defeated Alberto Del Rio on the PPV stage. Their match was well-wrestled and even told a decent story.
Prior to the match, Booker T rescinded his decision to ban Sheamus' Brogue Kick. Because of that, Del Rio does have some reason to challenge for the title at Hell in a Cell. However, this feud has run its course and it is time for both men to move on.
Nonetheless, Sheamus and Del Rio managed to have a good match despite how stale their feud is. One highlight of the match was Del Rio's near fall when he had the Cross Armbreaker locked in in the center of the ring.
The decisive victory for Sheamus hopefully means it's time for Del Rio to exit the title picture. A fitting challenger for Sheamus at Hell in a Cell would be Wade Barrett. Both men base their wrestling style on brawling. The Cell would be an ideal setting for a straight-up fight between Barrett and Sheamus.
As I mentioned before, I believe Ziggler will cash in at Hell in a Cell. Sheamus should defeat Barrett by a narrow margin. Barrett's beating would leave Sheamus prone for Ziggler's cash-in.
That's only one scenario. If anything, Sheamus' feud with Del Rio has made him one of the most dominant champions in the WWE. Whether or not it's Barrett, whoever comes close to defeating Sheamus will look strong. And when Ziggler does finally cash in, it will be a huge deal.
CM Punk and John Cena threw everything they had at one another. They wrestled for more than 25 minutes. Each wrestler kicked out of the other's finishing maneuver on more than one occasion.
This match was unbelievable. Punk and Cena took their time and told a story. In the end, no man was able to keep the other down. Cena hit a top rope German suplex on Punk and bridged into a pin, but the referee ruled the match a draw since both men had their shoulders down for the three count.
What an ending. It summed up the aforementioned story and saved us from the obvious route of having Paul Heyman interfere to help Punk retain.
One can only assume that Punk will once again defend the WWE Championship against Cena at Hell in a Cell. The story almost writes itself. For one, the Cell is a perfect setting for the Cena versus Punk story—which has been developing for over a year now.
In addition to that, they can incorporate much more brutality into a Hell in a Cell match. Expect to see Cena and Punk go hold for hold, but also expect to see the Cell come into play. There's no reason Punk and Cena shouldn't be able to throw enough at one another to decide a victor in a Hell in a Cell match.
At the same time, the nature of a Hell in a Cell match allows for plot twists. If they plan to develop a faction around Punk and Heyman, new members could debut to help Punk retain at Hell in a Cell.
Punk retained, but he didn't win. Punk still has to prove himself to Cena to earn his respect. Furthermore, Punk hitting Cena with the belt after the match is just another reason for Cena not to respect the champion.
Finally, teasing Cena's win in Boston put a great deal of heat on Punk. Even more importantly, it accomplished a difficult task by making Cena a sympathetic babyface.
Cena versus Punk was the hands down best match of the evening. By the end of the match, fans were on the edge of their seat. The finish was the absolute best way they could advance the story between the two and keep their feud alive. It was an excellent ending to a great PPV.