The talk about last night's WWE Night of Champions pay-per-view event in Buffalo, NY that I've seen online has been centering around two things:
- Mark Henry finally winning World Heavyweight Championship from Randy Orton in a really good match with a fantastic finish that got over great live.
- The total cluster of a finish to CM Punk vs Triple H involving run-ins from R-Truth, The Miz, John Laurinaitis, and Kevin Nash, as well as Scott Armstrong fighting Truth & Miz.
So much of the talk about the main event has been centering on the finish that nobody has really been talking about something else that was important: it was a hell of a match where Triple H was as giving as possible and CM Punk had another incredible pay-per-view main event performance, this time in a wild brawl instead of a somewhat technical slant on the WWE Championship style match.
I wasn't really sure what to expect coming into the match. Triple H can be incredibly inconsistent in the ring and has a history of trying to cut the legs off of rising stars. Most infamously:
- His original feud with Jeff Hardy in 2001 saw him lose the Intercontinental Championship in a slip on a banana peel finish before regaining it days later in dominant fashion.
- In his one match with Eddy Guerrero on the 2004 WWE Draft episode of Monday Night Raw, he appeared to be sandbagging (not easily going up for moves to make your opponent look bad) Guerrero throughout the match, especially on Guerrero's "Three Amigos" suplexes.
- When Nick Dinsmore's "Eugene" character caught on quickly later that year, Triple H rushed into a feud with him. It started well, but soon moved onto Triple H constantly squashing a comedy babyface who was no threat to his role as the top heel in the company.
Now, we have Triple H main eventing a pay-per-view show with someone who he has been constantly deriding the ability of the backstage for the last several years. Thankfully, he was completely professional and had a fantastic, wild give-and-take brawl with Punk that was far from the burial that some people are making it out to be. When was the last time, outside of something like a Wrestlemania main event, where someone kicked out of the Pedigree without any delay or other shenanigans like Punk did last night?
WWE main event brawls have gotten pretty patterned over the years. Not that being formulaic is necessarily a bad thing, but even a really good implementation of the formula, like Randy Orton vs Christian at Summerslam, was really too predictable. The key spots in the match were very easy to call in advance.
On the other hand, CM Punk vs Triple H last night was a lot different from the usual WWE main event brawl. Yes, they brawled into the crowd, but they were active and kept the fight moving as opposed to the lazy "grab your opponent's hair so he can follow you" type of movement around the arena.
There were a lot of innovative spots, including some great interaction with the entrance set and Punk throwing sandbags at Triple H's head. When Triple H got knocked onto the Spanish announcers' desk to set up Punk's "savage" top rope elbow drop through it, he landed in a way that looked realistic and didn't just happen to writhe into the perfect position as happens too often in WWE table spots.
At any rate, the key to this match was CM Punk's performance. He worked his ass off, taking wild bumps throughout, coming up with unique spots, and delivering an amazing highlight reel spot in the top rope elbow drop throw the announcers' desk.
Not to sell Triple H short, because he was no slouch and they were in sync throughout with perfect timing, but Punk was clearly the glue of this match. Punk took the big bumps, Punk was the one hitting the unique moves, and, being that he is new to this type of match within WWE and Triple H isn't, I would suspect that the less formulaic structure was something that he contributed a lot to, as well.
Sure, after those first 18 minutes, we got to that weird, overly long, cluster of a finish. It will probably make more sense in the context of tonight's Raw and I can see some glimmer of a good idea in it, but yes, it was definitely too long and, overall, it didn't work.
Still, that shouldn't take attention away from the quality of the match up to that point and any whining about CM Punk being buried is unwarranted. Punk kicked out of the second most protected finishing move in the company (behind the Tombstone) twice, with the second time not having any delay or any other kind of excuse for Triple H. It took multiple finishers and interference to beat him, and he was booked like a top guy in the match.
Was the booking messy? Sure. But I can deal with some booking stupidity if we get matches that were as good as the bulk of last night's main event was.