WWE Night of Champions 2013: Matches That Lived Up to Expectations

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2013

WWE Night of Champions 2013: Matches That Lived Up to Expectations

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    With the 2013 Night of Champions pay-per-view in the history books, it is time to take a look back at the annual September extravaganza.

    Daniel Bryan defeated Randy Orton in the evening's main event. He benefited from a fast count by referee Scott Armstrong while pinning Orton and will now arrive to Monday Night Raw as the WWE champion.

    Alberto Del Rio let his new-found aggressiveness get the best of him as he was disqualified in his World title defense against Rob Van Dam.

    The Shield escaped the evening's broadcast with both the United States and Tag Team Championships despite tough challenges from Dolph Ziggler and the Prime Time Players, respectively.

    Intercontinental champion Curtis Axel pulled double duty, defeating Kofi Kingston in an unscheduled match to retain his title, then falling to CM Punk as a part of the Handicap Elimination match later in the evening.

    Speaking of that Handicap Elimination match, Paul Heyman once again got one over on CM Punk, thanks in large part to the interference by Ryback. Whether "the big guy" is the newest Heyman Guy remains to be seen but his spear to Punk, through a table, was instrumental in Heyman's win.

    AJ Lee fended off the challenges of Brie Bella, Naomi and Natalya to retain her title while The Miz defeated Fandango in a special bonus match.

    It was a night of action that will affect the immediate future of WWE for weeks to come.

    This is a look back at Night of Champions and the matches that lived up to the expectations of the WWE Universe.

Intercontinental Championship Match: Kofi Kingston vs. Curtis Axel

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    It is difficult to have expectations for a match one does not even know will be a part of the card but the moment Kofi Kingston exploded through the curtain and was revealed as the challenger to Curtis Axel's Intercontinental Championship, fans expected an exciting, well-wrestled match to kick off the evening's in-ring action.

    The match lived up to those expectations.

    Kingston has a long and storied history of opening up pay-per-views and delivering energetic matches to set the stage for the rest of the evening's events.

    Whether it be against Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, Antonio Cesaro or in tag team action, Kingston is WWE's go-to star for delivering a crowd-satisfying opener and he did just that on Sunday night.

    Kingston brought the best out of Axel and continued to build fine chemistry with the third-generation star. The two mid-card stars strung together several near falls that kept the audience invested in the match and the outcome served to give Axel some much-needed momentum heading into the night's second biggest contest.

    The challenger will bounce back and, as he usually does, find himself in title contention while the champion gets a pay-per-view victory and begins to shed the label of "boring" that has been applied to him in recent months, thanks in large part to a hot championship defense.

World Heavyweight Championship Match: Rob Van Dam vs. Alberto Del Rio

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    Heading into Sunday's match between World Heavyweight champion Alberto Del Rio and Rob Van Dam, most expected a solid, if not spectacular match between two very talented workers.

    While there were a few moments early in which the Superstars appeared to have a lack of chemistry, they settled down and delivered a solid in-ring product.

    Del Rio targeted the back and then the arm of Van Dam before the former ECW standout made his comeback. 

    Neither man was as crisp as they typically are, but given the fact that this was the first match they have had with one another on a major pay-per-view stage, that was to be expected. Despite the lack of aesthetically beautiful action, the story that was told was more than solid.

    The finish came when Del Rio locked in his cross arm breaker and looked to be on his way to a successful title defense. The challenger fought through the pain and managed to get to the bottom rope, which should have forced Del Rio to break the hold.

    The champion, his frustration at a high, refused to break the hold once the official counted to five. That drew a disappointing disqualification.

    After the bout, Van Dam made up for the terrible finish by delivering a rare Van Terminator to Del Rio, a stunning maneuver assisted by Ricardo Rodriguez.

    With the match, Del Rio continues his streak of quality pay-per-view matches and stakes his claim for a Wrestler of the Year nomination.

    With that said, he also continues a more dubious streak.

    Throughout the course of his WWE career, Del Rio has always been the type of performer who meets expectations but never hits the next gear and pushes through into true greatness. Until that happens, he will continue to be viewed as one of the better workers in the business, but not one of the elite.

WWE Tag Team Championship Match: The Prime Time Players vs. The Shield

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    When a Tag Team Turmoil match to determine the number one contender to the WWE Tag Team Championship was announced for the Night of Champions Kickoff show, it was expected that Darren Young and Titus O'Neil-The Prime Time Players-would earn the title match.

    That is exactly what happened as Young and O'Neil overcame stiff competition from Antonio Cesaro and an outstanding Jack Swagger to grab the golden opportunity.

    The Shield's Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, Tag Team champions heading into Sunday's show, have had so many high quality matches over the course of the last ten months that fans already expect a certain level of performance from them.

    They did not disappoint on Sunday night, even as time constraints limited how much time they had to perform.

    O'Neil and Young made the most of their latest title opportunity, hitting the squared circle with great intensity. O'Neil, in particular, was outstanding as he tossed Rollins around the ring and made the usually intimidating Reigns look mortal.

    Late in the match, O'Neil took Rollins high into the air and brought him crashing to the mat with the Clash of the Titus. The near fall that followed popped the crowd and had the WWE faithful inside the Joe Louis Arena believe they were about to see the first title change of the evening.

    Unfortunately, Roman Reigns would explode across the squared circle and take O'Neil out with a spear, allowing the champions to pick up a hard-fought pinfall victory.

    The Prime Time Players gave their best performance as a team while Rollins and Reigns continued to serve as the perfect cornerstone of the tag team division.

    The fact that the match was as good as it was, given the short amount of time it had to develop, is a testament to all involved.

Handicap Elimination Match: CM Punk vs. Curtis Axel and Paul Heyman

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    When it was announced that the second biggest match on the Night of Champions card would be a Handicap Elimination match involving Paul Heyman and centering on the former ECW owner's angle with former friend CM Punk, most realized that the likelihood of Punk being involved in another outstanding Match of the Year candidate was low. 

    Instead, it was assumed that the match would be heavy on storyline as the rivalry between good friends-turned-bitter rivalries continued to unfold.

    Lots of storyline is what fans got on Sunday night.

    Punk, like Kofi Kingston earlier in the evening, delivered a solid in-ring performance against the third-generation Superstar Curtis Axel. All the while, great attention was paid to Heyman by commentators and cameramen throughout the majority of the bout.

    Once Punk dispatched of the Intercontinental champion, he turned his attention to Heyman. Unapologetic in his beating of the deceitful businessman, Punk attacked with a kendo stick, then handcuffed Heyman's hands behind his back and again assaulted him with the weapon.

    It looked like Punk would take his time in assaulting Heyman before cruising to an easy and decisive win when, from out of nowhere, Ryback slid into the ring and speared Punk through a table that had been set up in the corner earlier in the match.

    Ryback threw Heyman on top of Punk and the official counted the fall, awarding the match to Paul Heyman.

    The match was everything fans thought it would be. Punk and Axel wrestled a solid match that took up the majority of the time allotted before Punk got a few minutes of revenge on his former friend, but saw victory slip through his tattooed fingers thanks to the latest Heyman Guy.

    It made sense, it met expectations and may, in the long run, be the most memorable happening on the entire show.

WWE Championship Match: Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton

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    As was the case throughout most of the show, the WWE title match was hampered by time constraints. While those time constraints would hurt many matches involving lesser workers, Bryan and Orton still managed to deliver a pay-per-view quality main event that lived up to the hype and continued the company's main angle.

    A late start to the match limited any slow portions or rest holds and created a far more exciting and energized match as a result.

    Bryan was a buzzsaw, repeatedly laying into the champion with stiff kicks to the upper torso in an attempt to wear him down. The challenger threw caution to the wind, diving through the ropes on a number of occasions, fully aware that it may have been his only opportunity to regain the title he never should have lost in the first place.

    Late in the bout, referee Scott Armstrong was on the wrong end of a dropkick from Bryan to Orton as he was bumped outside the ring and to the arena floor. A second referee would oversee the majority of the match's conclusion before Armstrong returned.

    Bryan would catch Orton with the running knee and benefit from a fast count by Armstrong to win his second WWE title in as many months.

    The match was different in that it did not incorporate all of the near falls that WWE main events typically do. That is not to say it hurt the match because it most certainly did not. Instead, it was a completely different match than those that have closed out pay-per-views in the past and it was a welcomed change.

    Bryan celebrating to end the evening was nice, even if those in Detroit and the many watching at home realized that it would likely be taken away 24-hours later.