VENGEANCE: NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS

June 24, 2007


Considering how often that ‘Night of Champions’ is used as a name for big wrestling shows, the premise behind this show (every match is a title match) isn’t bad. The WWE had long since stopped putting the titles on the line at every PPV, which makes the show feel special (and the classic clips between matches are a nice touch). It’s just a shame that, no matter how this show turned out, it’s overshadowed by the tragic events of that weekend.


Sgt. Slaughter . . . actually puts on a better performance than the WWE Tag Team Champions.

Edge . . . puts on a very smart performance and combined with some good booking, he proves he’s a worthy World Heavyweight Champion.

John Cena . . . defies the odds yet again by defending the WWE Title in a match with only a 20% chance of success.


LANCE CADE/TREVOR MURDOCH © vs. MATT HARDY/JEFF HARDY (World Tag Team Titles)

Those of you who’ve been following the goings on in the WWE via PPV results will notice that Cade and Murdoch have won the titles since their last meeting at Judgment Day (the match is actually included on a bonus Blockbuster DVD). The match is like their other PPV matches against each other, not bad, but not outstanding. It’s nice to see that winning the titles, by some underhanded means, hasn’t stopped Cade and Murdoch from professing their sportsmanship, and it’s funny to watch Cade break clean in the corner and yell ‘By the rules!’ while it’s clear that Matt and Jeff are dying to get their hands on them, regardless if it’s by the rules or not.


The biggest issue with the match is that it lacks an outstanding performance from anyone in any aspect. Cade and Murdoch’s sportsmanship shtick is funny, and does play into the finish, but it doesn’t stick around. When the Hardys are in control of things, there’s nothing new to see. You could easily splice together some footage from their past matches and put together a good replica of their control segment. They’re doing the same things that they always do, Jeff’s slingshot dropkick in the corner, poetry in motion, etc. It’s especially glaring when Jeff throws a slow kick for Cade to catch and then pauses for a second before doing his spin kick counter. Cade and Murdoch really aren’t much better, the highlight of their control segment was the blind tag when Matt was chasing Murdoch and didn’t see Cade tag in, and Cade’s chop block. It’s a nice touch to hear the announcers mention that Matt’s knee was injured by Finlay on TV recently, so it gives it more meaning, but the champions aren’t very interesting when working over his knee, and Matt’s selling was good, but nothing outstanding. If nothing else, they score points for a smart finish, with Jeff hot tagging in, cleaning house and going for the Swanton. Murdoch pushes Jeff off the top and Cade hits his spine buster for the win. And it is technically by the rules, pushing Jeff off the top may not have been totally legal, but it’s no worse than running into the ring to break up a pinfall or submission hold, it just gave Cade the opening to hit his big move.


CHAVO GUERRERO © vs. JIMMY WANG YANG (WWE Cruiserweight Title)

Wow, I’d have thought that Chavo would be a babyface in Texas, but not so. It’s almost sad in a way, digging out the Three Amigos and Frog splash in tribute to Eddie, and the Gory Special in tribute to Gory only serves to increase the boos (and Yang gets a big pop for his reversal of it). Aside from Yang’s flying and Chavo working over Yang’s back, there isn’t much to see here. Yang’s dive is impressive and his moonsault is very graceful, but that’s all he brings for notable offense. His back selling is also very good, but it’s not very consistent, and when it’s his turn to go back on offense he forgets all about it. Chavo’s back work is the highlight of the match, it starts out with a surfboard which appears to be just another rest hold, but he sticks with it for a bit and gives the match some direction. It doesn’t last long though, and as soon as Yang is on offense it’s like it never happened. Chavo doesn’t forget though, and the Frog splash to the back is a very nice touch, but the only build to it is just him crotching Yang’s attempt for his moonsault, it works for Chavo being sneaky heel, but it doesn’t make him look like a top dog, which is what being a champion should signify.


CM PUNK vs. JOHNNY NITRO (Vacant ECW Heavyweight Title)

In a way, the booking here is very reminiscent of the original ECW. How many times during ECW PPVs did they ‘venture off the format sheet’ and change things up? Considering that any similarities between the original ECW and the WWE’s resurrection of ECW are coincidental, it’s fitting to see a wrestler not even booked on the show initially to walk out with the ECW Title. And honestly, the match isn’t bad at all, all the matches thus far had been really short, but this is the first match that looks like it could benefit from going a bit longer and letting Punk carry the offense a bit more. Nitro is good with the flashy and inventive stuff, but he’s sorely lacking in simple and effective offense. Punk is content to use his ‘Muay Thai Kickboxing’ kicks, and work in his usual spots (the running knee strike in the corner and segue to bulldog, a springboard lariat, and attempted GTS) and digging out the old Pepsi Twist from his ROH days.


Nitro does add a few nice touches to things though, he out wrestles Punk to start off and gloats, Punk unloads a few kicks and Nitro’s reaction is priceless, and the back flip bump off the second kick to his thigh is great. Nitro gets some revenge a few minutes later with a roundhouse kick of his own. Punk’s best near fall is when they ape the finish of Bret/Davey Boy from SummerSlam ‘92 with the sunset flip cutback, and Nitro’s flexibility allows Punk to really lean forward and make it look inescapable, but Nitro actually slips out the backdoor to kick out, which looks oodles more realistic that the usual kick out. The finish makes enough sense, but would have worked better if either Punk had seriously wiped out on something or Nitro working over Punk’s neck for a bit, aside from the extended Cobra Clutch variation. The flipping neckbreaker is original enough, and with Punk’s feet hanging from the ropes he had no way to block or counter it, but digging out the move with no build and doing so after such a short match leaves a bad taste to what was an at-times fun little match.


SANTINO MARELLA © vs. UMAGA (WWE Intercontinental Title)

Wow. I wonder who decided that 2007 needed to be the year of pissing on the Intercontinental Title? Before Marella, Umaga had a long reign and did nothing of note. After Marella, Jeff Hardy had a long (long, long) reign and did very little of note. Not to mention this, a PPV dedicated to honoring the history of the various titles and it gets a whole three minutes and lame finish. They at least attempt to use their time wisely. Marella isn’t very good but at least has the spunky babyface bit down pat. He starts with a quick roll up attempt, jumps on Umaga’s back and wails away, and then dies nicely. Umaga wails away on him a bunch, and puts on the dreaded nerve hold, Marella at least tries to put over the effects of it by acting like he’s losing the feeling in his arm due to it. Umaga slugs away on him in the corner. The ref counts to five and calls for the bell. Next!


MVP © vs. RIC FLAIR (WWE United States Title)

Even if they never actually wrestled, this would be good simply due to the verbal exchanges between Flair and MVP. The match is okay, but not as good as the verbal banter. It’s easy to lay the blame on Flair, whose career was predicated on making others look good. But that doesn’t apply in this case, MVP is the one coming into the match with a title around his waist, he should be able to make himself look good, and he fails. Flair actually isn’t that bad here, he doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen 100 times before, but it’s still appreciated on some level, because he at least does it well. When MVP talks trash to Flair he responds by chopping and punching away at him. It’s nothing new but at least it has a purpose, to shut his big mouth. When MVP misses the running kick in the corner, Flair does his chop block, since he’s just weakened his knee a bit, and then goes to the Figure Four. Again, nothing new, but at least Flair tried to make it seem logical for him to do so, and not just doing the same old stuff.


The strength of the match where MVP finally beat Benoit for the title was that he was given an easy focal point of attack and made good use of it, en route to victory. He gets more or less the same thing here, but doesn’t make the good use of it. When MVP hits his trademark running kick to the face, Flair puts it over very well (even with a little juice) and while Cole and JBL are trying to put over MVP for ‘targeting the nose and face’ of Flair, he’s sitting in a chin lock killing time. He only does two spots that give that idea, his counter to Flair’s ten count punches in the corner when he drops him face first onto the turnbuckle, and when he steals a page from Flair’s book with a cheap shot to the face and then hits the Playmaker to win. There’s zero build to the Playmaker, which isn’t necessarily bad, there are plenty of over finishers that don’t need any sort of build (FU, RKO, Pedigree, Stunner, and Rock Bottom), but they at least all look like they could finish you in a heartbeat. The Playmaker looks ugly, and even uglier on someone like Flair who can’t really bump the right way for it to make it seem like a deadly move.


DEUCE/DOMINO © vs. JIMMY SNUKA/SGT. SLAUGHTER (WWE Tag Team Titles)

I can appreciate that Deuce is Snuka’s real life son, but there was no way this needed to happen, let alone on PPV. Were London and Kendrick Smackdown’s only good babyface team? This was supposed to be an open challenge, why not throw a team from RAW or ECW in here? It’s not like it hadn’t happened before. When Sgt. Slaughter is the best worker of the match. You’re in deep trouble. Snuka is just too old and too slow to do anything. Snuka and Domino screw up a leapfrog spot, for the love of God. Slaughter at least throws decent strikes and works in familiar spots that still look effective, specifically the gutbuster and the Cobra Clutch. Deuce and Domino are just useless here. They do nothing but punch and kick, and they don’t even do that very well, and some occasional double teaming behind the ref’s back. At one point Deuce tries to mock Snuka by doing a Superfly Splash that looked pretty good, and it showed a little personality. This mercifully ends when Snuka tries a cross body press and Deuce rolls through and gets the pin. A fitting finish if there ever was one, the champions looked like chumps here, and finish only added to that.


EDGE © vs. BATISTA (World Heavyweight Title)

A clean finish would have been more preferable, but at least Edge and Batista made a point of building up to it. If they had to use a cheap copout sort of finish, at least they made sure it played off the stipulation (Batista’s last chance to challenge for the World Title while Edge is champion), instead of just doing it for the hell of it, like Umaga/Santino. Edge working the left arm over is what most of the match is predicated on, to some extent it’s just filler, but it’s smart filler on Edge’s part. Edge works the arm over in interesting ways, and is able to use it to create openings for himself. Edge countering the Samoan Drop into a sort of Crucifix armbar was a cool moment, and using the arm as a way to escape the powerslam, and countering the attempted Batista Bomb into the Impaler DDT were both nice touches.


It’s not just Edge using the injured arm that makes the match smart. He still puts over Batista huge whenever he does get hit with anything, after a lengthy time spent working on Batista’s left arm, Edge gets levels by a lariat with the right arm and he sells it like he got hit by Stan Hansen. The one-armed Bossman Slam from Batista was another nice moment, Edge also put it over huge, and while he’s never been much for selling, Batista was adequate with the arm, he mostly just kept it pressed against his body and tried to not use it. It’s miles better than his attempt to sell his injured knee from their Judgment Day match. Also the spear spot looked much better than it could have (especially given the ugly results of the leap frog in the last match) but Batista’s spear to counter Edge charging for his spear looked very good. In that sense, the low-blow, disqualification, and the restart of the match make pretty good sense, Edge had done everything he could to take away the arm and take away his big weapons, but it still wasn’t enough and he got desperate. After the restart they keep it smart, they trade attempts to win with cradles, and Edge goes for a chair and remembers that he’ll lose the title if he gets himself disqualified, and throws it down in a funny moment. Batista finally hits his finisher on the floor, rolls in Edge and winds up getting himself counted out. Batista could have rolled in and out to break up the count, but he was thinking about the title, and not thinking smart. Yes, a clean finish would have been nice, but finishes like this can work just fine when they’re properly built up to and executed, like this was. ***


MELINA © vs. CANDICE MICHELLE (WWE Women’s Title)

Given that neither of these two are very good, and that they only had about four minutes, they didn’t have a prayer of doing anything worthwhile, but I’ll give them credit for trying. Candice attempts to do a hanging choke in the corner, but Melina escapes and kicks her in the back, and then proceeds to work the back over briefly, and Candice, to her credit, sells well enough to make things seem bleak for her. Candice catches her with a stun gun and starts going for pinfall attempts after she does even the most simple move like an elbow drop, and Melina keeps kicking at the last second to show her desperation/resilience, and Candice finally hits an ugly spin kick and gets the three count. Yeah, unlike Duece and Domino, the women at least tried.


JOHN CENA © vs. RANDY ORTON vs. BOBBY LASHLEY vs. KING BOOKER vs. MICK FOLEY (WWE Heavyweight Title)

Like most of the matches on this show, this isn’t a bad match, it’s just mindless, especially compared to what Edge and Batista showed. There’s very little downtime, which might be exciting for the fans, but it winds up looking very scripted and choreographed, right after a big spot, there’s always another wrestler ready to do something else, and then another ready to do something else. They pull it off well enough, but its lack of personality and being all go-go-go with very little real development of anything puts it well behind the four-way match from Backlash. I suppose that one could argue that Cena giving Lashley the FU through the ECW announce table was the beginning of their rivalry which would lead to Cena’s defense against Lashley the next month, but it was really just a way to do a table spot and take out Lashley for a time.


The only real drama to the match is whether or not Cena can pull it off, given that it’s a five-way one-fall match (which JR helpfully calculates gives Cena only a 20% chance of winning), and Cena getting seemingly taken out of the match a couple of times leaving someone else to pick up the pieces. But beyond that there’s no real story being told, and no sign of anyone showing a smart strategy or game plan, because they just keep moving on to the next spot. Orton giving Cena the RKO while he was doing the 5 Knuckle Shuffle was nice, but right afterwards Foley jumps Orton. A few minutes later Foley lays out Cena with a chair shot, and Orton returns the favor by jumping Foley from behind and giving him the ROK (Randy Orton Kick - his running kick to the head), only to get speared by Lashley, who turns into a jumping sidekick by Booker. It might be exciting and action packed to the live crowd, but there’s no reason for anyone to make any sort of emotional investment unless they’re a diehard fan of one of the five. Cena pinning Foley was the obvious finish, given that Mick was doing this as a one-off, but the finish isn’t any deeper than Cena hitting his finisher without anybody poised to break it up.


Conclusion: With a few exceptions, there’s isn’t much that’s outright bad, and everything is pretty short with only two matches going longer than ten minutes. The show just lacks anything outstanding to put it over the top, it’s nothing worth avoiding at all costs, but it’s best to watch this like I did, rent it from Blockbuster.