WWE Night of Champions 2023 (5/27/2023)- Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT FINALS: Seth Rollins vs. AJ Styles- 8.25/10
Putting this match on first really makes it feel like it’s not the main event-level belt that they want us to see it as (and that it needs to be if it’s going to be the focus when Roman isn’t on a PPV).
Apparently, this new belt has (among other things) “the McMahon family crest” on it. They have a family crest?
There were two stories here. The first was the Rollins had all of AJ’s stuff perfectly scouted, and was one step ahead of him at pretty much every turn. He even countered AJ ducking a Shining Wizard by pulling out Low Ki’s old Black Magic. I popped huge for that.
Eventually Rollins hurt his knee on a dive, giving AJ an opening and creating the second story of AJ targeting said injured knee. Rollins eventually picked up the win, which we all saw coming because AJ is on the other brand and they didn’t even bother raising the question of what would happen if Smackdown wrestler AJ Styles won Raw’s world title until halfway through this match, when they really should have addressed it the moment Smackdown wrestlers were placed in the tournament.
BECKY LYNCH vs. TRISH STRATUS- 6.75/10
According to Michael Cole, Trish Stratus is a heel because she keeps reminding everyone about the strides she made for the women’s division instead of just letting her accomplishments speak for themselves. Yeah. Image having someone tells you multiple times on a weekly basis about much they have changes the women’s division. That sure would be really annoying.
I really don’t like Becky’s gear. It’s a yellow jumpsuit with little logos on the chest. It makes her look like a racecar driver. As annoying as that was, though, it was nothing compared to how annoyed I was by Trish’s gear, which said “thank you Trish” on the back, without the necessary comma.
This was a decent match, but nothing special, other than one or two cool spots. Trish played her character well, acting like a babyface to the few fans who were cheering her. Trish won after interference from Zoey Stark, who was hiding under the ring. While hiding under the ring is one of my least favorite wrestling tropes, I do really like pairing Trish and Zoey up, as giving Trish a chosen successor will both give Zoey the rub, and also allow this feud to feel like it has a lasting impact on storylines (the lack of which has been a major issue for me with these part-timer feuds, and in this case, I think Becky is a big enough star already that beating Trish won’t maker her any bigger of a star). It also gives us a second heel to team up with Trish when Lita is brought back into the feud (and Zoey can get a big win over Lita so that she has something that she can hang her hat on even though her side will likely come out of this as the losers, as I can’t imagine that Becky isn’t going to beat Trish in the end.
WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH: Gunther(c) (w/Imperium) vs. Mustafa Ali- 7./10
Some cultural appropriation there by Mr. Ali with that Arabic headdress, seeing as how he’s a Pakistani-American, and thus not an Arab. This was a great underdog babyface vs. monster heel match. The underdog did not win in the end.
KEVIN OWENS & SAMI ZAYN BACKSTAGE- awesome
There was great interplay between these two. Sami thought they might lose tonight. Owens gave him a tremendous pep talk.
WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH: Bianca Belair(c) vs. Asuka- 7/10
I’ll give them points for coming up with a new way to use the mist, but otherwise this was nothing special, and I really didn’t like such a long title reign ending in a dirty fashion when the winner is someone who won’t really be elevated by the win.
WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH: Rhea Ripley(c) (w/Dominik Mysterio) vs. Natalya- no rating, bad segment
Dominik distracted Nattie at the beginning, and Rhea won in seventy seconds. This is an angle you do on TV to set up a title match at the PPV with Dominik barred from ringside; not the match you do at the PPV itself.
BYRON SAXTON INTERVIEWS SETH ROLLINS- HORRENDOUS!
Seth was so annoying and so goofy that he ensured that I will not be watching Raw at any point in the near future. I can’t believe that WWE thinks that this guy is a babyface.
CODY RHODES vs. BROCK LESNAR- 4/10
Cody is somehow being allowed to compete with a BROKEN ARM. That seems ridiculous. He’s got a special cast on his arm, which is apparently made out of titanium.
Blah blah blah Cody fights valiantly. Blah blah blah Brock works over his arm. I just hated this whole thing. This sort of angle sucks, and here is why: Ostensibly, the purpose of a professional wrestling match is to find out who is better, but the very premise of this match ensured that that was impossible. If Brock won (which he did), he was fighting against someone at a major disadvantage because of a broken arm. If Cody had won, it was because he was allowed to repeatedly whack Brock in the head with something made out of titanium. Throw in that this is now the second short match in a row and the second I feel cheated out of a match, and that’s not good.
Then there is the fact that Cody passed out from the pain rather than tapping out. The effectiveness of that finish is inversely proportional to how over the top the situation is, and this one was so far over the top that this finish let like overkill on the “isn’t Cody so tough and brave” front.
WWE UNIFIED WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH: Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn(c) vs. the Bloodline (Solo Sikoa & Roman Reigns) (w/Paul Heyman)- 8.5/10
Sami doing his and Owens’ ring introductions in Arabic was a nice touch.
This was your standard Roman Reigns-esque slow-build main event until the interference started, and that will be the big news coming out of this match.
The Usos came out to help the Bloodline but wound up accidentally double-superkicking Solo. Roman got in their faces and shoved Jimmy, despite his protestations that they were “only trying to help.” Jey stepped in to play peacemaker, but Roman shouted “THERE AIN’T NO ‘DAY ONE’ NO MORE! GET OUT OF MY RING!” at which point JIMMY SUPERKICKED ROMAN!
Jey was mortified. He asked Jimmy what he was doing saying “we’ve got to be better than that”, to which Jimmy replied “I’m doing what you should have done a long time ago! I’ve got to!” and he superkicked Roman again. Jimmy told Jey “We’re the ones. Not him. I’m your brother. I would never treat you like that!”
Owens and Zayn then hit moves on Solo Sikoa and Sammy covered him for the pin... but there was no referee. Then the referee revived and made the count for the three. I liked that touch, as it felt a little less choreographed than having the referee be unconscious for the exact amount of time required for the interference to happen. But that’s not what you want to hear me talk about right now.
I will admit that out of all of the plausible finishes to this match, the Bloodline disintegrating tonight was the one I thought was the least likely, and certainly not with Solo getting pinned. I actually thought Roman was going to get pinned cleanly here, which would allow for more tension between him and the Usos as Roman has now put his money where his mouth is and failed, and the Usos know that, but will they actually bring it up the next time he bullies them. And, of course, it sets up a challenger for Roman for SummerSlam, where I think people could buy a Sami Zayn victory (especially as it looks like Cody will be tied up with Brock again on that show).
After that scenario, I thought the most likely scenario was Roman and Solo winning the belts, setting up a rematch with Owens and Zayn, and an eventual match with the Usos after Roman’s taunts push them too far and Jimmy demands a title match. That would allow for the same slower disintegration of the Bloodline when the Usos win the belts back, or would allow them to pivot and delay the disintegration if Roman starts to treat the Usos better, if that’s the pacing that their ultimate plans require (any scenario in which Roman wins the belts would have to end by SummerSlam, or else the same logic that resulted in the new World Heavyweight Championship would need to result in new tag titles as well).
This scenario certainly sets up Usos vs. Roman & Solo as well as a potential Owens & Zayn vs. Roman & Solo rematch, but what this scenario does but others don’t is set up a potential three-way between these teams, and I think that’s something they could headline SummerSlam with (although I’m not sure they’d be willing to not have Roman defend his world title(s) on SummerSlam, so maybe that won’t happen then… but then when do you do it?). And, of course, there are now singles title shots for the Usos on the table, but I really don’t like the idea of doing one of those at SummerSlam, as I just don’t think anyone will believe that either Uso can win the belt. This storyline has certainly earned my trust… but there is part of me that can’t help but wonder if this was Vince speeding things up on a whim, and that would be worrisome indeed.
This was a decent show from WWE. It was two awesome matches that produced big news bookending a bunch of stuff that really didn’t deliver to the expected level (and, in the case of the Smackdown Women’s Title match, felt like it didn’t happen at all). Brock vs. Cody and Bianca vs. Asuka feel tired and played out at this point (even with the title change in the latter), and while it is true that this show didn’t have a whole bunch of WWE’s bigger names on it (Lashley, Edge, Street Profits, Strowman, WWE United States Champion Austin Theory… hey, isn’t this “Night of Champions?”), most of the undercard stuff on this show didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. I know I’m far from the first to say this, but it really is amazing how much one storyline is carrying the company.
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