The first ‘Night of Champions’ took place last year under the title ‘Vengeance: Night of Champions’ and, like the old ‘In Your House’ PPVs, this was a precursor to losing the main title of the show and going simply with the subtitle.
Running Time: 169mins (excluding extras)
- WWE Tag Team Championship Match – John Morrison & The Miz v Finlay & Hornswoggle
- Wrestlemania 22 Flashback: Triple H v John Cena for the WWE Championship
- United States Championship Match – Matt Hardy v Chavo Guerrero
- Recap of Mr. McMahon’s Accident
- Triple Threat Match for the ECW Championship – Kane v Big Show v Mark Henry
- Eve Torres Interviews Batista
- World Tag Team Championship Match – Cody Rhodes & Hardcore Holly v Ted Dibiase & ?
- Todd Grisham Interviews JBL in a Luxury Skybox
- WWE Intercontinental Championship Match – Chris Jericho v Kofi Kingston
- Edge Doesn’t Need Anyone’s Help to Beat Batista
- WWE Women’s Championship Match – Mickie James v Katie Lee Burchill
- World Heavyweight Championship Match – Edge v Batista
- Todd Grisham Interviews Triple H
- WWE Championship Match – Triple H v John Cena
- Todd Grisham Interviews WWE Champion Triple H
- J.R.’s Farewell Address – RAW 30/06/08
Last year’s event was a decent show, but it will be most likely remembered as the PPV that Chris Benoit no-showed after killing his family (although the latter part wasn’t known about at the time). Replacing Benoit was Johnny Nitro, who would go on to win the ECW Championship, change his name, update his gimmick and become one half of the best tag team going today; Miz & Morrison.
This year’s event followed the format set twelve months earlier by having every WWE title defended in some manner. I personally hoped that the Cruiserweight title would return (with Gregory Helms), but that was not to be… even if the awesome set has the CW belt on one of the flags (inexplicably claiming to be the ECW title).
The main story going into NoC was the long-awaited rematch between Triple H and John Cena (their only singles bout to this point was a belter at Wrestlemania 22 where Cena made “The Game” tap in a shocker of an ending) that was supposed to happen at Wrestlemania 23.
The other main talking point was who Ted DiBiase had as his mystery partner. The last time a DiBiase had a mystery tag partner, it turned out to be The Undertaker making his debut alongside Ted, Sr. No-one expected a surprise of that level, in fact, most people had it sussed weeks prior, but with a lot of FCW guys ready to be brought to the main roster, there was always a slim chance a surprise is what we’d get.
With eight matches on the card, it was obvious that some of them would be short (only three go over 10mins, and one of them is just under 11mins), but that doesn’t mean they would be poor.
The disc opens with a short video that does a great job of promoting what it means to be a champion. This is followed by two hype promos for Batista v Edge and Triple H v Cena that really set the tone for the pair of main event matches. WWE can be faulted on many things, but their production values and ability to put together a compelling video package is rarely going to be one of them.
Opening with a match that no-one really wanted to see, NoC kicks off with the WWE Tag Team Titles being defended as Miz & Morrison takes on the “father and son” duo of Finlay and Hornswoggle. To be fair to both teams, the match is a lot better than anyone could have expected and there is some nice exchanges with the midget that don’t stretch credibility too far.
Since this is post-WWE Draft, Jim Ross and Mick Foley are on Smackdown commentary duties, and it’s safe to say that they are the best duo since JR and Jerry Lawler in their prime.
Just like The Hart Foundation The Rockers and The New Age Outlaws before them, Miz & Morrison were an accidental tag team that just seemed to click as a unit. They currently claim to be the best team of the 21st Century. Time will tell on that, but they definitely have a great argument to being the best damn tag team in the world today. With some unique offence and fantastic chemistry, they should be near the top for a long time to come.
Another thing that sometimes goes unnoticed is Hornswoggle’s fantastic timing and grasp of psychology. The little guy gets “it”, which makes all the difference. A perfect example of this is when he tags in part-way through the match and has the fans on their feet as he takes Miz over with a headscissors, drops him with a stunner and then finally keeps him down with a wheelbarrow-bulldog. The fans lap it up and the timing on each of them was near perfect. Of course, you can’t have a midget dominate for too long, so the “Emerald Offence” doesn’t last too long.
The opener was a lot better than expected, which was a good omen for the rest of the show, so WWE were one-for-one so far and M&M were building their legacy with a fantastic heel performance.
From a announcing duo who seem to be energised in Foley & Ross, we go to a pair who are lacklustre in comparison; Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole. Cole works well with someone like a JBL antagonising him into a better performance, but with Jerry Lawler, who has been phoning it in for years, there is nothing to help him, thus they detract from whichever match they are announcing.
Thankfully, their only pushing a phone vote, so we go back to Mick and Jim as Matt Hardy defends his US Title against Chavo Guerrero. Listening to Matt’s ovation upon his entrance, it makes you wonder if there is anyone more universally over on the WWE rosters than the Hardy brothers?
Both Matt and Chavo are accomplished wrestlers, but Eddie’s nephew had been, to me, on a bit of a boring run as of late, so I wasn’t going into this match with high expectations either. The match wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t really that good either. Bam Neely is the worst second I think I’ve ever seen and the action never really clicked. I will say this though, the finish is as “out of nowhere” as you’re going to get.
Two matches in and we cut to a recap of Vince’s “Million Dollar Mania” and the “accident” that has kept him off our screens to this very day. The angle hasn’t been dropped, but there doesn’t appear to be a resolution in sight at the moment. Hopefully there will be a great pay-off to a storyline that has been running for close to six months now.
Moving on from McMahon’s personal tragedy, it’s time for ECW’s solitary bout of the card. Mike Adamle (who wasn’t as bad as people made out… he was poor, just not that poor) and Tazz (who replaced Foley over on Smackdown just a few months later) are our commentators for Mark Henry v Big Show v Kane in what was only ever going to be a big-man power brawl. An added aspect was that the draft had moved people around, so this became a tri-branded three-way as Big Show represented Smackdown, Kane represented Raw and Mark Henry, telegraphing the result, was flying the flag for ECW.
I’ve had a soft spot for “Silverback” Mark Henry ever since he returned to maim Batista, so I was hoping for a good showing by the “World’s Strongest Man”. I wouldn’t be disappointed.
All three men showcased their awesome size and power early on, but the standard Triple Threat formula came into effect as one man would be taken out so the others could go one-on-one for a bit. Highlights include a sweet double-chokeslam on Henry by the former Tag Champs, an effortless bodyslam on Mark Henry by Big Show, Kane kicking out of Show’s chokeslam (eliciting a great reaction from the fans).
The finish is also a thing of beauty as Show climbs to the top (to another great “WTF?” reaction) and gets superplexed to the mat, only for Mark Henry to literally appear out of nowhere, splash Kane and become the new ECW Champion. The joy in his face was genuine as the genial giant finally won a major wrestling title. The crowd react favourably as well, so it was a good night all round for “The World’s Strongest Champion”.
From a good night for one long-term WWE veteran, we go directly to a bad night for another 12+ year member of the WWE roster as Hardcore Holly, in an angle rather than a match, is double-crossed by his “rookie partner”, Cody Rhodes (in a heel turn that, literally, shocked no-one).
The “match” is short (1min 30secs), but there was enough to show that Ted DiBiase was as comfortable as a newcomer could be on the microphone. In the months since this turn, both men have shown to be natural heels and have a swagger to them that elevates them from the other newcomers to WWE (with the possible exception of Jack Swagger).
The crowd buy into it, which is always important, but I’ve been very surprised there has been no retaliation from Hardcore Holly since NoC (in fact, Holly hasn’t been seen at all since the PPV).
Breaking up the action, JBL puts “The Grish” in his place before cutting another fantastic promo. I feel that some people don’t give him enough credit for his in-ring abilities (he’s no technician, but he can be an exciting brawler), but when it comes to verbal talent, almost everyone would put him in the top five orators in the business today.
At the half-way point of ‘Night of Champions’, it’s fair to say we’ve not had a bad match yet (Matt Hardy v Chavo wasn’t great, but it didn’t suck). Looking at the remainder of the card, it would also be safe to say that we should, at least, get three good matches going out.
Chris Jericho had just started his heel persona (the ramming of Michaels into the JeriTron was three weeks previous), so he had Lance Cade with him as he lambasted the fans for their hypocritical attitude. What I find most striking in the whole deal is not only does Jericho go with the basic heel philosophy of believing what he says is right’ he actually is right; HBK is a liar and a cheat and Chris Jericho did tell us the truth, only to be booed for his troubles.
The match had, like the previous outing, a mystery opponent for the champion. Kofi Kingston (recently drafted to RAW) was the man chosen to challenge for a title that used to mean so much, but is now watered down to sub-European Title status.
Both men had some nice chemistry and the action is straightforward and exciting at times. Unfortunately, EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the building were sure HBK would interfere in some capacity (especially as Jericho telegraphed it in his pre-match promo), so there was no real urgency on any of the falls (although there are some close calls). That being said, the crowd were into it and fully behind the challenger.
In hindsight, the match was really just a way to get the IC belt out of the Shawn Michaels/HBK rivalry, so with that in mind, it can’t be considered anything other than a success. Kingston was really over with the fans and was a breath of fresh air to the RAW roster… plus this switch in turn led to the Honk-a-Meter, which is reason enough for it to have taken place.
Oh, and the original LionTamer is still a thing of beauty.
As we leave on gorgeous thing, we move on to a pair of stunners in Mickie James and Katie Lee Burchill as the twosome battle over the WWE Women’s Title. Katie Lee (a.k.a Nikita from her days on the UK Scene) is a phenomenal talent inside the ring, but her WWE run has been nothing but a disappointment thus far.
Accompanying Katie to ringside is her brother Paul, another guy who has disappointed in his WWE stints. The one Paul Burchill does make obvious is how much bigger the standard US wrestler is when compared to the standard UK wrestler. Sure, the UK has guys like Alex Shane who are pushing 7ft in height, but Paul Burchill was, at one time, the UK’s answer to Goldberg (if you can believe that) and actually pulled the gimmick off.
Burchill goes to the US and he is suddenly just another wrestler… a lesson to us all, perhaps?
Anyway, there is still a match to be discussed. Mickie v Katie Lee wasn’t a bad outing, but it was the worst match on the card (I’m not counting the World Tag Team Title switch as an actual contest). Some of the exchanges had timing issues, but on the whole, it was a passable way to spend seven minutes. The only downer for me is that, in my opinion, the wrong person won.
No such issues with the penultimate contest, as Edge battled Batista for what seemed like the hundredth time for the World Heavyweight Championship. The big semi-angle going into both this and the following WWE Championship bout is that RAW or Smackdown could end up without a headlining title holder.
There was a phone poll to say whether you thought one or both challengers would keep a belt on the flagship broadcast. The results of which had Batista as the favourite, but not by much. 32% chose Dave, while 31% thought both would bring back a belt, 30% thought Cena would and 7% had a feeling that both title would remain on Smackdown.
So, could Batista, who had never defeated Edge with a World Championship on the line, fulfil the fans faith in him, or would Vickie Guerrero and company make sure that the aforementioned statistic stayed true? Whatever the outcome, I had high hopes that it would be an exciting ride regardless… and I wasn’t disappointed.
Edge, in some ways, reminds me of a heel Shawn Michaels from around 1994/95. He is a fantastic wrestler, a great talker and, perhaps most crucially of all for a top-line heel, he isn’t afraid to be bumped around like a pinball on speed. Against Batista, a man who has outsizes him by a fair amount, he lives up to that mantra as Dave slams him, spins him and flips him with lariats, boots, sidewalk-slams, powerslams, etc.
The crowd are really into it as well, but, unlike the Undertaker/Batista and Undertaker/Edge series of matches, the Batista/Edge bouts didn’t retain as much interest as the mounted up. Not a knock on both guys, the bouts were still good-to-great, but just no in the same league as what Undertaker managed to get out of both of them. The usual shenanigans don’t mar the contest as much as they could have, but it’s the added extra of having Jim Ross and Mick Foley on commentary that keeps the interest level high for the home viewers.
It’s actually a credit to Batista that, ever since Wrestlemania 23, he’s had very few poor matches (v Umaga at Wrestlemania XXIV was the biggest). He wasn’t carried by Undertaker in their series, far from it, and he has put in a career-best run when it comes to PPV outings.
Edge, on the other hand, has always been a great talent in the ring, but he really cemented himself as a bonafide main-event level performer during his first (but certainly not his last) ‘Mania headline appearance. I honestly believe that Edge v Undertaker from this year’s Wrestlemania is one of the best wrestling matches in US history.
I digress; the match, in the closing five minutes, is very heated, with near falls and counters galore. The finish is fantastic, keeps both wrestlers strong and lets Jim Ross vent his spleen as only he can.
Vickie Guerrero continues to showcase her (surprising?) talent for being a despised heel with some well-timed interference on behalf of her soon-to-be husband and, in a very brave move, being military pressed over the top rope to the floor (onto La Familia) by Batista. Ryder & Hawkins, however, remain as anonymous as ever.
From a match that surpassed my expectations going in (due to the apathy I was feeling for Edge/Batista matches) to a main event that had absolutely no chance to live up to the hype; Triple H v John Cena II.
The first encounter wasn’t expected to be a great contest, but, mainly due to the fans’ participation and the genuinely shocking ending (it’s incredibly rare to be shocked by a result. Surprised, yes, but rarely shocked) that saw HHH tap-out, cleanly, to a modified STFU by John Cena.
The story going in was that Triple H was still bitter about losing that contest, mainly to him believing that Cena wasn’t, and isn’t, as good as him in the ring. Conversely, John Cena was out to prove that his win wasn’t a fluke and that he deserves to be where he is right now.
With the (fantastic) hype video (that makes me want to watch Flair’s post-match promo from the 1992 Royal Rumble again) out of the way, it would now be up to the two combatants to see if they could live up to it. Unsurprisingly, they couldn’t… but that doesn’t mean it was a bad match. The real irony is that Cena was promising a “moment that would transcend time” in this rematch, which they didn’t manage, yet their first bout followed through on that promise the moment Cane made “The Game” submit.
Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole are your commentators (sadly) as Cena makes his way out to a hostile reception (not as hostile as One Night Stand 2006 – but no crowd was as hostile as the ECW fans in the Hammerstein that night), reminding us with their inane chatter that they aren’t on a par with their Smackdown brethren.
Triple H, obviously the overwhelming fan-favourite (as he was in 2006), looked to be in a super-serious mood, something he needs to do more than his comedy face routine. The tension was evident as the fans struggle with restlessness until the bell rings.
The action is slower paced than the previous match, but that was to be expected. The two men got in their big moves and counter the other’s signature offence on a regular basis. The intensity is evident and there are very few real botches… but Cena really needs to sit with someone in the back and be told exactly how to lock on a tight STFU; he really seems unable to actually lock on the chinlock part of the hold. Oh, and while their at it, he needs to spend some time with Matt Hardy and learn how to throw a punch.
I will say this though, as poor as the application of the STFU can be, the move is over like rover with the fans. In the same manner as Chris Masters and the Masterlock, the move may be basic or poorly applied (the Masterlock was never poorly applied, just for the record), but if the fans believe it can defeat someone, then it does it’s job.
The closing nine or so minutes is frantic, with the fans, even after two-and-a-half hours of PPV (and whatever pre-show entertainment was provided) on the edge of their seat for finishers, counters and near falls. They then REALLY come alive with the “YAY-BOO!” punching and the actual finishing sequence (that involves a stunning reversal of a Pedigree into an STFU and lasts almost five minutes in its own right).
Both men put forth a great effort and really sell the fatigue (if they were selling), while the fans did their part and made the match almost on a par with their first outing. As it is, like with most movies, the sequel didn’t quite live up to the original.
The right guy won, for me anyway, and the result sets up the inevitable Wrestlemania rematch, so that can only be a good thing.
‘Night of Champions 2008′ was a really good PPV that continued WWE’s run of sterling big-show outings. There were few disappointing matches, storylines were forwarded logically and the right people won in seven of the eight matches. All in all, the show was great, especially for a “B” level event.
Edge, Batista, Triple H, Cena, Big Show, Kane, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston and the team of Miz & Morrison all put in great efforts and make this show worthy of purchase.
The extras are a little more than the usual fluff, with Triple H’s post-match interview being quite interesting in his praise of John Cena. If WWE were smart, they would have aired it and then used it as part of the hype for HHH v Cena III.
The second extra is Jim Ross’ farewell appearance from the Monday Night RAW that took place the following night. It’s a decent promo, but I find it unforgivable that WWE stop it just before all the shenanigans that led to CM Punk becoming World Champion.
The surprise appearance by Edge, the retaliation by Batista and the electric feeling when CM Punk cashed in his MitB briefcase was a stunning piece of television, so to leave it out is a wasted opportunity.
All in all, it doesn’t sully the DVD release that much, and the event alone is well worth the money. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Points: 8/10 (would have been a nine if the whole J.R address was on the extras)