I went into Sunday's Night of Champions pay-per-view as skeptical as I've ever been. The armfolded curmudgeon saying, "let's see how they fuck this one up." The Punk/Triple H story seemed to be lost in its own self-importance, Alberto Del Rio looked ripe to get thrown through the Super Cena Cycle, and I couldn't get past the feeling that despite Mark Henry's brilliantly orchestrated build up, that he would simply lose to Randy Orton and that would be it. And as I sat and watched with my roommate, I was reminded of the benefit of optimism when it comes to this sport.
My investment in CM Punk has made a transformation over the past few weeks. The real life implications of his fight, those blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction, have developed into a mindset (one that I think is seen all over the internet) that a Punk loss is symbolic of the old order in WWE. The refusal to commit to the change that Punk has proven is desired by the fans. Going into the match my belief was that if Punk were to do anything but win and win conclusively, than the WWE would be effectively killing Punk and his outcries. Choosing to side with business over sport, leaving us with memories of Summer of Punk II and the story that could have been.
This translates to views I and many others have about John Cena and Randy Orton. They represent the status quo. They are the golden boys chosen by the board of directors. When they win its to the delight of the masses and to the ire of those who consider themselves the informed wrestling fans, those who looks at the masses with scorn. The self-anointed purists. My approach to this event, the same as any other purist, was that if Henry, Del Rio, and Punk were to lose than this event was a joke or maybe something worse: a slap in the face.
Maybe it was the first match, or the fact that my roommate and I had just learned that we got the new apartment we'd been hoping for, but my doubts and fears were slowly eased as I settled into watching. By the time we reached the first of the three big matches (Henry vs. Orton) my mind had settled into less of "let's see how they fuck this up" and more into "let's see what they do here." I thought Orton's offensive was too quick, with Henry off his feet within the first minute and Henry looked admittedly sloppy taking a few bumps, but the story of the match was how Mark Henry contained Randy Orton. Even as Orton began to build momentum and reached that mythical "place," Henry did exactly what he needed to do--squashed him. Just like he has been doing for weeks. He fucking stomped on him and that was it. New champion. Henry followed with one of the most impressive promos I've seen. The man is mesmerizing, and with all the convoluted story lines taking place in wrestling today, it speaks volumes of Mark Henry's ability to garner so much response based on his presence as an intimidating and vengeful big man.
Before moving onto the other two matches, I would like to say that what bummed both of us out the most was Kelly Kelly beating Beth Phoenix. Phoenix easily received the biggest pop of the night from the hometown crowd and Buffalo was getting ready to jump out of their seats to see her win the Women's Title. That match was something else and that top rope Superplex was incredible. It would have been nice to see Beth take it, she's the best in the game right now.
The Cena/Del Rio feud had been stale leading into this. After Cena/Punk it was hard to get enveloped in another All American vs. Foreign Fanatic archetype. I think that Cena has taken well to accepting the fact that so many people hate him, and his demeanor in the face of this adversity makes me like him more, but what the fuck is he fighting for? What was unfortunate in this build-up was that Del Rio was forced to take on characteristics that weren't his own. Typical bad guy cowardice even though his ultimate act of poor taste was cashing in the Money In The Bank briefcase on CM Punk, an act which Punk himself said was justified, but for Cena, it's a point of contention. And so here we are, with Cena sent to beat the bad guy again. And that's what he did.
But the match itself was incredible through and through. Both guys looked solid, they worked well together to give us a match longer than expected. I loved Cena's fight to keep Del Rio from locking in the cross arm breaker and the finish, with Del Rio holding out for nearly a minute before tapping. I'll come back to this match when I make my point, and I assure you I have one.
Our main event was chaotic from the outset and we were lucky to see the Triple H of legend and Punk both took the beating half the crowd wanted to see him take and gave the beating the other half needed him to give. The Macho Man elbow drop through the table was as good of a spot I've seen this year. The match is being heavily criticized for being over-booked and convoluted, and while I think everyone agrees it was a little of the latter, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Disappointed in a Triple H win, but the ending made it clear that this story was just beginning to open up.
On paper this is an ending that I was fearing. John Cena is the new champion for the third time since Wrestlemania and Triple H defeated CM Punk. They are not the endings I wanted, there are points worth criticism, but the reaction that I found from the internet was a complete write-off of the quality of the two matches. In this age of speculation, theoretical "where to go from here" ideas, people have gotten far too hung up on their claims for how things should be done. To the extent that they're willing to ignore 99% of a match when they're making their judgment.
I was none too thrilled to see Cena celebrating last night, or Triple H to be the last man standing, but those matches were entertaining from beginning to end and to disregard that fact makes me wonder what these people are watching wrestling for. Is it to be entertained or to be the one that knew how the story would work out all along?
Criticism is a valuable commodity in professional wrestling. There are few examples in modern society where the voice of the consumer is so freely put on display. The business is based on the fan's reaction--we are encouraged to approve or disapprove. But the single-minded detractor, only satisfied with one outcome, achieves nothing for anyone. There was some great wrestling Sunday night, if you missed that part of the show, I'm not sure what good it does you to watch.