The SmarK Rant for WWE Night of Champions 2023 – 05.27.23
By Scott Keith on 27th May 2023
The SmarK Rant for WWE Night of Champions 2023 – 05.27.23
Live from the glorious and benevolent kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Your hosts are Michael Cole & Corey Graves
World Heavyweight title: Seth Rollins v. AJ Styles
Seth takes too long conducting his stupid song, so AJ dropkicks him to the floor and teases a dive, which Seth evades. Back in the ring, Seth catches him with a sling blade and AJ bails to the floor, which allows Seth to hit a running knee off the apron, sort of, and take over. Back in, Seth with a kick to the back of the neck for two. AJ with a chinlock, but Seth runs him into the turnbuckle to escape. They fight to the top and that goes nowhere as they slug it out instead until AJ suplexes him into the corner. AJ with a striking combo and the sliding forearm to put him down, and a facebuster gets two. AJ with an inverted DDT for two. Rollins with a sunset flip for two and he goes up with a frog splash for two. AJ with the neckbreaker for two. They tease finishers and AJ puts him down with an enzuigiri. This sets up an attempt at a Styles Clash off the middle rope, but Rollins reverses that to a rana and slugs away in the other corner. Back to the top and Set brings him down with a reverse suplex and then another one for two. Seth goes up and misses the Phoenix splash and they fight to the apron, where AJ suplexes him onto THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING. Back in, AJ tries for the foreaerm, but Seth slugs him down to block and follows with a tope suicida. Seth hurts his knee on the way down, and AJ goes after it with a calf crusher in the ring. Seth puts him down with a clothesline to escape. They slug it out and Seth tries a Pedigree, but AJ reverses out and hits the Pele Kick and his own Pedigree for two. AJ with another try at the forearm, but Seth counters with a superkick, only for his knee to give out on him. AJ with another calf crusher, but Seth counters with a Pedigree and curb stomps him for the pin and the title at 20:41. No shock there. Match was good but felt strangely lethargic the whole way and never really got going. ***1/4.
Trish Stratus v. Becky Lynch
Didn’t Trish already have a retirement match in 2006 and then “one last match” at Revolution? Is there really a good reason why she’s still around? Becky with the obvious homage to Beatrix Kiddo tonight, and she attacks to start and puts the boots to her in the corner. They fight on the floor and Trish wins that battle, and back in for some choking in the corner from Trish and a tornado DDT for two. Trish pounds away on Becky and goes to a chinlock, then gets a neckbreaker for two. Becky comes back and chases her out of the ring and they fight out there a bit, but Becky gets run into the post. Back in, Trish with a spinebuster for two. Becky goes up and Trish gets a super-awkward handstand rana in the corner, nearly missing it and falling over. Becky really saved that one, actually. Trish misses a charge and Becky gets a Diamond Dust and follows with a legdrop for two. Trish rolls her into the Sharpshooter, but Becky kicks out of it and goes up. Trish tries the handstand again, but Becky catches her and brings her down in a Boston crab, but Trish makes the ropes. Back to the floor, and Trish puts her down with a kick as this is dragging badly and going nowhere. Back in, Trish with the Chick Kick for two. Trish talks trash, however, and Becky armbars her. They slug it out and Becky rolls her up for two and gets the uranage for two. Becky gives us some SHOCKED TWO COUNT FACE as Trish bails to the floor, but Zoe Stark pops out from under the ring, takes out Becky, and Trish gets the pin at 15:00. Looks like she busted Becky’s nose open, too, with whatever her finisher is supposed to be. This was way too long and sloppy as fuck. *1/2.
Intercontinental title: Gunther v. Mustafa Ali
Ali goes for the knees right away and throws dropkicks, but Gunther slams him through the mat and kicks him in the head to cut that off. The comeback, not his head. I mean, what would be the odds of someone getting their head cut off in Saudi Arabia? Ha ha. Gunther with some nasty chops and he puts Ali into the Boston crab and then turns it into the crossface. Ali fights out and tries a fancy springboard move, so Gunther kicks him in the face to send him flying to the floor and then runs him into the post. Cole compares Gunther to Bruno Sammartino, and Corey notes that the difference is “Bruno fought to win, while Gunther fights to prove his point, that he’s supreme over everyone.” Um, OK? Back in the ring, Ali makes a comeback with a rolling neckbreaker and goes up, but Gunther chops him back down. Ali keeps coming with a sunset bomb and goes up again with a 450 for two. Ali tries a tornado DDT and Gunther has had enough of this shit and just wallops him with a pair of lariats for two. WHY WOULD YOU MAKE THIS MAN MAD? Ali fights up again and escapes the powerbomb before hitting another tornado DDT. But the 450 misses and Gunther dropkicks him into the corner, and powerbombs him to end it at 8:33. This was exactly what it needed to be – Ali gave him a good underdog fight and then got destroyed by the better man. ***.
Meanwhile, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are sick of hearing of Roman Reigns and his 1000 days. Me too, buddy.
RAW Women’s title: Bianca Belair v. Asuka
They trade headlocks to start and slug it out on the mat, but Asuka dropkicks her to block a leapfrog. Belair comes back with a dropkick of her own and Asuka bails to the floor, so Bianca chases and Asuka runs her into the stairs. Back in, Asuka with a german suplex and running knee for two. She goes for an armbar and goes to work on the arm. Belair goes for the suplex and Asuka counters into a cradle for two. They slug it out and Belair gets a backbreaker and handspring moonsault for two. Asuka fights back with kicks and goes up with a missile dropkick for two. Bianca with a spinebuster for two, but she walks into the Asuka Lock and then rolls over for two. Asuka with a backslide for two. Head kick gets two. They fight to the floor and Belair runs her into the stairs, and they slug it out back in the ring as this is so dull and lifeless. Asuka with the mist, but she missed, and Bianca powerbombs out of an armbar. Asuka bails to the apron and loads up her hand with BLACK MIST, and she rubs it in Bianca’s eyes and pins her with a series of kicks to win the title at 15:10. I found this one really boring but the finish was clever. **
Smackdown Women’s title: Rhea Ripley v. Natalya
I like how Rhea had to cover up all her skin, so instead she wears a black leather fetish suit. I bet there’s some lesbians who would really enjoy being stepped on by her, hypothetically speaking. Rhea immediately smashes Nattie outside and runs her into the stairs, and back in for the Riptide at 1:05. Yeah that’s about right.
Meanwhile, Seth Rollins and his new World title chat with Byron Saxton, and he promises to be a working champion on RAW moving forward.
Brock Lesnar v. Cody Rhodes
Cody is working with a broken arm, which is legal for some reason. Cody lures him into a chase and then attacks in the corner, so Brock tosses him with an overhead suplex and then two more for fun. So Cody hits him with his cast a few times to knock Brock out of the ring, and apparently that’s legal as well, and then follows with a dive and another cast smash off the table. Back in, Cody comes off with the top with a cast shot for two. Disaster kick and Cody Cutter gets two. “Did Brock make a strategic error when he broke Cody’s arm?” wonders Michael Cole. That sounds like something from the New York Times Pitchbot account on Twitter. Cody with a pair of Crossroads as he fires up after cheating for 3 minutes, and then Brock takes him down with a kimura on the broken arm to teach him a lesson about karma. Cody tries his fancy cradle again but Brock kicks out of it and laughs at the attempt, and then rolls through and cranks on it even harder as we get some quality facials here. And Cody won’t tap, as Corey notes that Brock will fly home with Cody’s arm. Come on, whoever lost a body part in Saudi Arabia? Cody somehow makes the ropes, so Brock goes for the F5, and Cody reverses to the Crossroads for two. Cody continues hitting him with the illegal cast, so Brock defends himself with an F5, which gets two. Brock with another kimura and Cody has nowhere to go this time and he’s out at 9:42. Yeah, he asked for that one. ****. So I’d say evidence is that, no, breaking Cody’s arm was not a strategic error on the part of Brock Lesnar. Glad we could clear that one up.
Undisputed World tag team title: Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens v. Roman Reigns & Solo Sikoa
Sami starts with Roman and gets a gigantic babyface reaction, but Roman brings Solo in instead and goes for some words with Paul Heyman. So Solo trades shots with Sami in the corner as we finally get contact 4:00 into the match, and Solo wins that battle. Sami fights back with a pair of elbows, but Solo puts him down with a back elbow. So it’s over to KO and he slugs it out with Solo, setting up a double-team from the champs. But then Roman gets a cheapshot from the apron and Solo chokes Sami on the ropes to take over. Over to Roman for real and he beats on Zayn as we’re 10:00 into this thing and nothing has happened.
Solo with a samoan drop on Zayn and he goes to the nerve pinch, but Sami fights back and runs Roman into the table, only for Sikoa to cut him off before the tag. Sami with a tornado DDT and it’s hot tag Owens, and he runs wild on the floor, but runs into a clothesline from Roman in the ring to cut him off. KO with the powerbomb to counter the superman punch, and that gets two. KO to the top with the frog splash for two. Solo runs interference and Roman gets the superman punch for two. KO with the stunner, but Roman hits the spear on the rebound and they’re both down. Hot tag Sami and he slugs it out with Solo and then tosses him for a tope con hilo. Blue Thunder Bomb gets two. Sami comes back with the Heluva Kick, but Solo dodges that, so Sami suplexes him into the corner and hits the kick on the second try, for two. Roman makes the save, which is his only one according to the Secret Rules of WWE, and Roman accidentally spears the ref. So Zayn hits his own superman punch, but Roman puts him down with the real thing and then brawls to the floor with KO. This brings the Usos down for the attack with no ref, but they superkick Solo by mistake and Roman is not pleased. So we get some family drama as Roman has had enough of their shit, and Jimothy superkicks Roman in frustration. Jey thinks this is a bad idea, but Jimmy does it again and declares that they’re no longer part of the Bloodline. Well that’s gonna be an awkward plane ride home. This all leaves Solo alone for a stunner from KO and the Heluva Kick from Sami for the pin to retain at 26:33. Roman really, really should have been the one to get pinned there. There was absolutely no reason why he couldn’t have taken the pin. Anyway, the match was surprisingly boring and non-memorable leading up to the big angle at the end, although the finish was satisfying. As with most of the matches here, this was way too long for what they were going for and would have been better served with 10 minutes less. ***
Thankfully they went fairly light on the Jeddah propaganda here, at least in the portions that I wasn’t fast-forwarding through in order to cut out all the commercials and video packages, but I found the whole thing pretty dull overall and only the Cody-Brock match was really worth going out of your way to see. I’d call it a thumbs in the middle.