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The post-SummerSlam lull for WWE is one that fans experience every year. The PPV string of Night of Champions-Hell in a Cell lull has been underwhelming for WWE fans pretty much since WWE introduced the events. The events seem to take place after the part-time wrestlers had packed up for the fall and it is too far away from the Royal Rumble to really warrant any major storyline pushes. Instead, WWE seems to try and tread water for the few months and hopefully get things on track for Survivor Series in November.
A prime example of WWE treading water is the introduction of Sting into the world title scene. I wouldn't give Sting a great chance of winning on Sunday, and even he were to win the chances of him being anything more than a transitional champion are pretty much zero. As champion Sting would need to wrestle at every PPV, be at most Raws and probably work some house shows here and there. When Sting signed with WWE, neither party probably had that in mind for him. WWE did give the title to both Brock Lesnar and The Rock knowing full well they wouldn't be able to work most events, but I bet they feel that Sting has a shorter shelf live then those guys and lacks the drawing power of Lesnar and The Rock.
I have been down on Sting since his debut in the company, but I will admit WWE has used him very well recently. The last two weeks on Raw were very good in particular. Last week, Sting was somewhere in the building in possession of Seth Rollins' statue (how Sting was able to translate a statue from location to location each week without anyone noticing is beyond me). Rollins was excellent in displaying his anger over Sting's kidnapping of his statue, leading to the humorous backstage segment where Rollins staggered around backstage, clearly disoriented and yelling for Sting to give him back his statue.
Then on Monday, Sting got physically involved in his first match on Raw, tagging with John Cena to take on The Big Show and Rollins. Sting sat on the apron wearing a T-shirt as Cena got beat up for 95% of the match. But when Sting got the hot tag and quickly disposed of Rollins, forcing him to submit to the Scorpion Deathlock, the crowd came alive and really popped for Sting. I think WWE is correct in assuming that Sting's popularity is in its novelty phase and he probably has a limited shelf life with the fans, but there is no doubt he is over right now with the fans, and having him on board gives Rollins a fresh opponent to work with.
The negative side of Sting getting the title shot is twofold. First, Sting managed to get a title shot from Triple H because he interrupted Rollins' statue ceremony and assaulted Rollins. This, and I'm quoting HHH here, "pissed me off" so as some form of bizarre punishment for his actions Triple H gave Sting a title shot at Night of Champions against Rollins, which is presumably what Sting wanted in the first place. A five year old could have came up with a more logical way for Sting to get into the match, but that is the path WWE chose and to their credit, fans have pretty much forgotten that that was how Sting got his title shot.
However, the bigger issue is that once again WWE has elected to put a band-aid on their ever growing roster-depth problem. After SummerSlam, Rollins had already feuded with Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton and John Cena. WWE needed a new opponent for Rollins to face, and instead of promoting a new opponent from the upper-mid card for Rollins to work with, WWE once again elected to trot out a part-time wrestler to work with Rollins, showing just how little faith they had in the rest of their roster to work a main event program.
This is another example in a trend that has plagued WWE for a long time now. When I was researching my article last week on the best wrestling rosters ever assembled, the thing that stuck out about the current WWE roster as compared to those other rosters was that this roster had barely any full-time main event wrestlers. Think about it, out of the full-time roster, which wrestlers could supply a competent run as WWE World Heavyweight Champion? Cena obviously and then Orton and Rollins. Outside of that trio? The next most significant full-time talent is Reigns, and we already know that WWE isn't confident in him being champion right now. Behind him they have The Big Show who nobody cares about, Bray Wyatt who is becoming more obsolete each passing day and then the mid-card guys like Rusev, Owens, Cesaro, Ryback, Ziggler etc. Sheamus currently holds the MiTB briefcase, but does anyone really believe that right now he could be a viable champion?
Compare that to say, the WWE roster in 2001. During that period WWE had The Rock, Steve Austin, Triple H, The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho and Kane in his prime. Even upper-midcard guys like Chris Benoit, Booker T and Eddie Guerrero would be a huge improvement to the current roster. WWE just doesn't have a lot of options right now in their main event, partly because they keep giving all the opportunities to older, part-time talent that aren't always going to be around.
If Sting wins on Sunday, he at best can be a transitional champion that drops the title back to Rollins or someone else at the next PPV. He also could win the title and then drop it that very same night to Sheamus. I think that would be a huge mistake, since WWE would be taking the title off of someone they are trying to build up, having him defeated by a near senior citizen, only to have that guy lose the championship to someone who is clearly not championship material as of this moment. I would put my money on Seth retaining.
Rollins will also have to defend his United States Championship against John Cena. After what looked like a promising program with Jon Stewart fell flat on it's face, WWE is working the angle that if Rollins is able to defend both titles successfully on the same night, it would cement him as an all-time great. Nevermind the fact that the angle at SummerSlam was that if Rollins could hold both championships it would make him so legendary that he would get his own statue, this time if Rollins wins he will extra great.
Cena is a heavy favorite in this match, as he should be in every match he is in. Personally, I believe that it would be better for Rollins to win this match. If Cena were to win the championship back, he would be going back to what he was doing for most of the spring and summer, having the US Championship Open Challenges, defending it each week and being the consummate patriot. Been there, done that. Ideally Cena's character should always be moving forward, and a return to US Championship form would just be a repeat of what we have already recently seen. Of course, fans know that Cena's character almost never moves forward, so in all likelihood Cena will win his championship back, especially because he already has one loss to Rollins and he needs to get that win back, regardless how he actually lost that match.
The midcard is led by a six man tag match between The Wyatt Family and Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and their "mystery partner." The feud seems to be treading water for both groups, as despite the introduction of Braun Strowman the storyline remains pretty flat. As with most feuds involving Bray Wyatt, his actual goal for fighting with Reigns and Ambrose is murky at best, and even Ambrose said on commentary that the reason for their feud was "because we just don't like each other." Because of that, the feud has been met with a mild reaction from the crowd, and this match in particular seems pointless. Will it really matter if The Wyatt Family wins? Last month at SummerSlam, Ambrose and Reigns cleanly defeated Harper and Wyatt in the middle of the ring and yet here we are a month later, doing essentially the same match. The mystery partner angle is almost always disappointing, so despite whispers that it is going to be Daniel Bryan or Samoa Joe, it will probably end up being Erick Rowan.
Is Charlotte vs Nikki Bella the most important Diva's match in the history of the division? There will likely be more memorable matches with better storylines and better wrestling, but I would hesitate to name a match that meant more to the division. If the crowd gets behind the match and supports Charlotte, then the "Diva's Revolution" might actually be taking place. If the crowd remains bored and disinterested in the outcome of the match, then the Revolution might be dead. Charlotte should win the title because WWE needs to put the new Diva's over the current roster to make them actually seem like a force of change and not just some plucky upstarts and because a loss would mean more of Nikki Bella as champion, whose title run has been tortuously mundane.
One alternative plan that I can get behind is Paige turning on Charlotte. A weird thing in this storyline is that Charlotte, Paige and Becky Lynch have all been okay with each other getting title shots and it seems to be all about the team. Wrestling rarely works that way, and it would make a lot of sense to see Paige turn heel and lash out on Charlotte for getting the opportunity instead of her. I think that would create a real feud in the division and actually get some real creative direction going for the Divas.
Undisputedly, the best thing on Raw over the last month or so has been The New Day. The New Day started off as terrible babyfaces, only to become great heels, which in turn has led them to becoming pseudo-babyfaces again. After sitting on the fence with The Dudley Boyz, WWE has decided to bring the duo back and has given them a Tag Team Championship shot. Considering The Dudley Boyz were an immensely popular tag team that hasn't been in the company for more than a decade, it would seem likely that WWE would give the championships to them ASAP. But The New Day have been holding up the Tag Team Division for a while now, and it would be smart for WWE to resist the quick nostalgia run and keep the championships around the waists of Big E and Kofi Kingston. The best thing for WWE to do right now is to have The New Day retain a couple of times, leading to a TLC match with The Dudley Boyz and another tag team.
Lana's training injury has set back what was clearly building towards a mixed tag team match between Dolph Ziggler/Lana and Rusev/Summer Rae. WWE has put that match on hold and has decided to continue to do the feud with just Ziggler and Rusev. Ziggler and Lana's chemistry has been so awkward that it might actually be an improvement to not have her play a central role in the feud. Ziggler seems kind of pigeonholed into the loving boyfriend role, and you can almost sense that attitude that turned him into a star trying to bust out of his current façade. Rusev and Summer Rae have been really good in this feud, Rusev in particular seems to have mastered the sports entertainment side of pro wrestling, which is really a natural gift for someone that was brought into WWE without any real prior professional wrestling experience. Ziggler wins and it makes Rusev madder so they can keep the feud going while they wait for Lana to get back.
The Intercontinental Championship is on the line between the champion Ryback and the challenger Kevin Owens. Ryback has been a mediocre champion and I believe Owens would make a very good one, but ever since Owens won his first match against Cena, it has been all downhill for him. This is a perfect contrast in WWE philosophies, a guy who looks like a wrestler and a guy who doesn't. A guy that is known for questionable in-ring ability and a guy that is known for being one of the top wrestlers in North America. A guy that has received a ton of backing from management and a guy that had to bleed on the indies for 14 years. Due to his violent fall from main event status to feuding with Ryback, it seems like Owens pissed someone off backstage, and I could easily see WWE wanting to "punish" him by feeding him to Ryback.
With the undercard looking like one big placeholder, the quality of this PPV is really going to come down to Seth Rollins. If he is able to get good matches out of both Cena and Sting, frankly he deserves his own statue. If Rollins is able to do that and the booking is smart, then Night of Champions could be a good show. If not, we could be looking at one of the worst PPVs of the year.
You can follow Jesse Collings on Twitter @JesseCollings