WrestleWatch Vault- WWE Vengeance: Night of Champions 2007
Diving into the Vault and deviating from my usual Vault journey, this WrestleWatch review comes to you in advance of the PPV this weekend- Sunday night American time, Monday morning Australia time. The present-day PPV- WWE Clash of Champions. But before the PPV was called Clash of Champions, it was called Night of Champions. The concept is the same, no matter the name- all active championships in WWE must be defended. The first time WWE experimented with this concept was during the Ruthless Aggression era, in 2007. The Vengeance PPV received an additional tag line, and thus, Night of Champions was born.
A strange and controversial PPV for reasons we'll get into shortly, this PPV occurred perhaps at the height of my fandom as a teenager. I spent basically all my free time either watching wrestling or writing about it on forums. I video taped (yep, on VHS, I'm that old) every single Raw, Smackdown, WWECW and PPV. All my expendable income went on ordering WWE PPVs, basically. I've got slightly more balance to my fandom these days. Slightly. And thank god for the WWE Network, making the consumption of these wrestling shows a far less expensive exercise.
Also, shout out to the general structure of these PPVs. While Clash of Champions 2020 will be packed to the gills- to the point that Raw Women's Champion Asuka will be on the pre-show!- the big shows in 2007 were a little more streamlined. No pre-show/Kick-Off on Vengeance 2007. According to Wikipedia, Super Crazy beat Carlito in a dark match. A little surprising given both men's position on the card around that time, but hey, it's a dark match. Who gives a fuck, right?
Alright, to the reason we're here. Vengeance 2007. The first Night of Champions PPV. Let's. Do. This!
Opening video package. "Every Superstar dreams of becoming a champion. Tonight, those dreams could become a reality," says the dramatic voice-over guy. Quick video re-cap of the top championship matches. Immediate sense of importance here.
Big explosion of pyro to further add to the importance. And hey, this was pre-WWE HD era when PPVs besides WrestleMania had unique set design! This has a Roman Colosseum vibe with the red cloth and large pillars adorning the stage.
Before the opening match, ring announcer Justin Roberts introduces two legendary former tag team champions, Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda. A video package on Windham and Rotunda plays to bring newer fans up to speed on why these guys are important. Another classy touch that makes this whole event feel like a huge deal.
Match 1: World Tag Team Championship- Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch (c) def. The Hardyz (at 8:55)
Thoughts: This was fine. Not the certifiable barn-burner that they had to open Backlash a couple of months earlier, but at basically 9 minutes, they put in a good effort working within the parameters they had. Cade & Murdoch did classic heel things, working over the leg of Matt until the big hot tag to Jeff. Jeff looks like he's about to put Cade away with the Swanton, but Murdoch gets involved from the apron, so Jeff crashes and burns, allowing Cade to hit a VICIOUS looking spinebuster for the win. The champs retain. Not bad, not great, right in the middle, so... (**1/2)
Backstage, King Booker is preparing for the WWE Championship main event. A concerned Queen Sharmell warns him about facing 4 great competitors in the Championship Challenge, but the King is confident in his abilities.
We cut to Michael Cole and JBL at ringside, who cue up a video package on one of my favourite wrestlers and title wins, Eddie Guerrero defeating Brock Lesnar at No Way Out 2004. This segues into Eddie's nephew, Chavo, making his way to the ring for a championship match. During his entrance, Cole draws attention to Chavo following in the footsteps of past great Cruiserweight Champions, like Dean Malenko. They show Malenko watching backstage on a monitor. Respect.
Match 2: WWE Cruiserweight Championship- Chavo Guerrero (c) def. Jimmy Wang Yang (at 10:16)
Thoughts: In case you weren't watching around this time, Jimmy Wang Yang was an Asian cowboy. Weird gimmick, but the guy could go. The basic story was that Yang wanted to speed the match up, Chavo wanted to slow it down. Chavo was particularly vicious here, constantly using the turnbuckles and ropes like a tag team partner. Some big high spots for Yang, including a couple of impressive cross bodies. Moonsault attempt by Yang but no water in the pool. He reversed a Gory Bomb attempt into a excellent roll-up for a convincing near fall. Soon after, Chavo hits the Frog Splash to the back after working it throughout the match, keeping the gold around his waist. Great effort by both men. It's a shame the Cruiserweight Championship would be on Hornswoggle a month later and soon after retired for almost a decade. (***1/4)
We go to JR and The King and they recap the recent storyline on Raw, which saw Mr McMahon get into a limo... and the limo exploded. Presumably this killed Vince. The storyline would be abandoned a week later, due to events surrounding the next match.
Chris Benoit was scheduled to participate in the ECW Championship match at Vengeance 2007, facing CM Punk for the vacant title. However, he was unable to be contacted all weekend, and he no-showed this PPV. At the time of the PPV, it was unknown why Benoit was absent- he was a consumnate professional who never missed a booking. The next day, the information that Chris Benoit had died became known. With no further details, WWE put aside all storylines- and explicitly axing the "death of Mr McMahon" angle- and ran a Chris Benoit tribute show on Raw. The following day, details emerged that Chris had murdered his wife, Nancy, and son, Daniel, before killing himself. Prior to the commencement of the 26th June episode of ECW on Sci Fi, Mr McMahon once again appeared to comment on the Benoit tragedy, stating that other than his comments, there would be no further mention of Chris Benoit on the broadcast. From that point on, WWE ceased mentioning or promoting Chris Benoit in any manner, right up to the present day.
Match 3: ECW Championship- Johnny Nitro def. CM Punk (at 8:00)
Thoughts: WWE have edited the Network version of Vengeance to erase Benoit mentions, leading to a long period of silence during Johnny Nitro's entrance as Styles and Tazz explain why Nitro is in the match. However, WWE do not erase the crowd chants, with frequent cries of "We want Benoit!" throughout. Nitro avoids the GTS and a springboard flying clothesline, and soon follows up with the Moonlight Drive (simply called a 'swinging neckbreaker" here in a pre-John Morrison world) to pick up the victory. Nitro and Punk do a decent job under the circumstances. It's a pretty pedestrian match, but considering they probably only had an hour or two to prepare, it was okay. Tazz calls it an "outstanding match", which is kind but inaccurate. Punk and the future Morrison would go on to have rematches at the Great American Bash and Summerslam, which were only marginally better than this, before finding their mojo for a couple of excellent bouts on ECW TV. (**1/2)
Video package on the Wrestlemania 12 Ironman match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship. There seems to be two schools of thought regarding this match- either it's seen as a classic, or a bore. I fall more into the latter camp. I love Shawn Michaels, and it was great seeing his "boyhood dream" come true, but it's an absolute chore to watch that methodical pace for an hour plus. They do a good job in the video package of making the match look majestic though.
Backstage, Mick Foley is taping his fists and is approached by old foe, Randy Orton. Orton says that Foley should be careful, it looks like he suffered a concussion at the hands of Umaga last week, and Orton knows all about concussions, giving them to RVD and HBK, forcing them to retire (not really though). Foley says it wasn't his first trip to the trainer's roon and he'll be fine. Foley reminds Orton of their history, and Randy retorts that he won that match. Ooh, tension!
Video package on former Intercontinental Champion, Ricky Steamboat. He is introduced and actually gets an entrance with music and everything. Like Malenko earlier, Steamboat worked as a backstage producer in WWE. He had been retired for many years at this point, but actually came out of retirement a couple of years later for WrestleMania and Backlash matches with Chris Jericho. Even in his mid-50s, the Dragon still had it.
Match 4: WWE Intercontinental Championship- Santino Marella (c) def. Umaga via DQ (at 2:34)
Thoughts: Look, I like Santino. But I can't deny that it was a jarring juxtaposition to go from one of the all time greats in Steamboat to a rookie Santino. It's so early in the Milan Miracle's run that he's not yet the comedy character we know and love, coming out with a serious expression, ready to fight. But he had no real credibility, entering WWE via the "fan in the crowd" gimmick, and this night wasn't the night WWE wanted to give him any credibility, having the match get thrown out in a couple of minutes. Essentially, Umaga got DQed for kicking Santino's ass too hard, ignoring the 5 count while he pummeled the new champ in the corner. The "uncontrollable" Umaga hit the running ass attack and a massive top rope splash in the post-match. Have a half star for that. (1/2*)
Back to Cole and JBL for more on the Mr. McMahon limo explosion angle. Tomorrow on Raw, a 3 hour memorial service for Mr. McMahon. Yeah... about that...
Video package on former United States Champion Magnum T.A. Reigning US champ MVP makes his entrance and talks shit to Magnum. Glorious heel work.
Match 5: United States Championship- MVP (c) def. Ric Flair (at 8:43)
Thoughts: You know what, I really enjoyed this. Was Ric Flair in the twilight of his career? Yes. But he was over AF in Houston, Texas, and that counted a ton for the atmosphere here, which was the best so far of the show. The younger, faster, stronger MVP got a lot of the offense, but the wily veteran Flair found his openings, targeting the champ's leg to even the playing field. And both men showed a ton of charisma while kicking each other's ass. It was "Wooo!" vs. "Ballin'!" The crowd went wild for every chop, strut, mannerism by Flair, and Naitch nearly got it done with the Figure 4. MVP found the ropes, and soon after got a thumb to the eye in behind the ref's back. Playmaker for the 3 count. As much as I want to deduct about 6 stars for the use of the shitty, shitty Playmaker move, this was highly enjoyable for what it was. (***)
Backstage, Todd Grisham interviews John Cena. Grisham starts to ask Cena about defending his WWE Championship against 4 guys, before being interrupted by World Heavyweight Champion Edge. Edge infers that Cena might be a suspect in the Mr. McMahon case, Cena calls Edge a kiss-ass. Good stuff.
Match 6: Smackdown Tag Team Championship- Deuce & Domino (c) def. Sgt. Slaughter & Jimmy Snuka (at 6:34)
Thoughts: Yeah... this wasn't good. Unlike the previous match, which featured a legend that could still go to a degree, Sarge and Snuka had no business being in there. Slow, awkward and stiff, and working two young (but green) guys that had to sell for them. One kinda cool moment where Deuce- the real life son of Snuka- mocked his dad and did the Superfly Splash- but found nothing but canvas. Moments later, he rolled through on the most awkward looking cross body I've seen to retain. (*)
Match 7: World Heavyweight Championship- Last Chance Match- Edge (c) def. Batista via count-out (at 16:50)
Thoughts: This had tremendous drama due to the Last Chance stipulation- if Batista didn't win the championship, he would never get another shot at the gold. Really intelligent strategy by Edge, targeting Batista's shoulder to negate the power advantage of The Animal. And when that didn't entirely work, Edge hit a low blow to get intentionally disqualified and keep his title. Smackdown GM Teddy Long restarted the match, though, leading to a series of incredibly dramatic nearfalls. Batista and Edge then battle to the outside, and after a Batista Bomb on the floor, the challenger takes too long to get the champ back in the ring and gets counted out. I normally hate DQ/countout finishes on PPV, and while I don't love it here, there was a great story told and gripping action throughout. (***3/4)
JR and The King talk about the legacy of The Fabulous Moolah as one of the legendary women's champions. Video airs of the controversial Wendi Richter vs. Spider Lady match from 1985.
Match 8: WWE Women's Championship- Candice Michelle def. Melina (c) (at 4:07)
Thoughts: Short but sweet! Melina and Candice are a massive visual upgrade from Moolah, but Melina was very skilled and this was around the time when Candice started significantly improving in the ring, with her hard work paying off. Both ladies maximised their minutes here, working a really intense style. The finishing kick was a little off, but still a fun effort for the time given and the era we're in here. We finally got a title change as well! Extra points for that, and extra points for Candice's top busting. I'm still a teenager at heart. (**1/2)
Before the main event, at the request of JBL, Justin Roberts introduces him to the crowd as a former WWE Champion. Bradshaw then hands Roberts a note, telling him to read it verbatim. It basically put over JBL, the fact he left Texas and lived in New York. It ends with calling JBL a wrestling god. Funny, and nice to see a more modern wrestler acknowledged amongst the 80s/early 90s legends from earlier.
Match 9: WWE Championship Challenge- John Cena (c) def. Mick Foley, King Booker, Randy Orton & Bobby Lashley (at 10:08)
Thoughts: Wow. I thought this match flew by because of the amount of action in it, but that is a damn short run-time for a PPV main event! But there was a lot of action in it. Tons of high spots, including a Lashley super dive to the outside onto everyone else, Cena putting Lashley through the announce table with a FU, Foley going wild with a steel chair... and finally the champ nails his finish on the Hardcore Legend. A lot of fun, and if I had to describe it all in one word- chaotic. (***1/2)
The entire PPV ended at 2:39:00, so I'm really not sure why the main event ended so early. Overall, though, I welcome a shorter run time. I was never bored or felt like WWE were killing time at any point in this show. Not an all time contender for greatest PPV ever or anything, but I appreciated the presentation of this. With the mix of archive clips and introduction of legends, the show and the championships on the line felt more prestigious than any show I can recall watching for a few years at least. It's also worth remembering that the roster was a little depleted in terms of big name stars at this time as well. Triple H and Undertaker were both out due to injury, Shawn Michaels was taking some time off, Chris Jericho was a few months away from his big return with the SaveUs campaign, Rey Mysterio was a big loss on the Smackdown side too. And of course, the Chris Benoit tragedy, which hung over this show like a dark cloud, particularly watching it back with the edits and experiencing the void, the deathly silence whenever the commentators mentioned him. That aside, Vengeance: Night of Champions was a successful first run of the "all championships defended" concept. Particularly with the top matches delivering strongly, it set the table nicely for future shows of this type to come.
Overall Score: 7/10
Until next time, take care,