WWE Night Of Champions 2008
In June of 2008, WWE held two PPVs and a Draft, as well as launching and quickly terminating McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania, making it a very busy and intriguing time to be a fan of the product. Night Of Champions 2008, held on June 29, featured the fall-out to said Draft, as well as providing a reset as the new rosters for Raw, SmackDown and ECW would really take effect from the following night onwards. In the meantime, NOC featured some major matches and pivotal victories for younger talent, so let’s take a look back at this somewhat underrated event.
WWE Tag Team Championship Match
John Morrison & The Miz (C) vs. Finlay & Hornswoggle
Kicking things off were the Morrison/Miz double act, defending their SD gold against Finlay and his sidekick Hornswoggle. The heels had teased that they only really had 1 ½ opponents here as opposed to two, but Horny put up a good fight to show that size doesn’t matter. Well, it does really, but in this context, he held his own. While Finlay had never held a tag title in WWE, and his act with Woggle was very popular at this point, the thought of the belts swapping owners seemed unthinkable, and so it proved as Morrison ended up pinning Horns (of course) to retain the straps. They didn’t hold them for much longer, but they did get past the Irish tandem on this night (is Hornswoggle really Irish though?).
United States Championship Match
Matt Hardy (C) vs. Chavo Guerrero
The theme of NOC was that every title would be defended, at a time when WWE not only had enough championships to fill out a full PPV event, but most PPVs lasted no more than three hours, some belts didn’t appear on a supershow for long stretches. In the case of the U.S. Title, Matt Hardy had won the prize from MVP at Backlash, but didn’t wrestle at Judgment Day or One Night Stand, so he was probably happy to have an opportunity to defend his gold. Opposing him was Chavo Guerrero, accompanied by Bam Neely, whose name would be lost on most WWE fans when recapping 2008. Guerrero had just received a significant push over on ECW, but it didn’t translate into him becoming the United States Champion, as he was quite literally struck with a Twist Of Fate.
ECW Championship Triple Threat Match
Kane (C) vs. Mark Henry vs. Big Show
Of course, a Night Of Champions needed to have at least one title changing hands, meaning that somebody’s luggage would be lighter at the end of the show. One of those would be Kane (mind you, he’s so big that he could fit every single belt in his bag and keep walking through an airport unaffected), and it was the ECW Championship which switched owners. The new titleholder would be Mark Henry, who was only added to this planned Kane vs. Show contest (yet another meeting of the behemoths) a few days beforehand. But The World’s Strongest Man would make the most of this opportunity, splashing The Big Red Machine to win his first major singles title. Night Of Champions was a lucky show for Henry, as he would also leave the 2011 NOC as the new World Heavyweight Champion.
World Tag Team Championship Match
Cody Rhodes & Hardcore Holly (C) vs. Ted DiBiase Jr & A Mystery Partner
This is one of those matches that is easier to watch than explain. So, bland newcomer babyface Cody and bland veteran babyface Holly had been champions for almost seven months. In late May, The Million Dollar Man himself, Ted DiBiase, introduced his son to WWE television, and the younger Ted challenged our aforementioned white meat good guys to a title match here, with DiBiase saying he had a mystery partner. We hadn’t been told his identity come bell time, and even then, DiBiase said he’d had a text to say his partner still wasn’t here, but would be shortly. Not only that, but Ted wanted to start off against Bob. As we were about to begin, though, Cody attacked Holly, turning heel and joining up with Ted, who submitted Hardcore with the Million Dollar Dream. So, Ted won the titles, and technically Cody both lost and won the straps. As for ol’ Bob, not only did he not exact revenge, but we never saw him in a WWE ring again. Damn, poor Hardcore got royally screwed here.
Intercontinental Championship Match
Chris Jericho (C) vs. Kofi Kingston
Speaking of surprise scenarios, all we had been told before this bout was that Y2J, who had recently turned heel on Shawn Michaels, would be defending his IC gold. The opponent turned out to be Kofi Kingston, who was new to the scene and had just been switched to Raw from ECW in the Draft. The two had a back-and-forth bout, though Kingston was still inexperienced here, and Jericho was just getting back into the swing of things when it came to his heel wrestling style (which he would alter from his previous villainous days in line with a radically-reformed attitude). Anyway, Jericho’s new pal Lance Cade came out to offer support, but he was clocked with a superkick from Michaels, who had come from the crowd. A distracted Chris suffered some Trouble In Paradise, and Kofi had won his first IC Title to a big pop. Afterwards, Jericho whacked Shawn in the eye during a brawl, which set the tone for their subsequent match at The Great American Bash, which we will cover in a future retro review.
Women’s Championship Match
Mickie James (C) vs. Katie Lea Burchill
This would be the answer to the trivia question of “who did Katie Lea Burchill face in her only proper PPV match in WWE?” This isn’t to say that this wasn’t a well-worked contest, but it was obvious that WWE didn’t have major plans for the Englishwoman, and the fans weren’t too bothered either, perhaps because they realised that, despite her best efforts, Burchill (accompanied by Paul, her storyline brother with whom a romance had been teased before the plot was dropped; you did read that right) was unlikely to unseat James as the Women’s Champion. And those feelings proved to be on the money, as Mickie retained the gold with the MickieDT, which included James’ unnecessarily screeching primal yell.
World Heavyweight Championship Match
Edge (C) vs. Batista
With The Undertaker temporarily banished, it was up to Batista (dressed here as if he were a mascot for McDonald’s based on the colour scheme) to try and defeat Edge in the Rated R Superstar’s big title defence. They had previously engaged in a major feud the previous year, but the two definitely had chemistry, which showed again here in arguably their best bout against one another. What’s more, because the results of the Draft had left Raw without a major titleholder, there was a real chance that new Raw roster member Batista would dethrone Edge here. But the devious Edge would find a way, as he always did: La Familia came out to both cheer Edge on and blatantly interfere, which eventually led to Batista actually lifting up Vickie Guerrero and throwing her out to the floor onto Edge’s cronies. The Rated R Superstar capitalised, though, by nailing Big Dave with the Big Gold belt, earning himself the three to the disgust of commentators Mick Foley and Jim Ross (JR had been Drafted to SD days earlier, which is a story in and of itself). Edge won, but Batista got his revenge the next night on Raw by pounding Edge so much, he was prone to a CM Punk Money In The Bank cash-in, making Punk the new holder of the WHC.
WWE Championship Match
Triple H (C) vs. John Cena
We didn’t know about the Punk development at this point, though, so in the main event, it was up to Cena to try and bring some gold to Raw against HHH. This is often seen as an overdone rivalry, but this was a WrestleMania 22 rematch, their first televised singles battle since April 2, 2006, and they would only have a couple of Raw bouts and a Greatest Royal Rumble 2018 collision in the future. So, this was far less repetitive than other major feuds these two had (cough Randy Orton cough cough). The match itself was a very good one, arguably superior to their WM 22 bout from an in-ring standpoint, as Cena had come on greatly in the preceding 27 months. Having not regained the WWE Title since his return from a pectoral injury at Royal Rumble, the time seemed now for Big Match John to claim back his prize, but he was unable to do so: after some great near-falls, HHH polished Cena off with a second Pedigree to hold onto the gold and take it to SmackDown, his new home following the Draft the previous Monday.
Looking back, 2008 is often overlooked when people discuss great periods in WWE history, but it was a sleeper year for the company, which included a terrific WrestleMania, a memorable Royal Rumble, two all-time great feuds and plenty of fantastic PPV matches. Night Of Champions 2008 slips under the radar as well, but it was an even blend of action, with nothing being particularly poor and with a strong double main event, along with the elevation of several young talents (which would stretch to the next night when CM Punk struck gold). It’s not the best supershow of that particular year, but Night Of Champions 2008 is definitely worth a retrospective viewing.