The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WrestlingInc or its staff
Clash of Champions, WWE’s last PPV event of the year, will be taking place at the TD Garden in Boston this Sunday. The TD Garden is not far from my house, only about 15 minutes if there isn’t any traffic. Tickets are also reasonably priced, according to the Garden box office there are still plenty of seats available under $50. That being said, I would rather stick nails through my eyeballs than have to go to Clash of Champions. A few years ago I would have been really psyched for a WWE PPV to come to Boston, and I would clear out my schedule and get tickets the moment they went on sale. Now? For Clash of the Champions, the most B show of all B shows? Count me out.
I suppose the main driving force behind my reluctance to go to CoC is the fact that Jinder Mahal is in the main event. At the beginning of the year, I would have never guessed that Mahal appearing on a PPV would be enough to drive me away from going, but that is probably the case right now. The Mahal experiment has been a disaster pretty much from the get-go, something that was predicted by not just me, but plenty of fans that couldn’t believe WWE would so rapidly elevate a talent that hadn’t shown anything over the years they had been in the company. Being treated to lackluster Mahal main events against good workers like Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura was not an encouraging sign for someone who would be attending a show that will be headlined by a Mahal match.
The most frustrating part of the Mahal-push actually took place over last weekend, when Mahal finally wrestled in New Delhi as part of the India tour. The tour was supposed to be two shows in Delhi, which was cut back to one after initial ticket sales were poor. The result was one show that drew 9,000, which was actually less than the show they held at the same arena in January 2016, which didn’t have Mahal on it. Mahal hasn’t meant anything for the India market, and WWE actually realized this, which is why during the India show, Mahal was beaten cleanly by Triple H. The Mahal experiment feels over; after all if you were trying to use Mahal as a way to get into the India market, why would you have him lose cleanly to an established star? The end of the Mahal experiment means that WWE has wasted the last six months trying to get someone over; and now that they have recognized that failure, will surely move Mahal down the card. Mahal was only pushed in the first place because of the lure of the Indian market, not because he was getting over with the fans and was dripping with charisma. If WWE has deduced that Mahal is not helping them in India, then he doesn’t offer very much for the company. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is released within the next year.
While Mahal being phased out of the main event is mostly a good thing, the fact the repercussions of pushing him will have an effect long after Mahal has moved away from the WWE Championship picture. To get Mahal over, WWE asked certain talent to be subservient to Mahal. This effected Nakamura the most, since as a recent call-up from NXT and someone WWE was willing to push immediately as a top star, Nakamura was hot when he met Mahal at SummerSlam and again at Hell in a Cell. Since WWE was hell-bent on getting into the India market, Mahal was given a decisive victory over Nakamura at Hell in a Cell, which made Nakamura look like just another guy that was doing the job for Mahal and since then has been much colder than before he met Mahal, and it is unclear if he will ever be able to regain the momentum he had before he began feuding with Mahal. So now that WWE has cooled on Mahal, they are left with Nakamura as someone who is cold, Orton as someone who fans are fatigued at seeing in the main event, and Mahal as someone they have lost faith in. WWE basically took the last six months of the WWE Championship scene and flushed them down the toilet. They have nothing! They wasted Nakamura at his peak and cooled off Orton to push a guy that literally anyone with a functioning brain could have predicted would never have a positive impact on the business. Now WWE expects me to pay at least $45 to go see Mahal wrestle in the main event? After he couldn’t beat Triple H at a house show in freakin’ India? I couldn’t imagine something being more unappealing and I LOVE wrestling!
Of course, maybe WWE hasn’t completely given up on Mahal and he wins the title at Clash of Champions. That will just lead to a bunch of questions, ranging from why they would put the title on him when he couldn’t go over Triple H in India, and WWE took the title off him before Survivor Series because they knew a match between him and Lesnar would be unpalatable to fans. If that happens, boy will I be glad I didn’t pay to be in the arena to see it.
Another issue is the recent treatment of SmackDown at Survivor Series, and in the company in general. If this was a RAW show, with all of the RAW stars, I would much more likely to go to Clash of Champions. The issue is that at Survivor Series SmackDown was treated as the B-show, with their world champion losing, and their team losing in the main event. The stars that are seriously protected by WWE (Lesnar, Strowman, Reigns, Asuka, Triple H, Angle) are all on the RAW side. In short the talent that WWE is trying to push as major stars are all on one brand, and the other brand doesn’t lack talent, but lacks the protection of booking, which prevents them from reaching a certain level. This was evident at Survivor Series when SmackDown who are supposed to be upcoming stars (Nakamura, Bobby Roode) were easily dispatched by Strowman, because Strowman needs to be protected and the SmackDown guys only were there to take the fall. The biggest SmackDown star as far as Survivor Series was concerned was Shane McMahon; who isn’t a full-time wrestler and definitely has a ceiling when it comes to drawing for SmackDown.
The SmackDown roster is filled with hard-working men and women, but it is hard to get excited for a big show when you are constantly reminded by WWE that SmackDown is really the minor leagues. Especially around this time of year, where the interest for WrestleMania should be driving the weekly show, if you are a big fan of SmackDown, what is WrestleMania going to offer you? Surely the WWE Championship match will be a major match at WrestleMania, but beyond that, is there another major match that SmackDown has lined up for WrestleMania? All of the protected talent that will be meeting in big matches; Reigns vs Lesnar, Triple H vs Angle, Strowman vs Cena(?) are all going to be on RAW. The other locked-in SmackDown matches (Women’s Championship, tag titles) are likely to be undercard matches at best; and some will surely end up on the pre-show.
Clash of Champions on paper could easily be a good show, or at least one that is easy to watch. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens will take on Orton and Nakamura, in a match that will have two guest referees in Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon. Make sure to note that this match will largely be about the referees and the talent will come secondary, because the biggest star on SmackDown is Shane McMahon. The tag-team Fatal-Four-Way will likely be good, the United States Championship match could be good as could the Women’s Championship. Even so, it is hard for me to justify attending a show with a main event featuring Mahal, and supporting a brand that in the grand scheme of WWE, will almost always comes across as a collection of bit players.