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As you may have figured out by the fact that this review is being posted on Monday and not immediately after the show, I did not watch Clash of Champions live. I watched it the following day; but between the time the show went off the air and when I watched it Monday afternoon, I had heard a decent amount about it and the reviews were pretty glowing. I had somewhat low expectations for the PPV going into the show, but after hearing so much positive news about it, I was pretty excited to watch it on Monday.
Leading up to the main event however, I didn’t think the show was very good. The undercard was pretty bad; the work was okay but a lot of the challengers for the titles were weak and some of the finishes were flat out terrible. The ambulance match was interesting but I wouldn’t call it great. The main event I had heard awesome things about, and it did not disappoint.
I’ll write more on heel Roman Reigns at a later date because I plan on doing a deep dive on it soon, but his turn and the kind of story that is being told has helped WWE a ton over the past few weeks. Through the Retribution angle flailing and a bunch of confusing booking decisions, featuring teams breaking up and then getting back together for no reason, title challengers popping up at random, and other miscues that plague SmackDown and RAW each week, WWE is not in a strong position creatively right now. However, the angle with Roman Reigns and the storytelling that took place in the main event, is a huge lifesaver for the company right now. I didn’t think Clash of Champions was a very good show, but as it concluded with Reigns annihilating Jey Uso, I was satisfied with the time I had spent watching it. It saved the show and helps paint a brighter image for WWE heading into the fall.
Roman Reigns vs Jey Uso: ***3/4
This was a complicated match to rate. As a wrestling match, it was actually pretty basic. There was an enormous amount of talking and not a ton of action for a 20+ minute match, and at times it felt like more of a stage production then an athletic event. That being said, the match was not about in-ring action and was focused more on the storyline with Reigns now a heel and being driven to violence through an inferiority complex that was triggered by his cousin challenging him for the world title. It is hard to watch this storyline and not think that it has Paul Heyman’s fingerprints all over it; even the term “tribal chief” is a vintage Heyman-ism. It is a shame that Heyman was let go from his role as the creative head for RAW, because while he isn’t perfect, the guy has ideas and he can get the most out of certain talent.
When Jey Uso was announced as the #1 contender for Universal Championship, it was an outside-the-box idea, but unlike some of the other challengers at Clash of Champions, it did make sense. There was an obvious story to tell with the now-heel Reigns facing off against his babyface friend, who wants to know what has happened to his close buddy. Throw in the reality-based storyline of Jey feeling like he has always played second fiddle to Reigns (brilliantly delivered in a promo by Jey on SmackDown) and this was a clear, logical story to tell. Jimmy coming out towards the end of the match, throwing in the towel for his brother and then making the save when Reigns continued to batter him, was a perfect finish for the match. This was very good storytelling, and what people should expect when they turn on a wrestling program; I hope it can continue.
Randy Orton vs Drew McIntyre: ***1/4
McIntyre and Orton worked extremely hard in this match; but I’m not a huge fan of “try to throw your opponent into X” matches. Ambulance matches, casket matches, buried alive matches, Mimosa Mayhem, etc. they all just feel gimmicky and I’d rather watch two men fight in the ring and try and get a pin or submission than finagle a way to get their opponent into something. The match wasn’t boring and McIntyre took a pretty big beating, but it didn’t feel like a big world title match to me; their match at SummerSlam was much better.
The match also saw several older wrestlers that Orton had punted over the past several weeks, interfere and help McIntyre win the match. I understand that the story is to show how Orton’s past actions caught up with him and cost him the match; but there are two problems with doing that. The first is that it made it look like McIntyre needed help from Big Show, Christian and Shawn Michaels to beat Orton. It would make sense if it was a normal match, Orton was about to cheat, and Shawn Michaels came out and stopped him. But this was a No DQ match and what ended up happening was that McIntyre was getting his ass kicked and time and time again, he needed someone to help save him from the dominant heel.
The other problem is that throughout this feud, Randy Orton has been the more interesting personality. This match, with all of the old names coming back and attacking Orton, really made the match all about Orton and less about McIntyre. Orton was the driving force throughout the match and the angle that developed during the match was all about him, McIntyre just happened to be the babyface he was wrestling tonight. The defining moment of the match came when Michaels appeared and superkicked Orton off of the top of the ambulance, while McIntyre laid on the ground off-screen. Even though he won tonight, I don’t think this feud has helped McIntyre that much since he won at SummerSlam, it has been a rough last few weeks for him.
Sami Zayn vs Jeff Hardy vs AJ Styles: ***1/2
Yet another ladder match on a WWE program, it feels like there is one every week. To be fair, these guys worked really hard and took a ton of risks. I’m torn about the handcuffs spots; I enjoy creativity but I also thought it was kind of overbooking the match. Hardy hiking up a ladder while having another ladder dangling from his ear is certainly creative, but it’s also kind of goofy. The other issue is that after more than a decade of devaluing the title, I just don’t care at all who the Intercontinental Champion is. The title means nothing at this point, and so while I enjoyed the action of these guys killing each other on the ladders, I didn’t find myself caring at all about the result. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good match, but when you don’t care about the result of a match it does put kind of a cap on how good it can be.
Asuka vs Zelina Vega: **
Zelina had a million things working against her going into this match. She has no credibility as a wrestler because she largely hasn’t been one on WWE television. She is also very small, which doesn’t help her credibility and she also isn’t really that great in the ring. So this was always going to be an uphill battle. The match was short and they tried to do a few roll-ups to sell the idea Zelina could win this match, and to her credit she didn’t have any noticeable miscues that sunk the match, but nobody bought she could win and after the match I had no interest in seeing a rematch. Unfortunately, the post-match angle made it look like the feud will continue, which is disappointing. Bianca Belair is right there people!
Bayley vs Asuka: *
With Nikki Cross pulled from the show at the last minute, WWE decided to just insert Asuka into this match and quickly run through it to get to the important part, which was Banks returning and beating up Bayley. Nothing happened in the match and it had a terrible DQ finish. Banks coming back is the key, but one thing I couldn’t help but notice during her return was that the big revenge spot of Banks whacking Bayley with a Kendo stick would work a lot better if we didn’t see someone get hit with a Kendo stick on RAW and SmackDown every week.
The Street Profits vs Angel Garza and Andrade: *1/2
Andrade and Garza mysteriously are back together and this feud has become a running joke on RAW for it never ending. At this point, it isn’t doing anything for either team other than giving them an excuse to appear on TV each week. The finish was bizarre; with the referee counting three when it was very clear Andrade had kicked out. The scoop is that Garza had injured himself, which led to the ref just going right to the finish. I’m all for safety, but it was a tag match and Andrade had already tagged in; Garza isn’t at risk for further injury and you can do a more convincing finish. There was some added comedy at the end with all the faces at the Thunderdome looking extremely confused after the match ended.
Bobby Lashley vs Apollo Crews:**1/4
This feud is a perfect example of how WWE struggles to book babyfaces. Fan enjoy seeing wrestlers with personality, who take action and try and get a competitive advantage. The Hurt Business are those people; while Apollo Crews (and Ricochet) are consistently played for saps, never figure out how to gain an edge on The Hurt Business, and constantly lose. Once again, that is what happened tonight. It is a shame because Ricochet and Crews have great potential as babyfaces, but they so rarely are made to look intelligent, dynamic and competent, that fans will never really get behind them.
Must Watch Matches
Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii: ****1/2 – NJPW G1 Climax 30 Tag 5
Shingo Takagi vs Will Ospreay: ****1/2 – NJPW G1 Climax 30 Tag 5