WWE Clash of Champions—Best to Worst By Big Vin Vader
So Clash of Champions, the first RAW-brand PPV was Sunday, and there were few surprises yet again. Of course, in this case, that means that we were treated to a show that was stronger overall, with every match falling into place with a better sense of cohesion as well as coherence.
The top match of the night was the Universal Title match, with Kevin Owens defending the belt against Seth Rollins. Owens has had a great year, getting a much-deserved opportunity in the brand’s top spot following Finn Balor’s unfortunate injury.
The fans are behind both Owens and Rollins, and they both have something to fight for, so there was a great story and a lot on the line going into the match. On display from the first was the fact that both men are terrific mental and physical workers. Rollins knew he could work at a faster pace, and Owens knew to work smart, targeting Seth’s reconstructed knee. The entire contest was evenly matched, and the wrestlers pulled out all the stops in an impressively physical contest.
The ending was cheap as hell, and I wouldn’t want it any other way from a great heel like Owens. His best friend, Chris Jericho, ran out to distract Rollins, and encourage the champ. After the ref got knocked out, JeriKO’s playing only got dirtier, allowing KO to put the challenger down with a pop-up Powerbomb once a new official was brought out.
The finish was perfectly entertaining and showed just how well Owens can still draw heat to himself, even with the people so firmly behind him despite his heel status.
Next in the rankings is the Women’s Title Triple-Threat between champion Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Bayley. Before the match had even started there was little doubt that it would be one of the night’s best. The Women’s division has been consistently stealing the show, and have particularly impressed with Triple Threats.
Once again, there was a great story going in, dating back to all three women’s time in NXT, as well as the continuing rivalry between Sasha and Charlotte. All three performers are among the most impressive athletes on either brand’s roster, and there was no chance of a subpar match.
As expected, the action was non-stop from start to end, although much of it took place between Charlotte and Sasha, with Bayley spending a good deal of time out of commission. Regardless, all three women put on a hell of an entertaining show, with a number of bright spots, particularly Charlotte landing a double moonsault on the challengers. The finish was the only issue, coming pretty abruptly at the fifteen-minute mark; the match could easily have gone another five without overstaying its welcome. Of course Charlotte retained the title, and there looks to be the possibility of a Sasha-Bayley feud.
Ranking third was the final match in Cesaro and Sheamus’ Best of 7 series, which has provided more solidly entertaining matches than anyone expected. None have been classics, but they’ve certainly not been wastes of time, and the stakes were high for the final match. Cesaro rightly had the popular support, and a hell of a lot riding on the match’s outcome.
We were treated to a surprisingly sound, incredibly enjoyable match full of stiff, physical work and plenty of back and forth intensity. The story behind the bout was good, and both men truly came out looking great, impressing with their versatility. Particularly impressive was Cesaro hitting a 619 midway through the contest.
Unfortunately, the match’s conclusion was meant to illustrate the tolls such physical work takes on the performers. After a dive took both men over the barricade, the ringside officials determined neither was fit to perform. Sheamus fought while being carried to the back and Cesaro made it back to the ring, ready to keep fighting. It told a decent story, and both men looked like the determined fighters they proved themselves to be. However, the no-contest achieved nothing, and if the series is to continue it seems unlikely that we’ll get a better match from the pair after this showing. This was their crowning achievement together, and a real decision would have sealed the matter nicely.
While I had high hopes for the Cruiserweight match between TJ Perkins and Brian Kendrick, I left somewhat underwhelmed. It came out in the last week that Vince McMahon ordered the division to tone things down regarding both pace and aerial maneuvers, which hinders everything that made the Cruiserweight Classic among the best things I’ve seen all year.
It was apparent that Vince’s edict had gone into effect, as the match was instantly less kinetic than the tournament. There was a good deal less flying, and even the submissions and mat work seemed slower paced, leaving a more typical match albeit featuring heightened agility. The crowd response was pretty muted, showing that the people knew something was up. Perkins rightfully retained the title and will hopefully get the chance to put in more impressive work in the coming months.
Don’t get me wrong, the match was not bad at all, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. Both performers were capable of putting on a scorcher, but there was the sense that something was holding them back, yet it wasn’t either of their faults. On any other card, this would have been a stand-out match, but it approached none of the heights of the CWC. Perkins and Kendrick looked great, but I can only feel a bit disheartened that the division looks to be put under such a damper so quickly.
The match between Sami Zayn and Chris Jericho was more-or-less a last-minute addition to the card, and there was little at stake. However, I was looking forward to a solid contest between two of the roster’s best workers. While I was a little unimpressed initially, the match slowly built itself up and grew on me.
There was good work outside of the ring, and both performances were convincing and solid. Jericho hit a Codebreaker, taking Zayn out, and robbing him of a much-needed win. It was a decent match overall, not disappointing as it wasn’t one of the major features on the card, but rather because it could have been more impressive given the two involved. It was a fun midcard affair that slightly overstayed its welcome given its slower first half. However, both Jericho and Zayn are just so damn entertaining and likeable in the ring that I couldn’t really feel cheated.
The US Title match between Roman Reigns and Rusev came second-to-last on the card, as well in rankings. Their feud has been going for months with no end in sight, and Reigns has been juggling shots at the Universal and US titles for over a month. The thing is, the crowd seems into Reigns in the midcard picture; he’s fine with most fans as long as he isn’t being pushed on them as the top star, and the company finally seemed to figure that out. Given this, the outcome was hardly surprising.
The match was fairly slow-moving for most of its runtime, although it was fairly physical. Rusev doled out a beating to Reigns, impressing as always. Naturally, even the Bulgarian Brute fell to Reigns’ spear, making the US Title the only one to change hands during the entire event. Of course, much like the retention of the other belts, this change came as no surprise. Much as I like Rusev, the crowd actually seemed cool with Roman taking the belt from him, which was certainly an interesting change of pace.
Coming up last was the first match of the night, as well as the shortest overall: the Tag Team Title match between the New Day and Gallows & Anderson. I don’t think anyone expected the New Day to lose the belts, especially with their record going so strong. Of course, now that they have that record, they really should be made to fight for their position as champs, and Gallows & Anderson, shitty comedy skits aside, are the people to make them work for it.
The challengers got things off to an impressive start, beating the champs down with some brutal shots. Gallows & Anderson really did give the New Day a difficult time, making a number of smart tags and continuing to dominate the match. Of course, after only six minutes the New Day made a comeback, putting Gallows & Anderson away and rendering their legitimate threat useless. The match could have gone longer, particularly given how strongly it started, and Gallows & Anderson were once again left out to dry.
Summary and Grade
All that said, Clash of Champions was a much better show on the whole than Backlash. While a few of the matches failed to impress, none felt like wastes of time, and not a single one was objectively bad. Though even the best of the bouts weren’t match-of-the-year caliber, there were more good showings than SmackDown’s first PPV.
The titles and storylines were better established, and unlike Backlash, there was no rush to award new titles quickly. The whole thing just reasserted why RAW is the signature brand, as well as the company’s favorite. Overall, the card was booked far better, and the talent used in more constructive, and overall, satisfying ways.
If this is the way the company is handling the new PPV schedule following the brand split, then things are certainly looking up. It wasn’t a great show, but it was a damn fine one.
In total, Clash of Champions was a 75/100.