A huge shock this week as Shane McMahon doesn’t kick off the show. Instead, we get Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn strutting their way to the ring. They accuse Randy Orton of being a lackey for the McMahon’s doing Shane’s dirty work now as he has done Stephanie’s bidding in the past. Sami Zayn then gives a literal walkthrough of what is ringside and what is not, ascending the ramp as he drives home the point that he was not ‘at ringside’ when he interfered in last week’s main event. That leaves Owens in the ring alone, however, and – bam! – he gets dropped by an RKO Out Of Nowhere.
Shane’s music then hits (ooh, we almost got through an opening segment without him!) and he makes two announcements: KO and Zayn will face Randy Orton and a partner of his choosing at Clash of Champions; and Sami Zayn will face The Viper tonight with Kevin Owens at ringside…. handcuffed to the ring post. Backstage, a groggy Kevin Owens says he will speak to Daniel Bryan to try and fix the situation.
An effective opener that hit the right mix of storyline advancement and entertainment. Let’s have more of these in the future please!
Aiden English & Rusev v. The New Day
Before the match begins, English and Rusev are in the ring with the crowd breaking into ‘Rusev Day!’ chants. English starts a seasonal serenade of ‘The 12 Days of Rusev’ (allowing Rusev to reveal a new t-shirt to a huge pop). As usual, English starts but does not finish, only getting to the third day before the New Day interrupt.
Just as the action gets started, an ad break begins. When we return, Rusev and English are dominating Kofi Kingston. After a couple of near misses, Kingston finally gets a hot tag to Big E who unloads on English with German suplexes and a big splash. Rusev tags in and almost gets pinned immediately. He recovers to smash Big E into the ring steps. After felling Kingston from the top rope, he delivers a superkick for the victory. Winners: Aiden English & Rusev
Good to see a new duo in the tag scene and picking up momentum. It is high time we had more than two teams at the top of the division and English and Rusev are a welcome addition. Later in the night, a four-way match including these two teams, Gable and Benjamin, and the Usos is announced for Clash of Champions.
After a recap of last week’s attack on Zack Ryder, Mojo Rawley speaks out. He talks about how Ryder has held him back and how he was able to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale without his former partner. He ends the interview by saying that if anyone has a problem with what he did to Ryder, they can ‘shove it.’
We then cut to Carmella, Lana and Tamina pressuring Daniel Bryan about why they are not challenging for Charlotte’s title at the PPV. The Riott Squad then show up to ask the same question. Bryan responds by making the championship clash between Charlotte and Natalya a lumberjack match (do they even have enough women on the roster for that?)
There is also a segment with Bobby Roode and Baron Corbin discussing the triple threat US title match at Clash of Champions. Dolph Ziggler joins them and lists his title wins as reason enough for why he has been added to the match.
Three backstage segments in a row was a bit much but at least they were to the point for the most part. Rawley’s motivation makes sense but I am not sure why the women demanding a title match were satisfied with being made into lumberjacks. Lazy booking of cramming the whole division into one match rears its ugly head again. As for Ziggler, I am still not sure why he is in the title match despite his achievements of years ago. I am less sure why Roode and Corbin are booked to fight later tonight.
The Bludgeon Brothers v. Jobbers
A showcase for the Bludgeon Brothers’ dominance and ruthlessness. This does not last long as you might expect. Harper and Rowan looked strong and the most interesting note was how they slapped each other, and Rowan body slammed Harper onto one of their opponents. Winners: The Bludgeon Brothers
The Bludgeon Brothers are getting a strong build before their first storyline rivalry (I guess they are not the ‘2B’ from the Fashion Files after all). It will be interesting to see where this all goes.
Baron Corbin v. Bobby Roode
Dolph Ziggler is on the commentary team for this one. Between the entrances, an ad break, and The Show Off putting himself over for the Clash of Champions match, there is very little action to report on in this match. Neither guy gets much momentum as they trade blows and counter power moves. The match ends when Corbin and Roode hit each other with simultaneous clotheslines and Ziggler takes the opportunity to enter the ring. He lays out both guys with the ZigZag. As he attacked the Glorious One first, I guess that means… Winner by DQ: Bobby Roode
So, I guess that match existed purely to get some heat on Ziggler, but like most things Dolph has been involved in of late, it didn’t quite click. We were reminded several times that this was the first ever match between Corbin and Roode, so why waste that for a throwaway match on free TV? And why put Ziggler in the match for no reason and then try to build him up? Surely, the other way around makes much more sense…
Charlotte v. Tamina
This is preceded by another backstage segment with the ladies as Natalya tries to persuade Tamina, Lana, and Carmella to have her back at Clash of Champions, especially with the Riott Squad around. Ruby and her crew show up right on cue and Natalya immediately switched gears, welcoming them and trying to get them on her side.
As the match takes place, Carmella, Lana, and Natalya surround the ring reminding us of the short-lived ‘Welcoming Committee’ angle from a few months ago. The fans chant ‘we want Lana!’ but Tamina doesn’t seem to want much of her opponent. Charlotte controls most of the match, and gets the victory after escaping a Samoan Drop, landing a big boot, and then slapping on the Figure 8. Tamina taps out instantly.
Natalya and co jump up onto the apron after the match and threaten to give Charlotte a preview of what’s to come at the PPV. Before they can do anything, the Riott Squad appear. Each of the three newcomers takes a turn on the mic before staring down the ladies on the outside. Tamina decides to strike first, attacking Sarah Logan. Their respective allies break the fight up while Charlotte makes her escape up the ramp. Where have all the babyfaces gone? Winner: Charlotte
That was a poorly-booked segment for a number of reasons. After making Tamina look so strong at Survivor Series, why was she so weak in defeat here? Why did she then go after the Riott Squad when they appeared to have come for her foe? And why were the women booked in three separate talking segments (especially when Logan, Morgan, and Tamina are so weak on the mic)? Why not have two women’s matches instead.
Sami Zayn v. Randy Orton
Before this one, we see Kevin Owens plead his case with Daniel Bryan, but the GM stands firm and tells KO he will be suspended if he does not allow himself to be handcuffed to the rope (wouldn’t the ring post make more sense?) Much like last week’s show closer, Orton starts off very aggressively, dumping Sami Zayn onto the announcer’s desk, the barricade, and the steps. At one point, Zayn ends up smashing one of the monitors on the commentary table with his back in a painful looking bump.
Later in the match, Sami Zayn pulls a pair of bolt cutters from under the ring and tries to free his friend, but Orton stops him and gives KO and quick beatdown for good measure. Zayn then climbs up onto the top turnbuckle but is crotched by Orton, who then hits a massive superplex, really lifting his opponent up high. That lays both competitors out for a while. Owens, recovered by this point, grabs the bolt cutters and manages to cut the handcuff chain. The Viper acts quickly to knock him off the apron and then gets Zayn with the Draping DDT. He tries the same move on KO but gets rolled up for a two count. The match then ends as both guys counter each other’s finishers with Sami getting his leg stuck on the ropes after missing the Helluva Kick. The Viper rolls him up for the victory.
After the bell, Owens attacks Orton. He and Zayn stomp on their future opponent until Shinsuke Nakamura’s music hits. He hits both heels with a flurry of strikes before laying out KO with Kinshasa. Randy Orton then hits Zayn with an RKO and the two babyfaces then trade places to land their finishers on Zayn and KO once again. Winner: Randy Orton
The show ends with a shot of Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan watching backstage. McMahon announces that he will be the special referee for the match at Clash of Champions and if Owens and Zayn lose, he will terminate their WWE contracts.
The match itself was fun. Having Owens handcuffed to the ropes was an intriguing stipulation and one we don’t see often. Orton getting the win despite the chicanery of his two foes was a surprise, but it was about the post-match introduction of Nakamura more than the result. I was slightly confused by the commentators constantly asking us to ‘imagine the possibilities’ of a Nakamura-Orton team as they have teamed up a few times since Summerslam. They even teamed up against Owens and Zayn after Hell in a Cell!
The show got off to a great start with an effective opening promo and an enjoyable opening match. It was good to see Rusev getting a win and his team with Aiden English has potential to be a fun pairing. It all slid downhill from there though with three meaningless matches. The women were all stuffed into the same segments when there was time to do something different, and we still don’t have a good reason for Ziggler suddenly being in the US title picture. The closing match was good but the ‘revelation’ of Nakamura in Orton’s corner was hardly surprising and the attempts to forget recent history were baffling. Still, Clash of Champions is shaping up to be a decent event. Let’s hope we get a better go-home show next week.