By David Dodgson (@DodgeeWriter)
Here we go folks – the final WWE PPV of the year… And what a way to finish! Clash of Champions, the only time of the year Smackdown and RAW champions go head to… Oh, wait – that was Survivor Series. I mean, the only PPV at which all titles… make that all Smackdown titles, are on the line. Scratch that – it’s the only PPV at which all Smackdown titles have to be on the line (we just won’t mention that what is effectively the ‘main event’ does not involve any titles or current champions at all). Yes, it’s Clash of Champions – the tamest, and lamest, of all WWE’s themed PPVs.
Mojo Rawley v. Zack Ryder
After months of teasing it, the trigger was finally pulled on the Hype Bros break up and since then we’ve had…. a backstage interview, and now we get a pre-show match. This is definitely more of a gentle prod than a push. As the bell rings, Ryder hits a big dropkick but it’s all Rawley after that as the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale winner gets aggressive. Mojo gets too into the trash talk, however, giving Ryder a comeback window. He hits two Broski Boots but pins Rawley too close to the edge of the ring, allowing him to get his foot on the bottom rope. Rawley then hits a huge forearm smash and it’s over. Winner: Mojo Rawley
Post-match, the pre-show team try to draw a parallel with the Shawn Michaels-Marty Janetty break up. Don’t. Just don’t. That was a predictable outcome. The only question now is does Rawley get to carry any momentum form this or does he slip into obscurity. My money’s on the latter.
US Title: Baron Corbin (c) v. Bobby Roode v. Dolph Ziggler
The show proper kicks off with the match that has had the worst build – Ziggler inserted for no reason and a couple of weeks of carbon copy booking with Ziggler and then Roode interfering in matches. This triple threat starts with Corbin getting blasted over the barricade on the outside. He soon recovers, however, and takes control of the match. We then get standard WWE triple threat fare as one guy lays on the outside while two duke it out in the ring. The tempo then picks up with each man hitting signature moves only to have the pin broken up. We get the obligatory ‘tower of doom’ spot with Corbin tossing both opponents off the top rope. The crowd are hot for Bobby Roode and they also break out into ‘this is awesome!’ chants as the near falls mount up.
Roode eventually lands his Glorious DDT on Ziggler and evades an attempt by Corbin to toss him out of the ring. The Lone Wolf pulls him to the outside to prevent the pinfall, however. The contest ends when Corbin goes for The End of Days on Roode only for Ziggler to hit him with the Zigzag while he is setting it up. A 1-2-3 later and we have a new champion. Winner: Dolph Ziggler
A surprise win and a decent match that was, in this writer’s opinion, hurt by the poor build. After spending most of 2017 treading water, Ziggler is suddenly a title holder once again, but he has been so poor for so long, it is hard to get excited about that. Corbin could have done with a longer title run, and Roode hardly comes out of this looking strong.
Tag Team Titles: The Usos (c) v. The New Day v. Gable & Benjamin v. Rusev & Aiden English
Aiden English preludes this match with the full rendition of ‘The 12 Days of Rusev’. The crowd are super into this with loud ‘Rusev Day!’ chants and cries for an encore. That, of course, doesn’t happen as Gable & Benjamin interrupt. The New Day and The Usos join them for a match in which a representative of each team can be in the match at any one time – this is going to be a tough match to summarise!
The match starts off with a quick series of roll-ups before Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso hit big dives to the outside. Rusev then gets his chance to shine, breaking up fun and games from Big E and Kofi with a superkick and then flattening everyone in the ring (as chants of ‘Rusev Day!’ fill the arena). The pace slows down as Gable/Benjamin and Rusev/English work over the New Day and the Usos respectively. The two former rivals eventually team up to fight their way back into the match before predictably turning on each other.
After an Uso superkick party, we see Gable lock one of the Usos into a Texas Cloverleaf with Benjamin trying to block any attempts to break it up. We see the same replicated shortly afterwards with Rusev putting the Accolade on Chad Gable and later Big E. Gable breaks up the second attempt with a huge German Suplex. He then pulls off the same move on Big E, showing off incredible strength. It is not enough though as a superkick/splash combo from the Usos puts Gable down for the three-count. Winners: The Usos
That was a chaotic but fun match. Rusev got a huge reaction from the crowd and a win for him and English would have blown the roof off the arena. Failing that, the Usos retaining was probably the second most popular choice and letting them have an extended reign after that epic Hell in a Cell match makes sense. If anything, this match got the whole Smackdown tag division over rather than any one team so well done all round!
Women’s Title: Charlotte (c) v. Natalya (Lumberjack Match)
How many lumberjacks do you need for a lumberjack match? Apparently seven is enough when it comes to the women’s division – a strange set up as six of the seven are heels. I expect a face turn or a return by the end of the match.
After a few exchanges in the ring, Natalya resorts to tossing Charlotte to the outside multiple times with Tamina, Lana, and Carmella and/or the Riott Squad beating the champ down every time. Byron Saxton is being incredibly annoying on commentary with conspiracy theories and, not for the first time, it is Corey Greaves who sounds more reasonable.
Naomi does not get involved much due to the numbers game until the heels are beating up Charlotte on the outside and she takes them all out with a huge springboard dive off the top rope. A sharpshooter attempt ends in a rope break before all the lumberjacks end up brawling on the outside. With Charlotte lying prone in the ring, Carmella teases a Money in the Bank cash in but gets cut short by Ruby Riot.
Charlotte takes out everyone at ringside with a moonsault but then gets smashed into the ringpost by Natalya. Another sharpshooter attempt gets countered into the Figure 8 and Charlotte retains. Post-match, Natalya lambasts the WWE Universe for turning their backs on her and says she will turn her back on them, all to the tune of ‘Hey, hey, goodbye!’ Winner: Charlotte
A decent enough match even if the lumberjack stipulation only existed to shoehorn more women into the segment. The cash-in tease added a point of interest and we need to see more of that from Carmella, so the briefcase becomes less of an accessory. In terms of the Riott Squad, there was no storyline advancement though and no new rivalries came out of having all those lumberjacks at ringside, so it feels like an opportunity missed.
Breezango v. The Bludgeon Brothers
Wow! Breezango are in a wrestling match! Well, I say match, but this is more of an extended squash. Breezango get more offence in than the teams on Smackdown Live in recent weeks but not much. Harper and Rowan destroy Tyler Breeze on the outside before finishing of Fandango with their double powerbomb for the victory. Winners: The Bludgeon Brothers
According to the commentary team, this was the blow off for The Bludgeon Brothers trashing Breezago’s office on the Fashion Files… What? The Fashion Files gave up on the ‘2B’ trail ages ago – claiming this is the finale of that series of sketches is just lazy and takes the edge off another impressive win for Harper and Rowan.
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn v. Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura (Referees: Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan)
It wouldn’t be Clash of Champions if this was the last match, would it? Based on the build, however, this feels like the main event. Early on, confusion reigns as no-one, not even Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan, seems sure about how the dual referee system will work. As a result, the opening pace is slow though the crowd do come to life when Nakamura and Zayn tie up, remembering their classic NXT encounter.
After both referees go for the count at the same time a few times, they agree to cut the ring in half. Meanwhile, KO and Zayn isolate Orton and net a couple of near falls, complaining about McMahon’s slow counts as they do so. The Viper eventually gets a hot tag to Nakamura, who takes Owens down with trademark kicks and knee strikes. The King of Strong Style traps Owens in a triangle lock, and tension arises between the refs as Daniel Bryan starts counting when Owens pushes Nakamura’s shoulders to the mat (Shane, by the way, is constantly making his frustration clear with every near fall against Owen and Zayn).
The action spills to the outside with even two referees powerless to stop Kevin Owens sending Nakamura through one of the announce tables with a frog splash. With both men laid out on the floor, Randy Orton lays Zayn out with the Draping DDT and then hits an RKO. As Shane makes the count, KO jumps back into the ring and pushes Bryan onto him thus breaking the count. Owens gets an RKO of his own as an argument ensues. We then see Orton and Zayn reverse small packages until Sami pulls off a roll up. Shane starts to count but craftily stops on two as he is in Bryan’s half of the ring. The two refs get into a shoving match with the crowd chanting ‘yes!’ like crazy.
It all ends as Orton goes for another RKO but gets rolled up by Zayn. Daniel Bryan makes a fast count to award the heels the win they almost had moments earlier. Winners: Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
So, was that a Daniel Bryan heel turn or just an attempt to right the wrong of Shane’s incomplete count? Personally, in this match (and over this whole storyline) I think Shane has come off as the heel with his willingness to abuse his position and disregard the rules to get his way. This all builds to interesting viewing for the next episode of Smackdown (shouldn’t it be the other way around though with the weekly TV show building to the PPV?)
WWE Title: AJ Styles (c) v. Jinder Mahal
This match starts like the classic face-heel encounters I remember from before the Attitude Era. Styles goes for Mahal’s leg early on with the Calf Crusher in mind for later on. Jinder’s raw power allows him to take control, however, as he tosses AJ onto the ropes and over the barricade. He stays in control for a long time, dumping AJ onto the announce table and constantly sliding in and out of the ring to break the count.
A brief comeback by the champ is thwarted when Jinder prevents the Phenomenal Forearm by pushing Styles of the top rope. Indeed, most of the comeback attempts AJ Styles mounts are brought to a halt by Mahal’s power advantage. He keeps targeting Styles’ ribs and nets a number of near falls off power moves. That comes into play as AJ finally makes a sustained comeback and hits a 450 Springboard. His hurt ribs, however, prevent him from making a quick cover and give The Singh Brothers, strangely quiet until now, time to try and pull their boss out of the ring. Styles takes both of them out, landing a Phenomenal Forearm and a Styles Clash on the outside to end their nights early.
Back in the ring, Jinder manages to hit the Khalas. Even though he drags AJ to the centre of the ring, he is unable to get the three-count. He goes for the ultimate insult of attempting the Styles Clash but AJ counters into a Calf Crusher. Jinder almost makes it to the ropes but he gets rolled back to the centre and is forced to tap out. Winner: AJ Styles
A fairly good match with the right result. The main thing that hurt this match though was the inevitability of AJ retaining (a riot – and not one of the Ruby kind – would no doubt have ensued had Jinder won the title back). At no point did it feel like Styles was going to lose, which kind of took the edge off his win. Hopefully, this is the end of Jinder and the title picture.
I thought that was a good show, but that may have been because my expectations were low based on the build over the last few episodes of Smackdown. Match of the night came from the tag teams once again with Rusev more over than we have ever witnessed and all four teams putting on a great show. Ziggler aside, there were no big surprises but there was plenty of intrigue set up for this Tuesday. Who will the next challengers for Charlotte and AJ Styles? When will the Bludgeon Brothers join the tag title picture? What happens now with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan? What next for Natalya, Breezango, and Jinder Mahal? Nevertheless, as I said earlier, shouldn’t the weekly show set up the PPV instead of the PPV setting up the next weekly show? At least we will have fewer PPVs next year!