Just as Backlash was the first SmackDown-branded PPV event following the brand-separation it was now the time for RAW to shine with Clash of Champions, a card that featured title-matches for the RAW roster.
One of the great bonuses of watching these shows as they happen on the WWE’s purpose-built network is that there are no dark matches anymore, we actually get to see the build-up bout as part of the pre-show hype. In this case it’s new “Monster” for the women’s division Nia Jax defeating Alicia Fox. It sets a tone for the event – matches where, on paper, it’s perfect but something in the booking – and almost always the finish – stops a potentially great match in its tracks, makes it only ‘good’.
Our official opening content is The New Day defending the tag titles against Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. It’s a pretty good opener – at least to begin with, but the now-familiar cocky, sly, cheating ways of The New Day are played out as if by rote, and not necessary. It does nothing to have them continuing on with the titles, particularly with the constant ‘sneaky trick’ ending.
The Cruiserweight contest is a contender for the match of the night – particularly its ending; one of just a few times when the booking doesn’t let the audience or performers down in the finale. But to get to that Kendrick and Perkins botch a few moves early on in a far-too-shaky start. When the match calms down and the spots actually hit it feels good. And to have Kendrick add insult to injury, old-school style, by agreeing to a post-match handshake only to turn it into a head-butt, well it helped seal the deal for me, a great end to the match and the full start of what will now be grudge-match pairing from these two.
Cesaro and Sheamus were to sign off on the Best of Seven series of matches – and it was a solid, tough fight from these two. As expected. They worked hard – really going for it, and with the series tied it was anyone’s guess. Unfortunately, and you have to assume it was simply to try to be clever, the end result was a No Contest. Meaning we’ll have another match from them. It felt a bit TNA to me. A bit contrived, silly, actually flat out stupid. A great shame because the action in the match was decent-as, the booking just felt ridiculous in the end.
Chris Jericho took on Sami Zayn in yet another Desperate-to-foot-it-with-The-Young-Crew matches. And of course he can, particularly character-wise. That is the gift of Jericho. But quite what his role is – action-wise, is a mystery. But then, I don’t even know why Sami Zayn is getting any big matches. This fight was okay, but nothing special – no gimmick, nothing on the line, no big deal
Charlotte, Bayley and Sasha Banks were up next with a triple threat, no disqualifications. I reckon this was the match of the night, even if it also fell away a tad. They started off all-go and desperate to set a new style for this type of match. All too soon that fell back into the familiar, one on one with the third wheel asleep on the apron or faking an injury on the floor…
In the end Charlotte dominated and that makes Bayley seem irrelevant and Sasha out of her league. Maybe that isn’t far off the truth but until Nia Jax is given something beyond a squash match or they turn Dana Brooke against Charlotte we’re going to be stuck with a few more of these matches. That being said when this was great it was really flying, a palpable energy and some solid storytelling.
Roman Reigns and Rusev was a bit of a sludge-fest with the big hoss guys. I don’t like Reigns. I don’t care for him. Don’t find him interesting. And Rusev is convincingly punishing but has little character. So it was hard to care. But when Roman Reigns won it was pleasing both to see a championship change hands – the only one? That doesn’t seem right, but it is (even though it’s really not right at all) – and it gives him something to do (United States Champ) without bunging up the main title race.
And so to that. Our closing match – big card – is Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship. And again this one starts well and falls slightly in its ending. In fact I’d go with a very disappointing ending, a lot of slow, painful work to get Jericho out on the apron and toying with Rollins and then taking a hit, the ref getting knocked out of action and revived…we know all this, we see it all the time, we don’t mind if it’s entertaining and necessary but this felt forced, lazy and you could hear the ringside fans almost instantly disapproving.
Clash of Champions is no disaster though. There’s some really great moments and movements within each match. A couple of near-classics too. And you get the feeling that with the Hell in A Cell event just on a month away the real point of Clash was to create the building blocks.
You can watch Clash of Champions and any/all WWE content exclusively on the network at WWE.com