WWE Clash of Champions 2016 (9/25/2016)- Indianapolis, IN
PRE-SHOW: Alicia Fox vs. Nia Jax- 2.5/10
They tried. The storytelling was fine, but the physical execution left quite a bit to be desired. Nia is now using a Samoan Drop as a finisher because I guess they’re worried people would forget that she is The Rock’s cousin.
It drives me nuts every time they push this show as the “first Raw-exclusive PPV.” Not just because it’s not true, but because even if it was… who cares? It doesn’t make the show feel any bigger, especially after we just got the “first” Smackdown-exclusive PPV two weeks ago and it felt no different than a regular PPV.
NEW DAY PROMO- waste of PPV time.
WWE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH: The New Day(c) (w/Xavier Woods) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson- 6.75/10
Kofi’s elf shoes are back (unless he has actually been wearing them for months and I just haven’t noticed until now). The match was extremely exciting, with some great nearfalls that then died in the end when the babyfaces decided to cheat by having their buddy on the outside interfere by hitting the heel with a foreign object. THIS IS SO F*CKING BACKWARDS! And what’s even the point of this? WWE likes New Day to cut promos? Fine. They can cut promos without the belts, too! Meanwhile, Anderson and Gallows begin to feel like guys who can’t get it done. Yes, their opponents cheated, but WWE’s 50/50 booking on TV negates the protection that WWE is attempting to give their heels via the babyfaces cheating in title match. I’m sorry. I still can’t get over how ass-backwards this all is.
WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH: TJ Perkins(c) vs. Bryan Kendrick- 8.25/10
First we got a video package, then a promo by TJ that was better than his usual. He needs to just look in one place, though. He kept moving his eyes from Tom Phillips to somewhere way off in the distance and back again.
I hated TJP’s entrance, which was designed to feel very “video-game,” which is exactly the opposite of what the Cruiserweight Division needs to be. The Cruiserweight Division needs to follow in the footsteps of the tournament that spawned it by emphasizing the simplistic realism of that presentation. In an unrelated but similar type of issue, while Cole was giving TJP’s backstory about how he was homeless “while trying to become a sports entertainer” and even as someone who knows that TJ’s story is true, hearing Michael Cole insert that unnatural trademarked WWE dialogue immediately made the entire thing feel phony.
The match was awesome, with Kendrick working the head and TJP working the knee. They did a good job of building up to TJP finally grabbing the knee-bar at the finish after having locked it in early in match to start the work on the knee, and then spent most of the rest of the match trying for it. Aside from the above comment, I was also very surprised at how well the announcers handled the match.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- TJP won, and Kendrick finally showed some sportsmanship and shook his hand at the end, but then headbutted him, so this feud will continue, with Kendrick as even more of a heel. Good segment, but I would have handled it a bit differently (tease the handshake here but have Kendrick walk off, spend the next month rebuilding Kendrick while giving someone else the PPV title shot, and then doing this segment at Survivor Series).
WWE 2K17 COMMERCIAL- atrocious. This showed me absolutely zero gameplay. If they wanted to make a goofy music video to the tune of “Downtown” then that’s fine, but this did nothing to make me want to play the advertised video game because I know that it is nothing like what we saw in this commercial, which looked a lot more like GTA than a wrestling game.
CESARO PROMO- good.
MATCH #7 IN THEIR BEST OF SEVEN SERIES: Sheamus(3) vs. Cesaro(3)- 8.5/10
A brutal, hard-fought struggle that should have been the final battle in this long war of a series… but just when it looked like things were building to the climax over a month in the making, they gave us an absolutely baffling non-finish instead. On a PPV, no less. So yes, we got a bunch of decisive finishes on free TV all leading up to the PPV where they screwed us. The only good thing to take away from this is that Cesaro appears to be okay after pretty much landing right on his head on a dive.
CHARLOTTE & BAYLEY BACKSTAGE- didn’t like it. It did nothing for anyone, and at the cost of both PPV time and deadening the pop when they come out for their actual match (the first “hey, it’s WRESTLER X” pop of the night is always the biggest). The match is the thing that people came to see and the thing that people will go back and watch. Save the biggest pop for that instead of this pointless backstage segment that will be forgotten by tomorrow.
CHRIS JERICHO vs. SAMI ZAYN- 8/10
Another awesome match. Zayn worked over Jericho’s head to set up for the Helluva Kick, which he often tried for but never managed to hit, while still being his wonderful babyface self and feeling like he was fighting from behind the whole way through. In yet another odd finish, Jericho won completely cleanly.
HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH VIDEO ON ROBERTO CLEMENTE- not that Hispanic Heritage month isn’t important, but this is a PPV. We are PAYING for this time because we want to see WRESTLING, so anything that isn’t wrestling or a segment that establishes something that will be important for either a later match or a significant advancement of a storyline should not be on here. And speaking of things that shouldn’t have been on this show…
KEVIN OWENS, MICK FOLEY, & STEPHANIE MCMAHON BACKSTAGE- pointless. This is the sort of thing you do on the pre-show or the go-home show to entice people to buy the PPV so they can see the match.
WWE WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH: Charlotte(c) (w/Dana Brooke) vs. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks- A PERFECT 10/10!
THIS F*CKING MATCH RIGHT HERE!
They told a rather fascinating story, establishing at the outset that Bayley was an unwanted interloper in this match between Charlotte and Sasha (or at least that’s the way Charlotte and Sasha saw it). They constantly did things to send this message, such as Charlotte and Sasha always focusing on each other first and only bothering with Bayley when she tried to insert herself. That exchange at the beginning after Sasha had shoved Bayley off of Charlotte to go pound Charlotte for herself, in which Bayley told Sasha “I’m in this match, too!” was very important to making Bayley not feel like an unwanted interloper to the audience as well. Without that, Bayley almost starts to feel like a heel because she spent a large majority of the first half of the match on the outside (she was out there selling, so it’s not like she was hiding, but appearances did start to feel a little opportunistic).
It was almost like Charlotte and Sasha were telling their own story- a combination of the pre-SummerSlam story of Dana’s interference and the post-Sasha’s return story of Charlotte working over Sasha’s back- with Bayley essentially interrupting the match to set up three-way spots to bring us back from this alternate reality and remind us that this was a three-way. In doing this, they managed to include good callback spots to both earlier parts of the Sasha/Charlotte feud as well as the finish to the Sasha vs. Dana vs. Bayley three-way on Raw two weeks ago that set this match up.
Once we started to head towards the end it seemed like Sasha and Charlotte had been forced to acknowledge Bayley’s presence in the match, and so she became part of the action on a more consistent basis. They managed to get it to JUST the right point where they had gotten there 99% by the finish… which was exactly what the finish needed, as Bayley still felt like an interloper just that one little bit that allows Charlotte pinning her to come off like Sasha got screwed (especially after Dana’s earlier interference), and now Sasha can be furious at Bayley and claim if not for Bayley, she would have won the match. Take that brilliant storytelling and add in some fantastic false finishes, and you’ve got a PERFECT match.
WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH: Rusev(c) (w/Lana) vs. Roman Reigns- 6.75/10
Loud “LET’S GO RUSEV!” chants. Oh to be a fly on the wall of Vince McMahon’s office right now.
MAJOR props to the referee for explaining why he didn’t DQ Rusev for Lana pulling him out of the ring while he was counting a pin. The match was pretty darn good, but I generally hope for more from a semi-main event (especially one involving Rusev), and coming down from the quality we’ve seen since the second match, it feels like a huge drop-off, which isn’t good in the semi-main event spot.
WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE MATCH: Kevin Owens(c) vs. Seth Rollins- 8/10
The match was awesome, but that is all overshadowed by the overbooking. Obviously this was done to set up a Hell in a Cell match where there can be no copious interference by Chris Jericho or anyone else, and where ref bumps are an accepted hazard. I don’t like interference in a main event (or a title match… or any match, if it can be avoided), but if you are going to do it, this is the right situation to do it in and the right way to do it.
And yet… I still found this overbooking to be EXTREMELY frustrating. I think the reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, I think the fact that the next PPV is Hell in a Cell (which they even showed us a commercial for earlier tonight), and that made the interference feel forced. Like it is an excuse to justify doing Hell in a Cell next month… which is exactly what it should be: the finish of this match is used to set up a stipulation for the next match. But knowing that the next PPV is Hell in a Cell and that it has been scheduled as such for months makes it feel more like they are doing because they have to have a Hell in a Cell match next month because it’s a Hell in a Cell PPV and so they have to do this overbooking rather than doing all of this because it fits the story.
The second reason that I think it bothered me is that this was yet another feud that didn’t blow-off on this PPV. The tag title feud will continue, the Kendrick-TJP feud will continue, Sheamus vs. Cesaro will continue, Charlotte vs. Sasha will continue, and now this feud will continue as well. Don’t get me wrong: there can be some of that on a PPV. Not all feuds should be cut off after one month. There was nothing wrong with what they did with TJP and Kendrick, and the Women’s Title match was specifically designed (and perfectly executed) to make it feel as if nothing had been resolved between Sasha and Charlotte, but this PPV had WAY TOO MUCH of that, and so this went from an acceptable set-up for next month’s PPV match to yet another instance of nothing getting resolved. This was a FANTASTIC PPV in the ring, but there was some baffling booking, and the feeling that very little was resolved definitely drags it down.