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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Clash of Champions for September 25, 2016. Clash of Champions: the show where champions clash with challengers, and not other champions! First time ever!
Best: Moving Right Along
This version of The Club vs. The New Day (there have been many) might’ve been my favorite yet, and I spent most of the match wondering where the hell this version of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson had been since signing with WWE. After the show opened with New Day’s quotation mark comedy quotation mark, I was convinced The Club was just gonna blitz them and squash the belts off them to keep them from getting to 400 days.
That didn’t happen, of course — New Day can just put on a new t-shirt before each title defense and win, because merch sales are their own personal Holy Grail — but I dug the match anyway, because it HUSTLED. It’s got a great pace, and they move forward through stuff with such timing and a sense of urgency that it threw off my internal pro wrestling metronome or whatever and had me wondering when it would end. Like I said, I thought Anderson had a chance at the very beginning.
Worst: The Finish, And Some Questions
New Day picks up the win after Xavier Woods hits Anderson with Francesca, allowing E and Kofi to hit the Midnight Hour, which is still called “the Midnight Hour” instead of the Cereal Unicorn Driver or whatever for some reason. Normally I’d go in on WWE babyfaces being terrible cheaters — Michael Cole was like, THERE’S A REASON THEY’VE BEEN CHAMPS FOR 400 DAYS, and all I could think of was, “is it cheating?” — but I get it. It’s a desperation finish. New Day got attacked with fury, so they had to do everything they could to scramble and keep the championships. The problem, like with most New Day matches and stories, is that they didn’t sell that. They just happily cheated, and it doesn’t matter. They’ve beaten The Club a million times now. After the match, they’re backstage laughing and talking about zombies.
With this loss, you’ve gotta be worried that The Club is officially in Wyatt Family territory now. Honestly, now that they’ve been separated from AJ Styles, removed from the possibility of crewing up with Finn Bálor and they’ve failed to win the tag titles in a lengthy series of opportunities, what’s differentiating them from The Ascension? The fact that Viktor has hair?
Knowing WWE, they’ll have The Club squash New Day on Raw to end their title run at exactly 400 days, and we’ll be asked to see The Club as cool badasses again despite seeing them stooge as ball doctors for the condescending cereal pals for a quarter.
Best: TJP Is Now Mega Man
TJ Perkins now has a Mega Man entrance theme with a bunch of accompanying video game graphics, and while everyone including Kenny Omega agrees this would be a thousand times better if it was just Kenny Omega, it’s still pretty cool.
If you missed it, here you go:
I just hope the MAX HEALTH bar is dynamic, and changes based on his history. Like, if he’s been in a Best of 7 series, he’ll come out for match 7 with like, 30% health. Somebody in production should have it pop up after he’s done wrestling and give his current stats and score. “Oh, you spammed the knee-bar, so your variety bonus is low.”
The video screen should include up-to-date Mega Man YOU GOT graphics based on what he’s recently achieved. Like, “YOU GOT the Cruiserweight Championship,” or, “YOU GOT a new shirt,” or, “YOU GOT lucky WWE didn’t sign Zack Sabre Jr. and Kota Ibushi.”
A supplemental Worst to TJP for the actual physical ring entrance, though, where he flips into the ring, lands on his feet, THEN goes into the superhero landing. I’ve seen enough ACH entrances to know how that’s supposed to look.
Best/Worst: Maybe Not The Match They Should’ve Had
If the Cruiserweight Division is going to succeed, WWE’s going to have to finally, officially realize that “cruiserweight wrestling” doesn’t mean, “regular wrestling with smaller guys.” They haven’t yet, and despite how great the Cruiserweight Classic was, I don’t think they ever will.
So far we’ve had two “Raw” Cruiserweight matches, and while both of them have been pretty good, they’ve worked tirelessly to fit into the Raw mold. The fatal four-way followed the tried-and-true WWE multi-person match formula, with guys getting snapmared and suddenly being knocked out outside the ring for five minutes so two people could wrestle. At the Clash, Perkins and Brian Kendrick wrestled a match that for all intents and purposes was just Zayn vs. Jericho or Rollins vs. Owens, with the signature spots switched out. If Perkins’ signature moves didn’t involve him sloppily jumping around, it wouldn’t have looked like a cruiserweight match at all.
But don’t get me wrong, the match isn’t bad. There are some timing issues we could chalk up to nerves, or maybe Kendrick just being way better than Perkins, but it just didn’t feel like the match they should’ve had. Perkins lives or dies based on the high-flying offense and the innovation, right? So why was Kendrick grabbing a chinlock two minutes in? Why was it relegated to mat wrestling with the occasional high spot, instead of starting with Perkins going bonkers and Kendrick having to scrappily ground him? Have y’all never seen a Rey Mysterio vs. Dean Malenko match? And if you’re trying to innovate, how does Kendrick not know how to take these moves? Why’s he taking a lungblower to the balls?
The crowd reaction says it all. They’re ready to like this match, and they even give it a dueling chant early on. As it drags on, though, the reaction turns into nervous chatter, and by the end everyone just kinda wants to see Kendrick headbutt Perkins in the face and take the belt. They got half of it, which was honestly the best part of the match.
Best: Everything About This Except The Ending, And Probably Cesaro Almost Paralyzing Himself
So much of Clash is, “this was pretty good, except for this glaring reason why it wasn’t.” Sorry.
The best match of the night in a walk is Cesaro vs. Sheamus. Nothing else on the show came close. These guys did everything I wrote about hoping they’d do in our predictions post; most importantly, justifying a Best of 7 series by playing off the previous six matches and making match 7 the best and most important of the bunch.
The story here, God bless it, is great. Neither man can afford a loss. Cesaro beat Sheamus twice in a row before the series began, then lost three straight. He’s been injured, but he’s battled back and even blatantly cheated to tie the series. If he loses here, it’s been for nothing. He’s put himself through physical hell and compromised his moral code or whatever for nothing. Sheamus lost twice in a row, but redeemed himself by beating Cesaro in three straight. If he loses here, he’s the Golden State Warriors. He’s the “Celtic Choke Artist,” as the announce team so cleverly puts it. And yo, this is a guy who was f*cking WWE Champion in JANUARY. Neither guy can lose, so the “I can’t believe he kicked out” moments actually have some gravity. Sheamus won’t let a Neutralizer put him down. Cesaro nearly paralyzes himself with a Lita dive and gets Brogue Kicked, and that won’t keep him down.
Seriously, look at this:
First of all, why the hell is Cesaro doing the same boring Dean Ambrose dive as everyone else? You catch your heels on the rope doing that and you’re pretty much piledriving yourself into the ground. Everybody dives like that now — Rollins does two in a row in the main event, even — so they’ve managed to take what (when I was a kid) was a truly HOLY SH*T type of moment and turn it into a transitional move. Suicide dives might as well be hip-tosses. And not even in the cool lucha libre “everybody into the pool” kind of way. Do y’all even need a cruiserweight division if the 250-pound heavyweights all do dives through the ropes?
Anyway, random rant aside, the point here is that Cesaro and Sheamus are willing to do anything and everything to succeed. It’s great, and I hope Sheamus realizes a crowd chanting “this is awesome” is that “reaction” he’s always claiming to get out of crowds.
Worst, Maybe: The Ending
Just a maybe, because this could go somewhere special.
Cesaro clotheslines Sheamus over the ringside barrier, knocking both men out. “Trainers, EMTs, referees down” to check on them, and the match gets thrown out and ruled a no contest. Match 7. In a Best Of 7 Series. Gets thrown out.
The idea that they’ve pushed each other past the breaking point and absolutely cannot continue is a great one, but that’s not what’s actually happening. Cesaro almost dies diving to the outside, but keeps wrestling and finishes the match. Now he’s unable to continue because he clotheslined a guy? Don’t give me the Michael Cole “he hit his head again” excuse, dude threw a clothesline. Plus, he’s out here yelling I CAN KEEP WRESTLING in the face of the referees. Sheamus does a little better job looking like a punch-drunk guy who wants to keep fighting but can’t — he’s not Standing Tall in the ring like Cesaro, at least — but it still doesn’t feel like enough. Couldn’t you have told every plot point from this in three matches? Why did we do 9, with the possibility of a 10th? Take out like 6 of these filler matches and you’ve got a classic series. We need Cesaro vs. Sheamus Kai, is what I’m saying.
Having said all that, I reserve the right to retroactively Best this. I think it can go somewhere great. The Best of 7 was for a title opportunity, right? But they never specified which title. If the series is a tie, maybe The Authority will tell Cesaro and Sheamus that if they want a title shot, they’ve got to take it together and go after the Tag Team Championship. They’re battle-tested blood brothers or whatever now, right? They can be the new Road Warriors, nuke New Day and be the coolest and best tag team in the world. Sheamus can give Cesaro some personality in the eyes of people who need cartoonish reactions to sh*t to validate “personality,” and Cesaro can legitimize Sheamus’ in-ring work in the eyes of people who presume “indie street cred” equals “workrate” and don’t give guys like Sheamus, Cena or Reigns credit for being great workers.
If we forget all that and just do match 10 at Hell in a Cell, f*ck all y’all.
Worst: Chris Jericho Taking DDTs
I noticed this on Raw. Jump to the 2:00 mark in this video. Sami goes for his rope-walk tornado DDT on Jericho, but has to land solidly with both feet on the ground and kinda drag Jericho over into it. Watch him do that move to anybody else in the world and he either swings around completely without touching the ground, or pivots on one foot.
At Clash, he does the same thing, and the result is the same. Zayn has to land on both feet and almost suplex Jericho into the DDT. It gets worse when they go for Zayn’s DDT through the corner. A lot of people on Twitter told me Jericho just got nervous and ducked instead of taking the move like he was supposed to, but that’s three tornado DDTs in a row he didn’t know how to take. Did Jericho’s torso turn into Tim Burton Batman neck? Can he not pivot at the waist anymore? Is it like how Ric Flair takes backdrops onto his side?
Best/Worst: A Pay-Per-View Full Of Perfectly Fine Wrestling
The worst thing a show can be for a guy like me trying to make jokes on the Internet and/or enjoy the pro wres on some kind of deeper level is “perfectly fine.” That was Clash of Champions is. I don’t star-rate things, but if I did, everything (with the exception of the first 75% of Cesaro/Sheamus) would hover right around the 2 1/2 to 3-star range. The matches are all well-performed, and WWE’s competently telling the story they want to tell, it’s just not particularly compelling. It’s like a house show on the Network.
Nothing exemplifies that more than Jericho vs. Zayn. It’s the best Jericho match we’ve seen in a while, and despite Sami getting increasingly sluggish and twisting through the motions of being portrayed as a spurned lover who isn’t doing as well as his sh*tty ex, it hits all the points it should. Jericho getting the win doesn’t do Sami any favors, but Sami is Sami, and Jericho’s doing the best work of this decade of his career. If you’re building him to be a part of a triple threat or whatever at Hell in a Cell, having him beat the guy who beat Owens makes sense. Plus, if you’re a veteran sticking around to put over the younger guys, you have to actually win sometimes or else the “putting over” stuff is meaningless. Dudley Boyz, I’m looking in your direction.
So yeah. It was good. It wasn’t anything but good. Whether that’s a compliment or an insult is up to you.
Best/Worst: The Women’s Triple Threat, If You Don’t Pay Attention Or Think About It Too Much
The more I think about this, the more it becomes a Worst.
Charlotte’s defending the Raw Women’s Championship (sorry about your demotion) against Bayley and Sasha Banks in a triple threat, right? The story here is that both Sasha and Bayley have beaten Charlotte one-on-one and Charlotte’s only henchperson Dana Brooke won’t stop f*cking up, so the only way she’s gonna be able to survive with the title is to manipulate the faces against each other, and maybe hope Dana pulls off a competency miracle.
Instead of ANY OF THAT, the story here is that Charlotte is the best wrestler and can easily overpower and out-wrestle Sasha or Bayley. She can also overpower and out-wrestle BOTH OF THEM AT THE SAME TIME. And Dana Brooke’s there to help her cheat sometimes, but she doesn’t really need it, and Dana hasn’t figured out that the inherent no disqualification aspect of a triple threat means she should really be in there 100% of the time throwing hands and trying to help Charlotte win. Right? So what we get is Dana not doing much, Charlotte handling her business by herself, and a finishing sequence where Sasha is out of position and Bayley has to lie there in the middle of the ring in a prone sunset-flip position looking back to see where the hell she is. There’s some goofy tug-of-war stuff that belongs in an Amazing French-Canadians match, and Charlotte winning with a kick.
I don’t want to give this too much grief because it did have its moments, but it suffers from the same stuff every Raw match is suffering from now. The formula is overpowering the value of the people performing it. Sasha gets her hair pulled and lies motionless outside the ring for like 3 minutes so Bayley and Charlotte can wrestle. Nobody knows or understands the “if yes, then what” reality of match stipulations. Everything’s just spinning around like somebody up top thinks it’s supposed to, and we nerf pretty much everything these women learned in NXT beyond “competent athleticism.” And even that’s suspect sometimes.
The best compliment I can give Smackdown, I guess, is that Raw’s women’s division has Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Bayley in it and is the second best women’s division in the company. Third if we’re accepting how good Nikki Storm and Ember Moon already are.
Best/Worst: How Many Times Can I Use Best/Worst Before You’re Convinced This Middle-Of-The-Road-Ass Show Has Numbed Me
Roman Reigns vs. Rusev was more of the same. It wasn’t as good as the Raw matches they’ve had, and had a whole batch of problems to work through.
First of all, they refuse to accept the reality of Roman Reigns’ crowd reactions and put this in the semi-main, before what’s ostensibly a heel vs. heel main event. Seth Rollins is face as hell right now, sure, but at the start of the PPV the face turn was like three official hours old. Even face Seth Rollins has that whiny “what about me” thing happening and he won’t stop doing backstage segments with Stephanie McMahon. So you’re prefacing THAT match with heel-ass Rusev going up against a face that everybody boos, and you’re kinda killing everyone’s momentum in the process. You’re making it harder for your workers to do work. Couldn’t we have stuck Braun Strowman vs. Bucky Collins or whoever in there to give everyone a break? Jax vs. Fox could’ve easily gone in this slot.
Second of all, the finish is just too much. Roman hits a spear on Rusev and has him beaten, but Lana pulls the ref out of the ring. Instead of throwing the match out, the referee ejects Lana and the match continues. You’d think that’d be an excuse for Rusev to get a cheap victory, but nope, after two superkicks and breaking out of the Accolade, Reigns hits another spear and pins Rusev for (all intents and purposes) the second time. The announce team puts this over like it’s Reigns’ biggest win ever, which is hilarious for the guy who defeated Triple H in front of 100,000+ people and won the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania five months ago.
Third of all, you’re doing a match with a false finish and a (basically) visual pin in the semi-man before a main featuring false finishes and visual pins. There’s arguably room for two of those on the same show, but not back to back, and not back to back at the end. And not back to back at the end featuring zero over babyfaces.
Worst: The Worst Finish, And Not Even The One We Were Expecting
So that leads us to Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens, a match that would’ve benefitted TREMENDOUSLY from Rollins just returning from injury as a fan favorite like we wanted and not milking his most insufferable heel tendencies for the past three months en route to one feel-good Monday. I get that Bálor’s injury threw an elaborately-painted monkey wrench into all of this, but you had more than 6 days to put it together.
Like a lot of the show, the match is pretty good until the end, when we flash back to 2002 for a schmozz of ref bumps, run-ins, interference, suddenly-appearing authority figures, false finishes and “screw jobs” for guys who’ve spent their adult wrestling careers screwing people in jobs and thinking it’d never happen to them. Let me break it down.
Chris Jericho runs out in a sleeveless t-shirt, scarf and underpants looking like Rule 63 Dana Brooke and tries to distract Rollins. Owens gets a nearfall, but Rollins hits him with a Pedigree and has the match won. Jericho moves Owens’ foot onto the bottom rope to keep the match going. Rollins chases Jericho around the ring, so Jericho physically goes INTO the ring, causing ANOTHER distraction. Owens goes for a pop-up powerbomb, but the referee is scurrying around and Rollins gets tossed into him, knocking him out. Rollins counters a second pop-up powerbomb into a second Pedigree and has Owens pinned for a count of like 17, so Jericho runs back in. Rollins takes them out with dives, but just as Stephanie McMahon’s running out with a second referee, Owens is able to hit a third pop-up powerbomb and actually get the win. Stephanie leaves with a smirk, as though she’s … done … anything?
So to recap, here’s what this accomplished:
1. The WWE Universal Champion only won the belt with help from his boss, and was only able to retain it via help from his friend and one of his other bosses. So he can’t win on his own, despite the rest of his WWE career being built around him being able to win on his own.
2. The Authority has another champion under their thumb who can’t win matches without their help, which is apparently what they’re looking for (?)
3. The challenger has now lost four straight PPV title matches, and will probably get another shot because that’s just how title shots work now
4. Stephanie McMahon is a Machiavellian heel genius for bringing out a second referee to count the pinfall for Owens, who I guess got a sneak attack on Rollins even though the first ref bump had been a total accident caused by a reversal and there was no actual way for anyone to plan or time this and Chris Jericho farting around was plan A
5. Stephanie is happy about this result, clearly, and a backstage fallout video shows her happily leaving with Triple H, implying that they worked on this plan (?) together and that Mick Foley is a f*cking moron
So to recap more succinctly,
1. Raw’s top champion can’t win a match, Raw’s top challenger can’t win a match and everyone involved in the booking of these matches knows nobody is good or can win anything
The next Smackdown pay-per-view can’t come soon enough.
Oh, it starts in 10 minutes? Hang on-
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Somewhere in an attic, there’s a picture of Jericho that gets staler and lamer every day.
I was semi-wishing Jericho would pull out a pinstriped scarf and count the fall.
“All Flash…No Cash” is also Ric Flair’s CreditKarma rating.
thats not Cesaro’s music, its a actual ambulance to take him to the hospital
King of Smark Style (Copyright Pending)
There is a crowd screaming “Let them fight” during a Sheamus match. Your move, Smackdown.
Cesaro should get to choose which belt to fight for, and choose the WWE championship belt on Smackdown
Dave M J
::insert Mega Man Stage Clear theme here::
“GET EQUIPPED WITH CAPTAIN’S HOOK”
The Last Dab-ery
Seth Rollins looks like the “after” picture of Rusev
Michael Cole: REMEMBER THE DAMAGE DONE TO REIGNS’ BACK?
Audience watching at home: Yep.
Roman Reigns: lol, nope!
Thanks for reading, everyone. Make sure to drop down into the comments section to let us know what you thought of the show — you can have different opinions, it’s fine! — and click those share buttons to keep us in the business of making jokes.
Also, be back here on Tuesday for the Best and Worst of Raw, Wednesday for the Best and Worst of Smackdown, Thursday for the Best and Worst of NXT, and Friday for the Best and Worst of me clicking through WWE Network, wondering what I’m forgetting. And now join us every single weekend for a pay-per-view!