Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Clash of Champions: A completely average show with some dumb finishes that you don’t remember a second of, except maybe Cesaro almost paralyzing himself.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Clash of Champions for December 17, 2017.
Best: The Mojoverse
I normally skip the pre-show in these reports, but after the incredible promos Mojo’s been cutting on social media, I have to talk about it. Out of almost nowhere, Mojo Rawley has transformed himself in a single lame tag team breakup from the overly excited Jumping Ass Guy to a complex, intense singles competitor who could be a real star soon. Like, what Mojo lacks in technical prowess, he makes up in everything else.
This match managed to do the impossible: get me interested and invested in a Zack Ryder match. It’s been like, six years since that really happened. I thought they were going to do something great with him after he won the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania Star, but he just lost the next night and vanished into oblivion. Here, you’ve got Ryder opening the match by charging Mojo and punching him, which is like, EXACTLY how heated feuds should go. I hate when guys are like, I CONDEMN YOU TO A VICIOUS BEATING AT MY HANDS and then they do their normal entrance and slap hands and dance around doing signature moves. WWE’s always on about “telling stories,” so why not tell a story other than, “look at these WWE Superstars?”
I also really loved that Mojo took the story he was building in his promos about Ryder and used them in the match. He doesn’t “hate” Zack Ryder … he thinks the guy has no killer instinct and worries more about his image and hobbies than he does his job as, assuming this is a real sports organization, a fighter. In the match, Mojo’s not gouging the dude’s eyes and holding the tights … he’s smacking him around, yelling at him to fight back, goading him into standing up for himself and taking things seriously. It works, too, for a minute. And then we bring in the OTHER part of the story, which is that Mojo’s already three steps ahead of Zack in the intensity and RUTHLESS AGGRESSION game, and has been in the WWE Performance Center every day working on shit while Zack goofed around. So he pounces him into the barricade, weathers Ryder’s offense and puts him away with a goddamn running concussive elbow to the skull:
The good news is that this lived up to my expectations, at least as much as a TV-PG “blood feud” can, and put Mojo over as a refocused, aggressive threat. The bad news is that the only match with a story and promos worth getting invested in on the entire show — and therefore the only match you can write something about other than, “it was bad,” or, “it was fine” — was on the pre-show.
Heel Mojo vs. Babyface Rusev at WrestleMania, please. At this point I kinda want Mojo to kick Brock Lesnar’s ass.
Best: Clash Of Champions Starts Off Strong
Here are a couple of statements I didn’t expect to type on Sunday morning:
- Clash of Champions started off really well, and by the end of the third match (counting the kickoff match) I’d convinced myself that I’d let myself get jaded and was about to watch a really good show
- My favorite match on the show (not) counting the kickoff match) was the United States triple threat featuring Dolph Ziggler
Hot crowds in WWE these days are a chicken or the egg scenario. Are the matches good because the crowd is hot, or is the crowd hot because the matches are good? Or if “the matches are good” is too antiquated for what WWE does these days, “is the crowd hot because they’re getting what they want out of the show?”
All three guys were working hard in there, with Bobby Roode finally seeming over beyond his entrance theme catchphrase and Ziggler finally wrestling with a sense of urgency again for the first time in what feels like years, despite always saying how hard he works and how much he does. It doesn’t show through enough in the character, or either his performances or what they task him to do, depending on what you wanna blame.
I thought the match was structured really well, too, especially at the end when they started introducing tropes just to turn them over. You thought Baron Corbin was going to toss the man who actually won the match out of the ring and steal the pin, but it doesn’t work out for him. You thought there was no way Ziggler was going to win, (1) because he was so hilariously tacked on to the match without earning it in any feasible way, shape or form, and (2) he’s Dolph Ziggler, but he breaks out a great, creative move — hitting the Zig Zag on Corbin while Corbin’s busy trying to End of Days Roode, effectively taking them both out — to win.
His post-match promo on Dot Com doesn’t really suggest anything new for him going forward and that “no music, except a little bit at the beginning, and the entire song when I win the match” thing needs to go (especially the record scratch, because what, are they playing his entrance theme on vinyl?) and there’s a chance this is just a way to extend his “I only wrestle one guy at a time for months on end” thing with Roode … but for tonight, it was good. I really, really hope I can cut the Ziggler hate shtick he’s spent years forcing me to adopt and get back to loving that dude.
Best: Chad Gable Bodying People
Before I talk about what didn’t work about the fatal four-way Tag Team Championship match, I want to talk about what did. First and foremost among those talking points is Chad By God Gable, who has finally stopped being a weird condescending jerk for a second and returned to his best form, the form that made all of us adore him in the first place: murderous little suplex monster.
That’s what made us like American Alpha. We didn’t like them because they were good at promos or had a cool gimmick or whatever, they didn’t. All of that was terrible. They were two socially awkward amateur wrestlers who discovered they could succeed if they teamed up together, because sometimes non-stop suplexes win matches. They were like the nicer, millennial Steiner Brothers, minus the shoot forearming and the head drops. When they broke Alpha up, they moved away from Gable as a dorky troll and it didn’t work. Here, they unleash him and let him like, muscle Big E’s big A over in a Chaos Theory. That rules, because Chad Gable rules, and that shit’s not hard to figure out. See the opposite of that with current Jason Jordan.
Second and secondmost (or whatever) is the crowd’s growing love of all things Rusev Day. We at With Spandex have been on the Rusev train (barring unscheduled stops during the Lana breakup) since he was “Alexander” on NXT, so it’s fucking rad to see WWE crowds finally figure out how easy and wonderful it is to love the Bulgarian Brute. He’s maybe the most legitimately likable WWE Superstar in real life, has the funniest social media, is Handsome Rusev and would be recognized as a great worker if they’d ever take him out of throwaway hoss rotation. Pairing him up with Aiden English works, somehow, and this crowd even cheered HIM. What a world.
I think the best part of this whole bit is Rusev bouncing his boobies to the Rusev Day chant, then going into a full Chong Li from Bloodsport taunt:
Rusev loves Bloodsport, by the way, and I love any chance I get to GIF Bloodsport.
Third and thirdmost, a copy/paste of what I said about the triple threat. This worked because the crowd was so into it and wanted everyone to win, and because the wrestlers in the match fed off that and busted their asses because of it. That throw Shelton Benjamin does off the top rope is the best that’s maybe ever looked, and obviously Rusev and Gable are going nuclear. New Day and The Usos have already proven themselves like half a dozen times on pay-per-view this year, so their roles in the match go without saying.
One quick Worst, though, before I move on to what didn’t work for me: WWE needs to cut it out with the babyface Usos pretending to be the heel Usos. I don’t know if it’s just how they talk to Aiden English or what, but as I said in the Smackdown report last week, don’t you dare take the precious Usos away from me, WWE.
Now, onto a serious structural problem:
Worst: When Being ‘Unprecedented’ Ruins Your Match Structure
WWE (and particularly the Smackdown creative team) spent most of 2017 being obsessed with For The First Time Ever™! Anything they could get away with saying was the first time ever, they did. “It’s Erick Rowan vs. James Ellsworth, FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!” They’d say shit they did two weeks ago was “for the first time ever” because they slightly changed a stipulation. It’s dumb.
Because of this, a few of the matches at Clash of Champions were structurally broken. The less offensive of these was the fatal four-way tag match, where instead of having four teams and two guys in the ring at a time and tags out to anybody like always, they set it up so that FOUR guys were in the ring the entire time, one from each team, and you could only tag your partner. So you had a bunch of people standing on the apron, people standing at ringside and four dudes wrestling simultaneously inside the ring and you’re asking a WWE crowd to follow the action. That’s not going to work, and it doesn’t. Plus, they made it clear that the match was no disqualification, so why the hell didn’t the partners just get in the ring? Why’d they wait on the apron? That should’ve made the match tornado rules, which would’ve at least given it a loose battle royal structure, which is something WWE Universes know how to follow.
It got better when they stopped trying to follow the structure and just took turns doing stuff, and that’s why. The “point” of the match was the match’s worst enemy, and when they said fuck it, surprise, it worked.
The absolute worst of these, of course, was — and I’ll just type this all out so you can get tired of the match before it even happens — Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton teaming up for the First Time Ever™ since October which we’ve already forgotten vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, where Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan are both special guest referees and stand in the ring doing referee shit at the same time, where if Owens and Zayn lose they’re fired from not only Smackdown, but “all of WWE.”
It’s “unprecedented” to have two referees in the ring at the same time — usually it’s one referee in the ring and one on the outside as an “enforcer” who takes over if the first ref gets bumped — so they do it. Even though, you know, having two referees in the match trying to ref at the same time doesn’t work, not even for a second, and is distracting as hell. Did we need to watch Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan stand still for most of the match, taking up space in the ring, while the teams spend twenty minutes trying to have a good tag match? They probably could’ve, too. There was some good work happening, but it was overshadowed by look at the authority figures.
The “intrigue” here was super stupid, which made it even worse. Daniel Bryan misses a call. IS THERE COLLUSION? Shane McMahon was trying to count a pin but Kevin Owens knocked Daniel Bryan onto him! Probably because there are too many goddamn bodies in the ring! Shane McMahon refuses to count the three for Sami Zayn when he’s about to win the match, and literally dives in front of Daniel Bryan trying to stop him from doing it himself. Which, like, validates Daniel’s decision to insert himself into the match, because the Shane McMahon character is a sweaty piece of self-serving human garbage in highwater britches. The heels are the faces, except they’re not supposed to be, and it’s not even debatable. Even the only actual remaining babyface on the show (Daniel Bryan) thinks so.
Add to that the INSUFFERABLE thing Byron Saxton’s decided to start doing where he argues a point for an entire match without having any facts or logic to back up what he’s saying, but he won’t stop saying it. And Graves won’t let it go and keeps arguing with him, and Tom’s a horrible lead announcer who can’t keep anything together, so it sounds less like a professional WWE announce team and more like you’ve accidentally synced Clash of Champions with the world’s worst amateur podcast about Clash of Champions. When the announcers are openly like, “what are the rules? We don’t know what’s going on,” you’ve booked a bad match. And that happened twice.
Horrible stuff. And somehow not the worst match on the show!
Worst: The Clusterjack Match
Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya Bret-Hart is the worst match on Clash of Champions for four reasons. Well, it’s bad for like 15 reasons, but I’ll narrow it down to four.
The first two are pretty straight forward. WWE only has one idea for every lumberjack match they do. Remember that Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins lumberjack match that was super creative and went really well? Now they do a terrible version of that every single time, with the lumberjacks deciding to start attacking each other independent of friendships and alignments, fight in the ring to “cause a distraction,” and lead to a finish. This one’s only happening to, we’re guessing, set up the announcement of a women’s Royal Rumble. Which is a thing you could like, just announce and we’d be fine with. No more lumberjack matches for a long time, please.
The second bit, which is much easier to explain, is the current Charlotte Flair match layout. I don’t know if Charlotte decided she wanted to do less or what, but every Charlotte match as of late has been “get beaten up, then lock in the Figure-Eight out of nowhere and win.” It’s not great. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, she’ll do that moonsault to the floor that nobody in the division knows how to catch. She did it to like 10 people at Clash of Champions and just moonsaulted straight onto her feet.
Reason number three is Liv Morgan, seen here gently forearming her own teammate in the back of the head because she wanted to look like she was brawling, but couldn’t reach Charlotte. Liv is like if Alexa Bliss never got good at anything but WWE was like, “welp, bring her up anyway.” Liv Morgan performs like Sarah Logan talks. I’d say she needs to be sent down to NXT for seasoning, but what’s below that? Can you send her down to NXT Live Events Only? And what look is she going for here, a Sexy Sparky Plugg costume from an Alabama Party City?
And oh my God, speaking of talking, the most amazing reason this match sucks of all is Natalya, who turns “bad mic skills” into avant-garde art with a post-match promo where the heel turns heel. I’m not shitting you. Natalya, who has been a bad guy since like 2015, cuts a promo about how the WWE Universe has turned their back on her, so now she’s turning her back on them. Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. If the idea’s supposed to be that she’s deluded and thinks she’s always been a fan favorite and now suddenly isn’t or whatever, they’ve done nothing to provide that context. It’d be like Braun Strowman bursting into Kurt Angle’s office on Raw and telling him he’s thinking about growing a beard.
Worst: Fashion Defiled
I don’t think any of us expected Breezango to defeat the Bludgeon Brothers, but damn, they looked like shit out there. I think Colin Delaney and Juan Francisco de Coronado got more shine from the Bludgies on Smackdown. The post-match promo where they basically say “EVERY NEW BEGINNING” “COMES FROM SOME OTHER BEGINNING’S END” was just as bad.
Such a shame. I thought the end result of The Fashion Files would be The Ascension getting over enough to be seen on Breeze and Fandango’s level, not the opposite of that.
Best/Worst: The Main Event
So, a couple of positives about this match. One, they did a pre-match video package about how important the WWE Championship is, reminding us that Bruno Sammartino and Ric Flair and Stone Cold Steve Austin all held it. Honestly, I think that’s the first time in a long, long time WWE’s taken a second to say, “hey, the championship matters.” The best we ever get is, “I want to be champion” or “I deserve to be champion.” IF YOU A CHAMPION, SHOW ME YOU A CHAMPION. IF YOU A CHAMPION, SHOW ME YOU A CHAMPION. IF YOU A CHAMPION, SHOW ME YOU A CHAMPION.
Two, this is probably the best match Jinder Mahal’s had as a main-eventer. Styles was basically wrestling himself, but Jinder actually attempted a little offense for once, built a match around limb work — inconsistent as hell limb work, but limb work — and worked for like 25 minutes without a lot of the standard Jinder Mahal nonsense.
As for the negatives, holy shit, this was a 25-minute Jinder Mahal match. That does not need to happen. Styles was basically out there wrestling a 6-foot-5 mannequin and did the best he could, meaning “the best match Jinder Mahal’s had as a main-eventer” comes out to be somewhere between a passable Smackdown match and one we mostly liked. Real rarefied Earth here.
I guess the best news is that Jinder Mahal’s been a main-eventer for a year, they gave it a serious shot, and now it doesn’t ever have to happen again. Jinder could do some really great stuff in the mid-card, where he belongs at best, and now maybe we can get some AJ Styles WWE Championship matches against guys who don’t feel like a bad decision nobody will own up to.
With the hot opening matches, the terrible women’s match, a popular tag team getting totally squashed, a 20-minute authority figure angle that wastes talent and a guy who can barely wrestle in the main event, Clash of Champions should’ve been called “WCW One Night Stand.”
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
We them northern boys, with the hoser’s strength
Aint nobody man enough to hinder me
It’s the Maharaja, just wait and see
Cuz aint nobody poppin’ this bacne!
No they don’t want naan, No they don’t want naan
No they don’t want naan, No they don’t want naan
You hinder Jinder, but you don’t really want naan
We all know what’s next for AJ: Defending that title against the Royal Rumble winner in a rematch for the ages! That’s right: AJ vs. Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania!
SAXTON: It was a fast count!
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Actually, Byron, it’s entirely possible that Bryan and Shane exist in two different reference frames where time passes at a different speed relative to the observer.
“You can’t not be impressed with Jinder Mahal tonight.”
The Real Birdman
Is one of the voices in Randy’s head a kids barber?
Jushin Thunder Bieber
Liv: Okay, what’s our plan?
Ruby: *frantically scrolling through Raw recaps* I don’t know! Absolution haven’t been on TV yet this week!
Beige Lunatics, King of String Style
If you thought Nattie would give the only awkward promo of the night, you’ve got another Singh coming.
This is going to get awkward when there’s a 20 second scuffle on the mics and an out of breath Cory comes back and apologizes to the audience, explaining that there won’t be any more interruptions for the rest of the night.
Orton has a real advantage. He’s been a part of a career threatening match at every PPV so far.
Splitting a 20×20 square area down the middle with your vegan counterpart. The WWE ring is now a college dorm.
And that’s Clash of Champions, a show that started off hitting like Mojo Rawley, and ended up hitting like Liv Morgan.
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