WWE – Clash Of Champions 2016 (Cert 12)
1 Disc Blu-ray / DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 183 minutes approx.
No not Night Of Champions but CLASH Of Champions. For someone who likes to bury WCW at every available moment it is ironic that Vince McSenile would choose to supplant one of his own creation’s names for one from his competitor (although the failed Great American Bash revival sets the precedent over a decade ago).
The original Clash was a two-hour special event airing on free TV devised by Jim Crockett Promotions (later to become WCW) in March 1988, in retaliation to the WWF running the inaugural Royal Rumble on free TV against the NWA Bunkhouse Stampede PPV in January that year. The first Clash went up against Wrestlemania IV and was a huge ratings success, featuring the classic 45 minute Ric Flair vs. Sting NWA World Title match that made Sting a star.
Despite the name change, the format is still the same – every championship is defended on the card but in this instance, it is just those from the RAW brand. After Summerslam, the two brands returned to running a PPV exclusive to their own shows, with Smackdown scoring first with Backlash (no UK DVD release confirmed at time of writing) two weeks prior to this event.
Clash Of Champions took place on September 25th 2016 at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana in front of 13,467 fans. Your commentators are Michael Cole, Byron Saxton and Corey Graves.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers but plenty of opinion.
WWE Tag Title Match – The New Day (c) vs. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows
It hasn’t been outright confirmed (or denied) but the oft-mentioned length of the title reign of The New Day looks set to eclipse that of current record holders Demolition (488 days). Why? Because the Demos are part of a lawsuit against the WWE and we all know how petty Vince is, so anyone tired of the Booty Boys ruling the tag division on RAW had better suck it up.
After months of making The Club look like chumps with the stupid doctor gimmicks, it is back to basic for them as the badass team they should have been all along. Having secured a second title shot after the fiasco at Summerslam they have a lot to gain here – or conversely a lot to lose. Fun match that was all action and well received from the crowd. Could have been more but a decent opener nonetheless.
WWE Cruiserweight Title Match – TJ Perkins (c) vs. Brian Kendrick
The superb Cruiserweight Classic Tournament devised by Triple H was originally going to be an annual stand alone tourney until it got rave reviews so it was added to RAW to help fill the three hours of weekly TV. Unfortunately Vince hates the high flying Cruiserweight style and told them not to do it – a bit like telling a fish not swim – hence their inability to get over on RAW.
Even more baffling the inaugural champ TJ Perkins (formally Suicide Mk III/Manik in TNA) was nowhere to be seen on RAW when the Cruisers were introduced! Despite this “small guys doing big guy wrestling” display, this was a well worked match between two veterans (Perkins has been wrestling since he was 15) but the paucity of flashier moments was a setback.
Best Of Seven Series Match Seven – Cesaro vs. Sheamus
Most of the matches in this series took place at house shows which just happened to feature Cesaro making his comeback to tie the series 3-3. This is the match to settle the score and the bets were on as to who would prevail, since a “title opportunity” awaits the eventual winner.
True to the maxim of saving the best till last, the odds were defied here and these two had a real barnstormer of a bout, including Cesaro almost killing himself with a Suicide Dive (which he since has vowed not to do again). Ironically this heavyweight match had more high flying moves than the Cruiserweight match! A real hoss vs. hoss match and credit is due to both guys for managing to keep the ideas fresh for this finale. Shame it wasn’t immune from McBooking in the finish.
Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn
It is remarkable that matches with the least amount of build often deliver more than those hyped to the moon and back. This was set up after Jericho insulted then attacked Zayn on the Highlight Reel – that is it. Jericho is in the midst of another career resurgence and this match confirmed that he is still a valuable player in WWE even in his mid-forties and frequent departures to play rock star with his band Fozzy.
The match itself was great, with Zayn being the perfect foil for Jericho, pulling off flashy moves similar to what Y2J would do 20 years ago while adding his own flair to it. Zayn has great chemistry with wrestlers who know the ring thus he and Jericho gelled very well, telling a great story with the young underdog giving the veteran a run for his money. Terrific stuff.
RAW Women’s Title Triple Threat Match – Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley
Charlotte shocked everyone by regaining the title from Sasha at Summerslam but the reality was that Banks had a back injury and it was thought she would need time off. Bayley was then brought up from NXT to replace Sasha as Charlotte’s challenger but Banks made a recovery and returned to RAW two weeks later, after Bayley had earned a title shot by pinning Charlotte.
Then Bayley and Banks ended up in a double pin in a triple threat match which included Dana Botch, leading to this triple threat. Another tremendous effort from the ladies, which saw Charlotte basically take turns in facing Banks and Bayley, with the occasional group interaction. It would have been nice to see more Bayley in the match but she didn’t look out of place on the big stage.
WWE US Title Match – Rusev (c) vs. Roman Reigns
This ass-backwards feud continues with Reigns getting the title shot after Rusev cost Reigns a chance at the Universal Title then attacked him in a steel cage match against Kevin Owens on RAW. For the moment at least, all the juvenile cake throwing antics have been pushed to the background.
Guess who got booed during his entrance? Anyway, this was another solid hoss vs. hoss match but only one of these men is protected by McBooking, so he did his usual three moves while Rusev threw himself around for 17 minutes. Actually Rusev looked like a real beast for the first time in a while but when he is up against the anointed one, it is all for nought.
WWE Universal Title Match – Kevin Owens (c) vs. Seth Rollins
After Finn Bálor was forced to relinquish the Universal Title due to a shoulder injury at Summerslam, Kevin Owens won a fatal four to crown a new champion on RAW after Triple H of all people helped him win, turning on Seth Rollins in the process. Since then we’ve had no explanation for Triple H’s actions whatsoever but Rollins did sort of turn face to give Owens his first title challenger.
Unfortunately by the time this match began the crowd was tired and the lack of three hour PPV curfew means that WWE can run these shows for as long as they like on the WWE Network. What should have been a classic main event was a very long and typically overbooked affair that lost fan interest for most of the way. Both guys worked hard and Owens is a good enough heel to make Seth’s turn complete but with RAW Commissioner Steph McScreech invested in both guys storyline wise, McBooking is inevitable.
The blue brand delivered a pretty good show in Backlash so the red roster had a lot of catching up to do with their first solo PPV. On balance it is another solid affair with a few good matches but there is still that prevailing feeling of “same old same old” despite the fact the split rosters is supposed to engender fresh opportunities for the wrestlers.
Kevin Owens at the top is a good start and while his choice of opponent is no surprise it is at least a fresh match up. The fast face turn by Rollins was obviously initiated by Finn Bálor’s injury leaving us to wonder how long the Universal Title would stay around the Demon King’s waist before Vince panicked and gave it back to either Rollins or Reigns.
Elsewhere the rest of the roster is treading the same waters as before, signified by the lack of title changes on this show (slight spoiler) – even with Bayley interjected into the main Women’s title programme it is just as it was before, while the tag division is moribund at best, but are Enzo and Cass really the answer?
The closest we got to a potential elevation was Cesaro but the way his series with Sheamus ended, it seems that brass ring is still out of his reach. While nothing essential is found on this PPV, the excessive three hour plus run time does little to distinguish this from a weekly episode of RAW, thankfully with less talking.
Best match – Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn
Clash Of Champions Kick-Off Match – Nia Jax vs. Alicia Fox
Monday Night RAW – 5th September 2016 – Kevin Owens’ Championship Celebration
Monday Night RAW – 12th September 2016 – The Highlight Reel with Sami Zayn
Monday Night RAW – 19th September 2016 – Sasha Banks & Bayley vs. Charlotte & Dana Brooke
Best Of Seven Series Match Six – Cesaro vs. Sheamus
Rating – ***
Man In Black