Twas the week before Christmas, when the SmackDown house began to shake,
AJ Styles had built it but the former champ Jinder was here to take,
Meanwhile McMahon madness raged on below,
As he tried to finish Sami and KO
Jimmy and Jey continued to stand firm,
When would these other teams ever actually learn?
The queen had her throne that she stood over proud,
Goodness gracious isn’t Natalya real loud?!
Believe it or not, Baron Corbin was America’s champ,
And “The Glorious One” was still standing on the ramp,
Ziggler was there too and no one’s sure why,
He’s a FORMER WORLD CHAMP though so for that I say hi
The children nestled all snug in their beds,
Whilst a Report Card writer questioned the thoughts in his head,
He sprang to his laptop and typed with great fury,
But it was Owens and Zayn that stood before SmackDown’s judge and jury
When you run 597 PPV events in a year, it’s only natural for some to fly under the radar. Unfortunately, Clash of Champions is among that some. Even worse, I once decided to cover all of these events and this means that I’m forced to watch another Natalya/Charlotte match. Sad. On the other hand, I just produced an elite poem for all of you purely to cover up for my lack of interest in this wrestling card so if I were you, I’d be very thankful for that. Consider it my Christmas present from me to you but only if you intend to send me one in return of course. Thanks.
DISCLAIMER: any wild predictions I make that you disagree with will likely be proven completely wrong in the coming weeks, months and years anyway so don’t worry too much. Basically, take everything you read from this point forward with a grain of salt as its credibility is preposterously low.
Updates from the mostly intolerable talking portion of this pre-show hour: New Day Rock and Natalya very much doesn't. That’s all.
Mojo Rawley vs. Zack Ryder
In one of 2017’s most impressive feats, Mojo Rawley and Zack Ryder have somehow made me interested in seeing them wrestle each other. I’ve always been a proponent of Mojo’s potential and after the pre-match video package here I was ready to have him squash Strowman but his entrance that followed was a reminder that perhaps he has a way to go yet. Nonetheless, the action started hot here as Ryder jumped Rawley with a dropkick and ran wild, overwhelming him early. Mojo soon stopped him in his tracks with a big spinebuster though and hit a splash in the corner before putting on a *sigh* headlock…NOOOO!!!!!
Rawley did have some nice strikes when in control regardless and showed a refreshing intensity as he sent Ryder from the top rope to the floor. He then sprinted around the ring to build momentum for a tackle that launched Zack into the barricade. Our unnecessary pre-show ad break followed and when we returned, Mojo had another *bigger sigh* headlock on….NOOOO!!!!! In all seriousness, neither of these instances went on for long and I liked the way Rawley continued to cut off Ryder’s every comeback attempt, trash talking all along.
Zack eventually fired up with a flurry of strikes and hit two Broski Boots’ but Rawley got his foot on the bottom rope at 2. As Ryder was pulled away by the referee Mojo took advantage, hitting a chop-block and his insane KO forearm in the corner, getting the win in awesome fashion due to both Rawley’s execution and Ryder’s sell. Fun little match that achieved its purpose and furthered my interest in Mojo’s progression. Good stuff.
United States Title
Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin (C)
We open up the main show with a title match here as this wacky triple threat gets us underway. There was a big staredown early until Roode and Ziggler opted to team up on the champ before brawling themselves. Those two went into a silky smooth exchange as they looked for their finishers until Corbin came back in to beat both up. He then controlled the action for a while before Roode made a big comeback but he couldn’t capitalise as Ziggler re-entered to catch Bobby with a famouser that forced Corbin to break the fall.
They then all traded cool moves including Baron hitting Deep Six on Roode for a tremendous false finish. Before long it was TOWER OF DOOM time but Corbin couldn't quite secure the pin. His following attempt to wipe out Ziggler also failed as Dolph sidestepped him and turned to tuning up the band as he waited for Roode. ‘The Glorious One’ evaded the super-kick though and hit a DOUBLE A SPINEBUSTER to pop me huge. Ziggler countered the Glorious DDT regardless and hit his own cool DDT for 2.
Corbin ran back in but was sent out again and Dolph’s attempt at an opportunistic super-kick was blocked….again as Roode finally hit the Glorious DDT. In a throwback to his Hell in a Cell win Corbin attempted to steal the pin, Roode was a step ahead though and removed him again but Corbin still yanked Bobby out just when he looked to have the match won. Baron then broke out that cool backbreaker on the outside and threw Bobby back in but as he attempted End of Days, Ziggler hit the Zig Zag to win the title out of nowhere.
Tremendous match in which all three men shined here as together they got this show off to a great start. As for the finish I’m not so sure but I suppose we have to just wait to see where it’s going.
We then move backstage to see Bryan talking about John Tenta. He and Shane then poorly act out some kind of debate. Cool.
Baron Corbin is very angry and he’s now being interviewed by Dasha Fuentes. He’s very angry and after he spoke, it was clear that he was very angry.
SmackDown Tag Team Titles
Aiden English & Rusev vs. America’s Greatest Alpha Tag Team vs. New Day vs. The Usos (C)
It’s odd to me that they are going with both multi-man thrillers right away here as I fear for what will follow but either way, “Rusev Day” day is super over with this crowd as they rightly ate up Aiden English’s tremendous singing. The Usos soon followed with their own rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas and this whole pre-match portion ruled. Now onto the match. They are doing the four men in at all times rule and after a bunch of quick pin attempts, everyone began brawling with both Kofi and Jey hitting big dives to the outside.
Shelton then cut Jimmy off as he sprinted up and hit a big belly to belly suplex from the top rope. New Day were quickly back in and hit tandem offense on each opposing team, well until Rusev kicked Kofi in the face that is. Separate matches then broke out as AGATT beat up New Day and Rusev and Aiden worked on The Usos. The heels soon tried to one-up each other whilst halting any opposing pin-falls. This wasn't working for me but thankfully the double heat eventually built to Jey and E making simultaneous hot tags and both looking for pins.
These matches are always messy but the format they’ve chosen here has only made it worse for me. Nonetheless, The Usos laid everyone out with super-kicks until Benjamin and Gable countered and Chad put a submission on Jey whilst Shelton destroyed everyone else in sight. English and Rusev then came in to turn things around though and had the crowd biting huge on a false finish on Gable before putting The Accolade on him as the drama built. Big E intervened but English again helped his partner and Rusev soon had his hold applied on E too.
Big E almost powered out but just couldn't and looked ready to tap before Gable spectacularly suplexed Rusev out of the submission. He then hit even cooler suplexes on E and English but The Usos were soon back in to wipe Gable out and retain their titles. This became quite exciting down the stretch and really picked up but the early layout was real rough for me and that hindered my overall enjoyment. Either way, it got there in the end.
SmackDown Women’s Title
Natalya vs. Charlotte (C)
This match struggled to excite me coming in but in fairness to these two women, they haven’t been helped by at all their placement on the card here. We immediately established the lumberjacks’ allegiances as Natalya was only sent in by Naomi whilst the whole Welcoming Committee threw Charlotte back in. Meanwhile, The Riott Squad were keeping their distance early. Flair was back out before long though and after some in-fighting, all seven heels beat Charlotte up before sending her back in again. This of course led to Natalya’s infamous heat segment which was as enthralling as usual.
Natalya then missed a dropkick and went flying to the outside, she seemed briefly terrified of the consequences but Carmella just threw her back in so there’s that. Charlotte fired up with chops as she re-entered but Natalya quickly cut her off as she went up for a moonsault. Flair maintained control anyway, dropping Natalya with a big boot before being sent flying out onto Ruby as all the heels fought amongst each other until Naomi cleaned them out with a big dive. Tamina then kicked Flair in the brain as she rolled back in and Natalya took advantage, putting on the sharpshooter.
Charlotte made the ropes but though she tried, no one really bought it as a potential finish. Flair was then yanked to the floor by the lumberjacks who quickly fought amongst each other….again. Just as you’d expect, Charlotte then hit a moonsault onto all of them and just as you’d expect, it likely made contact with at a push 2 of the 7 lumberjacks. Natalya threw her back in but Charlotte countered the Sharpshooter attempt and put on the Figure-Eight for the win. This division has been a struggle for me since the shakeup and that trend continued here.
The lumberjack match type is rarely good and sadly the work itself here didn't do too much for me either. I find Natalya to be a real struggle in this characterization as her work feels directly limited by it and I feel she lacks the heel persona to make it entertaining. She cut a promo afterwards and informed the crowd that she’d be turning her back on them. I feel like she did that when she turned heel eighteen months ago but what do I know? Bad match for a variety of reasons and this division needs a new direction with more individual focus as soon as possible.
Breezango vs. Bludgeon Brothers
On paper this looked set to go a certain way and in execution it did just that as after some brief success for the babyfaces, Harper and Rowan laid both out on the outside. They then threw Fandango back in, knocked Breeze out on the apron and pinned his partner in the middle with their tandem finish. This was a squash and that’s absolutely fine as we seem set for the inevitably brilliant re-do of The Usos vs. Harper and Rowan. However, I can’t really grade it in comparison to everything else so I simply won’t. It did what it was supposed to do.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are now backstage for an interview and they talk about their whole situation as I try desperately to care at 3am.
Double Special Guest Referee Warfare
Shinsuke Nakamura & Randy Orton vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
With both Bryan and Shane as special guest referees, this match looks sure to be a mess but I’ll soldier on nonetheless as Randall and Sami get us started. An early pin attempt revealed the lack of synergy between Shane and Bryan’s counts and this would clearly be the story as the heels began to rough up Nakamura. The focus continued to be on the referee’s inability to work together but they eventually made an agreement to split duties depending on which side of the ring the action was on. In the mean-time the heels got the meandering heat on until Orton finally fought free and made the tag.
Nakamura ran wild on Owens and eventually put a cool triangle choke on. Shinsuke’s shoulders were down though so Bryan rightly counted and Shane angrily responded to this by shouting “A TRIANGLE.” Makes sense to me. Zayn then came in and hit a Blue Thunder Bomb on Shinsuke for 2 but Orton quickly came back in for his comeback and superplexed Sami in his usual awesome fashion. Owens pulled him outside though and suddenly all four men found themselves laid out on the floor. As the heels beat up Shinsuke, the referees debated what to do and in the midst of this, Shane inadvertently ‘hit’ Bryan in the eye.
This all occurred in the background though as Owens violently frog splashed Nakamura through the announce table. Orton isolated Zayn regardless and hit his VINTAGE DDT after waiting 10 minutes for the people to cheer him. What a brother! Randall then hit RKO but as Shane began to count, Owens smartly pushed Daniel onto McMahon’s back. Orton looked ready to RKO Bryan but he had to deal with Owens instead. Zayn and Randy then began to trade roll-ups whilst Bryan and Shane counted the opposing falls back and forth. Zayn had Randy pinned but Shane stopped counting at 2 in a tremendous moment that led to him and Bryan arguing.
Sami then rolled Randy up again and enraged by Shane’s nonsense, Bryan rapidly counted the three and saved Zayn and Owens’ jobs in the process. As a match this did absolutely nothing for me but the focus was the story and they told it well. The finish was brilliant in my mind but even still, I just can’t get myself to care about this whole thing and I really don’t know why. It feels flat and though it’s logical and well thought out, I have zero real interest in where it’s going next. That may just be me though in fairness.
Jinder Mahal vs. AJ Styles (C)
Main event time now folks and we got straight to it with Jinder’s power getting the better of things early. AJ quickly got some success himself though, intensely focusing on Mahal’s leg in a refreshing moment of a babyface actually being both smart and good at wrestling. Babyfaces attacking a limb brings a legitimacy for me and breaks things out of the standard formula which is always neat. Jinder soon cut him off him with a chop to the throat though and dropped AJ onto the top rope, sending him flying onto the floor. Mahal’s success continued on the outside too as he launched AJ into an exposed part of the barricade.
Styles’ ribs were now banged up and he immediately sold this brilliantly. Luckily for him, Mahal’s leg was damaged too and he sold this subtly even while in control. The work on AJ’s ribs continued though as Jinder dropped him onto the announce table and used holds to apply pressure on the champ’s injury. Styles valiantly fought back with strikes but his ribs were too big of a weakness at this juncture and Mahal cut him off and continued to work them over. He then came off the middle rope with a 1980's strike and even remembered to briefly sell his leg on landing. This was an excellent touch and the match itself was really solid so far.
His 2nd attempt at the middle rope maneuver was countered though as AJ drop-kicked him out of the air. Styles was now back in control and looked poised to hit the Phenomenal Forearm but Mahal swept his legs out which had him landing heavily, ribs first on the top rope. A gutbuster followed but Jinder’s frantic cover would only get him 2 so he opted to take the champ up to the top rope instead. AJ struggled free though and brought Mahal down with an electric chair to turn things around.
Though his ribs were still causing him issues, Styles’ strike flurries were enough to get him some space and he then hit the *checks notes* Ushigoroshi to floor a moving Mahal for 2. Mahal then launched Styles up into the air for a false finish of his own but Styles soon came back with a beautiful Northern Lights Suplex. They then continued to trade moves until AJ countered the Khallas and hit a Pele. His attempts to hit the Styles Clash was halted though as JInder floored AJ with a fabulously sold super-kick for 2.
Mahal’s attempt to hit the Khallas from the top rope only earned Jinder another Pele and Styles would then nail a 450 Splash but The Singh Brothers pulled Mahal free and in doing so forced AJ to destroy them both. Jinder ducked his return Phenomenal Forearm effort though and hit a big knee to the spine as well as the Khallas for a brilliant false finish after he had desperately dragged AJ to center ring. Almost out of ideas, Jinder looked for a Styles Clash of his own but AJ countered and made Mahal submit to the Calf Crusher in the perfect finish for a great match.
I completely understand why to someone else this match would be boring but for me it was an almost ideal main event. It was considered, hard-fought and well-paced. A match so logically laid out that AJ’s first attack ended up actually leading to his method of victory, something that happens far too little in my opinion. I loved the way both guys sold and the contrast in styles worked perfectly I thought. I wish it had a little more heat but in general, this was my kind of main event and a good way to close out a solid show.
Your view of this show as a whole is likely impacted by whether or not the main event was to your tastes. It obviously was for me and so for that reason, I’m pretty happy with this show. I thought the opener was excellent and the tag title match that followed it fun also. There were some lows no doubt and I personally wasn't a fan of the lumberjack match especially but I’d say that overall, they managed to achieve what they intended to here and with strong matches book-ending the main card, I’d say it was a good show even if far from great.
Please comment your Clash of Champions thoughts below or just tweet me abuse @JoeHulbert5 like many others already do. See you at Full Sail folks.