John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Clash of Champions preview. The WWE Raw brand is presenting Clash of Champions this Sunday night in Indianapolis on WWE Network.
It’s one of those shows where I like most of the matches “on paper” because the in-ring quality should be there. However, I find myself thinking that I wish the storylines were better in almost every case. Raw has a lot of talent, but the creative work on the show has been very inconsistent. I just wish it was a more interesting show every week. The good thing is when you have a PPV like this, the in-ring action gets more of a spotlight. I think the matches should be pretty good for the most part.
Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora, Matty J. Douglas and Mike Holland.
Kurt: As I write these predictions, I look at the week to week “battles” between Raw and Smackdown and have it 7-2 in favor of Smackdown. It’s not even close. So if my analysis of these matches tends to skew towards the negative, that’s why. I can’t get behind much on the show. The cruiserweights were great this week, but I had to sit through two hours of fodder to get there. I don’t even know if taking away the third hour would really help Raw, but it wouldn’t hurt at least. The most over act on the brand, Enzo and Cass (this is not debatable either, they get massive pops from the dead crowds even) isn’t even on the show and are stuck losing matches to The Shining Stars. I’m sure the in ring work will be solid with the talent level on this show, but I just can’t bring myself to be excited.
Matt: We’re only a month into this and I’m already experiencing PPV fatigue. WWE can’t continue doing two PPVs a month. It’s simply unacceptable. I will not watch all these shows and will consider cancelling my WWE Network Subscription in protest. Less is more WWE, less is more.
(Editor John with the run-in: I disagree! It’s really good for page views. Thanks WWE. We love you.)
Mike: WWE has acquired plenty of things over the years, and Clash of Champions is a slightly abridged reminder of how when Titan Tower presses the reset button on history, they tend to do it their way. While I much prefer this name (and its historical significance) to usher in the very first Raw-exclusive event to the previously used and very blah Night of Champions, one can't help but feel some small hesitation over the idea that every title will be defended when there are suddenly twice as many. But, whatever, it's only a name, right?
As for the card itself, comparisons with Smackdown's very successful and critically acclaimed Backlash are rather inevitable. That card got some of its mojo from the condensed lineup, so naturally Raw has taken the opposite approach and loaded up with seven matches and at least one additional on the preshow. There are some big things within this rundown, however: the brand new Cruiserweight Title will be defended for the first time, Cesaro and Sheamus face the ultimate game seven, and four additional title matches take place as well, including Seth Rollins experiencing his first PPV as a face after the shocking Triple H screwjob. Less is generally more with these things, but if even half of these matches deliver what we'd expect it should be a decent night.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner is courtesy of our friend Melo Man. Go visit his website prowrestlinglinks.com for convenient links to all kinds of different wrestling related websites.)
PLUG TIME: If you like what you see here and like what we do at TJRWrestling.net daily, please purchase one of our seven available shirts available at http://www.prowrestlingtees.com/tjrwrestling right now. We would really appreciate it. Thank you!
Alicia Fox vs. Nia Jax (Kickoff Match)
Kurt: I don’t need 200 words to tell you why Nia Jax is going to win. It’s nice that she’s getting some sort of storyline, but Alicia isn’t “crazy” enough to make me think she can win. This is just buying time until it’s time for Nia to go after the Women’s Title.
Prediction: Nia Jax by pinfall
Matt: I guess it’ll be a little interesting to see what Nia does on a semi-big stage, with a superstar that is actually on the Raw roster. Having seen Nia in NXT and what she’s been doing on Raw, I just feel she has a lot of work to do before I’m impressed with her. Also, I really feel like she’s miscast in this monster heel role. By all accounts she’s a really sweet girl and the entire act just seems to run so antithetical to who she is in her real life. It feels false from her.
As far as Alicia Fox is concerned, she’s criminally under-utilized. I feel like she’s an afterthought on Raw and would be much better served on the Smackdown Women’s roster. She could work well with the women in that division, not to mention that it would open the door for pairing her with Tyler Breeze, which I’ve always thought would be aesthetically pleasing (like pairing Zoolander and Tyra Banks). Oh yeah, this is a match…
Winner: Nia Jax (because she’s the dominant heel, and Alicia is but a pawn in the grand scheme)
Mike: Preshow matches aren't generally very difficult to predict, because that's sort of the nature of the preshow. Nia Jax is the perfect candidate to be on it because we're supposed to take her very seriously as she demolishes every ham-and-egger thrown her way and has absolutely zero desire to take out the top babyfaces in the division. I know, I know, slow build. Even so, I'm finding it hard to get as excited for her presence on the roster as I was watching her demolish her way through NXT.
WWE has always had a thing for bigger athletes, and Jax provides the kind of powerfully physical build that makes her a standout without performing a move. As for Alicia Fox, well I had forgotten she was even on Monday Night Raw until about three weeks ago, so you can use that information to determine the victor here. Remember when Alicia had that pretty cool breakdown spot where she went mental and then they did nothing with it? Wrestling is a funny business. What won't be amusing unless you're a sadist is watching the absolute bludgeoning Jax unleashes on Foxy.
Winner: Nia Jax
John: It’s the easiest match on the show to book and predict. Jax should win in three minutes or less and if it goes longer than that it’s a mistake. I know Fox is a contracted talent rather than a jobber that Jax has been beating up for the last two weeks. Jax should be in the Women’s Title mix very soon. This win will help her get there.
Winner: Nia Jax
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: TJ Perkins vs. Brian Kendrick
Kurt: For anyone complaining about Brian Kendrick being the choice here over the other three competitors he defeated, this is why we can’t have nice things. I completely understand the logic here as WWE wanted to go into the first title defense with a story and not just, “hey, here’s two guys.” Kendrick is 37 and all throughout the CWC, they played up the fact that this could be his last chance at glory. So he’s desperate. That’s an easy story to follow.
A desperate challenger is a scary challenger, so TJP will have his hands full. I didn’t understand why you would introduce an entire division on Monday, but not the champion of said division, but I digress. With the huge matches TJP won during the CWC, he’s not going to lose the title on his first defense, but I think this will be a fantastic match. Given plenty of time to showcase the division on a big scale, and TJP will be able to outlast a very game challenger.
Prediction: TJ Perkins retains by Submission
Matt: Brian Kendrick won this championship opportunity on the go home Monday Night Raw, defeating Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann and Gran Metalik. Despite the incredible quality of the match from this past Monday, I really think that the WWE fumbled the introduction of the division. Not only was the match placed badly on the show, not only did they introduce the 4 competitors in a way adjacent to the introduction of the Divas Revolution (putting emphasis on Foley in the process instead of the wrestlers much like Stephanie did that night), but they didn’t show the Cruiserweight Champion TJ Perkins once on the Raw telecast.
It’s not like he wasn’t there. He was backstage and filmed some stuff for WWE.com. I just don’t understand why they couldn’t have introduced him first, or had him watching the match backstage on a monitor awkwardly standing so that he’s facing the camera while looking at a screen behind him, or come out and raise the title once Kendrick won the title match. They didn’t do anything to make the division feel special, much less this match, because we never saw the Champion, or his title, on Raw. Should be a good match though.
Winner and Still WWE Cruiserweight Champion: TJ Perkins (because he literally just won it)
Mike: The Raw cruiserweight era is upon us, and it started out pretty lamely in my view this past Monday. While you can successfully argue that anything flowing from the wondrous ambrosia that was the CWC was bound to be a bit of a drag, everything about their first time in the spotlight was a miss to me, from Foley's botched verbal mangling of Mark Twain to the lack of introduction to these men and their varied and incredibly interesting backgrounds. As for the match itself? Pretty good, as I'd expect this to be.
If you're wondering why Brian Kendrick was the choice to oppose inaugural champion (and oddly MIA on Raw) TJ Perkins, you shouldn't. Kendrick is a vaguely recognizable face and is heeling it up quite nicely, thank you, and I like his semi-manic rambles about his second chance. It almost makes me forget that he was once named Spanky and now dresses like the offspring of Paul Burchill and the host of the Weakest Link. Almost. You'd be daft to take the strap off your new champion without having him even defend the belt successfully once. And while WWE is daft at times, this won't be one of them.
Winner (and still Cruiserweight Champion): TJ Perkins
John: I think all of us can agree that WWE did a poor job of introducing the cruiserweights on Raw by leaving Perkins off the show on Monday. How could they not even show the Cruiserweight Champion? Bizarre.
I’m cool with Kendrick stepping up as the first challenger because a lot of people running WWE are very familiar with him since he was there for most of the 2000s and the fans know him too. The problem is there’s no storyline or animosity between the performers, so it might be tough to win over the crowd. Hopefully they get 10-15 minutes to have a good match. Perkins should win the match, likely with his knee bar submission.
Winner: TJ Perkins
Cesaro vs. Sheamus (Match Seven in Best of Seven Series)
Kurt: If there’s one thing I know after seeing six matches with these two against each other, it’s that we did not need seven matches with these two against each other. If this ends up being just for a United States title match, as rumored, then this will be one of the biggest wastes of time possibly ever.
The whole point of the brand split was so that we would get fresh matchups and certain matchups wouldn’t get beaten into the ground. Now, if I never see another Sheamus vs. Cesaro match, it’ll be too soon. Clearly, the story should be Cesaro’s fight and will to come back from 3-0 to win the series. However, until they actually let Cesaro win a big match, I can’t pick him to do so. I think they’ll have Sheamus barely be able to hold him off and win the series. It doesn’t make sense, but hey, neither did this series.
Prediction: Sheamus by pinfall to win the series 4-3
Matt: I know that the WWE probably thought long and hard about how to book this Best of Seven Series between Sheamus and Cesaro. They had to find a way to keep in compelling. They needed to keep the fans on their toes. They couldn’t have people lose interest or get too far ahead of the story they wanted to tell. So in the end they decided to tell what was literally the most obvious story possible. That loud noise you heard in the distance was me yawning.
Seriously, this has been dull as hell. We knew it was going 7 from day one, and the fact that they had Cesaro come back from down 3-0 is so trite. They could have at least tried to fit something fun and exciting into this series. Maybe different stipulations for each match? Or maybe some avant-garde strategy from one of the competitors? No, just an exaggerated, pandering comeback tale. The whole thing has been flat, including the prize for the winner, which is an indiscriminate future championship match. Am I supposed to get excited about what could ultimately end up being a shot at the re-instated European Title? This has been disappointing.
Winner: Cesaro (because lord help Raw if Sheamus gets a future championship match with anybody)
Mike: I mentioned this in my weekly breakdown column this week right here at TJRWrestling (cheap pop, natch), but this feud has been incredibly frustrating and incredibly great at various times during its run since the dawn of time. While this best-of-seven gimmick was so obvious Stevie Wonder could have seen it coming, it has provided its share of emotion and more importantly shown that these guys can wrestle each other something fierce and still find a way to keep it vaguely fresh. While that's no shock to any fan of Cesaro, who remains the most critically underused wrestler in WWE, I have to confess feeling slightly aghast knowing that Triple H's brogue-bearing albino lifting buddy is capable of such feats.
As for the match, it's just another match really, since we have no idea what the victor earns from winning it besides hopefully the right to never wrestle the loser again for all time. If we assume they go the full monty to show Raw is the place to be, I'd imagine a Universal Title shot might be in order. I like Cesaro to use this underdog story to secure a shot against the biggest mongrel in the yard.
John: In the intro, I mentioned how some matches will be pretty good, but the stories suck. Here’s an example of the story being poor because WWE has done nothing to really make this feud stand out. They’ve had matches on Raw, it’s been obvious that Cesaro was going to win the last three to tie it at 3-3 and there just isn’t a lot of excitement. The winner gets a “future championship opportunity” without specifying what that is. Neither guy has really gotten a chance to deliver a meaningful promo on television to talk about how much winning this series is going to mean to them. You can’t just have guys have a bunch of matches over two months and then expect people to automatically care? Please give us a reason to care.
I think the match will be good, but in order for them to stand out they need to have a longer match that gets about 20 minutes with five minutes of incredible action at the end of the match. Do you think WWE will give them that much time? I don’t. It’s just a midcard feud to keep two guys busy that didn’t have another storyline. I wish it meant more, but it doesn’t. As for the winner, go with the babyface Cesaro. He needs it more.
Raw Tag Team Championship: The New Day vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
Kurt: Shameless plug, but I’m going to have RD Reynolds, who runs Wrestlecrap.com, on my podcast soon. When I interview him, I’m going to ask him if this storyline is the front runner for the Gooker Award as worst storyline of the year. It sure feels that way. I understand when two guys get in the ring and just don’t have chemistry. That happens. When you have two of the most entertaining entities in the company going against each other, at least the promo work should be fantastic. This has been anything but that. From the Ringpostitis to The Old Day, it just seems to get worse every week. At least The Club doesn’t wear the doctor coats anymore.
I really thought that The Club would be the perfect team to take the titles off The New Day, but this feud has bombed so bad. The New Day are still at least cash cows for the company, that I think you might as well just keep the titles on them and see if you want to go all the way and have them beat Demolition’s record.
Prediction: The New Day retain by pinfall
Matt: This match will be sad for me, as I anticipate The New Day’s run as WWE World Tag Team Champions will come to an end. It’s unfortunate because I feel that the Bald Outsiders have done nothing since splitting from AJ to suggest that they deserve to be the top tag team on Raw. I know Bullet Club is cool and all, but Gallows and Anderson have yet to bring magic as a pair in the WWE. It just feels weird that they’re still beloved by segments of wrestling fandom and are about to be rewarded for sub-optimal output.
With that said, I’d like to throw out a booking idea for New Day’s post Tag Title run. While Enzo and Cass feud with The Club, New Day feud with the Shining Stars. They have a match where if New Day lose, they have to buy one of Primo & Epico’s time shares. New Day loses, and you then film some fun segments at the time share, featuring New Day discovering the comedic horrors of the Shining Stars Hotel and Resort, such as their high Wi-Fi cost and lack of Booty-O’s. Free idea WWE, I’ll just leave it here.
Winners and New WWE Tag Team Champions: Gallows and Anderson (because the long reign of New Day is bound to end soon)
Mike: Remember when everyone in the natural world thought that Anderson and Gallows would finally get the rub clearly promised them when they fled New Japan right onto the main roster and triumph over The New Day at SummerSlam? It sounds like sour grapes, I admit, but let's be honest and say WWE constantly does this sort of thing in order to pretend that anything can happen. There is no earthly reason why A&G didn't leave that event as new champions, and there's a very huge glaring reason why they should have: NO OLD DAY SKIT.
In addition to that, it's played to all of these talented gentlemen's attributes in exactly the wrong way. TND has felt stale and hokey as they banter with A&G, who have come across like clueless meatheads who fell asleep in a box of old DX videotapes and woke up telling jokes. It's a far cry from what we wished for when they arrived, and the company has at least seen fit to backtrack on that over the last few shows. Sunday serves as an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and give us the finish we should have had in August.
Winners (and NEW Raw Tag Team Champions): Festus & The Other Guy
John: It really bothered me two weeks ago when Gallows & Anderson beat Kingston & Woods clean on Raw. I realize that it was done to show that they would have won at SummerSlam if Big E didn’t interfere, but it was an example of unnecessary booking. I just really hate giving away a PPV match two weeks before it’s going to happen. This time around, it will probably be Big E & Kofi on the New Day side, so at least it will be a different.
The build has been poor even though it could have been a lot better. I think The New Day are going to retain because WWE will want them to beat the Demolition all time record in a few months. The group still sells a lot of merch and they’re popular, so might as well keep it going.
Winners: The New Day
Sami Zayn vs. Chris Jericho
Kurt: Jericho has been one of, if not the most, entertaining thing about Raw for the last month or two. Just for that alone, I want to give him the win here. Zayn is in roster purgatory ever since he defeated Owens at Battleground. I’d love to say that a win here for Zayn would propel him into a title feud against Owens, but there’s no way they’ll go to that well again this year. So that’s out. I would’ve been okay with Zayn and Neville sticking together as a tag team, but that apparently isn’t going to happen.
I’m sure Zayn is going to win this match, maybe by shenanigans so that Jericho can add to his list, but that’s not really anything to get excited about if you’re a Zayn fan. A loss does nothing for Jericho either since he’s so great right now, so that’s another reason to give Zayn the win. At least this storyline provided us the GIF of Zayn getting hit in the head with the phone. Classic.
Prediction: Sami Zayn by pinfall
Matt: I love everything Chris Jericho has been doing as of late. The guy is comedic gold, yet still manages to keep the credibility he’s built up over the years as one of the WWE’s top hands. Everything from The Gift of Jericho, to The List of Jericho has been more than enough to make this Stupid Idiot chuckle consistently (which is a lot considering how much Raw drags from week to week). On an unrelated note, how have they not started producing Stupid Idiot T-Shirts?
Having heaped all that praise on Jericho, I do have to say that this match seems to be a step back for Sami Zayn. He had one of the best matches and biggest wins of his career at Battleground in June, and has seemed listless since. He seems to have no narrative direction for his character. He’s floundering on Raw, which only makes me wonder why he and Kevin Owens weren’t split up in the draft. He’d be much better utilized on Smackdown. That roster could use a talent like him considering the lack of depth on Tuesdays. That said, this match should be really good.
Winner: Chris Jericho (because I flipped a coin. A win or loss here doesn’t hurt either much)
Mike: Kevin Owens winning the Universal Title was a great moment for many reasons, and an oft-overlooked one was that it allowed his tag team partner Chris Jericho to embrace his inner Angry Comedian. Jericho has always been money on the microphone, but this run has been incredibly fun to watch. It also makes incredible sense to have Jericho oppose Sami Zayn, who's spent pretty much his whole main roster career feuding with Owens. Jericho's hilarity plays second fiddle to only one thing, and that's using his immense talent to pay it forward to those in the next generation. Both are rare distinctions in a business too often consumed by self-aggrandizement and ego, and it's why he will always be a personal favorite of mine.
As for the match itself, the build has been fine. Zayn is another guy that's had to wait his time while being very over with a large portion of the audience, and we know how that story plays out. By the time WWE catches up to us, he'll be dealing with some career-threatening injury. I don't see Jericho conquering Zayn given his impending departure. Enjoy this performance because nobody can fill the void Y2J leaves behind.
Winner: Sami Zayn
John: There’s only about two weeks of build for this match, which is fine because they are two of the best performers on Raw. Zayn is a true babyface while Jericho is a great heel that mixes in comedy well. Jericho’s also the most willing WWE veteran in history in terms of putting others over.
I think WWE could swerve us by having Jericho win because they could have other matches, but I think it’s smarter for Zayn to win because he only has one PPV singles match victory this year (the great match against Kevin Owens at Battleground). I’d like to see Zayn feuding with Rusev soon. In order to get there, he should win this match.
Winner: Sami Zayn
Raw Women’s Championship: Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley
Kurt: This match is indicative of how they’ve booked this angle and participants. Bayley feels nothing more than a throw in, which is how she’s basically portrayed on TV. Everything that made her unique in NXT and a women’s star unlike anything we’ve ever seen, is missing from her on Raw. It’s been really disappointing to see. Unfortunately, for the most part, that’s the formula for most stars coming from NXT. They lose everything that made them worthy of coming up in the first place. Charlotte is the one bright spot as she has been phenomenal as a heel. Every time she steps into a ring, she gets just a little better. It’s an impressive trait that not many people have.
Sadly, I think WWE is throwing this match away and should’ve saved it for later when you could’ve main evented a Raw or a brand only PPV with it. It’s a worthy match for that. However, it’s just a match that doesn’t even feel like the original plan because they screwed up the Bayley/Sasha finish. The best outcome here would be Charlotte retaining while Sasha turns heel on Bayley for trying to steal her spotlight and title opportunity.
Prediction: Charlotte retains by pinfall
Matt: These women are quite familiar with one another (they are of course 3 of the 4 Horsewomen of WWE). The entire Raw Women’s Division revolves around these three and Dana Brooke. I remember on draft night believing that Raw’s Women’s Division was stacked compared to Smackdown. I remember thinking in Brooklyn when they added Bayley that they had all the great women wrestlers, yet since then Smackdown has really been outshining them. The Smackdown Women’s Division is deeper, more competitive and way more balanced. Raw is these three women and then bust as far as I’m concerned right now.
Understanding that, these three women have an obligation to tear the house down on Sunday. The Smackdown women are showing them up. As the three best women on Raw, and three of the best female performers in the entire company, they need to recapture the attention of the WWE Universe. I feel like we are more in love with the idea of these women, and it’s been too long since they’ve truly captured my heart and imagination. Do it Sunday ladies. I have the utmost faith that they can. Here’s to hoping they’re allowed to.
Winner and Still WWE Women’s Champion: Charlotte (because it isn’t the time for Bayley yet, Sasha is coming off an injury and there’s still a lot of story left to be told before Dana costs Charlotte the title and feuds with her)
Mike: This match is significant to me for a couple of reasons: Firstly, it has every chance to be the best match on this card. Secondly, it's the hardest one to predict in my mind. The story seemed to be told when Sasha Banks finally became champ, only to see real injuries derail her brief reign and put the belt firmly back around the waist of Charlotte, who like her or not has been an incredibly dominant champion for longer than you might think. The introduction of fan favorite Bayley into the mix has made things even odder in a way, as there is every expectation she'll get a run with the gold too. Naturally the solution is (another) triple threat match.
The easy answer is to rectify the way Banks lost the belt through no real fault of her own, but I'm against that strategy since I think it makes Charlotte look too weak too early. Brief runs don't help a title, particularly this one. While Dana Brooke could be involved in the outcome, I actually think friends Bayley and Banks might have some tension that leads to the result very few would expect. Charlotte walks away with a win.
Winner (and still Raw Women's Champion): Charlotte
John: When I saw this match announced I immediately thought about Charlotte vs. Banks vs. Lynch at WrestleMania. I thought that was the best match at WrestleMania. Can these women have the best match on this show? Maybe. The build has been okay although I’m annoyed that a triple threat match ending in a draw two weeks leads to another triple threat match.
I think there needs to be a title change on this show and since I’m not picking a title change in any other match, I’ll go with Banks leaving with the title here. If she didn’t have that back injury heading into SummerSlam they probably would have kept the title on her for a few months. Since she is fine after the back injury, why not put the gold on her again? I think Banks will feud with Jax in the near future while Brooke splits from Charlotte and maybe Bayley can feud with Paige or Emma. Did I just set up three women’s feuds on Raw? It probably won’t happen with WWE pushing three women’s feuds, but they could do it.
Winner and New Raw Women’s Champion: Sasha Banks
United States Championship: Rusev vs. Roman Reigns
Kurt: I’m going to put myself out on a ledge and say this publicly: I AM A ROMAN REIGNS FAN. For everyone booing him still, please move on to your other agendas. He’s been pinned cleanly multiple times since his suspension, he’s nowhere near “The Guy” right now, and this storyline with Rusev has been one of the few bright spots on the brand.
Each guy has brought out the best in the other in my opinion. Hopefully, if they start sprinkling in some positive interaction between Rollins and Reigns after Rollins helped him out on Monday, that will help sway the momentum for Reigns. The boos haven’t been as unmerciful, but they’re still enough to be annoying at this point.
I could make a case for either man winning this match, but with how personal they’ve gone about making this rivalry, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it stretched out to Hell in a Cell next month. I think they could have one hell of a war in there. With that in mind, I can see Rusev getting DQ’ed to set that up. I don’t expect a clean finish either way though.
Prediction: Roman Reigns wins by Disqualification, Rusev retains
Matt: I’m tempted to just write that I don’t care about this stupid match. I won’t, but let me make it abundantly clear: I don’t care about this stupid match. And why should I? Has the WWE done anything in the last few weeks to make me excited to see these two guys face off again? The answer is a resounding no.
I don’t care if Roman Reigns wins the United States Championship and I don’t care if Rusev retains it. I don’t care if Rusev avenges his wife’s honour (that’s what he’s mad about right? That she fell in a cake because of Roman Reigns doing a bad Rock impression), or if Reigns dishonours her again. There is literally nothing of note that can happen in this match. It quite literally doesn’t matter at all. On a show of low stakes matches masquerading as high stakes matches, this match ironically takes the cake (brought the cake full circle, which is more that I expect the WWE to do with this rivalry on Sunday).
Winner by DQ: Roman Reigns (because they have to find a way for him not to actually get the belt right?)
Mike: There are two schools of thought regarding Rusev defending his belt against Roman Reigns, and which you adhere to likely depends on your level of certitude about whether another match is in store. Rusev has served as a decent distraction to counteract Roman being quietly removed from the Universal Title match, but as with most things Roman it's been a mixed result. Many still boo at the first mention or sight of the former Shieldster, and while the physical encounters between the two men have been solid, Rusev's lengthy sojourn from television to marry Lana stalled things somewhat.
While WWE could go a number of ways with this, anything from Roman winning via countout or Rusev finding a way not to lose his title through chicanery, I think planting the US Title on Reigns is a smart business decision in that it temporarily gets the heat off. Roman cools his heels a while waiting for his next Universal opportunity, which I'm sure is just around the corner, and maybe gets a Shield reunion that appeases the vocal haters in the crowd. Rusev has been fine as champion, but he's one-dimensional and a good supporting figure that gets easy, cheap heat. The honeymoon is over.
Winner (and NEW United States Champion): Roman Reigns
John: My interest in this match is pretty low. It has nothing to do with the performers. I just can’t get excited about a match that has taken place a few times and then lost some steam in the last month because it looked like Reigns moved on to caring about the Universal Title more. Does Reigns even want the US Title? He keeps getting title shots, yet never talks about actually wanting to be the champion. It’s just a match that is taking place for a title because Rusev happens to hold the title that he doesn’t defend that often.
When Rusev loses the US Title, it should be considered a big deal against a guy that could benefit from winning the title. Names like Cesaro and Sami Zayn come to mind, not Roman Reigns.
Reigns beat Owens clean on Raw in a cage match, which makes me think he’s losing here and moving on to a feud with Owens in the next month or two. I’m not sure how it’s going to end or if it’s going to end clean, but I have Rusev holding onto the title. It just makes more sense to me.
WWE Universal Championship: Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
Kurt: I really hope they didn’t wait too long to turn Rollins babyface, as this should’ve been done when he originally came back from the knee injury. Judging by the response he got from the crowd on Monday, it doesn’t look like they did. You never know though. Owens is the right guy for the title and is still neck and neck with AJ Styles for my MVP this year.
I want to see more from these guys, so it’s definitely not time for a blow off match. Maybe Jericho or HHH gets involved and helps Owens retain that way. I can’t imagine the end game is getting Rollins the title, unless HHH just wants to say he had a match for the Universal Title since clearly it’s finally time for him and Rollins to face off. I’d love to see Rollins use a new finisher since he’s turned babyface, but that’s just nitpicking.
I don’t want to pick two straight DQ finishes, so I’ll say that Jericho comes out and helps Owens retain. Then they can do a triple threat at Hell in a Cell with Jericho finding a way to get himself a title shot for his actions. This match will clearly be the best of the night as they will tear the house down and hopefully it’s a good crowd that will appreciate the action.
Prediction: Kevin Owens retains by pinfall and help by his best friend Chris Jericho
Matt: I feel like this match should feel like a bigger deal. We have Kevin Owens as the top heel on Raw defending his championship against a pissed off babyface Seth Rollins. I should be excited about this, no? But I’m not, and I really couldn’t explain to you why. Maybe it’s because they’ve failed to build on the story since Triple H returned to screw over Seth Rollins. Yes, they’ve done a great job using that moment to flesh out Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon relationship, and I guess the whole “was Steph in on it?” story has been touched on each week since, but other that that, what’s really happened?
Seth doesn’t seem too concerned with getting an answer from the guy that actually screwed him over. Kevin Owens doesn’t seem overly concerned with any of that stuff. Triple H hasn’t been seen since, and his absence is barely remarked upon. I feel like that whole thing should be a bigger deal than just “did Stephanie know?” because I can safely assume that it’ll be revealed that she knew.
I know that they probably want this to be a long term story, but it just feels like they’ve essentially paused that story, with no new developments coming to it from week to week, despite most of the characters involved still being there and doing stuff. The whole thing has been narratively treading water, and it’s made the initial surprise feel less special, because it’s lead to essentially nothing.
Owens and Rollins will have a great match, but at the end of the day, what does any of it mean. I know the winner will be Universal Champion, but what narrative significance does any of this serve? The title is the only thing at stake here, because either guy winning doesn’t feel like progression in the overarching narrative, thus there is nothing really at stake here. It’s the story of this entire PPV.
Winner and Still WWE Universal Champion: Kevin Owens (because who really believes Seth is winning on Sunday?)
Mike: On paper, this match has pretty much everything: two of the best performers on World Wrestling Entertainment's roster, a tantalizing opportunity to follow up on the biggest hanging chad ever in the Triple H interference angle, and the balance of power over the Raw roster awaiting the victor. It's also the first opportunity we'll have to see if Seth Rollins embraces his new role as the major face on the brand (Reigns notwithstanding, since he's reviled by a large portion of the audience) when squaring off against the man who has completely and utterly relished his role as class jerk, Kevin Owens.
The problem with this match is that it's set up so that it's kind of impossible for Owens to lose. Rest assured that it shouldn't (and likely won't) affect your enjoyment of it, because both guys are talented and there should be false finishes aplenty before all is said and done. Triple H's appearance is all but guaranteed, and that doesn't bode well for Rollins, particularly as they advance his feud with The Authority that will likely end in a Big 4 showdown. In addition, Owens has already endured a couple of major stumbling blocks as champion that have little to nothing to do with his effectiveness, those being the injury to Finn Balor leading to a Plan B and being handed the belt by his sudden mentor rather than winning it outright.
Owens has played the put-upon heel to the hilt, finding consistent frustration with Stephanie and Mick Foley as they fail to acknowledge him as "their guy," and that's the beauty of this thing. The more things go south the more opportunity Owens has to become the full-fledged asshole he relishes. There’s nothing better in wrestling than a champion that you're too busy hating to recognize how good he is. That ship may already have sailed to some degree for KO, as he's been around and has a body of work that dwarfs his already large frame, but it makes sense to give it a go anyway.
WWE made a standard storyline out of this very same idea with Rollins himself, forcing fans to acknowledge how good he is while he gets just enough assistance to make it not add up. That's the irony here, and that's why there's zero chance Rollins outdoes his own self. This match will be great, but unfortunately likely not great enough to outshine the buzz around it. WWE didn't anoint Owens as champion just to snuff out his candle this quickly.
Winner (and still Universal Champion): Kevin Owens
John: I’m looking forward to the match simply because they are two of my favorite performers in WWE. I know that prior to WWE they wrestled a bunch of times in places like Ring of Honor, but they really haven’t wrestled much in WWE. This is their most high profile match against each other.
For the past couple of years, I wrote endlessly about how excited I was to see Rollins as a face because I think he’s more natural in that role. Now that he’s in the face role, he gets to battle a true heel in Owens, who is very capable in the ring and should mesh well with Rollins in terms of their styles in the ring.
It’s hard to know exactly what WWE might do in terms of how they get to the finish, but I think it’s fair to say that Owens is going to retain the title since it’s first televised title defense. He just won the title less than a month ago, so why take it off him? That wouldn’t make sense.
I think Triple H is going to be a major factor in the outcome of this match. They had him cost Rollins the title in the first place and he hasn’t been on Raw since then. That was done because they are going to need him to “surprise” us on this show. Triple H is going to return towards the end of it to either physically cost Rollins the win or distract him enough to allow Owens to get the victory. Post match, Owens and Triple H will beat up Rollins with Reigns making the big save just like Rollins saved him on Raw. It teases the former Shield buddies working together again against Hunter and his new “chosen one” Owens, the Universal Champion. Then at Hell in a Cell they could do a tag match in the cell or maybe Hunter vs. Rollins in a singles match while Owens battles Reigns, who he just lost to on Raw. Makes sense, right?
I hope they get 20+ minutes to have an awesome match before the screwy finish. These guys deserve to have a lot of time in order to help make the Universal Title look like something everybody on Raw wants. It’s still a new title and WWE needs their performers to have classic matches when it’s on the line. Owens and Rollins should deliver a memorable matchup. Here’s hoping the finish makes sense too.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Matt: Looking at the Clash of Champions card, I notice something distinctly lacking from it: stakes. Don’t get me wrong, there are titles on the line, but the whole show seems to lack narrative stakes. Can you say that any character on this show needs to win? Literally all of these matches could have any outcome, and it really doesn’t change the storytelling. That’s in complete contrast to Backlash two weeks ago where every match but Bray vs. Kane had a lot at stake. Not only brand new titles, but people’s jobs, reputations and egos were on the line. Slater had to win to get a contract and complete his underdog odyssey. Usos needed to win to justify their change in attitude. Miz had to back up his smack talk, Dolph needed to prove he is worth giving a damn about, AJ NEEDED to win, and in completely different ways so did Ambrose. Compared to Backlash, this show lacks urgency and purpose. It doesn’t feel like anybody needs to win any of these matches.
John: I’m going to try to be optimistic heading into the show. The booking hasn’t been great on the Raw brand, but there’s enough talent on this show that I think we could be looking at three or four matches hitting the four-star level (out of five) if they get the right amount of time. Match finishes are going to be important too because some of them aren’t going to be clean finishes. Will they make sense and make us interested in watching Raw the next night? I hope so.
Check out my Clash of Champions review on Sunday night on TJRWrestling.net because I don’t care too much about Bears vs. Cowboys on Sunday night. If you miss it live, check it out after the show is over.
Kurt - @KTankTMB
Matt - @MJDP_GSE
Mike - @DharmanRockwell
John - @johnreport
If you want to send an email, send it to me at email@example.com as well. Thanks for reading.