Monday, September 16, 2019

WWE Clash of the Champions 2019: Well, I Didn't Hate It

Clash of Champions was one of those PPVs that I probably should've hated.  Most matches were too short, much of the booking made no sense, two hometown heroes were absolutely and needlessly buried, and the crowd was pretty indifferent to all of it.  But I didn't hate this show.  I'm sure it helped that I started it an hour late and was able to skip through all the garbage in between matches, but the show didn't drag for me like most WWE PPVs these days (It helped that the most important matches were saved for the end).  I even liked a few matches.

Before I get to the main card, I will say it was inexcusable that AJ vs. Cedric of all things got bumped to the pre-show, and after a few weeks of an underdog push, Vince decided out of the blue to just kill Cedric dead.  This is what happens when the company is at the whim of a 74-year-old with dementia.  AJ smashed Cedric in under five minutes and then the OC beat the crap out of him.  So what was the point of Cedric's push?  This match could've stolen the show but instead Vince opted to troll the hometown crowd (for the first of two times) to amuse himself.  Vince McMahon is a truly dysfunctional human being.

Anyway, the show opened with a RAW-quality Tag Title match, as Seth and Braun defended against another mongrel team, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode.  This was passable but pretty forgettable, and the company missed an opportunity to create more interest in Seth and Braun's main event match.  The finish saw Braun accidentally knock Roode into Seth, Ziggler low-bridged the ropes causing Braun to fall out of the ring, and Roode hit the Implant DDT to pin Seth and win the straps.  And then after the match, nothing.  No argument between Seth and Braun, no pull-apart brawl, nothing.  How do you not have Seth get pissed at Braun for costing them the belts?  Booking 101, guys.  Anyway, this was middling.  **

Next up was the worst match of the night, and the most disappointing.  Charlotte Flair and Bayley could also have had a show stealing match but again Vince decided to piss off the hometown crowd by having Charlotte lose in under four minutes.  The match-ending spot was somewhat clever and helped establish Bayley's new heel tendencies, but it was handled so awkwardly I missed what happened until after the fact.  While Charlotte was talking to the referee, Bayley serruptitiously removed the bottom turnbuckle pad, then rammed Charlotte's face into the exposed buckle and pinned her.  This finish could've been strong at the end of a ten-minute match but here it stopped the match dead and made Charlotte look very weak.  I don't know what they're thinking when they take a massive dump on the hometown favorite every single outing.  Bayley obviously needed to retain here, but not in four minutes.  *

The first pretty good match of the night was The New Day vs. The Revival, in a solid old-school tag match.  The Revival did what they do, backpedal during the early minutes, use underhanded tactics to gain the advantage, and then work over a body part.  The finish here went a long way to building up their characters, as they took Big E out with a Shatter Machine on the floor, wore down Xavier Woods and hit him with Shatter Machine in the ring, and then instead of just pinning him, they ripped off his knee brace, tore open his tights, and Scott Dawson locked in a reverse Figure Four to make him tap.  This was classic Ole & Arn Anderson stuff and was a great way for The Revival to win the belts (making them the first duo to win the NXT, RAW and Smackdown Tag Team Titles).  Solid effort.  ***

I'm not sure why they decided to include the Women's Tag Title match on the main show, particularly given what took place in the middle of it, but Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs. Fire & Desire was actually not bad.  I expected this would be the worst match of the evening, but it was watchable.  Alexa and Nikki worked hard to carry the load, though Mandy and Sonya still come off as very green.  But here's what undermined the very existence of this match as a main card inclusion - midway through, R-Truth came running out, being chased by all the lower card geeks looking to win the 24/7 Title (I'm still not sure why anyone would want this worthless belt - holding onto it would be non-stop misery).  Alexa rolled Truth up for a pin, teasing a title change, but Truth kicked out and escaped through the crowd.  And then the tag match resumed.  What the flyin' hell was the point of any of that?  A few minutes later Fire & Desire hit the Eliminators' finisher on Alexa, but Nikki made the save and finished Mandy with a draping neckbreaker.  Another TV quality match.  **

Things picked up after that, as Shinsuke Nakamura defended the I-C Title against The Miz.  Now, there was way too much focus on Sami Zayn being a jackass on the outside, but I liked this match.  Nakamura looked more motivated than he has in months, even whipping out a new move (Taiji Ishimori's running snap German suplex) and doing some nice variations on his knee-based offense.  The Miz as usual did an admirable job of following Nak's lead - Miz is nothing if not a good in-ring listener.  Zayn began the match doing a running commentary on the live mic, which was an amusing idea but got annoying quickly, and they cut his mic.  I'd have had Zayn join the commentary table, that would've been funny.  Late in the match Nak went for the Kinshasa but Miz reversed into the Skull Crushing Finale.  Nak was near the ropes, but Zayn distracted the referee anyway, and Miz chased him around the ring only to run into a Kinshasa, followed by a second one in the ring to give Nakamura the win.  I liked this pretty well despite the shenanigans.  Can we give Nak an accomplished challenger next?  **3/4

From a technical standpoint Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks was the match of the night - these two gelled really well and worked hard.  Sasha finally looked like she was happy to be there, playing a fantastic heel.  This was the first match of hers I've watched since she came back and it was great to see her again.  Both women locked on their finishers, but each time the other was able to get to the ropes.  Sasha got frustrated and threw a chair into the ring, but while the ref was removing that chair she hit Becky with a second one, followed by a Shining Wizard for a close nearfall.  Sasha went for another chair but Becky got a hold of it, swung at her, but accidentally hit the referee.  After the ref bump the women brawled into the crowd, making their way up into the concourse and all the way back down to the ring.  This was fun.  Of course the announcers then informed us that Becky had been disqualified, despite the referee still being unconscious and thus unable to make such a ruling.  Becky finally locked on Disarm-Her through a chair before two other refs broke it up.  Also despite her losing the match they played Becky's music afterwards, which made no sense.  But it looks like we'll get a Hell in a Cell rematch, so I'm happy about that.  Hopefully Sasha can redeem herself after the rather botched Sasha-Charlotte HIAC from three years ago.  Aside from the messy finish this was very good.  ***1/2

The next match was met with total crowd indifference, but I liked it okay.  Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton still failed to make anyone care about their ten-year feud, but this match seemed to have a bit more urgency than their SummerSlam bout, plus it had an actual finish.  It went too long, to be sure, but I enjoyed it somewhat.  There were a lot of spots on the outside, ramming each other into tables and steps and posts.  Late in the match Orton hit the RKO out of nowhere but Kofi got his foot on the ropes.  Orton went for the punt but Kofi dodged and hit Trouble in Paradise for the win.  This at least felt like a WWE Title match aside from the dead crowd.  Now can we please for the love of god give Kofi an exciting challenger so the fans can get back into him?  ***

The Roman Reigns saga continues.  Vince clearly has no idea where it's going, but at least something good happened at the end of this match.  Roman and Rowan had basically a fluff-violence match.  They brawled into the crowd, they used the steps, they went up the ramp and hit each other with the boom camera.  It was all very gentle-looking and pretty dull.  Then at the end of the match Roman set up to hit a spear on the ramp, but was cut off by the returning Luke Harper, who booted him in the face and threw him into the ring, allowing Rowan to hit the claw slam for the win.  Alright, this I can get behind.  Harper is way too good to be sitting at home.  I hope ultimately that Daniel Bryan is still behind this whole thing and Harper & Rowan become his henchmen; that should've happened months ago.  But Bryan was barely even mentioned here so I have no idea.  I still don't understand how they haven't given Daniel Bryan a singles PPV match since WrestleMania.  Anyway this was meh.  **

The pleasant surprise of the night was the main event, in which Seth Rollins bounced around like a maniac for Braun Strowman.  This played out much like the SummerSlam main event, and aside from the lackluster crowd it was nearly as effective.  Braun went after Seth at the bell, but Seth recovered and hit three superkicks and a frog splash, hoping to end it quickly.  Braun kicked out before the one-count.  Braun dominated, running Seth over on the outside, but Seth tripped Braun into the German announce table and hit a suicide dive.  Seth knocked Braun onto the Spanish table and climbed to the top rope, but Braun recovered and knocked him off, then hit a top rope splash that looked pretty great.  Seth kicked out of the pin.  Braun went for the powerslam but Seth escaped, hit the Stomp for a one-count, hit a second Stomp for a two-count, hit a third Stomp for a two-and-a-half count, and finally hit a Pedigree followed by a fourth Stomp to win the match.  This has to be considered Braun's best match to date, and for the second straight PPV Seth has been booked as a monster-killer.  WWE's overall booking may be a mess, but at least they're getting this right.  After the match Seth celebrated on the ramp but was attacked by The Fiend, setting up a match at Hell in a Cell.  This pairing is not unlike Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind, so that's promising.  I liked this main event a lot.  ****

So yeah, WWE Creative is still a violent, vomit-covered train wreck and the guy running the show has no idea what he's doing from one minute to the next.  The roster is still the deepest anywhere in the world and most of them aren't being used well at all.  But I didn't hate this show.  The main event and the Becky-Sasha matches were fun.  Hell in a Cell actually has two probable main events I want to see.  That's more than I can say about any WWE PPV since WrestleMania.  Let's hope they don't fuck it up.

Best Match: Seth vs. Braun
Worst Match: Bayley vs. Charlotte
What I'd Change: Put AJ-Cedric on this show and give them a real match.  What the fuck was the point of Cedric's push the last three weeks?  Give Bayley-Charlotte at least ten minutes.  Involve Daniel Bryan in the Rowan match somehow.  Bump the women's tag match to the pre-show.
Most Disappointing Match: Bayley vs. Charlotte
Most Pleasant Surprise: Seth vs. Braun
Overall Rating: 6/10

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