Wednesday, September 7, 2022

WWE Clash at the Castle Review: That Ending Stunk

AEW wasn't the only wrestling company to hold a major show over Labor Day weekend, as WWE traveled to Cardiff, Wales for Clash at the Castle.  How very 1980s Vince of them, horning in on the other company's established big weekend.  Tony Khan's gonna need to schedule a Battle of the Belts on TBS opposite 'Mania.

Anyway, Clash was the first main roster PPV one could say was fully produced under the Triple H regime, as SummerSlam was pretty much already set by the time Hunter took over the creative reins.  SummerSlam still felt like a typical Vince PPV, but Clash felt to me like the ship beginning to steer in the right direction.  Two changes I noticed were the WAAAAAY more sparsely used snap-zooms for big bumps, and the near-absence of rapid-fire cuts during striking exchanges.  Thank Christ, I can finally watch a WWE show again without having a seizure.  True to WWE form though, there were some frankly baffling booking decisions that kept this show from truly reaching greatness.  

Things kicked off with a fairly energetic six-woman tag, as Bayley's new stable Damage Control faced RAW Women's Champ Bianca Belair, Asuka and Alexa Bliss.  Wait, Asuka, Bianca Belair and Alexa?  Their team name should be ABBA, am I wrong?  This proved to be a pretty strong opener, though it perhaps went a bit longer than was ideal.  At nineteen minutes I felt like the crowd wasn't as hot as they could've been.  There was plenty of back-and-forth action though, and everyone got a good amount of time.  The finish came when Bayley tied Bianca to the turnbuckles with her own braid, allowing each of the heels to hit their finishes.  Iyo Sky finished Bianca with a moonsault and Bayley covered her for the win, thus positioning Bayley as the new top contender.  Not too shabby at all.  ***1/2

Not to be outdone, by anything else on this show as it turned out, was Gunther's Intercontinental Title defense against Sheamus, the first time since fucking WrestleMania 37 this title was featured on a PPV main show (This stat is disgraceful and Vince should be subject to a swift kick in the nuts for letting it happen).  Anyway these two brutes beat the ever-lovin' shit out of each other for almost twenty minutes.  Sheamus's chest looked like freshly ground pork, and late in the match Gunther hit a powerbomb that ended awkwardly with Sheamus landing on his tailbone.  Sheamus then turned that into a selling opportunity and Gunther went after the lower back.  Sheamus mounted a comeback and hit the Celtic Cross for a very close nearfall, but when he followed up with a Brogue Kick attempt his back gave out.  Gunther hit a second powerbomb and turned him inside out with a lariat for the win.  This was great, one of the best main roster matches in a long time.  Keep the belt on Gunther forever.  ****1/2

Smackdown Women's Champion Liv Morgan and Shayna Baszler had a helluva time following that, but I'll be damned if their 11-minute match wasn't a lot of fun.  These two worked shockingly well together, Liv having spent a couple weeks training in MMA with Matt Riddle.  Shayna played the monster heel but Liv's scrappy babyface kept up with her and targeted Baszler's arm, which came into play when she wasn't able to keep the kirafuda clutch locked in.  Morgan hit a Codebreaker and her Oblivion finish to retain the title.  Nice little match, and I really like Liv as an underdog champion.  I know she's probably got Ronda again soon but I'd like to see Liv keep the title for a while.  ***1/2

Mildly disappointing for me was the Edge/Rey Mysterio vs. Finn Balor/Damian Priest bout.  This had some fun spots like Edge spearing Priest through the ropes and Rey diving to the outside to knock Rhea Ripley out, but didn't reach the heights these four are capable of.  Making things worse was the involvement of Dominik Mysterio, who twice helped his dad's team, including tripping up Balor from the outside to allow Edge to spear him for the win.  But then immediately after the match Dom turned on both Edge and his own father, kicking Edge in the junk and clotheslining Rey.  So then, WHY'D HE HELP THEM WIN?  Makes no sense at all.  And now Dom is in the Judgement Day stable.  So why didn't he help Judgement Day win instead?  Things like this are why WWE has the reputation for wins and losses not mattering.  The match was fine in and of itself, but the larger story played out like something Vince would write.  ***

My second-favorite match of the night was the long-awaited Seth Rollins-Matt Riddle bout, an action-packed, heated affair between two of the better athletes on the roster.  After lots of great back and forth action, Rollins taunted Riddle about his wife leaving him and his kids knowing him as a loser, and Riddle snapped.  The story became Riddle failing to keep his composure and Seth taking advantage.  Riddle hit Randy Orton's draping DDT and went for an RKO but Riddle countered with a choke.  Seth escaped, Riddle swung a chair at him, missed, and then slid into the ring and ate a curb stomp.  Seth then hit a second one off the middle rope for the win.  Damn good match, which I assume will get a do-over at Extreme Rules?  ****1/4

Ok, now for this main event.  The way this thing was built up, with Drew going to his sorta home country as the returning hero, coming out to his old music, having the stadium crowd in the palm of his hand, plus no outside help for Roman, this HAD to be the right time to do a title change, right?  Right??  Well no, at the end of a very loooong match, about five or six minutes too long for my liking (I just can't buy into Roman's plodding offense - he's supposed to be a dominant powerhouse but just does nondescript 70s-style offense in his long matches), Drew speared Roman through the barricade (Enough with this stupid spot), went for a Claymore, ate a spear for a nearfall, and came back with a successful Claymore that knocked the ref down.  Suddenly Austin Theory shows up to cash in his briefcase but gets knocked out by Tyson Fury at ringside (That was funny).  Drew hits another Claymore and goes for the pin but Roman kicks out.  Drew hits a spear and a third Claymore and goes for the pin, but someone emerges from under the ring to pull the referee out and it's revealed to be Solo Sikoa, brother of the Usos.  Then rather than go back to beating up Roman (ya know, the champion?), Drew goes after Sikoa, who hadn't laid a hand on him, gets neck-draped over the top rope, and turns around to get speared and pinned.  So to recap, Sikoa sat under that ring for thirty full minutes, letting Roman take two Claymore kicks and allowing Theory to come all the way down to ringside, and only sprung into action after a THIRD Claymore.  And then the gallant babyface was so stupid and easily distracted he went after Sikoa instead of just hitting Roman with another Claymore.  Oh, and by the way, no disqualification despite Sikoa blatantly yanking the referee out of the ring?  This booking sucked.  Worse, the post-match involved Tyson Fury coming into the ring, shaking Roman's hand, and then cheering Drew up with an abysmal rendition of "The Day the Music Died."  If the goal here was to protect Drew in a loss, it failed miserably.  Drew was made to look inept, followed by silly.  This felt like classic Vince stupidity and kept Clash at the Castle from being a great show.  ***1/4

So we're stuck with Roman as the champion till at least WrestleMania, perhaps longer if WWE's plan for Roman vs. Rock (YAWN) comes to fruition.  I'm bored shitless of this guy.  Two ****+ matches on a WWE main roster PPV is nothing to sneeze at though, and maybe this trend will continue.  Who knows, maybe Survivor Series, Royal Rumble and WrestleMania will actually be unequivocally good shows again.

Best Match: Gunther vs. Sheamus
Worst Match: Judgement Day vs. Edge & Mysterio
What I'd Change: Jesus, just give the babyface the title win in front of his home crowd.  You have him keep it till November or January, then Roman wins it back, where's the problem?
Most Disappointing Match: Judgement Day vs. Edge & Mysterio
Most Pleasant Surprise: Liv Morgan vs. Shayna Baszler
Overall Rating: 8/10

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