WrestleWatch: WWE Clash of Champions 2020
Quick turn-around here for the modern-day WrestleWatch review! It's school holidays, which means time off my teaching gig and more time for my love of pro wrestling. We looked at the first Night of Champions from 2007 the other day (review on the home page), and now we look at today's show, Clash of Champions. Whether it's a Night or a Clash, the concept is still the same- all championships must be defended on the show, at least those on Raw and Smackdown. Sorry, NXT, NXT UK and 205 Live, you guys and gals didn't make the cut. So let's look at what did!
-WWE Champion Drew McIntyre has done an admirable job since Wrestlemania, anchoring the Raw brand as its top babyface. On the other side of the character alignment, top heel Randy Orton has been absolutely killing it all year. Almost 20 years into his wrestling career, and Orton feels as fresh and relevant as ever. Orton and McIntyre have had a couple of quality singles matches as of late, but after the Legend Killer upped the ante with some sneak attacks that hospitalised the champ, the title is on the line again in an Ambulance Match!
-Over on the blue brand... Roman Reigns has turned heel, aligned himself with Paul Heyman, and won the Universal Championship via nefarious means at Payback a few weeks ago, deliberating for a long time on whether to sign the contract for a title match, so long in fact, that he signed it in the middle of a scheduled Triple Threat match between The Fiend and Braun Strowman, essentially conducting a MITB cash-in. The contract also apparently had the stipulation that Roman could pick his next challenger, so he chose perennial tag team competitor Jey Uso, who also happens to be his cousin. Cries of nepotism abound, but Jey really wants to make the most of this opportunity... so Reigns KOs him with a Superman Punch on the go-home episode of Smackers.
Let's do this!
The big news from the usually uneventful Kick-Off Show- Nikki Cross, Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler are not medically cleared to compete on the PPV. Cross was set to challenge Bayley for the SD Women's Title, and Jax & Baszler are the reigning Women's Tag Team Champions. So those matches are scrapped, meaning that despite the billing, not all championships will be defended on this show. The card gets a little re-shuffling here- Asuka vs. Zelina moves to the main card, and the SD Tag TItles are on the line now!
Match 1: Smackdown Tag Team Championship- Cesaro & Nakamura (c) def. Lucha House Party (at 10:45)
Thoughts: Given the talent involved, this was in the upper echelons of what you would expect from a Kick-Off match. The great mix of LHP's fast-paced high-flying style, against the power game and striking acumen of Cesaro and Nakamura made for a very exciting match to watch. Dorado appeared slightly compromised with a leg injury, but was able to return to the match later and hit a few signature spots. The hot tag to Kalisto was built to really well, but ultimately the developing synergy of the tag champs prevailed. (***1/4)
Match 1: Intercontinental Championship- Ladder Match- Sami Zayn def. Jeff Hardy (c) and AJ Styles (at 26:35)
Thoughts: Setting the bar high super early! This was the match that I was most looking forward to on this show, and these three great performers brought it. It's harder and harder to do inventive things after seeing 25 years of ladder matches, particularly when they're much more frequent in the modern era, but Sami Zayn managed it. In a move that was very on-brand for his weaselly heel character, he handcuffed both of his opponents to ladders, enabling him to climb up and retrieve the belts un-obstructed, becoming the undisputed IC champion. The match also had its requiste number of high spots and carnage, but this was a beautifully done opener. Follow that, everyone! (****1/2)
Backstage, R-Truth was dressed as a gold miner, because the tag line for this show is "The Gold Rush". He walks out into the hallway, and is rolled up by Drew Gulak. Gulak becomes the new 24/7 Champion! I guess they did say that EVERY belt was being defended on this show.
Match 2: Raw Women's Championship- Asuka (c) def. Zelina Vega (at 7:05)
Thoughts: This went about the way it should have gone. Zelina is someone who has shown some wrestling ability in the past, but also has spent 95% of her WWE/NXT run as a manager. So she got a little opportunity to display her skills, with great speed, strikes and submissions shown, but ultimately the tenured champion got the better of her in relatively short order (no pun intended, sorry Zelina). (**)
Match 3: United States Championship- Bobby Lashley (c) (w/ The Hurt Business) def. Apollo Crews (w/ Ricochet) (at 8:15)
Thoughts: I'm ready for these two guys to wrestle, like, anyone else now. They don't have bad matches, but it's definitely getting repetitive. Also quite jarring to see the heel cleanly defeat the face so much. It happened at Payback and again here. This did have a few nice spots, such as Crews landing on his feet on a faux-Dominator attempt (Ron Simmons' version will always be the real one) and following up with a standing shooting star. Samoa Joe, who had a couple of weeks off commentary, mistakenly called Lashley's finisher the Full Lashley, but they just renamed it to the Hurt Lock for some inexplicable reason. (**1/4)
Match 4: Raw Tag Team Championship- Street Profits (c) def. Andrade & Angel Garza (at 8:15)
Thoughts: Like the previous match, we've seen this combination roughly a million times now. But also like the last match, they stepped it up another gear to bring something compelling. A few unique tandem moves between Andrade and Garza, after the commentators mentioned that there could be dissension. They seemed to work really well together, so maybe it was Zelina Vega that was the problem. The referee botches the finish, calling for the bell after a clear kick out at 2. That damaged what was otherwise one of the better efforts in the series between these two teams. (**1/2)
Match 5: Smackdown Women's Championship- Bayley (c) def. Asuka via DQ (at 3:45)
Thoughts: More of an angle than a match, but a very effective one. Originally set to face Nikki Cross, Bayley seemed happy to take a victory via forfeit, quickly throwing out an open challenge but calling in the referee to raise her hand before anyone could realistically answer the call. Before the referee could make it official, the music of the Raw Women's Champion hit. Blindsided by the surprise, Bayley got beaten up thoroughly by The Empress before grabbing a steel chair and thwacking her opponent with it. What a role model. (**)
Post-match, Sasha Banks hit Bayley with a chair from behind. Of course, Michael Cole had to get in his contractually-obligated "it's Boss Time!" line. Sasha, still wearing a neck brace from Bayley's attack several weeks ago, continued to get revenge, but eventually the champ was able to bail. Sasha stands tall as the rapping of Snoop Dogg ends the segment.
Match 6: WWE Championship- Ambulance Match- Drew McIntyre (c) def. Randy Orton (at 21:35)
Thoughts: This was physicality and intensity personified. Orton finally got his comeuppence for the weeks and months of attacks, not just on McIntyre, but the legends that he's taken out. Big Show, Christian and Shawn Michaels had fun cameo spots that added juice to the match. This was almost Attitude Era-esque in how heated the brawling was, and the extended scope of it, briefly going backstage and all around the arena. Both men were beaten and bloody by the end, and there was a nice bit of poetic justice with McIntyre hitting The Punt on the Legend Killer. Both men put in an absolute shift in this one. (****)
Match 7: WWE Universal Championship- Roman Reigns (w/ Paul Heyman) def. Jey Uso via TKO (at 22:55)
Thoughts: This couldn't be your standard competitive PPV main event. A quick squash wouldn't have accomplished much either. Even though this ran for the length of a normal main event, it was structured very differently, with an emphasis on storytelling and hitting a number of dramatic notes. Reigns dominated his cousin, and was very verbal throughout, first demanding that Jey stay down, and when he wouldn't stay down, he continuously demanded that Jey acknowledge him as "the tribal chief". He also had fun exchanges with Paul Heyman and referee Charles Robinson throughout as well. Eventually, Jey mounted something of a comeback with great fire, only for it to be snuffed out with a clever hidden low blow. Reigns kept up the intensity in beating down his cousin, which drew Jey's brother Jimmy out. After some will he/won't he back and forth, Jimmy throws in the towel to save his brother. This was an emotional rollercoaster which did an outstanding job of cementing Reigns' new heel character. (****)
This was a very good effort for a B level PPV. The opener and last two matches were of a high standard, with all participants busting their ass to entertain the (virtual) crowd. After watching the first Night of Champions, Vengeance 2007, (review on the home page), I'm a little disappointed that they didn't splice in footage of classic title wins, or maybe get some recorded interviews with former champions. That aside, the wrestling action here ranged from excellent to good, with the top end living up to what major PPV matches should be, and the midcard holding up its end of the bargain. Definitely a fine event, worth going out of your way a little to watch.
Overall Score: 7.5/10
Until next time, take care,