It has been an unusual time…it really has…for WWE TV. Since debuting a Paul Heyman inspired puppet character in the nightmare fuel that is Wobbly Walrus, Bray Wyatt has gone quiet. Although The Fiend’s influence has been felt, as Alexa Bliss has begun to “let him in” and go wild in the process (in one of WWE’s most intriguing storylines in some time). While WWE finally had Bayley betray her bestie Sasha Banks and plant the seeds for this future showdown we have all wanted. Meanwhile Retribution were finally unveiled on Raw, with Bane-type masks, a strange story motive and have official names – T-Bar, SlapJack, Mace, Retaliation and Reckoning. Now this has seen them mocked remorselessly by the wrestling community but y’know, I rather enjoyed them, and have become a bit of a fan, after the group has been pure fire all this week on Twitter. Giving the whiny haters that populate wrestling twitter the through verbal spanking they deserve.
That said, all the above, were not booked for matches (Bayley aside) at last night’s Clash of Champions or Clash of Champions: Gold Rush, the PPV where every championship belt must be defended. This “defend the gold” theme much like the run-its-course brand warfare Raw vs. Smackdown theme usually reserved for Survivor Series (spiced ups bit last year with the addition of NXT) can have a limiting effect on the card and it has here, with some rematches we don’t need again and some spontaneous feuds. That said, it has yielded some compelling results too, as the family battle for the WWE Universal Championship saw Roman Reigns clash with cousin Jey Uso, a surprising rivalry that has been really well built (Jey and Roman’s latest Smackdown promos were incredible), while a triple threat ladder match between AJ Styles and Jeff Hardy and Sami Zayn for the Intercontinental Championship had showstealer written all over it. While over on the red brand Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton would clash again for the WWE Championship, this time in an ambulance match, after weeks of breaking and fracturing each other’s faces! Shame WWE had Keith Lee bobbing about in this feud but not follow up on it. But I’m confident he has big things ahead, at least I hope.
Anyway, enough of the preface, here’s the lowdown from what went down at last night’s event…was it gold or tin foil at best?
On the Kick-Off they announced the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship bout between Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler and The Riott Squad would not take place due to illness. While the WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship match with Bayley and Nikki Cross was also off, due to Nikki not being cleared, this is presumably COVID…which sucks!! They did say the Women’s tag scenario would be addressed on Raw, while Bayley would address the WWE Universe later tonight.
1. (Kick-Off show) WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championships
Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro (c) vs. The Lucha House Party (Lince Dorado and Kalisto) w/ Gran Metalik
This Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro SD Tag Team Championship match with The Lucha House Party was originally on the main card but due to the above situation they started us off on the kick-off show. It was a good match, with fast paced moves and action. It built up as it went on and by the end got rather good, but ultimately the champs would retain, as the increasingly dysfunctional luchas failed to snatch the belts.
The main show opens with a video package hyping up our champs and especially the main talking points of Roman and Jey & Drew and Orton.
2. WWE Intercontinental Championship – Triple Threat Ladder Match
Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Sami Zayn vs. AJ Styles
Since returning with his own IC Title (he won it before going on leave months back, causing the title to be vacated) and claiming himself the rightful champion, I have enjoyed seeing the bickering Zayn clash with AJ Styles and current IC champion Jeff Hardy. Don’t know why WWE had them have a triple threat on Smackdown recently (save it for the night?!) but it didn’t dampen my excitement for this ladder match, which, as I say, had the potential to steal the show. Did it? Well, I would say yes but it was undeniably a closer call than I expected, as you will soon find. I knew this ladder match would be great but even I couldn’t have expected just how good. Clash of Champions was worth buying for this ladder match alone. Crazy, creative, brutal, this was a destruction derby, with some hands over the mouth spots, bruising (literally) daredevil moments (how is Jeff still walking seriously?) and one of the most original (and sick) finishes I’ve ever seen with handcuffs and an ear ring involved. Absolutely amazing. Everyone take a bow! And it was great seeing Sami get the win and doing so by deviously out-thinking his opposition.
The ever lovable 24/7 Champion R-Truth (in prospector disguise…why not?) fell victim to a passing Drew Gulak and just like that, we have a new 24/7 Champion!
3. WWE Raw Women’s Championship
Asuke (c) vs. Zelina Vega
Why they didn’t book Mickie James vs. Asuke here instead of randomly on Raw – where they then spontaneously built to Zelina Vega’s solo run – is beyond me. Hope this doesn’t mean Mickie is back out of the TV picture. I digress, it’s nice to see Vega get her ring time instead of being a manager and this match with the always great Asuke was her time to shine. Now, I admit, I expected something ok but I was really impressed here. Despite it being way too short, Zelina and Asuke had a fantastic wrestling match, that ended with a slick as hell submission victory for our champ. The aftermath with Vega disrespecting Asuke thankfully suggests this feud will continue. It should, and next time I’d love to see them get longer because this was good stuff.
4. WWE United States Championship
Lashley (c) w/MVP vs. Apollo Crews w/Ricochet
I like Apollo Crews and I like The Hurt Business but I had no desire to see this match again, which was only here to big up Retribution I thought. Well, no. Instead the match played out as standard, as Lashley won a fine but uninviting match by submission. Very forgettable. Maybe WWE opted to hold back on the non-finishes that have populated their weekly TV but it was simply baffling that, in their debut week and in the midst of Twitter hype, they didn’t have the masked crusaders Retribution make their presence felt here (or indeed at all during the entire night!)
5. WWE Raw Tag Team Championship
The Street Profits (Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins) (c) vs. Andrade and Angel Garza
See above! I couldn’t get into the idea of this one. As talented as these guys all are, this match feels like it has been done a million times in the last few months and I was really out of it by now (Raw’s tag division needs a real shot of adrenaline). That said, Andrade and Angel Garza looked really good at points and I think they were being set to win here but a bad tumble saw Garza legitimately injured leading to a really messy finish where they called it early, despite Andrade clearly kicking out of Angelo Dawkins’ pin attempt. It looked untidy yes, but it was the wise move, as The Street Profits retained for forward planning purposes and more importantly Garza could be attended to by medics. Hopefully he is not too badly injured and recovers quickly.
Backstage Drew Gulak dedicated his 24/7 title win to Akira Tozawa who was eaten by a shark on Raw (you had to be there), before that sneaky R-Truth rolled him up for his millionth 24/7 title win (not really, but seriously, I have lost count at this point).
6. WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship
Bayley (c) vs. Asuke
Circumstances saw Bayley come out and run her mouth, wanting the win over Nikki Cross by way of forfeit before issuing an open challenge, one inexplicably answered by Raw champ Asuke. This match was clearly thrown together just to have the title defended and was further evidence of how themes like this for PPV’s can really shackle a card and result in a lot of matches being contested just because. This was like a TV match, short, very pointless and not particularly meaningful at all. However the aftermath was, as Sasha Banks made a shocking return, attacking her former pal with chairs and kendo sticks, all while selling the hell out of the neck “injury”. Personally, I wouldn’t have pulled the trigger on Bayley/Banks just yet (it is a WrestleMania match surely?) but that said, Hell in a Cell is coming up and the thought of Banks vs. Bayley inside the Cell is incredibly exciting. They should have just made this a segment instead of a match really.
7. WWE Championship – Ambulance Match
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Randy Orton
Thankfully the show got back on track in a big way, with this brutal and surprising ambulance match, that saw both guys batter each other senseless and practically total the ambulance in the process. What was really cool, was how well told this story was, as the ghosts of Randy Orton’s 2020 past came back to haunt him throughout the match, as his legendary victims this past summer – Big Show, Christian and Shawn Michaels – would each interfere at certain points ultimately costing Orton the match, as a battered and cut up (thanks to a tumble through the ambulance windscreen) Drew got the win by claymore kicking Orton and then punting him with a kick to the skull for good measure, and slamming him conclusively in the back of the ambulance for the victory. Another nice touch was how Ric Flair was revealed to be the driver that would be taking the ambulance to the hospital, “I’ll try not to break the speed limit…wooo!” he said as driving off. Brilliant. Good ol’ Ric. I thought this feud might finish inside Hell in a Cell but this had a feeling of finality about it, so we shall see. What a great brawl with an even greater story.
8. WWE Universal Championship
Roman Reigns (c) w/ Paul Heyman vs. Jey Uso
Speaking of storytelling though. Our main event took the biscuit on that front. Deemed a battle in the family, this long, gruelling and emotive battle was incredible viewing. Going in, the passionate work by both men, have made this unexpected rivalry soar and have some real stakes and drama, and this match lived up to the strong build and then some. Roman Reigns really did come into his own here as his new “Tribal Chief” heel, as he mauled his own family in Jey Uso, who had a star making moment here, as he defiantly refused to give in to the aggressive Roman. Full of great dialogue between the guys, not to mention some really unique moments like Roman’s sly low blow kick-out and his ego-driven berating of referee Charles Robinson and bragging-like talks with manager Paul Heyman mid-match. Excellent. Just excellent storytelling. The towel throw in by Jey’s brother Jimmy Uso was a perfect finish (which gave Roman the win). It reminded me of the equally family-driven Bret Hart and Bob Backlund title match from Survivor Series 1994. This was a proper old school heel showcase for the new Roman, as he wouldn’t even pin Jey but demanded he say to camera that Roman is “my tribal chief” and “the head of the table” in the family. Well executed drama that saw Reigns go all Brock Lesnar at points. Well, if Roman is now Brock 2.0, then he’s the Judgment Day of sequels. This might be the definitive Roman and it’s so great to see a story like this play out, at a time when many people in wrestling just want technical somersault displays, stuff like this is so incredibly more effective (as Bray Wyatt has showed with his character-driven ring narratives of late). Jey and Roman delivered a proper belter and one hell of a main event. Can’t wait to see where this family fallout heads next because this is all too good to be over yet!
Overall, Clash of Champions: Gold Rush was a really fun night. And were it not for the card having to yield to the “defend all titles” theme, which kept some other interesting angles (Alexa/The Fiend, Retribution, Big E’s run) off the show, this could have been a head-to-toe classic. The ladder match was phenomenal, Zelina/Asuke was good if too short and the cameo-filled WWE Title Ambulance match and Universal Title bouts were beautifully mapped out story-driven wars, Jey/Roman especially knocked it out of the park. If not for the unfortunate lag in the centre (which dragged the momentum a bit), this PPV could have indeed been perfect. As it is, it was still a really fun night, that had some exciting action and potentially excellent pathways leading to next month’s Hell in a Cell PPV. Which I am now mega hyped for, as well as the weekly shows leading to it, so job done.