WWE Clash of Champions 2016
September 25, 2016
Banker’s Life Fieldhouse
Indianapolis, Indiana

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our reviewers:

  • Garrett Kidney: Garrett waxes lyrical about the Broken brilliance of Matt Hardy every week in the VOW Impact review. If copious gifs of random TNA matches no other human being has watched in years is your sort of thing then you can follow him on Twitter @garrettkidney!
  • Kelly Harrass: A member of the VOW new blood that enjoys covering the strange side of the squared circle. He has no five star fear. Find him spewing all sorts of nonsense on Twitter @comicgeekelly.

Kickoff Match
Nia Jax def. Alicia Fox

Garrett Kidney: The key to a good monster heel isn’t constantly looking dominant. Somebody who totally dominates their opponent and wins isn’t very interesting. The key is less believing in how commanding they are and more believing they can lose. Believing the underdog can overcome them. Showing sufficient vulnerability while maintaining credibility. So while you might question Alicia Fox being the first person to stand up to Jax in any sort of serious fashion, that is vital part of creating a dynamic, intriguing monster. And in fairness to Fox she showed good fire and energy here to make this competitive squash work. Jax still has shortcomings – she never looks entirely convinced of her own authority. She looks unsure of herself and never quite entirely owns that role of destroyer, but this did a good job of achieving what it set out to achieve. **1/4

Kelly Harrass: Did you guys know that Nia Jax isn’t like most girls? There’s a little fun fact for you to put in your pocket. Pull that out when you need to make small talk at a party full of people you hate. Alicia Fox put in a valiant effort, only to be crushed like we all knew would happen. This was fine. In all honesty, I was far more interested in my dinner.

Raw Tag Titles Match
The New Day (c) def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

Garrett Kidney: If you were totally unfamiliar with Karl Anderson and had forgotten about Luke Gallows’ original WWE run, why would you possibly care about them? They rarely have great matches, they lose literally all the time and their sole defining characteristic seems to be that they wrestled in Japan. Is it the usual WWE thing? To compensate for actually pushing Styles they have to undermine Gallows and Anderson at every turn to prove WWE is best and work elsewhere mean nothing. It seemed like this match was set to get Gallows and Anderson back on track. They came flying out of the gate, kicking ass and looking to put New Day away quickly. It looked like they had actually committed to the hard reboot Gallows and Anderson so desperately needed at the expense of the obnoxiously stale New Day. And then they lost. What a waste. Speaking of a waste WWE is painfully short of top babyfaces on Raw, and yet Big E is wasting away as a midcard tag team comedy act. Break him off from The New Day and move him into a programme with Kevin Owens right now. ***

Kelly Harrass: This was easily the best match that Gallows and Anderson have had in WWE. Anderson in particular brought it tonight. He wrestled with an intensity and fire that felt like he was trying his hardest to win the tag titles. And then he got clubbed in the head with a foreign object by the face manager behind the referee’s back. Gallows and Anderson are dead now, right? They don’t win big matches, they aren’t particularly well liked, and they were in one of the worst WWE segments of the year. I love New Day as much as the next guy, but they did not need this win. This win would have legitimized Gallows and Anderson for the general WWE fan and instead… they’re dead in the water, despite their best efforts. The match was very good, but the ending really put a damper on it. ***

WWE Cruiserweight Title Match
TJ Perkins (c) def. Brian Kendrick

Garrett Kidney: Thank goodness for that strong closing stretch because the first two thirds of this match was rough. The crowd clearly had zero emotional at all and little of what these two did was all that compelling. I’ve never rated Brian Kendrick as a singles wrestler. He’s serviceable but unless in there with a top tier opponent his matches rarely rise above the level of good. He’s certainly not the person I’d be trying to relaunch a division off of. TJP is great but I still can’t help but think that Gran Metalik would have been a better choice as first champ. These guys aren’t going to have the same support they had during the CWC. The emotional connection that they established over the course of that tournament won’t be there for them, it’ll be the quality of the work that keeps the division afloat. In that respect the flashier, showier, more visually distinct Metalik may have been a better choice to pique the interest of the broader television audience. TJP does however at least have the advantage of having experience working cruiserweight style matches for a television format though. As I said, they picked up the pace in the final third and managed to get the crowd on side but the first portion of the match was simply dull.  **3/4

Kelly Harrass: Remember TJ Perkins’ rad entrance music from the Cruiserweight Classic? Well that’s gone and he’s got an 8-bit gimmick now. It’s weird, but I kind of like it. Initially I felt like putting Kendrick in this match was a mistake, but I can’t complain about the results. These two put on a great match in the pay per view debut of the Cruiserweight division. This was a pretty back and forth battle making Kendrick look like a threatening challenger and TJP look like a strong champion for beating him. The match had an especially strong closing stretch that got the crowd into it. This crowd was a lot more into the match than the Memphis crowd was on Monday, but the Cruiserweight division still has a ways to go. In my opinion, what we got was probably the best possible match that we could have gotten out of this combination of champion and challenger. ***½

Match #7 in Best of 7 Series
Cesaro vs. Sheamus – No Contest/Draw

Garrett Kidney: Aside from the terrifying moment where Cesaro nearly broke his neck on a dive (can wrestlers please stop sacrificing safety for aggression on dives like that, especially when the difference in crowd reaction isn’t worth it) and an utterly dreadful finish that wasted what would have potentially been a star making performance for whoever won, this was tremendous. Full of little callbacks to the previous six matches and the logical changing up of offense, these two absolutely worked their butts off. They took a crowd who clearly had no real attachment to either guy and whipped them into a frenzy. Great stuff. This match was one of the many, many occasions over the last three years where the lack of WWE getting behind Cesaro has been baffling. My rating was on track to be much higher prior to the finish (and one of the wrestlers nearly killing himself). ***3/4

Kelly Harrass: What a rollercoaster ride of a match this was for me. For the first chunk of the match I could barely pay attention. This was due to a mix of my apathy towards this series of matches and my discovery of the passing of Arnold Palmer. I was shocked back into paying attention to the match by the terrifying dive that Cesaro made, resulting in him spiking his own head into the floor. From that point on the match was pretty awesome. These two threw everything they had at each other and I was set to give this a high rating. Then I went from excited to angry when the match was declared a no contest after both men took a hard fall into the crowd. What’s the point of having the seventh and final match in a series end with no winner? I give these two all the credit in the world for going out there and killing each other, all the while knowing what a terrible ending this match was going to have. I can’t remember the last time I saw a match that was such a mixed bag. It’s really a shame. ***½

Chris Jericho def. Sami Zayn

Garrett Kidney: Well Sami Zayn joins AJ Styles in being inexplicable beaten by Chris Jericho on PPV in 2016. This was a damn enjoyable midcard match though. Father Time has clearly caught up with Jericho (as most clearly displayed on both attempts at taking a tornado DDT) but Jericho still has a good enough understanding of how to structure a match to build drama to deliver. He is best suited as a tag team wrestler these days (and would likely still be one with Kevin Owens were it not for Finn Balor’s unfortunate injury) but when in there with one of the best in the world in Sami Zayn he can just about keep up. And Jericho should be commended for actually trying to remain relevant as a heel (he’s one of the few in the company who actually do). It would be very easy for him to coast on nostalgia as a babyface getting by on the bare minimum but he doesn’t do that. If every relatively throwaway midcard match was as good as this I’d be a happy camper. Zayn losing is silly though. He’s too good to squander. ***1/2

Kelly Harrass: This match was a clash of Kevin Owens’ former and current best friend. When you describe it like that, this sounds like an episode of Degrassi. They are both Canadian, so I guess it isn’t far off. For a pay per view match that is essentially meaningless in the grand scheme of things, this was really good. There was strong action throughout and it was built very smartly. Sami tried his best, but he got caught by the crafty veteran. I would have had Zayn pick up the win, but I’m not upset with the result because Jericho has been so damn awesome as of late.  ***¾

Raw Women’s Title – No DQ, No Countout Match
Charlotte (c) def. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks

Garrett Kidney: I’m not sure was it some of the clumsy exchanges, the strict adherence to the two in one out formula, the suspension of disbelief breaking interference by Dana Brooke (why didn’t she interfere earlier in the match, why didn’t she continually interfere) or just how cold these three characters are but I simply couldn’t get into this match at all. I spent more time thinking about which m&m’s are best and making plans to try Pretzel flavour when I’m in the US next week. There was nothing particularly novel, Charlotte’s control section was very bland and this wasn’t nearly as enjoyable at the WrestleMania three way. Bayley’s first month on TV has to be considered a failure – they haven’t worked toward establishing any depth to her character or building up the fundamentals that had her connect so strongly in NXT for a broader audience. This just wasn’t particularly good.  **1/2

Kelly Harrass: I don’t want to say that this match was bad, but I found myself wanting to play Fire Emblem pretty badly while this was on. I just couldn’t get into this one and that’s incredibly disappointing to me because I was really looking forward to this one. It really felt like these three never kicked it into high gear. This would have been awesome for a house show, but for a pay per view this was fairly average. It was a paint by numbers triple threat match. These three have a much better match in them and I hope that we get to see that match at some point.  ***

WWE US Title Match
Roman Reigns def. Rusev (c) 

Garrett Kidney: So they gave Reigns a visual pin over Rusev after Lana pulled the referee from the ring, only to then have Reigns go on to beat Rusev anyway. So what, they felt the need to have it be made clear that Reigns was better than Rusev twice? There has been a string of wrestlers left in the wake of the failed Roman Reigns push. A push that faltered nearly two years ago at this stage. And yet rather than taking a step back and trying a different tact with Reigns, they’re still stubbornly marching forward with the same old failed formula. How many chances does Reigns get to connect? How many chances does he get to try and take the mantel of “the guy” at the expense of people that actually could be? Rusev should be the top heel in the company. He’s credible, he’s different, and most importantly he actually wrestles like a heel. Raw, physical, aggressive. And yet each and every time he seems to be picking up steam, he’s fed to somebody like Reigns. People don’t like Reigns. People haven’t liked Reigns for a long while now. Why constantly fight your audience? Why repeatedly hang other wrestlers out to dry all with the goal of getting a guy over who is never going to connect the way they want him to as he is now? Reigns isn’t likable in any way whatsoever. And yet against all reasonable logic they persist. It’s mind boggling. The match itself was pretty good – nothing special. The Rusev heat sequence was too long and Reigns’ general formula is becoming a little too transparent. **3/4

Kelly Harrass: The problem with this match is that for it to have its intended effect on the audience, Roman has to be a sympathetic babyface. His character is far too much of an asshat for that to be the case. It was a foregone conclusion for me that Reigns would be walking out of the arena tonight with gold because he’s clearly still being punished by the company for his wellness violation. Rusev really got a raw deal here. The end of his title reign should have been a big moment, but this match didn’t allow for it. This match was what I’m going to call a Roman Reigns Special. It wasn’t a good match, it wasn’t a bad match, it was a match. My only hope is that Roman will go onto better things after a terrible feud with Rusev, just like Cena did last year.  ***

WWE Universal Title Match
Kevin Owens (c) def. Seth Rollins

Garrett Kidney: This was a trainwreck that felt plucked right out of a Jeff Jarrett NWA title run. Over the last three years WWE has established a universe where the wrestlers don’t matter. Wrestlers don’t dictate the fate of the World title – authority figures do. Be it Seth Rollins, Sheamus, Randy Orton or now Kevin Owens – the champion is handpicked by HHH or Stephanie McMahon. So in that universe the only characters that truly matter are those two. Even if a HHH or Stephanie run in doesn’t happen, the spectre of it hangs over each and every title match. The crowd are waiting for the people that matter, the real stars to show up. The audience doesn’t care about Seth Rollins or Kevin Owens as characters. They don’t support Rollins in his quest to regain what he feels is rightfully his or root for Owens to get his comeuppance. Hell, they don’t even believe the characters. They chanted “You deserve it” at top heel Kevin Owens after he had the World title handed to him on a silver platter by the gracious and all powerful HHH. No, Rollins and Owens and everybody that came before (and likely everybody that will come after for the foreseeable future) are simply empty ciphers for authority figure strife. They are pawns in somebody else’s game. A means to an end.

And when characters are repeatedly treated like that you get responses like you got here. The crowd were apathetic at best, barely even rising for an announce table spot. One of the largest reactions came from a crotch chop – a relic from the 1990’s associated with the real star of the show. The closing sequence was a messy overbooked trainwreck that only served to further weaken Owens’ credibility as champion (if that was even possible). The work was bland. The crowd didn’t care. The finish sucked. The booking sucked. There are no compelling stories coming out of this match. Just the same old McMahon family drama story we’ve had for the last 20 years. In perpetuity. Until the end of time.  *3/4

Kelly Harrass: With all the shenanigans in this match I kind of expected to find out who the fifth member of Los Ingobernables de Japon was by the end of it. I have to be honest that I wasn’t completely bothered by the interference, simply because I was expecting it. There was a point in the match where I forgot that the match would inevitably end this way because these two were able to suck me in with some great action. I’m torn on this one because it could have been so much better than it was and the sad thing is that they did the best with what they had. The crowd didn’t care about their feud because the booking has been trash and by the end, any good will they won with their strong work in the ring was lost by the finish. I’m sure we’ll get a rematch because this one didn’t really set up a match that involves Triple H in some capacity. Ugh. This match was a perfect summation of this whole show. The work was solid, but the booking was a mess. Overall the show was fine. It wasn’t great or terrible. It was just fine. And those are the worst kind of shows because we live in a time with so much great wrestling that’s so easy to watch. When you have a long list of stuff you need to watch, you really start looking at it when a show like this is on. With so much talent on this roster, Clash of Champions being a completely average show is such a disappointment. ***