Fall’s a rough time for WWE. Monday Night Raw’s ratings have been declining weekly with competition from Monday Night Football and Presidential debates. WWE started this season out strongly with a surprise return from Triple H and putting the Raw Championship on Kevin Owens, but since then Monday Night Raw has been a tough watch. Three hours is still too long and the overall product just feels directionless.
Sunday was Raw’s first brand-exclusive pay-per-view, Clash of Champions. The second pay-per-view for September in as many weeks. As usual with WWE, the show was full of talented performers, decent quality matches and questionable finishes. I had some friends over Sunday night which made the show much more enjoyable to sit through. Despite that, Smackdown’s Backlash pay-per-view blew it out of the water.
The New Day (C) vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Tag Team Championship Match
At the time of this writing, The New Day have surpassed 400 days as reigning champions, on their way to break the all-time record. That was the storyline basis for this match, along with some horrendous comedy segments involving the two teams. Gallows and Anderson have barely been treated like threats in the build-up to this match and were just another bump in the road for New Day’s record break.
I went in conflicted since Gallows and Anderson really needed the win to try and establish some form of credibility for their team, but I also want to see New Day break the record. The match started out great with Gallows and Anderson showing some intensity and physicality they haven’t gotten to display yet in their WWE run. It felt like one of their tag matches from New Japan for a while, until New Day made a comeback and picked up the win after Xavier Woods interfered with a trombone. Let New Day break the record and then move on. Match Rating: 2/5
TJ Perkins (C) vs. The Brian Kendrick
Cruiserweight Championship Match
Since Summerslam and the finale of the Cruiserweight Classic Tournament, the cruiserweight division has been put on Raw and are actually something fresh and interesting for the red brand. After a rather haphazard debut, a cruiserweight championship match was added to this show last minute.
TJ Perkins comes out to Mega Man-style chiptune music which is awesome. Brian Kendrick is a wrestling veteran who was with WWE about a decade ago. They had a cruiserweight style match which stands out as different in the scope of typical WWE-style, but nothing compared to what we saw during the Cruiserweight Classic Tournament. There were a few hiccups and botched spots but they recovered well. Nothing out of this world but completely solid. TJ Perkins retains. I’m cautiously optimistic for what WWE does with the cruiserweights. Match Rating: 3/5
TJP hits the dab into a submission hold.
Cesaro vs. Sheamus
Final Match in a Best of Seven Series
For the last month these two have been feuding in a best of seven series of matches, each tied with three wins each. This match was for all the marbles, and a potential title shot down the line.
I’ve seen these two wrestle each other way too much. Sometimes it’s awesome, sometimes it works as a bathroom break. Most of their series hasn’t done much for me but this match was great…until the finish.
They put on a show that really looked like two dudes in a serious fight, brawling all over the place and busting out all kinds of moves. Sheamus targeted Cesaro’s back, Cesaro tried to outwrestle and counter what Sheamus was doing. Cesaro even busted out Rey Mysterio’s signature 619.
Towards the end of the match Cesaro goes for a dive through the ropes and lands right on his head, looking like he could be dead or paralyzed. He somehow recovers enough and the two continue brawling into the crowd, until referees and officials pull them apart and throw the match out. Six matches later and it ends in a draw. The crowd was really getting into this match and it was really picking up towards the end and then this finish sucked all of the air out of the room. What a disappointment. With a clean finish this could’ve been a 4/5 but this awkward disaster takes it down a notch. Match Rating: 3/5
Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn
Battle of the Canadians. Rock Fest metal vs. Ska. Old vs. Young. It was going to be difficult to pick up the crowd and try and top Cesaro vs. Sheamus, and Jericho and Zayn certainly tried. Another match that was technically sound and overall solid, much like the cruiserweight match earlier. Zayn did his high flying and Jericho badgered the crowd with his heel antics. Again there were some miscues and botched spots but nothing that ruined the flow of the match. Jericho picks up the win after kicking out of most of Zayn’s arsenal. Very strange outcome but makes some sense later in the show. I like both of these guys a lot but think they could both do better. Ultimately forgettable. Match Rating: 3/5
Charlotte (C) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley
Raw Women’s Championship Match
Raw’s women’s division isn’t that great. There’s these three, Dana Brooke and then… Nia Jax. Everyone else is out injured or just not being used on TV. Nia Jax does her own thing so the championship scene is entirely those 4. Their promos are weak and the booking can be questionable, but they always deliver in the ring on pay-per-views.
This match was very good. Everyone got a chance to shine and look like they could win the match at any moment. Bayley did some high flying and Sasha did some technical submission holds while the crowd started to wake up some more. Charlotte hit a beautiful moonsault from the top turnbuckle and finally Dana Brooke interferes to help Charlotte retain.
I’ll have to rewatch the triple threat from Wrestlemania again but this match seemed pretty close to that, if not better. Match Rating: 3.5/5
Rusev (C) w/Lana vs. Roman Reigns
United States Championship Match
The live crowd died again and so did my watching group. This match was slow paced and uninteresting, kind of like Monday Night Raw. Rusev and Reigns are feuding over Reigns terrorizing his wedding celebration? For the love of his wife? For the US Championship and America itself? I’m not really sure. I’ve liked both of these guys in different matches but they just have no chemistry together. Lana gets ejected from the match, Reigns spears Rusev for the win and the US Championship. I feel like they felt obligated to have at least one title change tonight. Total dud. Match Rating: 2/5
Kevin Owens (C) vs. Seth Rollins
WWE Universal Championship Match
Quick recap: Finn Balor won the inaugural championship match at Summerslam and had to vacate the next night due to injury. The next week, Kevin Owens wins the belt after Triple H turns on Seth Rollins to help him win. Since then, Triple H hasn’t been around to explain why he did it. Seth Rollins should be red hot as a babyface right now, yet he’s hardly been the focus of Raw. What should be a bloodfeud between two great workers is more of a battle for Triple H and Stephanie McMahon’s affection. Pretty sad state of affairs.
I looked forward to their match regardless of their storyline. Two of my favorites in WWE right now. Two Ring of Honor veterans and ring generals finally going against each other should be awesome, right? Not quite, unfortunately.
They had a match that could have been a good main event for an episode of Raw. They did all of their signature spots and the excitement level was starting to pick up when the referee got bumped over: the wrestling trope that immediately tells the fans that something screwy is about to happen and nobody is winning clean. With the referee down, KO’s good buddy Chris Jericho runs down and interferes all over the place. A new ref is called down and KO picks up the win to retain.
Rollins escapes and KO crashes through the Spanish announce table.
WWE have work to do if they want their main event program to work during football season. Seth needs to be dedicatedly pushed as the top face of the brand. This show (and Raw) did a fine job of establishing KO and Jericho as the top heels, so now it’s time to build up the good guys if they want their fans to care about the title picture. Match Rating: 3/5
Clash of Champions was dull and uninteresting. Fun to watch with a group of friends and yell at the TV with, but I’m easily enjoying the Smackdown brand overall. Raw needs a shot in the arm and I’m afraid we won’t get that until after the holidays. I want to like Monday Night Raw, I’m just asking that WWE give me a reason to. Clash of Champions gets a C-.
by Nate Dimit (@ndimit)