In this day and age you can’t just “predict” a PPV anymore, you have to to account for the capricious whims of WWE’s septuagenarian, sleep-deprived egomaniac owner. You can’t just “preview” a PPV…you have to Preview how things should go, in a reasonable and sane world, and then add “so of course…” and explain what Vince McMahon will probably do instead.
So consider this your “SO OF COURSE” preview of WWE CLASH OF THE CHAMP–
Oh sorry. NIGHT. Night of
the Champions. That’s much more exciting.
So this show.
For years now it’s been stuck in the post-SummerSlam spot around the time when everyone is tired of hating the product and just happy the NFL is back on TV. It’s a wasted gimmick PPV due to its deadzone placement on the PPV calendar. Why they don’t put it in December and call it “StarCade” is beyond me. Instead they give it the Extreme Rules-lite treatment and try their best to hype up the “every title is on the line” concept, despite the fact that all the titles are on the line in almost every WWE PPV. And it’s not even that “every match is a title match” (which is how the PPV used to be), because a third of the fights on this card are non-title.
So what is this PPV? It’s nothing. It’s just a show. It’ll be like almost all the other PPV’s; it’ll be a shorter, commercial-free RAW, with a mixture of good matches with bad finishes, bad matches with right finishes, and one good match with a good finish that doesn’t matter because it’ll be on the undercard that Vince ignores.
WHO’S EXCITED?! Let’s preview this sucker!
RYBACK vs KEVIN OWENS
TITLE ON THE LINE? THE WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP OF DOOM
For the first time since his debut on the main roster I am actively rooting against a Kevin Owens victory. Unless it comes by DQ or in any way that allows the cursed IC title to remain around the waist of Da Big GuyTM. The belt has been nothing but a white strap of bad karma ever since Cody Rhodes debuted the retro design in late 2011. He worked hard and managed to restore some credibility to the belt (which it had been lacking since Jericho and Rey Mysterio feuded over it in 2009) and then lost it to Big Show in one of those “we have to give Big Show a celebration for all the years he’s blah blah blah” moments that WWE does every few years. They just did one at Mania 31 this year, when they had the giant finally win a battle royal, so I guess we’re safe from Big Show ruining good title runs for a little while.
After Cody and Show were done feuding over it, it hopped around guys like Christian and Miz and Kofi Kingston before it fell into the hands of one Wade Barrett. And since nothing gives Vince the jollies like starting-and-stopping a Wade Barrett push, the English wrestler would become a staple of the IC title picture, and thus, the IC title itself would exist in a perpetual state of start-and-stop importance. Around this time the IC title became the go-to belt for guys who were itching to get injured. Barrett, Miz, Bryan, and Ryback have all been taken out of action while defending the IC title. In addition there’s the elaborate game of keep-away that R-Truth began at the start of this year, which did wonders for the title’s prestige. As it is, Ryback is the fourth longest-reigning champion for this redesigned belt, but when that list includes two single-day reigns (both by the Miz, because of course) and five others that never even reached one month, it’s not exactly a great accomplishment. He even was allowed to keep the belt while on the shelf.
Now he’s feuding with Kevin Owens, and the faster Kevin Owens gets away from the IC belt the better. Owens has all the charisma, mic skills, it-factor and in-ring talent to be a main event player. If they wanted to give him the ball he’d already be a main-event player. But he’s got a gut and he’s short so you can forget it. They know he’s a darling to a certain segment of the fanbase so they will keep him around and give him (and by extension, us) token favors like a mid-tier title and occasional main event, but he’s not a power player because he won’t be allowed to be. If this is—oi—the first battle in a months-long feud, then I hope (setting aside the joke about he injuries that befall the IC Champ) they give the title to KO for Ryback to chase; at the very least it would give the creative team something to focus on instead of just jobbing the villain out in match one and then wondering how to put heat on the feud for the other three fights. Of course, winning the IC title is dangerous enough; feuding with Ryback over it is a double-whammy, so I guess enjoy your three week reign and three month injury rehab Kevin.
SO OF COURSE…
NEVILLE & THE LUCHA DRAGONS vs THE COSMIC WASTELAND
Neville and Stardust have been feuding for months and months and months. I don’t even know when they first started feuding but it feels like it was as early as May or so. We can spend time talking about how Neville could be a staple in the title picture for either the US or IC belts, or we could talk about how Cody Rhodes is probably the most undervalued guy on the whole roster.
We could talk about the Lucha Dragons, which consist of Sin Cara—a replacement replacement Luchador in WWE’s quest to recapture the merchandise market vacated by Rey Mysterio—who favors power moves with only minor flipping, and Kalisto—the firecracker who ought to have already replaced Rey Mysterio but isn’t because he’s stuck in a tag team with strongman Sin Cara–who likes to tell everyone what ethnic-specific brand of wrestler he is. For some reason WWE went with the Prime Time Players over Lucha Dragons when deciding who would be New Day’s Tag Team foil this summer. It wasn’t necessarily a bad choice, but it seems counter-productive, since the only reason they have the Lucha Dragons is to entice eight year olds to say “lu-cha” on their way to the merch booth.
And then there’s The Ascension, who were the longest-reigning and most dominant tag team in NXT history. Of all the talent that has been “promoted” from NXT to the main roster, none have fared worse than these two. Granted, they were never great to begin with and they ruled over a very thin tag division that was—at the time—the only real weakspot on the brand (now it’s arguably the strength), so no one should have expected them to usher in a “Tag Team Revolution” or anything. But to have them just summarily crapped on by the commentary booth and then to have them lose their way right off of Raw and onto D-shows like The Main Event just felt like punishment without a crime. Does Vince know he owns NXT and that those guys aren’t really his competition? Is he really being uber competitive and spiteful against his own talent? Surely he’s not that far gone in his old age…
SO OF COURSE!
No just kidding. Let’s talk about this match.
Or let’s just summarize it and call it what it is: It’s a continuation of a cool-but-not-really-cool part of SummerSlam, without the one element that was cool. Stardust and his henchmen are taking on Neville and his superfriends. It’s fine. It will accomplish it’s purpose to the demographic its trying to reach, but it’s not going to be anything worth remembering. What should happen? Stardust and Neville and Kalisto are the stars; they should get their moments, then Neville wins with the Red Arrow on one of the Ascension. Stardust escapes to his lair to fight again.
SO OF COURSE!
SETH ROLLINS vs JOHN CENA
TITLE ON THE LINE? THE WWE UNITED STATES OF CENA CHAMPIONSHIP
Well here we are. Main event time. Not really but really. The question is, will Rollins’ two title matches be back-to-back or will they be spaced out over the show? Either way, as “important” as John Cena is, I don’t see any logical reason not to book Sting fighting for the WWE title in the actual main event spot. Putting the top title earlier in the night and then the midcard title last is different from putting the top title match on before a big showcase non-title match, like Brock Lesnar vs Undertaker or John Cena vs John Laurinaitis. In this case the two matches in question are both title matches, and both titles are held by the same individual. You simply can’t put the US title above the WWE title in that situation. So unless the Shield’s mystery partner is The Rock himself (it’s not, it’s definitely going to be—and in fact has “gotta be” Kane), there’s not another match on the card that can main event this PPV other than the WWE title match.
Which means Cena’s streak of not main-eventing PPVs will run up to eleven (not counting the Network specials like Beast in the East, King of the Ring and Elimination Chamber, none of which he mainevented either). And yet, he’s Poochie. When he’s not in the spotlight, everyone is wondering where he is. He feuded with Kevin Owens over the US title, in what looked to be that feud that everyone was waiting on, the one where Cena would drop the US title that he worked so hard to build up and then move on to other things. Instead he dropped a non-title match to Owens and then beat him two (three?) times right after. Instead of giving this newly-prestigious US Title to Owens for he and Cesaro to feud over, Cena kept the title and dropped it up the card to the WWE champion. That’s about as stupid a booking decision as I can recall WWE making, and they’ve made a lot.
So now Cesaro is off this show, Owens is tip toeing around Ryback trying not to get his ribs broken or his ankle tweaked, and Cena is feuding with the WWE champion over his US title…that he only lost because a celebrity guest host interfered. The US title is a total afterthought in all of this, and quite frankly so is John Cena himself, as Sting is the fresh face in the room while Cena and Rollins have been feuding off and on for a while now. Instead of the US title being fought over by two new faces, it’s being latched onto a preexisting feud where it’s not even the most important part of the feud. No one cares about the US title right now. Everyone wants to see if Sting will win the title, if Sheamus will cash-in on him, or if Rollins will escape with both belts. That’s the 1-2-3 order of interest on this show, for these two matches.
So what should happen? How about Cena win the US title back and then drops it next month to Stardust, who then feuds with Neville over it. I don’t know. Get it away from Cena and Rollins and use it the way the IC title should be used were it not for the gypsy hex that Godfather put on it years ago while visiting backstage. Let the guys with no immediate main event future put on four star matches over it and let the belt stretch its legs again. Cena brought it back to relevance, it’s time to turn it loose and let the bird fly.
SO OF COURSE…
DOLPH ZIGGLER vs RUSEV
I hate this feud and half the people in it, but not the ones I’m supposed to. More than anything I hate the writers. Let’s see who has been made worse as a result of this feud: Dolph Ziggler has been made worse. I guess he’s kind of in midcard veteran limbo right now, not being the right guy to the top brass for a main event push but too well established to just get yet another run with a midcard belt (not when there are so many new faces like Ryback and Seth Rollins who can wear them). So he’s stuck in a dreaded “non title feud.” Back in the late-90’s/early 2000’s, these were often some of the best parts of Raw and Smackdown. Today they are an exercise in creative wheel-spinning. This feud should have ended ages ago, and I don’t mean because it’s not enjoyable (because it largely isn’t), I mean it’s already had several good stopping points that the writers keep ignoring.
Just let it die already.
Someone else that’s been hurt by this is Lana, and not just her wrist. She debuted alongside Rusev as a strong independent woman, capable of going toe to toe on the stick with the Rock. Since getting canned by Rusev she’s turned into a Ziggler-dependent, acid-wash-jeans-wearing, empty headed nobody, who picks fights with her ex boyfriend and teases him with random makeout sessions with her new squeeze. So much of her personality has been ruined, sacrificed on the altar of making her a “true WWE Diva.” It’s sad.
The latest development in this feud involves Summer Rae (Rusev’s replacement-Lana whom he forces to dress the way Lana used to when she was with him) framing Ziggler as a sexual harrasser. Lana, despite all evidence of Ziggler’s innocence, chooses to act all hurt and betrayed even though Ziggler did nothing wrong. THEN, Ziggler interferes in a Rusev match by presenting Summer with an “I’m sorry” gift (in a move totally copied from NXT’s Blake and Murphy, which means someone on WWE’s creative team is watching the superior product. Now if we could only get them to emulate it…). Here’s my problem with that; it’s two fold: ONE: Why is Ziggler trying to make peace with Summer if he didn’t do anything wrong. TWO: Isn’t Ziggler giving a gift to Summer (and “pretend” flirting) a troll/heel move that kind of justifies Lana’s leaving (despite the fact that she still left at a time when Ziggler hadn’t done anything wrong)?
Meanwhile isn’t Rusev kind of psychologically abusing Summer by forcing her to dress up like his ex? Is everyone in this feud a heel? Is that the angle?
What should happen in this match? Gosh I don’t even care so long as what happens is that it ends. Just end. How about Lana returns to help Ziggler but accidentally costs him the match. Ziggler then turns heel on her and teams up with Summer, who he has been pining for ever since she saw his Nicky. Rusev turns babyface and rejoins Lana. They then feud with Kevin Owens for the IC title. Ryback can get bent. Anything to end the feud will get a gold star by me.
SO OF COURSE…
THE NEW DAY vs THE DUDLEY BOYS
TITLE ON THE LINE? THE WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
Without a doubt, the most consistently entertaining part of Raw is New Day. Naturally WWE Creative has been trying desperately to ruin them from the start. First of all, Xavier Woods pitched a team with Big E multiple times but was rejected. Finally Vince “had the idea” to pair them up and to add Kofi Kingston. His plan was for a babyface team called “A New Coat of Paint.” I’m not lying. That’s the name Vince wanted. I guess “them colored boys” was too on the nose. Instead “The New Day” was selected as their name and they were sent out there to die and be blamed for it. Thankfully they were allowed to turn heel and essentially be the team Woods wanted in the first place. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s working.
WWE doesn’t even need their crack staff of goobers with keyboards. They really don’t. All they need are a couple guys to book the shows and creatively-minded wrestlers who can help fill in the gaps with stories and good matches. That doesn’t happen much anymore, because Vince has to be a genius and run every idea through the food processor of his mind, resulting in something that usually bears little resemblance to worked worked. But silly me, there I go talking about NXT’s callups again.
So New Day came out on the night after SummerSlam with Xavier Woods sporting a trombone. He did a few bars of New York New York and was just hilarious. The next week the trombone made a return and featured Xavier playing the trombone mid-match, accentuating the action with his playing. Again, it was sublime…and as a trombone player myself it’s been a treat to watch. But now they’re bringing it out weekly and—apart from one moment where they played the Pink Panther theme while tip toeing—it feels more like WWE Creative has stepped in and said “hey we have some ideas for you and your horn there…” and are just trying to ruin it by being “creative.” Just let New Day do their thing, please.
The big surprise in this feud is of course the returning Dudley Boys. How long they’re here is anyone’s guess. It’s safe to say they’ll be here at least through WrestleMania and them getting their sought-after tenth WWF/E Tag Title is certain to happen at some point, though I don’t think it should happen on Sunday. There’s always more money in the chase, and seeing the Dudleys running through the tag division on their way to a title win, say around January (leading to a Mania title defense), would be great.
SO OF COURSE…
THE SHIELD & GOBBLEDY GOOKER(!) vs THE WYATT FAMILY
All kinds of names have been thrown about (it’s going to be Kane…it’s gotta be Kane), with fans speculating everyone from CM Punk (it’s more likely to be X-Pac en route to a world title run than it is CM Punk), to Daniel Bryan (iffy and interesting, but no), to a returning Eric Rowen (still injured, so no). I mean it’s going to be Kane. It’s…it’s gotta be…it’s gotta be Kane. Stop fantasizing. Stop getting your hopes up. Hopes are what Vince crushes. Just accept it. And when it is Kane, and he comes out with his mask and fake hair and everyone on commentary gets all excited like its 1997, just roll your eyes and go with it. Be a WWE fan…
So, other than the partner’s reveal, what should happen?
The Wyatts have got to win. Whoever this super secret mystery partner is, the Shield won’t have him for long. On the other hand Braun Strowman will be a staple in the stable. Not to mention the Wyatts took the pin at SummerSlam. For maximum effect Strowman should choke out Roman Reigns, but where the Wyatts go from there is harder to guess. I think the feud continues though, and maybe stretches out until Survivor Series. After that both sides can separate and start building to whatever disappointing plans WWE has for them at WrestleMania. For now though, the bad guys need this win.
SO OF COURSE…
SETH ROLLINS vs STING
TITLE ON THE LINE? THE WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
You can hate it all you want, but I think it’s really cool that Sting is getting a World title match on WWE PPV. And what better place to do it, as a celebration of his entire—now winding-down career—than at the show where he first made his mark on the wrestling world, wrestling Ric Flair to a time limit draw. I’m not saying he and Seth Rollins should (or even, in Sting’s case, could) go 45-minutes, but just to say that Sting wrestled for the world title at CLASH of the CHAMPI—
Well so this is just a September PPV main event. It’s not even Fall Brawl. And the story of the feud is Sting stole a statue of Seth Rollins and insulted him by saying that Triple H—who beat him at WrestleMania—is more of a man than Rollins is.
So what, is Sting not? I get that they want to plant the seeds for a Triple H/Rollins feud, and Sting saying that is just head games, but at some point the Stinger is going to say that he’s better than Rollins too, right? He’s not just going to leave it at “Triple H is more awesomer than you are!” is he?
He is, isn’t he?
Don't be angry that Triple H beat Sting. You should have seen it coming. I mean, had Sting signed with the company in 2001 he would have eventually lost to Triple H then, around 2002-2004. Everyone did. Scott Steiner, Booker T, Goldberg, Kevin Nash. They all did. The only one who escaped was Hollywood Hogan and Triple H was injured and had to drop the title. Just lie back and take it. We take the ego stroking because he gives us NXT. Just lie back and think about NXT.
So what should happen here? For starters, there are three finishes that make sense and any one of them is fine by me. There’s also a fourth finish which also “makes sense” in the sense that it wouldn’t be a surprise and would be conventional booking for WWE. But I don’t want to see Sheamus cash-in so I’m not going to talk about that one.
Of the other three scenarios, first you have Sting winning clean. Obviously this is very unlikely to happen, and even if it did, it’s very unlikely to last more than a month or so. At best I think he would hold it until Survivor Series, but that’s that’s only because that PPV will be Undertaker’s 25th anniversary, so if you’re going to do something with he and Sting that would be a great time to set it up. At that point he can drop it to whomever will carry the belt into Mania.
Second, Rollins could win clean. This seems even more unlikely than the first. WWE seems more committed to making Rollins a goober than they do spending millions to bring Sting in to lose all the time. Rollins winning clean would give him a shot in the arm of credibility because right now he either looks like a million bucks and wins cheap or he looks like a million bucks and loses like a chump. Giving him a clean win over a historic opponent would finally reward the great in-ring work he’s been doing, especially since winning the title earlier this year. Who knows what the plan is, but you have to think if he survives both John Cena and Sting on back-to-back PPVs then it’s not a stretch to think he’s carrying the belt until Mania.
Third scenario: Sting wins after Triple H turns on Seth. Honestly, other than a Sheamus cash-in, this seems the most likely way the night will end. They’ve been planting the seeds for it for a while now and it seems like it can be a good opportunity to turn Seth Rollins babyface, which, despite how smarmy and easily-hateable he is, could actually work. The question would be, can they stretch out the feud from September to March and blow it off at Mania, or would it be more of a Survivor Series thing? That all depends on what the plan is for Triple H at Mania, because you know he’s getting one of the showcase matches.
Whatever happens, the worst thing that WWE can do is have another screwy/dirty/dusty/non-finish. The last time a WWE Title match or PPV main event ended clean was May, and even that had the usual outside shenanigans causing distractions. You have to go back to February to find a main event where the finish was one guy putting over the other guy in a traditional way. Let’s have a clean finish for a change, or even a dirty finish that is so monumental it promises to have months-long repercussions. Give the fans some indicator that you’ve thought your storyline out for more than three hours in advance. Anything but a stupid non-finish that everyone forgets about a day later.
SO OF COURSE…
Oh well. There’s always NXT.
Here’s to Sunday.