With Smackdown putting on a reasonably good showing for their first brand-exclusive PPV at Backlash, the spotlight moves to Raw and Clash of Champions, for their first exclusive special since the brand extension. With a larger roster, a longer show, and more time to build to the show (Raw had six weeks post-SummerSlam compared to only three for Smackdown), expectations should rightly be higher for the flagship show. The good news is, on paper, Clash of Champions looks like it could be a very good show. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have some concerns, as well as some predictions for who might come out on top at the first Raw-exclusive PPV of the New Era.
11. Nia Murders The Rest Of The Women’s Division
We’re not sure if you noticed this, but once you get past the four women involved in the Raw Women’s Title picture (Charlotte, Sasha, Bayley, and Dana), but with Summer Rae apparently on the injured list and Alicia Fox about to get planted six feet under this Sunday, Nia Jax represents the entire rest of the division. This is pretty much what we were talking about leading up to the draft, when we said that WWE should not split up the women across brands, because there simply aren’t enough of them to create two full divisions. But WWE didn’t listen, and now that Nia’s done squashing no-names and will likely rid us of the only other expendable full-time woman at Clash of Champions, where does she go? There’s absolutely no room at the top of the division right now, and that feud hasn’t even come close to playing out fully, and quite honestly, it could potentially last until WrestleMania in one form or another. So, what’s Nia Jax going to do in the months before a chance at a title shot opens up? Seriously, we’re asking a question here.
10. A Tag Team Dilemma
Perhaps the worst thing to happen to Enzo and Cass’ wrestling career was to debut on the main roster as big stars with clever catchphrases and a fanbase that loves them. No, we’re serious. If they’d had a merely average response, maybe they wouldn’t be in this mess right now. You see, because the vast majority of fans already love Enzo and Cass, even though they haven’t actually accomplished much other than being fun and more interesting than most of the roster, WWE has apparently sped right by the part where you ride that hot act to a series of title reigns and spots near the top of PPV cards, making some good money out of them along the way, and gone right into the part where they take a team the fans love and use them to try and get other teams over by losing to them. Hence, Enzo and Cass, who should be next in line for the Tag Team titles after The New Day and The Club finish their feud, have lost more than one match to two guys from Puerto Rico who barely had character motivations until last week. Basically, WWE is trying to salvage a dead act that nobody cares about, by attempting to leech heat from the team that hasn’t been on the roster for six months yet and barely has any significant wins of their own. And you wonder why so few people on the roster actually feel like big stars.
9. It’s An Ending. That’s Enough.
So the final match in the Best of Seven Series thankfully comes to pass at Clash of Champions, and as we look back at the previous six matches (and the two immediately before that), we can just about muster up the energy to shrug and say “it was okay”. Barring Cesaro and Sheamus getting 20-plus minutes to tear down the house (and god willing, that’s what they’ll be allowed to do), all we’re left with after nearly two months is a bunch of good, but fairly similar matches that haven’t really elevated anyone. And don’t forget, WWE has still been suspiciously vague on what “a championship opportunity” would actually be, so don’t be shocked if the winner ends up being the first opponent for the US Champion, whomever he may be (we’ll get to that, although you should already know this one). And never underestimate WWE’s propensity to go against good storytelling and have the heel win just so they can be “unpredictable”. Cesaro should complete the comeback, but if Sheamus does win, we’re not going to be shocked. Other emotions, absolutely. Just not shocked.
8. Does Sami Zayn Matter?
At Battleground, Sami Zayn defeated Kevin Owens in a massively emotional win, that was supposedly the culmination of their long and bitter rivalry. Of course, many people will likely forget this (or may have already), because ever since then, Kevin Owens has risen up the card to become WWE Universal Champion, while Sami Zayn has…done very little of note and was only a last-minute addition to a meaningless pre-show tag match on the last PPV. And looking at what’s available on the Raw roster, this is a guy who should probably be one of the top 3 babyfaces on the show! We’re not going to begrudge a match between Jericho and Sami, because it will probably be pretty awesome. However, even if Sami wins (and he definitely should), will it help him improve his lot in WWE? Seriously, if anyone has a legitimate claim for a shot at the Universal Title, perhaps it should be the guy who beat Owens straight up in his last one-on-one PPV match before he won the belt! Yes, Owens did beat Zayn on Raw thanks to extenuating circumstances due to Zayn’s injury, so maybe that’s still a plan for down the road. We’d just like to see Zayn do something meaningful while he waits for that shot to come around.
7. Demolition Can Pop The Champagne
The day after Clash of Champions, The New Day will break 400 days as WWE (now Raw) Tag Team Champions. But before that happens, we fully expect them to lose the titles, falling only a few months short of Demolition’s record of 478 days. Sure, it would be interesting if they did break the record, but if Gallows and Anderson don’t beat them at Clash of Champions and take the title, what’s left? New Day has run through basically every credible team in their year-plus as Champions, and that’s not a complaint, just an observation. There are no worlds left for those unicorn-loving, booty-shaking goofs to conquer, which means it’s time for someone else to have a turn. That doesn’t mean anything has to change about them, they’ll be fine selling merchandise and cereal for months on end. They just don’t have to have the titles to do that, and Gallows and Anderson should do well as long as they get back to their more serious roots and stay away from geriatric jokes.
6. Three Out Of Four Ain’t Bad
Hey, we would have been fine with another Sasha-Charlotte match for the Women’s title, but if you want to throw in Bayley at the last minute, we’re not going to complain. In fact, if anyone does complain, we’ll be forced to track them down and give them big hugs until they see things from our point of view. Seriously, even though Triple Threat matches are hard to pull off, we’ll put our trust in three of the 4 Horsewomen to make it happen. Charlotte will almost certainly retain, but that’s okay, because we’re still playing the long game where Sasha turns on Bayley because she thinks it’s the only way she can win the title (and also because that’s the only reason anyone has friends and/or tag team partners in wrestling), and basically they re-do the same feud they had in NXT, where Bayley has to climb her way up to a title shot without compromising who she is just to prove to Sasha that it can be done. Whatever the case, if you thought the Women’s title match at WrestleMania was incredible (and it was), no disrespect at all to Becky Lynch, but this one could be even better.
5. Cruiserweights + Time = Awesome
Sure, the introduction on Raw could have gone better, but the match that followed was good enough to get an absolutely dead crowd back into the show, plus it helped Raw maintain viewership for the third hour (which almost never happens anymore), so that all bodes well for the newest iteration of the Cruiserweight division on Raw. It probably would have been a good idea to actually have a the Cruiserweight champion appear on Raw before his first main roster title defense, but we have a feeling that a lot of people will forget that once the bell rings to start the match between Perkins and Kendrick on Sunday. Perkins should be motivated since WWE gave him the ball, and Kendrick will be motivated because this is his actual last chance to make an impact in WWE, and since WWE has three hours to fill, it should get more than enough time to impress. One though we did have, though, was that while the obvious use of the Cruiserweights is to put them in an early spot on Raw, if they can continue to hold viewer’s attention, perhaps giving them a large chunk of the third hour might be a better plan, ratings-wise? After all, if you know you’re going to see awesome Cruiserweight matches in the final hour every week instead of the usual crap WWE throws out there to die, wouldn’t you be more inclined to stick around?
4. Oh, Don’t Look So Shocked, Redux
We said it before at SummerSlam, and WWE decided to be cute and delay the payoff another month so they could…actually, we’re not sure. Have two straight matches with bad finishes to end SummerSlam? Who knows, but the important thing is, Roman Reigns is going to win the United States title at Clash of Champions and we all know it. If we weren’t sure before, giving Reigns a win over the Universal Champion on the final Raw before the PPV would pretty much underline that even though he’s taken more pinfalls in the last two months than he did in the previous two years, he’s still going to get the golden ticket and a title, and if it can’t be the Universal Title, it’s going to be the next one in line. Maybe after this, Rusev can go back on his honeymoon and leave Reigns to face another challenger, like, say, whomever wins the Best of Seven Series? Hey, maybe if we show WWE that we’re on to their “clever” wordplay as it relates to “championship opportunities”, they’ll actually give Cesaro the Universal title match he deserves. Of course, alternatively, we might get stuck with another endless Reigns-Sheamus feud, because nobody in WWE has ever learned a lesson.
3. Is Seth Rollins A Good Guy?
If we had a complaint about Seth Rollins right now (other than “They should have turned him face when he came back instead of waiting two months and letting his sympathy heat dissipate”), it’s that even though we’re pretty sure he’s supposed to be a good guy now, he’s not being particularly scripted as one. Yes, Steve Austin was a bad guy who was also a good guy, we know, but outside of his in-ring work (and frankly, Seth has always wrestled like a babyface, just one that cheats at the very end), there aren’t really any indicators that we’re supposed to be cheering this guy outside of “his opponents are bad guys”. He annoys the face GM and ignores his requests, he keeps trailing after Stephanie like he’s a lost puppy dog, and he whines about getting screwed out of the title. Sure, he has a legitimate gripe, but good guys suck it up and go get their title back instead of complaining to anyone who will listen. Hopefully it’s a slow burn, but Rollins is going to have to show a few more heroic tendencies going forward. And no, saving Roman Reigns doesn’t count. In fact, it just makes things even more awkward.
2. Is Mick Foley A Bad Guy?
In a sense, Mick Foley is completely justified in being pissed at people messing with his show. The problem is, this isn’t the whimsical Commissioner Foley from the Attitude Era, possibly the most fair authority figure in wrestling history, who came up with karmic punishments for heels and didn’t overtly favor the faces. This is GM Foley, who spent the first twenty minutes of the last Raw before Clash of Champions giving Roman Reigns everything he ever wanted, punishing everyone who dared question him, and continuing to defend Stephanie McMahon, who has a lengthy resume that shows why that’s a bad idea, and who isn’t even particularly pretending to be the good person Foley says she is. In recent weeks, we’ve seen Foley be dictatorial, authoritarian, and clearly biased. We’d have come up with more examples, but Chris Jericho already wrote that list, even if nobody is listening to him. The point is, either it’s bad writing, or the plan actually is to turn Foley into a flannel-wearing version of The Authority, and we just had several years of that already. We were kind of hoping for a little break.
1. Where’s Triple H?
And of course, the question looming over the PPV is going to be Triple H, who helped Kevin Owens win the Universal title, then disappeared back to Full Sail. We can’t blame him, when he’s there, he’s an eternally beloved WrestleDad who’s responsible for WWE’s best shows. Also, apparently he hasn’t talked to Stephanie about his actions since then, which seems a bit odd, since they’re married both in reality and in on-screen canon. Maybe it’s one of those “work stays at work” sort of deals? Anyway, we wouldn’t be shocked to see Triple H make his presence felt in the main event to screw over Rollins again, since rumblings are that the plan is Rollins-HHH at WrestleMania 33. On the other hand, we’d kind of prefer it if he didn’t, because we’d like to believe that Kevin Owens could win a match without his help, since he’s a competent and skilled wrestler who possibly could have won the Universal title on his own. But there we go with wanting not all of our wrestling bad guys to be cowards who hide behind retired wrestlers and hired goons. What a silly thought, right?