It’s the final WWE pay-per-view of 2017, as SmackDown! Live presents Clash of Champions! Can AJ Styles retain his WWE Championship against former champ Jinder Mahal? We’ll find out tonight!
It used to be a signature event for the NWA/WCW, a special TV presentation that aired several times a year. Now, it’s just the throw-away final WWE pay-per-view of the year. Since 1995, when the then-WWF aired its first December pay-per-view, In Your House: Seasons Beatings, the twelfth month of the year has frequently provided disappointing – or downright bad – big events. Will we see a change tonight?
As with all the WWE pay-per-views since around WrestleMania, I haven’t watched any of the weekly programming leading up to this, going solely on internet reports to catch up. I’m going into this show pretty much blind, and if I had to guess, I’d say the show should be perfectly acceptable, though nothing special.
Clash of Champions 2017
Presented from the TD Garden in Boston, Mass.
Mojo Rawley vs. Zack Ryder – The Hype Bros collide! The former tag team partners have finally parted ways, with Rawley turning on Ryder, which would usually put him in line for a pretty nice push back in the day. But in modern-day WWE, I’d be shocked if he even gets a run towards the U.S. Title. Rawley makes short work of the Long Island loser, ending things with a pretty brutal forearm smash while Ryder was in the corner. Running as a tag team was the best bet for both of these guys in such a crowded singles landscape. If Rawley wins a main roster title in 2018, I’ll be shocked.
U.S. Championship Triple Threat: Baron Corbin (c) vs. Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler – We kick off the main pay-per-view with my favorite theme song currently on the main roster, Bobby Roode’s “GLORIOUS!” Roode winning the U.S. Title should create a throwback feel to Tully Blanchard, and for me, he’s the most interesting guy in the match. Ziggler is way past his use-by date and I never got the appeal of Corbin. The Boston crowd was also clearly rooting for Roode as well, which makes it a rare occasion where I’m on the same page as Beantown fans. The match never really had the chance to get going (I say that a lot on these recaps), as Ziggler and Roode took turns tossing Corbin out of the match. That made things more enjoyable, but it wasn’t to last. Corbin comes in to hit Roode with his finisher, Ziggler hits the Zig Zag to… WIN?!? What the hell…
SmackDown! Tag Team Championship Fatal Four Way Match: The Usos (c) vs. The New Day vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable vs. Rusev and Aiden English – There are a few guys in this match who deserve better than the tag teams they’re in, but at least Rusev has a song to go along with Rusev Day. And he’s over with the Boston crowd. How Rusev hasn’t had a World Title run is beyond me. And as usual, I hate Fatal Four Way matches without elimination rules. Having four guys in the ring with four guys on the apron waiting for one pin splits the focus on the audience, and that’s pretty plain to see here, as guys paired off at various points and the crowd just went mild. When the announcers can’t explain the rules of the match – which happened during a double pin spot – you have a problem. Chad Gable’s German suplex spots on Rusev, English and Big E were impressive, so of course he gets knocked out by the Usos – who had been out of the match for a couple of minutes – so the brothers can retain the belts. Gable really should be a huge star, though I’d take some Gable/Benjamin vs. The Usos matches. Those should be fun.
SmackDown! Women’s Championship Lumberjack Match: Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Natalya – With all the talent in the SmackDown! women’s division, Natalya has the title program? Even WWE realizes how boring that is, as the video hype package focused on the Riott Squad and Natalys getting in good with the Lumberjacks. The match breaks down into the lumberjacks beating on Charlotte as Natalya watches on, but the valiant hero comes through to beat Natalya with the Figure-8. Nothing special.
Breezango vs. The Bludgeon Brothers – The former members of the Wyatt family have lost their first names and have joined as the Bludgeon Brothers and they turn this into a squash match that would’ve been right at home in the first half hour of WWF Superstars of Wrestling back in the 1980s. This match did more to put Harper and Rowan over than anything else they’ve done in WWE.
Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn – Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan are special referees, and if Owens and Zayn lose, they’re fired from all of WWE, so that should telegraph some sort of screwjob finish to the match tonight. Orton and Nakamura is an interesting combination. You’ve got four guys in this match that fans are always into, so the energy should be higher for this match. The story here is the dissension between between McMahon and Bryan, along with McMahon’s grudge against Owens. The match is just a backdrop for angle advancement. But we’ve at least got a lot of charismatic workers in the ring. The problems come to a head after an RKO to Zayn. Instead of Shane counting the pin, Owens pushed Bryan to break up the pinfall, leading Shane to screw up a Zayn pinfall. Finally, a fast count from Bryan gives Owens and Zayn a win. This could have been a great match, but everything took a backseat to the angle, to get people to tune in Tuesday night to see where it all leads.
WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. Jinder Mahal – Kevin Owens, Big E, Bobby Roode, Rusev, Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura are all on the roster and Jinder Mahal – the former WWE Champion – is in a main event program. I still can’t believe that. The final pay-per-view main event of 2017 felt completely listless for most of the match, as everyone seems to wants this year to be over with. Mahal’s heat segment on AJ just dragged, and when a match is going less than 15 minutes, that’s just unforgivable. Mahal is just dull. Even the final segment of the match – Styles taking out the Singh brothers and kicking out of Mahal’s finisher before getting Mahal to tap to the Calf Crusher felt too drawn out. Styles deserves better. Hopefully in the new year we get some better match-ups in the WWE Title picture.
Final Thoughts – The main event put me to sleep, but nothing else was really terrible. It’s nowhere near December’s worst cards, but it doesn’t touch some of the better ones, either. Sound off on what you thought about the card in the comments.
That’s it for 2017! WWE returns in January with the Royal Rumble on Jan. 28 from Philadelphia!