It’s a truth pretty universally acknowledged right now that WWE has far too many title belts on offer. Never does that issue feel more prominent than at the annual Clash of Champions pay-per-view, which stipulates that every championship is on the line at some point across the night. This year’s edition of the event – held at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina – featured 10 title matches, as well as its fair share of drama.
So let’s recap the night as it unfolded.
Kick-Off: Cruiserweight Champion Drew Gulak defeated Lince Dorado and Humberto Carrillo via pinfall on Dorado
This was a fun little match, with some smart spots even if there were some pretty noticeable communication issues and a slightly messy finish. Our 205 Live expert Humza has plenty more to say…
A kickoff show match, which is essentially the Cruiserweight title spot, presents a lot of challenges for the performers, and one of those challenges can be the pacing of the match. At ‘Clash of Champions’, that was not an issue. Drew Gulak, Lince Dorado, and Humberto Carrillo could have easily attempted to insert countless high flying spots into a short window, but once Gulak got the match started with his running dropkick; they slowly built towards the climax.
There were a few well-placed spots with all three men involved such as Gulak grabbing Dorado off of Humberto and then launching him at the young Mexican. These moments got the live crowd invested, and the manner the performers got to these particular spots made sense, so the match avoided becoming a cluster. By the end of the triple threat, the speed and intensity of the match increased, and their approach proved to be a success as the fans were very much into the action and eventual outcome.
Gulak ended up retaining his title in typical heel fashion by throwing Humberto out of the ring and pinning the lifeless Lince Dorado. A logical ending to a good show starter.
Kick-Off: US Champion AJ Styles defeated Cedric Alexander via Styles Clash
Alexander got himself a big, hometown pop from the fans in Charlotte and burst out of the blocks at speed, earning a series of early near-falls until Styles knocked him off the ropes, landed a brutal brainbuster on the apron and hit a Styles Clash on the floor. What followed was a 10-minute string of spots as the momentum pendulum shifted, before a Phenomenal Forearm and a Styles Clash brought the challenger’s night to an end. The OC emerged after the bell for a brief beatdown.
This was an enjoyable match, this, but one that was worked at a hideously over-cranked speed due to time constraints and never really found a believable gear. This sort of placing on the card was a pretty unforgivable waste of a match that could’ve been legitimately terrific if allowed a bit of room to breathe.
Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode defeated Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman via Glorious DDT on Rollins to become NEW RAW Tag Team Champions
Strowman’s immense power overwhelmed the makeshift team of challengers early on, but Ziggler took control with a DDT to Rollins on the floor. A hot tag to the big man put an end to the new team’s momentum, and Rollins almost got the win after an impressive Falcon Arrow. Ultimately, it was a mistake by Strowman after the action broke down that led to the finish. The Monster Among Men shoved Roode into the corner, inadvertently taking out Rollins as well. While Strowman dealt with Ziggler, Roode hit a Glorious DDT and pinned the Universal Champion.
This was always more like an act of straightforward storyline development than an actual match. Everything that happened here was in service of the main event and so this was pretty much the only way it was ever going to play out. Charly Caruso met Strowman backstage and the Monster blamed Rollins for losing the belts, adding that his “losing streak” would continue later in the night. In terms of the new champions, their lack of experience is basically just a mark of how little WWE seems to care about tag team wrestling.
SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley defeated Charlotte Flair via pinfall
Flair almost stunned Bayley right out of the gate, scoring an immediate near-fall after a big boot. She quickly focused on softening up the champion’s knee for the Figure Eight but didn’t really get time to execute her gameplan. While the referee was dealing with Flair, Bayley removed the bottom turnbuckle pad and forced Flair into it for the quick pinfall win. Bayley legged it out of the arena with her title like someone had set fire to her hair while everyone in the arena wondered what had happened. Again, this felt very much like a setup for the other brand’s match later in the night. Both women deserved better.
The Revival defeated New Day via submission on Xavier Woods to become NEW SmackDown Tag Team Champions
The damage done to Xavier Woods’ knee a month or so ago was a big factor in the early going of the match and it wasn’t long until Woods was flattened at ringside, forcing Big E to go it alone. The behemoth held his own as The Revival repeatedly bent the rules out of the eye line of the referee. Woods eventually exploded into the match with a flurry of positivity, before an errant attempt at a Spear by Big E let The Revival hit a Shatter Machine on him on the floor. Back in the ring, The Revival renewed the attack on Woods’ leg and hit another Shatter Machine on him. Rather than pin the dynamic star, however, they locked in a sadistic inverted Figure Four, forcing the champion to tap out. The new champs then grabbed a microphone and predicted a Randy Orton title win later in the show.
New SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Revival made WWE history with their big win over Big E and Xavier Woods as they are now the first tag team to hold the WWE NXT Tag Team Titles, the RAW Tag Team Titles, and the SmackDown Tag Team Titles. This was a solid match that played nicely into the ongoing story involving the injury to Woods. Again, though, this felt like a prelude to something happening later in the broadcast. At this point, an hour of the show had passed without anything taking place that actually felt definitive even within its own storyline. It’s just a sad symptom of how unimportant tag team wrestling is to WWE.
Women’s Tag Team Champions Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross defeated Fire and Desire via neckbreaker on Mandy Rose
Bliss and Cross dominated early until an interruption by R-Truth and the chasing 24/7 Championship division provided a distraction, with Bliss almost rolling up Truth to win another belt mid-match. Deville and Rose slowed the action down, isolating the Goddess away from her partner. Cross did eventually make her return, breaking up a pin attempt after Fire and Desire hit their combination knee strike finisher. Legally back in the match, Cross destroyed Rose with a rope-hung twisting neckbreaker to retain the belts.
What’s even less important than a tag team match in the eyes of WWE? A women’s tag team match. This was another contest that never really seemed to move out of the lower gears, not least because every jobber in the company ran around the ring in circles for a couple of minutes in the middle. WWE happily collected the brownie points for creating these titles but has subsequently shown no interest in using them. Like anything tag-team-related on the main roster, they’re an afterthought.
Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura defeated The Miz via Kinshasa
Nakamura arrived in a genuinely fabulous cape and gleefully began to pick apart Miz, while Sami Zayn played the Lio Rush hype gimmick with a microphone at ringside. Mercifully, Zayn’s microphone was soon cut off for some reason and then, for the avoidance of doubt, hurled right down the entrance ramp by Miz. The challenger focused his attack on Nakamura’s leg and eventually got the Figure Four until the champion made his way to the bottom rope.
Zayn made his presence felt by grabbing Miz’s foot, opening the door for a near-conclusive knee strike and then distracting the referee to prevent Miz getting the pinfall after a Skull-Crushing Finale. The interference eventually annoyed Miz so much he went after Zayn at ringside, but Nakamura capitalised with a kick to the head and then a Kinshasa back in the ring to retain his belt.
This was a very solid match, but one that suffered from the distinct lack of a storyline behind it. In fact, half of the crowd in Carolina seemed to think that Undertaker, who beat up Zayn on SmackDown, was going to make some sort of appearance. It’s fair to say they were disappointed, as competent as the match ultimately was.
Sasha Banks defeated Becky Lynch via DQ, so Lynch is still RAW Women’s Champion
In stark contrast to their submission-based classic at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable in 2015, these two women worked a hard-hitting war of strikes in the early going. The contest was evenly matched as if both stars were simply looking for an opening to lock in their signature submission holds. Lynch was her fiery best, thriving against a challenger who is both a proper heel and a capable worker. A Meteora from the top rope only got a two count, while Lynch got even closer to victory when she managed to lock in the Disarm-her until Banks wriggled to the ropes.
The challenger introduced a steel chair into the match, distracting the referee so she could jam another chair into Lynch’s stomach. The champion kicked out at two, so Banks went for another chair, which the referee pulled from her grasp. Lynch got hold of the weapon and swung for Banks, but hit the referee. Banks tried to escape, but Lynch followed her into the crowd and the duo brawled through the arena and the concourse area before returning to the ring. There, Lynch destroyed Banks with a chair and stood tall until officials arrived. The commentary team informed the fans that Lynch had been disqualified for striking an official, but had retained her title as a result.
The ref is DOWN. #TheMan has a CHAIR.
— WWE (@WWE) September 16, 2019
Non-finishes on pay-per-view events are always difficult to get right, but this one just about got away with it. There’s a clear intensity to the rivalry between these two women and their brawl through the outside area was consistently entertaining and memorably brutal. The decision to keep Charlotte Flair and Bayley away from the action was surprising, but absolutely the right call. The best thing to do with these two is simply to take the gloves off and let them fight. With the intimidating spectre of the Hell in a Cell PPV on the horizon, these two could be about to get even more violent.
WWE Champion Kofi Kingston defeated Randy Orton via Trouble in Paradise
Randy Orton asserted his experience and superiority as this match got going, establishing his preferred methodical pace and dismantling Kingston on the outside with brutal bumps on the barricade and announce table. The champion made regular attempts at a sustained comeback, but every flurry was quickly cut off by the veteran challenger.
Orton’s arrogance and instincts always seemed to trump Kingston’s heart and athleticism, though the champion held his own with some close near-falls after flashes of his signature moves. Orton eventually unleashed an RKO out of more or less nowhere, but Kingston was able to get a leg on the bottom rope. Frustrated, the Viper went for the Punt Kick and missed, allowing Kingston to take advantage with Trouble in Paradise for the pinfall win.
This felt like a definitive full stop on the feud between Orton and Kingston, with the two men simply delivering a very strong wrestling showcase. As he has so often been in recent years, Orton was the consummate veteran putting over a surging talent and doing it with genuine aplomb. It will be fascinating to see who is next to step up and challenge the New Day man.
No DQ: Erick Rowan defeated Roman Reigns via Iron Claw
This got going in a hurry, with Reigns meeting Rowan on the ramp. A ringside brawl soon ensued with Rowan as the aggressor, beating seven shades out of the Big Dog as they fought through the crowd. Back in the ring, Rowan maintained control until Reigns fought back, only to miss a leaping clothesline and get caught with a powerbomb through the announce table for his troubles. There was more suffering for Reigns in the technical area, where he took an Iron Claw slam through an electrical table. In a turning of the tables from SmackDown, however, Reigns was able to swing the jib arm of a camera at Rowan multiple times.
Reigns attempted to follow up by running down the ramp to hit a Spear, but he was met with a big boot by a returning Luke Harper. Rowan and Harper then worked together to dismantle Reigns, with another Iron Claw putting an end to Reigns’ night. This was a dominant display by Rowan, who took control of most of the match even before his old buddy showed up. If WWE intends to push him as a real heel threat alongside Harper, this is exactly the correct way to set that up. As with so much of the show, this was more about teeing up a future storyline than providing a payoff, but it was a definite success with a pleasant surprise twist.
Universal Champion Seth Rollins defeated Braun Strowman via Stomp
In common with many of the other matches on Clash of Champions, this one didn’t waste any time. Strowman floored Rollins immediately, but the champion fought back quickly. He hit three superkicks and a Frog Splash on the Monster, only for Strowman to kick out before the referee was even able to register a one-count. As Strowman took control, Rollins sought solace on the floor, only to be destroyed by a series of running shoulder tackles. Eventually, though, Rollins was able to sidestep the Monster Among Men, sending him crashing over the announce table. A series of suicide dives crushed Strowman through the table.
As Rollins set up for another devastating aerial attack, Strowman met him on the top rope. The challenger fought the champion to the mat and then somehow hit a massive splash, busting his nose open in the process. A sleeper hold wore down the big man and then a trio of Stomps each got closer and closer to a decisive fall. Strowman’s knee gave way in a powerslam attempt, opening the door for a Pedigree and yet another Stomp that, this time, was too much even for the Monster Among Men to withstand. As Rollins celebrated on the stage, the lights went out and, when they came back on, the Fiend showed up to hit Sister Abigail on the champion. He then applied the Mandible Claw, choking the life out of Rollins and roaring as the show went off the air.
This was a wild, chaotic main event similar to what Rollins’ matches with Lesnar delivered earlier in the year. Strowman looked like a viable main event performer yet again and Rollins showed the babyface fire that has got him more over than he has ever been outside of the Shield. The Fiend’s involvement, meanwhile, hints at a storyline that will be immediately popular, even if it feels a little soon to demand something like that of Bray Wyatt’s new character. It creates a main event match that the Fiend has to win, otherwise the character will suffer serious damage. But also, Rollins is killing it and deserves to be more than just a sacrificial lamb.
— WWE (@WWE) September 16, 2019
Overall, Clash of Champions was a decent show that delivered solid in-ring action across the board and some very nice flashes of storyline progression. There was no absolute standout match on the show, with the tag team portion of the evening particularly suffering from the over-stuffed card, but Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks won the night with their wide-ranging arena brawl. Of course, though, it’s the haunting final images that will be the major talking point coming out of the show and, as a huge fan of Bray Wyatt and his new gimmick, that can only be a good thing, despite my concerns.
All photos courtesy of WWE.