WWE’s Clash of Champions pay-per-view event started off with a ladder match for the ages, and ended with one of the best storyline executions in recent memory. All in all, Sunday night’s show was a definite highlight of the year, and one that you should go out of your way to watch.
The 3-way ladder match between Sami Zayn, AJ Styles, and Jeff Hardy for the Intercontinental Championship kicked off the PPV, and delivered on the expectations by most that it would be the match of the night. Both Hardy’s actual title and Sami’s disputed title – which was stripped from him after he took some time away from the company over the summer – were suspended above the ring, and the winner would have to climb the ladder and retrieve both titles to win the championship.
Ladders came into play early in this one, when Sami used one to hit both of his opponents early. But he would soon feel the steel himself when he was back body dropped on to one that was propped up in the corner. From there, the ladder bumps became increasingly-creative and brutal-looking. In an ugly-looking spot, Hardy crashed into a ladder that was standing upside-down with its legs akimbo, hitting it so hard that the supporting arms crumpled and he was sandwiched hard between the legs – ouch! At one point, Hardy fell awkwardly from the top of the ladder onto his head and shoulders in what seemed to look like a planned move gone wrong.
Later on, a sweet move saw Sami climbing the ladder, when AJ picked up a Hornswoggle Special mini-ladder and javelined it from the floor into Sami, knocking him down. That looked great. As did the moment when AJ and Hardy were fighting on top of a ladder that tipped over, with AJ landing hard on the top rope and bouncing to the floor. Another great move saw AJ trying to hit Sami on the ladder with a Phenomenal Forearm, but Hardy pushed the ladder – with Sami on it – into AJ’s face – that looked super.
In a neat-looking spot, Hardy was on top of the ladder, and Sami tried to up-end it. To avoid that, Hardy climbed over the top, so he was now upside down on the side closest to Sami. When Sami up-ended it, Hardy rode it like a bodyboard all the way down. Unfortunately for him, he wiped out on the landing, and he hit the apron, and the ladder fell right on top of him. It sounds weird, so go find a clip of it if that doesn’t make sense to you.
In the most extreme spot, Hardy hit a huge Swanton off a ladder, crashing Sami through another ladder that was bridged between the ring apron and the announce table – that was awesome, and the Thunderdome crowd seemed to agree, courtesy of the piped-in chants.
The ending saw some of the most creative uses ever of handcuffs. Sami Zayn brought out two pairs. With the first pair, he looped one cuff around a ladder, and looped the other through Jeff Hardy’s earlobe piercing hole. He tried to handcuff AJ to the ropes, but when AJ fought back, Sami simply cuffed the other one around his own wrist, effectively making himself dead weight to prevent AJ from easily climbing the ladder.
AJ gave it a shot nonetheless, and put Sami on his shoulders as he scaled the rungs. but then Hardy came in, holding the ladder like a giant boombox so as to keep it close to his ear. He hit AJ with his face-ladder, and while AJ dealt with that, Sami pulled out a handcuff key that he had hidden in his mouth. He uncuffed his own wrist, and then looped it around a lower rung, thereby blocking any more upward progress for AJ. With AJ blocked and Hardy struggling to even stand up and not tear his earlobe, it was easy pickings for Sami to climb the ladder and retrieve both belts. In a post-match interview, Sami said that he wasn’t the “new” champion, but was “still the” champion. This match was absolutely great. Lots of brutal ladder spots, a truly creative and innovative finish. Brilliant.
Not nearly as extreme, but brilliant in other ways was the Universal Championship match between champion Roman Reigns and his cousin Jey Uso. The family drama was cranked up to 11 from the get-go, with Jey emotionally yelling at Roman early on, saying that as family, they should respect each other and not take cheap shots like Roman did on Friday when he blindsided Jey. Reigns was methodical in this one, dominating Jey with strikes and power moves, and trash-talking him, saying that he was the tribal chief, and that Jey was never going to rule the island. Jey mounted a bit of a comeback and even got a pinfall attempt after a Samoan Drop, but then he ate a Superman Punch when he tried for a charging attack, and then found himself on the wrong end of a slobberknocking forearm exchange.
After more trash-talking, Jey fired up and was able to hurt Roman by throwing him shoulder-first into the ring post, and then levelling the champ with a series of dive attacks, including a High Cross Body for a 2-count and a Superkick for 2-and-7/8ths. Shortly thereafter, in a great sequence, Jey jumped over a Spear attempt, then hit a Superkick and a Superfly for a very close count – this arguably was a three-count.
In what may have been an intentional move, when he kicked out, Roman ended up hitting Jey in the crotchel area, and that had Jey doubled over and sputtering in pain. He eventually got to his feet, but only long enough to get Speared. Instead of pinning his cousin, Roman opted to trash-talk some more, telling Jey to acknowledge Roman as the tribal chief. Jey refused, and ate another Spear for his insolence. Incensed, Roman climbed on top of Jey and started ground-and-pounding him mercilessly until the ref pulled him off of Jey. Roman threatened the ref, and then went back to the beating, delivering a series of brutal forearms to a helpless Jey. The severity of the assault prompted Jimmy Uso to come to the ring with a towel. Jey begged Jimmy to not throw in the towel on his behalf, so Roman resumed the beating Jey senseless until Jimmy had no other choice but to do it out of mercy for his twin. Jimmy acknowledged Roman as the tribal chief as he cradled his brother’s unconscious head in his arms.
This was awesome. Roman was stellar as the dominant bully, and both Uso twins played the emotional part of the story perfectly. At times, this was uncomfortable to watch, which was exactly what it was supposed to be. This felt very different from virtually every other WWE match in recent memory, and that helped make it a really effective story.
Clash of Champions: Gold Rush – Full Results
Charly Caruso hosted the “Gold Rush” Kickoff show, with the panel of Booker T, JBL, and the ever-annoying Peter Rosenberg. The best part about the show was right at the top when they all appeared to be mocking the goofy names of the Retribution members.
Other items of note from the pre-show:
- Cesaro and Nakamura had a hilarious interview with Kayla Braxton that included Nakamura singing, and them ending with kicking her out of the Champions Lounge.
- R-Truth crashed the panel dressed up as an old-time prospector looking for gold, holding his 24/7 Championship in a bowl. This was quite lame.
- In throwing to a backstage interview, Charly may have accidentally spoiled the ending to the RAW Tag Team Championship match by calling Andrade and Angel Garza the champions.
- Sami Zayn interrupted the panel when they were talking about the Intercontinental Championship match, and cut a very good promo.
- MVP touted the Hurt Business in a fine interview.
During the kickoff, they also announced that Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler, and Nikki Cross were not cleared for competition tonight, so the Women’s Tag Team Championship would not be taking place on the show, and Bayley would be making some kind of statement about her match later on.
There was a commercial for a new WWE figurine playset, the Wrekkin’ Slambulance – and for anyone who was wondering why the stipulation for tonight’s WWE Championship match involves one, well, there you go. #BuyOurToys
Kickoff Match: Lucha House Party vs. Cesaro and Nakamura (c) – for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship
Lince Dorado and Kalisto were the ones competing for the LHP, with Gran Metalik holding court ringside. This one was pretty standard, with the larger champions isolating Dorado and putting the hurt on him with Cesaro’s power moves and Nakamura’s vicious strikes. After several minutes, he was able to get the pin to Kalisto, and the two of them worked together to hit a series of double-team moves on both champs. But Cesaro and Nakamura were able to withstand the speedy offense and take back control. The end came when Cesaro was spinning him around in the Giant Swing, and, while in rotation, Nakamura blasted him with a Kinshasa. This was a solid opener.
Winners, and still Smackdown Tag Team Champions: Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura
Match Rating: 8/10
Interestingly, the opening video gave on on-screen credit to John Cena as the narrator. Wonder if that’s something that he’s insisted on contractually. #BigTiming
Match 1: Sami Zayn (self-professed champion) vs. AJ Styles vs. Jeff Hardy (c) – 3-way Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship
Winner, and new Intercontinental Champion: Sami Zayn
Match Rating: 10/10
Backstage, R-Truth was still in his prospector’s disguise. He wandered into the Referee’s lounge by mistake. As he was leaving, Drew Gulak – who was doing some walking lunges in the background – saw him, and rolled him up for the three-count to win the 24/7 Championship. This was fine due to its brevity.
Match 2: Zelina Vega vs. Askua (c) – for the RAW Women’s Championship
Early on, Asuka dominated her smaller opponent with her power advantage. When she chased Vega to the floor, though, Vega grabbed Asuka’s arm and whipped it hard into the ring steps. Back in the ring, Vega continued her attack on Asuka’s weakened arm with several wringers and an armbar submission attempt. A nice sequence saw Zelina get a near fall after a spinning ground kick to Asuka’s head. But, after a series of pin attempts and counters, Asuka was finally able to lock on the Asuka Lock which forced Zelina to tap out quickly. In a post-match interview, Asuka credited Zelina as being a tough opponent, and she offered a handshake of respect. Zelina suggested they bow to each other instead, but when Asuka did, Zelina cheap-shotted her with a kick and bailed. The match was fine, though it never seemed as if Vega stood even the smallest chance of beating Asuka.
Winner, and still RAW Women’s Champion: Asuka
Match Rating: 7/10
Match 3: Apollo Crews (w/ Ricochet) vs. Bobby Lashley (c) (w/ MVP) – for the United States Championship
Lashley was out-wrestling Crews in the early stages, but the challenger turned it up a gear, and started to take over. But only briefly, as Lashley dropped him with a Flatliner and then went back to delivering the hurt. Crews kept trying, and when things went to the floor, he threw Lashley into the ringpost, and that turned the tide. He dropped Lashley with a Gorilla Press and then hit a Standing Moonsault Splash that nearly got him the gold. Crews got caught up top, though, and dropped with a big Superplex. Crews escaped a Dominator attempt, though, and hit a Standing Shooting Star Press and a big Frog Splash, but Lashley kicked out. His momentum was stopped with a huge Chokeslam and when Lashley locked on the Full Nelson, Crews had no choice but to tap out. This wasn’t a squash, but the convincing win by Lashley would suggest that Crews has reached the highest level he’s going to get. #Midcard #JobberToTheStars
Winner, and still US Champion: Bobby Lashley
Match Rating: 7/10
Match 4: Andrade and Angel Garza vs. The Street Profits (c) – for the RAW Tag Team Championship
The story heading into this one was whether Andrade and Garza could get over the tension that’s been brewing between them for the past several weeks that led to Zelina Vega dumping them as managerial clients. Early on, they seemed to be gelling, tagging frequently and hitting the champs with effective double-team moves. The Profits fired up, though, and the advantage swung back and forth as the pace quickened. Garza nearly got the pin after a Spanish Fly, but Montez Ford kicked out at the last second. In delivering a huge knee lift, it appeared that Garza tweaked something – maybe his ankle or hamstring – and the referee gave the dreaded X sign. Shortly after that, Dawkins hit a Sky-High on Andrade. Though Andrade got his shoulder up, the referee counted three and the match ended. This was undoubtedly a change to the plan in order to end the match early because of Garza’s injury. Unfortunate, because the match was quite good up to that point, but safety of the performers is paramount. After the match, officials and Andrade checked on Garza, who was on the ground at ringside.
Winners, and still RAW Tag Team Champions: The Street Profits
Match Rating: 8/10 while it lasted
Backstage, Kayla interviewed the new 24/7 Champion Drew Gulak. He boasted about always being aware, which is why he seized the opportunity to win the title when it arose. Ironic, then, that he didn’t see R-Truth come up from behind, clock him with his prospecting bowl, and roll him up for the pin to recapture the 24/7 Championship. Like before, this was fine because it was short.
Bayley came to the ring. She facetiously expressed sympathy to Nikki Cross for not being able to compete tonight, and then challenged anyone who wanted a shot to try to beat her, knowing that nobody else from the roster was scheduled to be there, since the only Smackdown women’s match scheduled for tonight was hers, and the tag team championship match had been cancelled. She then demanded the referee raise her arm in victory. Before that could happen, though, Asuka’s music hit and she came to the ring, leading to:
Match 5: Bayley (c) vs. Asuka – for the Smackdown Women’s Championship
Asuka immediately got behind Bayley and hit a German Suplex, causing Bayley to try to cut her losses and run away. Asuka dragged her back in the ring and tried to hook the Asuka Lock. Bayley then wrenched Asuka’s weakened arm, which allowed her to take control. She continued to target the arm, but Asuka gritted through the pain, and surprised Bayley with a head kick and a German Suplex on the floor. Asuka went after Bayley, who got desperate, grabbed her chair, and whacked Asuka with it, getting herself disqualified, but saving her title in the process.
Winner of the match (DQ): Asuka
Still Women’s Smackdown Championship: Bayley
Match Rating: 6/10
After the match, Bayley was ready to high-tail it to the back, but before she could, Sasha Banks came from out of nowhere and corked Bayley with the chair. A furious Sasha went after Bayley, but a kick to her injured neck stopped the assault. Bayley threw Sasha into the ring, grabbed a Singapore cane from underneath the ring and another chair, and then stalked Sasha menacingly. Sasha scrambled, though, and grabbed the cane and battered Bayley with it. Before she could exact revenge with the chair, Bayley was able to escape the ring and run to the back.
The match itself was fine for what it was, and the post-match events were intense and well-done.
Match 6: Randy Orton vs. Drew McIntyre (c) – Ambulance Match for the WWE Championship
If I were in an Ambulance match, I’d just lay down a trail of candy from the ring down the ramp and all the way to the ambulance. Then, when my opponent followed the trail to eat all the candy, as soon as they got into the ambulance, I’d shut the door and win. I say this only because I was so bored by Randy Orton’s entrance that I switched over to the YouTube and watched the James Woods “oooh, piece of candy” clip from Family Guy instead and that inspired the idea. McIntyre started off hot, but some dirty tactics by Orton extinguished the fiery start. In a clever camera shot, Orton was gearing up to punt Drew, when a hand clasped around his ankle. Orton looked down in shock to see the Big Show standing outside the ring gripping Orton’s ankle like a vice. Show pulled Orton to the floor and chokeslammed him through the announce table, getting revenge for the punt that Orton gave him some weeks back. That was pretty funny.
Drew then went to the floor and started battering a weakened viper, and took him to the ambulance. He lawn-darted Orton against the ambulance doors and then grabbed a chair. Before he could destroy Orton with it, Orton grabbed a crutch that was conveniently-placed near the ambulance and hit a home run with it on Drew’s body. Orton then used a chair to punish Drew’s broken jaw, and tried to throw Drew into the back of the ambulance. The two fought in the ambulance, but they both spilled out again and continued the brawl around the vehicle. Okay, I don’t like Orton, but his selling of the Glasgow Kiss was stellar. Drew went for a Claymore against the door, but Orton dove into the front seat, and instead Drew kicked the door right off the ambulance. Which you can recreate with the Wrekkin’ Slambulance toy! #BuyItNowKids
The fight went on, and soon they found themselves brawling backstage, and into the catering area. Orton thought he was in control when he whipped Drew into a wall. But before he could capitalize, he was attacked from behind by a vengeful Christian, who pounded Orton in retaliation for his own punt. I wonder if Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair will soon follow suit?
The brawl went back to the ambulance, where Orton put Drew through the windshield, bloodying Drew’s back all over. They ended up on top of the ambulance, slugging it out. Drew tried to climb back down, but got some unwanted help from Orton and he ended up taking a small fall down. But that was nothing compared to the one that Orton took when HBK did indeed make an appearance. Somehow, he appeared on top of the ambulance and hit Orton with Sweet Chin Music that knocked Orton right off the top and through the platform below. That was fun. Drew then tried to carry Orton and heave him into the ambulance, but Orton escaped and dropped him with an RKO on the floor right in front of the open back doors. Orton put Drew inside, and had one of the doors closed, but Drew was able to get his arm out to block the other one. Drew then stuck his thumb right into Orton’s eye, blinding the viper. He followed that up with a Claymore that dropped Orton.
Drew could have ended the match, as Orton was helpless to prevent Drew from closing the door. But instead, Drew pulled Orton’s body halfway out of the ambulance so his upper torso was hanging down. He then hit Orton with a running punt, knocking Orton out for good. Drew then pushed Randy back into the ambulance and shut the doors to win the match. After the match, Drew told the ambulance to drive away, and when the camera panned to the front seat, it was indeed none other than Ric Flair behind the wheel. This was much better than expected. The cameo appearances by the legends that Orton had attacked were fun, and made it less plodding than many previous matches with this kind of stipulation. Purists will not like the fact that the good guys ganged up on the bad guy, but haters gonna hate. For me, anything to make an Orton match more entertaining is a good thing. Hopefully this will be the end of this feud, although part of me suspects they’ll continue this through the fall and ultimately end in a Hell in a Cell match.
Winner, and still WWE Champion: Drew McIntyre
Match Rating: 8/10
Match 7: Jey Uso vs. Roman Reigns (c) (w/ Paul Heyman) – for the Universal Championship
Winner, and still Universal Champion: Roman Reigns
Match Rating: 10/10
Photo credits: WWE.com
WWE Clash of Champions: Gold Rush - September 27, 2020
All of the in-ring matches delivered, with the Ladder match and Roman vs. Uso delivering in spades. For different reasons, both of them should be on the list of Match of the Year candidates. They pulled out some tricks to make the Ambulance Match better than it should have been. Even the stuff that wasn’t great was still pretty good. Overall, an entertaining show from start to end.