Clash of Champions seems a bit misleading, no? While it’s true that all the Smackdown champions will in fact be clashing, it’s not with one another. This year’s inter-brand Survivor Series was more of a Clash of Champions, wasn’t it? Champions traditionally clash on nearly every PPV. How is this any different?
Well, given Sunday’s lackluster card, I think I’d prefer to see a truce of champions. Just give us like three hours of vignettes with AJ Styles trying to reunite the Bullet Club. It would do more for his credibility and storyline than a victory over Jinder Mahal ever could. Assuming they’re not going the PPV of Friendship route, let’s take a look at what Smackdown Live has in store for the last PPV of 2017.
WWE Champion AJ Styles vs. Jinder Mahal
Not so fun fact: five of the past six post-Wrestlemania PPVs have featured a Jinder Mahal title bout (we barely escaped the sixth thanks to someone in WWE finally coming to their senses…it’s a Thanksgiving miracle!). This nonsense continues and hopefully concludes tonight as Mahal looks to regain his title from the phenomenal one. I still don’t know why they had to waste a PPV on what should have been blown off on Smackdown, but here we are. The allegiance of Jinder’s minions, the Singh brothers, seems to be up-in-the air, though its unlikely they factor in to tonight’s contest. Perhaps they can just have Randy Orton drop them on the head a few times for good measure.
Also, I couldn’t figure out how to work it in, but can I please have credit for at least thinking of using the low-hanging fruit that is the term “Styles Clash” as a headline somewhere in this preview? Ya know? Because it’s AJ Styles, and this is the Clash of Champions and all. Actually, give me the credit instead for not going forward with this.
Prediction: Unless everyone at WWE are all stupid idiots, AJ Styles retains here and perhaps starts his build towards his ‘Mania program with Nakamura.
SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya (Lumberjack Match)
A not-that-over transitional champ loses their title to the top wrestler on the program, only to get a lame rematch attempt. Hey I know that story from somewhere. So here we are again, this time it’s the ladies fighting over the top prize with very little likelihood or reason for the former champ to walk away victorious. And this time they’ll be surrounded by lady lumberjacks (which apparently is a gender neutral term now).
There’s a lot of directions the Smackdown’s women’s division can go with former champs Becky Lynch and Naomi on the periphery, the UFC Four Horsemwomen on the horizon and the Riott Squad on the scene. I don’t think Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan are ready for the main event. Do they have any real heat yet? Without someone like a Paige with a history (in wrestling…a history in wrestling, people) to lead them, it’s hard to see the trio dominating in the top ranks just yet. The Shield 2.0 they are not. Anyhow, this match screams place-holder, until Charlotte’s direction for ‘Mania comes into focus.
Prediction: Is Natalya still in the Welcoming Committee (they really strapped a rocket to the back of that faction)? If so, they should help her out tonight, then. Assuming that’s not a thing anymore, I’m guessing Charlotte retains. Perhaps we get some interference from the Riott Squad, but even if we get a schmoz finish, I don’t see the sense in giving Natalya the strap back.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos vs. The New Day vs. Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable vs. Rusev & Aiden English (Fatal 4-Way Match)
From a wrestling standpoint, this is the match most likely to deliver, in what should be a crazy four-way dance between the champion Usos and friends (my bonus prediction: FLYIGN USOS MAGGLE!). The Usos and New Day have been killing it in WWE rings for the better part of 2017 but there’s only so many times these two can continue to go at it. I don’t think WWE brass believes in Benjamin and Gable enough to let them sniff gold (or silver…platinum? zinc? what are those titles made from?) anytime soon. It’s a shame, because in the ring they’re more than capable of putting on compelling matches. They still haven’t found their niche on the stick just yet, and until they do, fans are going to have a hard time investing in them.
Rusev Day is the real wild card here, as they’ve quickly ascended the tag team ranks since their inception, earning victories over both the New Day and the Usos in consecutive weeks. The WWE Universe wants to love these guys. Giving the straps to them or Team Benjable (sorry, they need a name…it’s really annoying writing out “Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable” every time) might infuse some life into a tag scene that’s kind of run it’s course.
Prediction: I’m going to continue my stupid tradition of predicting that this is the PPV that WWE management finally gets behind Rusev for real. Rusev Day has the momentum so in as much as I don’t think I truly believe it will actually happen, I’m calling a shocking win for the Handsome One and the Mozart of Melody, likely by pinning a non-Uso.
Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn (Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan as special guest referees)
This match is really a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with WWE TV. You have arguably your two most intriguing in-ring performers in Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, fresh off a huge storyline-altering spot at Hell in A Cell. We get Sami Zayn doing some of the best work of his WWE career as an amazing smarmy dancing heel. And yet, where do they find themselves these last two months? Why, still embroiled in McMahon family drama with a part time performer and a guy who (unless we’re all being played) has no serious chance of returning to the ring anytime soon. Then throw in a stagnant babyface Randy Orton and a completely underused, uninspired Shinsuke Nakamura and you have a recipe for something that should have been a whole lot better.
What’s the end game here? Is the whole point of this to turn Shane heel? Or maybe even Daniel Bryan? Who cares? Are Daniel Bryan and Shane gonna turn on each other? What does it matter? Bryan can’t wrestle and Shane probably only has a few matches left in him anyway. Who cares if Zayn and Owens get fired. It’s not like they’re really going to get fired, so either they’re winning or we get more GM-induced drama. None of this advances anything meaningfully for Zayn and Owens, while Orton and Nakamura are just glorified props in a story that should have ended after Hell in a Cell.
Prediction: Shane and Bryan get into a heated argument, giving Owens and Zayn a cheap win. Afterwards Shane jumps Bryan in a head-safe, non concussion-giving, manner.
United States Champion Baron Corbin vs. Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler (Triple Threat Match)
Full Hair, vs. Side Hair vs. Top Hair! Come on Corbin, just shave it off already. Maybe if you were like 50, the skullet would like pretty badass, but right now it just bothers me to look at. Much like Nakamura, Bobby Roode’s transition from NXT champion to Smackdown Live star has been basically botched. At least they didn’t give Roode some random profession like “artist”, though the Mailman Bobby Roode would be pretty sweet (“that was a glorious Special Delivery Maggle!”).
It’s becoming so predictable lately, that anytime a third person is inserted into a PPV match its simply for them to eat the pin. So much like Kane at the upcoming Royal Rumble, it’s likely Ziggler eats the pin in a match he’s been thrown in for clearly very logical storyline-related reasons (I assume).
Prediction: I think Roode’s time is coming, but he’d be better served to achieve his first main roster glory at Wrestlemania (with perhaps an uber-glorious high budget entrance). Corbin pins Ziggler and retains.
Breezango vs. The Bludgeon Brothers
After months of speculation we can finally confirm that the 2B behind the 2B attacks are in fact the Bludgeon Brothers (why this wasn’t paid off with a spot on Smackdown Live still confuses me). The Bludgeon Brothers have been living up to their name, bludgeoning their way through a gauntlet of scrubs and Hype Bros. It will be weird to actually see Breezango wrestle, as their in-ring performances have been quite limited lately (fun fact: Breezango hasn’t appeared in a traditional tag team match on Smackdown Live since May 30th, when they defeated Epico and Primo). Sunday, the Bludgeon Brothers get the opportunity to show they’re for real and climb up a rung against some real competition.
Prediction: Breezango’s push seems somewhat dead, as WWE seems content with letting them provide comic relief. The Bludgeon Brothers are on the ascent (ironic, given Breezango are the ones hanging around with the Ascension) while Breezango’s on the descent (maybe the Bludgeon Brothers should start hanging out with the Descension). Harper and Rowan use the loss of their first names as fuel to power them to victory.
Zack Ryder vs. Mojo Rawley (Kickoff Match)
In what can only be classified as totally not-hype, Mojo Rawley has finally had enough of his former partner Zack Ryder and decided to head out on his own. For every Shawn Michaels story, there’s a Titus O’Neil story, which unfortunately might be the ceiling for the ‘ol hype man. Ryder has long outlived his usefulness on WWE TV, so the opportunity is Mojo’s to run with. Hopefully he doesn’t go the post-career route of Marty Janetty. Will anyone care about the angry-hype version of Mojo Rawley? Personally, I’m kinda bummed that we won’t get to see ridiculous segments like this (see below) anymore.
Prediction: Hopefully, Rawley wins and we can put an end to this feud and move on to other (not necessarily better) things. However, I fear this continues into another pre-show before Mojo finally vanquishes his former bro. Ryder wins, yet Mojo channels his negative hype into a post match, brat-attack hype-laden beatdown.