Sunday, 4 December 2016

Clash Of Champions 2016

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 185 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: November 21 2016

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

Since the second WWE brand extension came into effect in July, the Raw and SmackDown brands have experienced mixed fortunes. The blue brand has enjoyed a resurgence of sorts due to its newly-live format, its focus on highlighting all of its characters regardless of stature, despite the limited ranks, and a generally logical, wrestling-based approach. The red team, on the other hand, haven't exactly experienced a boom period: the three-hour format of the weekly show has become even more of a struggle with fewer wrestlers to mix and match with, a large number of performers have either seen their fortunes remain exactly as they were pre-Draft or enter a decline (some greater than others), and the continued focus on authority figures has ensured that fans are always expecting some sort of interference or screwiness to hinder the generally-strong efforts put forth by its talented roster.

Clash Of Champions is, in some respects, a perfect snapshot of life on Raw since the Draft (excluding the highly-enjoyable return of Goldberg, of course). The show (which is no longer called Night Of Champions since the Draft meant that all WWE prizes are no longer defended on the card; why WWE didn't acknowledge the prior WCW show Clash Of The Champions in any way despite the obvious tribute to the WCW version of Saturday Night's Main Event, and why the word "The" was trimmed from the title, leading to several performers mistakenly using the original title for the card, remain unanswered) features a number of entertaining contests, one of which is very good; but an overall stale feel to proceedings and several questionable finishes mean that the PPV doesn't meet the potential that the line-up suggested that it could.

The New Day vs, The Club is a fun opener, and acts as the strongest form of evidence yet that WWE is planning on having New Day break Demolition's long-standing WWE Tag Team Title record of a 478-day reign (which is very close to being achieved as I write this). TJ Perkins vs. Brian Kendrick for the Cruiserweight Title acts as the official introduction to Perkins for fans who hadn't watched the Cruiserweight Classic, and it works - as long as you don't expect too many thrills, spills and dives which are synonymous with cruiserweight action (which may explain why the division as a whole hasn't generated the same level of excitement that the CC did).

The highlight of the show comes next, as Cesaro and Sheamus have one hell of a battle to conclude their Best Of Seven series. That being said, Cesaro almost suffers an extremely serious neck injury towards the end, and the finish itself baffled and annoyed many on the night (storyline developments since then have slightly helped to justify the outcome here, but only slightly). Next up, Chris Jericho and Sami Zayn put on a pretty good bout, although by this point Jericho's long-admired wrestling ability had taken a back seat to his better-than-ever mic work and delusional self-aggrandisement, which has amongst other things gotten the phrase "stupid idiot", a scarf, the word "it" and, of course, the already-legendary List Of Jericho over big-time with fans.

There is something missing from the three-way match for the Women's Championship between Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Bayley. I'm not sure what it is, since all three females definitely put forth a creditable effort, but it nevertheless doesn't match the excitement of their previous NXT showdowns, also starring Becky Lynch. Rusev vs. Roman Reigns for the United States Title is enjoyable (and at least they had a proper match here, unlike at SummerSlam), as is the main event between Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship (fans thankfully don't concentrate on booing the physical appearance of the title rather than the two men in the ring) but, as stated earlier, fans are basically just waiting for somebody to interfere based on the build-up - and in that respect, they are not disappointed. However, the man who everybody assumed would interfere based on how Owens became champion at Seth's expense in the first place - Triple H - doesn't show up, meaning we still wouldn't find out why HHH turned on Rollins back in August (and we actually still haven't, since HHH has still yet to reappear).

Elsewhere, we get a bonus match from the Kick-Off Show in the form of Nia Jax vs. Alicia Fox, which is a lot better than people may have expected beforehand, as well as a few bonus segments/angles on the Blu-ray release from certain episodes of Raw prior to the PPV, most notably Kevin Owens' coronation as Universal Champion.

There is plenty of hard-hitting action on display here, which justifies a purchase for Clash Of Champions (particularly Cesaro vs. Sheamus, which is an awesome battle). However, the odd decision-making by the Raw creative bods concerning some finishes, and the overly-long running time, put a bit of a dampener on proceedings, especially compared to the lite-on-screwiness Backlash card held two weeks earlier involving the SmackDown crew. A fun show for sure, and there's nothing truly bad on the card at all, but far from the year's best.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - Respectable

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