WWE Clash of Champions Review, Live from TD Garden

Wrestling is always different when you’re actually in the arena. I think, by default, you enjoy it more. So even though it was already an overall good show, I really, really enjoyed Clash of Champions.

The triple threat match for the United States Championship was the perfect show-opener: a fast-paced multi-man brawl beginning with Bobby Roode’s memetically incredible theme song. Triple threats are car crashes, Ziggler sells like death, Corbin acts like a murderer, and Roode is genuinely glorious at everything he does. All three made the US Title feel like the most important thing in the world. The finish was my first big “OH MY GOD” of the night – Ziggler essentially stealing the End of Days by sneaking in a Zig-Zag fits his heel character perfectly and made it believable that he’d defeat the other two, especially when it was easy to assume he was there to take the pin.

The tag title match was the match of the night and it wasn’t even close. The Rusev Day shtick is perfect and completely impossible not to mark out for. I’m not sure how it came across to viewers at home, but “RUSEV DAY” was louder than any other chant of the night put together. A singing gimmick is getting riotously cheered, even in encores. Rusev & English have so much charisma they overtake what’s around them.

Of course, all four teams put in tremendous work. Nobody should be surprised after the past few years, but especially 2017, that the New Day and the Usos can deliver like crazy. Gable and Benjamin are still struggling character-wise, but Gable handing out deadlift suplexes like candy near the end of the match was the most impressive wrestling feat of the night. I would’ve been happy with anybody winning, although I was obviously pulling for Rusev Day. They got me to boo Chad Gable. They got me to boo Big E, and I’m going to carry that guilt for the rest of my life. But in a match like this one, no matter who wins, it’d be hard for the crowd not to be happy.

The Women’s Championship match let me down – it really never strayed from traditional Lumberjack Match fare. Go to the outside, get beaten up. I was hoping that Ms. Money in the Bank being one of the lumberjacks would make for an interesting story, with her taking as many cheap shots as possible at both contenders, fully prepared to cash in at the next opportunity. They even alluded to this by having Riott Squad chase Carmella off when it looked like she might make her move, but that moment felt like a total afterthought. I’m sure there’s some sort of plan, but for my part, I think Clash of Champions should’ve been the time for Carmella to cash in after the rest of the lumberjacks left the ring.

There’s been some stink made about the Bludgeon Brothers squashing the Fashion Police, but I’m struggling to think of how else it could’ve gone. Despite being some of WWE’s best characters, in the ring Breezango are still hardly presented as a threat. I’d like them to be, but when building the new monster team is more important, a redemption story for a jobber team takes a backseat. I definitely think they should’ve been allowed to cut a promo beforehand, which would’ve mitigated things by letting them show off their greatest strength, but it would be a mistake for this match to be anything but a squash. Once Harper and Rowan are re-re-re-re-established, the Fashion Police can be portrayed as a little stronger.

The tag match with special authority referees and Owens and Zayn’s careers on the line was always going to be more about spots and drama than wrestling, and it delivered on that promise. That’s not to say the match itself was bad, in fact, far from it – but considering that it’s Owens/Zayn/Nakamura/Orton-masked-by-3-more-interesting-people, that’s a given. The tension between Bryan and Shane was a little predictable for the earlier portions of the match, but when Shane refused to count the three on a clear Zayn victory, you could hear a pin drop in the Garden. We knew it was going to happen – it’d be silly not to – but this story has earned so much emotional investment that I felt the pure “how dare you” that I was supposed to. Daniel fast-counting the ending to even the odds was satisfying but did stir up questions about how the storyline is going to proceed. It mixed a pretty good match with complicated, interesting storytelling, which is really the best balance we can ask for from wrestling.

Oh, also, Daniel/Owens/Zayn are right. But everybody in this feud riding a razor-thin heel/face line is awesome.

The main event was easily Jinder’s best match yet, but 1) Jinder’s best match yet isn’t saying much and 2) I was exhausted by the time it started. Keeping up energy all through a live event is almost impossible – John Mulaney has an excellent stand-up routine comparing crowds that burn themselves out to hapless “Happy Birthday” sign makers who go way too big on the H and run out of room. After the two tag matches, I was so wiped it would’ve been hard even to cheer for another round of Styles/Cena.

I was definitely worked by the Khallas, especially because AJ got caught in it after taking out the Singh Brothers – a situation which neither Orton nor Nakamura had ever escaped. The relief of that kickout was really the highlight of the match, and I don’t remember most of it. In a way, it was the perfect sendoff for Jinder’s championship run – all of his usual tricks thwarted and putting on a passable show.

Despite burning out by the end, Clash of Champions was a blast to watch and a bigger blast to attend live. With other quality shows like Money in the Bank 2014 and TLC 2015, Boston, you’d be fools not to take advantage when WWE comes to town. There’s no watching experience like it.

Happy Rusev Day to all, and to all a good night.

Written by Bobby Murphy (@RobertJMurph)

Image courtesy of WWE.com

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