By Brad Carroll
WWE’s Clash of Champions pay-per-view event Sunday night couldn’t have started out any better. First, a triple-threat match for the United States championship got the crowd hyped early on, as Baron Corbin, Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler thrilled the crowd and did everything to get the show started in the right direction. Things only got better with the fatal four-way tag team title match, as the opening promo by Aiden English and Rusev started the fun and then the four teams in the match continued it in the ring, making Clash 2-for-2 in great bouts.
But right when you thought this was going to be a great PPV, the wheels came off, as they typically do when SmackDown Live takes center stage. The women’s lumberjack match was a disaster, the Bludgeon Brothers killing Breezango had some rough moments that didn’t flow, the tag team match featuring Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon as referees was confusing, and even worse, totally boring until the finish, and the world title match didn’t do anything to recapture the magic from the beginning.
So, Clash of Champions will be remembered for a few wrestlers getting incredibly over with the crowd, but nothing else really will be looked back on fondly.
Here is a look at the biggest winners from the event, and the biggest losers as well, which has nothing to do with who may have had their hand raised in victory or not.
Dolph Ziggler: Even when I predicted in our Clash of Champions preview story that Ziggler would win the title, I did so with extreme reservations. But Ziggler proved me right, and everyone else really, wrong, as he won the United States championship and got his career back on track in the process, in at least some way. Having a title doesn’t automatically save Ziggler’s fading career, but it does give his character something to hold over everyone, including the fans. Ziggler may have lost his luster a long time ago, but there wasn’t a bigger winner on this night than him. How long he keeps the belt is a whole other story, but for now, Ziggler is back as a main event level player for the time being. Nobody would have thought that even one week ago.
Chad Gable: The tag team title match at Clash was exciting and there were a few stars born during the proceedings. Gable was one of them. He didn’t shine from the get-go, as another duo did and we’ll get to that next, but toward the end of the match, Gable showed why many thought he should have gotten the push currently being given to Jason Jordan. Gable’s innovative suplexes were as impressive as they were scary-looking, which if nobody gets hurt, are the best kind of wrestling moves. Gable suplexed Rusev in a true test of strength and then did a roll-through suplex on Aiden English that was simply awesome. Gable is a small guy, which probably is the reason WWE chose Jordan to be Kurt Angle’s son instead of him, but he’s proving he has the skill-set to impress. It’s a question now of if he will ever get a true chance to show it or not. But for this night, Gable came out as a big winner.
Rusev Day: Rusev and Aiden English couldn’t have been more over in Boston Sunday night, as their entire schtick, let by English’s singing and Rusev’s reactions, stole the show. They were easily the fan favorites and shined brightest, even more so than Gable, during a wild and exciting tag team championship match. The crowd was also fully behind them winning the titles, despite portraying heels, when they had a couple of near-falls or near-submissions. In our preview, I wrote the pair was one of the few bright spots on SmackDown Live each week, and now they should get even more opportunities to show it. It will surely be Rusev Day every day if Rusev and English keep this up. We'll see if the crowds going forward continue to get behind them.
Daniel Bryan: Even after being unable to wrestle for what seems like an eternity now, Bryan is still incredibly over with the fans, and even though a case can be made he helped the heel duo of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn win and keep their jobs Sunday, there won’t really be a way for him to ever not be cheered. Even over golden boy Shane McMahon, who the fans are starting and should continue to turn on. The match itself was pretty terrible, and nobody really came out looking good, but Bryan’s actions were and will be the thing everyone is talking about today and wanting to learn more about this coming Tuesday. That makes him a winner.
Charlotte: She vanquished Natalya, which we all can agree makes her a winner. Charlotte is so much better than every other woman involved in this match that it really was eye-opening. Nobody can challenge her for the title and realistically win, except if Becky Lynch turns on her friend and the two start a feud against each other. Then there will be something to look forward to for the SmackDown women. But now, it’s Charlotte and then a sharp drop off to everyone else.
Shane McMahon: He’s becoming just like Stephanie McMahon, the character everyone hates, or at least hated, because she’s been off camera for the most part for a while now, because she buries everyone in sight, especially the good guys. Well, Shane is doing the exact same thing, only he’s going after a couple of heels in Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, which I guess WWE believes is OK. But if Sunday was any indication, the crowd isn’t buying it, and are starting to turn on the commissioner. It doesn’t help Shane that he’s going head-to-head with not only Owens and Zayn, who can both talk and wrestle circles around him, but also Bryan, who can do the same. Bryan may have helped the heels win, but can anybody not take his side against Shane? Shane has been a drag on SmackDown lately, and hasn’t come anywhere close in progressing his role or the fact he was extremely over in the beginning. He’s gone the opposite way and it’s just terrible now. Shane will probably be mad on Tuesday, but I’m not sure anyone will care anymore, and that makes him the biggest loser on this list.
Natalya: I’m not sure if that post-match promo was her furthering her heel character or even retiring instead, but either way, Natalya needs to go away. And for good this time. She proved again in this match that she can’t keep up with Charlotte in the ring, and as Lana has correctly pointed out, she can’t cut a promo to save her life. Her promo Sunday proved it again, as some thought she was retiring, some thought she was just whining for no reason, while some thought she was pulling a first: unleashing a promo designed to turn her character heel. The only problem with that is she’s already a heel, which makes it both comical and embarrassing. Hopefully this was Natalya’s swan song on the big stage.
Baron Corbin: If there is a way to lose your title and still look good, Corbin did it against Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode, as the trio will be remembered for putting together a tremendous effort to start the PPV on a positive note. But that doesn’t completely hide the fact Corbin was once again on the losing end in a high-profile moment. Corbin might get the title back as soon as Tuesday, as Ziggler probably isn’t going to have the strap long, but the Lone Wolf character is a whole lot better with the title than without.
Breezango: The worst thing that happened to Breezango was starting the Fashion Files. It was great in the beginning, and got over, but that only made things worse for the team, as the “show” continued and continued while Tyler Breeze and Fandango were kept off TV and out of matches for most of that time. In turn, Breezango went from legit title contenders to the team you saw on Sunday: glorified jobbers, as they lost easily to the Bludgeon Brothers. It’s been a strange and unlikely journey from contenders to afterthoughts for Breezango, but here they are. Sounds like a storyline for a future Fashion Files episode, doesn't it?