When Michael Cole (more on him shortly) exhort that there's reason this night is called Clash of Champions he was right, as it's homage to WCW’s long-running broadcast marquee event. Although he was implying it was useful shorthand for an evening of brutal collisions between unconquerable gladiators. And there was plenty of that, in addition to a very important cruiserweight-title bout between slightly tinier combatants that– if we're being honest – didn't cast a massive shadow. The rest of the card, however, was solid. You might even say it was a gas. But then you'd be without a reasonable play on words for liquid and left explaining your weird attempt at high school-science humor. So while I find a safe place to recover and mull how to make Kenny Herzog great again, here are the five key insights (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the 2016 edition of COC.
5. I Blame Michael Cole
For more or less spoiling matches as they happen by wondering aloud about the likelihood that someone's on the precipice of something. To wit: As Charlotte fought off a Banks Statement at a point in their triple threat match with Bayley – a juncture that was clearly not its climactic one – WWE's erstwhile play by play man exclaimed, "Will be it be Sashas's time?" Which, as anyone accustomed to the rhythms of pro wrestling could answer, meant it most certainly wasn't. And that, in fact, this wasn't going to be Banks' night period. And at that rate, with one party tacitly eliminated, it was inevitable that Charlotte would retain over Bayley, who will have her title reign soon enough. I don't really lament Cole's theatrics. It's all part of the bluster and bombast and the staging of emotion. But savvy viewers will lose themselves in the narrative arc regardless, so it would only serve the show’s mystique if Cole and crew had less obvious tells.
4. About That Cesaro/Sheamus Finish
I know what you’re saying: Sheamus is Irish, not Finnish. And that wasn’t really much of an ending to he and Cesaro’s best-of-seven gauntlet. I’m OK with though. It ratcheted up interest in a concept feud that was failing to connect, even if they’ve raised the bar for an eventual conclusion. But now we’re all emotionally invested in when, where and how this winds down (Raw tomorrow, perhaps?), and in the meanwhile got a buzz-worthy bout that neatly stole a hit-and-miss show. Granted, an actual clean finish might have been epic, but I, for one, am actually psyched that their series of battles feels like it’s just getting started.
3. Anderson's Windows
Those of and his partner Luke Gallows appear to be closing. Let's face it: Francesca notwithstanding, the reason they lost last night – even if the thinking several weeks back anticipated a different outcome – is because they haven't generated any real heat. And that's not entirely their fault. Since being wrested away from Club ally A.J. Styles, they've been tasked with the unenviable assignment of trading on their New Japan cred to carry a threadbare gimmick that's had more to do with dick humor and weird lab coats than attitude or animosity. Might be wise to hit reset, refocus Gallows and Anderson, and keep hoping the right team comes along and complements New Day at the right time.
2. New Rule…
Yep, major h/t to Bill Maher there. But here's my suggestion for a little tweak to the ref's manual: If a manager/valet/entourage member pulls a ref out of the ring when their client/significant other/running mate's opponent is irrefutably one count away from a victory, shouldn't common sense dictate that said adversary is awarded the rightful win? (Isn't that more or less how fan interference on home runs gets resolved, or do I have that backwards?) Anyway, Lana's interference and subsequent ejection was a silly distraction that all but guaranteed Roman's eventual win. The bigger curiosity starting tomorrow is whether the U.S. Title suits Reigns or feels like a concession. What we don't need, should his beef with Rusev keep marinating, is for Lana to become the focal point, with her actions last night prompting a series of stipulations more preoccupied with her presence and absence than their fight and spite. Fact is, Lana, our commitment to your character still hasn't quite bounced back from this.
1. She's Got The Look
On the day after her 40th birthday, Stephanie tossed a timeless frozen state toward the ring that set wheels in motion for what should be one hell of a blood feud between she and her husband and their former golden boy Seth Rollins. It's been at least a year in the making, and it could well be a rivalry for the ages, one far less contrived than the Game's program with Sting. Meanwhile, the pieces are falling into place for Jericho to invariably sabotage his "best friend" Kevin Owens and throw himself in the mix for a Universal Championship scrum; one last title fight for a guy who's had a stunning late-career resurgence. Were the climactic minutes of KO's win over Rollins cockamamie? Sure. Does it seem like WWE's referees are fit enough to find their way back to consciousness after getting mildly knocked backwards amid some incidental contact? I think you know the answer. But are you going to watch Raw tomorrow? That's all that matters. Period.
Below the Belt:
- There really needs to be more promos at PPVs a la New Day's.
- Has there ever been a more cruiserweight-y entrance theme than T.J. Perkins'?
- I general, I was always more of a cruiserweight guy in theory.
- How was there not a "Tom Phillips' haircut" chant?
- Interesting re: the Hulu deal.
- Jericho's win, improbable as a part-timer, is why this extended run's been great.
- Sometimes I feel like Bayley arrived straight out of a Christian youth Burning Man.
- If Dana Brooke's still in apprentice stage, isn't that what NXT is for?
- I like to imagine Lana was remanded to some kind of contempt-of-court-esque holding cell after being sent to the back.
- Very difficult to imagine the alternate reality with Finn Bálor as champ.
- No idea how Seth Rollins is alive after that top-rope "gut-buster."
- If these Spanish announce tables could talk….
- Move of the Night: Holy shit, Cesaro's head-first suicide dive.
- Line of the Night: Cesaro: "I can fight with one arm. I've fought with one arm before Jesus." Told the whole story. (As did Jericho's petulant, "I'm the winner" after his victory.)
- Match of the Night: No contest or no, Sheamus and Cesaro stole the show.