Updated: Mar 23
Thank Goodness the title is off Jinder!
No offence to him as his title reign was definitely not the only thing, but SmackDown was fast becoming unwatchably boring TV in the run up to Hell in a Cell, with the only bright spot being Kevin Owens and his run in with the McMahon family.
Fast forward to now, and with Clash of Champions fast approaching this weekend, things are looking up for SmackDown...sort of!
AJ is Champion. He gets a huge pop whenever he enters the arena, is putting on quality match after quality match and is bringing some much needed credibility to the WWE belt! Yes, looking at the card for this PPV, some could argue that this is like a glorified SmackDown, which it sort of is, but now we have stories throughout the show that make it so much easier to watch and that make us question what will happen next; what will happen between Bryan and Shane? Will Jinder win the title back and plunge us into boredom once more? Will The Riott Squad cost Charlotte? Will Breezango overcome The Bludgeon Brothers? No.
Anyway, for a PPV that could have a massive, massive bearing on the road to WrestleMania, here are my predictions for Clash of Champions 2017!
Pre-Show Match - Zack Ryder vs. Mojo Rawley
I really don’t understand the WWE’s logic in putting this match on the pre-show but there you are.
A break-up that has been teased for a while, Mojo turned his back on his Hype Bro...Bro...Zack Ryder and turned heel, citing the fact that Ryder appears to be holding him back.
As there is only 6 matches on the main card anyway, and with one of them unlikely to last above 3 minutes, why couldn’t they sneak this onto the main card? It’s instantly making people not care about the feud that the WWE have spent so long teasing.
It’s obviously going to be MOJO RAWLEY who takes the victory in this one as Zack has nothing going for him at the moment in the way of momentum, and WWE have a clear liking for Mojo as he brings mainstream crossover due to his NFL connections (see his disappointing Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal Victory via Gronk earlier this year!)
Match #1 - The Usos (c) vs. The New Day vs. Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin vs. Rusev Day
First things first, and it pains me to say this, but with Aiden English and Rusev pulling off a victory against The Usos this past Tuesday night, they are not walking away with the belts on Sunday, no way. In fact, unfortunately, I fully expect English to be the man eating the pin.
I expect THE USOS to retain here. They have elevated the belts magnificently in their time as champions, and while the hot-potatoing of the belts between themselves and The New Day worked at the time as they were in the midst of a stellar feud, I feel that the titles now need to stay with the same people for a while.
Don’t get me wrong, I see Gable and Benjamin as champions further down the line, but I just don’t see or want The Usos to be dropping those titles on Sunday; they are too damn good! Plus, check out their match against The Bar at Survivor Series, they conducted themselves like champions and put on a fantastic match - they deserve to be champions!
Match #2 - Breezango vs. The Bludgeon Brothers
For me, this has to be lock of the night!
Breezango are unfortunately now nothing more than a comedy act (a fantastic one in my opinion) but with WWE missing the boat by not putting the titles on them when they had the chance, it seems they are doomed back to a jobber/comedy Tag Team again.
By contrast, much as every wrestling fan around the world cringed when the vignettes of the newly repackaged Harper & Rowan debuted on SmackDown - due to seemingly lacklustre effort from both - they have taken the gimmick and run with it since. Destroying jobbers on a weekly basis, and with one of the catchiest new themes in WWE, Harper and Rowan could go a long way in the tag division on SmackDown!
THE BLUDGEON BROTHERS are taking this one, without a shadow of a doubt...
God I hate that name though...
Match #3 - Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Natalya
I completely expect this to be an overbooked car crash of a match now that all the women on the roster are expected to be Lumberjills, including the Riott Squad with whom Charlotte has had a recent beef.
In fact the arrival of the Riott Squad has somewhat masked the upcoming bout for the title, to the point where, at times, I’ve forgotten that Natalya was still the number one contender to Charlotte Flair’s Championship.
However, that aside, I do feel that The Riott Squad’s involvement will lead to Charlotte dropping the title to NATALYA. Yes, I agree that her first reign was fairly by the numbers and that WWE made Charlotte champion, amongst other reasons, because it would be more of a draw at Survivor Series, but The Riott Squad would not be involved in this match unless they had some bearing on the result, and after their beat down of Charlotte this week on SmackDown, I expect Natalya to capitalise on this!
Match #4 - Baron Corbin (c) vs. Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler
Erm...so this is a feud that is built on little to no heat whatsoever!
I’m so confused by so much of this feud; why is Dolph involved? Bobby and Baron had at least a modicum of rivalry, but inserting Ziggler makes no sense whatsoever.
Don’t get me wrong, I want nothing but good things for the Show-Off, but this? Let’s face it, he’s been put in this match as the fall guy - it is the unfortunate way of things.
Bobby needs to turn heel, and quickly or risk being another entrant on a list entitled ‘NXT Call-Ups Who Have Been Bungled on the Main Roster!’ As a Face, there’s no direction, he looks unsure of himself, he is tripping over his words and the crowd reaction is beginning to dissipate. He is a far cry from the cynical and analytical NXT Champion we all grew to love; or from any kind of champion if truth be told!
Therefore that leaves us with my pick, BARON CORBIN. My reason? They have been carefully building Corbin back up after the debacle with his briefcase and the Cena match at Summerslam, including a victory over The Miz at Survivor Series, so why squander that all now?
Match #5 - Shinsuke Nakamura & Randy Orton vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn w/ Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan As Special Guest Referees
There are so many players in this match it makes my head hurt!
On the go home episode of SmackDown on Tuesday, Orton had an interview explaining that he was fighting the pairing of Zayn and Owens as they were self-entitled... so it transpires, nothing to do with Survivor Series then?
Apparently, the only person who still cares about this is Shane who, once again, has thrust himself into the A storyline on SmackDown and made himself referee. Orton’s participation I sort of understand due to Owens and Zayn’s distraction leading to Orton being eliminated at Survivor Series, but why Nakamura? Yes he helped Orton once, but why does that mean he fights in this match?
Also, who is supposed to be heel in this match? Or in this feud? Genuinely, I’m really confused!
Obviously OWENS & ZAYN are going to win. Making the match a ‘Lose and You’re Fired’ Match telegraphed this, especially as Zayn has been advertised for the Mixed Match Challenge Tournament recently announced for Facebook - sort of a giveaway! Also, presently, I don’t feel SmackDown have enough top stars to start firing them willy-nilly!
Something that is intriguing here though is Daniel Bryan’s involvement in the match having made himself second referee so as to avoid any shenanigans. Where the feud between Shane and Bryan goes after this is something I’m really looking forward to!
Match #6 - AJ Styles (c) vs. Jinder Mahal
This can’t play out in any other way than with a Styles retention right?
Look at it logically for a second; Jinder was made Champion as a thinly-veiled plan to breach the Indian market, to the chegrain of the WWE Universe. The reign brought with it a lot of negativity due to it’s repetitive nature and painfully boring promos - to the point where these would occupy the middle of the show as opposed to elevating the title to the main event where it belongs. However, the WWE endured, sure that the gamble would pay off when they toured India in December.
Problem is, it didn’t. The Indian fans response was luke-warm toward Jinder whilst Triple H (obviously a much bigger draw) was seen as the star of the match-up. More awkwardly, there were definite boos for Jinder from pockets of the crowds! Couple with this the fact that AJ Styles now has the title, a man who is almost single-handedly bringing the belt back to where it belongs at the top of the card, and the fact that the WWE has so little faith that the Indian tour would sell well that they reduced it to one ‘super-card’ as opposed to the originally planned two nights; it didn’t look good for Jinder.
AJ STYLES has to retain here, he brings so much more credibility to the belt and if the Jinder experiment was ultimately seen as a failure, what is the point of putting the title back in him?
Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t put it past the WWE, but we live in hope!