Clash of Champions was set up as a crossroads in the world of WWE. With 10 titles on the line and the upcoming SmackDown move to Fox airwaves, WWE had a chance to line everything up the way they liked heading into a major new era.
This file was updated in real time.
Universal championship: Seth Rollins (c) def. Braun Strowman
It took four Stomps and a Pedigree for Rollins to finally get the three count and retain the Universal Championship. The victory, which kept Strowman looking strong, included a ridiculous splash off the top rope from the enormous Strowman, who was bleeding from his nose due to some significant contact on the outside.
After the match, the lights went down and eerie, high-pitched music played. When the lights came back up — dimly — The Fiend was attacking Rollins on the ramp. The Fiend gave Rollins a Sister Abigail and then the Mandible Claw. The show closed with the lights off and the sounds of Bray Wyatt’s frightening laughter.
The match itself was a strong one, perhaps better than expected. It started off hot with Strowman dominating. Rollins turned the tide with three big super kicks and a frog splash, which didn’t even earn a one count from Strowman.
Later, on the outside, Rollins sidestepped a running Strowman, sending him careening over the German announce table. Back on his feet, Strowman came after Rollins again, but Rollins sent him knee first into the steel steps, and then Strowman fell onto the Spanish announce table. Rollins seemed as if he were going to jump off the top rope onto Strowman on the table, but Strowman jumped up and tossed Rollins off.
That’s when Strowman climbed to the top and landed that splash, almost falling off in a scary moment in the process. Rollins kicked out at two after a bloody Strowman could not cover right away.
Rollins then hit a stomp for a one count, another stomp for a two count and a third for about a 2-1/2 count. Strowman would not stay down. He picked Rollins up for his powerslam finisher, but his knee gave way. Rollins landed a Pedigree, then another stomp for the three count.
What’s next: Rollins putting the Universal title on the line against The Fiend at Hell in a Cell. Wyatt challenging for the belt on that card was already heavily rumored. It’ll be interesting to see if they do it inside the actual cell. What will also be intriguing is how that finish goes. It would be very early for this new character to lose, especially given all the starts and stops Wyatt has had during his career, which has been a hit to his character’s credibility.
As for Strowman, this is yet another Universal title match loss. Maybe he’ll benefit from a move to Smackdown and Fox in the draft. He’ll need to be slightly rebuilt again, but he still came out looking fairly strong here.
It has been a long, often confounding ride, and no matter how you feel about this storyline, a picture of contempt for each other was painted during the duration of this match. But it was the surprising end and the return of Luke Harper that gave this narrative a fresh twist.
This was a brutal, vicious match between Rowan and Reigns. Considering there was a no-disqualification stipulation, it wasn’t surprising these two took the brawl to the outside of the ring, where steel steps and kendo sticks were brought into the mix.
We haven’t seen a lot of Rowan in one-on-one competition during his WWE tenure, but he was surprisingly nimble for a man of his size.
Reigns finally got the upper hand after he socked Rowan in the head with the steel steps and landed a superman punch. But as destructive as that was, it was little compared to the pop-up powerbomb through the announcer’s table Rowan would land on Reigns moments later. Rowan added another one through a table in the crowd.
It was becoming barbarous, and how Reigns was still fighting back was beyond comprehension.
Near the entrance, Reigns appeared to regain momentum, when he struck Rowan with a foreign object and then swung a massive jib into the heel twice. But it was at that point, Harper, out of the blue, nailed Reigns with a boot to the head. From there, they double-teamed Reigns until an Iron Claw finally won it.
What’s next: While the conventional thinking was that this was merely a buildup to Reigns and Bryan, the return of Harper adds a new wrinkle. Once the SmackDown tag team champions, Harper and Rowan look as if they could dominate again. There will be another chapter come Hell in a Cell, but whether Bryan is involved is now up in the air.
WWE championship: Kofi Kingston (c) def. Randy Orton
Kofi Kingston vs. Randy Orton was a match wrestled in Orton’s style until the very end. Even though it took the Charlotte crowd a significant portion of the match to get back into it (after the emotional drain of Sasha vs. Becky), the end result was a rock-solid match and a story that officially closed its loop after a decade.
Kingston emerging victorious without any meddling from either The Revival or The New Day was an unexpected ending, but it’s undeniably one of the most significant victories of Kingston’s career and a high-water mark for his title reign since WrestleMania.
Orton spent most of the match physically dissecting Kingston, but most of the signature offense in both directions was saved for the closing stretch. In the moment Orton ran a sweeping powerslam and hangman’s DDT into an RKO … out of nowhere. Kingston appeared to be in dire straits until he got his leg on the bottom rope.
Orton reached deep into the bag, looking for a punt, but Kingston twisted his way into a Trouble in Paradise and a squeaky-clean victory.
What’s next: Most of the time, a victory that decisive would mark the end of a conflict. But with the combination of Orton’s compatriots The Revival knocking off Xavier Woods and Big E, and the intensely personal storyline to this point, don’t be surprised if there’s at least one more chapter to be told.
Raw women’s championship: Sasha Banks def. Becky Lynch (c) via disqualification
This seems to only be the beginning of a long program between these two — and that’s a very good thing.
The match was great up until the messy finish. Banks brought a chair into the ring, the referee yanked it away from her and Lynch picked it up. Lynch went to hit Banks with the chair, Banks moved and Lynch clocked the referee, knocking him out. The ruling, which was announced later on commentary was Banks winning via disqualification. But while the official match had ended, the fun was just starting.
Lynch and Banks brawled into the stands, up the stairs and into the concourse. Lynch beat up Banks near the concession stand, throwing mustard on her and slamming her into garbage cans. The two of them then brawled back down the adjacent stairwell and back into the ring. Banks grabbed another chair, but Lynch kicked her, picked it up and smashed her with the chair four times on the back.
Lynch then opened the chair, sat it down and applied the Dis-arm-her to Banks while seated in the chair. Referees came to break things up. With Banks prone in the ring, Banks held the title up high at the top of the ramp.
The match itself had plenty of terrific moments. The exchanges and reversals from the Banks Statement and Dis-arm-her throughout were excellent. These two have great chemistry.
Near the finish, Banks hit a Meteora off the second rope for a two count. She then went to the outside grabbed a chair, threw it into the ring and the grabbed another from underneath. Lynch went to engage and Banks cracked her in the midsection with the chair. Banks hit a shining wizard for a two count.
Lynch and Banks had the crowd throughout — it was super hot. When the referees pulled Lynch off at the end, the fans chanted, “Let them fight!”
What’s next: A long feud between Lynch and Banks, hopefully. This program has legs. They are two of the most over women on the roster, can really work and have tremendous chemistry together. There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be multiple matches, which they surely will after this messy finish. Lynch vs. Banks in a Hell in a Cell? It’s possible. And wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.
Intercontinental championship: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) def. The Miz
Though the Shuinsuke Namakura-Miz rivalry hasn’t picked up much steam since its inception, there is a level of intrigue that comes with Sami Zayn’s association with the champion. Would Zayn, who was ringside for the match, continue to assist Nakamura through his Intercontinental championship reign or would Miz defy the odds on his way to tying Chris Jericho for the most Intercontinental championship reigns (nine)?
Nakamura, as he often does, gained plenty of advantages throughout the match using his feet and legs. Miz, smartly, countered Nakamura’s strategy by targeting the champion’s left leg, hoping to potentially lock in his a figure four leg lock.
A few sequences later, he did just that, but Nakamura managed to squirm and grab the bottom rope. Shortly after, Miz tried his hand with the Skull Crushing Finale and had the champ pinned, but Zayn distracted the referee, preventing him from making the count.
An infuriated Miz chased Zayn around the ring, but was blindsided by a Nakamura kick, followed by a Kinshasa inside the ring that secured the pinfall victory.
What’s next? The shenanigans in tonight’s match probably means this rivalry continues, potentially shifting toward a Miz vs. Zayn feud. As far as the Intercontinental championship, expect Miz to continue his pursuit of a record-tying ninth reign.
Women’s tag team championships: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross (c) vs. Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville
The somewhat odd pairing of Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross has worked well in their run as WWE tag-team champions. A strange relationship early on, the two have bonded nicely and have come into their own as a dominant tag team. Trust, as Bliss said recently, has been fundamental to their success.
A pretty solid tag team match here. Cross and Bliss, in particular, shined as the babyfaces with the crowd firmly behind them.
In-ring execution: 0.50
Match psychology: 0.50
But even in their efforts, they were going up against longtime friends and partners, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, two women who have been on a trajectory that would seem to have them winning gold in the near future.
It was the champs who started quickly, with Cross even mocking her opponents after gaining an early upper hand.
Bliss and Cross were on a roll until a brief distraction from R-Truth and a host of contenders vying for the 24/7 title sprinted to the ring. With Truth in the ring, Bliss rolled up the 24/7 champ but secured only a two-count.
When order was eventually restored, the momentum shifted and Fire & Desire took control of the match. Some crafty teamwork almost gave them the win, but it would be short-lived as a fired-up Cross landed a lateral press on Deville, and moments later, a neck-breaker to pin Rose.
What’s next: It seems as though Fire & Desire will continue to get opportunities for the title, and when they do, it’ll ultimately come at the expense of Bliss and Cross, whose inextricable bond seems like it has a shelf-life. Whether it’s Rose and Deville or someone else who takes the titles, expect Bliss and Cross to be squaring off against each other in a heated feud in the future.
SmackDown tag team championships: The Revival def. The New Day (c)
The battle lines have been drawn over the past few weeks between The New Day and the newly formed trio of Randy Orton and The Revival. In the first of two matches on the night between these two factions, The Revival was ruthless on the way to becoming the new SmackDown tag team champions.
The story of the match was clear from the outset, as Xavier Woods was selling his knee injury — suffered at the hands of The Revival a few weeks ago — even as Woods moved around on offense in the early going.
After an early New Day blitz, Scott Dawson ran to the opposite corner and pulled Woods off the apron, and followed immediately by Dash Wilder hitting a clothesline that drove Big E from the apron to the floor. They channeled a lot of old-school tactics to break down Big E in the ring with frequent tags, and with that The Revival controlled the bulk of the match.
After almost five minutes of Revival dominance, Woods stirred to life, Big E hit a belly-to-belly on Dash, and then Woods cleaned house, laying waste to both members of The Revival.
Wilder broke up a pinfall by targeting Woods’ knee and Big E almost crashed and burned on a suicide dive. Big E collected himself, caught Wilder’s suicide dive, but all the counters in the world couldn’t help Big E avoid a Shatter Machine on the outside.
With Big E taken out of the match, The Revival could have finished off Woods when they hit a Shatter Machine on him in the center of the ring, but Dawson made a point of peeling off Woods’ knee brace before locking in a knee bar and forcing Woods to tap out.
What’s next: Two tag team title matches, two title changes. The Revival have enjoyed a resurgence after joining up with Orton, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them factor into the WWE championship match later in the night. The Revival are a tremendous tag team, and whether their facing The New Day or anyone else in the increasingly deep SmackDown tag team division, any attention paid to tag team wrestling is a good thing.
SmackDown women’s championship: Bayley (c) def. Charlotte Flair
Somewhat ironically, the idea of Charlotte Flair going for her 10th women’s championship was relegated to a subplot in her championship match against Bayley.
Though she was the logical opponent, Charlotte has been caught up in the Bayley heel turn, and at least on the surface appeared to be a stepping stone in Bayley’s progression.
But you wouldn’t have known that from the opening bell. With her hometown crowd behind her, Charlotte was dominant, kicking Bayley in the head, then throwing her into the barricade outside the ring. Her focus was the champion’s injured left leg.
Everything was going Charlotte’s way — until it wasn’t. With the referee’s back turned, supposedly giving Bayley a moment to see if she could continue due to the “injury,” Bayley surreptitiously took the bottom turnbuckle pad off and slammed Charlotte’s head into the metal with enough force that she couldn’t kick out of a three-count. Just like that the showdown between two of WWE’s best performers was over.
Bayley, playing the coward role perfectly, immediately made a beeline to the locker room, her title in toe.
What’s next: This rivalry will continue for weeks to come. Eventually Charlotte will snare a milestone championship, but at a more high-profile event.
Raw tag team championships: Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler def. Seth Rollins & Braun Strowman (c)
This was a very solid match that did exactly what it needed to do: set up the Universal title match later.
The finish came when Strowman shoulder-blocked Roode into Rollins. Strowman was sent to the outside by Ziggler, and Roode capitalized by hitting Rollins with the Glorious DDT and pinning him. The tag-title reign of Rollins and Strowman is now over. It makes complete sense to do it that way to further build Rollins’ title defense against Strowman later tonight. Plus, Roode and Ziggler are a pretty good little team, though they were thrown together in makeshift fashion.
Rollins played the face in peril early on. He countered a Ziggler jumping DDT into a falcon arrow in a very cool spot that led to the hot tag to Strowman. Strowman tossed both Ziggler and Roode to the outside and hit them both with running shoulder blocks. Ziggler and Roode got the momentum back due to some shenanigans, Rollins was tagged in and the finishing sequence came into play.
While it would be great to have a tag title match that stands on its own in terms of importance, this was always going to be a teaser for the Universal title match. In that manner, it was certainly effective and entertaining to boot.
What’s next: Hopefully, Roode and Ziggler get some time with the titles and get pushed as a real team. There are plenty of interesting matchups for them on the roster, and with a draft coming next month that opens up the possibility even more.
United States championship: AJ Styles (c) def. Cedric Alexander
In an ideal scenario for most fans, the United States championship match between AJ Styles and Cedric Alexander would’ve gotten 15 minutes, or even more. It was also jarring to see the match shuffled off to the Kickoff Show.
But as far as the very limited parameters they were given, a six-minute match packed quite a bit of punch and made the best of the puzzling scenario.
Alexander blitzed through high-octane offense at a dizzying pace, nailing a Michinoku driver, a dive to the outside and a neuralizer kick. Styles then flipped the script, tripping Alexander and sent him head-first into the top turnbuckle. He followed that with a sickening-looking brainbuster on the apron, and a Styles Clash on the floor.
Styles then pulled Alexander’s shoulders up instead of taking the easy pin, briefly lost control, but ultimately whipped out some deep cuts in his moveset including a smooth transition into a reverse DDT. Alexander put up a little more resistance, including a springboard spinning flatliner from the apron, but a phenomenal forearm and a Styles Clash gave Styles the decisive win.
The O.C. came out to get a few more licks in, and that was that.
What’s next: The postmatch attack left the door open for a longer match, but with a draft and lots of big changes likely to come over the next few weeks as the WWE tries to make a big splash in SmackDown’s move to Fox, it’s anyone’s guess for either of these guys.
Cruiserweight championship: Drew Gulak (c) def. Humberto Carrillo and Lince Dorado
The WWE’s cruiserweight division is full of talent. Three of its top stars vied for the Cruiserweight title on the kickoff show as Drew Gulak defended his title against the up and coming Humbert Carrillo and Lince Dorado.
And defend he did.
The match got the night started off on the right foot as the action was fast, furious and generated “this is awesome” chants.
The closing sequence saw Carrillo connect with his patented Aztec Press onto Dorado but was tossed into the ring post and out of the ring by Gulak who bridged Dorado into a pin for the win.
Who’s next for Gulak? Was Kushida’s appearance on 205 Live this past Tuesday an effort to spice up the show in Madison Square Garden or will he be a part of 205 Live going forward (with a potential merge with NXT)? Will Gulak’s alliance with Tony Nese last or will he want another shot at the gold? Don’t count out Oney Lorcan either. The options are aplenty.