The final WWE pay-per-view event of 2017 takes place this Sunday night in Boston. It’s a Smackdown brand show called Clash of Champions. If you’re an old school wrestling fan, you may remember that NWA/WCW used to run a show called Clash of the Champions in the 1980s through the 1990s, but WWE changed the name by taking out “the” from the title. It was Night of Champions until 2015. Why do they change names? I don’t know. They just do. It’s a weird company.
There are two major matches on the card with AJ Styles defending the WWE Championship against former champ Jinder Mahal because former champions are supposed to get rematches. The other big match, which in my opinion is the real main event, is Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens teaming up against Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura with Smackdown’s bosses Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan as the referees. Six names in one tag match.
Other than those two matches, the rest of the card seems average. Since it is called Clash of Champions, it means that every champion on Smackdown will have a match. Here’s the lineup for the show:
** WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. Jinder Mahal
** Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens vs. Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura (Commissioner Shane McMahon & General Manager Daniel Bryan are both referees) – If Zayn & Owens lose they are fired from WWE.
** Fatal 4-Way Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos vs. The New Day vs. Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin vs. Rusev & Aiden English
** Smackdown Women’s Championship Lumberjack Match: Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya
** United States Championship: Baron Corbin vs. Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler
** The Bludgeon Brothers (Harper & Rowan) vs. Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango)
** Mojo Rawley vs. Zack Ryder (Kickoff Show)
So how will Sunday’s event play out? Here are 10 predictions for the card:
10. The crowd will be dead for Rawley vs. Ryder
I feel bad for Mojo Rawley and Zack Ryder having this Kickoff Show match because the crowd won’t care about their match at all. They were a team for a couple of years starting on NXT and then on Smackdown. While the team didn’t win any tag team gold, the “Hype Bros” were mildly popular. However, after Rawley turned heel with a cheap attack on Ryder three weeks ago, Ryder hasn’t been on TV since. Rawley got to do a brief heel promo on Smackdown two weeks ago, but he wasn’t on last week’s show either.
My complaint is with WWE management. How can talent get over if they are given very little opportunity to try to tell a story? This match at Clash of Champions will be in front of a crowd that is still arriving to their seats and it’s a match with a poor build. The video above is on WWE’s YouTube channel, but that won’t get nearly as many views as if they were on Smackdown with millions watching.
Plan your PPV matches better, WWE. I know that Rawley and Ryder aren’t difference makers in terms of who is watching this show. I just think it’s embarrassing to see how little effort is put into some of these matches.
By the way, I pick newly heel Rawley to win. Not like it matters that much.
9. The Bludgeon Brothers will win in under two minutes
Ever since Harper and Rowan were repackaged as the Bludgeon Brothers (as well as two guys who no longer have first names), they have dominated a bunch of preliminary wrestlers known as jobbers. Their matches have usually finished in under one minute.
Will Breezango provide a tougher test? I doubt it. If WWE wants the Bludgeon Brothers to get over as a dominant heel team, then they shouldn’t be tested that much by Breezango. It should be done in two minutes or less.
As an aside, the Bludgeon Brothers theme is pretty catchy. It sounds intimidating too. Perfect for two big guys like them.
8. Dolph Ziggler will be pinned in the US Title match
There’s not much of a story in the US Title match. Baron Corbin and Bobby Roode brawled during a Lumberjack match a few weeks ago. When the PPV lineup was announced, somehow Dolph Ziggler was part of the US Title picture, even though Roode clearly won their feud. When Corbin faced Roode on Smackdown two weeks ago, Ziggler attacked both men and caused a disqualification. This week on Smackdown, Roode got payback by attacking Corbin and Ziggler, causing a disqualification. Riveting stuff? Not exactly.
The most likely outcome of the match is that Roode is going to hit his Glorious DDT finisher on Ziggler, Corbin will throw Roode out of the ring and Corbin will steal the pin to win the match. That’s how WWE loves to book these kids of matches.
Also, WWE must realize soon that Roode is way better as a heel than a face. We know that fans like the “Glorious” gimmick, but as a performer he’s more natural as a cocky jerk. Please get him in a heel role soon.
7. Carmella will not cash in the Money in the Bank contract
With the rest of the available Smackdown women’s division at ringside for the Lumberjack (or Lumberjill?) match, this could be the perfect time for Carmella to try to cash in her Money in the Bank contract. All she needs to do is the pick the right time, tell the ref to ring the bell and it’s on from there. Despite Carmella being at ringside for this match, I don’t see it happening.
It almost feels like WWE has forgotten about the briefcase since Carmella is barely on the shows and she rarely talks about wanting to cash in. Could that be by design? Perhaps because WWE might not want fans thinking about a possible cash-in. I just think that WWE may have been interested in using Carmella more a few months ago, but she has been such a non-factor of late that she is so far off the radar now.
I also believe that WWE views Charlotte as a long-term champion and they just put the title on her recently, so I don’t see her losing the gold so soon.
6. The Riott Squad will beat up Charlotte Flair after the match
Following Charlotte’s win over Natalya, I fully expect the trio of Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan, aka The Riott Squad, to attack Charlotte after the match. Since all the women on Smackdown will be at ringside (except Becky Lynch, who is filming a movie), this will probably be a situation where The Riott Squad will beat attack the women on the floor and then go after Flair.
This would set up a Charlotte Flair vs. Ruby Riott feud for the Smackdown Women’s Title, leading to a match at Royal Rumble in January or perhaps sooner than that. Since no other heel woman on Smackdown is getting pushed that much other than Natalya, Riott seems like the logical next opponent for Charlotte.
5. There will be new Smackdown Tag Team Champions
The Smackdown Tag Team Titles have changed hands four times since Battleground in July when The New Day beat The Usos for the gold. A month later, The Usos won them back at SummerSlam. At the September 12 Smackdown, The New Day won them back again. At Hell in a Cell in October, The Usos won the titles in an awesome tag team Hell in a Cell match.
It’s been over two months for The Usos as Smackdown Tag Team Champions. You know what that means? Time for another title change.
I think it will be The New Day that leaves with the gold because WWE seems to be enamored with booking title changes between these two teams. It’s also WWE attempting to give them both teams a lot of title reigns to have one of them reach the record of nine Tag Team Title reigns in WWE held by the Dudley Boyz. There was a report a few months ago that WWE wanted to do that. Whether true or not, we don’t know yet. If it’s not New Day winning, then I can see Benjamin and Gable winning the gold to give them some much needed momentum.
Rules for the tag match is that four guys are in the ring at once and you can only tag in your partner. First fall wins. I hate those rules, but it does make a title change more likely because The Usos can lose the gold while another guy on another team is pinned.
On a final note, I love the duo of Rusev and English. They are coming into this match with wins over New Day and The Usos in back-to-back weeks. That means they aren’t winning, but I hope they are together long enough to win tag team gold at some point in the future.
4. AJ Styles will retain the WWE Championship
I used to say that champions rarely win back their titles in rematches, but this year has been weird in WWE. They have gone against what they used to do so many times. I just don’t see a reason for Mahal to do it. The guy has already feuded with most of the top faces on the Smackdown brand, so why have him win it back? Makes no sense to me.
There may be a spot in the match where they do a “Dusty Finish,” which is named after Dusty Rhodes because he used to do it as a booker. Have a guy look like he’s going to win the title, but then have somebody restart the match. They could do it in this case with Mahal cheating to win with the help of the Singh Brothers and then maybe Daniel Bryan or Shane McMahon will restart the match. Since Daniel and Shane are both in referee roles at the show, I can see it happening.
There’s no reason to take the title off Styles. He should carry it all the way until WrestleMania. As for the match quality, it should be pretty good, like when they did the title change last month. Styles is the best opponent for Mahal because he’s great at selling Jinder’s moves and it makes Jinder look like more of a star.
3. The WWE Championship match won’t go on last
The last Smackdown pay-per-view was Hell in a Cell in October with Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens going on last in a HIAC match. The WWE Championship match with Jinder Mahal facing Shinsuke Nakamura took place earlier in the card. I think Clash of Champions will be main evented by a non-title match.
It’s weird to write that, considering this show is called Clash of Champions and you would think a championship match would go on last. But if you really pay attention to Smackdown, you can see that WWE has been pushing the Owens-Zayn vs. Nakamura-Orton tag match with the two referees as the real main event.
This prediction is far from a lock. I can see Styles vs. Mahal going last simply because the face Styles will probably win, and you can end the show on a happy note. To me, though, the tag match is a lot more interesting. That tag match what people are going to be talking about after the show is over, so that’s why it should go on last.
2. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens will win to save their jobs
It’s very unlikely that Zayn and Owens lose the tag match to Orton and Nakamura because they are the two most pushed heels on Smackdown right now. If they were written off the show, even for a few weeks, Smackdown would suffer. What are they going to do, push Baron Corbin in that spot? No thanks. Zayn and Owens are key contributors to Smackdown that will remain that way heading into WrestleMania season.
I would go as far as to say that Zayn would be a great choice to win the Royal Rumble this year as well. The positive momentum for Zayn and Owens starts here. The question is how does it happen?
1. Shane McMahon will turn heel to help Zayn and Owens win their match
A few weeks ago, I thought WWE might do the unthinkable by having Daniel Bryan turn heel to help Zayn and Owens. After all, Bryan has stood up to Shane for the last month by saying that he was being unfair to Zayn and Owens. Bryan also admitted to having sympathy for Zayn and Owens because they spent over a decade in the indies fighting to get to WWE just like Bryan did.
My opinions changed a lot after this week’s Smackdown when Bryan was on commentary for the Owens loss to Nakamura. Announcer Byron Saxton was very critical of the Smackdown general manager and pushed the idea that Bryan may go against what Shane wants (Zayn and Owens fired). Since the point was mentioned so much, that probably means it won’t happen.
Are there logic holes in Shane turning heel? Sure. Owens attacked his dad Vince McMahon a few months ago in a bloody assault, but Shane could always say that the old man deserved it. Zayn also helped Owens beat Shane at Hell in a Cell, so that’s a reason too. This is wrestling, though. People turn all the time, the past is forgotten and it’s about the future.
What I think may happen is Orton or Nakamura will have the pin, Bryan will be there to count the fall and let’s say Shane McMahon was bumped out of the ring by accident. Have Shane recover, pull Bryan out of the ring, punch Bryan (the first real bump for Bryan since retiring in February 2016, although it’s only a worked punch) and when Orton or Nakamura is shocked by it, Zayn capitalizes with a Helluva Kick for the pinfall win.
Post-match, Shane can thank Zayn and Owens with a handshake while the Canadian heel duo will be shocked by it at first, then they will laugh and embrace Shane in a group hug to reveal it was the plan all along. That sets up a Shane vs. Bryan power struggle type storyline heading into WrestleMania season, which would be interesting.
Another heel turn option is to have Orton drop Nakamura with a RKO leading to Zayn or Owens getting the pin. The problem I see with that is Orton has value as a face at this point in his career as a veteran people respect, so WWE may choose to keep him as a face. Orton has said many times that he likes being a heel way more, though.
My main prediction is that Zayn and Owens win because of help. I’d be very surprised if it was clean.
Clash of Champions looks like an average show that isn’t very exciting on paper, even though Smackdown has a talented roster. The first half of 2017 was a lot better for Smackdown than the second half. There isn’t a standout match and the booking leading up to the matches has been poor, aside from the tag match with the guest refs. My expectations are low for this show.
You can watch Clash of Champions on WWE Network this Sunday, December 17. It starts at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT with the Kickoff Show beginning at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT. It should run for about three hours, but sometimes it goes more. I’ll be back on Monday with a review of the show.