WWE Clash of Champions: Roman Reigns makes a star out of his cousin - Sports Illustrated

Roman Reigns Steals the Show–and Makes a New Star Out of His Cousin, Jey Uso–at Clash of Champions

Author:
Publish date:

Over the past month, Roman Reigns has brought a whole new reason to watch WWE. And he did it again this Sunday at Clash of Champions, wrestling a phenomenal match against Jey Uso before ending the pay-per-view with a monumental beatdown of his cousin.

Every match at Clash of Champions had a title on the line, and the show ended with a career-defining moment for Uso. Despite the defeat, Uso wasn’t pinned—his brother Jimmy returned to throw in the towel in the midst of Reigns pummeling Uso. But Uso acquitted himself well in his first-ever main event, working an excellent match with Reigns that was built off a well-structured story of a favorite and underdog, as well as included some fantastic high spots.

Another highlight was the return of Sasha Banks, who laid a beating of her own on Bayley. The other noteworthy part of the card was Drew McIntyre’s defeat of Randy Orton in an Ambulance Match. Though the stipulation would not have fit in well to an old-school NWA realm, it served this storyline extremely well, with McIntyre retaining the WWE Championship with assists from the Big Show, Christian, and Shawn Michaels.

WWE also made news by announcing that they will be holding their next Raw and SmackDown draft in October, starting on the October 9 edition of SmackDown and then finishing on the following Raw.

Other than the Raw tag title match ending early due to a potential injury suffered by Angel Garza—there have been no updates yet on the severity of the situation—Clash of Champions was a very good night for WWE. Here are the results:

-- SmackDown Tag Champions Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Kalisto and Lince Dorado on the pre-show

-- Sami Zayn defeated Jeff Hardy and AJ Styles in a winner-take-all triple threat ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship

-- Drew Gulak defeated R-Truth to become the new 24/7 Champion

-- Raw Women’s Champion Asuka defeated Zelina Vega

-- United States Champion Bobby Lashley defeated Apollo Crews

-- The Street Profits defeated Angel Garza and Andrade to retain the Raw Tag Team Championships

-- R-Truth defeated Drew Gulak to regain the 24/7 Championship

-- Asuka defeated SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley by disqualification

-- WWE Champion Drew McIntyre defeated Randy Orton in an Ambulance Match

-- Universal Champion Roman Reigns defeated Jey Uso

WWE Clash of Champions

And here are my takeaways:

A rip-roaring family affair

*The story between Roman Reigns and Jey Uso shares so many parallels to Bret Hart and Owen Hart., so there are certainly differences in the storyline, but the connective tissue is that Bret advocated backstage for Owen to join him in the main event. Bret believed, and he was proven correct, that a family feud would add tremendous content for WWE, and that Owen would be a star for the company if given the opportunity. Twenty-six years later, Reigns fought behind-the-scenes to put his cousin in the main event, and Uso responded with an outstanding performance.

This match was built off emotion. Uso’s highs and lows in this match were visceral. The momentum could be felt when he built offense and hit his splash on Reigns, and it was no different when he was continually humbled by Reigns. To Reigns’ credit, after finally reaching the point where he is beloved by the WWE audience, he is evolving his character into the type of villain he has never before played. And the end sequence, where an injured Jimmy Uso was forced to return solely to throw in the towel for his brother, then scold Reigns for what he did to his family–only to have Reigns demand to wear Uso’s Samoan leis as the show went off the air, generates genuine dislike toward Reigns.

This was some of the best work Reigns has ever produced, and a critical piece of that is building a new singles star in Uso.

Drew McIntyre adds signature win to his reign as WWE Champion

McIntyre defeated Randy Orton in an entertaining Ambulance Match. Orton was treated with reverence, and it took multiple attempts to finish the man that McIntyre has long referred to as his Joker. This was good enough to close the show, but was then completely overshadowed by Reigns-Uso. Such is the story the McIntyre title run, where he has yet to main event a pay per view since winning the title at WrestleMania.

All the returns in this match made sense, as each was attacked throughout the summer by Orton. He took a chokeslam by the Big Show, a few shots backstage from Christian, and then some Sweet Chin Music from Shawn Michaels on the top of the ambulance.

There was plenty of physicality in the match, and to the credit of the performers, they never telegraphed the finish. McIntyre did a nice job selling the missed Claymore Kick that took off the ambulance door, but finally recovered in time to hit a Claymore, which was followed by a kick to the skull, to close the ambulance doors and win the match. Ric Flair, who was also attacked over the summer by Orton, then drove off with the ambulance.

McIntyre is now in his sixth month as WWE Champion, but it does feel like a missed opportunity for an Orton title reign. Orton was WWE’s hottest heel over the summer, but it never materialized into a run with the belt. So much of his future is tied to Edge, as that feud will restart whenever Edge is healthy, but there was definitely mileage for an Orton title reign, putting McIntyre back in the familiar babyface role of chasing the heel.

Last-minute mix-up

A couple of previously scheduled matches did not take place at Clash of Champions. WWE announced earlier in the day on Sunday that the Women’s Tag Title match pitting Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax against The Riott Squad would not take place, with an explanation being addressed on Monday’s Raw. Bayley was also scheduled to wrestle Nikki Cross, who was also announced as unavailable, which led to Bayley issuing an open challenge.

Asuka accepted the open challenge. This seemed thrown together, as the match ended quickly by disqualification. Why put Asuka, the Raw Women’s Champion, in such a meaningless spot? It was never necessary for her to be involved.

The real focus took place after the match, when Sasha Banks returned to enact some revenge upon Bayley. Still wearing a neck brace and selling the beating she took from Bayley three weeks ago on SmackDown, Banks started to lay down a beating before Bayley escaped.

If done right, Banks-Bayley can serve as the main event at WrestleMania 37. WWE has done a tremendous job with its build to this match, and hopefully that patience continues into 2021.

Ladder match lives up to the hype

Sami Zayn regained the title he never lost in a winner-take-all triple threat ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship.

Zayn, Jeff Hardy, and AJ Styles all put their bodies on the line to deliver a memorable ladder match, a nearly impossible task after the past 25 years of death-defying ladder matches. In addition to Styles throwing a ladder off Zayn, the physical highlight was Hardy’s Swanton Bomb off the top of a ladder onto Zayn, which looked incredibly painful for both men involved. Hardy has built a standard of excellence and a willingness to outdo himself in dangerous situations, so this spot was expected, but that does not take away from the degree of difficulty involved in such a daring risk.

After all three men put their bodies on the line, the finish was very creative. Zayn showed off the conniving side of his character as he handcuffed both Hardy and Styles to ladders. He inserted the first handcuff through Hardy’s stretched earlobe and locked him onto a ladder, and then handcuffed his own wrist to Styles to prevent him from winning the match. Styles put Zayn in a fireman’s carry and climbed the ladder, but Zayn took the handcuff key out of his mouth, unlocked himself, cuffed Styles to the ladder, then procured the titles to win the match.

This was a compelling way to end the match without causing further destruction to the men involved, as well as highlight Zayn’s intelligence and craftiness.

Vega loses, but future looks bright

In a match originally intended for the pre-show, Asuka defeated Zelina Vega on the main card. Vega put up a fight, and the commentary team highlighted her ability and the danger she poses in the ring. Though her technical ability stood out, the outcome was never in doubt, and the most pressing question was what would happen after Vega tapped.

Vega tapped to the Asuka Lock, then enacted a small piece of revenge with a few extra shots when Asuka paid respects to her opponent after the match. This ensures the story will continue, and there is so much potential to tell a fantastic story in Vega’s chase of her first-ever title in WWE.

In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Vega shared the meaning behind her pursuit of the Raw Women’s Championship.

“My ultimate goal is to become the Raw Women’s Champion, but it’s deeper than that,” said Vega. “I need to prove I am more than people think I am. I’m more than just a manager, I’m more than just the brown girl. I’m not just a girl, I’m the girl. I’m trying to change the narrative. When you look at Zelina, you shouldn’t say, ‘She’s just this.’ You’re about to find out, she is all of this.”

It shouldn’t be easy, but Vega should eventually take the belt from Asuka. In terms of character and presentation, she is a stark contrast from Asuka, which hopefully leads to continued chemistry between the two. WWE is also in a unique spot, missing Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair from their active roster, and this is a massive opportunity for Vega to secure a top spot in the company.

One too many rematches

Distance makes the heart grow fonder.

Hopefully that is the philosophy WWE uses moving forward with Bobby Lashley and Apollo Crews.

Lashley retained the United States Championship in an entertaining match with Crews, and it did a great job showing off Lashley’s strength and power. But we have just seen these two wrestle each other too often over the past three months. Crews could still be the one to eventually dethrone Lashley, but it would benefit both Lashley and Crews if they are distanced from one another and entered into new programs.

**** Clash of Champions featured one of WWE’s most compelling main event matches of the year. Roman Reigns and Jey Uso showed off their in-ring abilities, but also told a gripping story. This completely overshadowed every other moment on the card, including the return of Sasha Banks and a standout match between Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton.

The pay-per-view also served as a reminder of the obvious. There is no clash among champions. Reigns is by far the top performer in the world, and he showed that again tonight. He also greatly benefited from an opponent that could work, sell his punishment, and share a tremendous backstory, all of which Uso did perfectly. This is only the beginning of the Reigns-Uso story, and WWE now has a new singles star in Uso.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.