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WWE Clash of Champions: Gold Rush
by Samoa Rowe
September 27, 2020
Live, or close enough to live, from the Thunderdome in Orlando, Florida. Our hosts are Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Tom Phillips, Samoa Joe, and Byron Saxton.
Intercontinental Championship (Ladder Match):
Jeff Hardy © vs. AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn
Judging by Sami's beard, he spent his hiatus working as a lumberjack with Dexter Morgan. Hardy is still on his redemption quest and scores first with a combination clothesline. AJ dropkicks a ladder into Jeff's gut and hits a plancha. Sami seems to tweak his knee while hitting an Asai moonsault onto AJ. If the camera doesn't stop cutting, I might have to turn this off. Fake crowd hates Sami and has no reaction to Hardy missing a crossbody on AJ to crash through an upside down open ladder. The fake crowd also hates it when AJ whips Sami into a ladder. Also, if Michael Cole doesn't chill out, I might put this on mute. Anyways, AJ and Jeff duke it out and Jeff survives a bad spill to dropkick AJ in the face. It's then Sami's turn and he hits AJ with an exploder suplex onto a ladder. AJ misses a Poetry in Motion into the barricade, so Jeff (slowly) shows him how it's done, and Sami sneaks in for a Helluva kick. Sami climbs, but AJ lawndarts another ladder at him. Sami sells a hand injury like death, and then Jeff and AJ both fall onto him. Jeff stops Sami's climb, and shoves a ladder to block AJ's springboard attempt. Twist of Fate and everyone takes a breather. Jeff climbs but gets tipped over and hangs on like a snake until taking a scary spill to ringside (the ladder sandwiched his face against the barricade). AJ then moonsaults off the announce table to hit an inverted DDT on Sami. Jeff then recreates a Wrestlemania 33 highlight by leaping off a ladder to put Sami through a bridged ladder on the floor. AJ climbs but Jeff casually tips him over. Fake “This is awesome” chant. Sami's had enough and fetches some handcuffs. He handcuffs Jeff BY THE EARLOBE to a ringside ladder. AJ avoids getting cuffed to the ropes and hits Sami with a vertical suplex. Sami sneakily handcuffed himself to AJ in the process and his evil grin makes it all worth it while AJ puts the boots to him. AJ climbs with Sami on his shoulders, but Jeff drags himself in and smashes them with the ladder attached to his ear. Sami unlocks himself and traps AJ to the steps and retrieves the belts at 26:40. I'm going to give all 3 guys a ton of credit for their effort and physical sacrifices they made, but I am completely done with WWE ladder matches. Everything in the first 23 minutes was recycled spots and stunts that unfortunately have a significant toll on the bodies of the competitors. Sami's handcuff shenanigans elevate this to something memorable, ***¼.
Winner and new Intercontinental Champion: Sami Zayn
Post match interview with Sami, who claims he didn't recapture the IC title but has been the champion all along. Fake crowd disagrees with him.
On the kickoff show, 24/7 Champion R-Truth interrupted the panel dressed as a prospector (because Gold Rush… I know). Now he's hanging out in the referee locker room and yells at them for social distancing. Drew Gulak impulsively sneaks in to roll him up to win the title. R-Truth blames Little Jimmy.
WWE Raw Women's Championship:
Asuka © vs. Zelina Vega
Asuka toys with Vega early on. They lock knuckles and Vega kicks the arm. Asuka recovers with a side headlock, dances a bit, and puts Vega in a headscissors armbar. Vega blocks a superplex, but Asuka knocks her off the apron. Vega pulls Asuka into the ring steps to gain her first advantage. Vega's submission heavy offense is fine, but I find myself staring at the stopwatch waiting for the Asuka comeback. Instead, Asuka reverses into an Asuka Lock for the sudden win at 7:07. Not much to this one, with no questions about the outcome due to Vega being so low on the pecking order, *¼.
Winner and still Raw Women's Champion: Asuka
Post-match interview with Asuka, who is forced to pretend that Vega is tougher than she is, but was still Not Ready For Asuka. Vega apparently offers some respect but then cheap shots, so I guess this is a real feud now.
United States Championship:
Bobby Lashley © (with MVP and Shelton Benjamin) vs. Apollo Crews (with Ricochet)
Speaking of matches with seemingly foregone conclusions, here we go again. Lashley wastes little time targeting Apollo's arm and wrist. Crews hits a clothesline over the ropes and springboard moonsault. Crews follows with an enziguri and high crossbody. Lashley shoves Crews shoulder-first into the buckles and hits a Flatliner for 2. Lashley's vertical suplex gets 2 and Crews rolls out for a breather. Crews desperately powers through a comeback and tackles Lashley off the apron. Enziguri by Crews and press slam into a standing moonsault, but Lashley kicks out! Lashley answers with a superplex for 2. Crews comes back with a standing SSP and Frog Splash for a good nearfall! Lashley is done messing around and hits a chokeslam and Full Nelson to win at 8:13! Considering I had no interest at the opening bell, these two agile powerhouses busted out a very good back and forth match. With some better booking, these guys could be valuable main eventers, ***.
Winner and still United States Champion: Bobby Lashley
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship:
Street Profits © (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) vs. Andrade and Angel Garza
Andrade and Garza are such losers that Zelina Vega quit being their manager, but here they are challenging for the tag titles yet again. Hot start for Street Profits, who look like they could win this in mere minutes until the challengers cut Ford off with a pop up kick. Ford takes rapid double team attacks but manages a back suplex on Garza. Quick hot tag to Dawkins, who cleans house with a flurry of power moves. Andrade cuts Dawkins off with a dropkick to the face. Dawkins hits Andrade with a spinebuster, but Garza tagged himself in and meets Ford at the top rope for a Spanish Fly and a 2 count. Andrade and Garza prevent Ford's tag and deliver a running boot to the corner. Dawkins gets another hot tag and hits Andrade with the Anointment to win at 8:17. Finish looked botched, as they likely had to call an audible to end it early due to Garza apparently suffering an injury. These guys are all extremely talented and maintained a blistering pace before the abrupt finish, **¾.
Winners and still Raw Tag Team Champions: Street Profits
Kayla Braxton interviews new 24/7 Champion Drew Gulak backstage. His first rule as a coach is "Always be alert" and couldn't help but seize his moment when R-Truth was vulnerable. Gulak offers his condolences to Akira Tozawa after being eaten by a shark, but R-Truth ambushes and takes back his title.
WWE Smackdown Women's Championship:
Bayley © vs. Asuka
Asuka is subbing for Nikki Cross, who either has COVID-19 or was exposed to someone who tested positive, and robbing us of a rerun from their match at Backlash. Bayley gloats on the mic about her forfeit win and offers a disingenuous open challenge, and celebrates prematurely before Asuka arrives. Asuka uses the element of surprise for a hot start, sending Bayley to ringside after a back suplex. Asuka uses an armbar to set up the Asuka lock but Bayley escapes and snaps her neck on the ropes. Back drop driver by Bayley gets 2. Asuka answers with a Codebreaker counter in mid-air. Bayley blocks a penalty kick and drops Asuka hard onto the apron. Asuka dodges a baseball slide dropkick an hits a German suplex on the floor! Bayley's blatant chair shots earn the DQ at 3:37! Good intensity while it lasted, boosted by the feeling that Bayley's title reign was in trouble, *¾.
Winner via DQ: Asuka
Sasha Banks ambushes Bayley from behind with a chair shot and unloads on her former best friend. Bayley saves herself by targeting Sasha's neckbrace and fetches another chair and kendo stick. Sasha blocks a chair shot and unloads kendo shots to Bayley's back. Bayley retreats and Sasha's neck is too hurt for a chase. Great middle chapter in this longterm feud.
WWE Championship (Ambulance Match):
Drew McIntyre © vs. Randy Orton
Drew out-brawls Orton in the early going. Orton kicks the bottom rope into Drew's groin and nails the hanging DDT. Orton prepares a death punt, but a masked Big Show somehow manages to sneak for a chokeslam through the announce table. Drew smirks batters Orton over to the ambulance. Orton fights back with a first aid chair. They brawl in and out of the ambulance. Drew cracks Orton's jaw into the open driver door and misses a Claymore that knocks the door off. Drew shakes off his fresh knee injury and hauls Orton backstage to kill some time. Orton throws the champ into a wall, but Christian sneaks in to beat him up in a staged catering area. Drew is limping but directs Orton back to the hood of the ambulance. Orton gouges the eyes and smack's the back of Drew's head into the windshield. They sloooowly fight on top until Drew gently falls off. Orton spends too much time lingering and Shawn Michaels sneaks in to hit SCM and push him off through a gimmicked staging area. Drew carries Orton to the ambulance but eats an RKO out of nowhere. Orton nearly shuts Drew in, but the champ squeezes out. Claymore connects but instead of winning right away, Drew can't help but drape Orton into position for a Death Punt. Drew slams the door shut to win at 21:35. This had it's moments, but largely played out in slow motion. Orton's numerous victims running in for some payback was cute, **¾.
Winner and still WWE Champion: Drew McIntyre
Ric Flair is revealed to be the ambulance driver and he gleefully drives Orton out of the Thunderdome.
The hype video for Roman vs. Jey is truly exceptional. They splice clips of Roman and the Uso's as kids with shots of Roman initially looking happy to be challenging against Jey and then finally bruising him. I daresay that Reigns has finally blossomed into a top star after only five years of struggling to get and stay over as a babyface. Also, using Jey as the first challenger for Reigns' newly won title is a great move given the circumstances. It caught fans offguard, the match is happening in an empty venue (so no need to worry about fans turning on the match or leaving early), and it allows Romans to showcase a truly nasty side of his persona. They've also made it clear that Jey is just happy to be here, which differentiates this from when JBL went from midcard tag team guy to main eventer overnight, or when Jinder Mahal abrupt shifted from JTTS to champion.
WWE Universal Championship:
Roman Reigns © (with Paul Heyman) vs. Jey Uso
I'm having major technical difficulties with my internet, so hopefully my grumpy mood doesn't interfere with my unbiased integrity as a pretend journalist who recaps wrestling as a hobby. Bell rings and they lock up, with Roman scoring first with a throwdown. Jey avoids a corner splash and showboats with some dancing. Well, he is Rikishi's kid. Roman answers with a hard clothesline for a close 2 count. Roman takes his time dismantling his poor cousin. Jey fires back with a desperate Samoan Drop for 2. Roman fires back with a Superman Punch. Roman gets another 2 count with an uppercut and looks annoyed that the match has to continue. Roman mouths off “You're trying to level up, but I live at this level” and slices Jey down with a knife edge chop. Jey desperately shoves Reigns into the buckles and then clotheslines him to ringside for a tope suicida! Back to the ring, Jey hits an enziguri to set up another suicide dive! Jey's high crossbody gets a good 2 count, as does a head kick! Roman fires back with a leg lariat. Jey reverses a spear into a roll-up and hits a superkick and frog splash but Roman kicks out! Jey suddenly seems to suffer a groin injury! A replay reveals that Reigns low blowed Jey while kicking out, which is actually a BRILLIANT heel move that I've never seen before. Spear by Roman, who pauses for more smack talk. Roman hits another spear, but continues to stall and toy with his cousin. The scene becomes ugly as Roman tells off the referee and continuously pummels a helpless Jey. Jimmy Uso limps in and tries to fire his brother out, but also seems ready to throw in the towel. Jey pleads for the match to continue, but Roman continues the beatdown, and Jimmy ends it with the towel. I'm not sure this match would have worked in front of a live crowd in 2020, so credit to them for taking advantage of the pandemic to tell a novel, personal story, and finally establish Roman Reigns as the undisputed top star in WWE. This match was a rousing success from a narrative standpoint, ****.
Winner and still Universal Champion: Roman Reigns
Jimmy shields Jey as Roman considers more violence. Jimmy is on the verge of tears as he tells Roman he's the champ and to leave Jey be. Roman puts on Jey's lei and stands tall as the biggest jerk in the land.
Final Thoughts: This was kind of a ho-hum PPV, but that main event was a home run. Not only do I care about Roman Reigns' title reign, but, get ready for this, I want to see who can take the title away from him! When the main event is good enough to make me forget about everything else about the show that annoyed me, I'd call it a win.
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