Roman Reigns is WWE Champion, ending the Fiend’s title run in a single week…and people aren’t up in arms.
About that specifically, I mean. I feel quite confident in saying that, among all the protests taking place in the United States and around the world right now, there are precisely zero motivated entirely by Roman Reigns winning the Universal Championship at Payback.
I myself, I’m tickled pink about it. Having sat through what seems like a decade of John Cena rising above hate time and time again, seeing Roman Reigns employ every dirty tactic in the book, call the referee “bitch”, and hit a nutshot to the Fiend, I am very content indeed.
Let’s see how I feel after tonight’s show.
Paul Heyman with a Promo-of-the-Year Candidate
It all kicks off, of course, with a recap of everything that I just said, and then the Big Dog himself comes out. His absurd canine holographic has been replaced by a giant image of Roman himself, which is certainly an ominous sight. Graves and Cole pepper words like “opportunistic” into the conversation as Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman make their way to the ring. Ah, the fickleness of commentators.
Heyman starts by denying his role in corrupting Reigns, claiming that it was instead Roman who reached out to him once he was tossed aside. He draws a similarity between Reigns’ experience and his own, arguing that both of them were ignored and dispensed with by the fans and WWE once their value had seemingly run out.
Paul then scolds the fans for getting behind either the Fiend or Braun Strowman as Champion, stating that they’re only capable of doing fiendish or monstrous things respectively. He claims that Roman fulfils every single quality that WWE has built itself on: family, tradition, legacy, responsibility, and accountability.
Heyman references the Triple Threat match from RAW that named Randy Orton as number one contender, and because Roman’s belt has to be bigger, better, and veinier than Drew’s, we’re going to have a Fatal Four-Way match tonight to name the challenger for Clash of Champions. Heyman refuses to even name the four contenders, as they don’t deserve to have their names spoken by him or Roman, which is a cold-blooded move if ever there was one.
Finally, Paul signs off with a variation on the traditional opening he used for Brock Lesnar. I’m both horrified and impressed that WWE has made me kinda, sorta eager for another match between Brock and Roman. In fact, I’m beginning to feel as though I’m in an emotionally abusive relationship with a billion-dollar wrestling company. Roman eventually speaks, stating that he did everything that he promised he would do at Payback. It doesn’t matter who he faces at Clash of Champions because he’s just going to show up and win.
That whole segment seethed with intensity. Paul Heyman as the mouthpiece and Roman Reigns as the simmering, unstoppable force standing beside him is just as impressive as Heyman’s alliance with Lesnar, and it’s made, in my opinion, even better by the undercurrent of menace that Roman’s able to project.
The four potential challengers are Sheamus, Big E, Matt Riddle, and King Corbin. Obviously, Big E and Riddle are most likely to win. Usually, I’d say that Big E would be the perfect choice, but I can see WWE taking more time with his build and protecting him more. In contrast, Riddle’s attitude, offence, and current position would allow him to give Reigns a stiff challenge while walking off a loss a little bit easier. At the very least, this looks like a grand old time in terms of the match itself.
Backstage, Roman runs into Jey Uso, who’s as excited for Reigns to be Champion as I am. Uso’s a little concerned about Paul Heyman’s presence, and Reigns is cordial yet standoffish. While I can definitely see Roman turning heel on his cousins, I’d quite like to see a scenario where face wrestlers were on good personal terms with a heel wrestler with whom they disagreed ideologically.
Okay, But Could Jon Morrison Cash In Now?
Heavy Machinery is here now, which is an interesting juxtaposition. I often read opinions and predictions about how WWE will likely take the briefcase off Otis and give it to a heel, but I’ve never agreed with that route. Firstly, because I think WWE needs to own its decisions rather than always taking the easy way out (and let’s not pretend that a heel with the MITB briefcase doesn’t write itself), and secondly because I feel like Otis’ character with an anytime-cash-in has a lot of potential. He doesn’t have to win the belt, but getting the drop on a tired Roman Reigns and getting two or three close calls before Roman manages to overcome him would be a supreme boost to his character.
Here come the Miz and Jon Morrison, Heavy Machinery’s opponents for the night. Otis and the Miz start the match, with Otis’ and then Tucker’s power offering a clear advantage over both Miz and Morrison. Morrison, in particular, is bounced around for your amusement, and both heels are tossed out of the ring as the commercial break starts.
Miz and Morrison start off in control of Tucker after the break. A tag to Otis turns the tide briefly, but Morrison puts Mr Money in the Bank down with a Disaster Kick before taking care of Tucker on the outside with the Moonlight Drive. Otis, your face in peril, hulks up, overpowering both Miz and Morrison before hitting Miz with the Caterpillar and then a Vader Bomb for the dominant victory!
That was an impressive outing, particularly with Otis doing most of the heavy lifting here. A Tag Team Championship run – finally – will hopefully be the result. 2.5 Stars.
And then Jon Morrison steals the Money in the Bank contract, which as long as Roman Reigns is Champion is little more than an invitation to have Otis murder and eat him. However you like to spend your Friday nights, Mundo.
Backstage, Big E is with Drew Gulak (who’s less suicidal than last week) and Lucha House Party (who are less quarrelsome than last week), excited because it’s Xavier Woods’ birthday. E’s also psyched up for the Fatal Four-Way match tonight.
A security bloke rocks up to tell Big E that Xavier Woods has arrived, and my bullshit meter just went haywire and exploded for some reason. At least Retribution is apparently focusing its efforts solely on RAW now, so he doesn’t have to worry about that.
Oh, it turns out that this was a trap set by Sheamus, who beats down and Brogue Kicks Big E before hitting him with White Noise on a car windshield. In any other career, Sheamus just got fired, arrested, charged and, let’s not be coy, found guilty of assault and grievous bodily harm. But instead, nothing’s going to happen to him other than his odds of becoming the number one contender probably going up by one third.
Look, I’m not saying that Retribution may not have had some kind of point…
Post-break, EMTs and security are looking on at the devastation caused by Sheamus’ second car-themed felony. I’m beginning to suspect that Sheamus actually has diplomatic immunity considering the number of things that he has not yet been arrested for. Kayla Braxton is on the scene, saying that Big E is being taken to the dreaded local medical facility.
And Sheamus is still there, because criminals always return to the scene of the crime and, in WWE, sometimes don’t even bother leaving it. His excuse was that he saw Big E and defended himself, and I’m just glad that this man hasn’t yet got his hands on a gun.
Switching gears, Michael Cole then describes Banks and Bayley vs Baszler and Jax as “maybe the greatest Tag Team Championship match in the history of this program”. There’s a lot to unpack there, starting with the possibility that Michael Cole is a pathological liar or has some kind of memory disorder where he doesn’t remember Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit vs Edge and Rey Mysterio on SmackDown in 2002. I’m not even claiming that that’s been the best one, either; I just know with a terrible certainty that it’ll be better than any match involving Nia “Higher Chance of Injuring You Than Most Professional Wrestlers” Jax.
I don’t know why WWE always tries to hype stuff up that, at its absolute best, will merely be good, possibly very good. It’s “Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” all over again.
We’re shown Banks and Bayley losing the titles before the former champs are interviewed. They seem confident that they’re going to regain the titles, and the interviewer needles Bayley about tapping to Shayna not once, nor twice, but thrice. This causes Sasha to leap to her defence and claim that Bayley is not only generally super, but her best friend.
Damn it, I’d just fixed my bullshit detector, and it randomly exploded again.
Kayla Braxton, meanwhile, has caught Adam Pearce and forced him to submit to an interview. Big E, strangely, has not had a Wolverine-esque recovery minutes after his accident. We’re getting a surprise fourth competitor, but before we learn anything, Paul Heyman arrives for a quiet, private word. The plot thickens (not a fat joke).
Sasha Needs New Knees
It’s Tag Team Championship time, and Bayley and Banks make their way to the ring. They’re followed by Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler. We get some commentary on the match from Shinsuke and Cesaro, and I like the fact that we’re seeing the men and women’s divisions take notice of each other more these days.
One BigMatchFeel ring announcement later, and the match is on. Nia and Shayna quickly disagree about who’s going to start, and Banks and Bayley try to jump them. The Champions, however, manage to suppress them, slamming them into the barricades. After the commercial break, Jax is in control of Bayley, ragdolling her around before tagging in Shayna.
The commentators talk up Baszler’s remorseless and merciless nature, which is what needs to be emphasised about her more than anything. Jax tags in and Banks distracts her and the referee, allowing Bayley to cut the big gal’s leg out from under her, making the quick tag to Sasha, who laces Nia with some quickfire offence.
Baszler makes a blind tag. Both Banks and Bayley, who tags in soon after, appear to be unaware of this, and the duo work together to powerbomb Nia onto the outside. Shayna tries to take advantage with the Kirifuda Clutch, but Bayley reacts quickly, countering with a back suplex to the Champion. Sasha tags in now, swapping in and out with Bayley to stomp the former NXT Champion in the corner.
A backstabber and a flying elbow keeps Shayna down but not out, and Banks tries to finish things off with a pair of running knees to Baszler on the apron. Shayna, however, dodges out of the way, leaving Sasha to blast the ring post with both knees, falling to the outside in agony. Banks tries to fight back into the match, but Baszler zeroes in on her legs, torturing Sasha until Bayley catches with her a Bayley-to-belly suplex, giving Banks some respite.
Sasha, her legs clearly giving her real trouble, applies the Banks Statement, only to have it broken up by Nia, who then tags in. Sasha is fighting and countering at every turn, but she’s unable to fend off Jax, who brings her up to the top rope for a Samoan splash. Bayley makes the save, dragging Banks off the shoulders of Nia, who wipes them both out with a flying crossbody, getting the pin.
This was a solid match (while not the greatest Tag Team Championship match in the history of the program), and it’s interesting that Bayley didn’t take sole blame for this loss. I was half-expecting a Sasha betrayal, but I’ve got faith in this story, and I’m interested to see where it goes next. 3 Stars.
Sasha is seen to by EMTs after the match. Been a busy night for them. Sasha reacts as anyone would to medical professionals trying to assess them, shoving them away. The commentary team says that Sasha is a “proud competitor” rather than a “petulant child” in response to this display. In the end, Bayley helps her out onto the apron…
…and starts kicking the hell out of her. And there’s the payoff. Oh, I have been waiting a long time for this, and it feels as good as I imagined.
Bayley unleashes a merciless attack on Sasha’s leg, slamming it into the steel steps and stomping all over it. Nobody tries to break this up, I assume because WWE security is as psyched to see this passive-aggression turn into ruthless aggression as I am.
Bayley looks to finish her assault by grabbing a steel chair and wrapping Sasha’s leg in it. Sasha, who clearly worries that the story will cool off too much if Bayley literally breaks her leg, kicks the Women’s Champion away. This earns her a knee to the head, a Rose Plant, and Bayley wrapping the steel chair on her throat instead, leaping off the top rope onto it to finally end the attack.
That local medical facility is getting a lot of business tonight.
The Helluva Kick Really is a Joy to See
Here’s Sami Zayn with what I still believe to be a counterfeit belt. He’s immediately irritated by not being announced as the Intercontinental Champion, making a whole big thing about it. He doesn’t get angry, mostly because Sami Zayn’s dwindling set of signature moves implies than most of WWE’s technical crew could put the boots to him.
Jeff Hardy finally arrives to end this bit, telling Zayn that if he wanted a title match, he only had to ask. This descends into the two of them yelling at each other before AJ Styles shows up to call himself the “uncrowned Intercontinental Champion”.
Jeff’s still happy to defend the belt against anyone, and this solution to all his problems causes Styles to jump Hardy. Zayn joins in the assault, so AJ decks him too. Hardy interrupts a Styles Clash to plant Styles with a Twist of Fate. He wants to deliver one to Sami too, but Zayn shoves Jeff into the corner before blasting him with a Helluva Kick.
Backstage, Tucker tells Otis that Miz and Morrison are nowhere to be found. Otis instead reveals that the contract was never in the briefcase in the first place; it’s in his lunchbox. Tucker asks what’s in the briefcase, and we get a description cut to Miz and Morrison opening the briefcase to reveal staplers, office supplies, and a sandwich.
Looking Forward to Some Twin Magic at Clash of Champions
It’s Fatal Four-Way time, and we’re told that the fourth man is, in fact, Jey Uso. Hello, thick plot. Matt Riddle shows up first, and then we’re shown Jey showing up to thank Roman for getting him into the match. Roman actually claims that Paul was responsible for putting Jey forward, saying that it’s time Jey got some “respect”. Yeah, fuck you, entire Tag Team Division. Roman makes a catty comment about Jey winning something on his own, that bitch.
Corbin arrives on his palanquin, shouting into a microphone that Jey’s inclusion in the match is “blatant nepotism”, but he doesn’t get much further before Riddle charges up the ramp, getting into a fight on the stage. Both men brawl before Sheamus shows up, getting involved. Jey joins them, and all we need now is a referee.
Before the match legally starts, we’re shown an episode of Firefly Fun House, where Bray talks about the loss of his Championship. He promises to reveal a “brand new friend” that’s joining the Fun House next week.
We’re then shown Nikki backstage. Alexa apologises for breaking her mug last week, hugging her before Cross can say anything more. Ramblin’ Rabbit is in the background, creepin’ on the ladies.
After the break, a referee is in the ring, having corralled the quartet into order, and allows them to start beating on each other in an orderly manner. Jey immediately knocks Corbin out of the ring, and Sheamus follows him, allowing Uso and Riddle to tee off against each other in the ring. Corbin disposes of Uso, joining Sheamus in the ring to work over Riddle.
Matt is traded for Uso as Sheamus and the King continue to divide and conquer. Riddle manages to surprise Corbin on the outside, briefly taking him out of the equation, before joining Jey in the ring to gang up on Sheamus. The faces run wild over the heels for a moment, only to get put down with a Deep Six and an Irish Curse backbreaker. Sheamus attacks Corbin from behind right afterwards, just to reinforce what a dick he’s being tonight.
After a commercial break, Sheamus is reigning supreme, taking on all comers until Riddle stuns him with a kick, working him over in the ring. Now Riddle stands tall, applying triangle choke to the Irishman, who powerbombs him before applying the Cloverleaf. Jey breaks that up with a superkick before delivering superkicks to everyone in the ring. Corbin counters a suicide dive with a big forearm, only to be dumped over the barricade by Sheamus and Cesaro, who are themselves taken out by a flying Uso.
Everyone’s down on the outside, but it’s Jey who gets up first. He struggles with Corbin, who manages to hurl him over the front row of crowd-display screens before turning his attention to Riddle. Riddle and Corbin end up in the ring, and Riddle manages to counter the End of Days, landing on his feet before Sheamus blasts Corbin with a Brogue Kick. Riddle gets Sheamus up on his shoulders, delivering the Bro 2 Sleep. Riddle hits the Floating Bro to Corbin, but is immediately caught by a Samoan Splash from Jey Uso, who wins the match!
The result was obvious from the moment they announced it, but these four put on a good match regardless, with a great ending sequence. 3 Stars.
After the match, Kayla interviews Jey Uso, who tells Roman Reigns that he made the family proud too. D’awww.
He’s going to die.
Tags: AJ Styles, Alexa Bliss, bayley, Bayley and Sasha Banks vs Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax, Big E, Big E vs Matt Riddle vs Sheamus vs King Corbin, Bray Wyatt, Cesaro, Heavy Machinery, Heavy Machinery vs Miz and Morrison, Jeff Hardy, Jon Morrison, King Corbin, Matt Riddle, Miz and Morrison, Nia Jax, Nikki Cross, paul heyman, Payback, Roman Reigns, sami zayn, sasha banks, Shayna Baszler, Sheamus, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown, The Miz, WWE