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Cousin Versus Cousin – WWE ‘Clash of Champions: Gold Rush’ – September 27th, 2020 Review

11 min read

Remember when this was all a bit novel? It has been more or less exactly six months since WWE brought some sort of approximation of WrestleMania to us all from the Performance Centre in Florida. America's abject failure to even begin to handle COVID-19 means that WWE is still pushing forward without an in-person audience, though the WWE ThunderDome idea has brought back at least a smidge of that normality.

, as always, was due to see every title in the company defended. With a handful of competitors not “medically cleared” – the dirt sheets have suggested the virus might be involved – the pay-per-view featured almost every belt on the line. With some interesting clashes on the card, and the ever-present threat of RETRIBUTION lurking, the stage was set for a potentially excellent show – even if the New Normal remains a sad, muted version of the art form we all know and love.

First off, here's how we predicted it would all play out.

Kick-Off: SmackDown Tag Team Champions & defeated via swing-knee combo

Clash of Champions: Lucha House Party vs. Nakamura and Cesaro

Lince Dorado and Cesaro started off the match, but things kicked up a gear when Kalisto came in with a big splash of his partner's shoulders. Soon, though, the champions won back control by isolating Dorado away from his buddy. A sunset bomb on Cesaro briefly created space, but a big boot by the Swiss Cyborg prevented the tag. It took a long time for Dorado to finally find his opening, allowing Kalisto to immediately flatten Cesaro with an incredible tilt-a-whirl DDT. Back in the ring, Cesaro blocked an attempt at Salida Del Sol and subjected Kalisto to the Swing, which came to an abrupt stop thanks to a match-winning knee by Nakamura.

This was exactly the sort of all-too-brief competence fans have come to expect from WWE pre-show bouts. No one looked bad, but no one looked particularly good either. The ongoing angle of tension between Kalisto and his partners went absolutely nowhere and the champions retained without much fanfare. There was nothing overtly wrong with this, but here's hoping there's more excitement coming in the main show.

Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: defeated and

Clash of Champions: Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match

This was chaotic from the start, with Sami Zayn the first to gain control after battering both his opponents with ladders. He soon took a nasty backdrop on to a ladder and an even nastier Irish Whip from Styles that caused him to bounce in the air and land on the steel twice, raising a collage of purple welts on his back. Meanwhile, Hardy took a rough bump on to the supports of the ladder. Not for the last time in this match, it was a risk no 43-year-old should be taking.

All three men took turns using the barricade to their advantage, with Zayn coming out on top after a Helluva Kick almost beheaded Hardy. As Zayn climbed the ladder, though, Styles threw a tiny ladder at him from the floor, almost breaking the self-proclaimed champion's hand. Hardy and Styles both climbed, only for the Team Xtreme member to sacrifice himself by tipping over the ladder. Styles tried a Phenomenal Forearm, but Hardy tipped a ladder to stop him in mid-air. Hardy then took his second obscene bump of the night, falling backwards off a ladder on to the apron and then to the floor, tangled in the metal as he fell.

Zayn and Styles scuffled over a ladder bridge, between the apron and the announce table. It was Hardy, though, who would punish Zayn with a Swanton Bomb from another ladder, crashing through the bridge. Bizarrely, Zayn fought back into the match just a few minutes later and grabbed handcuffs from his coat. He hooked one end of the cuffs through Hardy's stretched earlobe piercing and attached the other to a ladder, effectively nullifying Hardy – or so he thought, as the champ made his way back to the ring with what was essentially a ladder earring in tow.

Zayn attempted to cuff Styles to the ropes, but only managed to get the Phenomenal One's wrist. When Styles hit a suplex, though, Zayn managed to attach the other end of the cuff to himself. This forced Styles to climb with his opponent on his shoulders. As Hardy re-entered the ring and scuffled with Styles, Zayn produced the key and freed himself, cuffing Styles halfway up the ladder and clearing his path to the titles.

There aren't enough superlatives in the world for this ladder match. These three men, who remarkably have an average age of 41, delivered all of the demolition derby thrills and spills audiences have come to expect – with Hardy going the extra mile. The finish, then, was one of the more creative in years. Handcuffs are usually a cheap booking ploy, but here they served their purpose of making Zayn look like a wily genius with tricks up his sleeve.

RAW Women's Champion defeated via Asuka Lock

Clash of Champions: Asuka vs. Zelina Vega

After a weird and limp segment in which Drew Gulak pinned R-Truth to win the 24/7 Championship, the women of RAW made their way to the ring. There was some controversy when this match was originally announced for the kick-off show and it was promoted when it became clear the other women's bouts on the main card would have to be cancelled. It was a brief encounter for the cocky champion who, after briefly suffering as a result of a well-targeted left arm, managed to tap out the smart Vega with the Asuka Lock.

This contest only went a little over five minutes and felt as if it was sacrificed in order to cool the fans down after the incredible ladder match. Both women deserve better and, given the chemistry they were able to show during this brief outing, they can do far more. Vega hit a cheap shot on Asuka after the bell, so it seems like they will get another chance to wow the WWE Universe.

US Champion defeated via Hurt Lock

Clash of Champions: Apollo Crews vs. Bobby Lashley

In a feud that seems as if it has been dragging on with no forward momentum for more or less the entire length of this pandemic – i.e. seemingly forever – Lashley struggled with Crews' speed and athleticism in the early going. A flatliner fought the champion back into the contest until Crews sent him into the post. He hit an enzuigiri, followed by a monstrous gorilla press and a standing moonsault, just getting a two-count. A superplex from the champ also only managed a near-fall and Crews failed to win with a standing shooting star press, followed by a frog splash. A big slam counter from Lashley was followed by the Full Nelson or Full Lashley or Hurt Lock or whatever it's called today. Crews tapped immediately.

Dare we hope that this brings the feud to an end? Much like just about everything on RAW, this feels like a placeholder that has been left on the show for far too long. Hurt Business are involved with RAW Underground and the RETRIBUTION story arc, so it's not clear why they're also trapped in this interminable and deeply uninteresting feud with Crews and Ricochet.

RAW Tag Team Champions defeated and via spinebuster

Clash of Champions: Street Profits vs. Andrade and Garza

Speaking of endless feuds, these two were at it again. The challengers, who have been on the verge of splitting for weeks, were on the same page as the match began. Angelo Dawkins, though, made the hot tag and started throwing around suplexes and strikes. A dropkick from Andrade ended the flurry and Garza made a blind tag, followed by a stunning top rope Spanish Fly to Ford. Dawkins came in off another hot tag and flattened Andrade with a spinebuster. The challenger clearly kicked out of the subsequent pin, but the referee rang the bell anyway.

This was a fun sprint of a match that ended very strangely and abruptly, with some theorising that an apparent hip or knee injury to Garza led to them changing the finish on the fly. That may well be true, but Andrade clearly didn't know about the new finish and, judging by his anger at winning, Dawkins didn't either. The result was an ugly mess at the end of a contest that was shaping up to be a lot of fun.

WWE announced a draft for the RAW and SmackDown brands on 9th October and 12th October. Backstage, Drew Gulak was battered around the head by R-Truth with the dish he was apparently using to pan for gold. The pay-per-view is called “Gold Rush”, so he was also dressed as a prospector… because comedy.

made her way to the ring with a chair in hand and laughed a little at how Nikki Cross was unable to compete. She said she was issuing a challenge and, when nobody answered, she instructed the referee to ring the bell. At that point, though, Asuka's music hit.

Asuka defeated SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley via DQ, so the champion retained

Clash of Champions: Bayley and Sasha Banks

Asuka fought into the contest with a swift offensive flurry and a German Suplex. Bayley went to the injured left arm but found a dive countered into a codebreaker. An errant baseball slide from Bayley was met with a kick and another German Suplex on the floor. Bayley grabbed a chair and hit Asuka in the gut, drawing a disqualification. Her assault on Asuka, though, was interrupted by a returning Sasha Banks, who slammed a chair into the back of her former best friend.

Bayley went right to Banks's injured neck to prevent the beating and brought weapons into the ring. Banks fought back and delivered a flurry of kendo stick shots to Bayley, exacting a degree of vengeance for the attacks in recent weeks. Bayley was able to squirm away before too much damage could be done, but she looked stunned at the brazen assault.

And she's not the only one who was stunned. This is far too early to pull the trigger on the return of Banks, given the severity of her apparent injuries. WWE has been building this rivalry since at least the summer of 2018 and so it makes absolutely no sense to rush into it now. One suspects that the fact Hell in a Cell is the next pay-per-view event has put this on something of an accelerated trajectory. As for the match, it was a disappointment even as a contest thrown together at the last minute.

Ambulance Match: WWE Champion defeated

Clash of Champions: Ambulance Match

Presumably, the show was running short at this point, as Randy Orton walked to the ring like a man who always thought the Undertaker moved with a bit too much energy. The match was a slugfest from day one and, after a low blow, Orton readied for the Punt Kick. A returning Big Show grabbed the Viper's foot to prevent it, avenging his own run-in with the Legend Killer, and choke slammed him through the announce table. McIntyre dragged Orton over to the ambulance and threw him into the back door. Both men ended up in the ambulance and, after Orton kicked McIntyre away, the champion responded with a sickening Glasgow Kiss headbutt that the challenger sold with a string of drool.

McIntyre readied for the Claymore, but Orton avoided it and McIntyre kicked the driver's door of the ambulance off its hinges, injuring his own knee. The pair brawled into the backstage area and Christian – another of Orton's victims – got involved to put McIntyre back in control. Orton slammed McIntyre on to the windscreen of the ambulance, cutting up the champion's back, and they brawled to the top of the vehicle. Orton forced McIntyre down, only for Shawn Michaels to appear and avenge his own attack with Sweet Chin Music and a push of the ambulance through some staging.

The champion tried to take advantage and force Orton into the ambulance, only for the challenger to hit an RKO on the concrete. Orton threw McIntyre into the ambulance, but he blocked the doors before they could be closed. McIntyre cracked the challenger with the Claymore and threw him into the ambulance but, before closing the door, he draped Orton out of the ambulance to punt him in the head. Orton victim Ric Flair showed up to drive the ambulance out of the arena, promising not to break the speed limit.

This was a fun contest, even if the string of cameos felt a little silly and rather detracted from McIntyre's achievement. Strangely, it seems as if the match was designed to put a neat bow on Orton's storyline over the course of this summer. That would be a shame, given the form this particular incarnation of Orton has been in. There's plenty more life in The Legend Killer Mark II yet.

Universal Champion defeated via Jimmy Uso throwing in the towel

Clash of Champions: Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso

Emotions ran high in this match from the start, with a new-look Reigns – topless rather than wearing his usual tactical vest – talking trash as he out-muscled his cousin. Commentary discussed how Uso was out of his depth as he was repeatedly rocked with some truly vicious right hands from the champion. Reigns shouted that Uso “should have laid down” as he inflicted more and more punishment until Uso found an opening to send Reigns shoulder-first into the post. He hit a string of suicide dives, followed by a superkick that got a desperately close two-count.

Reigns hit a new leg lariat on Uso and readied for the Spear, which the challenger counted into a near-fall and then managed to hit the superkick and the Uso Splash for another two-count. As Reigns kicked out, however, he delivered a surreptitious low blow and grinned devilishly before felling his opponent with a Spear. He declined to pin, demanding his cousin acknowledge him as the Tribal Chief. When a defiant Uso continued to refuse, Reigns hit another Spear and delivered a brutal barrage of forearms to the back of his opponent's head.

An injured Jimmy Uso limped to the ring with a towel and, despite Jey's protestations, he threw it into the ring, putting an end to Reigns's assault by putting his body protectively in the way as the bell rang. Reluctantly, Jimmy acknowledged Reigns as the Chief as the champion and Paul Heyman stood tall to end the show on a really quite brilliant downbeat note.

This is the Roman Reigns we should've seen years ago. The final minutes of this match were violent, uncomfortable and downright awful to watch – in the best possible way. It was reminiscent of the considerably less brilliant ending to WrestleMania 33, in which Reigns continuously delivered Spear after Spear to a visibly crumbling Undertaker. The end of that match set the Big Dog up as a potential A-grade heel, but the company never followed through on it. This time, they're all-in. It's the best booking decision they've made in a long time.

Verdict

This was a fairly ordinary WWE show, albeit one elevated by an exceptional ladder match and two very well-booked main-event bouts. Clash of Champions felt like the start of a new chapter going into the winter and then on to Royal Rumble, with Reigns finally emerging as the despicable villain he should have been years ago and McIntyre bringing Orton's reign of terror to an end. The undercard was a little disappointing, but that's a nitpick for a show that did a great deal of stuff right.

All images and videos courtesy of WWE.com

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