SmackDown Live returns to pay-per-view this Sunday with Clash of Champions with the theme of every title on the brand being defended. While not every championship match has the pop or allure that you’d hope for, the card still boasts some must-see drama and a bit of controlled chaos to look forward to. It may not end the year with the best pay-per-view WWE has put out, especially considering the event of the year (to be revealed soon in our end of the year awards), but it will put a fun cap to 2017 as the road to WrestleMania 34 is becoming clear.
Kickoff Match: Zack Ryder vs Mojo Rawley
It’s sad that SmackDown Live didn’t even give this feud a passing nod this week, but the match remains significant nevertheless. After The Hype Bros continued to falter since Ryder’s return from injury, Mojo finally lost his cool a few weeks back and snapped on his now former partner. Mojo’s attack was vicious, and has given his character the boost that many hoped his winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33 would. Mojo is clearly the favorite going in, as he could launch a meaningful heel run with a strong showing against the veteran Zack Ryder.
Predictions: Mojo Rawley (Patches, Craig, Josh, Jake, Toby, Ben, Liam, Gur, Andrew), Zack Ryder (Keegan, Jaime)
Breezango vs The Bludgeon Brothers
It seemed for months that The Fashion Files were doomed to anticlimactic endings, and none feels more like a cop out than this one. SmackDown Live showed a glimpse of a Fashion Files segment that implied Breezango would face The Bludgeon Brothers and directed fans to YouTube or WWE.com for more. Of course, the truth of that segment is that The Bludgeon Brothers are revealed to have been behind the attacks on Breezango, and this is why Breezango must face them. Based only on SmackDown, the whole things feels pointless. While this match should be fun, it seems like a clear attempt to move past the mismanagement of the reveal in The Fashion Files and give The Bludgeon Brothers another dominant win without much effort being given to the story. It’s a shame, really.
Predictions: The Bludgeon Brothers (Patches, Craig, Josh, Jake, Toby, Keegan, Ben, Liam, Gur, Jaime, Andrew)
United States Championship Triple Threat Match: Baron Corbin (c) vs Bobby Roode vs Dolph Ziggler
Speaking of things that feel like a cop out, can anyone explain why Dolph Ziggler is in this match? Even he seems unsure, and his presence has only really been explained by reiterating his past accomplishments. He feels more like a plot device to extend and add a layer to the Corbin vs Roode feud, but a pretty poorly implemented one at that. Roode still feels like a mismatch as a babyface character, Corbin’s title reign feels relatively meaningless thus far, and Ziggler hasn’t been relevant since he feuded with The Miz. Even with all of this considered, this could be a great match. Ziggler’s in-ring skill still holds strong, Corbin is nestling into his role as a heel champion, and Roode can practically do no wrong. This match should be fun, despite the story not helping it along.
Predictions: Baron Corbin (Craig, Josh, Jake, Toby, Keegan, Ben, Gur, Jaime), Bobby Roode (Patches, Liam)
SmackDown Women’s Championship Lumberjack Match: Charlotte Flair (c) vs Natalya
In yet another edition of “forced plot device”, I’m sensing a theme here, we’ve got a clash between Charlotte Flair and Natalya that seems to have little to do with Charlotte or Natalya. Despite the wrestling history innate in pitting a Flair against a Hart, the match seems more about those not involved. Just after Survivor Series, we saw the debut of The Riott Squad as they interrupted the last championship match between Charlotte and Natalya. They’ve continued to make statements since arriving, and have dominated the story more than this impending title match. On top of that, we’ve still got the looming threat of Carmella’s Money in the Bank contract, to the point that you’ll see below one prediction is for Carmella to cash in during the match and end up victorious. Add to that the presence of the rest of SmackDown Live’s women’s division on the outside, and this will surely descend into mayhem at some point.
Predictions: Charlotte (Patches, Craig, Josh, Jake, Toby, Ben, Liam, Gur, Jaime, Andrew), Carmella via mid-match cash-in (Keegan)
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Fatal 4-Way Match: The Usos (c) vs The New Day vs Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin vs Rusev & Aiden English
It’s likely the most highly anticipated championship match of the night, and we can expect what could only be described as controlled chaos. With one member of each team in the ring at a time, it’ll be a fitting cap to what has been a mostly impressive tag team division throughout 2017. While the neverending rivalry between The Usos and The New Day dominated most of the year, Gable & Benjamin are one of many teams that have filled in the gaps to keep the division strong. On top of that, the fresh pairing of Rusev and Aiden English feels natural while still being a welcome shift. The mixed predictions show the natural unpredictability of a match like this, but when you cram this many high-quality talents in a match you’re guaranteed some fun.
Predictions: The Usos (Toby, Keegan, Liam, Andrew), Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin (Patches, Jake, Ben), Rusev & Aiden English (Craig, Josh, Gur, Jaime)
Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn (Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan as special guest referees; Owens & Zayn are fired from WWE if they lose)
The show may be called Clash of Champions, but SmackDown Live has been “The Sami & Kevin Show” for weeks it seems. The issues between Owens and Shane McMahon were only exasperated after their unforgettable collision inside Hell in a Cell, and Sami Zayn’s sudden presence as Kevin’s guardian angel has been a breath of life into his character. As the snarky sidekick, Sami excels, but it seems Sami and Kevin’s snark has gotten them into hot water once again. Not only are they facing an amazing team in Orton and Nakamura, but a loss will put an end to their careers. Of course, none of us believe that will happen. With Daniel Bryan now as a second referee (Shane McMahon being the first), it’s become a question of just how this power struggle will play out. It seems clear that Owens and Zayn will escape with their careers intact, but the fact that I’m chomping at the bit to see just how that happens proves how compellingly told this story has been.
Predictions: Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn (Patches, Craig, Josh, Jake, Toby, Keegan, Ben, Liam, Gur, Jaime, Andrew)
WWE Championship Match: AJ Styles (c) vs Jinder Mahal
The last championship match of the night might be the least interesting. Jinder Mahal’s title reign was uninspiring, at best, and disastrous, at worst. The Modern Day Maharajah still finds himself assisted by the presence of The Singh Brothers. While there were hints dropped on SmackDown that they won’t be at ringside, they’ll surely attempt to interfere in some way. As AJ has proven, he can handily defeat Mahal if he can mitigate that interference. Even in a loss, Mahal can prove his in-ring skill with a strong showing here. Plus, a win by AJ makes him champion heading into WrestleMania-season, which I think most fans would prefer. The Jinder experiment was something different, but he’s in no way ready to take a top spot on the card at the biggest show of the year. Hopefully, this will knock Jinder down a peg and let him rebuild over time while AJ moves on to a more interesting opponent.
Predictions: AJ Styles (Patches, Craig, Josh, Jake, Toby, Keegan, Ben, Liam, Gur, Jaime, Andrew)
What are you hoping to see at Clash of Champions? Let us know in the comments below!