This year, SmackDown Live gets the opportunity and privilege to end 2017 with a PPV to culminate its storylines. Clash of Champions is a much-needed milestone for the brand to set the table for 2018, while RAW’s got to deal with having to improve its storytelling by not having a major show until the Royal Rumble in January.
The Blue Brand’s biggest storyline at the moment concerns the ongoing power struggle between SmackDown Live commissioner Shane McMahon and general manager Daniel Bryan, with the best friendship of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens driving the wedge between them. You’ll remember that it all began before Survivor Series, when McMahon took it upon himself to invade RAW in cold blood—and McMahon’s issues with the so-called Yep! movement began at Hell in a Cell when Zayn helped Owens.
While it seems a little undersold, their angle’s actually quite underrated just because of how nuanced the story is. Even though Zayn and Owens are the bad guys, it’s not as obvious at first glance just who the evil one is—Bryan appearing to side with the two would nominally make him villainous, but his convictions have a point. McMahon feuding with the two might paint him as the good guy, but he’s also slowly being painted as irrational as the weeks go by.
Let’s see how it’s all going down in our usual predictions, with a tight card:
Zack Ryder vs Mojo Rawley in a kickoff match
It’s midcard stuff like this that made me wish SmackDown had a second show to really maximize its roster. While the team broke up too soon, Ryder vs Rawley is a match that could low-key be better than it seems given enough time, and unfortunately one has to be in the kickoff. What happens here will depend on what plans they have for the two moving forward, and it’s not looking good. Rawley will probably beat Ryder here and move on, but I hope the opposite happens.
Winner: Mojo Rawley
Breezango vs the Bludgeon Brothers
Breezango’s Fashion Files have been losing some momentum for a while now, and the Bludgeon Brothers are on a roll. This isn’t too hard to predict.
Winner: Bludgeon Brothers
The New Day vs Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable vs Rusev and Aiden English vs The Usos (c) in a fatal four-way tag match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The low-key match of the evening, this fatal four-way matchup is actually quite interesting for the way it basically reshaped the status quo of the SmackDown tag team division. The addition of Rusev and Aiden English is a good way to maximize two midcard talents who’ve found a means to get themselves over, and that’s not even including the elite makeshift team of Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura (more on that later).
Anyway, given the nature of the match, this is anyone’s to win, but I’d like to see it be Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable to really cement their newfound heel status.
Winner: Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable (new SmackDown Tag Team Champions)
Bobby Roode vs Dolph Ziggler vs Baron Corbin (c) in a triple threat match for the WWE United States Championship
Is Bobby Roode magnetic enough as a babyface to carry this match? It doesn’t seem like the perfect combination of midcard guys, but let’s see. Given 15 or so minutes it should be a fun watch, but I don’t see Corbin letting go of the title just yet. He needs a stronger opponent.
Winner: Baron Corbin
Natalya vs Charlotte Flair (c) for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
This is a perfunctory rematch (that’s only a speed bump before Ruby Riott eventually challenges for the title) so we all know who’s gonna win this one.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs. Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan as special guest referees
And if Owens and Zayn lose this match, they’ll be fired from WWE, so it’ll be pretty clear who’s winning this match. The big question is who’s going to come out of this match the same, and how Owens and Zayn will be winning. Will Bryan finally jump ship? Will Orton or Nakamura turn coat and screw Shane McMahon over? This is the match to watch, and I hope it gets a lot of time to tell the story it needs to tell.
Winner: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
Jinder Mahal (with the Singh Brothers) vs AJ Styles for the WWE Championship
So here’s the sad truth—the India experiment didn’t really work as well as they thought they did, with attendance numbers not really spiking from Mahal’s title reign. That doesn’t mean, however, that they should give up on the Modern-Day Maharaja; he’s still a project that has some upside as long as he’s in there working hard with people he can really learn from. AJ Styles is one such mentor, the man unable to have a bad match.
It’s likely that SmackDown will move forward with Styles as its WWE Champion, especially if they’re building toward Styles/Nakamura for WrestleMania, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Mahal gets the title back on Sunday.
Winner: AJ Styles
Who do you have for Clash of Champions on Monday? Let’s talk about it in the comments! – Rappler.com