WWE heads into Houston, TX tonight as the path to Clash of Champions gets underway. Tonight, they will crown a new Universal Champion in a fatal four way match. Finn Balor was forced to vacate the title due to injury, so now Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, and Big Cass will battle it out. Who will win? Will WWE play it safe and go back to Reigns or Rollins, or will they take a chance with Kevin Owens? Is it too soon for Big Cass? What about Bayley – is she going to assert a claim to the Women’s Championship, or are they going to tell the underdog story and build her up?
Show Open, Live from the Toyota Center in Houston, TX:
They acknowledged the passing of Harry “Mr. Fuji” Fujiwara to open the show.
They rolled into a video package to recap last week’s show, then Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton checked in. Pyro shot off and Cole set us up for what was about to happen in the ring. The WWE Universal Championship was on a podium and the four men who would be competing for it tonight – Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, and Big Cass – sat on chairs.
Graves tried to give an introduction but Rollins cut him off and said that they wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for him causing Finn Balor’s injury, leading to the vacant title. Rollins said everyone knows he’s the favorite, so he would donate his time to someone who actually needed to talk and gave the floor to Kevin Owens. Owens called Rollins generous and thanked him.
Owens told Graves that he watches “Culture Shock” and uses it to help him sleep. There’s a ringing endorsement. Owens said he doesn’t know what will happen tonight, but “boy is it exciting.” That got a “Fight Owens Fight” chant. Owens assumed they wanted the four men to be nice to each other and decided that this sit-down segment would replicate a group therapy session. Owens said he could focus on what matters now that Sami Zayn is out of the picture. Rollins said he took credit for that injury too. Really playing into everyone calling him unsafe is Seth Rollins.
Owens said Rollins talks big, then mentioned Reigns. Reigns of course got booed, and Owens said Reigns fights hard, but so does he. “And Big Cass, you’re just really tall. Do you think that counts for something?” Cass said it does, and Owens was incredulous that Cass spoke for himself. He said he thought Cass had a string on his back and “that little idiot Enzo Amore pulls it.”
Cass asked Owens if Jericho wrote that line for him like he wrote the rest of his stuff while Owens was out buying scarves. “That’s not funny.” I thought it was hilarious. Sort of. Cass said he had nothing to lose because no one is expecting him to win. Rollins said he heard Enzo bet against him. Cass said he might be new, but he’s the biggest dog in the fight. Cass told Rollins that no matter what he tells himself, size matters.
Rollins said he was happy that the match will be under elimination rules (news to me?!) so he could take care of Cass, send Owens back to Jabroni Jericho, and finally it would be down to him and Roman. He said he beats Reigns every time. Rollins told Graves to ask Roman how he’ll change his plan to finally beat him.
Reigns stood up and teased saying something, but in the best move he could have made he punched Owens and threw Rollins down. He stared down Cass, but Rollins recovered and shoved Reigns into Cass. Reigns punched Rollins, cleared Cass, then Superman punched Rollins. He stared at the belt while Houston booed. I thought Houston would be kinder to him in what was otherwise a good opening segment to establish the main event.
Cole told us that Stephanie McMahon has ordered Paul Heyman to address Brock Lesnar’s SummerSlam actions. Can we blame roid rage? Sorry, too soon I know. Saxton hyped Chris Jericho vs. Neville for after commercial.
Match #1 – Neville vs. Chris Jericho;
Winner: Chris Jericho
The Summary: Neville got his entrance, and Tom Phillips got an interview with Jericho. He said everyone knows Owens will walk out as the new champion tonight. He called Neville a mighty mouse freak and set Tom up for the “it” routine. When Phillips said “it” though, Jericho called him an idiot and gave him the gift of Jericho, which I’m still not sure what it is but I bet it involves a scarf.
The commentary team made title match predictions while Jericho made his entrance. Graves picked Reigns and Saxton picked Cass. Which means Kevin Owens is winning. Maybe. Jericho took an early powder to primp his JonBon hair and yelled at ringside fans. Neville chased, threw him back in, then hit a high cross body block for two. Jericho hid behind the referee on his knees, then used the distraction to rake Neville’s eyes.
Jericho controlled the action, but Neville rallied with a standing shooting star press. Neville hit a nice springboard moonsault to the floor too. Neville ducked a Codebreaker and put Jericho down. Neville went top rope and looked for the Red Arrow, but Jericho moved. Neville rolled through on his feet then tried a huracanrana, but Jericho caught him and used the long-forgotten Lion Tamer to get the submission win.
Jericho has said before that he decided to use the Walls because it’s easier to slap on bigger wrestlers, but Neville’s size played into pulling that old hold out. A good opening match and Neville worked the guy that he was in with when he broke his ankle. The Mighty Mouse remarks were comical because of all the rumors of what WWE was going to do when they brought Neville up from NXT.
Bayley arrived backstage, and she saw New Day. They sang “Hey, we want some Bayley” to her, and she did their tag team championship hip swivel. Dana Brooke, who someone on Twitter gave credit to her for having “big old t*tties” (thanks for the Attitude Era commentary!) told Bayley she didn’t belong. New Day asked her who she beat last week, and she came back by saying she should go find Gallows and Anderson. New Day told her to bring it, then picked up Bayley to celebrate with her.
We got an ad for Backlash, which will feature Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. Should be a good match. I think Drew has your coverage for that. They aired the horrible Col. Dolph Sanders vs. Chicken Miz commercial.
Match #2 – Nia Jax vs. Hyan;
Winner: Nia Jax
The Summary: For those who don’t know, Hyan is Hyaneyoung Olvera. She’s an independent wrestler who also works for Geico. She should feud with Flo from Progressive. But anyhow, Jax squashed her straight away as they continue to make Jax look like a beast. Smart.
They ran a video package with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson in front of a green-screen image of a nursing home. They said they’re in the retirement business and referenced attacking the Dudleys last week. They said that they are playing table tennis, watching 3D movies, and reminiscing about when they mattered. Anderson said New Day should start preparing to retire as champions. He said they have a program that starts with Naughty Nurse Dana Brooke. Did I say that? Bad fan-fiction moment. Anyhow, she asked “where do we begin?” and snapped a glove on.
I can live with this. Brooke was not working with Charlotte (she worked best with Emma, IMO) so this is at least a little bit interesting. Anderson and Gallows as doctors though – just stop. At least there were no nut jokes this time.
They ran a Seth Rollins video package that included him beating Sami Zayn. He bragged about winning the match and going on to win the four-way and become the Universal Champion.
Match #3 – Sami Zayn vs. Jinder Mahal;
Winner; Sami Zayn
The Summary: They noted that Zayn was limping a bit to sell the issues from his match with Rollins. No televised entrance for Jinder, who shouldn’t be hindered. Graves talked about how he saw Zayn getting his ankle heavily taped in the trainer’s room. Zayn sold the ankle througout, but hit an exploder suplex and the Helluva Kick to get the win. Jinder has yet again been hindered.
I think it’s important to see that Jinder hasn’t been positioned really all that well. I don’t expect him to be a player, but yet they should have propped him up to mean something, so this way it means something when someone pins him. I did like the consistency of Zayn selling the ankle from last week to this week though.
The announcers hyped a six-person mixed tag coming up, as well as an update on Sasha Banks’ condition. They also ran an ad for the Cruiserweight Classic on Wednesday, with quarterfinals starting.
Charlotte joined the commentary team at the stage. Cole set up a clip of Sasha Banks updating her health which aired on the pre-show. She said she’s okay and won’t be out as long as Balor will be. Charlotte mentioned that both Ric Flair and Dana Brooke were not at ringside for her match at SummerSlam. “So what’s her excuse??” Charlotte asked.
New Day came to the stage then Bayley joined them. She was giddy when they gave her a unicorn horn and she ate some Booty O’s. Bayley hugged a couple young girls on her way to the ring. Charlotte called Bayley “a good kid” and asked why she didn’t debut when she, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch did. The heels came to the ring for the match.
Match #4 – Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and Dana Brooke vs. Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Bayley (w/Xavier Woods);
Winner: New Day and Bayley
The Summary: Bayley and Dana Brooke started the match and some light “We want Bayley” chants started. Dana tagged out to Anderson, so Big E tagged in and hit a suplex. Unicorn stampede time as Bayley clapped along. Bayley tagged in and hit a drop kick, and Brooke sold it too soon – Botchamania here we come. Woods played trombone as we went to break.
Anderson and Gallows isolated Kofi after the break. Kofi nearly made the tag but Gallows pulled E off the apron. Bayley got the tag instead and she went to work on Nurse Wretch…err…Dana…to get the finish and win.
The match was fine, and I liked how Bayley was awestruck by New Day because she’s a fangirl at heart, but the confident Bayley seems a bit off. I would rather have seen her get a reboot to a point where she comes off a little sheepish and a clear underdog. I’m guessing Dana and Charlotte really haven’t split because the commentary team kept saying how she is Charlotte’s protege.
Backstage, Cesaro talked about how Mick Foley promised a title shot to the winner of the best of seven series between him and Sheamus. Cesaro said Sheamus is a bully who likes to throw his weight around. Cesaro threatened to throw Sheamus “around and around and around and around.”
They showed a Smackdown ad where they showed footage of Miz dressing down Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack. Yup, that’s clearly a work now. The narrator said that Bryan will address Miz on Smackdown.
Graves offered congratulations to Fifth Harmony, the group that sang at Wrestlemania, for winning MTV awards. You know, the channel that 15 years ago used to be about music? Anyhow, they ran a video package about Big Cass to hype him up for the main event. I like these packages; they’re adding to the importance of the match.
Sheamus came to the ring for his match with Cesaro. Saxton tried to get a word, but Sheamus yanked the mic away and said that despite what Cesaro said, he’s desperate. He said Cesaro isn’t charming, witty or handsome like he is. Houston gave him the “What?” treatment, and Sheamus asked if the fans are deaf. No, they just like that awful Stone Cold gimmick from the early 2000’s. He asked how Cesaro will feel when he learns that Sheamus is better.
Match #5 – Cesaro vs. Sheamus; Match #2 in the Best of Seven (Sheamus up 1-0)
Winner; Sheamus (now up 2-0)
The Summary: Cesaro had early control with a drop kick, then sent Sheamus to the floor with a clothesline going to the break. Back live, there was this crazy spot where Cesaro charged, but Sheamus backdropped him into the ring post. It’s that new video board style ring post. Sheamus rolled him in and locked in the Cloverleaf for the submission win, while trainers checked on Cesaro.
That spot was pretty wild. Cesaro hit it on the side, and not the screen.
The broadcast team set up a tribute video for Mr. Fuji. The narrator mentioned that he was most well known for working with Yokozuna, but will be remembered as one of the most impactful characters in WWE history. We did get a brief clip of Demolition in the video, despite them being involved with the brain injury lawsuit against WWE.
Cole hyped the title match four-way and fed it to a video package for Kevin Owens.
Match #6 – Braun Strowman vs. Americo;
Winner; Braun Strowman
The Summary: Saxton tried to get an interview but Strowman’s music cut him off. Saxton asked again, but Americo froze. Strowman squashed him quickly with his chokeslam finish, then ripped his mask off and threw it at Americo.
They showed Stephanie McMahon walking backstage and being friendly, then aired a video package showcasing Tommaso Ciampa, Cedric Alexander, and Johnny Gargano for the cruiserweight division that comes to Raw on September 19.
Steph McMahon came to the ring and said they were moments away from crowning a new Universal Champion, but they needed to address the actions of Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. She said some people think she welcomed that behavior because she is competing with Shane McMahon, but that isn’t true.
Paul Heyman emerged and asked if she would indulge him for a moment. She said that isn’t what she’s there to do. She ordered him to get in the ring and apologize. Heyman got to the ring to “ECW” chants. Stephanie addressed it by saying she bought ECW years ago. That drew a CM Punk chant. No mention of his fight at UFC 203 though. Heyman told her Raw won when Lesnar won at SummerSlam.
Heyman conceded that Lesnar went too far and that’s why he was there, “hat in hand” to pay his client’s “most reasonable fine of $500.” Heyman pulled out a stack of cash and counted off money while dropping dollars in the ring. Stephanie knocked the money from his hand and said Lesnar provides value to Raw, and asked what value Heyman brought. She said she will avenge her brother, and a storm is coming and it’s coming his ugly way.
Heyman got mad and said that his client is the storm. He said his apology is eight days late and should be directed to Stephanie. Heyman said he knows they put her in a compromising position with Vince and the board of directors. Heyman mentioned the “female empowerment movement” and Steph quickly cut him off and called it a women’s revolution. “This is reality and you’re staring it right in the face.” She told Heyman he is staring into the face of the heir to the boardroom. Heyman said that Lesnar told him that Stephanie is the only rightful sole heir to the boardroom and family fortune.
Heyman begged Stephanie to accept this as a fine paid, a lesson learned, and an apology most sincerely delivered. “Apology accepted.” Stephanie said before leaving. Heyman smiled as Steph exited.
I’m not sure where this is going, and I don’t know that I care. Does it pay off with Lesnar vs. Shane somehow? I don’t need to, or want to, see that. The fine says that Stephanie is okay with Lesnar roughing Shane up, and that’s comical. Then at the end, Heyman seemed like he got one over on Stephanie. Weird dynamics.
They showed footage of Finn Balor getting injured at SummerSlam, then they talked about him undergoing surgery. Finn will be sidelined for six months. Cole hyped the main event, then they showed separate shots of Darren Young with Bob Backlund and Titus O’Neil backstage. Then they ran a Roman Reigns video package.
Match #7 – Titus O’Neil vs. Darren Young (w/Bob Backlund);
Winner: Darren Young
The Summary: Titus took an early powder to ringside. Moments later, Titus sent Young to the corner and he tumbled over the top and nearly wiped out a cameraman. Titus brought Young back in, slammed him, then talked trash to both men. Young caught O’Neil in the end with a crucifix pin. Backlund and Young celebrated, then Titus laid them both out and left them laying.
This feud’s pretty DOA in my opinion. Titus jawed at them with “how do you like me now” and I found myself waiting for him to break out in the full song by Toby Keith.
Backstage, Mick Foley told Stephanie that he should have had her back earlier. She said she can handle herself, but he still felt he should have been there. Mick said he wanted all friends and tag partners banned from ringside for the main event, and she agreed. Seth Rollins entered and said it’s been a long road back and he plans to bring home the title. Stephanie said they made him the number one draft pick, and tonight is his night. Rollins said he wouldn’t let her down.
Is there some reason that Stephanie is being forced into the middle of this show? Will Mick get the slap tonight?
The match is next. An NXT ad aired focusing on Shinsuke Nakamura’s reign beginning.
Steph and Foley stood at ringside, with Mick holding the belt. Reigns got his entrance first to a chorus of boos. A fan sign along the aisle said “If Reigns wins we riot.” Owens was next, then Seth Rollins.
Enzo and Cass were last. The duo did their entrance gimmick, and Cass said that he shocks the world tonight to become the new champion. He did the S-A-W-F-T bit and the crowd went along with it. JoJo did the in-ring introductions.
Match #8 – Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens vs. Big Cass vs. Seth Rollins; WWE Universal Championship, four way elimination rules
Winner: Kevin Owens to win the WWE Universal Championship
The Summary: At the bell, Owens started out on the floor. The faces cleared Rollins out, then stood face to face only to have the heels attack them. The babyfaces squared up again and traded punches, with fans cheering Cass and booing Reigns. Cass ran the ropes and knocked Reigns to the floor with a big bot. Rollins ran the ropes and hit a dive. Owens scooped Rollins up and dropped him on the barrier. Reigns dove on Cass and Owens going to a break.
After a break, Owens acknowledged Foley then dropped a Cactus Jack elbow off the barricade on Cass. Foley gave him “bang bang” gesture. Rollins pulled Owens to the floor later, then worked on Cass in the ring. Reigns cut off Rollins, then Owens returned and ate a clothesline. Cass dropped Reigns with a big boot.
Rollins and Owens bounced off of shoulder blocks, then he followed with splashes on both men. Cass hit Owens with a big boot and sent him off the apron. Cass mugged but got rolled up by Rollins for two. Cass hit the Empire Elbow and had Rollins up, but Reigns hit a Superman punch. Rollins hit a superkick on Cass for two, then Owens followed with a frogsplash to eliminate him.
Big Cass eliminated by Kevin Owens.
I think Cass looked okay in there. Will be very interesting to see how the crowd reaction shifts now.
After the break, the remaining three men set up a tower of doom spot that Rollins was on top of and Reigns was the base. Reigns covered both heels for two counts. There was a light “this is awesome” chant. Reigns threw clotheslines at Owens, who ducked, but Owens ate a big boot to boos.
Rollins tried for the Pedigree a bit later, but Reigns backdropped out of it and sent Rollins to the apron. Rollins hit a kick then went up for his flying knee, but Reigns hit him with a Superman punch in mid air for a good near fall. “This is awesome” chants grew. Reigns set up for his spear but the fans started booing. Rollins cut him off.
Owens got back in the match and landed cannonballs, then took a Superman punch for another good near fall. Mick and Steph applauded. A bit later, Rollins tried for the Pedigree on Reigns, but Reigns slammed him down for two. Reigns hit a drive-by on Rollins, then hit another Superman punch on Owens.
Reigns speared Rollins. Triple H showed up (?!?!?!?) and he hit Reigns with a Pedigree. Hunter picked him up, yelled at him and threw him in the ring. Rollins covered to eliminate Reigns.
Seth Rollins eliminated Roman Reigns (with an assist from Triple H)
Triple H grabbed Owens and tossed him in. Hunter got in the ring and Cole talked about how Rollins was in the pocket of the Authority. Triple H turned and kicked Rollins, looked at Owens, and hit Rollins with a Pedigree. Owens covered and scored the win. Afterward, Hunter went to ringside and got the belt and handed it to Owens and raised his hand.
Owens dropped to his knees, then celebrated with the belt. Hunter held his arm up again and the two took a lap inside the ring. Hunter left the ring to Owens, and Cole pointed out that Stephanie was shocked and Foley was livid. Owens celebrated as fans chanted “you deserve it” to end the show.
Congrats to Kevin Owens. He’s the right guy and this is the right time for him. I felt like going back to Rollins or Reigns was “been there done that” and I think Reigns needs some rebuild time before thrusting him back to the top of the card. If Hunter comes out and helps Rollins win, then that cheap finish gets everyone in an uproar. A tainted win like this for Owens fits his character, and he has the skill set to make this all work. A solid finish.
The rest of the show, though, was just there. It was a marathon to get to the main event, hence all of the miscellaneous humor you got in our coverage tonight. I thought the main event was really good, up to the interference. Everyone delivered. Cass is showing that he will be a big time player in time. Now is not his time though. Owens feels fresh, and I think he’s got the mic skills and in-ring work to help give the title value. WWE has to get behind him though and give him that sense of credibility.
I look forward to seeing where Triple H fits into things. Will we get a Rollins/Triple H feud? Will we get a double turn between Triple H and Rollins, or will Reigns factor into this somewhere? A lot of curious questions going forward.
Drew Koscelek will be by tomorrow with Smackdown Live and Around the Ring. We’ll get back together on Wednesday for Ring Rap Audio and post so much more print content all week long here on Ring-Rap.com. Thanks for following along.