This Sunday will feature WWE’s fourth iteration of Clash of Champions, a spiritual successor to their own original event Night of Champions.
Clash of Champions is a gimmick PPV supposedly meant to be special as it was the only PPV guaranteed to have every active championship defended (which might be why 2017 was Smackdown-only as Lesnar was Universal Champion on Raw and didn’t fancy defending it).
Though not remembered as one of their most critically lauded events, here are several of the best matches from previous years for your viewing purpose below.
Night Of Champions 2012
WWE Championship Match
CM Punk (c) w/Paul Heyman vs. John Cena
With a history built on special matches between the two, including their infamous classic at the previous year’s Money In The Bank, Cena and Punk were renowned for bringing the best out of each other. While that encounter had Punk as the hometown hero, here he was the villainous champion willing to keep his WWE Championship through any means possible. 300 days into his title reign, the ‘Straight Edge Superstar’ was defending against Cena in his own hometown.
A hard-fought battle between two rivals that encompassed nearfalls as Punk demonstrated an answer for all of Cena’s attacks, the crowd were heavily involved throughout. Punk’s heelish antics are entertaining and the range of moves from both sides impressed. The only disappointment is the needless ‘Dusty Finish’ at the end of the match, but that doesn’t detract from the overall bout, especially if watched out of context.
Night Of Champions 2014
United States Championship Match
Sheamus (c) vs. Cesaro
An underrated slobberknocker of a match that featured two tough, physically powerful men who surprised many with the best match of the night. Cesaro had recently won the inaugural Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal and was growing in popularity for his superhuman strength, deceptive pace and seeming inability to have a bad match.
Sheamus meanwhile entered this match as U.S. Champion, but quickly came under pressure from Cesaro’s offense and barely survived throughout. With Cesaro having an answer for every Sheamus attempt, this hard hitting battle seemed primed for a Cesaro victory. However, a resilient Sheamus would surprise many with an unexpected Brogue Kick to finally put Cesaro away.
If you ever wonder why Cesaro regularly gets named as a possible future World Champion, this match should remind you.
Night Of Champions 2014
Chris Jericho vs. Randy Orton
One of three non-title matches at Night of Champions 2014, this bout featured two veterans who hit the ground running with tremendous pace, quickly getting the crowd invested. From there, they transitioned into an enjoyable match full of their classic signature moves, utilising counters galore to put the audience on edge.
After a tremendous nearfall off the Codebreaker, Orton deceived Jericho with a pretend injury and hit an RKO to Jericho as he jumped off the top rope. With both men currently at the top of their game for AEW and WWE Raw respectively, it might be enjoyable to roll back the years and see them battle one another.
Night Of Champions 2015
Six-Man Tag Team Match
The Wyatt Family vs. Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose & Chris Jericho
Originally marketed as a six-man tag team match with a surprise partner for Reigns and Ambrose, this feud was originally designed as an introduction for Bray Wyatt’s newest member of the Wyatt Family, the monstrous Braun Strowman. With Jericho, Reigns and Ambrose focusing on the underrated and underappreciated Luke Harper, the build-up culminated in Strowman demolishing his opponents.
The final third has tremendous pace and allows all six to impress, but in the end, the collective teamwork of the Wyatt Family defeated the mismatched heroes. An enjoyable match that protected the green Strowman, it’s fascinating to see the development of Strowman in comparison to today.
Night Of Champions 2015
United States Championship Match
Seth Rollins (c) vs. John Cena
With Seth Rollins entering the event as double champion, the pressure was on him to survive two huge title defences, including WCW Legend Sting challenging him for his WWE Championship.
Beforehand, Rollins and Cena followed their good match from SummerSlam that was unfortunately overshadowed by the interference from Jon Stewart (yes, The Tonight Show) with an even better battle.
Displaying his arrogance and power game throughout, Rollins rose to the occasion by countering and dominating the challenger. However, Cena’s intensity and resilience proved too much for the champion, as Cena cleanly pinned Rollins to regain the championship he lost. With crisp chemistry in an engrossing battle, this match cemented Rollins as a main event talent.
Clash Of Champions 2016
Best-of-Seven Series Match
Sheamus (3) vs. Cesaro (3)
While usually I’d be determined to avoid having repeat matches on a list, it’s an overall testament to the quality of the two competitors involved that they appear again. It’s even more surprising considering that despite being packaged as the final match in their Best-of-Seven Series, it actually ended as a no contest. This was supposedly due to Cesaro damaging his arm, and Sheamus struggling to stand.
However, this match epitomises not only the series as a whole, but the individuals involved. Described as “physical, exhausting, competitive” by Michael Cole, and combining combustible action through a perfectly-paced affair, this match is impossible to ignore. Full of intensity and violence, this was good enough to main event any show.
Clash Of Champions 2017
WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship
The Usos (c) vs. The New Day vs. Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable vs. Rusev & Aidan English
Since the incorporation of the latest brand split in 2016, Smackdown has demonstrated some of the finest tag team action in the history of WWE, epitomized by the wars between The Usos and The New Day.
This match is a wondrous snapshot of the WWE tag team division, especially when compared to today. It’s interesting to see where several of these wrestlers are now, with Kofi a former WWE Champion, Jey Uso challenging his cousin Roman for the Universal Championship, Shelton Benjamin part of the hottest heel act, and Rusev Day no longer existing.
A hectic and wild match with four wrestlers in at all times, the crowd were strongly behind Rusev and English from the start, invested in their nearfalls. However, all four teams impressed, with The Usos eventually surviving despite the odds, Rusev’s fury and Gable’s relentless suplexing galore. As a tag team title defence, this match is a true hidden gem with an exciting pace throughout.
Clash Of Champions 2019
Raw Women’s Championship Match
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Sasha Banks
Last year’s event featured one of the most heated matches in Clash of Champions history, Lynch in the midst of her run as ‘The Man’ taking on the newly turned ‘The Boss’. A physically intense match with both women putting on a phenomenal match in front of a molten hot crowd, it also incorporated an engrossing angle that had fans massively invested.
With Banks frustrated and Lynch volatile, their battle would end with a maniacal Lynch battering Banks with a steel chair, intensifying the feud in time for the following month. While the lack of finish is surprisingly familiar considering the matches mentioned before, it’s still a strong showing from two of the most consistent women wrestlers on the roster, and a surprisingly forgotten gem from the annals of WWE PPV history.
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