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    Credit: WWE.com

    It is not a WWE pay-per-view without a few booking decisions that pique the interest of the audience, for better or worse.

    Some are choices that create genuine excitement in the product and have certain characters rolling into the next set of shows. Others are just bad—poor excuses by a creative team that has either lost touch with its audience or given up on one of the performers involved.

    Then there are the ridiculous calls, the booking decisions that point to a major issue within the creative infrastructure of the company or the formatting of its shows. Those stick out like a giant, neon sign, grabbing one’s attention and directing it at a deficiency.

    Clash of Champions had all three.

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    Roman Reigns approached his Universal Championship defense against cousin Jey Uso arrogantly, seemingly unfazed by the challenge his top contender presented. That hubris became even more evident when he pummeled his challenger into the mat, ordering him to recognize him as The Tribal Chief.

    When Uso did not, the beating continued.

    After threatening referee Charles Robinson when he attempted to put an end to the assault, Reigns continued his beatdown of his opponent. It was not until Jimmy Uso returned from an injury-enforced hiatus and threw in the towel that Jey’s suffering came to an end.

    As Paul Heyman retrieved the lei worn to the ring by the challenger and placed it around the neck of the conquering champion, the WWE Universe saw a ruthlessness in Reigns it had not known existed prior. As much as Sunday’s main event was about the heart and resiliency of Jey Uso, it was equally about The Big Dog’s unflinching side.

    Reigns established his dominance, daring the rest of the WWE locker room to step to him in light of what he had just done to a member of his own family.

    The superb storytelling in the main event, coupled with the performances of the men involved, helped put an exclamation point on a better-than-expected Clash of Champions pay-per-view and set up Reigns to be the most engaging character on WWE television for the foreseeable future.

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    At different points throughout Drew McIntyre’s WWE Championship defense against Randy Orton in an Ambulance match Sunday night, The Scottish Psychopath benefited from interference by the likes of Shawn Michaels, Christian and Big Show.

    And he still almost lost.

    Yes, the involvement of the legendary competitors made sense in the context of Orton’s story. He spent months wiping out legend after legend, steadily re-establishing his Legend Killer persona as he built toward his rivalry with McIntyre.

    The issue is not with the involvement of those Superstars but that Orton essentially shook it off and still almost managed to capture the title from McIntyre. It was questionable booking that naturally forced the viewer to sit up and ask, “wait—which one is the heel?”

    Furthermore, it weakened McIntyre, who had done a great job of being a fighting and dominant champion to that point. Did he need assistance when he has already overcome the likes of Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley, Dolph Ziggler and Brock freaking Lesnar to establish himself the top dog of the Raw brand?

    McIntyre will have battle scars from his war with The Viper, but the match will be remembered as much for HBK’s Sweet Chin Music to Orton on top of the ambulance and Ric Flair driving the vehicle out of the arena as anything the champion did.

    That is counterproductive, to say the least, and would be damning for a worker less talented than McIntyre.

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    Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com brought the goods on Twitter on Sunday night, informing followers that Sunday’s United States Championship match between Bobby Lashley and Apollo Crews was the 13th consecutive contest Crews had wrestled against The Hurt Business.

    In fact, Crews has not wrestled anyone not from the group since June 15.

    That is an indictment on the Raw creative process and a reminder of just how stagnant the product gets far too often.

    Even as he competed for and eventually won the United States Championship, Crews wrestled the same handful of competitors week in and week out, never stopping to freshen things up by battling anyone else. His past three-plus months have been spent working the same guys, in the same feud, with no upward momentum to speak of.

    It is ridiculous that, in that time, WWE Creative not once thought to give him a new opponent to work with or another heel to help establish his status as a prominent babyface on Monday nights.

    When you take Sapp’s tweet into consideration and look at the rest of the Raw roster and just how many times we have seen some of the performers on that brand work with the same opponents on a seemingly weekly basis, it is no surprise that ratings have declined to the extent that they have.

    With Lashley cleanly defeating Crews on Sunday and even Drew McIntyre apparently writing Randy Orton off the show by way of his win in the Ambulance match, one can only hope Clash of Champions represented the end of the flagship’s ridiculous reliance on repetition.

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    Great heels bookended Sunday’s pay-per-view telecast.

    Before Roman Reigns pummeled his way into the consciousness of the WWE Universe, the slimy Sami Zayn captured the audience’s attention by way of his underhand victory in the evening’s opening match.

    The Triple Threat ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship pitted Zayn against Jeff Hardy and AJ Styles, both of whom he claimed had been playing dress up as IC champ while he was the real titleholder.

    A hard-hitting and jaw-dropping match saw all three men look to prove their status as the legitimate champion, but it was the cerebral Zayn who outthought his opponents en route to victory.

    Grabbing two pairs of handcuffs from his jacket, Zayn proceeded to handcuff Jeff Hardy’s ear to one ladder and then did the same to Styles’ hand. His opponents unable to prevent him from making the climb, Zayn grabbed the belts and stood triumphantly atop the ladder, in his own mind proving every one of his claims prior to the match correct.

    It was a great performance by a smarmy, loudmouthed villain who stopped at nothing to hold on to the title he has claimed as his own since Elimination Chamber.

    While Reigns is the dominant badass, Zayn is the yappy heel you want to see get his comeuppance. He will eventually. But for now, we should enjoy his over-the-top villainy because it is a damn fun watch here in 2020.

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    No. 1 contender Nikki Cross was removed from the SmackDown Women’s Championship match against Bayley prior to Sunday’s pay-per-view event. Like women’s tag team champions Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax, she was officially deemed “not medically cleared to compete” by the Kickoff Show panel, leaving Bayley without an opponent for the show.

    Enter Asuka.

    While a double dose of Asuka is rarely a bad thing, Sunday’s event was the exception.

    Fans had watched The Empress of Tomorrow spend all summer working against Bayley and Sasha Banks. It was a feud beaten into the ground, to the point that had we not seen it again anytime soon, it would have still been too early.

    Factor in a roster full of talented women whose television time has been cut short in recent weeks, and you have all the more reason to question why WWE Creative had Asuka answer Bayley’s open challenge to the locker room.

    Was Naomi, who has a pinfall victory over Bayley on her resume, busy? What was Lacey Evans up to? Since we don’t care about the brand extension anyway, could Mickie James not be called upon? How about Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan, both of whom watched disappointingly as their PPV title opportunity evaporated with the absence of Jax and Baszler?

    There were so many options that to go with Asuka felt lazy.

    Of course, the whole thing was less a match than an excuse to set up Sasha Banks whooping up on Bayley, but that still could have been accomplished while shining a spotlight on a relatively fresh face.