We've finally reached the end of WWE's calendar as this Sunday's Clash of Champions will be the last pay-per-view of 2017. However, despite the conclusive tones, WWE typically doesn't end the year with a bang. Yet, Clash of Champions promotes a card that has plenty of WrestleMania implications.
Most notably, is the budding feud between Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan. As co-Special Guest Referees, SmackDown's front office will look to protect their own versions of justice, making C of C feel like a launching point for a much bigger angle.
While the WWE championship still has yet to totally shake itself from Jinder Mahal, Sunday could be the last time we see him in the main event opportunity. That is, unless he wins.
With the Rumble so close and WrestleMania looming, WWE will be forced to execute the early plot points of 2018's plans. While some of the undercard is underdeveloped, Sunday will be a fun show.
Here's your official Clash Of Champions preview:
Connor Casey: This is the easily the biggest thing that annoys me about Luke Harper and Erick Rowan's latest repackaging. These two hulking guys stomp down to the ring each week with these oversized hammers that look straight out of a Super Mario Bros. game, and yet they just drop them before they even start a match! Well I think that changes at the pay-per-view to whack Fandango and Tyler Breeze during the tag match. They'll keep things safe (for all we know those hammers are made out of plastic) obviously, but above all else it will finally give fans a reason to care about why they carry those things down to the ring every week.
Ryan Droste: Nope, because they won't need them. The hammers make them look B.A., but their actions in the ring speak louder than any weapons. They will dominate, as per usual.
Jack Snodgrass: Sad to think after the viral success of the Fashion Files that Breeze and Fandango will have their bones crushed by The Bludgeon Brothers. But hey, I'm just happy Luke Harper is back.
Connor Casey: So here's the thing about Bobby Roode - no matter what his gimmick, no matter which promotion he's in, his best work has always been done as a heel. And while Roode has had a little spotlight on him since joining SmackDown Live, it's time to finally put him in a position where he can really thrive. The way to do it here is to cheat to get Corbin out of the ring, hit Ziggler with a low blow and get a quick roll up so he can run away with the championship. That way Corbin is protected and suddenly Roode is back in his same role from NXT as a cowardly champion.
Ryan Droste: Both of these seem extremely likely to happen. Ziggler is almost certainly leaving, and Roode needs to be a heel for his character to succeed at its highest level. To be frank, the popularity of his theme song has saddled his character a bit. It's a heel character with a theme song the crowd loves. As for this question, I'm gonna go with Ziggler leaving in 2018 because I don't think the Clash is the night that Roode turns heel (Corbin is a heel and the fans don't like Ziggler either, so where's the heel turn?). Roode will probably end up turning before Ziggler leaves, but it's not happening Sunday night.
Jack Snodgrass: If anything, I see Ziggler leaving Clash of Champions as US Champion. While his exit may be imminent, we still don't have a potential departure date. This could be the beginning of Ziggler/Roode II where Dolph does the honors by losing to Roode at WrestleMania.
Connor Casey: No. With The Riott Squad as three of the lumberjacks, a brawl between all of the women on the roster is guaranteed to break out. The fight will spill into the ring, forcing the ref to call for the bell.
Ryan Droste: I mean, a brawl is a certainty in a match like this. It just depends if there is a clean finish and then the brawl immediately after or a brawl before the finish. I'll go with a brawl after the finish and say we do get a finish before all hell breaks loose. But I'll do you one better. After the brawl...Carmella cashes in the Money in the Bank briefcase and wins the title.
Jack Snodgrass: I'm still not sure why WWE is running parallel angles of evil female trios, and that confusion has let my attention wander. The solution is not more women's wrestling at this point, it's better women's wrestling. The act of tossing all the women in the ring has become WWE's most trite custom. So, regardless of what happens on Sunday, I'm just hoping for better storylines.
Connor Casey: I've got to go with Mojo. It's funny how this guy got the rub back at WrestleMania by winning the Andre The Giant Battle Royal on the pre-show, only to wind up right back on the preshow months later. With his size and connections to Rob Gronkowski, WWE will always try and find a roll for him. The ship for Zack Ryder, unfortunately, set sail a long time ago.
Ryan Droste: Given how badly they dropped the ball with Ryder a couple years ago, it's hard to imagine them going with him again this time around. He was way more over in the heyday of Z! True Long Island Story and the decision makers didn't care. It's Mojo's time now.
Jack Snodgrass: I suppose it all depends on n how long WWE project this feud to last. If they're thinking long-term, like a blow off sometime in 2018, then Ryder will win. However, if their plans for Mojo are more immediate, he'll win on Sunday. I think WWE sees something in Rawley, and may finally want to take a deeper look.
Connor Casey: My heart says The Usos retain, but I can't imagine WWE has an entire pay-per-view centered around championships without a single one changing hands. WWE also likes to throw in some curveballs, so let's give this one to Rusev and Aiden English. Happy Rusev Day to all!
Ryan Droste: Agree with Connor; a title change here seems likely. I'll go with Gable and Benjamin winning the belts to give a shot in the arm to the tag team division and freshen things up a bit.
Jack Snodgrass: I'll be pulling for Rusev and Aiden English, but WWE may want to let them simmer for one more month. I like the Usos to retain, but sow the seeds for a program that will culminate on a future Rusev Day.
Connor Casey: As much as a Daniel Bryan heel turn intrigues me, it has to be Shane. He'll try to and keep the match one-sided in favor of Orton and Nakamura, Bryan will try and put a stop to it, Owens and Zayn will find an opening to hit their finishers and get a three-count from Bryan. Shane will get mad, rough up Bryan (though they might have to get creative with that if Bryan still can't get physical) and it will lead to a power struggle for the next few months between the two.
Ryan Droste: I agree that Bryan as a heel is pretty intriguing, and they've definitely been teasing a Bryan alliance with KO and Sami. I can definitely see it happening and it makes a lot of sense, but Shane is a McMahon after all. I'm going to go with Shane teaming with Sami and Owens in the long run.
Jack Snodgrass: Under no circumstances will Bryan be turning heel. I mean, he's the biggest babyface on SmackDown. Shane's turn has been crafted for weeks and as Commissioner, he outranks Bryan, making his declarative turn all too natural.
Connor Casey: AJ Styles will still be WWE Champion walking into WrestleMania 34 next April. What that implies is that he's winning against Jinder on Sunday. Mahal's entire run in 2017 was centered around WWE building up an audience in India, but they ended up having to consolidate their tour down to just a single event due to struggling ticket sales. Had Mahal been a success, he would've walked into that India show as WWE Champion (he probably would've lost to Triple H anyway, but still). That didn't happen, so there's no point in giving it back to him now. And before you say "but what about Jinder vs. Cena at WrestleMania" I have a response - what makes you think that match won't happen anyway with or without a championship involved?
Ryan Droste: The failure to draw big in India takes away any incentive to give Mahal another run for the title. It didn't do what it was intended to do the first time, so what's the point? If they don't work toward Styles vs. Nakamura at WrestleMania, they have completely lost their minds. I'm going to go with Styles holding it until WrestleMania.
Jack Snodgrass: WWE has shown on multiple occasions that they're willing to bank on AJ. Whether he's fighting Cena or suddenly snatching Championships at live events, he has been a top priority for the company. His WrestleMania matches say the same, and WWE will keep him on that projection and start building to a WrestleMania title defense.
Connor Casey: We'll have quite a few articles up in the next few weeks debating this topic, but for now I'll go with Shinsuke Nakamura. Of all the matches WWE has at their disposal on the SmackDown Live roster, this is the one fans have been waiting for. And yet, even though the two have been on the same roster for months, they've never even crossed paths outside of a tease back at Money in the Bank. Why? Because they're saving it for when they can make some real money. Vince McMahon already has his headlining match penciled in with Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar, but Reigns doesn't need to win the Rumble in order to make that match happen. All he has to do is challenge Lesnar, say 'I want my rematch from three years ago' and they're off to the races. That leaves an opening for a SmackDown star to win the Rumble, and who better than The Artist?
Ryan Droste: I'm going to agree that a SmackDown star winning the Rumble is the odds-on favorite. Reigns
Jack Snodgrass: Nothing can microwave a Superstar back to relevance quite like a Rumble victory. But in SmackDown's case, there's a list of names that could use such a lightning bolt. Right now, Shinsuke Nakamura certainly seems to be the best candidate unless there's a Superstar Shake Up to open 2018.