WWE Clash of Champions 2017: Booking Decisions That Must Be Made at PPV
As SmackDown Live brings a sometimes explosive, other times notorious 2017 to a close with its December 17 Clash of Champions pay-per-view, there are booking decisions that must happen to catapult the brand into the new year and give it momentum as the all-important Road to WrestleMania begins.
From a heel turn for a significant authority figure to the cashing in of Money in the Bank by a certain Princess of Staten Island, those decisions will set the blue brand up for another eventful and, hopefully, even better year in 2018.
Why should AJ Styles retain his WWE Championship over Jinder Mahal? What value is there in Rusev and Aiden English upsetting the three other teams in the SmackDown Tag Team Championships match and winning their first titles as a tandem?
Dive into the four booking decisions that must be made at the extravaganza to see how they might affect the blue brand going forward.
Daniel Bryan's Heel Turn
The growing dissatisfaction SmackDown general manager Daniel Bryan has for commissioner Shane McMahon and his treatment of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn must manifest itself in the form of a Bryan heel turn that shakes the foundation of the blue brand for the foreseeable future.
There have been reports suggesting it will be McMahon who turns heel, but that makes no sense within the context of the story being told. Owens and Zayn are heels. To turn McMahon would also necessitate the turning of Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura, who will face The Prizefighter and The Underdog from the Underground at Clash of Champions.
Bryan, on the other hand, has been growing more and more dissatisfied with the manner in which McMahon is running the brand. He sees Owens and Zayn as reflections of himself and sympathizes with their ongoing feud with McMahon because he, too, once found himself at odds with The Authority and knows what it is like to have roadblock after roadblock put in front of him.
Turning heel would not only allow him to be a villain for the first time in five years, but it would also align him with Owens and Zayn and create a power struggle atop the SmackDown brand. It could even introduce a path back to the squared circle for Bryan if he were ever cleared to return.
WWE Creative has been steadily building the story for weeks. Come Clash of Champions, it is time to pull the proverbial trigger and let Bryan unleash his frustrations on the WWE Universe after a year of being berated and bullied by Superstars in his role as GM.
AJ Styles Successfully Defends the WWE Championship
AJ Styles' WWE Championship reign has been rather nondescript, with his sole match of note being his superb showing against Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. A one-dimensional rivalry with Jinder Mahal has done him no favors, but on December 17 in Boston, The Phenomenal One will look to make it two in a row against The Modern Day Maharaja in the night's main event.
Styles is the face of the SmackDown brand. After beating Mahal for the title in the United Kingdom in November, he should hold the gold into 2018 and at the start of the Road to WrestleMania 34.
As SmackDown's franchise player, Styles should be the centerpiece around whom everything revolves. Unlike Raw, where the champion is a part-time special attraction, Styles is available every Tuesday and should hold the top prize.
Beating Mahal again would not only further establish him as the guy on SmackDown Live, but it would allow him to put the rivalry with The Maharaja behind him and focus on programs with other Superstars, including the likes of Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
Carmella Finally Cashes in Money in the Bank
Carmella has held a guaranteed championship opportunity, to cash in at any time she pleases, since June, when she defeated Becky Lynch, Charlotte, Tamina and Natalya to win it in the first women's Money in the Bank ladder match.
At Clash of the Champions, the de-emphasized competitor will serve as one of many lumberjacks during Charlotte Flair's SmackDown Women's Championship defense against Natalya. With so many moving pieces surrounding the ring, including the devious and dangerous Riott Squad, it is the time for Carmella to cash in and win her first title.
Such a booking decision would create chaos within the division.
With Charlotte's ongoing rivalry with Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan, not to mention Tamina and Lana's desire to dominate women's wrestling on Tuesday nights and what will certainly be fiery comebacks from Becky Lynch and Naomi when their injury angles come to an end, the potential for unpredictability is high.
And right there, in the center of it all, will be heel champion Carmella, watching the division crumble around her but caring not even a little as her title is securely fastened around her waist.
It is an interesting story and one that would inject life into a division that became bogged down over the summer and is finally hitting its stride once more.
Rusev and Aiden English Win the SmackDown Tag Team Championships
Rusev Day should be every day, and at Clash of Champions, WWE Creative has the opportunity to make that happen.
The surprise breakout team of Rusev and Aiden English are riding a wave of momentum into the pay-per-view, added to the SmackDown Tag Team Championships match after defeating The New Day relatively cleanly on Tuesday's episode.
Now involved in a Fatal 4-Way match that will also feature that same New Day, the team of Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin and champions The Usos, the team has its first opportunity to win gold.
And it should.
The reaction for Rusev and English's work on that same episode of SmackDown Live was loud and energetic. Fans were excited about the act, entertained by its comedic timing and enthusiastic of the idea of Rusev Day.
In a promotion that has proved more than once in 2017 to be willing to strike while the proverbial iron is hot, it should do so again and reward Rusev and English's ability to crawl from the dark abyss of irrelevance back into the title hunt with a surprising and unexpected victory.