WWE Clash of Champions 2017: Grades for AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Top Stars

Aaron Bower@@aaronbowerFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2017

WWE Clash of Champions 2017: Grades for AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Top Stars

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Having been consistently WWE's best show throughout 2017, SmackDown Live didn't disappoint with the final pay-per-view of the year, Clash of Champions.

    Although Sunday's show was built mostly around Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan's activity, the other Superstars on the card stepped up well too.

    That provided WWE fans with a smart, solid and well-built show to close out the year's pay-per-view schedule.

    There were strong performances at the event from some of the blue brand's biggest names. Here's a look at some grades for those guys.

Dolph Ziggler

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    It's been a strange few months for Dolph Ziggler.

    The former world champion has been on the outskirts of SmackDown Live's plans for quite some time, and even his repackaging didn't look to have helped his case for a push.

    But then, from nowhere, he captured the United States Championship at Clash of Champions. All of a sudden, he's back at the forefront of the blue brand's plans.

    And Ziggler, one of WWE's best sellers and consistently great workers, showed his worth to the company again Sunday.

    Tasked with opening the show alongside Bobby Roode and Baron Corbin, who both also looked great, Ziggler was fantastic.

    It will be interesting to see where this latest title run takes him. In the immediate future, that is probably an extended feud with Roode.

    Grade: B+

Chad Gable

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    Such was the quality of Sunday's tag title match, it would be easy to pick out any of the eight guys who competed for praise.

    This was a great match—probably the best of the entire night. But one man in particular excelled.

    Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin's alliance has been solid, if not spectacular. Gable looks to have struggled in the transitional phase from American Alpha to teaming with Benjamin, but he was strong, in form and exciting Sunday.

    There's a feeling WWE decided to push the wrong member of American Alpha when it split the team and sent Jason Jordan to Raw in July. This proved that point.

    Gable was in explosive form and got the crowd on side as he went on a tear toward the latter stages of the match.

    His performance should set up the duo for a renewed run at the belts. They, and Gable in particular, deserve it.

    Grade: A-

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

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    For Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, their match at Clash of Champions was always about the end rather than their in-ring performances.

    That proved to be the case, as fans will remember little about their uneventful contest with Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton but a lot about the ending involving special guest referees Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon.

    Owens and Zayn are two of WWE's most reliable workers, so it was never in doubt they would deliver when it mattered.

    They produced some great spots, particularly outside the ring when taking out Nakamura, before Zayn worked the finish well.

    All in all, it was a solid effort from both.

    Grades: Owens B, Zayn B+

AJ Styles

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    Sunday proved to be another impressive night's work for AJ Styles, as he retained the WWE Championship against Jinder Mahal.

    The contest surely marked the end of their rivalry, with both men set to head in different directions as 2018 approaches.

    But it was a fine way to finish their feud, with both men impressing throughout.

    Mahal's future is less clear than Styles', and the champion deserves some credit for the way he put Mahal over as a credible threat. It's obvious Jinder is going down the card in the new year, but Styles showed his professionalism and sold to the max.

    And his performance will have left fans confident the company's biggest prize is around the waist of the right man heading into 2018.

    Grade: B+