This weekend’s SmackDown Live pay-per-view event, Clash of Champions, is the 11th event in the series of WWE’s annual “every championship will be defended” PPV event. This will be the second time that for a single-branded show (last year it marked the first RAW-only event of the new brand split). Only four titles will be defended, but there’s a long history of good (and bad) title changes during the Night of Champions/Clash of Champions event, and we are going to look at the most ill-advised title changes.
These are the five worst title changes in the first decade of this series of PPV in which all active titles are defended.
#5 Cody Rhodes & Drew McIntyre win Tag Team Turmoil (Night of Champions 2010)
This is less the case of a bad team winning, or even really the wrong team winning if you get to the meat of the issue. The problem was that WWE’s tag team division was terrible in 2010. This match featured the winners and new champions Rhodes & McIntyre, the team that went in as champions the Hart Dynasty (Tyson Kidd & DH Smith), Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov, The Usos and Evan Bourne & Mark Henry.
It’s bad enough that the only established team in the division, the unsuccessful defending champions The Hart Dynasty, was handled terribly for their entire run. The team disbanded a short few months later. Their awful story is for another time and place. But they also had Mark Henry and Evan Bourne, who debuted as a team in this match, be the final team eliminated by the winners. Their team ended less than a month later when Bourne went down with a bad ankle injury. Santino and Kozlov were the team who lasted the second longest of all the teams (Usos being first, as they are still around today), and would eventually win the Tag Titles a few months later.
The Usos were babies at the time and had been used very poorly as a team up to that point, as they were heels for the sake of being heels. Apparently, their much-lauded family wasn't being given any respect. It made no sense, and it took a very long time for them to be treated seriously. Finally the winners: Drew and Cody debuted as a tag team two days before this event, won the titles, then lost them in about a month and disbanded almost immediately. Like I said, this was a horror show of a time period for the tag team division in WWE.
#4 John Cena defeats Seth Rollins for the United States Championship (Night of Champions 2015)
Seth Rollins was ruling the world in 2015. He was the first guy to ever cash in a Money in the Bank contract at WrestleMania and did it in spectacular fashion to defeat Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. He held onto the title at all costs and ended up defeating John Cena at SummerSlam with both the WWE and US Titles on the line to become the first ever man to hold both titles at the same time.
It would be short-lived, however, as he held the belt for less than a month when he lost the belt back to Cena at Night of Champions. Rollins ended up going down with an injury not too long after, but there was so much potential to be had with Rollins holding both titles. Ring of Honor did it much better when long-reigning TV Champion Jay Lethal would win the ROH World Title, and keep the TV Title for another four months before his 500+ day run as TV Champ was ended.
In any event, Cena’s open challenge idea worked great, but it came at the great destruction of Rusev, who until he met John Cena was built up to be an unstoppable monster. Rusev still hasn’t recovered from the WrestleMania loss of the US Title to Cena, and that was nearly three years ago. Cena would go on to eventually lose the title to a returning Alberto Del Rio, whose tenure in the company after the late 2015 return did not go well nor last very long.
In the end, this was a bad title change because the belt was handled in a very mediocre manner after Cena won it back, and the title went back down to being a meaningless piece of hardware instead of a prestigious title.
#3 Gold & Stardust defeat The Usos for the WWE Tag Team Championship (Night of Champions 2014)
After nearly four years on the main roster, The Usos won the Tag Titles for the first time in early March 2014. They would hold the belts for 202 days after this victory and finally broke out as the amazing tag team everybody knew they could be. Instead of keeping their reign going, they lost to the not-very-good team of Gold & Stardust (who were great as Goldust and Cody Rhodes, but this iteration was terrible), and eventually won the titles back on the final episode of RAW in 2014. It made no sense to interrupt their reign for three months, and by the time they eventually lost them for good, they would have been only weeks shy of a year-long title reign.
Jey would end up getting hurt soon after they lost the titles in February 2015 for Cesaro & Tyson Kidd, but The Uso brothers were clearly the cream of the crop in 2014 and should never have lost the title belts. That division was theirs to own, as they were amazing babyfaces having amazing matches, and a title change that only led to the terrible feud between Goldust and Stardust was just a mess and a bad decision.
#2 Roman Reigns defeats Rusev for the United States Championship (Clash of Champions 2016)
It was difficult deciding whether or not this should be in the number one or number two spot on the countdown, but I eventually went with number two because although it was a travesty to have WWE have Roman Reigns pull a John Cena on Rusev, the damage was already done and Rusev was a dead fish anyway. It pains me to say it, but Rusev was on borrowed time. When he won the US Title for a second time in May of 2016, it looked like he was finally getting back on track and would become a player again in WWE. Boy, was that wrong.
After three pretty strong months as champion, Roman Reigns decided to be a jerk (in true John Cena fashion) and ruined Rusev and Lana’s wedding reception. It led to a match at Clash of Champions two months later, because WWE thought it would be a good idea to have Rusev try to duck and run away from Reigns instead of taking on the challenge like the monster of a man that he was. As soon as Roman got a shot, he won, and Rusev failed to win it back. Roman would lose the title to Chris Jericho a few months later in a handicap match against Jericho and Kevin Owens.
What did Rusev do next, you ask? Oh, that feud with Enzo Amore that accomplished nothing for anybody and was a waste of everybody’s time.
#1 Daniel Bryan defeats Randy Orton for the WWE Championship (Night of Champions 2013)
Odd, don’t you think? Daniel Bryan winning the World Title during his feud with The Authority was a bad thing? Why yes. Yes, it was. Revisionist historians like to make believe that WWE had any clue what they wanted to do with Daniel Bryan past SummerSlam 2013. He defeated John Cena, clean as a sheet, after being Cena’s hand-picked opponent. Then Randy Orton would cash in his MITB contract moments later after Bryan was double-crossed by Triple H in a move that everyone saw coming the moment he shook Bryan’s hand.
This would lead to months and months of frustration, as Bryan would win the title, lose the title immediately, win the title again only be stripped of it the next night --- it was a mess. It wasn’t part of some big, long-term storyline that was made to build anticipation for a big WWE Championship victory at WrestleMania. Yes, that is what happened, but it was never the original goal and don’t ever let anybody tell you differently.
The Daniel Bryan/Randy Orton feud was simply a vehicle to get people to hate Randy Orton and The Authority as much as possible in order for them to love Batista upon his return. They wanted to do Batista vs. Randy Orton as a one-on-one match to end WrestleMania XXX, and the way they intended to get there was by having terrible corporate sell-out Randy Orton cheat the classic underdog Daniel Bryan for months before the big hero Batista could return, win the Royal Rumble, and make everyone happy because clearly, he was the guy everybody wanted to see.
In any event, Bryan’s win at Night of Champions 2013 was a hollow victory, because while he did become a two-time WWE Champion, both reigns were less than one day long. He was stripped of the title on RAW the next night due to the referee counting the pinfall too fast. Bryan would not win the belt again until WrestleMania XXX and wasn’t actually supposed to win the belt again.
He failed to win the title at Hell in a Cell against Randy Orton but thanks to a Shawn Michaels superkick, and that was it. Bryan was merely a prop to create The Authority and make Randy Orton a hated bad guy. As a fan of Bryan, I hate everything that happened between the moment he won the title from Cena until they finally gave in to the crowd’s support and gave him a chance after he was supposed to be done. This title win was hollow, unsatisfying and frustrating, therefore it was the worst title change in the history of the Night of Champions / Clash of Champions PPV event.
Poll : Who should defeat Roman Reigns after his reign of terror?