Roman Reigns proved on Sunday night's WWE Clash of Champions pay-per-view that the ruthlessness of his new persona knows no boundaries.
In an intensely personal and downright riveting match, Reigns absorbed every hopeful rally and burst of offense that his cousin Jey Uso produced and returned it several times over in the most disrespectful way imaginable.
In between multiple spears and many flurries of strikes, any of which could have proven to be the end of the match, Reigns lifted up Uso's head and demanded that Uso acknowledge Reigns' superiority and role as the family's "chief." He did it in many different ways, but the moment in which Reigns demanded Uso acknowledge his superiority as they both stared down the barrel of the camera was particularly riveting.
The match, as well as the build-up and everything Reigns, Uso and Paul Heyman have injected into the story, is an example of how powerful creating a simple, compelling narrative can be in professional wrestling when it's done right.
No detail was left overlooked. Uso carried a nervous, yet determined look on his face, and his eyes went wide during both of his opportunities to try to pin Reigns for the Universal championship. Reigns likewise started the match with an air of annoyance and dismissal, which turned into anger as the match progressed and Uso declined to give up.
They bickered back and forth, audibly, throughout the match. Reigns backed down referee Charles Robinson and threatened his job if he continued to try to stop him from attacking Uso. When Reigns had damaged Uso so severely that he could barely get up, Jey's brother, Jimmy, ran to the ring and pleaded for Jey to just let go and give up. They grabbed each other's hands in support. Jimmy eventually threw in the towel and called Reigns the "tribal chief," with a horrified look on his face that Reigns would do such a thing to his own flesh and blood over something so trivial.
And then, in a final, petty move, Reigns had Heyman retrieve the red flower lei that Jey had proudly walked to the ring with and hung it around his own neck.
Gone are the days when Reigns was the corny, smiling star that WWE tried to squish into the John Cena mold. The Reigns who now stands before us -- finally relieved of the silly chest protector attire that's forever linked to The Shield, weighing down Reigns -- is now tapping into something deeply powerful, and has only just begun to show what he's capable of.
What's next: Jey Uso was as compelling a first title challenger for Reigns as WWE ever could have hoped for. While another match between the two could be great, there's a thin line between entertaining and repetitive in the world of pro wrestling. Reigns could have any number of challengers moving forward, but the real question that has to be asked is what the WWE thinks they have now in Jey Uso. Removed from this story, if he can build on this outstanding performance, there could be bright days ahead in singles action for the six-time tag team champion.
Ambulance match for the WWE championship: Drew McIntyre (c) def. Randy Orton
What was once the hottest rivalry in WWE between Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton was reduced to a simmer over the course of a meandering month, but the conclusion to Sunday night's match at Clash of Champions was as decisive as it gets.
McIntyre hit a pair of Claymore kicks to Orton's head, including one during which Orton's head was braced between a pair of ambulance doors, and tossed Orton into the back of the ambulance and slammed the doors to win the stipulation and retain his WWE title.
But it wasn't the most dominant performance of McIntyre's career by any stretch. In fact, it required the interference of three men whom Orton crossed over the course of the summer for McIntyre to barely edge out Orton in the end. Early on in the match, The Big Show popped up and chokeslammed Orton through the commentary table. Later, as the action spilled backstage, Christian battered Orton on the catering table.
And finally, Shawn Michaels superkicked Orton off the top of the ambulance. Even with all of that help, McIntyre nearly let the match slip through his fingers. As he had Orton slung over his shoulders, Orton slipped off and hit an RKO. McIntyre stopped the second door from closing at the final moment, and eventually lined up that pair of Claymores that secured him the win.
For good measure, as the ambulance pulled out, the final Orton victim -- Ric Flair -- was shown to be driving the ambulance, and took the vehicle out of the arena.
What's next: Through bright red chairs with a white cross painted on it, battles that went from ringside to everywhere throughout the arena, and a tremendous amount of assistance, it's hard to say how much this win ultimately helped McIntyre in the end. With Hell in a Cell coming up, Orton could theoretically get himself one more chance at the title. Then again, the upcoming draft -- Oct. 9 on SmackDown and Oct. 12 on Monday Night Raw -- could shake everything up. Whether he's on Raw or SmackDown, I wouldn't imagine it taking very long for Orton to get his 14th world title win.
With Nikki Cross being unable to compete, Bayley offered an open challenge that she had no plans on honoring. But as she called for a referee to declare her the winner, Asuka entered the WWE Thunderdome and pursued an opportunity to hold both main roster women's titles.
But the match didn't last very long. Once the action spilled to the outside, Bayley hit Asuka with a chair to trigger a DQ to protect her title reign, and that was seemingly the end of the story.
Until Sasha Banks charged into the picture with a chair of her own, and nailed Bayley in a moment of revenge. The diminished and injured Banks couldn't follow up immediately, but ultimately kicked Bayley's leg out from underneath her and utilized a kendo stick to get a few good shots in before Bayley retreated to safety.
What's next: Asuka will go back to her own problems on Raw. For Banks and Bayley, it seems the time has finally arrived for the pair to lock horns and go into battle. That could happen as soon as October's Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, or potentially a little further down the road at November's Survivor Series.
Raw tag team championship: The Street Profits (c) def. Andrade & Angel Garza
Andrade and Angel Garza have been battling over the Raw tag team championships since before WrestleMania, but at every turn they have been thwarted -- most often by their own inability to stay on the same page.
The Raw tag team title match at Clash of Champions was a different story. Without Zelina Vega in their corner and as united in their efforts as they have been as a collective, everything was seemingly lined up for Garza and Andrade to finally capture the gold.
Unfortunately, a messy ending put a stop to all that.
After Andrade and Garza put the boots to Montez Ford for the majority of the match, Angelo Dawkins made a couple of attempts at a comeback. But Garza and Andrade had an answer to everything, including multiple efforts to pull Dawkins off the apron to prevent him from tagging in.
Eventually, Dawkins lined Andrade up and hit a spinebuster, with Andrade kicking out clearly after a two-count. Whether it was intended or not, the referee was out of position and counted to three, ending the match quite suddenly.
Where the mistake was made is anyone's guess, although Garza was seen being attended to by doctors immediately after the match. It could be a purposeful move, or a real injury, but we won't likely find out until at least Monday night.
What's next: If it's not a serious injury, Garza and Andrade should well be in line to become the Raw tag team champions. The Street Profits have hit a plateau during this title reign. If it is a moderate or serious injury, Ford and Dawkins will need new challengers. Things could get shuffled up in a hurry during the upcoming draft.
United States championship: Bobby Lashley (c) def. Apollo Crews
Bobby Lashley, MVP and the rest of The Hurt Business has been a source of great despair and damage for Apollo Crews over the past couple of months, and Clash of Champions was no exception.
As Crews attempted to win back the United States championship from Lashley on Sunday, there were occasional moments in which he seemed lined up to win back the title. There were standing shooting star presses and moonsaults, a frog splash and all manner of acrobatic maneuvers.
But Crews once again came up short. After Crews mounted his major comeback mid-match, Lashley merely needed a single-handed chokeslam and the Hurt Lock full nelson submission and Crews quickly submitted.
What's next: The Hurt Business likely has some unfinished and unsatisfied matters to address with Retribution, leaving Crews to follow a different path. Where that will lead is anyone's guess.
Raw women's championship: Asuka (c) def. Zelina Vega
Zelina Vega pushed the envelope in her Raw women's championship challenge against Asuka, with multiple pinfall attempts that looked as if they could have ended the match, but at the end of the night, Asuka predictably walked out of Clash of Champions with her title intact.
After spending the bulk of her WWE career as the manager for Andrade, and later the team of Andrade and Angel Garza, Vega showed off her in-ring abilities with a number of sharp combinations, including a braced crucifix submission attempt while draped over the top rope, followed by a headscissors and eventually a massive upkick.
Vega's big moment was a scramble on the mat, which led to two different creative roll-up attempts with leverage, but Asuka slipped the second directly into the Asuka lock and finished the match in short order.
What's next: There will be other challengers, but after Vega bowed in respect, Asuka responded with respect and a bow of her own.Vega then kicked Asuka, who was understandably furious and then shouted in Japanese. There are other challengers to come, but there might well be one more match in this series.
Intercontinental championship ladder match: Sami Zayn (c) def. Jeff Hardy (c) and AJ Styles
Watching professional wrestling requires fans to suspend disbelief to a certain degree, but there have always been circumstances that certain members of the audience questioned. Why didn't wrestlers slip under the bottom rope to stay in a battle royal indefinitely? Why not have a friend attack you in the middle of the ring to trigger a disqualification and earn an easy win?
Sami Zayn channeled those "outside the box" thinkers on Sunday night at Clash of Champions, creatively utilizing handcuffs on both AJ Styles and Jeff Hardy to secure himself the Intercontinental championship -- either regaining or retaining the title, depending on your perspective.
This triple threat match hit all the right notes as all three participants went all out. Each man was catapulted into the ladder on multiple occasions, and with at least a dozen different ladders at ringside, violence was always going to be part of the equation. The match hit a different level when Styles threw a stepladder at Zayn as he was climbing a ladder, severely injuring his hand.
Styles and Hardy crashed and burned off the top of the ladder, both hurdling onto different sections of the top rope at the same time. Hardy thwarted a phenomenal forearm attempt by Styles by throwing the ladder at Styles as he flew through the air.
Hardy had one of the key highlights of the match when he hurtled himself off the top of an extra tall ladder through Zayn and a ladder bridged between the ring and the commentary table.
As the match was winding down to its inevitable conclusion, Zayn went back to his jacket sitting at ringside and pulled out two pairs of handcuffs. One got looped through the giant hole in Hardy's ear, and got attached to a ladder. The other was initially meant to incapacitate Styles, but when things went sideways for Zayn, Zayn attached the other end to his own arm.
Styles eventually got so frustrated that he put Zayn on his shoulders and started to climb. Hardy crawled into the ring and dragged the ladder that was attached to his ear with him, but Zayn quietly unlocked the handcuffs and locked Styles to the middle support brace of the ladder in the middle of the ring.
The chaos allowed Zayn to incapacitate both of his opponents, and retrieve both versions of the Intercontinental championship hanging over the ring.
What's next: Zayn is one of the most successfully irritating and effective members of the WWE roster. Him escaping consequences against a variety of opponents that stretches a long way down the list is a smart idea. Hardy and Styles could factor in, but each could go on to different paths after briefly challenging Zayn's reign.
SmackDown tag team championship: Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura (c) def. Lucha House Party
While Asuka vs. Zelina Vega was initially scheduled to take place on the kickoff show, a shuffling of the card led to the SmackDown tag title match getting bumped to the opening slot.
It was a relatively straightforward match, with Kalisto and Lince Dorado representing Lucha House Party against the champions, Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura. The highlight of the match showed off the skills of three different stars. A delayed tornado DDT by Kalisto on the outside showed off the strength of Cesaro, as he stopped the move midway through. But when Lince Dorado hit a well-timed suicide dive to the outside, it gave the move enough momentum to be finished.
Outside of a few key moments, it was ultimately a very straightforward victory. The match came to a conclusion with a Cesaro swing into a Kinshasa running knee by Nakamura to Kalisto.
What's next: Cesaro and Nakamura got one of their clearest victories since winning the SmackDown tag team titles, and they appear to be in need of fresh challengers. Provided Heavy Machinery can shake free of The Miz and John Morrison, they appear to be the favorites, although a potentially imminent superstar draft could shift the entire landscape in the immediate future.