Brian Campbell breaks down the Universal championship match at WWE Clash of Champions -- the first Raw-exclusive pay-per-view since the WWE's brand split. Senior stats analyst Sean Coyle offers his ratings for the match; criteria for ratings is based on storytelling, in-ring execution, match psychology, timing and innovation -- worth up to one point each for a maximum of five points.
(c) - Indicates defending champion
WWE Universal championship: Kevin Owens def. Seth Rollins by pinfall (25:07)
Just weeks after completing a turn away from his successful heel persona, Seth Rollins received his baby face initiation on Sunday night at WWE Clash of Champions.
Kevin Owens successfully defended the WWE Universal championship for the first time following a chaotic finish in which the referee was knocked out and Owens' storyline "best friend" Chris Jericho constantly interfered -- the kind of match Rollins had on a fairly frequent basis as part of The Authority.
Rollins saw his character on the opposite side of the political line on Sunday, just as he was on Aug. 29, when Triple H emerged from the crowd to deliver a Pedigree to Rollins and help Owens to victory in a Fatal 4-Way match for the Universal championship -- a title vacated by an injured Finn Bálor.
The main event of Raw's first exclusive pay-per-view since WWE's July brand split, held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, failed to fully live up to its expectations as the first televised singles match between Owens and Rollins since their days in Ring of Honor. There might still be miles to go with these two, but the wild finish and well-timed high spots throughout certainly made for exciting television.
Triple H was conspicuously absent Sunday, just as he has been on Raw since his sudden return to change the landscape. It's left a gaping hole in the storyline. His wife, Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon, planted a seed for where the storyline is headed next by waiting just long enough to send a replacement referee to ringside to replace an incapacitated official. That allowed Jericho enough time to interfere and turn the tide of the match.
After the distraction of the new referee diverted Rollins' attention, Owens landed his finishing move -- the pop-up powerbomb -- to steal the victory as McMahon walked up the ramp with a smirk on her face.
For as little buzz as the seemingly fatigued Indianapolis crowd showed throughout the main event, they perked up just in time late in the match -- dropping in a "This is awesome!" following the turning point that ushered in the chaos that led to the end of the match.
Owens laid Rollins out on the announce table before yelling an obscenity at the referee and performing a Degeneration X-style crotch chop to incite the crowd. He then missed a running senton that sent him crashing through the announcers' ringside table.
Jericho came down to ringside wearing an Owens' T-shirt and immediately became a distraction. After Rollins landed a Pedigree (complete with a DX chop of his own to return to the favor), Jericho broke up the pin by placing Owens' leg onto the ropes.
Moments later, after the referee was inadvertently knocked down, Jericho entered the ring to deliver punishment more directly. Rollins broke free, however, landing back-to-back suicide dives on Owens and Jericho on opposite sides of the ring and setting the finish into motion.
The match featured a running commentary of trash talk from Owens, who at one point yelled at Rollins, "The architect? You don't even have a foundation. I'm the foundation of this company." He also added, "After tonight, you're going to fade to black. Get it?" and repeated the reference to Rollins' independent wrestling identity (Tyler Black) several times over. He continued to target Rollins' surgically repaired knee, with the former champion selling the injury throughout.
The best spot of the match happened early on, when Rollins was backdropped over the top rope -- landing hard on the floor as he grabbed his knee. Owens followed with a vicious flying elbow on top of him before yelling at him, "It's my time."
For the time being, at least, that certainly seems to be the case.
Note: For recaps and ratings of all the WWE Backlash matches, click here.