Finally, WWE PPVs (sorry, PLEs) have come back to Britain! It’s been a long time coming, and yesterday’s ‘Clash at the Castle’ was, on the whole, entertaining. I remember the early 2000s UK PPVs events being glorified house shows. The wrestlers would put minimal effort into their matches. This PLE was intended to be a statement, a hint of things to come for the UK. But, of course, I always have to ask of these PLEs….what was the best bout of the night? For me, it has to go to Gunther vs Sheamus.
There were three contenders for Match of the Evening: Gunther vs Sheamus, Seth Rollins vs Riddle, and Roman Reigns vs Drew McIntyre. Rollins vs Riddle was great, but lacked believable selling. It was a compelling bout, but when move after move is hit without either competitor looking hurt or injured, it hurts the flow and realism of the bout. Reigns and McIntyre seemed content to feed off the (incredible) energy of the crowd for half the match, going through the motions until kicking the action into fifth gear. Then (and only then) did it brush with greatness. Their Survivor Series 2020 bout was better.
So, that left Gunther (the artist formally known as Walter) defending his Intercontinental Championship against Sheamus. Of course, the Irish Sheamus was loved by the crowd, and that alone gave this match an awesome atmosphere. Unlike Reigns and McIntyre, who seemed content to take it easy in front of the invested crowd for a while, Gunther and Sheamus went hell for leather from the opening bell. I don’t watch the weekly WWE shows, and haven’t seen much of Gunther since his NXT days…but he looks gaunt, doesn’t he? That extra weight suited him and his character. He still looks imposing, just not as imposing as he used to look.
This resembled more of a legitimate fight than anything on the card (and anything I’ve seen on WWE this year). Yes, Rollins vs Riddle was a wrestling spectacle, but seemed expertly choreographed than a full-on brawl. Both Gunther and Sheamus are known to work stiff, but at times this looked uncomfortably brutal. Just look at the star of Sheamus’ chest, face, back…and I suppose Gunther had a few welts on his body as well!
Chops, chops and more chops were the order of the day here…along with some horrific-looking kicks (one from Gunther shook the flesh of Sheamus’ cheek on a slow-motion replay)…dotted about with some wrestling moves. But when the strikes look real, and lean into the story of the match (the usually-dominant Sheamus not being able to overpower the stronger Gunther, so having to use to wrestling acumen to outsmart the Austrian), big moves and flashy sequences aren’t necessary.
Here was a war, reminiscent of Gunther’s past NXT UK wars with Ilja Dragunov, but on a grander stage (well, saying that about Cardiff may be a stretch…but you get whatI mean!). Having the ‘War’ tune from Rocky IV would be perfect to play over highlights of this match. Even if you had no idea who theae two were, you’d be sucked into the match (and the raucous crowd atmosphere) before too long. It’s a stretch to say it was better than those two wars between Gunther and Dragunov…but this one is close. Contender for Match of the Year? Quite possibly!
Hammy’s Rating: ***** (out of 5)
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