Following last year’s inaugural installment in Wales, this year’s Clash At The Castle saw the WWE stage its first premium live event in Scotland. And with a card stacked with Scottish talent, the show delivered satisfying moments, furthered ongoing stories, and of course featured a rowdy British crowd that made for a slightly chaotic overall feel.

Unlike last month’s weaker King And Queen Of The Ring, Clash At The Castle was closer in overall presentation and structure to May’s excellent Backlash. The card was a tight five matches that offered a variety of match types and wrestling styles, as well as a spot-on mix of closure and storyline extension.


Cody Rhodes def. AJ Styles: For a moment, Cody’s title defense opening the show might’ve felt like a strange decision – but with Drew McIntyre’s homecoming and especially in the context of a Scottish crowd that insisted on overplaying their “Daddy Cool” Cody chants on the previous night’s SmackDown, having Rhodes and Styles open the show was the right call.

Given their first match’s technical brilliance, switching things up with an “I Quit” match ensured this didn’t feel like a re-run. Styles’ dastardly Mark Henry-style retirement fake-out in the build-up really added an effective storyline dimension. The finish, with Styles screaming his “I quit” to avoid taking a hit, was a rare example of where a cowardly loss can positively further character development. Clever stuff.

At two marquee matches, this has been a good first feud for Rhodes as champion – particularly with Styles’ more pronounced heelish antics to build the second. Styles is no monster heel of course, but I feel this second match runs closer to what Ricky argues for here in terms of what the Cody era might look like. What I like so far is the variation – the first Rhodes vs. Styles bout felt very NJPW, stylistically – while this second match at Clash had a much more WWE feel.


Alba Fyre & Isla Dawn def. Bianca Belair & Jade Cargill, and Shayna Baszler & Zoey Stark: The Scottish duo comprising The Unholy Union picked up the shock win here through some savvy triple threat match timing. Belair and Cargill being dethroned as tag champs so soon was certainly unexpected but Fyre and Dawn’s win delighted the hometown crowd and created a genuine moment.

My main criticism here is that Baszler and Stark never really looked like a threat. Stark is constantly improving and has some really impressive moves. And as much as Belair and Cargill are the WWE’s resident superheroes, Shayna Baszler is literally Shayna Baszler. Not really seeing how Cargill would handle Baszler’s devastating strikes, for example, was a missed opportunity. Here’s hoping Baszler recovers some of her NXT presentation soon.

Sami Zayn def. Chad Gable: Variation was also the essential spice here. After the tables-chairs-stairs shenanigans of the opening “I Quit” match and the scramble of the triple threat tag, having Zayn and Gable go out and do some serious and utterly compelling technical wrestling made for the perfect midpoint on the card. This singles match was also different from their last meeting, the triple threat with Bronson Reed at King And Queen. The fact that this match looks to have wrapped up the Zayn / Gable feud and furthered the Alpha Academy mutiny story is exquisite. Excellent work from all involved – top-shelf pro wrestling storytelling.


Bayley def. Piper Niven: Although this homecoming didn’t result in a title win for Niven, this was her best main roster match to date. She looked threatening and confident throughout, and was visibly buoyed by the hometown crowd. After her turns being paired with Eva Marie and now Chelsea Green, Niven is surely ready to strike out on her own as a singles star.

Bayley, for her part, is remains an absolute master when it comes to pacing and structuring a match. A little like Cody Rhodes, we’re yet to get a sense of what will define this run for her as WWE Women’s Champion – but thus far it’s been marked by veteran savviness and her ability to win matches creatively. Bayley snatching wins with different moves feels fresh in a landscape dominated by finishers, and reminds me of a certain Bret Hart.

Damian Priest def. Drew McIntyre: Paging Mr. Scorsese because this is cinema!!

Forget the MCU, this last-minute CM Punk impostor referee run-in to ruin Drew McIntyre’s big moment is where it’s at. In all seriousness, I absolutely loved how Punk’s run-in was shot – over the shoulder with telltale slicked-back hair and Jordans just visible as he counted the long two.

McIntyre failing to retrieve the World Heavyweight Championship here was something of a surprise, but it actually cemented the fact that he’s at the level where he doesn’t need a belt for his story to feel urgent and important. The same is true for Punk, of course, and these two have kept things hot and exciting – all with Punk injured no less. I can’t wait to see where they take us next.

The run-in finish also neatly added to Priest’s current character arc as a champion who wants to be able to handle business by himself but actually still needs the help. With The Judgement Day banned from ringside, Priest retaining looked like a long shot – especially in Scotland. Punk’s interference adds another delicious note to his feud with McIntyre, and it also fits Priest’s story perfectly. Dovetailing plotlines, heck yes.

And while Priest’s story is that he’s a champion who isn’t quite there yet, his performance in this match was a star-making turn – easily the finest match in his WWE career so far. As the match wore on he matched McIntyre for intensity, particularly after that nasty spill he took on the ropes (he wasn’t the only one to slip on the ropes at Clash – steamy night in the OVO Hydro?). Priest’s leg injury gave the match an unpredictability and heightened the “big fight feel”. Priest (large man) pulling off a Razor’s Edge on Drew McIntyre (even larger man) and executing the throw on one leg was astonishing. Priest’s match with Jey Uso at Backlash was good, his match with McIntyre at Clash was excellent. It’s fantastic to see his growth in real time like this. All rise for El Campeón.

Curtain Call: This year’s Clash At The Castle was another solid premium live event with a well-balanced card and the requisite variety to keep a three-hour broadcast from overstaying its welcome. This new era’s still taking shape, but well-contained and satisfying shows like this are building a great foundation. It’s going to be interesting to see how the ‘big four’ shows shake out with SummerSlam coming up soon.