WWE have now shown their last PPV of the year. Was it any good? Did they end the year with a bang or a whimper? The answer is a very resounding meh. It was a very safe and very dull way to end the year. Did it have some good matches and moments? Yes. Would you rush out to watch this PPV again in a hurry? Probably not. Now, let’s stop droning on here and get into the blood and guts of the PPV like a well-aimed table dive. Let’s see what was good, what was bad and what was weird.
For once the pre-show was actually worth watching. There wasn’t too much of the usual boring package overload or forced hyping. It may have been laboured down by the two man boredom trip of David Otunga and Jonathan Coachman but the two matches it featured managed to make up for that. Whilst it was sad to see the cruiserweights once again relegated to the pre-show, they did definitely make the most of their time. Both Murphy and Alexander put on a good showing which ended in a strong victory for the champ. Cedric got to look like a plucky challenger but eventually fell to the power game of Murphy.
The other pre-show match saw Elias take on Bobby Lashley in a ladder match. The point of the match was to collect a hanging guitar. Elias opened the segment with a promo and was about to sing a song when Lashley and his mouthpiece Lio Rush cut him off. They drop a small promo, Bobby Lashley shows off his ass and the match begins. Again it didn’t have a lot of time but it was a solid little ladder match. Both men took some of the other’s offense and both got to feel the sting of a steel ladder before Elias was able to overcome both Lashley and Rush to retrieve his guitar. He is unable to celebrate though as he is beaten down after the match by both Rush and Lashley. Elias may have won the match but the heels stood tall. Overall these two little matches actually made the pre-show worth watching for once and should be commended for doing so.
The Right Choice
Despite the fact this probably belonged on the pre-show, it was nice to see the right team win the second season of the Mixed Match Challenge. Well the right team out of the two left anyway. R Truth and Carmella were able to easily beat Mahalicia in the opening match of the PPV. There was a dance break that the Singh Brothers tried to hijack and the finish saw Carmella tap out Alicia Fox with the Code of Silence. It wasn’t a long match, nor was it flashy but it was fun little sprint to open the show. Not to mention how enjoyable it is watching R Truth have a resurgence over the year. The man can still go and his comedy is hilarious. The fact he considers Stamford tropical and exotic had the crowd in stitches. The right team won and sometimes that is enough of a reason to enjoy a segment.
Tag Team Gold
It’s been said time and time again but Smackdown really do have the best tag division in WWE. This match was yet another example of that as the New Day, the Bar and the Usos all brought their A game in a triple threat tag match. The first act played out like a Bar vs New Day match as both teams did their best to keep the Usos out of it. That worked for a while but soon broke down as the Usos had enough and started fighting everyone. There were multiple moments where every team got to look strong. The New Day hit plenty of double team moves, The Usos went on a Super Kick party and the Bar saw Cesaro go swinging and Sheamus get the win with a Brogue Kick. It might not have been the finish everyone wanted but the Bar earned their victory and the tag division once again got a chance to show off.
Whilst we’re here it should also be worth noting that RAW’s tag division wasn’t present at all for the show despite the crowning off new champions. They could have easily had a small match just to keep the division relevant and give the champs their first win but RAW creative would rather not bother. Besides it might have been for the best, we’d have probably just seen Roode and Gable lose the belts to Lucha House Party in a Lucha House Party rules match.
GM No More
One of the biggest questions going into TLC was if Braun Strowman would show up to fight Baron Corbin and if he did, would he actually be able to compete? The answers are yes and no. He made his appearance on the ref’s 7 count and made his way to the ring with his arm in a sling. He obviously couldn’t fight but he soon had a mic in his hand. He reminded Baron that he had been placed in a no DQ match. This meant there were no rules against him having help. Cue the appearance of Apollo Crews, Gable and Roode, Finn Balor and Kurt Angle. All of these men had been crossed by Corbin and all were more than happy to take a pound of flesh back in vengeance. Even Heath Slater who was the referee for the match joined in the beatdown.
Corbin took chair shots and finishers from everyone and was then inexplicably pinned by Strowman. This was the only negative as there are no pinfalls in a TLC match. Ignoring that, we saw the reign of Corbin come to a crushing end and Braun Strowman now has a shot at Brock at the Rumble. I must admit I’ll be slightly sad to see the heel authority figure Corbin gone but I’m even more intrigued to see who fills the vacant GM spot now he’s gone.
David vs Goliath
The second best match of the night has to be awarded to Drew McIntyre vs Finn Balor. It was intense, it was stiff and both men could carry RAW if given the chance to. Finn was trying to chop down Drew, Drew was overpowering Finn and both men often traded momentum. Drew has a next level intensity and at several moments throughout the match would taunt Finn and try to get him to fight. There was highlight where he held Finn and stared at him for a few seconds with a maniacal smile before hitting him with a stiff Glasgow Kiss (Headbutt).
The whole match was fun and breezy that even the rest hold sections were enjoyable. The finish saw Dolph interject himself in the match attacking Drew with a Super Kick and trying to hit him with a chair only for Drew to blast him. Drew got too focused on Dolph though, throwing him into the ring and preparing to destroy him with the chair. In his anger, Finn was able to hit a Shotgun Dropkick to the chair and finish Drew with the Coup De Gras. Both of these men have cost Drew a victory now and both will be potential victims when Drew comes for them. Finn was interviewed backstage later in the show where he revealed he wasn’t too thrilled at Dolph’s assistance and gets jumped by him backstage. A match has been set for them on RAW tonight so it’ll be interesting to see if Drew lays waste to them both.
Bryan and Styles Bring It
Another pair of superstars who can’t put on a bad match were given plenty of time to weave an excellent match. Styles was out for revenge after how Bryan won the title from him and Bryan was obviously out there to keep his dream alive. Since becoming the New Daniel Bryan he has shunned the crowd, renovated his move set and replaced the names of some of his moves, the most notable being the LaBelle Lock. Both men gave the other hell in a match that was never given a chance to get boring. The pair traded strikes, submissions and finishers as the match progressed to a climax that saw Bryan win with a roll up pin. It wasn’t a definitive win by any means and the pair have left plenty of room for one last dramatic showdown at the Royal Rumble should this feud continue. To say any more about this match would ruin it; this is one I’d recommend watching for yourself.
Empress of Smackdown Live
Strike up another victory for women making history. The first women’s TLC match was a roaring success. It rightfully main evented the show and sent the crowd home partially happy. Becky, Charlotte and Asuka went out there and put on a hell of a match. All three took some nasty bumps as the full extent of the TLC stipulation was used to inflict pain. Becky put Charlotte through an announcer table from a ladder; Asuka was put through the barricade and Becky was put through a table with a Senton. We saw chairs and kendo sticks be used to grizzly effect and every woman will probably have a few new bruises in the morning.
It felt like some spots didn’t go quite right as Charlotte “went through a table” whilst barely breaking it but that didn’t detract from the match as it added to the chaotic nature of the bout. Whilst a case could be made for all three women winning, the crowd came alive when Asuka won even if they didn’t quite like how she’d done it. The finish saw Charlotte and Asuka fighting on a ladder when Becky sets up another ladder alongside the fighting pair and tries to get involved. Charlotte knocks Asuka down and climbs to Becky’s ladder and another slug fest commences. Whilst those two are brawling, Ronda Rousey silently comes to the ring and pushes over their ladder, sending both women crashing down. They roll out of the ring and Asuka takes advantage, climbing the still standing ladder and claiming the title. It may not have been the most convincing win but it has given us an Asuka title reign and continues the Becky/Charlotte/Ronda feud.
It seems WWE may finally be taking Asuka seriously again and it’ll be interesting to see what they do with her going forward. Let’s not forget we now have even more of a reason to see Becky pursue Ronda now too as she has just cost her the title. This week will definitely be an interesting week to watch for the women’s division.
The Meh Factor
Now normally I don’t usually preface anything when it comes to these write ups but I must state that this section is my opinion. If you enjoyed these matches that is perfectly fine. I am by no means stating that no one could enjoy these matches and do concede that they had their moments. I am merely talking about how I found most of this show and the tone I got from the audience at a lot of points as the PPV went on. With that being said let’s continue on with our regularly scheduled write up.
The biggest problem with TLC was the overall quality of the show was slightly lacking. I’m not talking Crown Jewel levels by any stretch it just lacked some killer matches. Whilst the matches above shone the rest felt mostly paint by numbers and lacklustre. The chairs match between Rey and Orton had some unique spots and certainly shone above any previous chairs matches but it was still average at best. The match between Ronda and Nia was the same, it had some good moments and it was another strong showing for Ronda but it won’t be remembered in a couple of weeks. People will be happy that the feud is over and that Jax wasn’t rewarded with a title for being clumsy but they will forget the match existed once WWE stop using clips of it. it felt too similar to their first match just with an added Tamina interference and no Alexa cash in. Whilst it certainly wasn’t bad it’s hard to stay enthusiastic talking about it. There was another match in the Meh Factor but that deserves its own spot.
The Unfortunate Feud
The last match in the meh factor is the one that hurts the most, Rollins vs Ambrose. Whilst it’s clear the writers wanted this to be a slow burn match that ramped up as the two got more and more desperate, it didn’t quite play out that way. The crowd was actively bored during this match and hit it with “Boring” chants. This was kind of unfair and probably not deserved but I can understand why they may have felt this way. It may have been it’s placing on the card but this match just didn’t feel alive. Anyway, once again this match had its moments where it picked up and the closing stretch was fun but it took too long to get there. It’s nice to let matches breathe but in this case it should have been slightly tighter and ramped up the intensity. This might have also been down to the lacking reception to Dean’s heel turn causing the crowd to be apathetic to the overall match. There was barely a pop or boo when he won the IC title which surprised me. Hopefully WWE can rebound from this by building Dean into a proper heel champion whilst Seth moves onto something new.
This shouldn’t be a rivalry that’s allowed to die but for now it’s probably best for both men if it’s shelved until the crowd can be motivated to care.
That Tables Match
Thank God this feud is over. I love seeing the Riott Squad do something that makes them seem more evil but this whole feud has just felt kind of wrong. The WWE loves utilising deaths for storyline so this shouldn’t have been a surprise but the levels this feud got were just weird. The oddly comedic Neidhart table was the breaking point. Whilst it was featured in the match it wasn’t actually used. Instead we saw all three members of the Riott Squad go through tables. Liv Morgan took a spot for Ruby to keep her in the match. Sarah Logan was actively put through a table by Natalya and the leader met her loss by being Powerbombed through a table with her own likeness plastered on it. It was all just a bit too silly to be considered a meh match.
WWE missed the perfect opportunity to bring back the Eater of Worlds tonight. He would have been a believable stand in for Braun, could have easily been announced by the big man himself as help or just magically teleported to the ring to deliver the final blow to the former GM. It seems WWE are never going to bring him back at all. Whilst rumours of a rebirth for Bray circulate, it still seems like WWE should have capitalised on a tailor-made moment to have him show up and remind audiences he exists. It’s not that big of a deal, just a shame.
So it was a very mixed bag of a show tonight. Whilst no match was ever exceptionally bad, the lingering blandness really signifies that WWE requires the creative reset that has been rumoured. The good bits shone through with Smackdown really proving its worth with its women killing it (and each other) in the main event, the tag teams remaining on fire and the WWE title match being another intense and entertaining outing for Styles and Bryan. The RAW women’s match was enjoyable enough but couldn’t escape the similarities to its predecessor and most of the gimmick matches were enjoyable for what they were. It’s a shame that WWE couldn’t carry on their recent streak of (mostly) high quality PPV’s. It was a very meh way to end the year. By no means was this a bad show but I’d purely recommend the main event, Styles and Bryan and Drew and Finn as the only “must see” matches of the event. Now all there is to do is wait until RAW/Smackdown to see what happens next. Hopefully RAW can start wowing again and Asuka can once again be the dominant Empress of Tomorrow we once knew. It’s going to be interesting that’s for sure.
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