[Intro music plays...] Ooooh... It's beginning to look a lot like depression~!
Hello its your favorite burden to society Paul Matthews here, p/k/a Kayfabe Candyass of NoDQ here to review WWE TLC. It's a night of gimmick matches. A long show. A lot to get into. Interesting crowd tonight, too. Live from San Jose, CA in the SAP Center this is WWE Tables, Ladders and Chairs.
Buddy Murphy vs Cedric Alexander (Singles match for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship)
Winner: Buddy Murphy
The champion retained as I and most people predicted. It was a fun typical 10 minute cruiserweight match like you've seen on pre-shows in the past. Unfortunately there's not much else to say other than it was just a very good prelim match. This was the first match of the prelims and at least the crowd showed them some respect by chanting "2-0-5" before the action really got going and stayed invested throughout. Murphy won with his Murphy's Law finish. They've had better matches, but this was still very good especially since it was just around 3PM local time with fans still filing in.
Elias vs Bobby Lashley (with Lio Rush) (Ladder Match)
The match featured one of Elias' guitars above the ring. We are supposed to care even though he was in the ring with an identical guitar on his lap anyway and commonly breaks these things over people. What made that guitar above the ring so special? Nothing, but they want you to care. I do not. Why should we care about a "prized possession" that he's just going to try and break over someone anyway?
The match was okay... pretty below average, actually but whatever its a gimmick prelim match. Luckily they changed the rules before the match began. I thought Booker T f***ed up when explaining it that the person who grabbed the guitar won when before they hyped this match as the person who grabbed the guitar got to use it as a weapon.
Elias grabbed his guitar and one in just over 6 minutes. After the match though Bobby Lashley got his heat back because OF COURSE! This is WWE! No one can just go over. We need to 50-50 everything so no one can just enjoy a win. This is why nothing feels like it matters. They could have had Lashley attack Elias on Raw or just have Lashley win here but nope. Babyface gets the win in the books but Lashley "wins" the segment by being the last guy standing. Hate it, but that's WWE. They're all just spokes on a wheel like someone once said.
Fabulous Truth (Carmella and R-Truth) vs Mahalicia (Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal) (with The Singh Brothers) Mixed Match Challenge finals
Winners: R-Truth and Carmella
This kicked off the main card even though it probably would have been better suited for the pre-show. However, this match actually had Royal Rumble implications so... here you go. The winners of the match enter at #30 in their respective Royal Rumble match next month. It was a 6 minute match like any match you'd see on Smackdown. Carmella won with the Code of Silence. R-Truth and Carmella picked up the win and afterwards R-Truth said he and Carmella were going to vacation in Stamford, CT at WWE headquarters. How exciting. How long has Mixed Match Challenge been going on for? Three months? If you waited to see the outcome this long you waited to see a comedy finish. Here's to the next one. I wish I won just so I could jump off the damn headquarters.
The Bar (c) vs The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) (with Big E) vs The Usos (Triple Threat tag team match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship)
Winners: The Bar
Remember what I was saying about 50-50? The Bar have lost quite a bit lately but they retained the titles here. I like all the teams involved but I feel a change was needed. We didn't get it. We also didn't get that great of a match at just over 12 minutes. It was fine but on a PPV billed annoyingly as "the human demolition derby" (Yeah. That tagline will really appeal to people who grew up in the 1970's. ) it probably would have been more fun if this was tornado rules. Xavier took the heat. There was a bit of a superkick party in there. Tons of break up saves. The usual. Sheamus hit the Brogue Kick on Woods for the win. There's talent here, but the tag division is not great on either show. The lack of a change hurt this for me, on top of it just being a fine match.
Braun Strowman vs Baron Corbin (Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match)
Winner: Braun Strowman
Braun came out with his arm in a sling. Heath Slater was the sanctioned referee. Braun cut a promo about how this match was no disqualifications and could do anything and anyone could help him to victory. Out appeared a few babyfaces with chairs. Finn Balor, Apollo Crews, Roode and Gable, maybe some other geek. I don't know. Does this count as Lucha House-party rules or...? This is where Heath Slater took his referee shirt off and threw it at Corbin. I guess he realized the babyfaces were on the "right side of history".
Corbin tried escaping but Kurt Angle's music hit so it's now a 7-on-1 advantage for the babyfaces. He came out with a chair and beat down Corbin. Back in the ring the babyfaces all hit their moves. Kurt hit the Angle Slam and Heath Slater put his ref shirt back on to make the pin. That's important because a long-time WWE-ism is that anyone with that referee shirt on has official power and when Heath took it off he was no longer a referee, I guess, until he put it back on his powers came back. It was pretty weird how they laid this out having a half-dozen babyfaces come out to help Braun and no one out there to help Corbin as the heel.
Braun Strowman won as Corbin was announced as the loser of the match to pay off some lame segment that took place backstage where Corbin talked about all this fanfare he wanted after winning. This all took 16 minutes and it wasn't really a match even though it was technically one of the namesake matches of this PPV. In winning Braun now has a match with Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship and Corbin is no longer General Manager. Vince McMahon is going to be on Raw tonight to "shake things up" which probably means naming a new GM. Yawn. In story line they blamed the shitty ratings on Baron Corbin. It's gonna be funny seeing what they come up with when the ratings are still the drizzling shits after Corbin is gone as GM. Maybe they will kayfabe the ratings on TV and say they are higher than ever when in actuality it's quite the opposite.
Natalya vs Ruby Riott (with Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan) (Tables match)
Nattie dedicated this match to her late father. The most exciting part was probably when Liv Morgan took a hit off the apron for Ruby and flew back through a table. The match went almost 13 minutes and was pretty good for tables match standards. I'm not really a fan of matches were most of the spots are basically cock teases towards an object. Nattie had a table with a Ruby Riott Fathead on it like the table Ruby had of Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart on it. Whatever. I think it's lame. The match was fine without all the corny shit they do for cheap heat. Nattie won after power-bombing Ruby off the turnbuckle after countering a top rope Frankensteiner by Ruby and then pointed up to Heaven while wearing he father's old jacket. A good moment for her, but I hope this is done.
Finn Bálor vs Drew McIntyre (Singles match)
Winner: Finn Balor
A normal singles match for these two. The match was pretty good and they moved well and had good chemistry, but I hated this finish. Again it's more of that 50-50 bullshit WWE is famous for now and if benefits no one. You either put someone over or no one gets over. Its that simple. Finn picked up the win due to interference by Dolph Ziggler so Finn, who was just a geek with a chair a couple segments ago, gains nothing with the win and Drew, who they've obviously been trying to build is hurt by the loss. So, next time a babyface beats Drew McIntyre its not going to mean as much since you just saw him get beat. Not only that, you saw him get beat in a manner that babyfaces usually lose in.
It's pretty simple. You either put someone over or NO ONE gets over and no one got over here. If you want Finn to win. Great. Have him win and then book him as a serious top guy. Instead he gets a cheap win here and for Raw they already booked Finn vs Ziggler and I bet you he loses or the match is broken up due to interference. Everyone watching this knows that Finn isn't getting a push and Drew is so... why not put Drew over? If he's your next big heel he needs to stop losing matches and it doesn't take much for the damage to be done and for fans to view someone as not a special act. It doesn't matter if Drew comes out on Raw and lays them both out in a stretcher spot and a bloody mess. We have seen him lose to Ziggler and Balor in the last couple weeks. You'd think with the lack of star-power on this show with Roman out who was the ONLY guy they protected the last half decade and with Strowman injured they'd keep someone strong, but nope. Stock's up and they're getting their money anyway from FOX and Saudi Arabia so who cares if all the wrestlers come off as bland and interchangeable as a police lineup going into 2019 with still no clear big Wrestlemania main event? gusydg98iudfhliuf!!# Whatever.
Rey Mysterio vs Randy Orton (Chairs match)
Winner: Rey Mysterio
I like both guys, but f*** this match. If it were a normal match it probably would have been great but all the time wasted on setting up these chairs hurt the match. It was 11 1/2 minutes and it felt like half of it was playing with f***ing chairs. One funny spot that looked like it actually hurt quite a bit was when Rey went for the seated senton while Orton was sitting in a chair and Orton moved out of the way for Rey's crotch to basically take the bump to the back of the chair. In the ring Randy set up a row of chairs to do and RKO on them, I guess... Instead Rey countered instead Rey counters with a forward rolling cradle and pins Orton for the win and then quickly exits the ring. It should also be noted that despite much of this feud being built around Randy removing Rey's mask there wasn't one spot or callback to that where you felt like Rey's mask was part of the story of this match.
I sweat to God I was expecting Rey to win and then Orton to beat Rey down with a chair afterwards to get his heat back because this is WWE where no one can just go over. Rey got the win here though. You could argue Rey needed it and you could also argue that Orton shouldn't be losing. However this is what I like. Pick a guy to go over and live and die by it. None of this chickenshit nonsense where a guy wins and then loses his heat in a beat-down after the match.
Ronda Rousey (c) vs Nia Jax (with Tamina) (Singles match for the WWE Raw Women's Championship)
Winner: Ronda Rousey
It went 10 minutes and they had a pretty good match. I know Ronda rehearses her matches a lot and practices them before PPV's but regardless once the match is in the ring live she's very good and surprisingly good at selling. Actually, that shouldn't be a surprise considering she one of the few people, male or female, on this roster who knows what its like to be in actual fights and sell real pain.
To give credit where it's due, Nia was very good in her role as well. Her niche may be just being a body out there for smaller, more athletic women to work around while she pretty much plays the role of the plodding giant powering out of spots and hitting big moves. There were some cool spots here. I especially liked Ronda's step-up Superman punch. Nia tried going for a top rope spot but Ronda countered with a powerbomb which got a big response. For a 10 minute PPV match it was fun and I felt invested the whole time and the right person went over as clean as a sheet, so there's nothing really to complain about. The match was never in doubt, but that's okay. In wrestling it doesn't always matter if something is predictable. If its the right finish its the right finish and that's what they did here. Ronda won with an aggressive looking armbar and Nia quickly tapped out.
This was much better than their last match months ago during their feud earlier this year. They didn't do their typical superman babyface bullshit pattern match where the babyface sells for 90% of the match and then makes a come back. It felt like they both hit big move after big move and it made me pay attention all the way to the end instead of just waiting for the comeback. Plus, as much as I just said Ronda is good as selling, I don't need to see her selling too much. She is supposed to be the "baddest woman on the planet". Not the luckiest.
Nia's backstage after the match. She refuses an interview and then is confronted by Becky Lynch by saying "remember when you broke my face?" and then boots her in the gut and punches her into a production case. The punch looked good but I doubt she really tagged her... or tagged her hard. Tamina came in late to check on her friend and Nia barely even sold the attack shaking her head as if to say "what's her problem". Like she had no clue why Becky would be attacking her. Way to go.
The New Daniel Bryan (c) vs AJ Styles (Singles match for the WWE Championship)
Winner: The New Daniel Bryan
This was my match of the night and maybe one of my top 5 main roster WWE matches of the year. I thought this was an excellent match. They got plenty of time to tell a story at 25 minutes and to a surprise to nobody AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan, two incredible wrestlers had an incredible wrestling match. In an era where everything is so patter and laid out for the talent these two ring vets who have traveled the world working on their craft and have wrestled various styles in different cultures gave us something we don't see too often in WWE today where it seems like everyone now is trained by the same people, taught to work the same way, talk the same way and all basically do the same match. This felt different and special.
Even though I picked Bryan to win and was very confident in my pick there were times where I really though AJ was going to get his title back. There were a series of counters. Bryan rolling out of the Styles Clash to the out. Posted to the corner. Bryan taking a dragons screw as AJ worked the knee to set up his Calf Crusher submission. Everything felt like it meant something which is missing in a lot of WWE matches where no one sells because to them its more important to get their shit in than to tell the story of a match and get it over (more on that soon!). AJ kept looking for the Clash while Bryan worked into a half crab and later the LeBell Lock, formerly the "Yes Lock". Its interesting because he renamed the LeBell lock the "Yes Lock" when he turned heel, but it got over so now he's a heel again and it's the LeBell Lock as it was originally.
Before the show Bryan cut an incredible promo basically explaining that since the Yes Movement is dead so is the Yes Lock so it was explained if you missed it. If you did miss the promo I suggest you check it out either on YouTube or Twitter. If you think Bryan's work on promos has been great on Smackdown this was even better.
The match continued as AJ hit his springboard 450 splash for the near fall. AJ locked in the Calf Crusher and Daniel sold it like his leg was being sawed off. I really thought Bryan was going to tap but he managed to get the break. AJ went for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Bryan avoided it. AJ then went for an inside cradle but Bryan reversed it into a cradle of his own for the pin to retain the title. Loved that finish and it really worked in the context of the match which was presented as a tough match that could have been won by either guy at any time since they are so evenly matched and a couple of the best in the world. Bryan as a heel didn't win with a signature move or a big long submission to keep the fans on edge just to make them pop for the finish. He won by countering an inside cradle and like that it was over. A truly incredible match by these two and a clean win for Mr. Small Package.
Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins (c) (Singles match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
Winner: Dean Ambrose to win the Intercontinental Championship
Say what you want. Make all the excuses you want. Say the crowd was drained by the previous match, but damn did these fans reject this. I don't blame it on the previous match being "too good" because first of all, it should be because its a WWE Championship match and both guys are better workers than the guys in this match even though Seth is great. If the last match drained the fans and there was no heat, I could buy that excuse but if they were drained they wouldn't be chanting "this is boring" they would have just been quiet or gone to the bathroom.
Look, I like both guys even though I have no loved this angle or turn by Ambrose but I have to be honest in my review of these shows. I can't just put over the guys I like and bury the guys I don't like. That said... I'm with the crowd. This match was boring. It ran a minute less than the previous match and it felt twice as long.
The WWE painted this feud with Joe Anoa'i's cancerous blood thinking it would be great heat and the company got exactly what they deserved here. The crowd gave them NOTHING. Hopefully the message was loud and clear. I would feel bad for the guys in the ring if the match was actually good, but it wasn't. So, you can't say I'm not fair. In my last couple columns I've buried Nia Jax and had fun on Twitter at her expense, but put her over on this PPV because her match was great. Seth Rollins may be WWE's MVP of 2018, but for this last PPV of 2018 he went out with a dud along with Ambrose whose entire turn has been a bit of a dud itself. So a match built up with cringe dialogue and bad comedy is here and the crowd buries it. I see people on Twitter like "f*** THIS CROWD!!!" No... f*** WWE and this shitty program. The crowd is reacting the way normal people should react to a bad storyline and a boring match. I'm sorry if your fanboyism of the guys involved is clouding your better judgement. If anything if you're a big fan you should want them handed better material than this.
They do this personal blood feud and of course because no one has a sense of psychology, whether its the wrestlers or the agents laying out these matches they just... lock up. Yup. Some blood feud. Turning on Roman the day he vacated the title to battle for his life just to come to... a wrestling match. Mat wrestling and chin locks at TLC. Boy you can just cut the tension with a knife huh? Remember before I was talking about how with Bryan and AJ it felt like every move meant something in context with the match? Well, here they tried revisiting Seth injured knee but he didn't sell dick. He would act like his knee was hurting but it didn't stop him from doing all his signature high spots, so the knee meant nothing. Once they established everything they sell means nothing because they're gonna get their shit in anyway the fans start chanting "this is boring". Seth hits more of his signature spots like the Falcon Arrow and the crowd at least popped for it. After some fighting Dean sticks his fist out like he's trying to make amends with Seth but no one cared. It was pretty random and forced so not one person took the act as something genuine like Dean was really trying to make good with his old buddy. They knew he was full of crap. Oh... Not Seth though! He's the only one who had to think about it for 10 minutes or whatever before laying out Dean. Some brawling ensued until it went back in the ring and Dean hit Seth with the double-arm DDT for the win to become the new Intercontinental Champion. I picked Dean to win but I'm not sure how much faith I have in WWE rehabbing this turn. Like I said, I feel bad for the guys because I know they're both good and Seth in particular is great but no one is immune to shitty angles and booking no matter how many shots Dean gets injected into his ass.
Oh... Commentary sucked, too.
Becky Lynch (c) vs Asuka vs Charlotte Flair (Triple Threat Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match for the WWE SmackDown Women's Championship)
Winner: Asuka to become the new Smackdown Women's Champion
Things picked back up here. It was another 20+ minute match that was very good. It might even be your favorite of the night but to me it was the 2nd best match on the card. Prior to the match Charlotte tried being a badass by saying all Becky does is "talk, talk, talk". Oh... okay? The woman who beat you clean multiple times in one-on-one situations only talks? Your babyface queen, ladies and gentlemen...
This was the rightful main event and it felt right in this spot. It didn't feel like a pander move. This is what the people wanted and the crowd stayed invested throughout the match. Becky did a lot more than I expected so I guess that's a good sign. Becky hit a leg drop on Charlotte through a table to the outside that pretty much knocked the wind out of her. It didn't look like the table broke on impact either similar to that Vince McMahon spot at St. Valentine's Day Massacre against Austin. Charlotte also took a powerbomb by Asuka through a ladder in the corner, so major props to Charlotte for taking some crazy bumps here. On top of that Charlotte also hit her moonsault on both of them to the outside. They battled outside and Charlotte hit Asuka with the spear through the barricade. It felt like Roman Reigns used to do that spot every two weeks. It got a good reaction but the wall didn't break entirely so Asuka got a face full of kayfabed tits.
We get towards the end where you have your usually ladder battles. Charlotte and Asuka battle on one ladder while Becky grabs one of her own in hopes to swoop in and grab the title without a problem. Asuka falls and Charlotte focuses on Becky however out comes Ronda Rousey looking angry. Ronda hits the ring and tips the ladder laying out both Beck and Charlotte. Asuka would benefit from this by climbing the ladder to win the SD Women's Championship to a pretty huge pop.
When Asuka was added I wanted to pick her to win however with the way Smackdown ended with her technically winning by DQ and finishing the show standing tall after caning Becky and Charlotte I thought WWE would stick to their usual 50-50 philosophy by having someone look strong on TV but lose on the PPV. Nope, not here. Asuka was built up strong on TV and went over on the PPV to win the title and that's exactly how I would have booked it personally. Asuka has a natural charm about her and her 2018 has not been a noteworthy year. Hopefully her 2019 is better and she is booked as a more serious contender because she is possibly the most talented female worker they have and the fans love her.
That is WWE TLC 2018. As for Becky and Charlotte? While Asuka is champion it looks like Becky and Charlotte will battle to see who gets to face Ronda even though Ronda kinda f***ed them both over. It wasn't a heel turn. More like revenge for Becky's invasion on Raw and Charlotte pussying out the match with a DQ and caning the shit out of her. I'm guessing Becky will face Ronda at Wrestlemania and Charlotte will have another match with Asuka at Wrestlemania. That sounds good to me. I'd rather that than a 3 way with Becky, Ronda and Charlotte, but that would be fine too even though it waters it down a little.
TLC 2018 was an alright show. Other than the WWE Championship and the SD Women's Championship it basically felt like a long TV show. Other than that there was a lot of boring nonsense on this show so I can't give it a great rating despite it ending on a strong note, so I give TLC 2018 5.5 goth babes out of 10.
Thanks for reading everyone. Hopefully I'll be back before Christmas with another column if I don't go to wish Jesus Christ a happy birthday myself. I hope you enjoy the holiday. Follow me over on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe where I will be live-tweeting Raw. Thanks again for reading. I'm KC for NoDQ. God bless.