18th Dec2018

‘WWE TLC 2018’ PPV Review

by Phil Wheat


So TLC. A pay per view that, in all honestly, is a watershed moment for the current state of the WWE. Viewership is dropping and – apparently – things are so bad Vince McMahon is making an appearance on Raw this week. So… Will this years Tables, Ladders & Chairs PPV deliver where the TV product hasn’t? Read on to find out!

Match #1: WWE Cruiserweight Champion Buddy Murphy def. Cedric Alexander

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Who can stop Buddy Murphy? That’s been the question ever since the onetime “Best-Kept Secret” burst onto the scene at 205 Live, and nobody is any closer to cracking the code against the Cruiserweight Champion. The Superstar who came closest to figuring out the Australian punisher was Cedric Alexander, but Murphy seems to have progressed beyond that hump, fending off the former champion in a fast-paced title bout at WWE TLC Kickoff. Alexander did not go quietly to his nemesis, of course; the layoff mandated by 205 Live General Manager Drake Maverick did wonders for the former champion’s psyche, and he came out crisp in the opening moments of the match. Murphy used his power, however, to take away the luxury of a measured game plan, and Alexander was forced to up the tempo and intensity mid-match. Ultimately, it wasn’t Murphy’s muscles that proved the difference-maker, but his awareness. The champion narrowly got his foot on the ropes after a brutal one-two of a Death Valley Driver on the apron and the Lumbar Check, leaving Alexander visibly stunned and somewhat out of ideas. Murphy capitalized, forcing Cedric into the turnbuckles, clocking him with another leaping knee and pouncing with Murphy’s Law for the victory. If it wasn’t clear before this match, it’s safe to say that Buddy Murphy’s skill and might are now known commodities among the Cruiserweight division. How to beat him is the only secret left to crack.

My Take: Buddy Murphy has been delivering great matches since moving to 205 Live. Cedric Alexander has been delivering great matches since he debuted on 205 Live at its launch. So put the two together and you have a superb cruiserweight match that put a few matches NOT on the Kick-off show to shame. Maybe it’s time to give the cruiserweights a high-profile PPV spot next year?

Match #2: Elias def. Bobby Lashley (Ladder Match)

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Elias got the win in an unorthodox variation of a Ladder Match at WWE TLC Kickoff by seizing a guitar suspended above the ring, but Bobby Lashley walked out of San Jose with a big fat hit under his belt. We refer, of course, to the smash of that very same guitar across the back of The Living Truth, who was out to defeat and demoralize his foe after an increasing series of indignities at Lashley’s hands. The strummer certainly came to play in San Jose, brutalizing Lashley’s arms in the rungs of the ladders and powerbombing him off of one ladder and onto another. Elias also thwarted the interference of Lio Rush, which was more than enough to carry him up the proverbial stairway to heaven and grab hold of the six-string in the rafters.

That, unfortunately, was where the good times ended. Elias’ attempt to smash the guitar over Lashley’s back was cut short by Rush, who intercepted The Living Truth and opened the door for The All-Mighty to splinter the instrument across Elias’ back, hitting his favorite gluteus maximus pose for good measure over his fallen foe. The Living Truth will certainly go down as the victor tonight; if he made any mistake at TLC Kickoff, it was that he wanted the win and the vindication. A student of the greats should know better than anybody that you can’t always get what you want.

My Take: I’m incredibly glad Elias got the win. I’m incredibly p*ssed Elias’ win couldn’t have been clean – instead he got beatdown post-match to make a mockery of his defeat of Lashley!

Match #3: Carmella & R-Truth def. Jinder Mahal & Alicia Fox to win Season 2 of Mixed Match Challenge

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Carmella & R-Truth have been spontaneously bursting into dance for a while now just because they feel like it. Now, they have a real reason to boogie, as Princess Mella & The Rapping Superstar outlasted Jinder Mahal & Alicia Fox in the Mixed Match Challenge Finals to earn the No. 30 entries in the Men’s and Women’s Royal Rumble Matches, plus a sweet, all-expenses paid trip to a very unexpected destination. Mahal & Alicia, meanwhile, finally reached the end of their already-shaky partnership, despite having finally found a way to properly motivate Fox to work with Team Jinder — namely, reminding her that a vacation was at stake. Unfortunately, they were on shaky ground from the jump, as Alicia tagged herself in before Jinder seemed to be ready ready, and The Singh Brothers made an ill-advised attempt to get in on Mella and Truth’s dance break that resulted in Truth clobbering both of them and clearing them from the ring. Alicia’s attempt to assert her captaincy over Truth, of all people, only added to the chaos. And after attempts by Jinder and The Singh Brothers to intervene were thwarted by Truth, Carmella provided the finishing touch by reversing a roll-up into the Code of Silence for the tapout victory. They won the Mixed Match Challenge and get the coveted Royal Rumble entry position. That’s the good news. The bad news, unfortunately, is that Truth, unbeknownst to Carmella, already submitted their vacation request. Which means the MMC Season 2 champions are headed, all-expenses paid, to WWE Headquarters in sunny Stamford, Conn.

My Take: Well the Mixed Match Challenge ended how it began – with an inconsequential match that did nothing to make MMC worthy of returning next year. Everyone involved should really be ashamed of what a shambles this “event” was this year. Oh, and I still don’t buy Carmella’s submission move….

Match #4: SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Bar def. The Usos and The New Day (Triple Threat Match)

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

“Ice, Ice Sheamy” was all fun and games, but The Bar were all business at WWE TLC, holding firm against a challenge from two of SmackDown LIVE’s best tag teams to retain the blue brand’s tag team championships. While the victory was an impressive feat from a numbers-game perspective, the match was also something of a litmus test for Cesaro & Sheamus, as it was their first title defense since jettisoning Big Show from their ranks. Given that the match quickly devolved into a fast-paced brawl (New Day were built for speed in this match, going with the combo of Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods), it was looking like the champions would be especially missing the equalizing strength of the giant down the stretch. But The Bar dictated the pace and the makeup of the match, focusing on Woods while bulldozing The Usos off the apron at every turn to keep the affair as a standard tag team match for as long as possible.

They could not, obviously, keep them out forever. A sneaky tag by Jimmy Uso entered The Usos into the match for the first time, and the twins quickly dished out superkicks and splashes to anything that moved. But that was about all The Usos got in this match, as The Bar and The New Day decided their best path to victory was to take out Jimmy & Jey. Cesaro rocked both twins with uppercuts, and Kofi took out The Usos and The Swiss Cyborg with a Trust Fall to the outside. That brought the fight down to Sheamus and Woods, a one-on-one contest that seemed heading toward an upset when Woods landed a few hard rights to The Alabaster Gladiator. But after Cesaro tripped up Woods to slow him momentarily, the Irishman connected with a devastating Brogue Kick to put the match away, and The Bar left TLC as they walked in: With gold on their waists, smiles on their faces and ice in their veins.

My Take: How many times can you write “these three teams really know how to put on a great example of tag team wrestling”? Because that seems to be the consensus each and every time they go at it – be it in one-on-one, traditional tag, or a triple threat like this. They never disappoint and they didn’t here – and though there was a lack of excitement for a lot of this match, it was still an otherwise a solid affair.

Match #5: Braun Strowman def. Raw “General Manager-Elect” Baron Corbin in a TLC Match to earn a Universal Title opportunity

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Perhaps thinking his promotion to Raw General Manager was a forgone conclusion, Baron Corbin spent the last month making enemies across the Team Red locker room. Turns out, that might not have been the best managerial strategy: What was shaping up to be a gimme win against an injured Braun Strowman that would have elevated Corbin to permanent GM was waylaid by several of The Lone Wolf’s foes, and The Monster Among Men easily secured the pinfall that will send him to Suplex City and a Universal Title Match against Brock Lesnar. That’s doubly humiliating for Corbin because The Lone Wolf had stacked the deck in every possible manner against The Gift of Destruction, including corralling Heath Slater to count for what he had assumed was going to be a forfeit. When Strowman arrived with his arm in a sling, he proved to be the least of Corbin’s worries, as he reminded the “GM-Elect” that there were no disqualifications in his chosen stipulation of a TLC Match, and anybody who had a bone to pick with Corbin could help him out.

One by one, all of Corbin’s adversaries appeared from the crowd, each brandishing steel chairs: Apollo Crews, Raw Tag Team Champions Bobby Roode & Chad Gable, Finn Bálor and, finally, Kurt Angle, who Corbin deposed as General Manager. One-by-one, they all brutalized Corbin with steel chairs and finishing moves. And one-two-three, Slater — who had thrown his ref’s shirt in The Lone Wolf’s face in an act of defiance — put the zebra stripes back on and counted as Strowman placed one foot on Corbin’s chest. The news that Mr. McMahon would be returning to Raw to “shake things up” already had the WWE Universe questioning what the show would look like at the end of Monday night. Now, the question is how it will look at the start.

My Take: I absolutely LOVED how this match played out. The weeks of crap Baron Corbin had been pulling on the rest of the WWE roster bit him squarely in the arse! A brilliant coda to what, I’m assuming, is the official end of Corbin as Raw’s GM-Elect (you never know Vince might make him the permanent GM, but I very much doubt it)

Match #6: Natalya def. Ruby Riott (Tables Match)

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

When Ruby Riott takes inventory of tonight’s Tables Match and examines what went wrong, perhaps she will conclude that mocking Natalya’s late father Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart was not the best of game plans. There would be ample evidence to support that conclusion, as Natalya sent her crashing her through a table to win the match and obliterated the entire Riott Squad in a thorough dismantling. The Riott Squad has often said that as the individual goes, so does the group, so it was perhaps a harbinger of what was to come to come when The Queen of Harts bulldozed Liv Morgan off the apron and through a table just minutes into the match. Things didn’t improve for The Riott Squad when the former SmackDown Women’s Champion bodyslammed Sarah Logan through a second table moments later. But Riott knew exactly where to go to keep the match on an even keel, shoving Natalya up close and personal to The Riott Squad’s custom table that had been plastered with a decal of Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart — their way of keeping Natalya “close” to her father — and hissing that he was watching down on her in shame. Natalya responded in furious fashion and showed some mind-game mettle of her own, pulling out a custom table she had adorned with a full-body decal of Ruby herself. As the final touch, The Queen of Harts produced her father’s famous jacket and threw it over her own shoulders, putting herself in position for the ultimate symbolic victory. Despite a last-gasp effort from Ruby, she got it, reversing a top-rope hurricanrana attempt from Riott to powerbomb her straight through her own image. Whether she feels closer to her father or not is a question only Natalya can answer, but he’s definitely smiling down on her.

My Take: Brutal and hostile were just two of the words the commentary team used to describe this match; and I’d have to agree. Natayla looked like the strong experienced veteran she is, taking care of business and taking care of the family name. I’d like to see Natalya go further down the badass b*tch route and get another shot at the women’s main event this time next year. But let’s not forget the Riott Squad who did a SUPERB job of selling a strong an vicious Natalya – proving you do NOT mess with family!

Match #7: Finn Bálor def. Drew McIntyre

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Leading into WWE TLC, Baron Corbin used a simple threat to keep his enemies in check: Fall in line, lest you end up on the “wrong side of history” and have to answer to the likes of Drew McIntyre. But history can change in an instant, and The Scottish Psychopath’s planned obliteration of Finn Bálor ended up as yet another extraordinary notch in the former Universal Champion’s belt. Of course, McIntyre didn’t necessarily need the promise of Corbin’s favor to come out swinging against Bálor; the Scotsman is big into statement beatings these days, and his punishing opening salvo against The Extraordinary Man had the feeling of someone who would have gladly done it for free. Just minutes in, Bálor’s chest was welted, and his legs were wobbly after being chopped and tossed by The Scottish Terminator with ruthless impunity.

If there’s any way to describe Bálor’s rally against McIntyre — other than “miraculous” — it would be, “slowly, then all at once.” It was a kick here, a DDT there, and before anybody knew it, Finn was going a mile-a-minute, and we had ourselves a match. McIntyre was smart enough to bait Finn into his own power offense, and it seemed like the Scotsman’s might would be the deciding word on the evening. That is, at least, until Dolph Ziggler blasted him with a superkick after running in from the crowd. Ziggler’s attempt to brutalize his former tag team partner with a steel chair was thwarted when the Scot booted it into the former World Heavyweight Champion, but the digression was more than enough to give Bálor the recovery time he needed. As the Scot busied himself with Ziggler, Finn sprinted with a running dropkick that drove the steel chair into McIntyre’s chest, following up with a Coup de Grâce to earn the victory. If there’s any way to describe McIntyre’s loss — other than “shocking” — it would simply be that he took his eye off the ball. The rest, as they say, is history.

My Take: A decent match that was spoiled by the ending. I get that McIntyre couldn’t lose cleanly – Vince has big plans for the Scottish psychopath after all, and losing to small man Finn probably doesn’t fit into those plans. But still, I would have loved to have seen Finn Balor get a clean win and possibly start feuding with McIntyre going forward.

Match #8: Rey Mysterio def. Randy Orton (Chairs Match)

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

“Once a victim, always a victim” is how Randy Orton described Rey Mysterio on SmackDown LIVE after weeks of escalating attacks against Rey’s body and heritage. But The Ultimate Underdog flipped the narrative in painful, emphatic fashion, defeating WWE’s Apex Predator in a brutal Chairs Match at WWE TLC. Mysterio did not hesitate to take advantage of the match’s signature stipulation, bringing the chairs into play almost immediately. Even if Orton entered with a clear advantage in cruelty, Mysterio’s creativity proved difficult to top: In one incredibly impressive sequence, the former World Heavyweight Champion rode a chair under the ropes like a boogie-board and crashed down on Orton in what amounted to a steel-assisted splash.

That creativity proved to be a liability as well as an asset — an attempt to hit a chair-bound Orton with a seated senton sent Mysterio crashing into the chair when The Viper moved out of the way — but Orton’s desire to prolong his opponent’s punishment gave Mysterio more than enough recovery time. It also contributed directly to his undoing. The Viper had rallied from a 619 to get The Ultimate Underdog in position for an RKO atop a row of steel chairs, but the lengthy set-up allowed Mysterio to exploit an angle that nobody else in the arena seemed to see. The Master of the 619 writhed free of the RKO, superkicked Orton in the midsection, hit a drop toehold that left The Viper dazed on the chair, and before Orton even knew what was happening, Rey nimbly leapt up and hurricanrana’d his foe off the chair and into a pinning combination. Once the G.O.A.T., always the G.O.A.T.

My Take: A mediocre match that felt like it went on too long. At least that “surfing on a chair ” spot out to the floor made for a highlight and was something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Definitely glad Rey Mysterio got the win, though I hope that doesn’t keep this painful Orton/Mysterio storyline going – it needs to die like Orton’s career.

Match #9: Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey def. Nia Jax

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Call her #SpiritBreaker. Ronda Rousey took Nia Jax’s best face-breaking punch and came back swinging, upending The Irresistible Force to retain the Raw Women’s Championship against a Superstar whose return to the mountaintop was beginning to look more and more likely over the past few weeks. Indeed, Jax and Rousey had been on opposite tracks of late, with Rousey suffering a humiliation (if not defeat) at the hands of Charlotte Flair at Survivor Series, while Jax rode the momentum of the punch that broke Becky Lynch’s face and the addition of Tamina to become one of the most dangerous Superstars on Raw. Jax proved she was more than just a punch in their title match as well, cleverly countering Rousey’s Armbar and crushing her shoulder against the ring post in an attempt to weaken the champion’s ability to ply her signature hold.

In response, Rousey dug deep, exploiting the full range of her athleticism and speed and even breaking out a new maneuver or two — that step-up Superman Punch! — to keep Jax in check. Sensing danger, Tamina threatened to interfere, and Jax prepared to unleash the #Facebreaker … but Rousey was ready. The champion caught Jax’s arm, wrenched her down to the mat and stared Tamina dead in the face as she kissed the fist and locked in the Armbar for the tapout win. (Adding insult to injury, Becky Lynch decked Jax backstage after the match as part of her night-long “debt” collection). Make no mistake: Rousey was in a fight tonight. And the last few weeks have shown she’s mortal. But from bell-to-bell, she remains an unsolvable puzzle. And it’ll take more than one punch to take that title from her. In short? She bends. She doesn’t break.

My Take: This turned out to be a decent match which some great back and forth between Jax and Rousey. The outcome was a given however, so again this was a match that lacked immediacy and any sense of danger for Rousey.

Match #10: WWE Champion Daniel Bryan def. AJ Styles

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

For all the very significant differences between them, “The New” Daniel Bryan has a few traits in common with the old: He is methodical in his scouting; he is surgical in the ring; and he can beat you in the most unexpected of ways. Case in point, his WWE Title retention over AJ Styles didn’t come from a Running Knee or a LeBell Lock (no more “Yes!”) or even a heel hook, but from such an old-school, time-honored maneuver that can it even catch a ring general like The Phenomenal One unaware. That maneuver was only possible because Bryan’s entire game plan was built around something of a misdirection in which he methodically and savagely targeted Styles’ ribcage. The strategy was seemingly in place to set AJ up for a submission, with the added bonus of taking away Styles’ high-risk, high-reward offense. (AJ’s one attempt at a 450 hurt him as much as The Beard).

Of course, Bryan’s insistence on rope-a-doping The Phenomenal One brought out the pitbull side of the former champion. We weren’t exactly seeing the advent of “The New” AJ Styles, but it was certainly a more aggressive effort from the Georgia native: A savage single-leg crab and Calf Crusher seemed to put Bryan in too deep a hole, especially when Styles unleashed a barrage of fists and forearms as the match went long. Styles’ attempt to turn the match into a brawl was somewhat misguided. After all, brawls are dirty, and for all his environmental consciousness, dirty fighting is where “The New” Daniel Bryan lives. As the match threatened to spiral out of control, Styles was forced to pull back in key moments, lest someone lay out the ref and leave The Phenomenal One open to another cheap shot or low blow like the one that cost him the title. So, he went safe, applying a roll-up to The Beard in the thick of a frantic scramble. But that’s where Bryan lives too, and The Beard countered the rollup into a small package of his own — an unremarkable but near-bulletproof maneuver that earned him victories all over the world, and one he broke out once again when it mattered most. Old Daniel Bryan, New Daniel Bryan; some things never change.

My Take: A brilliant match between two men who know exactly how to play off each other and tell a story within the confines of a match. And two guys who are perfectly matched and easily two of the best in the WWE. Which means this match was also easily one of the best in recent WWE memory.

Match #11: Dean Ambrose def. Seth Rollins to become the new Intercontinental Champion

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Six years ago at this very event, The Shield made their in-ring debut as a united front, kick-starting a dominant streak bonded by the brotherhood of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns that had never been seen before or since. But that was a long, long time ago. The Shield has long since splintered. Reigns is embroiled in the fight of his life. And Ambrose and Rollins are about as far from brothers as can be, with The Lunatic Fringe taking the Intercontinental Title from his former Shield mate in the culmination of a series of events that began with one of the more heinous betrayals in WWE history. Of course, the Intercontinental Title might just be a bonus for Ambrose. Their match at TLC was more about demoralization for him and taking away the “control” he felt Rollins had prioritized during their time in The Shield. Fittingly, Ambrose was in control of the bout from the jump, systematically whittling The Architect down with a targeted attack on Rollins’ surgically-repaired knee. Ambrose chose his target wisely; Rollins’ offense took as much out of him as it did Ambrose, and the lingering pain prevented The Kingslayer from breaking out the speed and athleticism that typically carries him to victory.

And yet, none of Ambrose’s strategy seemed to truly cause Rollins to snap — until, right as Rollins began to rally, Dean offered him the Shield fist bump in solidarity. That gesture, more than anything, was too much for Rollins to bear, and The Kingslayer lost it, pursuing his opponent outside the ring and driving him into the barricade with a bucklebomb before rolling him in the center of the ring. The Architect blisteringly slapped Ambrose in the face and sprinted to the ropes for the Stomp, but Ambrose was waiting, and he caught The Architect with a match-ending Dirty Deeds that earned him the 1-2-3 and the Intercontinental Championship. Maybe Ambrose was right, and all those years calling him a lunatic were missing the point. He certainly called this one down the middle: He picked Seth Rollins apart piece by piece in ways only he knew how. Seth Rollins lost control. And Dean Ambrose took everything.

My Take: As has been said a myriad of other places: we wanted a brawl, we got a wrestling match. Where was the hatred between these two, where was the animosity? All that build for a mere wrestling match – not a battle between friends turned foes. It was a good match, just not the blow-off this storyline needed. Plus it went on waaaay too long!

Match #12: Asuka def. Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair to become the new SmackDown Women’s Champion (TLC Match)

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Asuka is the new SmackDown Women’s Champion, and Ronda Rousey made it happen. Not because she wants to be friends with Asuka, of course. The Empress of Tomorrow’s two opponents just happened to be reigning champion Becky Lynch and perennial contender Charlotte Flair — the same two Superstars who humiliated The Baddest Woman on the Planet within the same week, which made them marked women the second they set foot in San Jose. On a night where Becky walked in promising “receipts” for the Superstars who contributed to her stint in doctor jail, it was Rousey instead who delivered the biggest one of all. It was also, in some ways, the only way the first ever Women’s TLC Match could have ended. Throughout the title fight, Becky and Charlotte seemed like they were battling just as much for personal pride as they were for the championship. With Lynch competing in her first match back from injury and Charlotte somewhat lost in a haze of ruthlessness, the two Horsewomen could most often be seen brutalizing each other with, yes, tables, ladders and chairs. Lynch delivered a leg drop off the top of a ladder to Charlotte. The Queen returned the favor with a senton bomb that drove The Man through a table. And, in one crucial moment, they disregarded Asuka entirely and threw hands in the center of the ring, letting months of tension boil over into a full-on fistfight.

Asuka, on the other hand, never lost sight of what she was there for: the title that she came to SmackDown LIVE to challenge for earlier in the year and fell short of on numerous occasions. Each of The Empress’ maneuvers was calculated and precise, and she made a point to either avoid big moves (that Becky leg drop was initially meant for her as well) or take time to recover while her two opponents slugged it out. It was an expert long-game; nonetheless, she appeared to have been taken out of contention when Rousey reared her head, having tumbled off a ladder following a brawl atop the rungs between all three competitors. But Becky and Charlotte were ripe pickings for The Baddest Woman on the Planet as they grasped for the title atop a ladder. The Raw Women’s Champion marched down to the ring and tipped over their ladder to send them plummeting down to earth before making her exit without a word. With Becky and Charlotte both down, Asuka made her move, climbing the ladder and unhooking the SmackDown Women’s Championship to finally — finally — complete her journey to the mountaintop. She had a hand, sure, but the record books don’t count assists. What they will say is this: Rousey got her payback. Becky and Charlotte left empty-handed. And Asuka won the title for the simplest of reasons. Not because she wanted it, but because she was finally ready for it.

My Take: In the words of the audience in attendance… This was awesome! And the run-in from Rousey just made this all the more satisfying, everyone came out of this one looking strong and this women’s TLC match should definitely be one for the history books – for more than just being the first main roster women’s TLC match.

Final Verdict: 3.5/5

One of the better WWE pay per views, TLC featured some great matches and some fun ones… and quite a few that seemed to go on much longer than they ever needed to. Thankfully the good outweighed the bad this time – if some of the flotsam could have been jettisoned and the show streamlined then we could have had an instant classic on our hands. As it is TLC turned out better than average and much better than expected given recent WWE programming. The Smackdown roster definitely saved the show however!


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