WrestleWatch: WWE TLC 2019
Here we are. The final PPV of the 2010s. Sandwiched in between Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble, WWE held its annual Tables, Ladders & Chairs PPV. One thing WWE deserves a lot of credit for is the quality of its big shows (not Paul Wight). Even when the weekly product is a mess- and it has been through most of 2019- the PPVs themselves usually deliver. Survivor Series was an incredibly strong show, boosted by the involvement of the NXT brand, but all the talent across all three brands shone.
December is typically not a strong month for WWE. With the holiday season in full swing, and as I mentioned, right in between two of the "Big Four" PPVs, everyone from the front office to the bookers to the wrestlers seem to take their foot off the gas a little. A little while ago on Wrestling Forum, I posed the question of what major events have occured historically in the month of December. It was a little tough to come up with a lot of significant events or matches. This year is the 20 year anniversary of Stephanie McMahon joining Triple H to start the McMahon/Helmsley Era, and 18 years ago, Chris Jericho defeated The Rock and Stone Cold in the same night to become Undisputed Champion, but past that, it's slim pickings.
This year, the TLC PPV fell victim to a recent trend in WWE. As of about a week ago, hardly any of the matches for the show had been announced. This is reminiscent of the Hell In A Cell PPV a couple of months ago, where on the weekend of the show, only 3 matches had been advertised, before a quick Sunday morning Twitter post filled up the card. At least with TLC, it was fairly evident where they were going with several of the matches, but it does make it look like the company is a bit disorganised.
In the main event of the show, bitter rivals become partners, as Raw Women's Champion, "The Man" Becky Lynch, and "The Queen" Charlotte Flair put their animosity aside to challenge The Kabuki Warriors, Asuka and Kairi Sane, in a TLC match for the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship. The other feature match is also a TLC match, a grudge match between Roman Reigns and the 2019 King of the Ring, Baron Corbin.
For the final time this decade... Let's. Do. This!
The Kick-Off Show
Hosting the Kick-Off panel is Jonathan Coachman. I miss Renee Young. At least she's killing it on WWE Backstage getting that sweet FOX money. Coach is joined on the panel by Booker T, Charly Caruso and David Otunga. One of the great mysteries of life is the continued employment of Otunga. He was a lousy wrestler and he's not much better as an "analyst'.
The panel run through the PPV line-up. As I've mentioned before, I'm really not a fan of the faux-Sportcenter thing WWE do here.
After hyping the Lashley/Rusev/Lana storyline, we throw to a live split-screen interview with the panel grilling Lana and Lashley. Lana is extremely agitated at everyone and everything, calls Charly "a wannabe Renee", and Lashley just stands there smiling. Eh.
They re-cap Seth Rollins officially turning heel on Raw and aligning with AOP. Neither Rollins nor the Authors of Pains have any scheduled involvement in the TLC PPV, so this is a little strange. The Revival interrupt Booker T speaking and start getting in his face for not talking about them. Dash and Dawson demand that Booker give them his two Hall Of Fame rings. He does not, and after the Top Guys leave, Booker says that he was being professional, but could have whooped them. Come on, Book. You're in great shape, but in your 50s, beating one of the best tag teams in WWE 2-on-1? Not a chance.
Now, the only reason I watch these Kick-Off Shows... a quality opening match!
Match 1: Humberto Carrillo def. Andrade (w Zelina Vega) (at 12:45)
Thoughts: This was really good, especially for a Kick-Off match. They had a good amount of time and did a lot of crisp lucha libre work. Commentary are putting over the story of a rift between Andrade and Vega, after Carrillo handed Andrade his first loss since joining Raw last week. Carrillo does a Fosbury Flop dive to the outside at one point, wiping out Andrade... and lands perfectly on his feet. Insane athleticism. Vega almost costs Andrade the match by getting up on the apron and nearly colliding with her business partner. It leads to a close near fall, but Carrillo gets the win off his own merits by nailing a reverse rana off the top rope, followed by a gorgeous moonsault. Awesome way to get the wrestling action started! (***1/2)
I missed the first minute of the show, but apparently a Firefly Funhouse segment aired. Universal Champion Bray Wyatt is on TLC, but for the first time is appearing live and wrestling as the Funhouse host character. Intriguing. I turn on the Network at the perfect time to see the opening pyro explode on the stage.
Match 1: Smackdown Tag Team Championship- Ladder Match: New Day def. The Revival (at 19:20)
Thoughts: A super hot way to open the actual TLC PPV. Cole and Graves do a nice job on commentary framing the advantage that New Day have- while New Day as a unit haven't had a great deal of experience in ladder matches, Kofi Kingston is a veteran of many of them in his singles career. Revival are quick studies, however, using the ladder as a weapon very effectively. They back drop Big E onto a bridged ladder, but are slightly off target and the ladder does not break as planned. Showing that they are the Top Guys they profess to be, they don't miss a beat, quickly splashing E through the ladder. The closing sequence is extremely well done, with Dash and Dawson putting Kofi in the Tree of Woe in the ladder. It seems like they have a clear path to victory- but Big E recovers and hits the Big Ending on Wilder off the ladder! Kofi untangles himself from the ladder rungs and battles with Dawson on top of the ladder. Kofi smacks Dawson in the head with the title belts, sending him flying, and the New Day retain the gold! (****)
Match 2: Aleister Black def. Buddy Murphy (at 13:45)
Thoughts: Bruh. This was immense! They started with a fast, intense pace, and never really let up. It opens with a quick exchange of holds and strikes, and it almost feels like a Japanese strong style match. Murphy drives Black into the stairs early on, and it legitimately busts up his nose. Heavy strikes on both sides, and the commentary is interesting here- the story that they're trying to tell is that Aleister's jaw is injured from the striking barrage of Murphy, which Vic Joseph and Samoa Joe stick to. However, Aleister's nose is leaking blood significantly, so Jerry Lawler focuses on that. I think Lawler had the right idea- the bloody nose was obviously an accident, but since it happened and it's clear as day, you might as well use it. Cool spot where Murphy traps Black's head in the turnbuckle (in the style of Will Ospreay's Cheeky Nandos) and blasts it with several superkicks, followed by a powerbomb for a great near fall. A series of knees followed by a brainbuster almost gets the Aussie the victory again! Both men are tired and pull themselves up in opposite corners of the ring. They meet in the middle for one last big striking exchange, and Aleister is able to counter with Black Mass outta nowhere for the win! I can't remember the last time I saw a WWE match that hard-hitting. Felt straight out of New Japan. Black gets the win, but Murphy's stock goes up there too. Neither man deserves to be on a Kick-Off show again after that performance. (****1/2)
Backstage interview with Rusev. Charly Caruso asks Rusev how he's feeling about Lashley possibly marrying Lana. Rusev says he's elated because if Lana gets re-married, he doesn't have to pay alimony. Okay, that was pretty damn funny.
Match 3: Raw Tag Team Championship: The Viking Raiders vs. The OC ends in a double count-out (at 8:30)
Thoughts: The Vikings are super over with this Minnesota crowd. The Good Brothers, Gallows and Anderson, answer their open challenge. Fans are sitting at a table at ringside eating KFC, because KFC are the sponsors here. Really this entire match just seemed like a vehicle to promote fried chicken, so it was a good match, but obviously not their best because they were going to a fuck finish. Post-match, The Vikings slam Anderson through the KFC table. Close up camera shot of the Colonel Sanders tablecloth. Advertising! (**1/2)
Backstage interview with The Miz. Kayla Braxton, looking cute AF as always, is on the mic. Miz says he's not there tonight as a WWE Superstar, he's there as a man defending his family. Good emotion from Miz.
Match 4: TLC Match: King Corbin def. Roman Reigns (at 22:20)
Thoughts: I like Corbin and Reigns. I feel like they are far better than their haters would like to admit. But dammit if this match didn't give the haters all the ammo they need. It was too long, and it felt like they were moving in slow motion most of the time. It was probably the least TLC-ey TLC match I've ever seen. One table spot, one ladder hit, one End of Days on a chair to end it. But of course, it wasn't as simple as that. Gotta give Reigns an out, so Corbin had his own personal security, and Dolph Ziggler, and the Revival to beat down Reigns. Roman still ALMOST gets the better of them before getting overwhelmed. So, my two main takeaways- Roman can ALMOST beat 12 guys by himself, and also... Roman has no friends. Seriously, it looked terrible for that many guys to beat Reigns down, and not a single Smackdown babyface thought to even try and help. Even if they failed! Shorty G? Mustafa Ali? Where you at? The crowd were chanting for The Usos, I think, but they've been off the road for a while after getting yet another DUI. The reason for all this was made clear when the line was dropped- "One Versus All!" Really? We're doing all this just for that lame fucking catchphrase? Anyway, this was a brutal TLC match... and not in a good way. (*1/2)
Match 5: Bray Wyatt def. The Miz (at 6:40)
Thoughts: This was actually a lot of fun! The storyline going in was that Bray Wyatt was being a creepy fuck, harassing Miz's wife Maryse and their little baby daughter Monroe Sky. So Miz was fuming, ready to get vengeance... and then Bray comes out in his sweater to the Firefly Funhouse music, smiling and waving at everyone as the happy-go-lucky children's host. The crowd didn't know what to make of it at first, but soon got into it. Funhouse Bray didn't want to fight, even after Miz rained down punches and kicks on him, he wasn't fighting back. Bray started laughing as Miz kept beating him down! Eventually, Bray snaps and delivers a Sister Abigail on the outside, followed by another in the ring for the pin and the win. This was great character work, Wyatt did so much with his facial expressions and body language to sell the Funhouse character. I didn't know if the Firefly Funhouse gimmick could or would translate to a live setting, but it was done extremely well, and now Bray has two distinct characters he can work with- Funhouse and Fiend. (***)
Post-match, The Fiend appears on the big screen. Bray goes under the ring and gets the giant custom mallet he had at HIAC. The lights go out to signify The Fiend's arrival. "He's here!" Bray yelled excitedly. The lights come on and a hooded figure is in the ring. He blasts Wyatt with a flying knee, and reveals himself to be Daniel Bryan! With a shaved head and face, he looks like Bryan circa 2010. He blasts Wyatt with kicks, a running dropkick, and contemplates using the mallet before dropping it and leaving to "Yes!" chants. Interesting development in the Bryan/Wyatt story. It'd be cool if they have a match at the Rumble. Many moons ago, at the 2014 Rumble, Bryan gave Wyatt the first great match of his WWE career. It'd be nice to see everything come full-circle, in a way.
Match 6: Tables Match- Bobby Lashley def. Rusev (at 13:30)
Thoughts: Not as heated a match as I was expecting. Rusev tries to get a table early but Lana drags it out of the ring. Ah, if this was the Attitude Era, there'd be a table with her name on it right there. The big boys battle, and it's some good shit, with table teases aplenty. Since a tables match is inherently No DQ, a piece of a guardrail and a kendo stick is used. Rusev tries to knock Lashley off the apron through a table, but he jumps over it. Lana causes a distraction by jumping on Rusev's back briefly. The finish comes when Lashley tries to Spear Rusev through a table, but it doesn't break, so Lashley quickly hurls him through another table with a belly to belly. Was hoping Rusev would win just so we could put this silly feud to rest, but it appears that it is not over yet. Yay. (**3/4)
Match 7: WWE Women's Tag Team Championship- TLC Match- The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka & Kairi Sane) def. Becky Lynch & Charlotte Flair (at 26:00)
Thoughts: A bit of history being made here- the first time the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship main events a PPV. Funny how when the Iiconics were champs, they could hardly get on TV, but I digress. I hoped and expected a lot more from this match, given the talent involved. I found out today that Kairi Sane suffered a concussion at one point in the match, so that softens my criticism of it a little. Lots of blown spots and awkward moments, and a few weak looking chair shots, especially by Becky, which actually caused the crowd to boo a bit. It was a little like Lance Storm's love taps at Barely Legal 1997. I did like the inventive use of a rope to tie Becky up, and then for it to come into play with the match finish was innovative and cool. Sometimes, the "first evers" for the women end up great, like Last Women Standing, and sometimes they are a disappointment, like HIAC and... this, unfortunately. Glad the Kabukis won, though, and I hope Kairi recovers ASAP, they've got a good thing going there. (**1/2)
The focus quickly shifts off the main event winners to focus on Roman Reigns and King Corbin, who apparently have been fighting non-stop since their match earlier. They brawl out into the arena, with all the security guys in tow. Reigns Spears Corbin off the stairs through the pile of security to end the show. Gotta make Reigns look strong. At the expense of everyone on the roster, even the women. Yawn. As I said earlier, I like Reigns, but everything about his presentation on this show is why many don't like him, in my opinion. Even superheroes occasionally look vulnerable. It takes half the roster and all of the security guards employed in Minneapolis to slow him down, but even with all that, he still ends up standing tall in the end.
The last PPV of the 2010s started with so much promise! A great Kick-Off match between Andrade and Carrillo, one of the best ladder matches in recent memory in New Day vs. Revival, and one of the hardest-hitting WWE matches I can recall ever in Aleister Black vs. Buddy Murphy. Then things slowed to a snail's pace with Reigns vs. Corbin, and some subtle-as-a-sledgehammer advertising. On a positive note, Bray Wyatt is the best character WWE has today. I was going to preface it with a "probably", but really, there's no one close. Some high highs and some low lows. Overall, a decent outing as we head towards 2020 and the Royal Rumble!
Until next time, take care,