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WWE TLC '15 Review
For as much as I dislike the idea of most pay per views being gimmicks, TLC is one I can kind of live with. If you go down the history books, December has often been a spotty month. It's not that every December before TLC became an event was bad. In fact, many Armageddon/Vengeance events were quite good (2000 and 2001 are examples). However December has had the lion's share of bad PPVs for a month - likely do to the fact that it is the end of the year and it is sandwiched between Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble so the people behind the scenes may have their minds elsewhere.
Like the other gimmick PPVs, TLC guarantees gimmick matches. TLC as a match is one of those things that was a big deal, but unlike Hell in a Cell, the reputation of TLC does not feel tarnished by being its own event. After all, many TLC matches have been aired on free TV. The first TLC PPV occurred after Jeff Hardy left the company. Edge has been long retired, and I find it hard to imagine Christian coming back in a major capacity so nobody really "owns" the TLC match. If there is a downside, being a PPV does ruin the unpredictable nature of TLC matches. After all, it was a pretty big deal to see those matches on Raw and Smackdown. But you win some, you lose some.
WWE has been receiving A LOT of criticism recently. Over the last few months, the company has been criticized for ignoring the fans and pushing people they have no interest in. While I could write an entire article on this subject, the short version is... I agree and disagree with these criticisms. I feel the problem is not who they are choosing to push, but HOW they are pushing them. Sheamus has been criticized for being old hat, but look at the glass half full. I'd point out he's still newer than Orton or Cena, but that still is not good enough. The problem is Sheamus has all the right parts to be a monster heel, but nobody seems to be able to put the pieces together. Still, we are inching closer to Rumble season. With TWO LAME DUCK RUMBLE WINNERS IN A ROW, I am optimistic that the people behind the scenes will learn from their mistakes and book someone the fans want to see as the winner of that - if for no other reason than damage control. Okay, I've gotten that off my chest, onto the review.
New Day vs. Lucha Dragons vs. Usos - Ladder Match
There is very little doubt in my mind that the company was trying to recapture the magic of the TLC matches of the early 2000's. While I would not say this match is on this level, it was still pretty good. This was the match people probably expected - lots of ladder spots, plenty of dives out of the ring. The New Day was their usual goofy selves - though Xavier Woods did not do his hair. After all, once you've copied Danny John-Jules, how the smeg do you top that? There were some noticeable botches such as when Sin Cara performed a hurricanrana and Kofi pretty much threw himself into the ladder. This match was nothing new, but everything done right.
Rusev vs. Ryback
This one of two matches I was not looking forward to at this PPV. After Ryback was unable to even have a good match with Kevin Owens, I wondered if it was possible for the guy to have anything decent. And this match was... tolerable. Okay, this was a hardly a mat classic, but for a hoss match, it was decent. Ryback and Rusev kind of clicked with each other. Ryback seems to at least be TRYING to expand his moveset with some top rope moves. Yeah, they're sloppy, and he's probably gonna hurt someone (probably himself), but he is trying. The most inexplicable moment of the match was prolonged choke hold from Rusev. It was some sort of sleeper hold, but it looked WAAAAY to loose to be effective. Stuff like that is why people call make fun of wrestling - an odd move for someone who is normally as competent Rusev. Rusev did win the match, which was the best choice as it will help him get some monster cred.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger - Chairs Match
This was the other match I was not looking forward to. Chairs match is usually code for most underwhelming match on the card. Seriously, remember in 2010 when someone had the bright idea of John Cena vs. Wade Barrett headlining over that titanic 4-way TLC match? At the time, that decision was head-scratching. In hindsight, that match headlining is practically laughable. But chairs matches never seem like much of a gimmick. There have been one or two that were good (Undertaker vs. Batista comes to mind), but mostly chairs matches seem like a cheap gimmick to improve weak matches. They give it to matches that they have little confidence in, but nothing they want to ruin with a lame gimmick. Also, while Del Rio and Swagger are talented, they are not guys I count on to have showstopping matches. Swagger has spent more time on the canvas than Rembrandt in recent months so he only seemed like fodder for Del Rio. So there was little suspense.
Despite lukewarm expectations, this match was... pretty good. The gimmick wasn't just an excuse to hit each other with chairs, these two actually did some creative spots. Swagger held the Patriot Lock with a chair, a decent spot on its own, but what put this over the top was Del Rio trying to escape - rope breaks did Jack Squat. I had never heard that rule, but I'll buy it. Del Rio had to crawl under the ring to escape the hold. They pulled the Terry Funk bit of piling as many chairs as possible on someone. The end came when Del Rio performed his double foot stomp with a chair - pretty brutal looking, I must admit. Maybe not the best match of the night, but it was the biggest surprise how good this match was.
Wyatt Family vs. ECW Originals - Tables Match
I don't think there was a ton of suspense for this match. The Wyatts clearly needed the win after jobbing to the Brothers of Destruction last month. Surely, a perennial mid-card tag team, an NXT star and Tommy Dreamer were not going to get the V over a full time stable that's considered important enough to even have matches against the Undertaker. (I am in fact a pretty big fan of the original ECW and those guys were a pretty big deal in their prime, but I calls them like I sees them.) The ECW originals can count their blessings that at least they're still more credible than Eric Rowan. After last month, when he was chokeslammed before the match even started and this time, he was not only the only Wyatt family member to be eliminated, but THE FIRST MAN ELIMINATED. Rowan has officially bypassed jobber status and is now in red shirt territory. Kenny McCormick has a better win-loss record than this guy.
As for the match itself - once again, it was nothing new, but everything done right. It was a brawl, weapons were used and lots of people went through tables. I don't mind admitting I winced a few times, after learning about Tommy Dreamer's issues with concussions (He talked about memory problems on Steve Austin's podcast). However, this was still a wild brawl, sure to thrill any fan of hardcore wrestling. The end came when Bubba Ray Dudley tried to light a table on fire. Depsite the company's PG rating, there was a part of my mind that thought maybe - just maybe - they would go all the way and put someone through fire - since Buh Buh Ray would be one of the people willing to pull it and they would try to make Bray Wyatt look monstrous. But alas it was not meant to be. Still, I kind of like the idea of Buh Buh Ray Dudley's ego costing him the match.
Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens - Intercontinental Title
I was secretly hoping these two would get one of the gimmick matches. However, the booking team made the right choice. If there were any two people who would have a good match without needing a gimmick, it was these two. Also, unlike their superb Survivor Series match, the crowd was actually into this one. Ambrose and Owens were able to work a pretty wild brawl. There was a spot where Owens tried to knock out Ambrose outside to win the ring. This is the sort of thing that could easily a cheat to buy time, but Ambrose and Owens had enough psychology to sell this as a dramatic moment. The match had a ton of psychology with Owens playing the viscous bully and Ambrose playing the tough guy dealing with him. I was surprised when I found out after the fact how short this match was. Despite its brevity, I'd still call this the match of the night. It was short, sweet and to the point.
Ambrose won the match and the title. I'm sure some will view this as a step backwards for the guy, but I'm cool with it. It may sound like I've dwelled on how stagnant the IC title has gotten over a while, but it really is a problem. John Cena made the US title seem important again and Ambrose can do the same with the IC belt. Besides, let's not forget Steve Austin was battling over the IC months before his Rumble win. So there! On that note, the company does seem to be building toward Ambrose vs. Reigns at Wrestlemania. I seriously hope they go that direction. It may seem like a waste since they already had a match at Survivor Series. However, the match was short and rushed (but still pretty good) so I would say the door is still open for that match.
Charolette vs. Paige - Divas Championship
This is a re-match from Survivor Series. That was a good match, and this follows suit. The difference is this time, Charolette was accompanied by her father the dirtiest player in the game Ric Flair. The match was solid, but the story seems to be that Charolette is following in the footsteps of her father and resorting to cheating - with her father's help. There is an in-joke among the fans that Ric Flair is constantly referred to as Charolette's father. It does make sense that he would be involved. However, it is funny that one of wrestling's greatest legends - a man often considered the greatest in the business - is currently playing second banana to his progeny. I was reticent about the idea of Charolette becoming a cheater at first. However, I do see light in this story. There are areas where this can go. There looks to be brewing a feud between her and Becky Lynch, with the story being that Charolette is turning into an arrogant snob. So this could work.
Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns - TLC Match
As mentioned at the top of the article, the Reigns-Sheamus feud has been controversial. So far the feud has not had much to write home about, but this match may have been the game changer. Having a match like this too soon may seem premature, but if it finally grabs the fans' attentions, then more power to them. As far as one-on-one TLC matches, this was pretty stellar. The only down side of the match is that it took a while for the crowd to get into it. One positive of the match is that Sheamus seemed to be legitimately bruised and damaged. This is the sort of thing that adds some intensity to the match
There were some wicked spots with all three eponymous weapons - Sheamus and Reigns crashed through a ladder, there were table spots, and Reigns pulled a pretty brutal-looking Superman punch with a chair. Sheamus retained the title when the other members of the Legion of Doom - I mean the League of Nations - interfered (I'm not sure how well that joke works since LOD is what the Road Warriors were called when they wrestled for the company). What worked about this is that Reigns did not just go down as soon as they reared their heads. Reigns tried to fight them off and looked valiant in doing so. After the match was over, HHH and the Authority came out trying to calm down Reigns. Roman Reigns just ran roughshod over HHH, demolishing him through a table. Yeah, he's picking up a an easy target, but the company may have finally figured out how to get the fans on Reigns's side. It didn't exactly escape me that Reigns' reaction turned in his favor over the course of this evening.
So that was TLC. After losing the favor of its audience, this event showed that they may be finally giving the company's viewing audience what they want. Of course, they also provided something fans should always like: A quality show. And this was a superb show, quite possibly the best non-major of the year (I say non-major because Wrestlemania and Summerslam were still better) with only Money in the Bank rivaling this.
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