WWE TLC 2017
October 22 2017
This PPV has had issues. Namely an outbreak of the mumps laying waste to the roster, ruining the main event layout (the Shield reunion) and putting both Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt on the shelf.
WWE works at its best when it’s up against it. Especially Vince McMahon. He thrives on it. So wrecked plans produced a panic and we get Kurt Angle making his first in-ring appearance for WWE since 2006 and Balor vs. AJ Styles as the Phenomenal One is drafted in to save the midcard. The quickly re-written show includes a swiftly slapped together Angle video.
We’re in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Hosts are Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Booker T.
Emma vs. Asuka
I’m still confused as to why they’re doing this. It was the first match Asuka had in NXT. It’s true that they’re a good match and Emma is relatively job proof. Although her music sucks now, compared to how awesome it used to be.
They’ve done a decent job of hyping up Asuka, which has been a great use of NXT. She went unbeaten there and held the title for the vast majority of her NXT run. Plus she has a great look and an intense style that’s currently missing from the main roster on the women’s side. Emma can hang on the little transitions and she’s a good opponent for Asuka. The Japanese star certainly showboats a lot more than usual, demonstrating the showier side of her personality. As with their NXT match, Emma gets too much offence. I don’t mind personally but the crowd don’t want it. They want Asuka unleashed. The message from WWE is clear; the main roster is tougher than NXT. Asuka’s range of offence pops Cole, so you know she’s impressing out of the gate. Emma impresses me. When she gets offence it looks good and I’ve always felt she was underrated. Asuka ends Emma with a high kick and the Asukalock. This was a competitive little match showcasing not only Asuka’s skills but also Emma. If WWE are smart they will realise they have two talents here, not just one.
Final Rating: ***
Video Control takes us backstage where The Miz is upset that Kurt Angle has stepped into tonight’s main event, pointing out he would never have subbed in for Miz.
From there we get a performance from Elias. Someone throws a cabbage at him. That’s setting a bad precedent. Jason Jordan throwing produce at Elias actually gets him cheered for once. Although I’m confused as to why he decided to do while dressed in pants. Only in wrestling. Vic Joseph and Nigel McGuinness join us to commentate on a cruiserweight showcase from 205 Live. Nobody cares anymore lads.
Brian Kendrick & Jack Gallagher vs. Cedric Alexander & Rich Swann
Apparently Jack turned heel last month. What are they doing on 205 Live? He was the only babyface on that show anyone gave a shit about. To be fair, Rich Swann is over but that’s because he dances. This whole story has played out on 205 Live so the audience probably haven’t seen it. The match needs to be fast-paced to get the crowd invested and the faces do a fine job of littering the opening sequences with flips and dives. There’s no escaping the match being totally unimportant though. As soon as the heels take over the crowd stops caring. I feel so bad for Jack, who’s done everything asked of him. He got over an umbrella and filled 205 Live with nonsense segments when they had no idea what else to do. Jack tries so hard in this match too, trying to get over his new villainous persona, only to fall afoul of a myriad of high spots. Lumbar Check puts Kendrick away. This was filler but it was entertaining filler and the crowd respond with applause, which will be music to the ears of these lads who’ve been plugging away without any company interest for a year.
Final Rating: ***
RAW Women’s Championship
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Mickie James
Alexa literally caused this to happen by calling Mickie “an old lady” on RAW Talk. Where is Talking Smack? So much value in that show. An off-the-cuff remark has given us one of the best storylines in the women’s division this year.
Alexa is starting to get over as a babyface, despite working heel all year. The percentage of cheers is getting bigger by the show. Americans like winners. Alexa has won a lot of big matches. Mickie raised her game working against Asuka on NXT Takeover, getting herself signed and that effort level and match structure are here too. I would have no problem with Mickie tying Trish with a seventh women’s title here (her first title since 2010). With the way they hotshot this belt Sasha Banks will have 15 title reigns by 2020. Alexa has gotten savvy with her psychology and she targets Mickie’s arm. Mickie, being relatively old school, is capable of selling for her and bringing that logic. They also make spots mean something by selling double knock downs and such. It makes the match a weird beast for 2017; it feels like a big time match without them hitting a bunch of high spots and without a major star involved. Credit to Mickie and her connection with history. Alexa suckers Mickie into the corner and hits the DDT to retain. Mickie looked really strong here and it makes Alexa look better by beating her, which is exactly what wrestling should be about. Old stars make new stars. Probably Alexa’s best singles match as champion, which shows you how great Mickie is at wrestling.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Video Control takes us backstage where Kurt Angle is given Shield gear. “If you’re in, you’re all the way in”
From there we get Elias, again. It gets even more heat the second time around. To the point where he has to stop because he can’t hear himself. More produce comes raining in from Jason Jordan and this time Elias is produced clean off the stage. “It’s actually a good song” says Booker, making me smile. He sees the good in people.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Kalisto (c) vs. Enzo Amore
Hopes for this match: “we want Neville” chant, keep it short. It’s gotten to the point where I want Enzo’s promo to be longer than his match. I also was hoping for him not to be wearing gear with a turd emoticon on it but I’m shit outta luck. A word on commentators here. Vic Joseph claims Kalisto lands “jaw first” as the storyline is Enzo working the jaw…as they watch a slow-mo replay where Kalisto blatantly lands on his temple, upper skull. I get my Neville chant. Being the ‘big man’ in the match actually helps Enzo’s work immensely. He does a lot of very basic stuff and he does it consistently well. Although I’m sure the crowd don’t want to see Kalisto sit in a headlock for minutes of this match, no matter how well it’s applied. Commentary annoys me with “you can see Enzo gasping for air” when he’s just puffing his cheeks out in an attempt at selling. Enzo is a tale of two wrestlers. His technique and bumping is horrible at times but his ring positioning is exemplary. It’s like he knows he can’t wrestle up to par so he’s learning the things the old pros will love to keep him on TV. Enzo distracts the referee to poke the eye and then hits his finish to win the belt back clean as a whistle. Again, I am tormented here. I hate so much of Enzo’s work but what he does right is the little things that everyone else ignores. So this match might not have been a technical marvel but it made sense. I’ll take that.
Final Rating: **1/2
Finn Balor vs. AJ Styles
RAW PPV’s would generally be better if they borrowed Smackdown talent on a regular basis instead of whenever they’re completely up shit creek. Nobody cares about the brand split, for fuck’s sake. AJ saves us from mediocrity here and the horrors of yet another awful Bray Wyatt PPV outing. He’s got the whole mumps in his neck, he’s got the whole mumps in his neck, he’s got the whole mumps in his neck, he’s got the whole mumps in his neck. Whole mumps!
Both these fellas were leaders of the Bullet Club. Finn until he left. AJ until Kenny Omega overthrew him. Cole points out they were both “in the same group” in Japan without naming it. The crowd bizarrely chant “this is awesome” before anyone touches, which shows how into this concept the fans are. Which makes you wonder why they’re not playing up the fact they’ve got both these guys (and a load of the original Bullet Club). The influence of the Bullet Club cannot be underestimated at this point. The American fans in particular are very into the Bullet Club as a concept. I fucking loathe them but the bulk of fans are very vocal in their support.
If Finn even played up to half this shit he’d be the biggest babyface in the company by a country mile. The match is fine, even if it’s completely disconnected from what the crowd want, but the real story is how the crowd react. The best moments of the work come from both guys having explosive offence that comes out of nowhere. They’re both technically sound too but it’s the big high impact spots that cause the gasps. It makes you think about how badly wasted both guys have been this year. AJ in various nothing midcard feuds since ‘Mania, Balor stuck with Bray Wyatt and all that entails. The two guys mesh nicely and the match gets better as it progresses, with them doing more interesting sequences. Both guys getting to display their speed and athleticism. AJ is this good all the time so he must take the bulk of the credit but it’s proof that Balor is useful as a top end guy, if the right opponent is in there with him. Like AJ. In the end Balor takes the win with the Coup de Grace, because it’s his stomping ground on RAW.
But then the real business. The pop for this is too sweet. Expect Vince to copyright the superkick next. Either that or the assembling of the Ammo Gang.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Video Control gives us our third Elias concert of the evening. This time in the ring, beyond the distance Jason Jordan can throw produce from the stage to.
Elias vs. Jason Jordan
This time Elias is interrupted by Jordan arriving for a match up. These guys are in the death spot before the main event, having to follow what will prove to be the best match on the show. The result is a meh contest. Despite Elias drawing huge heat earlier this isn’t a heated affair. Jason tries, bless him, but all his power moves are met with indifference. They go about eight minutes but it feels way longer and I would hate to be in their shoes. They’ve got no hope of winning this crowd over and they’re just talking amongst themselves. The referee gets bored and fast counts Elias down. Good.
Final Rating: *3/4
Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match
Braun Strowman, The Miz, Cesaro, Sheamus & Kane vs. Kurt Angle, Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins
Handicap matches suck. Just saying. There’s no point to them at all. If you’re on the bigger side who cares if you win? You cannot win. If you win you beat less opponents. If you lose, you suck! Plus the bigger team here has WWE’s resident monster Braun Strowman on it. Albeit a Strowman that’s lost a touch since losing to Brock Lesnar. The loss of Reigns is a huge handicap on the match too. Plus the addition of Kane makes no sense. It’s actually his first match this year.
So, Kurt Angle is honorary Shield for this match and he looks weird. Dean and Seth doing all the Shield spots make me even more sad that there’s no Roman. Why is Angle in this team? It’s nonsense. I guess it’s the only thing the crowd wouldn’t shit on. However Angle is filling Roman’s spot so you get Kurt owning Braun with a ladder. That shouldn’t be happening. Ambrose and Rollins both bust a gut to make this work, although the match structure is a complete clusterfuck. Remember Braun being a monster and smashing up three main eventers by himself at Summerslam? Here he spends most of the first ten minutes taking a nap and then he’s tabled by Rollins. There are way too many times when I’m wondering why someone is lying around doing nothing. Angle gets the big pops for his rolling Germans. That’s his only real contribution to the in-ring. The commentators get all excited about Kane sitting up and I’m more into how bad his hairpiece is and how out of position it is. Braun kills Angle by powerslamming him through a table after Kane fails dismally to make an impact on the match.
With it five on two everyone suddenly wakes up to emphasise the odds being against the Shield. Wait, there’s twenty minutes left on the PPV? Oh no. The match was kinda fun up to this point. Now it’s a dredge. The search for something entertaining. There’s a bit storyline point and that’s Kane accidentally hitting Braun with a chair. Dean and Seth prove their stupidity by jumping them during a disagreement. Let them fall out! The Bar botch a crucifix bomb into the table, breaking the leg of the table in the process. This match is rapidly going down the toilet. Speaking of refuse; Miz calls in a garbage truck and somehow four of the heels get knocked down in one spot. The selling and logic in this match has been fucking appalling. Speaking of logic; Kane decides to go after Braun and throw him off the stage for some reason. Maybe he was mad about Braun laughing at his stupid wig behind his back. The whole match just stops while Kane and Braun work on some imagery. The hand out of the hole on the stage onto Kane’s foot is pretty neat, as is Kane’s chair avalanche. Which is convenient imagery to make us forget that the Bar have been lying on the floor for five minutes doing nothing. Poor Dean takes another awful botched table spot and this never-ending shitfest continues!
How did a Shield reunion match end up as a feud between Braun Strowman and Kane? Who actually wanted to see that? Unless it’s Kane getting squashed. Braun gets thrown in the garbage truck and murdered by the heels. “Strowman’s trapped” shrieks Michael Cole. Er, he’s not trapped mate, he’s fucking dead. With that drama out of the way Kurt Angle makes a triumphant return, with his music playing no less. Angle decides to kick out of the Skull Crushing Finale, which is so dumb. Why would you sacrifice an active wrestler’s finisher to a retired guy? Anyway, everyone else has a lie down and Miz gets beaten up 3 on 1. Angle takes the plce of the Big Dog on the Shield powerbomb and pins Miz clean in the middle of the ring. This was dumb. The whole match was dumb. Nothing made sense. Just look back at all the spots and the relevant selling and nothing works here. Suspension of disbelief should apply to people who have a memory longer than three seconds. Modern wrestling has some of the most athletic and outstanding spots of all time but my god, sometimes they forget the basics. This was a fucking disaster.
Final Rating: *1/2
This show was going so well until Elias vs. Jordan. If the show finished with AJ-Finn it would have been a roaring success. I even had time for Enzo’s work on this show. However it didn’t end with Balor-Styles and it rumbled on. And on. And on. The last hour is just a car wreck. I can put up with some gaps in logic but when there are so many gaps that the logic has evaporated altogether I’m done. I’m aware they had to make last gasp changes with a booking-heavy match that had probably been planned out long in advance of Roman’s departure but it feels like the first draft of a movie where the plot holes are still there and the writer hasn’t noticed them. Only there was no re-write. They just shot that version where nobody stopped to say “hang on, that doesn’t make sense”.