Wednesday 14 December 2011

TLC preview

It's December 2011 and WWE are promoting a pay-per-view that includes a Kevin Nash v Triple H match. That's a feud we last saw in 2003, and it didn't excite fans then.
Someone in WWE (probably Vince) apparently thinks it's time to give the two another run together. 'Big Sexy' is in great shape but he's also in his fifties. Triple H is in his forties and has been focusing on his backstage career for several years now. The promotion should be making a concerted effort to elevate guys in their twenties and early thirties yet it’s offering a match between these two on a pay-per-view event. At the very least guys like Nash and Triple H should be working against younger guys rather than each other, giving viewers something fresh and helping to build up guys for the future.
The two will clash in a ladder match with a sledgehammer suspended above the ring. The fact it’s not a straight wrestling match should make it easier to sit through as there will be more shortcuts available. It's still not likely to be pleasant viewing though. I have a feeling that ‘Big Sexy’ is going to be used as an opponent for WWE champion CM Punk early next year (possibly at the Royal Rumble) so I’m predicting he’ll get the win.

What’s not been made clear is how the sledgehammer will be involved in the match. Do you win by grabbing the hammer, smashing your opponent up as your reward for winning? Or do you grab the hammer to help you incapacitate your opponent in order to pin them? It’s probably the former, but WWE haven’t made it clear.   
On a more positive note we can expect another show stealing performance from Dolph Ziggler. He's been involved in match of the night contenders for the last three pay-per-views on the trot and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make it four in a row at TLC. He's one of the best antagonists WWE currently has and has great chemistry with the white hot Zack Ryder. That means the crowd should be loud throughout the match and make it feel like a big event.
The big question is: will this finally be 'Long Island Iced Z's' night? He’s been chasing the United States championship for several months now and I think TLC is the right time to finally give him the win. I expect Guerrero and Swagger will be thrown out after a few minutes, with the story then being that Ryder is determined to take advantage of the rare level playing field.

Both men deserve the chance to move up the card, and switching the belt is going to allow ‘The Heel’ to slot into the main event picture whilst giving Ryder the chance to prove to management he’s worth their continued attention.
Speaking of men that deserve to be elevated, Wade Barrett will face Randy Orton in a tables match. Does it need to be a tables match? Of course not. It's been done because of the name of the show. Barrett and 'The Viper' are talented enough to make a needless stipulation work so I think this could be a highlight of the show. Barrett deserves the win but Orton's been losing a lot lately so I think Barrett will take the loss here and get the win back in the inevitable rematch, whenever that turns out to be.
Adding to the list of gimmick matches is World Heavyweight champion Mark Henry defending his title in a chairs match against Big Show. This feud really needs to end soon. I thought Survivor Series would put it to rest but that didn't happen. Hopefully TLC will get the job done.
What I don't understand is why their program has lasted so long. Henry is finally over, for the first time in his career, as a monster heel. So why has the decision been made to pit him against the only man in the company bigger than him and why are they being portrayed as equals? If used very occasionally this approach isn't a problem but over time it diminishes the monster heel’s aura as they’re shown to be fallible on a regular basis. Had the feud been kept brief it would have had more impact and then Henry could have been moved onto programs with smaller workers that allow him to dominant more.
Cody Rhodes v Booker T is a match I have high hopes for. Sadly it means Booker is unlikely to be on commentary for the show (I expect a three man unit of Lawler and Cole with either JR or Josh Mathews will call the action). I may be one of the few people in the world who don’t think he’s a complete waste in the role. He's not the greatest colour commentator ever but he's not the worst either and he’s at least amusing.
The build-up over the last few weeks has been enjoyable and has highlighted what a nasty fella 'The Dashing One' is. I imagine Booker will spend the majority of the bout selling, probably after an offensive flurry at the bell. That will allow the two to tell the story of Booker trying to battle back and prove he still has “it”. The match has to end with Cody getting the win. Anything else would feel wrong after the storyline of the last few weeks.
Ultimately I think this could be leading to a Booker T retirement match at WrestleMania XXVIII. I'd like to see Booker lose a rematch to Cody in a few weeks, then say that he's going to enter and win the Royal Rumble to prove he can still go. He could be booked to last to the final four or five and be eliminated by whoever his WrestleMania opponent is going to be. Ziggler would be a good choice, but Miz, Swagger or even Rhodes could work in the role too. Cole would come into his own by antagonising his fellow commentator on a weekly basis. They could even do something interesting like having Booker say he wants to face the Undertaker and being told (by Cole, Teddy Long or Triple H, or even ‘The Dead Man’ himself) that’s he’s not in that league anymore. There’s a lot of potential there and if done right it could give Booker a really nice send-off form his active career.

The final confirmed match is a three-way tables, ladders and chairs match for the WWE title.
Champion CM Punk will defend against Alberto Del Rio and Miz. During its decade long existence the TLC match has seen some of the craziest stunts in wrestling history, usually thanks to men such as Jeff Hardy and Edge, who were willing to take some incredible risks in order to give fans lasting memories.

Will CM Punk ever see the return of his beloved WWE ice cream bars?

CM Punk’s previous TLC match (versus Jeff Hardy at SummerSlam 2009) featured far more wrestling than is the norm and as neither Del Rio or Miz are known as big bump men so I suspect  this match will revolve more around wrestling than weaponry. An alliance between ‘The Awesome One’ and ‘The Essence of Excellence’ has been teased and as they’re both heels it’ll likely happen for the early part of the match. It won’t last though. I predict a Punk victory with ‘The Voice of the Voiceless’ holding onto the gold until the Royal Rumble at least.

You’ll have noticed the words John Cena haven’t appeared so far. That’s because ‘The CeNation Commander-in-Chief’ has not been announced for a match. That’s not something that happens often. Considering the events of Monday’s RAW I’m expecting a singles match to take place between Cena and Kane. Why else would they have had Kane return to TV and assault John Cena right before a pay-per-view if not to start up a feud with him? If that match does happen I predict Kane will get the victory: Cena can afford to do the occasional job and only tends to do so for established characters like Kane. Younger men would benefit from the exposure of working with him and beating him more but it’s not something WWE seem keen on doing.

Mark Henry v Big Show and Kevin Nash v Triple H aside TLC looks like a solid show. With Royal Rumble next on the pay-per-view calendar there’s a good chance we’ll some pieces fall into place for WrestleMania season. That always makes a show interesting.

Predictions summary:
CM Punk to defeat Miz and Alberto Del Rio
Mark Henry to defeat Big Show
Kevin Nash to defeat Triple H
Randy Orton to defeat Wade Barrett
Cody Rhodes to defeat Booker T
Zack Ryder to defeat Dolph Ziggler
Kane to defeat John Cena

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