Wednesday 11 December 2013

TLC 2013 preview

One thing we know about Sunday's Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view is that it won't be the regular forgettable second tier event. The unification of the WWE and World Heavyweight championships in the main event will see to that. With a match of genuine historic significance happening there doesn't need to be a particularly noteworthy undercard. Which is good, because there isn't one.

This is assuming the unification happens. WWE avoided the U word when the champ versus champ match was first announced but they've since embraced it. But this means nothing. It's not beyond WWE to say they're combining the belts knowing full well they've got different plans. It's entirely possible this is part of a longer plot that will culminate at the Rumble or perhaps even WrestleMania itself. I don't think this will come to pass. Everything that's been on TV over the last few weeks indicates WWE have gotten into the one world champ idea.

Before I discuss Orton v Cena I'll look at the undercard. As I've already hinted, it looks unimpressive. It's built around two three-on-one handicap matches. Repeating that sort of match on a show people are expected to pay to watch is asking for trouble. Not only are they inherently boring but they're fairly common on TV. Why pay for something that you get for free?

The handicap matches involve CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, The Shield and The Wyatt Family. Specifically Punk will wrestle Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns and Bryan will face Bray and his boys. The union between the two faces didn't really last long, did it? I was hoping for some sort of gimmick outing for the two in a rematch with Harper and Rowan instead if these bouts. The reason that's not happening and the three-on-one outings are is because Punk and Bryan defied The Authority (in some utterly minor way) on an episode of RAW. This is the McMahons' way of teaching them a lesson.

I imagine both matches will be laid out in similar ways. The faces will start with some offence before getting beaten down while managing to stay in the fight by kicking out of increasingly impressive moves. I think one will win and one will lose. Punk seems the better placed to win. 'The Hounds of Justice' have been showing signs of breaking up over the last month or two. A loss would further that thread. I don't expect them all to go their separate ways, but I think TLC will feature a step towards the group's dissolution.

Bryan seems the better option for a loss. The Wyatt Family did the job at Survivor Series last month so it's, if you like, their turn to win here. Not only that but there's Bray's promise that he'll turn Bryan into a monster to consider. Losing would set Bryan up to be taken away by the family, triggering this supposed monstrous transformation. The only wrinkle with that thought is that 'The Eater of Worlds' already abducted Bryan once and let him go without doing anything to him.

Note that Brie Bella is not booked to appear on this show. That could indicate she's going to be used as part of Bryan versus the Wyatts. She and Bryan are kept separate for the most part but WWE have been willing enough to tinker with them as an on-screen union before.

Speaking of Divas, AJ Lee will defend her championship against Natalya. If they get the time they deserve that could be one of the better Divas matches of the year. A title change seems unlikely. I think we've a better chance of seeing Faaaaaan... daaaaaan... goooooo and-or Summer Rae and-or Tyson Kidd intervening to further the Total Divas plot that Fandango is in love with Natty than AJ losing her gold (or pink... but that sounds wrong).

Speaking of Fandango, he'll face Dolph Ziggler on the TLC pre-show stream. I'll be surprised if he wins. 'The Show Off' may have been dropped down the card for no reason but WWE still seem to recognise his popularity.

Back on the main card, Damien Sandow versus Big E Langston is a match I have what is probably too much hope for. Nothing indicates they're going to do anything that's better than average but I like the idea of them facing one another. Character-wise 'The Intellectual Saviour' is the perfect foe for a guy like Big E. If this match stays relatively short I think it will have more impact. Langston is not yet good enough to keep a crowd interested for long. Ideally Sandow would trick the champ into getting disqualified, setting up a rematch and reminding us that he's billed as an intellectual for a reason, but I'm not expecting to see that. We live in an imperfect world, after all.

Cody Rhodes and Goldust will defend their tag team titles against The Real Americans, Big Show and Rey Mysterio and Ryback and Curtis Axel. Going off the last few pay-per-views I think this is the one to earmark as the early contender for match of the night honours. Dusty’s lads do amazing work alongside one another.

The former Paul Heyman guys beat the Rhodes bros in a non-title match on the December 6th SmackDown. That doesn’t mean they’ll leave with the titles here. In fact I can’t see any of the teams in this match dethroning Cody and Goldy. ‘The Big Guy’ and Axel have just been shoved together to keep them occupied, Show and Mysterio (MysteriShow?) have been paired for novelty value (a large man and a small man, what larks!) and The Real Americans are presented as non-threats most of the time.

There’s still enough room for another match or two on the show. With Alberto Del Rio not announced to wrestle I think it’s likely he’ll appear. A third match in his current series with Sin Cara would seem likely. So what if we've seen the masked man cleanly defeat 'The Essence of Excellence' two Mondays in a row? These days that passes for a gripping storyline. Sin Cara beating ADR again would further convince people he's becoming a major star. I think that's a priority for WWE because I suspect they want to do Sin Cara v Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania.

The other filler match I wouldn't be surprised to see would be Kofi Kingston v The Miz. As with Del Rio and Sin Cara they've wrestled one another almost exclusively since Survivor Series. Another match we've already seen for free being added to TLC wouldn't make it a worthwhile buy but that won't stop WWE. They're clearly expecting Orton v Cena to be the only reason people watch this show.

Which just leaves the main event. WWE champion Randy Orton versus John Cena for all the gold. It may be a tired rivalry between arguably the two most overexposed men on the roster but it has two good points. The first is that while Orton and Cena have faced each other several times before they've never done so in a TLC match. They have the opportunity to do something new. They may not take it but the chance is there.

The other thing they have going for them is that their storyline has involved a load of other guys. CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Triple H, The Shield, Kane and Shawn Michaels have all been around the edges or a direct part of the main event over the last several months. All but Michaels could interfere directly in the match because of their feelings on one or both competitors, while it would take no more than a Daniel Bryan run-in to bring out HBK. WWE has loads of options with this match, so much so that I'll be disappointed if it's not booked like one of Raven's ECW title defences or, if you prefer, an Attitude Era classic.

There are reasons for both to win. 'The Apex Predator' could do it to continue rebuilding him as a big name and to stop the WWE championship reverting being a distinguished prop, a status it held until around 2011 or so. Building up is something Cena doesn't need of course, but it's standard practice for WWE to heap accolades on him when they can. And there are few accolades greater than unifying championships, especially when you consider how rarely that happens. I could see Cena winning for no other reason than for WWE to be able to say he's won.

In order to pick a winner for this match you have to think about what WWE's got planned for WrestleMania XXX. Right now I think it's more likely that Cena will be facing Hulk Hogan or challenging Undertaker's Streak than doing anything with the WWE championship. He doesn't need the title for his 'Mania match to be important. Orton's last several years at the show have told us that he does. While I think the most interesting and meaningful WWE title match 'Mania could host is Cena defending against Bryan again I somehow think we're going to get Orton defending against Punk instead. Which means I'm surprising myself and picking Randy Orton to unify the titles.

Predictions summary:
Randy Orton to defeat John Cena
CM Punk to defeat The Shield
The Wyatt Family to defeat Daniel Bryan
Cody Rhodes and Goldust to retain the tag team championship
Big E Langston to defeat Damien Sandow
AJ Lee to defeat Natalya
Dolph Ziggler to defeat Fandango

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