Tuesday 15 December 2015

WWE TLC 2015 review

TLC is a funny show. It's always held at a time when WWE is in some sort of holding pattern between whatever their big summer angles were and the beginning of 'Mania Season at the Royal Rumble. Sometimes this can result in desperation plots that catch on and become great. Other times it can result in an uninspired show that can't be taken as anything other than the filler it is. Sadly, this year's show fell firmly into the latter camp.

The lads.
It started well though. The three-way tag title ladder match was exactly the kind of opener a WWE pay-per-view needs. New Day headed out first, talking about the Lucha Booties and "Uso" sounding like a disease and their desire to become the faces of the division. They also reminded everyone they were heels by having Xavier say he hadn't done anything special with his hair because he wouldn't waste the effort on Boston.

Being a tag ladder match there was no shortage of memorable spots. They included: stereo moonsaults to the outside by the dragons on New Day; stereo topes onto a ladder by the Usos on everyone; a belly-to-belly suplex onto a ladder from Big E to an Uso;a hilariously unspectacular belly flop from the top rope onto Kofi by Sin Cara, followed seconds later by a tope into a Swanton bomb on ladder-covered Usos; Big E bench pressing a ladder off himself with both Dragons still on top, Kalisto leaping off with a cross body block on Jimmy and Jey; the Usos smacking Kofi with a ladder as he was trapped in a tree of woe; Sin Cara monkey flipping Kalisto onto a ladder atop an Uso; Xavier Woods talking about stamina bars on commentary; Kalisto headscissoring Kofi into a ladder; Soledo del Sol from the top of one ladder onto another; and a Jimmy Uso splash off the top rope onto Big E, who was under a ladder (obvs). New Day retained after Woods threw his trombone at Kalisto, stunning him and allowing Kofi to pull him off the ladder and climb up to retrieve the belts.

Knowing they couldn't top that match WWE wisely decided to follow up with Ryback versus Rusev. If there was an official big lads championship in WWE it would have been on the line here. These are two of the company's premier hosses and it showed in a match that should have satisfied anyone who likes this kind of thing. A Lana distraction eventually led to a Rusev victory via Accolade. While dull, it did at least work as a way of re-establishing Rusev and Lana.

Chairs matches are bad. This was no exception.
After a stilted, unnatural conversation between Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose (Reigns really, really shouldn't speak) we got match three. That was a chairs match for the United States championship, Alberto Del Rio defending against Jack Swagger. They kicked off with a duelling chairs spot and then had a basic encounter featuring basic weapons spots. I imagine I'd have been more interested in this bout if I weren't bored by ADR. But I am so I didn't. 'The Essence of Excellence' won with a double stomp onto a pile of chairs.

That was followed by the Wyatt Family v the Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno in a tables match. Trash cans (dustbins) and kendo stocks were brought in immediately, seemingly so Strowman could no-sell them and look powerful. He was briefly teamed up on by Team ECW but was saved by Erick Rowan. He was put through a table, eliminated, for his trouble.

Harper and Wyatt took over after that. At one point Harper hit a Michinoku driver and Michael Cole called it correctly. That was surprising. Rhyno was their first victim, getting booted through a table by Harper. The Dudleys slipped back in to hit Harper with a Doomsday Device. Bubba got distracted targeting Strowman (possibly a shoot considering his reputation), leaving Devon to set up a table. He was immediately thrown through it by Wyatt.

E-C-dub, E-C- ahhh, I can't be bothered.
That left Tommy Dreamer and Bubby Ray against the three remaining Wyatts. Which was a really odd call. Dreamer didn't last long though: he got eliminated after a tope through a table by Harper. Bubba responded to being left alone by dousing a table in lighter fluid. Because that clearly wouldn't have been PG it came to nothing. Strowman wandered in and choke slammed Bubba through the table to get the win for his team.

The match was better than I'd expected but was by no means good. That the Wyatts weren't permitted a clean sweep was the biggest weakness. It really would have helped their standing as a faction had they not lost anyone. Maybe something will come of Rowan being eliminated. I hope not, frankly. He already has one failed singles push to his name. We don't need another.

The Intercontinental championship match was preceded by a promo from Kevin Owens. He laid into Bostonians living vicariously through their (presumably) successful sports teams before turning his attention to Dean Ambrose. Naturally enough he said Ambrose and the Boston fans had plenty in common.

A disinterested referee watches Ambrose risk his neck.
They had one of the night's better bouts, an indy-styled altercation built around familiar spots and near falls. This is the sort of thing that both men (though Owens in particular) excel at. It was nice to see them given the chance to do their thing here after an ever-so-slightly disappointing meeting at Survivor Series, although they still didn't get that long. 'The Lunatic Fringe' got the surprise win, playing into the false finish theme by reversing a pop-up power bomb that felt like a definite match-ender and getting the pin and the title. It's a bit of a shame that Owens' reign is over so soon but at least he lost to someone with some name value. I'm interested to see whether WWE get it right with Deano now.

The Divas title match between Charlotte and Paige took the semi-main event slot. That's been the traditional slot for female wrestlers over the last decade. One aspect of that tradition has been giving the matches little time and less reason to happen. That's something that has, pleasantly, been dropped from the women's division since the Divas Revolution over the summer. The story itself largely failed at everything except introducing new names to the roster but it's nice that's it's had a more positive long term effect.

The story going into the match was that Charlotte had become increasingly like her father, bragging about her abilities and cheating to win. This included her sneaking an unfair victory out of supposed friend Becky Lynch. It doesn't matter that aping her massively charismatic father doesn't play to her strengths, this has been a step in the right direction for Charley. She's a more natural heel than face at this point in her career and this is good for her.

Time for a new title belt, I reckon.
That said it did make the match peculiar. Charlotte has clearly been cast as a heel and Paige has spent months in that role too. The crowd decided 'The Nature Girl' was the default heel and threw their lot in with 'The Anti-Diva'. The action was most notable for Charlotte honing her Ric Flair tribute act, although she did get a (ropey) cross body from the top and a big boot that he'd never have hit. She retained after slinging Paige face first into an exposed turnbuckle, which she'd set up as her dad distracted Paige and the referee.

Which left only the main event: Roman Reigns challenging Sheamus for the WWE championship. They set the tone from the opening seconds of the match when Reigns raced across the ring and lamped Sheamus square in the mouth with a right hand. It was a "snug" encounter ful of the prerequisite ladder and tables bumps, neither man putting a foot wrong. Both wrestled like they had something to prove. Let's face it, they did. Reigns needed to prove he warranted his position as the anointed one and John Cena's heir. Sheamus needed to show people he's worth more than an interim run as world champion and that he should have had this spot on his own merit.

"Bah gawd, look at the physicality! Look at the carnage!"
What this was was a fitting main event that saved the pay-per-view from utter mediocrity. What this was not was Roman Reigns' night. After Superman punching 'The Celtic Warrior' off the top of a ladder just as he laid his hand on the title belt Reigns seemed to have the match won. He steamed up the ladder as Michael Cole screeched that this was his chance. But it wasn't. Rusev and 'Dirty' Berty Del Rio, Shaymo's League of Nations stablemates, hit the ring and assaulted Reigns.

They teased Reigns overcoming the odds as long as they could. ADR helped Sheamus recover as Rusev trapped Reigns in the Accolade. Reigns broke free, clobbered the interference runners, and yanked Sheamus off the ladder. That earned him a Brogue kick which sent him sailing out of the ring. Obvious Sheamus victory right? Well, yes, but not before Reigns had puled himself back into the ring and over to the base of the ladder, prompting a look of stunned disbelief from Sheamus and a hurried unbuckling of the title belt.

After the match Reigns destroyed everyone. He speared Del Rio and Rusev as they hoisted Sheamus up on their shoulders. Then he hit all three with a chair. A lot. Triple H and Stephanie showed up at ringside. Reigns continued his assault, sporting the expression of a man who'd had enough of having obstacles thrown and had finally snapped.

Roman Reigns losing his mind there.
'The Game' got into the ring to help Sheamus and ended up taking a beating too. Reigns gave him a Superman punch and seven chair shots before power bombing him onto the Spanish announce table. I say onto because it didn't break. Not to be denied a memorable visual Reigns leapt off the English announce table and hit the COO with an elbow drop. Then, just for good measure, Reigns speared Trips as he was being helped to hobble backstage.

This sequence ensured the show ended on a strong note. It was Reigns snapping, taking his frustrations out on the people who have held him down in storyline and bored viewers in real life. It was the perfect way to win the crowd over and get them firmly on Reigns' side. The show went off the air with the fans going crazy for the chosen one.

And it set the stage for a heck of a RAW...

Results summary:
New Day defeated the Usos and the Lucha Dragons to retain the tag team championship
Rusev defeated Ryback
Alberto Del Rio defeated Jack Swagger to retain the United States championship
The Wyatt Family defeated the Dudley Boyz, Rhyno and Tommy Dreamer
Dean Ambrose defeated Kevin Owens to win the Intercontinental championship
Charlotte defeated Paige to retain the Divas championship
Sheamus defeated Roman Reigns to retain the WWE championship

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