It’s the final special event of the year for WWE – will it be as useless as past December events have proven to be?
Live from the SAP Center in San Jose, California, it’s WWE TLC! It’s a joint production from Raw, SmackDown! Live and 205 Live, and we have the potential for a good night tonight – at the very least, it’s unlikely this show will be worse than either of the Saudi Arabia shows WWE put on this year. We’re highlighted by a WWE Title Match between champion Daniel Bryan and challenger AJ Styles. But according to an interview with SmackDown! Live women’s champion Becky Lynch during the pre-show, her triple threat TLC title match against Charlotte Flair and Asuka is the main event. Not a bad choice.
Cruiserweight Championship Match: Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Cedric Alexander – Murphy beat Alexander for the belt at SUPER SHOW-DOWN in October and the former champion was looking for revenge here, but 205 Live is Buddy Murphy’s show now, and he manages to take out his challenger to retain the belt. I haven’t been all that into the new era of WWE cruiserweights, but I am a big fan of Alexander’s. Murphy is starting to prove himself, too, and it’s becoming a safe bet that the cruiserweight match is going to be high quality with either of these two on the card.
Ladder Match: Elias vs. Bobby Lashley – Elias’ guitar is elevated above the ring and the person who climbs the ladder and gets the guitar is allowed to use it. Is Vince Russo back? A ladder match on the pre-show is… not a promising sign for the match type, to be honest. I like Lashley with Lio Rush. It’s a very 1980s heel feel and it works well. But this match is so much filler that they have a commercial for the WWE Title match in the middle of it, with a second screen for Elias-Lashley. Apparently all you needed to do was get the guitar to win? That was anticlimactic. Elias wins, continuing his meteoric rise to pre-show superstardom.
WWE TLC 2018
Mixed Match Challenge Finals: R-Truth and Carmella vs. Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox – The winners of this match will get the No. 30 spot in their respective Royal Rumbles next month “and an all-expenses paid vacation anywhere in the world” and I can not imagine why this isn’t on a pre-show. Despite being a former World’s Champion, Carmella is still awful and was only entertaining with that chinless idiot. But she and Truth are the better options for No. 30 at the Royal Rumble, because at least they get some reaction. And they can use the “vacation” stip as a kick-off for some vignettes as Truth announces the pair are going to WWE HQ in Connecticut. That’s… whatever. Next.
SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship Triple Threat Match: Cesaro and Sheamus (c) vs. New Day vs. The Usos – Kofi and Xavier are your New Day reps here tonight. This will, at the very least, raise the level of athleticism and quality. I really wish WWE would go to the elimination format for these matches, though. It really helps the flow. Even without the use of tables or ladders or chairs, there’s a lot of guys jumping around and then laying on the floor to regroup. It’s a fine match between three great teams, but it all feels like things we’ve seen before. The champs retain after a Brogue Kick from Sheamus on Woods for the pin. Nothing really to complain about here.
TLC Match: Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin – Corbin’s General Managership of Raw is on the line, while Strowman wants a shot at the Universal Title. Heath Slater is your referee. Strowman has been legit injured and Corbin demands a countout victory from Slater. How do you have a countout win in a TLC match? Of course Strowman shows up, though, with his arm in a sling. So he reminds Corbin there are no DQs, so Strowman brings out Apollo Crews, Bobby Roode, Chad Gable and Finn Bálor with chairs. Slater, predictably, joins in, too. And finally former Raw GM Kurt Angle shows up to give this match some gravitas. Corbin gets his ass kicked, Strowman gets a pin and Raw is without a general manager until tomorrow night when Vince McMahon shows up to try and help boost some sagging ratings. And Strowman will face Universal Champion Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. It was all angle, but it needed to happen, so I’m OK with it.
Tables Match: Natalya vs. Ruby Riott – Natalya is a little outnumbered with the Riott Squad outside the ring, backing up their leader. But Natalya managed to send Liv Morgan through a table. And then Sarah Logan, as well, making it a true one-on-one. The crux of the match was centered on a table Riott Squad brought down that had Natalya’s father, the late JIM “THE ANVIL” NEIDHART on it. So Natalya brings out one with Ruby Riott on it. The match is meh, but the ending is good, as Natalya counters a top rope ‘Rana into a power bomb through the table to get the win.
Drew McIntyre vs. Finn Bálor – No Demon for Finn here in his second appearance of the night. McIntyre should be the future of this company. He’s got the look and he’s not bad in the ring. I can’t believe WWE ever let this guy go. Even with a bum knee, McIntyre tosses Bálor around the ring with ease. The match is way too slow for my tastes, though, especially as it went long, and even the crowd was a bit asleep. Crowd woke up, though, when McIntyre’s former partner Dolph Ziggler showed up and started attacking Drew, which led to Bálor getting the win. Too long for what it was.
Chairs Match: Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton – This is a rematch to the number one contender match these two had at NO WAY OUT 2006. Twelve years ago. Jesus, this match makes me feel old. The two of them continue their greatest hits tour as Rey gets a win.
Raw Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Nia Jax – These two faced off at MONEY IN THE BANK, with Alexa Bliss cashing in her briefcase. I’m not sure I buy Jax as a legit threat to Rousey, though I suppose having Tamina Snuka with her at ringside helps a bit. Jax uses her size advantage to make a go of it, but Rousey manages to twist Jax’s arm into a pretzel to get the former champion to tap out. Rousey has done a great job transitioning into sports entertainment from MMA, and she’s quickly going into Brock Lesnar territory where it doesn’t seem likely anyone can beat her.
WWE Championship Match: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles – It’s weird that the company doesn’t ever put its namesake title, which has been held by Bruno Sammartino, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and a bevy of other legends and Hall of Famers, in the main event any more. I really would love to hear what the rationale is for that. Where along the line did they decide they didn’t care about their biggest championship? These two guys have both, at various times, carried the company, and they definitely deserve getting a main event slot to close out the show. It’s another clinic here, with the newly-heel and even more awesome Daniel Bryan eking out a win with a small package to retain the title. Let these guys wrestle every month. I won’t get sick of it.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Seth Rollins (c) vs. Dean Ambrose – The newly-heel Dean Ambrose is a lot more interesting than anything else he’s done outside of the first year or two of the Shield, but another feud with his former brother, Seth Rollins, seems like a rehash, even though the dynamics were different the last time they were butting heads. I guess a feud between the two makes sense to establish Ambrose’s new persona, but I wasn’t all that interested in this match when I saw it on the card.
Thankfully, these guys are pretty good in the ring and work well together. Although I’m not sure why this match didn’t get a stipulation. A ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship would have made a lot of sense here. A lot more sense than Orton and Mysterio in a Chairs match.
There were two problems with this match, in my opinion: 1) Seth Rollins is a TERRIBLE good guy. He has a face that is just begging to be a smarmy heel that leads you to try and punch it. Nothing he’s done since he reunited with the Shield has made me feel like he’s in a good position as one of the top faces on Monday Night Raw. 2) Rene Young’s marriage to Dean Ambrose, led to a lot of uncomfortable “banter” with Corey Graves and Michael Cole, grilling her about Dean’s state of mind and how it affects her. Thankfully it didn’t last the whole match, but when it happened, it detracted from what was happening in the ring.
And the match was pretty good, outside of Seth Rollins’ ridiculous selling of his knee. It’s a Seth Rollins match, it’s going to happen. The match had the right amount of intensity and action, and it never got boring, and I think the right guy won, with Ambrose hitting Dirty Deeds on Rollins to get the pin and win the title. With Brock Lesnar not really appearing on TV, Ambrose is now the top men’s singles title holder on Raw.
SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship Triple Threat TLC Match – Becky Lynch (c) vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka – Man, this match sounded a lot better before Asuka was added to the mix. I’ve never been high on the Empress of Tomorrow, but got that she was being built to something big. Ever since she lost her first match to Charlotte Flair at WRESTLEMANIA, though, she has been completely overshadowed by the other two women in this match. Especially, though, by Becky Lynch, whose new heel character has probably been the best performance of 2018. Her feud with Charlotte has been amazing.
But the addition of Asuka makes sense for what got set up here. Both Charlotte and Becky – in addition to their own feud – have been getting into it with Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey as well, and after Rousey’s earlier interview where she talked about payback against Lynch and Flair, it’s no surprise that she got involved in the main event, pushing her antagonists off the ladder. The not-so-surprising run-in gave Asuka the time she needed to climb the ladder and grab the title for the win.
It’s frustrating that they took the title off of Lynch – because she deserves all the accolades she gets – but I imagine the payoff will be worth it, as now both Lynch and Flair will be chasing a WrestleMania match with the “Baddest Woman on the Planet.” After this show, I can see WWE putting that match on the main event as the biggest show of the year. I can’t imagine anything else will compare.
The last few matches really made this show worth it. And the SmackDown! Live Women’s Title TLC match is definitely worth seeing, because Lynch and Flair beat the hell out of each other. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed this show.