WWE – TLC 2017 (Cert 15)
1 Disc DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 178 minutes approx.
For reasons not quite clear the annual stunt fest that is TLC was brought forward two months from its usual year-end spot in December, this time going to RAW after being a showcase for the blue brand last year. We can only assume it was a trade off for SD Live having three “gimmick” shows in Elimination Chamber, Money In The Bank and Hell In A Cell this year whilst RAW only had Extreme Rules.
Anyhoo, this year’s iteration breaks with tradition by having just one stipulation match instead of breaking down the individual components of a TLC match for other matches on the card. Then again, given the ludicrous 5-on-3 handicap situation surrounding the main event this was perhaps for the best.
Elsewhere this show was notable for having to be slightly rearranged at the last minute due to illnesses. Both Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns were struck down with a viral infection (that also caught ring announcer JoJo who is dating Wyatt – yeah, I know – and Bo Dallas) meaning a change to their matches, which in one instance was a major improvement.
This show took place on October 22, 2017, at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota in front of 11,000 fans. Your commentators are Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Booker T, with Nigel McGuinness and Vic Joseph calling the Cruiserweight title match.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers but plenty of opinion.
Asuka vs. Emma
Having dominated NXT for almost two years, the Empress of Tomorrow was drafted to RAW leaving NXT undefeated and Emma “won” the right to face my Goddess Asuka in her main roster debut. These two had a great match at NXT TakeOver: London in late 2015 but Asuka was established by then – this was her RAW debut so you’d think this would be a short fiery dominant performance from Asuka right?
Sadly, just like with Shinsuke Nakamura’s debut, this was a competitive match and whilst this is no slight against Emma, she should have been a punching bag for Asuka to keep the heavily hyped dangerous mystique and impenetrable aura intact. Good match for what it was but just not the right match for Asuka’s debut. Unfortunately for Emma, she was released by WWE a few days later.
Cedric Alexander & Rich Swann vs. Jack Gallagher & The Brian Kendrick
It really doesn’t matter how hard the Cruiserweights work, the fans just haven’t been given a tangible reason to be invested in them, even with a healthy presence on RAW, the addition of Enzo Amore to the roster and their own hardly watched show. Having spent most of the summer feuding, Gallagher apparently turned heel and joined forces with Kendrick and now wrestles in a suit (sans jacket) because British stereotypes.
Work was crisp and the action non-stop, and to be fair, the crowd did get into this match by the end with the closing flurry of high impact, high flying moves from the faces but this didn’t get the love it deserved and that isn’t the fault of the wrestlers.
RAW Women’s Title Match – Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Mickie James
Poor Mickie! Back in 2009 she was ridiculously body shamed in the offensive “Piggy James” angle, now she is mocked again for being ancient at 37 years-old. No mention of Tamina actually being older while Natalya and Asuka are only two years younger, or the many male wrestlers (Cena, Orton, Nakamura, Bálor, The Miz, Styles, Roode, etc.) who are the same age or older but we all know how this double standard works in the entertainment industry.
Decent match which the fans unfairly dumped on with chants of “WE Want Tables” halfway through when the ladies were working hard to tell their story of Mickie proving Alexa wrong about her being “over the hill” by outwrestling her early on and getting close to beating Bliss.
WWE Cruiserweight Title Match – Kalisto (c) vs. Enzo Amore
There is a convoluted road to this match, which began with Enzo defeating Neville for the title at No Mercy, then invoking a no contact clause against the entire Cruiserweight roster on RAW, proscribing them from getting a title shot if they touch him. Neville then walked out on the company ahead of a non-title rematch he was schedule to lose, so Kurt Angle circumvented the clause by “signing” Kalisto to 205 Live who then beat Enzo on RAW for the title (on Eddie Guerrero’s birthday to help endear him to the fans).
Did it work? Well the most notable thing about this match was Enzo losing his voice and being unable to do his intro properly (which fans still along to) and the fact he can’t keep up with Kalisto’s fast paced, high flying arsenal. Enzo may have brought more eyeballs to the 205 Live and put the Cruisers in the main event three weeks in a row on RAW, but hasn’t brought it in the ring at all.
Finn Bálor vs. AJ Styles
This was originally going to be another match for Bálor against Bray Wyatt as “Sister Abigail” (Bray in a wig and dress) but illness ruled Wyatt out. To compensate, AJ Styles (who himself was ill earlier that week) was pulled from Smackdown’s tour of Asia to face for this first time dream match. For the more clued-in fan, this was huge as Styles usurped and supplanted Bálor as leader of The Bullet Club in New Japan Pro Wrestling, a move that went unpunished when Bálor joined NXT.
Not that this played into the narrative here in the WWE but it helped sell the match to the jaded wrestling fans out there and will explain the cute “Too Sweet” moment at the end. Bálor still worked as the Demon which seemed a little incongruous but didn’t hamper the quality of this great match, which was unquestionably a huge upgrade from what we were supposed to have. A few minutes more would have made it a potential MOTY otherwise this was top notch wrestling from two top tier wrestlers in their prime.
Jason Jordan vs. Elias
On two occasions earlier in the show, Elias came out to sing but was interrupted by Jordan throwing fruit and vegetables at him, leading to this match. Jordan is in a weird spot right now as he is a good worker and has a promising future but this gimmick of being Kurt Angle’s son is the absolute kiss of death, making the fans hate him despite being booked as a face.
Elias was the absolute pits in NXT but his act drew heat which seems to have translated here, but the difference is that the ring work has miraculously improved since Elias was moved to the main roster. Match had no chance of getting over in this death spot on the card, not helped by a botched finish.
TLC 5-on-3 Handicap Match – Kurt Angle & The Shield vs. The Miz, The Bar, Braun Strowman & Kane
With Rollins and Ambrose back together the next logical step was to reunite them with Roman Reigns and resurrect The Shield (as well as pray Reigns get cheered ahead of Wrestlemania next year). Then two days before the show, Reigns was struck down with his illness so RAW GM Kurt Angle became an honorary member of The Shield for one night. Angle hadn’t wrestled on TV since retiring from Impact Wrestling in March 2016, worked a few Indie dates earlier this year. This is his first WWE match since 2006, but at almost 50 years-old and with a dodgy neck, The Shield guys did most of the heavy lifting here.
Depending on which side of the wrestling fence you sit on, this was either an epic brawl or a 35 minute chaotic mess. Tables refuse to break, someone was thrown into the back of a garbage truck which should have killed them and other silliness occurred which simply dragged this out beyond its usefulness, grinding to a halt when the uneven numbers game meant a lot of dead air as the heels just stood around while the others delivered a beating before the next contrived spot, and no-one actively trying to win the match.
Much like SD’s most recent Hell In A Cell show, this was largely sold on one big match that, in this writer’s opinion, failed to deliver. Again, the wrestlers themselves can’t be held accountable as the main event exemplifies not just the folly and hubris of Vince McSenile’s taste for excess in the name of entertainment (because he hates “wrestling”) but also the major setback the RAW brand has with its top championship in the hands of a part timer.
The star power of the main event – as such it was, given the tag champs and IC champ were involved – didn’t feel enough to compensate for this infuriating oversight, which even the presence of the anointed one Roman Reigns wouldn’t have satiated. And with the Universal Title basically being kept warm for Reigns to take again at Wrestlemania 34, what else is there for fans to look forward to, when Vince and his “creative” team have done nothing to shake things up in the main event picture?
It’s the same old story of the undercard being a solid effort that propped up the show, with the unexpected treat of Styles vs. Bálor delivering the goods, and whilst we should credit them for trying something different with Elias, Jordan is the wrong guy for Elias to be bouncing off in this instance. Elsewhere everyone else is running around in the same circles as before.
To quote Napalm Death: “In stalemate, we stagnate”.
Best Match – Finn Bálor vs. AJ Styles
TLC Kickoff Match – Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox
Rating – ***
Man In Black