WWE – TLC 2018 (Cert 15)
2 discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 230 minutes approx.
The PPV year for WWE closes as it has on many occasions with the annual stunt fest where tables are broken, ladders are fallen off, and chairs aren’t always sat on – or TLC to you and me.
As has been the case across the year, the biggest buzz heading into this show is from the women’s division which has hit many highs in 2018. They main evented the first PPV of the year at the Royal Rumble so it stands to reason they should main event the last PPV of the year too. Probably just as well as Universal champ Brock Lesnar is nowhere to be seen but then again who needs “The Beast” when you’ve got “The Man”?
Held on December 16th 2018 at the SAP Centre in San Jose, California before 12,000 fans, with commentary provided by Michael Cole and Renee Young for RAW, Tom Phillips and David Otunga for SD, Corey Graves working for both.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers but plenty of opinion.
Mixed Match Challenge Final – Fabulous Truth (Carmella & R-Truth) vs. Mahalicia (Alicia Fox & Jinder Mahal)
For the uninitiated the Mixed Match Challenge was a tournament created specifically for Facebook, featuring teams from both brands comprising of one male and one female wrestler, regardless of their face-heel status. There were actually two held in 2018 – the first was won by Miz and Asuka, earning a $100,000 donation to a charity of their own choice.
The second was longer, adopting a round robin format with teams from each brand facing each other, the individual winners then facing off here. Unfortunately, it was blighted with injuries and line-up changes then, to make matters worse, all of the top names were either already booked on this card or injured, so the only option was to put the only surviving teams in the final hence this uninspired match up.
Anyway, if you like silly comedy this 5-minute affair will please you. The winners this time get to enter at no 30 in their respective Royal Rumble matches in 2019, and an all-expenses paid holiday of their choosing (not really, just a gimmick to do some lame comedy for WWE.com).
SD Tag Title Triple Threat Match – The Bar (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Usos
You’d be forgiven for thinking there were only three teams on SD Live as this latest iteration of the endless The Bar/New Day/Usos merry go-round illustrates. That Sanity, Good Brothers, and The Colons are sitting around doing nothing when they could be spicing things up a bit is no fault of their own yet a detriment to the SD tag division. The match itself was fine, full of the usual big moves, dives, kicks, etc. but the fans’ general apathy for most of it at seeing this line-up for the 100th time speaks volumes.
TLC Match – Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin
Bait and switch time. Braun was legit injured and had surgery on his elbow, thus in no condition to work yet they still promoted this match. The stipulation was Braun would get a shot at Lesnar at the 2019 Royal Rumble if he won, and Corbin would lose his authority if he lost. Corbin expected to win by forfeit but Strowman shows up with his arm in a sling anyway.
So how did they get out of this? Someone on the WWE creative team realised there was a huge loophole to the No DQ stipulation that would work in their favour so they went with that. The “match” was nothing but from a storyline/continuity perspective it actually worked and shows what happens what you do pay attention to the minutiae.
Tables Match – Natalya vs. Ruby Riott
The first of three women’s matches on the card but the one with arguably the worst build. Natalya’s father Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart died in the summer and in typical Vince fashion, he decided to exploit it to get heat on Ruby Riott for teasing Nattie about it. Yup, it’s as nauseating and as tasteless as it sounds, peaking with Ruby presenting a table with a picture of The Anvil on it which she vowed to out Nattie through.
If you can get past this, the match was okay for what it was, a little clunky in the pacing due to setting the tables up. Plus Nattie was alone meaning she had to contend with all three of the Riott Squad alone but it did result in a cool bump by Liv Morgan.
Finn Bálor vs. Drew McIntyre
It’s Ireland vs. Scotland in a match set-up by acting RAW GM Corbin because Finn kept beating him whenever they faced off. That and Drew was a bullying arse toward Finn when they teamed together at Survivor Series; then again, Drew has been an arse to just about everybody including his friend Dolph Ziggler.
This was a decent Big Man vs. Little Man match except with a big man who can actually work, but with little at stake except the kudos of a win it was just there on a very busy card, despite the hard work from both men.
Chairs Match – Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton
A stipulation that almost never works and the world’s most boring wrestler in Orton, how do you think this one went? Even Rey’s rejuvenation as a worker, having dropped some weight, couldn’t save this from being dull and pointless. Skip this one.
RAW Women’s Title Match – Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Nia Jax
Nia won the Battle Royale at Evolution to earn this title shot and thanks to her killing the highly anticipated Rousey vs. Becky Lynch match at Survivor Series when she gave Becky a concussion on RAW, the fans decided to spare Ronda the boos she’d been receiving over the past few weeks and let Nia have it instead.
Really good match even though Ronda’s bouts are rehearsed in advance, yet let’s not undermine how quickly she has taken to wrestling, right down to the subtleties of selling and performance. Not only does it pay dividends but Nia is great foil for Rousey as the dominant giant of the women’s division. Unlike their match at MITB this one did have a conclusive finish but was a one solid sprint all the way, with some great work by Rousey to counter Nia’s size and power. Ronda still needs to learn how to do her make-up. though…
WWE Title Match – The New Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles
Having been the de facto face against Lesnar at Survivor Series Bryan is full heel here. So what is new about him? Well, for a start he’s actually being booed by the fans (hitherto unthinkable given all he has been through) and his new attitude sees him play eco-conscious preacher, his new age ways at odds with the consumerist, meat eating, climate hating fans.
Whilst it is a matter of record that Bryan is a vegan and environmentalist – Vince McSenile isn’t, so only he could vent about this through a heel character. Anyway, after two very good TV matches, these get to tear it up on PPV, and as you might expect they deliver the goods in a long, methodical but never dull match with a hot finish. It’s still weird seeing Bryan as a heel but both he and the crowd are into it.
WWE IC Title Match – Seth Rollins (c) vs. Dean Ambrose
This match opens disc two in this set.
Sometimes people make decisions that just make your head scratch itself, like putting this match on in the “death spot” position, have it go over 20 minutes and worst of all ignore the storyline behind it. As we know, Ambrose turned on Rollins when they won RAW tag titles on the same night Roman Reigns announced his battle against cancer.
After all the antagonism and hate fuelled rhetoric thrown at each other during this feud, this should have been a heated and intense brawl right? Instead we got a standard wrestling match full of grappling, moves, and counters that made zero sense given the emotional backstory. The work was technically solid but completely the wrong style of match for the feud, and the fans unsurprisingly had little interest in it. Simply baffling.
WWE SD Women’s Title TLC Match – Becky Lynch (c) vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka
Originally set to be Becky vs. Charlotte one-on-one, a Battle Royale was held on SD Live to give someone else a chance at the women’s title and be added to the match, and that someone happened to be my Goddess Asuka. Logical choice of course but a little surprising since she’s been hardly used ever since the lame duck feud with Carmella in the Spring, but if the plan was to resurrect the Empress of Tomorrow then headlining a PPV is a good first step.
Just as they have done all year, the ladies grabbed this opportunity with both hands and spared nothing in this match. There are some scary spots, like a powerbomb into a table at an awkward angle that should have broken Charlotte’s neck and a barricade spot that didn’t do Asuka any favours either. Great action from bell to bell with a controversial but cogent finish to top off a great year for the WWE women’s division.
Another triumph for the women of WWE whilst serving as another patent example as to why PPVs need to stay at 3 hours. There are at least three matches that could have been dropped from this 10-match card that would have kept the energy and pacing alive and would have delivered a variety of match styles to satiate all tastes. The crowd would have been much hotter for the main event but Becky Lynch’s rising popularity and the hard of all three ladies helped keep the flames of energy alive.
Booking wise it was rather safe on that front with a couple of surprises where it mattered but outside of that nobody really came out any better or worse than before. When a show doesn’t have much significance to the momentum of the storylines or a character’s development it can only really be taken at face value enjoyment wise, another symptom of too many PPV shows in the year.
As the final big show of the year when the whole world is slowing down for Christmas, we can’t expect WWE to be any different, as they need to focus on starting the new with a bang. Discount the weaker matches, this is another solid, hard worked entertaining if hardly vital show.
Best match – Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka
Disc 2 Only:
SD Live – December 11th 2018 – Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka
TLC Kickoff Matches:
WWE Cruiserweight Title Match – Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Cedric Alexander
Ladder Match – Bobby Lashley vs. Elias
Rating – ***
Man In Black