WWE – TLC 2020 (Cert 15)
1 discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 176 minutes approx.
Bringing the WWE PPV calendar to a close for 2020 is the annual stunt fest in which the wrestlers suffer for our sins by falling off ladders and crashing through tables – one even gets set on fire! Well, it is a bit chilly in December and keeping warm is imperative, though this is a bit extreme!
So why are there wrestlers roasting like an open fire? Well, in the absence of fans in the arena who are likely to vocalise their feelings towards something absurdly stupid, which Vince doesn’t like, he can now present his unadulterated vision to little direct recourse (unless you count the falling TV ratings). That means throwing whatever nonsense out there and expecting us to swallow it whole, and boy, there is a LOT he expects us to swallow.
For those of us with an IQ over double figures, there is thankfully some decent wrestling to enjoy whilst those who enjoy car wreck matches they are catered of too. At least they still get some things right.
Held on December 20th 2020 at the WWE Thunderdome now located inside the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida in front of virtual crowd seen via a bank of video screens, with added piped in crowd noises to create the impression of a hot crowd. Commentary is provided by Michael Cole and Corey Graves for SD and Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton and Samoa Joe for RAW.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers since the DVD/Blu-ray cover artwork has that bit covered but plenty of opinion.
WWE Title TLC Match – Drew McIntyre (c) vs. AJ Styles
AJ’s journey to becoming the number one contender was relatively normal – de facto authority figure Adam Pearce offered the members of the winning RAW team at Survivor Series a chance to view for the spot, comprising of three singles matches. The following week, the three winners had a triple threat match which Styles won. Except they then built this title match up with an excruciatingly dumb Christmas themed story time segment which also involved The Miz and John Morrison.
Thankfully, most of this match was take a lot more seriously, until the halfway mark when Money In The Bank holder The Miz ran in to cash in the briefcase, turning this into a triple threat. Things got a bit goofy, including distractions involving Morrison and Omos, AJ’s 7ft 3in bodyguard, but on the whole this was AJ bumping big for Drew and the champ fighting a handicap match with plenty of carnage for 30 minutes.
SD Women’s Champion – Sasha Banks (c) vs. Carmella
A series of vignettes ran on SD showing brief close up glimpses of a glamorous woman promising somebody “untouchable”. After a couple of weeks it was obvious who it was, so the big reveal of it being Carmella was anti-climactic for many reasons. Her new character is basically a white, blonde version of Sasha’s “Boss” persona, with the added twist of Carmella’s real life gig as a wine maker, hence sommelier Reginald, former Cirque du Soleil performer Sidney Bateman, in he corner.
Inexplicably, a non-title match took place the week before on SD which Carmella won by DQ, leading to this rematch. Along with the new attitude, Carmella also seems to have a new work ethic as this was her best outing to date, and not all of it can be attributed to Sasha being great either. They worked hard and the action was non-stop, and whilst it may be a little while longer before Carmella is a credible contender, this was a decent opening gambit from her.
RAW Tag Title Match – The New Day (c) vs. The Hurt Business
Since Lashley is the US champ, and MVP is more a mouthpiece, it is the two members of the Hurt Business who can’t get along looking to upend the New Day here. Despite being one of the few highlights of RAW over the past few months, they are already teasing dissension among the group! Quite why Vince hates tag teams we don’t know, but his penchant for splitting every one of them is both tedious and counterproductive.
With a win over the champs in singles matches on TV, the momentum is in the favour of the challengers, and really the New Day don’t need the belts whilst their opponents do, so you may consider a title switch a foregone conclusion. Either way, a solid effort and perfectly acceptable tag match.
WWE Women’s Tag Title Match – Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax vs. Asuka & Mystery Partner
If you look at the back cover of this DVD then the mystery partner has been spoiled already, unless you possess the same clairvoyance as everyone else going into this show who already predicted their identity. The reason Asuka needed a new partner was due to Lana being taken out by Shayna and Nia on RAW after Lana beat Nia in a singles match following her and Asuka winning the right to challenge for the belts.
Granted it is a huge change up in terms of in-ring ability and credibility but there is no arguing the person in question is already badly exposed and many fans are tired of her always walking into title opportunities without earning them and this is no different. Good match however and Nia – who was dressed like a giant Ferrero Rocher – didn’t hurt anybody, which is the important thing.
WWE Universal Title TLC Match – Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens
According to Roman, the reason Team SD lost at Survivor Series is because the other team members didn’t respect Jey Uso therefore didn’t respect the Anoa’i family. So Jey took this out on Owens, who refused to play whipping boy and beat up Jey then called out Reigns, saying he didn’t recognise him as the “Head of the Table”, reigniting their feud from a few years back.
Much like the other TLC match on this show, this was pretty much a handicap match for Owens as the absence of rules meant Jey could interfere with abandon. Unlike the earlier bout one could really feel the hatred and intensity here, it was that brutal. And a LOT of tables got broken in this one, like an old school ECW match!
Firefly Inferno Match – The Fiend vs. Randy Orton
In a scenario that can only be described as “tempting fate”, the pairing of Orton and Wyatt was resurrected after their disastrous feud from a few years back which resulted in one of the worst matches ever – the House of Horrors match. This time, it is The Fiend getting revenge on Orton, using his brainwashed minion Alexa Bliss to stir the pot on her Moment Of Bliss chat show.
After a game of Hide And Seek (no really) on RAW ended up with Orton setting fire to a trunk Fiend was hiding in, this Inferno match was booked, and as we learned on the night, the only way to win is to set your opponent on fire. Since Orton wore a hoodie and Fiend a leather jacket, we at least knew they would actually deliver on the stip even if logically and morally it was a bit suspect. In keeping with the Fiend’s wackiness, this was pre-taped so burning rocking chairs and his parade of puppets could appear at ringside, to distract us from how ludicrous the Fiend’s gimmick has become.
But this pales to the idiocy of the finish. Whilst a great visual, it doesn’t just defy logic but raises questions about what sort of babyface Orton is to do what he did, that is if he was the babyface in this feud. This was a huge issue as the lines were never clear so it was presumably down to the spectacle of the fire to sell it rather than any emotional investment, especially after the prior match.
I will be the first to concede that there will be people who enjoyed the main event for all its glorious stupidity and got a huge kick out of the climax. However, wrestling being the unique beast it is, such things just can’t work within its diegesis without coming off as bad taste or too silly for words. To end a show on an apparent arson assisted murder is too much, even if the victim is a supernatural character (and hasn’t been seen since).
Admittedly, I sort of get what they were going for but there is a fine line between “could” and “should”, and someone as obstinate as Vince McMahon will always find a way to cross it. So, more power to anyone who thought it was a hoot and a cool moment, but whilst I won’t go the full Cornette, this was simply a worst-case example of what to expect from Vince’s vision when unimpeded by fan reaction.
Thankfully the rest of the card comprised of good matches and hard work from everyone involved, leaving the foul taste of the absurd main event easily avoided by stopping the disc after the second TLC match. Certainly a different way to end a hellacious year like 2020 but also ironically totemic of it too.
Best match – Sasha Banks vs. Carmella (purely for overachieving)
Rating – ***
Man In Black