The SmarK Rant for WWE TLC 2018 – 12.16.18
Live from San Jose, CA
Your hosts are Michael Cole, Corey Graves and a bunch of others.
Mixed Match Challenge finals: R-Truth & Carmella v. Jinder Mahal & Alicia Fox
Well so much for this being the pre-show match. Jinder works a headlock on R-Truth to start as Michael Cole actually reads Facebook comments about the match. Truth with a bodypress on Jinder and the women come in, but the babyfaces clear the ring and we get a dance break, which is crashed by the Singh brothers. Fox gets a neckbreaker on Carmella for two off that silliness and follows with a northern lights suplex for two between chinlocks. Back to the men and Truth gets a flying headscissors and heel kick, but he goes after a Singh and gets nailed by Jinder. Alicia comes in and Truth steals her hat, allowing Carmella to get two. The girls do a quick mat reversal and Carmella taps her out of nowhere with her headscissor deal at 5:55. Well, Truth has to be the odds-on favorite to win the Royal Rumble now! Not good, but not the total disaster it was shaping up to be. * And then Truth announces that they’re cashing in their all-expenses paid vacation for a trip to Stamford, CT, to visit luxurious WWE HQ. I feel like they could have gone with a MUCH funnier punchline to that one, like Truth picks Atlantis so he can meet Aquaman or something like that.
Smackdown tag team titles: Sheamus & Cesaro v. The New Day v. The Usos
So I guess this is the actual PPV opener since the MMC finals were on Facebook Watch. And GOODIE, David Otunga is replacing Byron Saxton tonight on commentary, since it’s apparently vitally important to have a third useless announcer at all times. Sheamus works a headlock on Kofi to start, but the New Day double-teams him with a splash and an elbow for two. Everyone brawls for a bit and the Bar traps Xavier in the corner for some punishment. Sheamus grinds a chinlock on Xavier and Cesaro drops an elbow for two, but Woods gets the Honor Roll out of the corner and tries to dive for a tag. And Sheamus cuts him off and takes him to the top rope, where Woods fights him off with a dropkick and makes the hot tag to Kofi. He runs wild on Cesaro and hits the Boom Drop, but Cesaro blocks Trouble in Paradise and Jimmy Uso finally gets to tag himself in and hits a Rockerplex with Cesaro’s help that gets two. Usos double-team Kofi and it’s a SUPERKICK PARTY that leads to Jey hitting the flying splash on Kofi, but Cesaro breaks it up and steals a pin for two. Cesaro with the Giant Swing on Kofi into the Sharpshooter, but Woods breaks it up with a DDT. Sheamus clears the ring and tries the Brogue Kick, but Kofi rolls him up for two. Woods flies in with the big elbow for two and Kofi dumps the other teams and follows with a dive, but Sheamus hits Woods with the Brogue Kick back in the ring and gets the pin to retain at 12:21. Just a bunch of MOVEZ more than anything, but it was fun enough. ***
TOMORROW: Vince McMahon returns to RAW because the very show you’re watching sucks and it’s time to shake things up and make it not suck. But by all means continue watching this show!
Braun Strowman v. Baron Corbin
Although Braun is still in a sling, he points out that there’s no DQs in a TLC match, so if someone wants to help him, it’s all nice and legal. So this brings out Apollo and Roode and Gable and Balor all standing at ringside with chairs by magic and they beat on him and chase him out of the ring. So Corbin decides to leave, but Kurt Angle cuts him off and everyone hits their finishers on him and Braun pins him to win. What exactly is Gable & Roode’s problem with him? They won the tag team titles last week! Just a bunch of ga-ga because Braun isn’t actually cleared to work again yet.
Tables match: Natalya v. Ruby Riott
Did this REALLY need to be on PPV? People are just SOOO invested in Ruby breaking a pair of sunglasses that the only way to settle it is with a tables match on an already-overstuffed show? And the big heat spot is that they have a table with a picture of Jim Neidhart on it. They slug it out in the corner and Nattie gets a backdrop suplex to put Ruby on the floor, but is unable to suplex her off the apron, and Liv Morgan gets put through a table instead. Back in, Nattie with a suplex on Ruby, who exits the ring again. Nattie slaps her around out there to no reaction and sets up another table, but this time it’s Logan who goes through it. The tables are so ridiculously pre-scored that they literally break in two perfect pieces before the victim is even finished making contact. Ruby runs Nattie into the stairs and brings the Anvil Memorial Table into the ring, but Nattie nearly suplexes her through it, but then doesn’t. So then we get a Sharpshooter instead which is apparently a chance to make Ruby suffer by looking at the face of Anvil, but Ruby tips over the table to gently break the hold. So then Natalya has to lay there dead while Ruby takes 5:00 to set up the damn table again, and then Nattie just pushes it over anyway and they head back to the floor again. Nattie discards the perfectly broken pieces of the other tables, and finds a special Ruby Riott Table under the ring, which is apparently a diabolical plan on her part. There’s a STICKER on the table! What a mastermind! Natalya also finds a Hart Foundation jacket under the ring and puts that on, but Riott cuts her off with a kick and pus her on the table. Sadly, she makes the fatal error of going to the top rope, and Natalya brings her down and gently puts her on the table, which looks like it’s ready to split in twain from the weight of 100 pound Riott laying on it. Finally they fight on the top rope and Nattie powerbombs her through it to win at 12:41. I think they thought people were going to care about this storyline way more than anyone did. WAAAAAAAAY too long and they basically did nothing but move from one area of the ringside area to another. ½*
LARS SULLIVAN is Lurking.
Drew McIntyre v. Finn Balor
So after all those months of building up the Drew/Dolph/Braun team as the main event group, they just all broke up one week with no explanation and Drew jobs to Dolph for no reason and they wonder why ratings are at an all-time low. And then they blew off THAT program on RAW and we get this rando match on PPV with one week of build. Drew stomps on the “2 Sweet” fingers and boots him down to start, then gets some chops in the corner, but Finn stomps him down and goes up. Drew cuts him off with a toss across the ring and beats him down for two, then goes to an armbar. Drew deadlifts him into a suplex for two and goes back to the armbar and the crowd is even more dead for this one than the last match. Balor makes a comeback with a double stomp and clotheslines McIntyre to the floor, then follows with a dive. Back in for the Sling Blade, but Drew cuts him off with a backbreaker for two. Balor rolls him up for two and goes up to finish, but Drew cuts him off again with a White Noise off the middle rope for two. They fight to the apron and Drew cuts him off AGAIN with a clothesline, but now Ziggler runs out of the audience and attacks and he gets his ass kicked as well. But then Drew brings in a chair in and Balor dropkicks him into the corner and finishes with a Coup De Grace onto the chair at 12:20. What a fucking hero, hitting the guy from behind with help from someone else and then using a chair to win. They literally have no idea how to make babyface stars. So….was Ziggler’s big return here supposed to be a huge surprise? He was literally just on RAW this week. Also, this was a PPV built around Tables, Ladders and CHAIRS, so why not just have a chairs match if you’re going to have a fucking chair in the finish? Fuck this match. *
Meanwhile, we get an update on the people who got married in a jewelry commercial three years ago, in another jewelry commercial.
Chairs match: Randy Orton v. Rey Mysterio
Jesus, how much filler do we need on this show? We’re already approaching TWO HOURS into this thing and you could literally jettison the entire show thus far. Orton tosses him right away and grabs a chair and beats on him, but misses a charge and Orton fires back with his own chair. Rey dropkicks him off the apron and does a neat sledding splash with the chair, but then dives at Orton and hits a chair with a senton instead. Orton preps the announce table and drops Rey onto a chair on top of it, because I guess chairs are legal but the table’s not? I dunno. This is a pretty ill-defined stipulation match. Back in, that gets two. So, like, chairs are legal, but if you pull out brass knuckles, can you get disqualified? Orton with the powerslam for two. He sets up for the draping DDT, but Rey kicks him from the apron and springboards back in, which results in him hitting a chair. Orton sets up another chair in the corner, but Rey gets the 619, and Orton immediately pops up and knocks Rey off the top rope. He continues beating on Rey in the corner and sets up a line of chairs for an RKO, but Rey escapes and cradles for the pin at 11:34. Twelve minutes of boredom for THAT finish? Fuck this boring match in addition to the aforementioned fucking of the previous match. *1/2 for the sliding chair splash.
Meanwhile, promo time for Finn Balor, as he tells off Dolph Ziggler for helping him, and then Dolph attacks him as well.
Tomorrow night: None of this bullshit matters because Vince is gonna change it all anyway!
RAW Women’s title: Ronda Rousey v. Nia Jax
This show is desperately needing a short match at this point. But this won’t be it. Ronda sticks and moves to start and counters the dreaded Facebreaker with an armbar, but Nia powerbombs out of it for two. Nia with a corner splash and she drops an elbow for two, then runs Ronda into the post and follows with a butt splash into her shoulder. Legdrop misses and Ronda grabs a guillotine and then switches to a rear naked choke and Nia rolls out to escape. Ronda hangs on, so Nia runs her into the railing to break. Back in, that gets two. Nia goes to a half-assed cobra clutch and then tries a powerbomb, but Ronda counters with a rana and Nia lands on the floor. Ronda follows with a crossbody from the top, and back in for two off that. Ronda slugs away and gets a step-up knee and a superman punch for two. Ronda goes up with another crossbody and Nia rolls through into the samoan drop for two. Nia takes her up for a top rope samoan drop, but Ronda powerbombs her down for two instead. Ronda gets distracted by Tamina and Nia sets up the FACEBREAKER, but Ronda grabs the fist and armbars her to retain at 10:48. Ronda continues to deliver the goods like Amazon. ***1/4
Meanwhile, Becky meets up with Nia and gives her a receipt for breaking her face.
WWE title: Daniel Bryan v. AJ Styles
Bryan continues his trolling by doing a Larry Zbyszko stall to start, until AJ attacks with chops in the corners and hits him with a dropkick and clothesline to the floor. Bryan runs him into the railing and takes over with kicks in the corner back in the ring before going to work on the back. He returns the chops with some STANK on them and they trade in the corner off that, so Daniel hangs him in the tree of woe and cranks on the neck. Bryan throws the Yes Kicks and puts AJ on the floor, but they slug it out in the ring and trade rollups before Bryan runs him into the turnbuckle. AJ comes out of the corner with a lariat and stomps Bryan down in the corner, and a lariat gets two. Bryan runs away from the Styles Clash and begs off, so AJ gets the Ushigoroshi for two. Bryan counters a suplex with a knee to the head and then locks in a cravat and throws knees to the head for two. That was pretty cool. Daniel throws the Yes Kicks for two, but AJ comes back with an enzuigiri and goes after the leg. Bryan beats on the ribs in the corner and goes up for a top rope rana, but AJ rolls through into a Styles Clash attempt, which AJ then turns into a half-crab. Both guys are great but the crowd is dead and this match really doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. Bryan reverses to the Yes Lock and they trade near-falls off that and then trade high kicks and both guys are down. At this point the crowd chants “This is awesome” after sitting on their hands for 20:00, and I’m like “WUT?” I don’t even get what these people want anymore. They slug it out and AJ dropkicks him out of the corner and tries a springboard 450, which misses, but he rolls Daniel into the calf crusher. Bryan makes the ropes and bails again, and AJ hits a Phenomenal Forearm off the railing, and back in for a small package for two, reversed by Bryan for the pin to retain at 24:00. This was good and hard-worked, not exactly a classic or anything. The Smackdown match was way better and way more heated. ***1/2
Intercontinental title: Seth Rollins v. Dean Ambrose
I had kind of assumed this was a ladder match, but I guess not. Not the right time or place for it, I guess. They slug it out in the corner and Seth gets a springboard clothesline, but Dean suckers him outside and drops him on the announce table. Back in, Dean drops an elbow and chokes him out on the ropes, and a suplex gets two. Meanwhile, Corey Graves and Renee get into a snarky argument on commentary that has nothing to do with the match. Ambrose goes to a surfboard and hits a lariat for two, and goes up with a middle rope elbow for two. Neckbreaker gets two. Ambrose slugs away on the mat and gets a rollup, but Seth reverses to his own rollup for two and sends Dean into the turnbuckles. Dean goes to the knee with a dropkick in the corner and goes to the Texas Cloverleaf, but Seth fights to the ropes and bails to escape. I’m astonished this this feud where the heel gets a series of injections to inoculate himself against smelly cities has no heat thus far. Rollins tries a dive and Ambrose cuts him off with a punch, but Seth gets a blockbuster and clotheslines Dean to the floor again before following with a suicide dive. Another dive and they head back in, and fight for a superplex before Seth’s knee gives out again. He recovers with a buckle bomb for two and they slug it out and collide for the double down. No “This is awesome” chant, San Jose? Both guys are laying on the mat, that’s the signal for it, isn’t it? They slug it out again and Dean gets a faceplant for two, but goes up and Rollins cuts him off. Ambrose clotheslines him back to the mat for two off that. The crowd chants “This is boring” in response to the non-action thus far, but Rollins makes his comeback with the knee for two. Frog splash hits the knees and that gets two for Ambrose. Seriously, we’re 3.5 hours into this dull, dull, deadly dull PPV so far, wrap it up already. Ambrose goes up and Seth brings him down with the superplex into the Falcon Arrow for two, and even that doesn’t wake up the crowd. That’s usually a guaranteed “This is awesome” from the sheep. Seth sets up the superkick, but Dean offers the Shield Fist Bump™ to stop him, but Rollins punches him down anyway and hits the superkick. They fight to the floor again and Rollins gives him the Balor Special into the railing. Back in, Rollins gives him some trash talk, but walks into Dirty Deeds at 22:50 to give Ambrose the title again. This could have partially saved the show but ended up sinking it with a complete stinker instead. *1/2
Smackdown Women’s title: Becky Lynch v. Charlotte Flair v. Asuka
Asuka fires away with hip attacks on both women to start, but Becky puts her down with knees and follows with a suplex out of the corner. Charlotte grabs the first ladder and then goes to choke Asuka out in the corner, which allows Becky the chance to climb. Charlotte stops that, but then charges Asuka and lands in a codebreaker. Charlotte recovers and climbs, but Asuka powerbombs her through a table to save and then makes the climb, but Becky cuts her off with a missile dropkick. They head to the floor and Charlotte hits the other two with the moonsault to the floor and sets up a table. This allows Becky to lay everyone out with a chair, but Charlotte runs her into the railing and preps the announce tables. This results in Becky turning the tide and putting her on the table, then coming off with a senton to put her through the table and landing ass-first on Charlotte’s ribs in the process. Asuka is the last one left alive and she goes for the ladder out of that. Becky follows her up and Charlotte takes them both out with a kendo stick. Becky stops that with an exploder through a table at ringside, but now Asuka gets the stick and the shaky cam zooms and in and out until Charlotte cuts her off with a spear through the barricade. That spot never not works. Becky climbs for the title, but Charlotte cuts her off and they slug it out and fight to the floor as Charlotte just murders her with chops. Becky gets laid out on another innocent table in the prime of its life, and Charlotte puts her through it with a somersault senton. Charlotte sprints up the ladder in the ring out of that, but Asuka flies up to block and they fight at the top of the ladder and throw forearms until Becky finds another ladder and sets up beside the main one. So now Becky and Charlotte fight it out up there, but now Ronda Rousey comes out and pushes them over, which leaves Asuka alone, and she finally wins the Womens’ title at 22:25. Thankfully this match delivered bigtime to somewhat redeem this show after four hours and a bit. ****1/2
As a 2:40 PPV this would have been great, but they just had to pack far too much into an already bloated show, and the dead crowd didn’t help. Thumbs in the middle, can’t recommend sitting through the whole .
But hey, Vince McMahon will SHAKE THINGS UP tomorrow night anyway. Hopefully with shorter PPVs.