While the Philadelphia Eagles were keeping their playoff hopes alive Sunday night in Los Angeles with a thrilling 30-23 win over the Rams, some 300 miles away WWE was putting on the last pay-per-view of 2018, titled TLC: Tables | Ladders | Chairs at the SAP Center in San Jose.
TLC has historically been one of WWE’s better pay-per-views, and Sunday night was no different. Despite some terrible television shows – specifically Monday Night RAW – the past few months, almost every match delivered and some went above expectations. And on the Kickoff Preshow, Becky Lynch confirmed that the Triple Threat Match she’d be involved in against Charlotte Flair and Asuka would be main eventing the show.
That’s when I had a feeling it was going to be a good night. We saw some title changes and some storylines furthered which fit perfectly as we head to the Road to WrestleMania in January.
The official start to WrestleMania season may come a little early because Vince McMahon is scheduled to return to RAW on Monday night to “shake things up” again. What will that mean for WrestleMania season? We’ll just have to wait and see. Let’s get to the action:
Buddy Murphy © defeated Cedric Alexander by pinfall on the Kickoff Preshow to retain the WWE Cruiserweight Championship
After being on the previous month’s Survivor Series pay-per-view on the main card, the Cruiserweight Championship was once again relegated to the Kickoff Preshow Sunday night. With 205 Live continually getting better and better, and this past week’s episode highlighting both of these guys, I thought this match should get a more prominent spot on the card.
That being said, it’s important to have really good matches on the Kickoff Preshow, so I’m never mad that the Cruiserweights are usually in the first match of the night. Especially now that there’s rarely multi-person tag matches and there’s more seriousness behind the product of 205 Live.
Buddy Murphy and Cedric Alexander are two of the best, so it’s no surprise this match was very good. Of course, it’d be awesome to see this title defended on the main cards more often, but I’ll never try to downplay a good-to-great match just because of its placement on the card. These guys just have some great chemistry together inside and outside the ring, and I would have bet we’d have seen Alexander regain the title he once held before, but it wasn’t in the cards. Moments after kicking out of the Lumbar Check, Murphy hit Alexander with Murphy’s Law for the win to retain the title.
Elias defeated Lashley in a Ladder Match on the Kickoff Pre-Show
I was kind of surprised this match was on the Kickoff Preshow, but with how it was booked, it’s probably better that it didn’t take up time on the main card. It was a fairly short match that saw Lio Rush get involved and try to distract Elias.
I originally thought the concept of the match was that whoever gets the guitar first gets to use it, but that wasn’t it. Whoever climbed the ladder and took the guitar down would win the match, just as if it’d be a briefcase or championship hanging from the rafters. Elias would eventually climb up to retrieve the guitar for the win, but was laid out by Lashley after the match so the heel could regain some heat. Good, I guess?
R-Truth and Carmella defeated Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox by submission to win the second season of the Mixed Match Challenge
Didn’t have a lot of juice for this one as I haven’t really been keeping track of this season of the Mixed Match Challenge. I know some injuries have derailed some reported plans, but I predicted the winners correctly in this one.
Carmella tapped out Fox to the Code of Silence as she and R-Truth clinched the 30th entrant for their respective Royal Rumble matches in January. They also won an “all expenses paid” vacation to anywhere in the world they wanted, to which R-Truth informed his partner after the match he chose where they’d go – WWE Headquarters in Stamford, Conn. Big winners.
The Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus) © defeated The Usos (Jimmy and Jey) and New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) by pinfall in a Triple Threat Tag Team Match to retain the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
In this bout, only two participants were allowed in the ring at the same time [legally], so it made for some fun blind tag spots throughout the match. These teams have some great chemistry together, but I think it’s time for either the Usos or New Day to maybe head to RAW to spruce up their tag team division, because that brand desperately needs it.
I figured we’d see the titles change hands in this one, but The Bar retained after Sheamus hit Xavier Woods with a Brogue Kick and pinned him.
Braun Strowman defeated Baron Corbin by pinfall in a TLC Match
Braun Strowman legitimately had surgery on his elbow a few weeks ago to clear out some bone chips, so he’s out of action for a little bit. Corbin went into this match the last few weeks taunting Strowman as the stipulation for this match was that if Corbin won, he’d be named permanent general manager of RAW. If Strowman won, he’d get a Universal Championship shot at Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble.
It was clear Strowman couldn’t participate fully in a match at this point, but Corbin’s henchman referee, Heath Slater, was dragged to the ring anyway to start the count. Strowman’s music hit and he came out sporting a sling.
Now, this match was technically a Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match, which means no disqualification. Now, there was nothing to retrieve from the ceiling, so the only way to win this one would be pinfall, submission, or countout. Strowman, being the mastermind, he is, garnered the support of some superstars that absolutely despise Corbin: Apollo Crews, Chad Gable, Bobby Roode and Finn Bálor all wielded steel chairs on the outside of the ring before Slater tore off his referee shirt and clocked Corbin. Then everyone beat him up with their respective steel chairs. Corbin was ready to just head to the back, though he would’ve taken the L anyway due to a countout [right?], but Kurt Angle’s music hit. The current general manager of RAW had returned! He also beat up Corbin with a steel chair all the way back to the ring where Strowman would just put his foot on Corbin as Slater counted the three.
This match was the shortest on the card, but it set up a lot of good stuff moving forward. It was picture-perfect in its layout and hopefully it’s onward and upward from here in terms of RAW storylines.
With the win, Strowman and Lesnar is now official for the Rumble.
Natalya defeated Ruby Riott in a Tables Match
This has been a low-key good feud on the RAW brand, and I thought it was good this was getting one of those TLC gimmick matches. To me, there was only one ending possible, but it actually was better than I envisioned.
Natalya not only got revenge on one Riott Squad member, she got revenge on them all. In one spot, she went for a spear while Riott was on the ring apron and a table set up on the outside. Liv Morgan shoved Riott out of the way and ate the spear which sent her crashing down with a gnarly looking bump through the table. Then, Natalya bodyslammed Sarah Logan through another table set up on the outside. Riott brought her table with the Fathead of Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Natalya’s late father, on it but little did she know Natalya had a plan of her own. In a sort of mind game, Natalya revealed a table that had a Fathead of Ruby Riott herself on it and then donned her father’s famous Hart Foundation jacket. After a back-and-forth affair, Natalya would powerbomb Riott from the middle rope onto the table inside the ring to win the match.
Finn Bálor defeated Drew McIntyre by pinfall
I thought this would be the start of the monster push for McIntyre since I think 2019 is going to be his year, but I was surprised that Bálor got the win here. Of course, Bálor can never have too many wins because he’s awesome, but I was still surprised.
Dolph Ziggler showed up and superkicked his former friend in McIntyre, but McIntyre eventually laid him outside of the ring. Bálor capitalized on the distraction as McIntyre held a steel chair, dropkicking him into the corner and then hitting the Coup de Grâce with McIntyre laying on the chair to get the win.
Rey Mysterio defeated Randy Orton in a Chairs Match
Rey Mysterio is simply awesome. I’m glad to see him back in a WWE ring and making the product better overall. I didn’t know how to feel about a program with Randy Orton out of the chute, but this match was about as good as it could’ve been given the short program.
Mysterio took a lot of bumps and everything was telegraphed quite a bit, but it didn’t matter because even though it didn’t tear the house down, it was still a perfectly acceptable match. Mysterio rolled Orton over with a modified schoolboy to get the victory to counter an RKO attempt onto a line of chairs.
Ronda Rousey © defeated Nia Jax by submission to retain the RAW Women’s Championship
When these two met in June at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, they delivered a pretty good match before the Alexa Bliss MITB cash-in. The same thing happened Sunday night and Rousey was even more impressive. That’s to be expected because as she gets more experience, she’ll continue to get better.
Nia Jax countered the armbar into a sitdown powerbomb early, which was a good sequence. Tamina, who was in Jax’s corner, never got involved. Rousey would eventually make Jax tap to the armbar to retain her championship.
After a promo, Becky Lynch approached Jax backstage and destroyed her as payback for breaking her face. The Man is amazing.
The “New” Daniel Bryan © defeated AJ Styles by pinfall to retain the WWE Championship
Another dream match between two wrestling superstars. Of course, this match was great, and it was great it wasn’t limited to a 20-minute television match on USA Network. I’m not saying that match wasn’t good, it just wasn’t pay-per-view quality, and that was understandable.
This time, the storyline of Bryan slowly morphing into a despised heel is one of the better stories WWE has told in years. And even though Bryan can be one of those sneaky heels, I think he’ll be more of a fighting heel than he was back in 2011-2012. The ending sequence of the match showed that, as Styles dodged a running knee from Bryan and got him into a small package, but Bryan reversed the pressure and was able to pin Styles’ shoulders to the mat in his own small package.
Dean Ambrose defeated Seth Rollins © by pinfall to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship
Is this the beginning of the Seth Rollins megapush? I sure hope it is. And while their feud made for some really good matches in 2014, this feud leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, I’ll say this was the worst match of the night. These guys just aren’t clicking in promos, in the ring, nothing. I’m glad Ambrose is champion because it might let Rollins head into the main event scene and possibly the RAW main event at WrestleMania, but I thought this storyline with Ambrose would just be a lot better than it is.
Ambrose got the win after hitting Rollins with Dirty Deeds out of nowhere.
Asuka defeated Becky Lynch © and Charlotte Flair in a TLC Match to win the SmackDown Women’s Championship
This was The Man’s return to the ring after getting her face broken by Nia Jax in November. She’s still on fire as much as she was before she was injured.
In fact, Lynch would go for a big spot early, jumping off a ladder onto a prone Charlotte Flair on the announce table and crushing her ribs. To Flair’s credit, she came back with a Kendo Stick and was beating the crap out of both Lynch and Asuka with it.
At one point, Asuka got the Kendo Stick from her and started beating her and Lynch with it. Asuka started celebrating that she was I guess beating up the other women before eating a spear from Flair into the security barricade. It was a hell of a bump.
Shortly after, Flair set Lynch on a table outside the ring before climbing the turnbuckle and somersaulting through the table and Lynch. Crazy spot.
In what was a fantastic main event, Ronda Rousey made her presence felt as she exacted some revenge on Lynch and Flair as they both were fighting on a ladder. Rousey calmly came out, shoved the ladder over sending both Lynch and Flair crashing to the ropes and mat, and left.
This allowed Asuka to climb the ladder and pull down the SmackDown Women’s Championship and have her win her first main roster championship since being on the main roster for over a year.
· Having Lynch/Flair/Asuka main event was absolutely the right call. And it sets up perfectly for a Triple Threat at WrestleMania… to headline the event.
· The “New” Daniel Bryan is fantastic. Good guy DB was boring. This DB is entertaining as hell.
· Ambrose/Rollins needs to end. It’s not as good four years later. Let Rollins move up the card.
· I’d like another face to become RAW GM. I’ve had enough of Kurt Angle in that role, but I have a feeling he’ll re-emerge in that spot.
· I’d send the Usos to RAW and win their Tag Titles instantly. The brand needs a tag team division boost.
· Lars Sullivan is debuting soon. I think he’ll go to SmackDown.
· I think R-Truth’s gimmick for the Rumble match should be him entering first, thinking he’s won the match, then get eliminated by whoever draws number two. That’s the kind of humor I can ride with.
Follow Nick Piccone on Twitter: @nickpiccone